Defending Andrew Breitbart, Slate's media critic Jack Shafer takes issue Media Matters [emphasis added]:
The critics of [Andrew] Breitbart and the filmmakers don't really dispute the basic information unearthed by the videos. Instead, they take issue with the duo's spectrum of deception or their political motives in pursuing ACORN. The liberal advocacy group Media Matters for America complains that the ACORN videos, which aren't a "major story," are driving an "incomplete, misleading" media stampede.
But Media Matters is wrong. Independent news organizations, including the Washington Post, the New York Post, and the Baltimore Sun, are chasing the ACORN story not because they've been bamboozled by the Breitbart exposé but because the dress-up stunt has pointed them toward what could be fertile grounds for wrongdoing.
First, note that Shafer never really address our claim that ACORN does not represent a "major story." Shafer himself concedes the undercover ACORN tapes are a "mess," but still trying to prop them up as a big deal he writes:
The primary take-away from the videos, as best as I can discern, is that a shocking number of low-level ACORN employees think that helping to relocate houses of prostitution is part of the group's agenda. Such an oblique, rambling point is interesting enough by my measure to qualify as news.
So the best Shafer can do is suggest that the "rambling point" raised on the tapes regarding "low-level" employees qualifies as "news"? Well, that's not the Media Matters point. We claimed it wasn't a "major story." And Shafer offers up no evidence to refute that position.
Second, Shafer misses the mark when he claims that Media Matters is wrong because the mainstream press is onto a big ACORN story, thanks to Breitbart and friends. That's just not true. Shafer notes the mainstream press has been pointed into the direction of a possible news story about ACORN corruption. But of course, since the ACORN hysteria was launched nearly two weeks ago, no news organization has advanced the story at all. Not one inch. It turns out that corruption ground isn't so "fertile" after all.
All the press has done in recent days is cover the utterly predictable political fallout from the tapes. i.e. It's just another Beltway process story. And this one's about an org that pockets $2-3 million annually from the federal government--probably not enough money to stock the Pentagon with toilet paper for 12 months.
Again, it's not a "major story."
Also note that in his celebration of Breitbart and friends, Shafer looks away form the unseemly brand of pseudo-journalism they practice. For instance, Shafer's oddly mum about the fact that Breitbart's web site is being sued by ACORN for violating privacy laws in Maryland. And while praising the clips, Shafer leaves out the fact that the filmmakers doctored one tape by editing out the portion in which a California ACORN worker refused to cooperate with the pimp-and-prostitute scheme. And of course, none of the released ACORN videos have included any additional context or reporting about the ACORN story.
Meaning, none of them included any actual journalism.
The Washington Monthly's Steve Benen points out that this weekend, ABC's This Week hosts Sen. John McCain. It will be McCain's third appearance on This Week in five months, and his 13th Sunday show appearance this year. Thirteenth.
John McCain is not president, he chairs no Senate committees, he represents two percent of the U.S. population, he lacks a strong constituency even among his own party -- a party that is pretty widely disliked and has taken a thumpin' in two straight elections. He is not playing a central, or even peripheral role in the health care debate. And yet he's on television all the time.
When can we expect rampant media talk about John McCain being "overexposed"?
UPDATE: For comparison, John Kerry was on three Sunday shows in the first eight months of 2005. The media treated Kerry like he lost a presidential campaign. They treat McCain like he won his.
UPDATE 2: Greg Sargent has a response from ABC's George Stephanopoulos to the McCain booking:
Stephanopoulos hit back, saying he has "no apologies" for booking McCain, despite this being his third big appearance on ABC this year. In response to critics who point out that McCain lost, Stephanopoulos also claimed, interestingly, that he'd repeatedly asked John Kerry to appear after his 2004 loss, but that Kerry refused.
I don't have any trouble believing that ABC -- and probably NBC and CBS, too -- tried to book Kerry in 2005. But that's less meaningful than it may seem. They were, no doubt, trying to book him in part because he hadn't done many shows. If he had already been on five Sunday shows in a few months, would ABC have tried to get Kerry to come on? If he'd been on a dozen in eight months, would ABC have been eager to be number 13?
That I doubt very much.
Nor does Stephanopoulos' response address the fact that one week ABC is running news reports suggesting the President of the United States is "overexposed," and the next ABC is hosting a Senator who represents two percent of America for his thirteenth Sunday show this year.
But for me, and from a strictly inside-journalism perspective, the most truly astonishing thing about the gushing cover story was this: Beck didn't give writer David Von Drehle the time of day. He stiffed the mag and still got rewarded with a valentine. Journalists who understand how the magazine profile business works must still be shaking their heads over that one.
And FYI, here's how it works: If a major mag profiles a cover subject, especially if the subject is part of the media/entertainment complex the way Beck is, the person at the center of the attention grants the mag access. And then the mag writer spends way too many paragraphs describing the subject's office/home and verbal ticks and what they're (supposedly) really like in private, etc. It's called scene setting. And the whole point of cover profiles is to get that face time with the subject, and to take readers inside that person's world.
Here's the cover profile trick, though: If the subject, for whatever reason, refuses to cooperate (and pisses off mag editors in the process), than the subject runs the risk of getting roughed up a bit in print. Refusing to cooperate doesn't automatically mean a hit piece is coming, but it does mean the subjects may get hit with some dings along the way.
Now back to Time. The mag put Beck on the cover, yet Time couldn't get ten minutes with Beck for an interview. (At least nothing on the record that I could find.) There is no scene-setting in Time, and there's no indication Von Drehle got any face time with Beck. It's quite astonishing: Time put Beck on the cover, yet when it came to writing the story, Beck told Time to get lost, forcing Time to craft the dreaded write-around, which meant interviewing Beck's former colleagues from a decade ago, and reposting Time's brief Q&A with Beck from 2008.
Not only was Beck's refusal to cooperate a shot to Time's pride. But for the mag to then turn around to treat Beck with such velvety soft hands it's just almost too much to take.
There was a silver lining to Time's debacle, however. Imagine how vigorous Time's cheerleading would've been if Back had cooperated with the profile.
Following Drudge and the right-wing blogosphere in invading children's privacy, Fox Nation is linking to a YouTube video purporting to show "[s]chool kids taught to praise Obama."
Drudge and the right-wing blogosphere are flogging a "SHOCK VIDEO" from YouTube that purports to show "[s]chool kids taught to praise Obama."
The children in this video appear to be no more than 8 years old. They have done nothing wrong. Presumably, neither they nor their parents have consented to having their faces plastered all over the right-wing media. They did nothing to justify Matt Drudge's invasion of their privacy. They did nothing to justify Michelle Malkin's invasion of their privacy.
Nothing these kids have done would warrant a decision by Glenn Beck, his enablers at Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, or Lou Dobbs to further invade their privacy.
On Sunday, Washington Post Ombudsman Andrew Alexander devoted his column to conservative complaints that the Post was slow to cover the ACORN story. Alexander quoted Pew's Tom Rosenstiel and Post executive editor Marcus Brauchli saying, essentially, that the Post and the media overall is insufficiently attuned to conservative issues and reflects a Democratic viewpoint.
I responded at length that same day, pointing out that if this is the case, you sure couldn't prove it by looking at media coverage of Bill and Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, the 2000 presidential election, the run-up to the Iraq war, the disparate treatment of Democratic health care proposals and Republican tax cut proposals during the recent presidential primaries, among other examples.
On Monday, Alexander wrote a blog post following up on his column. The post, "Newsroom Diversity Should Include Ideology," was noteworthy for including not a single word reflecting the point of view of progressive media critics.
Instead, Alexander quoted Rosenstiel again -- this time arguing that the erosion of trust for the media among Democrats is because Democrats are "rooting" for Obama and don't want him "to be criticized in the press" and they feel "anxiety" that "conservative media is having more of an impact." Neither Rosenstiel nor Alexander so much as hinted at the possibility that liberals and Democrats increasingly distrust the media because the media helped the Bush administration lie the country into an unnecessary war, or because it handed Bush the White House in the first place by relentlessly attacking Al Gore.
And he quoted a former Knight Ridder vice president who "called for newsrooms to do a better job of understanding the claims of bias, especially from conservatives." (That he did so while ignoring substantive criticism from liberals should be a rather clear sign that the media is more responsive to conservative complaints than Alexander's column and blog post suggest.)
And he quoted two more people claiming that journalism attracts more liberals, forgetting his own recent experience with the fact that personally liberal journalists often produce news reports that favor conservatives.
And at the end of his one-sided blog post that omitted any discussion of progressive media critiques, and omitted any discussion of the possibility that the media is too responsive to conservatives rather than not responsive enough -- a blog post that followed up on a column with the same flaws -- Alexander calls for ideological diversity:
News organizations, once led exclusively by white men, long ago embraced gender and race diversity. It was a matter of equality, of course. But it also was a matter of accuracy. With diversity, newsrooms became more attuned to the perspectives of women and the multicultural dimensions of the communities they served.
It's the same with ideology. News organizations like The Post are more accurate when they are exposed to the range of perspectives among their readers, both print and online.
I couldn't agree more.
Knowing who Glenn Beck is, and the type of discourse he engages in, it would be the height of foolishness to expect a reasoned discussion of U.S. history within the pages of Arguing with Idiots. But this is getting absurd.
In his chapter titled, "U.S. Presidents: A Steady Progression of Progressives," Beck treats us to his list of the "Top Ten Bastards of All Time." The occupants of that list, in ascending order, are Pol Pot, Robert Mugabe, Teddy Roosevelt, Bernie Madoff, Adolf Hitler, Keith Olbermann, Pontius Pilate, FDR, Tiger Woods, and Woodrow Wilson. That's right, in Beck's book, mass slaughter of millions of innocents makes you a less reprehensible person than the presidents who won both World Wars for the United States.
The whole reason the list exists is so Beck can go on an extended tirade against Woodrow Wilson, who earned the top spot because he "[s]hredded our First Amendment by arresting thousands of people for speaking against U.S. involvement in WWI." This, of course, is in reference to the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918. And Beck is right -- both acts were horrible offenses against the First Amendment and resulted in the unjust imprisonment of many Americans, including, ironically, many members of socialist-leaning industrial unions that Beck finds so objectionable.
But if the Sedition Act was so heinous an offense as to make Wilson history's greatest "bastard," then shouldn't John Adams be on Beck's list as well? After all, Adams signed into law the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, which made it illegal for anyone to "write, print, utter or publish" anything "false, scandalous and malicious" about the government. Does that not count as "shred[ing] the First Amendment"? You could even make the case that Adams was worse than Wilson, because he was actually there when the First Amendment was drafted and ratified.
That wouldn't fit into Beck's theology, though, which is borrowed from his intellectual guide, the discredited far-right conspiracy theorist W. Cleon Skousen, and will not entertain even the slightest criticism of the Founding Fathers. In Beck's and Skousen's view, the Founders were divinely inspired and infallible, whereas Dwight Eisenhower was a communist and Woodrow Wilson was worse than Hitler.
But in fairness to Beck, if he had included John Adams, that wouldn't have left room on the list for Tiger Woods, who's on there because "[h]e's got a Swedish-supermodel wife, a gazillion dollars, and he plays golf for a living... bastard!"
Yesterday morning I complained that so few members of the Beltway press were taking time to weigh what the political consequences of the health care 'debate' might be for Republicans, as GOP members uniformly oppose the Obama legislative push. The only angle that appeared to be in play for the press was what the "risks" are for Democrats.
Well, late yesterday WSJ.com posted a good item on its Washington Wire blog which examined how the politics of health care are playing out for the GOP:
There's more bad news for Republicans: about three times as many Americans disapprove of how they are handling the heath care debate than approve, according to the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.
A clear majority, 65%, said they disapprove of how congressional Republicans are handling the issue of health care overhaul, while just 21% said they approve. Those numbers are little changed from last month—their approval rating stayed the same, but the disapproval was slightly lower at 62%.
With atrocious numbers like that, I'm sure the GOP would prefer that the press goes back to its previous Democrats-only reporting model.
UPDATED: There's growing evidence that many in the press are missing the larger story by training most of their attention only on Democrats in terms of the political "risks" in play with health care.
From MSNBC's First Read:
Who will get blamed if health care doesn't get passed this year? Per the poll, 10% say Obama, 16% say congressional Democrats, and 37% say congressional Republicans.
Today Media Matters for America officially confirms the breaking, bombshell, news that the conservative blog RedState.org has deep, shadowy connections with ACORN, the organizing group for low- and moderate-income communities.
As the post below illustrates in vivid detail, RedState.org has clear ties with ACORN and it didn't take editor-in-chief Erick Erickson's rolodex to find them.
It goes something like this...
RedState.org is owned by Eagle Publishing which also owns the right-wing magazine Human Events, right-wing book slinger Regnery Publishing, and the Conservative Book Club.
Mike Krempasky is the co-founder of RedState.org and continues to serve on its board of directors. In addition to serving on RedState.org's board, Krempasky works as an Executive Vice President at Edelman, a major public relations firm with long octopus-like tentacles stretching throughout the business, political and governmental world.
As RedState.org's Erickson has so painstakingly pointed out, ACORN has like, tons of majorly huge ties to the White House – the group's CEO actually had contact information for real people in the White House. Edelman -- which again, employs RedState.org's Krempasky -- too has major ties to the White House. In fact, the First Lady's press secretary once worked at Edelman.
What about this connection... Krempasky worked with Leslie Dach at Edelman. Dach now works for Wal-Mart and recently co-signed a letter on its behalf in support of a key part of President Obama's health care reform plan with SEIU president Andy Stern. As we all know by now thanks to Erickson's crack reporting, SEIU and ACORN are basically one in the same.
So, if we really want to play six degrees of separation – you know, so we can find everyone and everything associated with this commie pinko organization – one can tie ACORN to RedState.org, Regnery Publishing, Human Events magazine and the Conservative Book Club without too much effort.
How absolutely scandalous. This, I fear, is only the beginning. Just look at all of the authors now unmistakably tied to ACORN... prominent conservative like Haley Barbour, Michael Barone, William J. Bennett, Tony Blankley, Pat Buchanan, Jerome Corsi, Ann Coulter, Dinesh D'Souza, Steve Forbes, Newt Gingrich, Bernard Goldberg, Denny Hastert, Hugh Hewitt, David Horowitz, Laura Ingraham, Wayne LaPierre, G. Gordon Liddy, Rich Lowry, Michelle Malkin, Oliver North, Ted Nugent, Mitt Romney, Bill Sammon, Mark Steyn and R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. among many, many others including numerous conservative Senators and Members of Congress and the likes of Gary Bauer, L. Brent Bozell III, Larry Elder, Terry Jeffrey, Charles Krauthammer, Larry Kudlow, Bill O'Reilly, Tony Perkins, Michael Reagan, Rick Scott and John Stossel.
Special Note to Glenn Beck: Feel free to run this story without digging too deep or sourcing it back to me personally. I know how seriously you take this issue and the craft of journalism in general.
Personal Disclosure: I once worked with RedState.org's Erickson doing some new media type stuff at MSNBC for about a week leading up to the 2004 general election. It was an experience that… oh no, I think that means I'm tied to ACORN too. Noooooooooooooo!!!
From Arguing with Idiots, Chapter 12 "The U.S. Constitution: Lost in translation":
Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Perhaps no amendment has been twisted and turned as much as this one. The "birthright citizenship clause" was originally meant to ensure that children of freed slaves would be American citizens. Of course, we don't really have that problem anymore, so here's the 21st-century revision:
All persons who successfully sneak into the country will be allowed to stay indefinitely. All crimes committed by those lawbreakers (i.e., identity theft, fraud, and tax evasion) will be ignored. These non-American Americans will be afforded free health care at emergency rooms, free education,, and special in-state tuition deals at colleges, not afforded legal citizens. All children born of these lawbreakers shall immediately become citizens of the United States. Any person attempting to thwart this revision of Section I will be labeled racists, hatemongers, xenophobes, and all-around bad people.