From a September 4 post on MSNBC.com's First Read blog:
*** Remind us again how the media is biased...: Finally, here's one more thought about the entire controversy over Obama's education speech on Tuesday: Since the White House has said the text of the speech will be available for 24 hours before he delivers it and since they altered the lesson plan language, why is this still a controversy? The ability of the conservative media machine to generate a controversy for this White House is amazing. In fact, this is an example of a story that percolates where it becomes harder and harder for some to claim there's some knee-jerk liberal media bias. (Does anyone remember these kinds of controversies in the summer of 2001?) The ability of some conservatives to create media firestorms is still much greater than liberals these days. How effective is the conservative media machine? Just ask Van Jones...
(h/t Greg Sargent)
The conservative movement has been very effective attacking the media (broadcast and print) for its liberal biases. The refusal of the media to disclose and discuss the ideological leanings of reporters and editors, and the broader claim of objectivity, has made the press overly anxious, and inclined to lean over backwards not to offend critics from the right. In many respects, the campaign against the media has been more than a victory: it has turned the press into an unwilling, and often unknowing, ally of the right.
Over the past two weeks, Glenn Beck has waged a relentless assault on Van Jones, President Obama's green jobs czar. Beck's attacks and vitriol have become especially pronounced since Color of Change, the African-American issues organization Jones co-founded in 2005 (he left in 2007 to pursue other projects), began a highly successful boycott campaign that has resulted in 57 advertisers dropping Beck's program in just a matter of weeks.
But the content of Beck's case against Jones belies something deeper. For example, Beck has emphasized that Jones sported a Black Panther patch on his book bag when he arrived at Yale Law School, and has reduced some of his past civil rights work to nothing more than campaigns designed to free Mumia Abu-Jamal and his (exaggerated) participation in the Los Angeles riots after the Rodney King verdict. (Just watch his August 24 biography of Jones to see proof of that.) While Jones' past is undoubtedly steeped in African-American issues, he was brought into the Obama administration to focus on green jobs -- pure and simple. And yet, for Beck, the focus is always directly or indirectly on Jones' race.
This is entirely consistent with Beck's mindset. Beck is obsessed with race and seems deeply uncomfortable with minority Americans in general, especially those in positions of power. In February, he pushed the idea that Mexican immigrants want to "reclaim" California and Texas. In May, he called Sonia Sotomayor a "racist" on at least three separate occasions, adding that she is "divisive" and "not that bright." He also once dismissively referred to her as "Hispanic chick lady" in an effort to belittle her credentials and portray her as a pure affirmative action pick. (In case you were wondering, affirmative action also qualifies as racism in Beck's book.)
Revealingly, Beck is convinced that ACORN, the activist organization that focuses on minority issues, is seeking to overturn American society as we know it.
Regarding Obama, he has had immense difficulty seeing past the president's skin. He said Obama was elected because of race instead of his policies. He has portrayed the Democratic health care reform effort as "the beginning of reparations." And he has said that Obama plans to "settle old racial scores through new social justice." So it should have come as no surprise when Beck, who believes it is actually Obama, not himself, who "has real issues with race," said the president had "exposed himself as a guy" with "a deep-seated hatred for white people." The next day, he said, "I think the president is a racist." The Color of Change boycott started soon afterward.
It seems clear that to Glenn Beck, individuals like Barack Obama and Van Jones are African-American before they are anything else. And for him, that appears to be a major cause for concern.
From a September 4 New York Times article, headlined "Resurfacing, a Critic Stirs Up Health Care Debate":
For the last few years, Ms. McCaughey has worked in a relatively quiet, noncontroversial fight against hospital infection death. Her campaign has drawn a broad coalition of support and has included the passage of a law in New York requiring hospitals to report infection rates.
But, she said in an e-mail exchange, Mr. Obama's health care proposals compelled her to weigh in. She said she keeps the effort separate from her organization and has not coordinated with any political groups. (Ms. McCaughey resigned as a director at the medical supply company Cantel last month amid accusations of conflict of interest, which she denied.)
Her work has, however, proved to be a boon to Mr. Obama's political opponents, giving explosive fodder for their accusations that his Medicare cuts will eventually adversely affect care (the administration says they will not) and frequently going over the line even by the standards of some conservative opponents of his health care plans.
She incorrectly stated in July that a Democratic bill in the House would mandate "people in Medicare have a required counseling session that will tell them how to end their life sooner," drawing a "Pants on Fire" rating from the Politifact fact-checking Web site; her false assertion that the presidential health adviser Dr. Ezekiel J. Emanuel believes "medical care should be reserved for the nondisabled" helped form the basis for former Gov. Sarah Palin's discredited warning that Mr. Obama would create "death panels" to decide who is "worthy of health care."
Far from isolating her, it has all seemed to raise her profile to levels not seen since she left office, making her a regular guest on cable, radio and even last month, on "The Daily Show" on Comedy Central. (The host, Jon Stewart, said he found her analysis "hyperbolic and in some cases dangerous.")
Admirers and foes say Ms. McCaughey's loud re-emergence in the health care debate is a testament to the same singular drive - and unabated media appeal - that catapulted her from the obscurity of academia to the near-top of New York politics more than a decade ago.
But even to some friends, her criticisms are reminiscent of a trademark style of argument that, while effective in grabbing attention on national issues, frequently comes into dispute as out of bounds.
And so it was that Ms. McCaughey, who earned a doctorate in constitutional history at Columbia University, in 1994 wrote a scathing critique in The New Republic of President Bill Clinton's plan while a scholar at the Manhattan Institute.
The piece, credited with helping to kill the plan, won a National Magazine Award. It also won the attention of Mr. Pataki, who tapped her to run as his lieutenant governor.
But in short order, critics seized on the article for flaws, like its assertion that "the law will prevent you from going outside the system to buy basic health coverage you think is better," though the House bill specifically stated it would not prohibit "an individual from purchasing any health care services." The magazine, with a traditionally liberal bent, eventually repudiated the article, a move Ms. McCaughey described in an e-mail exchange as "political sour grapes."
Her renewed prominence has alarmed old opponents.
"I'm dismayed at her re-emergence as an agent of dangerous misinformation," said Judith Hope, the former New York State Democratic chairwoman.
This meme has been a favorite among the right-wing blogs in recent weeks, who have been feasting off misleading MSM reports: 60,000 angry AARP members have quite the org because of its support of Obama health care reform.
Here though, is some much-needed context, courtesy of a recent report in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution [emphasis added]:
The national AARP, which has 40 million members, advocates on behalf of older Americans, supports changes in health care although it has not endorsed a specific plan. But the organization's stance has put it in a precarious position with some members.
Between July 1 and mid-August, AARP nationally lost about 60,000 members. But during that same period, spokesman Drew Nannis said, it brought in 1.8 million new members.
So in a massive org of 40,000,000 people, approximately .1% of the membership has reportedly quit because of AARP's health care position and we're supposed to consider that to be newsworthy? More importantly, the 60,000 members who have stormed off have been replaced many, many times over.
Just keep that in mind next time you see a reference to how AARP membership is taking a hit in the health care debate.
Is there any accusation that could be made about President Obama that Beltway reporters wouldn't be willing to credulously report? Is there anything that would make them frame their reporting of those accusations around the premise that the charges are ridiculous? Today, Time's Mark Halperin suggests there is not.
Under the headline "Student Speech Courts Controversy," Halperin writes: "Critics accuse the president of imposing a political agenda on children during next week's address." That is how he has decided to frame the conservative movement's bizarre, unhinged attack on the President of the United States for his terrifying plan to… tell the nation's students that it's important to stay in school and work hard. It's a "Controversy"! The president has "critics"! Are their criticisms legitimate? Who knows! There's a link to an AP article on the "controversy" if you actually want some of those dreadful details.
It's worth noting that in claiming their criticisms hinge on fears that Obama is planning to "impos[e] a political agenda on children," Halperin is significantly soft-peddling the lunatic whack-a-doo tin-foil conspiracy nut nature of conservatives' complaints. They aren't saying Obama will teach kids about the importance of universal health care or stopping global warming – they're accusing the president of engaging in Maoist indoctrination in an attempt to create his own Hitler Youth.
There is something wrong with these people. As long as Beltway reporters like Halperin keep treating their complaints as valid, they will maintain a hold on our discourse that prevents serious discussion of actual issues. And no, reporting that "critics" say that Obama is planning to indoctrinate students but the Obama administration denies it does not suffice. Resorting to "he said/she said" journalism when one side's claims are blatantly ridiculous is just pathetic.
The host probably sees his promotion this week as something of a career coup. But honestly, Don Imus could probably launch a lower power FM radio station that has a radius of five miles and land a bigger audience than the one Fox Business currently attracts.
We highlighted this recently, but with the Imus announcement this week it's worth circling around again for another laugh at Fox's expense.
Fact: Nobody watches the Fox Business Network. Okay, not nobody in the literal sense. But nobody in the sense that it's audience is so small it almost defies logic, let along statistics, or cable viewing tradition. Because according to the most recent Nielsen numbers, Fox Business Network averages 21,000 viewers between 5 a.m and 9 p.m.
You read that correctly: 21,000 viewers, in a nation of nearly 300 million people. Honestly, Don Imus could join the morning team on a top 40 station in Portland, ME., next week and have a bigger audience than the Fox Business Network.
The Next Right's Jon Henke -- who called for a conservative boycott of WorldNetDaily and conservative groups who support it through advertising and renting its mailing list -- has tried to get a response out of the Republican National Committee, one of the groups that has rented WND's mailing list, "to inquire about it and encourage them to stop."
It's not going well. The first response was: "Pls note that we have already weighed in on the birther issue -- weeks ago. Thanks." To that was appended a New York Times article containing another response to the birther issue. Henke nnotes:
So, the sum total of the RNC's response was (a) Obama is "a U.S. citizen", but (b) we want to ignore this Birther story, (c) we're not saying whether or not we're working with the Birthers, and (d) we're just going to completely ignore the actual question you asked.
Henke then sent more questions, to which the RNC has yet to respond. Henke concludes:
In the 1960's, Goldwater and a few Republicans had the integrity and guts to denounce the irresponsible fringe in the fevered swamps of the Right. Today, as far as I can tell, the Republican National Committee works with them.
From Joe Scarborough's Twitter page: