If there's one thing journalists love, it's pretending that every flaw evident among conservatives is mirrored exactly among liberals.
Sure, Ann Coulter may fantasize about killing journalists, and Lou Dobbs may help spread nutty ideas about Barack Obama's birthplace, and the conservative movement may have accused Bill Clinton of being complicit in dozens of murders, but reporters will rush to assure you that there are extremists on both the Left and the Right -- and they enjoy similar positions of prominence on both sides.
Enter Slate's William Saletan, whose recent feature about the "food police" contains this whopper of a false equivalence:
To justify taxes on unhealthy food, the lifestyle regulators are stretching the evidence about obesity and addiction ... Liberals like to talk about a Republican war on science, but it turns out that they're just as willing to bend facts. In wars of piety, science has no friends.
Oh, really? Many conservatives want to stop teaching evolution in schools, to pick but one obvious example. They deny global warming, even as the polar ice caps melt away before our eyes. But liberals are just as willing to bend facts, according to Will Saletan, because ... Well, because their estimates of the budgetary impact of increased obesity may be too high.
Yeah. That's the same.
(It's telling, by the way, that Saletan doesn't feel the need to list any actual conservative falsehoods by way of comparison -- he assumes it is self-evident that both sides are "just as willing to bend facts." No need to actually compare the ways in which they do so before making that assertion.)
Both are pushing Drudge's pointless report about how a FOX TV affiliate was apparently told by officials at the Chicago Olympic Committee that the station's trivial, 60-second report last Thursday morning regarding how some Chicagoans were against landing the 2016 Olympic bid, would "harm Chicago's chances" of winning the bid. According the Drudge, the station shelved plans to re-air the clip.
But get a load of Drudge's screaming headline:
FOX-TV Chicago Ordered Not to Run Anti-Olympic Story
Psst Matt, the station already ran it. (The only 'news' was whether they'd air it again.)
Then look at how Malkin, desperate for an anti-Obama angle, spin the hollow tale. Under the headline "Olympic Crony Watch," she invents a key fact:
Drudge reports that WFLD-TV has been ordered not to broadcast an anti-Olympics segment again.
Really? The TV station was "ordered" not to air the mundane segment again? Actually, no. According to Drudge's 'reporting,' the decision was made internally.
Who knows (cares?) if a single word of Drudge's report is true. We just love how Malkin couldn't help improving it with her own version of right-wing reality. i.e. Obama's cronies were issuing orders!
The AP has promoted Liz Sidoti to "national political writer," the AP's "'go-to' source reporter, strategic thinker and writer, and a leader among peers."
So, let's fire up the ol' way-back machine and see how Sidoti got the promotion, shall we?
... and more.
Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson reports that Betsy McCaughey's mid-1990s lies about health care reform -- lies that helped torpedo the Clinton administration's efforts to provide universal health care -- were, in effect, the result of tobacco-industry propaganda:
McCaughey's lies were later debunked in a 1995 post-mortem in The Atlantic, and The New Republic recanted the piece in 2006. But what has not been reported until now is that McCaughey's writing was influenced by Philip Morris, the world's largest tobacco company, as part of a secret campaign to scuttle Clinton's health care reform. (The measure would have been funded by a huge increase in tobacco taxes.) In an internal company memo from March 1994, the tobacco giant detailed its strategy to derail Hillarycare through an alliance with conservative think tanks, front groups and media outlets. Integral to the company's strategy, the memo observed, was an effort to "work on the development of favorable pieces" with "friendly contacts in the media." The memo, prepared by a Philip Morris executive, mentions only one author by name:
"Worked off-the-record with [The] Manhattan [Institute] and writer Betsy McCaughey as part of the input to the three-part exposé in The New Republic on what the Clinton plan means to you. The first part detailed specifics of the plan."
Now, it isn't necessarily shocking that a reporter would talk off-the-record with business interests while writing an article about legislation that would affect them. But McCaughey's relationship with Big Tobacco was merely not that of "reporter" and "source."
See, McCaughey was working for The Manhattan Institute at the time. And The Manhattan Institute was funded by -- you guessed it -- tobacco companies.
While Phillip Morris was "working with" McCaughey in 1994, the tobacco giant was also budgeting $25,000 for The Manhattan Institute for 1995. The Manhattan Institute has also taken tobacco money from Brown & Williamson, R.J. Reynolds, and Lorillard.
So that's where McCaughey's dishonest New Republic article -- the article that did more than any other to kill health care reform in the 1990s -- came from. The tobacco companies that funded the "think tank" that employed McCaughey "worked off-the-record" with her to shape the article.
The New Republic eventually "recanted" McCaughey's article, a decade after the damage was done, and apologized for it (though then-editor Andrew Sullivan stands by the decision to publish the article.)
So, now that Betsy McCaughey is again trying to kill health care reform, you have to wonder -- who is paying for her deception this time? And which news organizations will eventually have to apologize for promoting her dishonest work?
It's the one Jamison detailed yesterday about how the Times was way too late on the oh-so hugely important ACORN story, and how the Times is going to assign somebody to watch the "opinion media" (i.e. the right-wing media mob), to make sure the newspaper doesn't miss out any more ground-breaking stories in the future.
Hint to NYT: No matter how much you flatter them with news coverage, the right-wing is always going to hate you and is always going to claim liberal bias. But hey, good luck with your wild goose chase.
Just a couple quick points to highlight how, in making his point, Public Editor Hoyt Clark engaged in some rather questionable journalism himself. First, note this phrasing, as Hoyt describes the premise of the ACORN hidden-camera story [emphasis added]:
It was an intriguing story: employees of a controversial outfit, long criticized by Republicans as corrupt, appearing to engage in outrageous, if not illegal, behavior.
So even before the latest headlines emerged this month, ACORN, in the eyes of Hoyt, was "a controversial outfit." The wicked irony here is that in a column in which Hoyt claims the Times is too slow to embrace right-wing stories, Hoyt embraces right-wing rhetoric by describing ACORN as "controversial."
It's interesting that Hoyt never bothers to explain why ACORN was considered "controversial," before the hidden-camera story broke. The only point he makes is that ACORN had been "long criticized by Republicans as corrupt." Is that what made ACORN controversial, the mere fact that Republicans criticized it? Is that Hoyt's definition of "controversial"?
It's true Republicans have been chasing ACORN for years. In fact, last autumn Fox News mentioned ACORN more than 1,500 times in a mindless crusade by the right-wing to blame the low-budget community organizing group for everything from housing marketing bubble to stealing elections. Fox News and the GOP Noise Machine accused ACORN of every crime under the sun, but Fox News couldn't actually uncover one new damning fact about ACORN.
But voilà! Because Republicans have "long criticized" ACORN "as corrupt," journalists like Hoyt embrace the language and claim that even before the hidden-camera videos ACORN was "controversial." False. ACORN was the subject of a mostly fact-free, unhinged right-wing crusade. And just because far-right partisan declare a phony war on a group that helps poor people, doesn't main serious journalists like Hoyt ought to adopt the language.
Second, after spending an entire column detailing how the Times needs to react quicker to right-wing stories that are hatched online, note this passage near the end of Hoyt's column:
And Republicans earlier this year charged that the [Times] killed a story about Acorn that would have been a "game changer" in the presidential election — a claim I found to be false.
Was the irony completely lost on Hoyt? He writes a column about how the Times has to scoop up whatever charges the right-wing mob cooks up, yet Hoyt himself concedes that last year the same mob cried bloody murder over some supposed "game changer" article that the Time sat on; a charge Hoyt himself concluded was "false."
So tell me again why the Times has to now obediently follow the mob?
From a September 28 Washington Times article:
In a September 26 article, The News Tribune of Tacoma, Washington, reported that while Glenn Beck "has plainly called" his mother's 1979 drowning "a suicide," her "death unfolds more as a mystery in interviews and records," and "news accounts from the time, interviews and official records obtained by The News Tribune largely describe the death of Mary Beck as an accident." McClatchy owns The News Tribune and republished the article.
From the News Tribune article:
On May 15, 1979, boaters found the body of Beck's 41-year-old divorcée mother, Mary, floating about two miles north of the Asarco smelter at Ruston.
A day later, the body of the man who reportedly had taken Beck's mother fishing was found washed ashore near Vashon Island's Tahlequah Ferry Dock. The man's small boat also was found beached at Maury Island, with a small dog, personal items and an empty bottle of booze inside.
Years later, during his radio and television broadcasts and in interviews, Beck consistently has described his mother's death as a suicide, part of a running thread in the fabric of his personal story of salvation - the hallmark of his broadcasts. Beck's stepbrother also killed himself, Beck has said.
"My mom wasn't mother of the year," Beck told his audience last year. "My mother, my mother had real deep, deep problems. She was doing her best, but she left the family to deal with suicide when I was 13 years old."
Beck has said that, like his mother, he has battled chemical addiction and nearly killed himself, too - until finding redemption through, among other things, Alcoholics Anonymous and Mormonism.
But a recent report in Salon Magazine questioned Beck's version of his mother's death, stirring anger among Beck's followers.
Now, news accounts from the time, interviews and official records obtained by The News Tribune largely describe the death of Mary Beck as an accident.
"It was determined that (Mary Beck) appeared to be a classic drowning victim," a Tacoma police report on her death investigation states.
"There were no obvious injuries on the exterior of the body and at this point there is no reason to believe that this was anything other than an accidental drowning."
Yet the report added that Coast Guard officials theorized Beck's mother also could have jumped overboard.
Beck, who has talked generally about his mother's death on the air and in interviews but has provided few details, this week declined The News Tribune's request for an interview.
Though Mary Beck's son has plainly called it a suicide, her death unfolds more as a mystery in interviews and records.
According to the Salon story, Beck has said in at least one interview that his mother left a brief suicide note the morning of her death. Beck's father did not return a call seeking comment for this story.
Beck's family did not discuss his mother's death, and neither did he - until years later, when he broached the subject live on the air, according to the St. Petersburg Times profile. His current wife first heard Beck describe his mother's death as a suicide while listening to the broadcast, the story said.
Washington state death certificates show the cause of both deaths as drowning, with Carroll's death ruled an accident and Mary Beck's as "probable accidental."
Although most of the Tacoma police investigation report also describes the deaths as accidental, it offered one other possible explanation:
"Coast Guardsman theorize that Mrs. Beck, who had a history of heart problems and also was thought to be having a nervous breakdown, might have fallen overboard or jumped overboard," the report says, adding that "Carroll attempted to save her and the result being both victims drowning."
The News Tribune article follows a September 21 Salon.com article that reported on the subject:
Early one morning in May 1979, a 41-year-old divorcee named Mary Beck went boating in Washington's Puget Sound. Her companions on the expedition were a retired papermaker named Orean Carrol, whose boat she helped launch near the Tacoma suburb of Puyallup, and Carrol's pet dog. Exactly what happened next remains shrouded in morning mist, but among the crew, only the dog would survive the day. The boat was recovered late that afternoon adrift near Vashon Island, just north of Tacoma. It was empty but for two wallets and the frightened animal. Mary Beck's body was discovered floating fully clothed nearby. Carrol's corpse washed ashore at the Vashon ferry terminal the following morning.
The county coroner found no evidence of violence on either body. Police investigators told Tacoma's News Tribune that the double drowning appeared to be a classic man-overboard mishap -- a failed rescue attempt in which both parties perished.
At the time of Beck's death, she held custody of her 15-year-old son, Glenn, with whom she had moved to Puyallup. She had left her estranged husband William behind in Mt. Vernon, Wash., another small city 100 miles due north. After producing two daughters and a son, the Becks' marriage had collapsed in 1977 under the weight of Mary's chemical addictions and manic fits of depression. It was in the two years bridging this divorce and his mother's drowning that a teenage Glenn Beck launched one of the most bizarre and unlikely careers in the history of American broadcasting.
Since launching his talk radio career in the late '90s, Beck has constructed a persona anchored in a biography of struggle and redemption. It is a narrative with shades of another haunted Washingtonian who found entertainment fame, Kurt Cobain. Both men hailed from broken homes in the drizzly Pacific Northwest. Both men would find youthful fortune behind microphones while struggling with drugs, prescribed and recreational. Both would contemplate suicide before their tethers finally snapped in 1994. That year Cobain would wrap his mouth around a loaded shotgun. Beck, after contemplating doing the same while listening to a Nirvana album, would not.
Over the course of many retellings, the tragedy of Mary Beck would become the cornerstone event in her son's personal narrative of redemption, and that tale of rebirth would became the cornerstone of his career. But the story Glenn Beck often tells about his mother is not quite the one recorded by the Tacoma paper. As Beck would later relate to millions of his listeners, his mother's drowning was no boating accident. It was a suicide, he claimed, explained in a short note written on that fateful dawn and left on the mantel. And he said it happened in 1977, when he was 13, not 1979, when he was 15 (even though newspaper obits and government records confirm that a 41-year-old woman named Mary Beck died in Puyallup in 1979.) In fact, Beck's first wife had never heard of Mary Beck's alleged suicide until years after they married, when she heard her husband discussing it live on the radio.
Whether or not some of its details are reliable, the story of how Glenn Beck the teenage DJ became Glenn Beck the cultural phenomenon has both political and personal significance. But is Beck's journey conservatism's post-millennial crack-up writ small, complete with a preference for faith over fact? Is it simply a classic showbiz success story? Or, as Beck and his loyal legions would have it, is it a tale of resurrection, of a born-again patriot rescued from nihilism and now destined to save America from liberalism?
From Glenn Beck's Arguing with Idiots, p. 225:
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
"He was elected four times, obviously he was popular!"
FDR is anpther president who is inexplicably ranked near the top of many "best presidents ever" polls. The fact that he is the only president to ever be elected four times is oft cited as proof of his popularity, and popularity, as we all know, always equals competence.
A.D.D. Moment: Saddam Hussein was elected a lot of times too.
A.D.D. Moment: Did I just use the word "oft"? Wow, I really need to stop reading history books.
Last week, former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough denounced Glenn Beck:
SCARBOROUGH: You cannot say that the president of the United States, Mike Barnicle, hates all white people. You cannot call the president of the United States a racist. You cannot wallow in conspiracy theories as he did for about a month, suggesting that FEMA might be setting up concentration camps and going on Fox & Friends and saying, "I can't disprove it," and then wait a month. You can't stir up that type of hatred -- calling the president a racist.
I know how these stories end. I always know how they end -- and I'm talking to you Mitt Romney, and I'm talking to anybody who wants to be president in 2012. You need to call out this type of hatred, because it always blows up in your face.
Now that Scarborough has discovered the danger of the far-right extremism on display on Fox News, maybe it's time he apologize to Paul Krugman?
See, back in June, Krugman wrote that "right-wing extremism is being systematically fed by the conservative media and political establishment" and went on to state that "the likes of Fox News and the R.N.C. ... have gone out of their way to provide a platform for conspiracy theories and apocalyptic rhetoric, just as they did the last time a Democrat held the White House."
That led Scarborough to lash out: "Paul Krugman, like a lot of I would say extremists on the right, they only see their side. They have a close-minded worldview."
Well, Scarborough's comments last week look an awful lot like Krugman's from June, don't they?
Come to think of it, this would probably be a good time for Scarborough to apologize for his misinformation about that DHS report on far-right extremists, too.