Only recently have I watched portions of [Glenn Beck's] television program, as well as interviews with him, and heard parts of his radio program. And what I've seen should worry the conservative movement.
I say that because he seems to be more of a populist and libertarian than a conservative, more of a Perotista than a Reaganite. His interest in conspiracy theories is disquieting, as is his admiration for Ron Paul and his charges of American "imperialism." (He is now talking about pulling troops out of Afghanistan, South Korea, Germany, and elsewhere.) Some of Beck's statements -- for example, that President Obama has a "deep-seated hatred for white people" -- are quite unfair and not good for the country. His argument that there is very little difference between the two parties is silly, and his contempt for parties in general is anti-Burkean (Burke himself was a great champion of political parties). And then there is his sometimes bizarre behavior, from tearing up to screaming at his callers. Beck seems to be a roiling mix of fear, resentment, and anger -- the antithesis of Ronald Reagan.
I understand that a political movement is a mansion with many rooms; the people who occupy them are involved in intellectual and policy work, in politics, and in polemics. Different people take on different roles. And certainly some of the things Beck has done on his program are fine and appropriate. But the role Glenn Beck is playing is harmful in its totality. My hunch is that he is a comet blazing across the media sky right now -- and will soon flame out. Whether he does or not, he isn't the face or disposition that should represent modern-day conservatism. At a time when we should aim for intellectual depth, for tough-minded and reasoned arguments, for good cheer and calm purpose, rather than erratic behavior, he is not the kind of figure conservatives should embrace or cheer on.
As Eric mentioned earlier, Mediaite obtained an internal memo written by Fox News managing editor Bill Sammon this afternoon. Sammon was responding to the embarrassing video of a Fox producer encouraging the 9/12 protestors prior to a live report.
From: Sammon, Bill
Sent: Monday, September 21, 2009 2:25 PM
To: 005 -Washington
For those of us who have only been at Fox for a relatively short period of time, it's useful to remind ourselves that, as journalists, we must always be careful to cover the story without becoming part of the story. Occasionally, however, the story is totally about us. At news events, we're supposed to function as dispassionate observers, not active participants. We are there to chronicle the news, not create it. Unless other outlets are ignoring super-important stories.
That means we ask questions in a fair, impartial manner. For example, Obama's health care plan is not necessarily worse than cancer, which is why we must simply ask if it is. When approaching interviewees, we identify ourselves, by both name and news organization, up front. This is especially important when we ambush them on vacation. We seek out a variety of voices and views. Sometimes these can be hard to find, so don't stress too much about it. We take note of the scene in order to bring color and context to our viewers. For example, take stock of a scene by asking tax day protesters when "are we going to wake up and start fighting the fascism that seems to be permeating this country?"
We do not cheerlead for one cause or another. When celebrating the defeat of various Democratic proposals and ideas, use, at most, one exclamation point proclaiming "Victory!" We do not rile up a crowd. If a crowd happens to be boisterous when we show it on TV, so be it. If it happens to be quiet, that's fine, too. It's not our job to affect the crowd's behavior one way or the other. If the crowd we spent months encouraging to show up happens to be angry, then we should respect their display of grassroots anger. Again, we're journalists, not participants -- and certainly not performers. Note: Exceptions granted to rodeo clowns.
Indeed, any effort to affect the crowd's behavior only serves to undermine our legitimate journalistic role as detached eyewitnesses. Remember, our viewers are counting on us to be honest brokers when it comes to reporting -- not altering -the important events of the day. If these important events of the day are eerily similar to GOP press releases and websites, so be it. That is nothing less than a sacred trust. We must always take pains to preserve that trust. I cannot stress this enough: always.
More than 60 advertisers have reportedly dropped their ads from Glenn Beck's Fox News program in recent weeks. Here are his September 21 sponsors, in the order they appeared:
A Jim Angle report on cap and trade just featured a clip of Myron Ebell warning that environmental legislation would lead to "energy rationing" and higher prices. And who is Myron Ebell? FOX News identified him only via a chyron labeling him an "Energy and Environment Expert."
In fact, Ebell is Director of Energy and Global Warming Policy for the Conservative Enterprise Institute and "chairs the Cooler Heads Coalition, which comprises over two dozen non-profit groups in this country and abroad that question global warming alarmism and oppose energy rationing policies."
The Competitive Enterprise Institute has enjoyed funding from, among others, Exxon Mobil, the American Petroleum Institute, Texaco, General Motors, Richard Mellon Scaife's foundations, and the Koch family foundations (Koch Industries is the nation's largest privately-held energy company and a record-setting polluter. Oh, and they use the fortune the accumulated in part by stealing oil from US taxpayers and Indian lands to provide millions of dollars in funding for the conservative movement.)
Anyway, FOX Viewers don't know any of that. They're just told that Myron Ebell is an "Energy and Environment Expert." I guess FOX figures that telling them Ebell is funded by the nation's worst polluters would just confuse them.
Mediaite has an internal from managing editor Bill Sammon. It's in response to the (shocking!) revelation that at least one member of the Fox News team was whipping up the 9/12 crowd prior to a live report, pretending it was a studio audience. Which, of course, it pretty much was considering Fox News was an unofficial sponsor of the event.
But the video has been a huge embarrassment. (Hey, live by raw video, die by raw video, right?) So Sammon typed up a memo and said all the things that normal journalists would say in this situation. The funny part, of course, is that Fox News no longer practices journalism. Instead, it's transformed itself into the Opposition Party of the Obama White House, so Sammon's supposedly straight-faced pleas for impartiality read more like a clever parody.
I'll simply highlight my favorite phrases from the up-is-down memo. Feel free to chuckle along.
From: Sammon, Bill
Sent: Monday, September 21, 2009 2:25 PM
To: 005 -Washington
For those of us who have only been at Fox for a relatively short period of time, it's useful to remind ourselves that, as journalists, we must always be careful to cover the story without becoming part of the story. At news events, we're supposed to function as dispassionate observers, not active participants. We are there to chronicle the news, not create it.
That means we ask questions in a fair, impartial manner. When approaching interviewees, we identify ourselves, by both name and news organization, up front. We seek out a variety of voices and views. We take note of the scene in order to bring color and context to our viewers.
We do not cheerlead for one cause or another. We do not rile up a crowd. If a crowd happens to be boisterous when we show it on TV, so be it. If it happens to be quiet, that's fine, too. It's not our job to affect the crowd's behavior one way or the other. Again, we're journalists, not participants — and certainly not performers.
Indeed, any effort to affect the crowd's behavior only serves to undermine our legitimate journalistic role as detached eyewitnesses. Remember, our viewers are counting on us to be honest brokers when it comes to reporting — not altering –the important events of the day. That is nothing less than a sacred trust. We must always take pains to preserve that trust.
If you have any questions or would like to discuss this further, please stop by.
Boy, nothing gets by the Post's Charles Hurt, who writes the umpteenth (pointless) article about how Obama, in his first year in office, is giving more press interviews than his predecessors did.
Other than the fact that the topic includes the media itself, why do journalists keep writing up the same story over and over and over? What's the point? Where's the news value?
Hurt also loses points for not including any context in his write-up:
In the New York Times alone, according to the Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University, 405 stories on the Obama administration have appeared on the front page through mid-August of this year totaling 119,678 column inches. That's 9,973 column feet of Obama coverage on the Times front page alone.
Of course, those statistics are only interesting, they're only newsworthy, if readers know how they compare to the number of articles the Times produced for previous administrations. Is it triple? Is it the same. Is the number actually less than what the Times published during the first seven month's of Bush's term?
Readers have no idea because all journalists care about is that the president is giving lots of interviews to journalists.
During today's online discussion, Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz told a questioner to "Keep in mind the stimulus also included tax cuts, which help the economy as well." That led to this follow-up question-and-answer:
Tax cuts, which help the economy as well.: Oh, you mean like how all those tax cuts Bush gave to the rich? Yep, those really helped the economy Howie.
Howard Kurtz: The argument over tax cuts is always over how large they are (can the economy afford them?) and who gets the benefits (which were tilted toward the affluent during the Bush administration). But there is no dispute among economists that tax cuts stimulate the economy by putting more cash in people's pockets.
What Kurtz doesn't mention is that tax cuts, at least according to economists like former McCain advisor Mark Zandi, are much less effective than government spending when it comes to stimulating the economy.
That's a pretty significant detail. By omitting it, Kurtz makes tax cuts look like much better policy than they are.
I guess this is what Washington Post executive editor Marcus Brauchli is talking about when he says the paper is "not well-enough informed about conservative issues. It's particularly a problem in a town so dominated by Democrats and the Democratic point of view."
Pretty pathetic to watch.
Goldberg writes that it's crazy for anyone to suggest race is part of the right-wing's unhinged--and usually fact-free--opposition to Obama. Nobody on the right has even touched the topic of race. Conservatives are not " hung up on race." They just don't like Obama's policies. Liberals are just making up the race stuff, and it's "ugly" and "egregious."
Of course, the gaping hole in that hollow argument is that Glenn Beck (Goldberg ever heard of him?) went on Fox News this summer and claimed Obama, whose mother was white and who was raised by his white grandparents, hates white people, hates white culture and is a "racist." Worse, Goldberg at the time defended Beck's outrageous and hateful claim.
Now, weeks later Goldberg pretends he can't figure out where these race-based allegations are coming from?
UPDATED: It's almost too dumb for words.
The entire point of Goldberg's new column is to scold liberals for obsessing over race; for hyping a phony topic. For Goldberg, there's nothing worse than claiming your political opponents are pushing the issue of race.
Right. From an August 19, Goldberg column [emphasis added]:
Rather, it is to grasp that the Obama administration has been astoundingly incompetent.
Lashing out at the town hall protesters, playing the race card, whining about angry white men and whispering ominously about right-wing militias is almost always a sign of liberalism's weakness - a failure of the imagination.
Does Goldberg even read his old column before flip-flopping like that?
From the Fox Nation, accessed on September 21:
Ross Douthat's New York Times column has already drawn some criticism for giving President Bush credit for acting to fix catastrophes he created and for its concluding suggestion that Bush was a good president. But there's another problem: in his desire to defend Bush, Douthat offers a strawman version of one of the central criticisms of Bush:
And if we give Bush credit on these fronts, it's worth reassessing one of the major critiques of his presidency - that it was fatally insulated, by ideology and personality, from both the wisdom of the Washington elite and the desires of the broader public.
In reality, many of the Bush-era ventures that look worst in hindsight were either popular with the public at the time or blessed by the elite consensus. Voters liked the budget-busting tax cuts and entitlement expansions. The Iraq war's cheering section included prominent Democrats and scores of liberal pundits. And save for a few prescient souls, everybody - right and left, on Wall Street and Main Street - was happy to board the real-estate express and ride it off an economic cliff.
I don't really think one of the major critiques of Bush's presidency is that it was "fatally insulated" from "the wisdom of the Washington elite." When is the last time you heard someone say "If only George W. Bush had listened to Tom "Suck on This" Friedman?" Or "Why, oh, why, didn't Bush listen to Richard Cohen's and Jonathan Alter's pleas for torture?"
No: One of the major critiques is that Bush was insulated from opposing viewpoints. And, of course, those opposing viewpoints generally turned out to be correct.
The Washington elite, as Douthat notes, generally went along with Bush administration schemes like unnecessary and unpaid-for tax cuts and wars. Douthat seems to think that undermines the criticism that Bush was insulated from those who disagreed with him and deaf to opposing (and better-considered) views. It doesn't; it merely demonstrates that Bush was not alone in that flaw -- he was joined by, among others, many of the journalists who make up the Washington elite.
Given that Bush is gone and that Washington elite is still here, Douthat would have done far better to examine why the Tom Friedmans and Richard Cohens of the world were in such agreement with Bush than to use their agreement to absolve Bush. Or why the Washington elite is so quick to bless right-wing policies. Or why, despite that, the Washington elite persists in thinking they are insufficiently solicitous of conservative viewpoints.