See, this is what happens when radical, right-wing partisan try to practice journalism. More times than not, they end up making fools of themselves. Because they have no idea how journalism works, nor do they care. And sure enough, Breitbart.tv became a laughing stock today when, driven by its blind hatred of Obama, the site claimed to have uncovered a video of community organizers praying to Obama.
Obedient right-wing bloggers then piled on, openly mocking a group of mostly African-Americans as they gathered in prayer. That's right, today's GOP Noise Machine, when not attacking school kids, sets aside time to ridicule people in prayer. (One right-wing site accused the organizers of "blasphemy.")
The punch line came when some sane people outside of Breitbart's hate circle actually watched the video and realized that the community organizers who gathered (nine months ago, BTW), weren't saying "Obama," but were saying "Oh God," which is typical when people are in prayer. In other words, Breitbart posted a video mocking a group of activists while they prayed to God and asked for guidance. Breitbart completely smeared the community organizers with an entirely trumped-up charge.
He bungled the audio when the whole point of the gotcha video was the words chanted on the audio. If the community organizers weren't saying "Obama," which they weren't, than the whole smear falls apart. Which it has.
Andrew, please tell us again how you're going to single-handedly re-invent conservative journalism. Because if this is what you have in mind, it's gonna be a laugh riot to watch.
UPDATED: Clueless right-wing bloggers are still touting Breitbart's misguided hatchet job (i.e the "shocking video"), even though Breitbart's site admits it has no idea what people are saying on the video.
UPDATED: Like I said, so much for conservative "journalism."
Here's Washington Post reporter Ezra Klein, on today's statements from Max Baucus and Chuck Schumer that they don't have 60 votes:
There are two questions here. The first is "60 votes for what?" Do they not have 60 votes in favor of a health-care plan that includes a public option? Or do they not have 60 votes against a filibuster of a health-care plan that includes a public option? If it's the former, that's okay: You only need 51. If it's the latter, that's a bigger problem. But I'd be interested to hear which Democrats will publicly commit to filibustering Barack Obama's health-care reform bill. If that's such a popular position back home, why aren't more Democrats voicing it loudly?
Hey, that's a great point!
Actually, it reminds me of something I wrote a month ago:
Would Joe Lieberman really filibuster health insurance reform favored by Obama and the overwhelming majority of Senate Democrats after Obama and those same Senate Democrats did Lieberman the favor of allowing him to continue to chair the Government Affairs Committee after Lieberman ran against the Democratic nominee for his seat, endorsed the Republican presidential candidate, and attacked Obama in a speech at the Republican National Convention? Remember, he didn't even filibuster the "seriously flawed" bankruptcy bill he opposed in 2005.
Would John McCain really filibuster health insurance reform favored by a majority of the U.S. Senate just a year after voters chose Obama's approach to health care over his own?
Maybe. It's certainly possible. But isn't it odd that nobody has asked them? That the news media, which insist over and over that cloture is what matters, don't ask senators who express skepticism about, or opposition to, health care reform whether they will filibuster it?
I suspect there is some universe of senators -- I have no idea how many -- who want to kill health care reform (or at least large parts of it, like the public option) but who aren't willing to have its blood on their hands. So they calibrate their public statements in an effort to scare off advocates of a public option, hoping that, as a result, they never have to cast a vote against it.
Because if it comes to a vote, they'll have an awfully hard time filibustering legislation that would make health care available to all and more affordable for those who already have it. They'll have an awfully hard time casting a vote to deny a floor vote to legislation that enjoys the support of the majority of both houses of Congress and is the top legislative priority of a president elected on a promise of health care reform just last year.
I understand why they would take this approach. They want to avoid taking a definitive position on a contentious issue -- particularly on the question of whether they'd filibuster health care reform. That's completely understandable, if not admirable. And they're trying to shape health care reform through their vague-but-ominous statements. That's understandable, too -- it's a basic element of negotiation.
What is harder to understand is why so many reporters would help politicians avoid taking a stand.
Maybe it's finally time for reporters to start asking Senators if they will filibuster the public option -- not just whether they support it, or think it has enough votes. Will they filibuster it?
Given how much reporters write and say about the need for 60 votes to break a filibuster, it's pretty stunning that they never get around to asking Senators whether they'll vote to sustain or end a filibuster.
On September 29, Breitbart.tv embedded the following video with the headline "Shock Discovery: Community Organizers Pray TO President-Elect Obama." The video includes includes captions such as "Deliver Us Obama" and "Hear Our Cry Obama" suggesting that the crowd was "pray[ing] to" Obama. However, Breitbart.tv later included a different version of the video without the captions and with an Editor's note acknowledging that "there is a debate over what is actually being said" and the crowd may in fact be saying "O God" rather than "Obama."
These are the captions in the video Breitbart originally embedded on his site:
Later on September 29, Breitbart.tv posted the following Editor's note, underneath a longer version of the video that does not include the captions.
Editor's note: We've updated this post with the longer version of the original event. As you'll see in the comments and related links there is a debate over what is actually being said. Does the crowd say, "Hear our cry, Obama" and "Deliver us Obama?" Or are they saying "Oh God?" In the longer version the first two repetitions seem to have a distinct "uh" sound at the end that resonates as "Obama." The later repetitions are a little fuzzier. Did some of the religious leaders present become uneasy? Or was there a mix of what was being said? Read some of the blogger analysis below. What do you think?
The hidden-camera trick which produced the ACORN story has led lots of conservatives to toast a new era in right-wing journalism. Chris Wallace hails the sting as important "investigative reporting." But of course, it's not really journalism at all.
Here's the definitive proof, in case you missed it over the weekend. Anti-ACORN film maker James O'Keefe told Wallace his objective is to "destroy" people and that no, he doesn't know if he broke any privacy laws in Maryland when he taped ACORN workers, because he has no idea what the law there is in terms of hidden cameras.
Like I said, that aint journalism.
On his Fox program last Friday (rebroadcast on Monday), Glenn Beck hosted a group of moms who theoretically represented what is on the minds of the American people. "Tonight," he explained, "we're going to talk to actual people about what concerns average Americans."
"When regular people oppose the government-run health care," Beck explained, "and let their voices be heard at town halls and tea parties all across the country, they're labeled 'angry mobs' and 'tea-baggers,' and now, 'domestic terrorists,' 'gun-toting radicals.' Do these look like gun-toting radicals to you?"
Beck drove the point home: "I think you're going to find their concerns quite normal, indeed, and rational."
So what are "normal" and "rational" concerns in the mind of Glenn Beck?
Average Americans believe that the Obama administration and the mainstream media are tearing America apart along racial lines
One of Beck's guests, an African-American woman named Mary Baker, stated her belief that "in this time in our nation, we should be together," before lamenting that, "It seems like we're being so torn apart." Beck asked who was to blame, and culprits were quickly assigned. "It's the government," one guest said. "It's the media, for sure," said another. Stephanie Scruggs, a 9-12 Project coordinator, was even more specific:
The only people I have heard doing the name-calling are Nancy Pelosi, the pundits on CNN, the pundits on ABC, NBC. I quit watching regular news on the night of the election when they called me a racist because I happen to live in the South and didn't vote for Barack Obama. So, I must be a racist. I don't watch them anymore.
Regarding Ms. Baker, she is the author of a recently published editorial entitled, "Why I am no longer an African American," a piece she mentioned on Beck's program. The article argues that Obama's election "has resulted in even more racial division" and that we are witnessing a resurgence of "anti-American sentiments" stemming form "the Black Power Movement, Nation of Islam, or the Black Nationalist Movement." "The classification of me as an African American," Ms. Baker writes, "says that although I live in America, my loyalty and allegiance are to Africa."
Ms. Baker concludes her piece with the following argument:
Is this division amongst us perpetrated by our very own government? It is obvious that the inspiration for the classification of African American has nothing to do with those born of African descent. It is a radical group of Black Americans who hold to the anti-American views of those shared by Jeremiah Wright, Professor Gates, Jesse Jackson, President Obama and many others who came out of the radical Civil Rights Movement.
Promoting the idea that Obama's election has turned black radicalism and nationalism into the official policies of the United States government is an explicit goal of the current conservative media movement. Stoking racial tensions is clearly a goal as well. And, as usual, the blame is fixed exactly 180 degrees away from where it should be. The promotion of such beliefs is not the work of the White House or MSNBC. Rather, it is Beck who is hyping the specter of race-based policies by invoking the theme of "reparations," and it was media conservatives who called the president and his first Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor, racists. By contrast, it was President Obama who, during his first national speech in 2004, stated plainly and unequivocally, "We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America."
Average Americans believe that vaccinations are part of a government plot to exert "control" over our families
On the program, Beck implied that he was against flu shots. "I'm talking to one of the top five doctors in the world," he said (the world-renowned physician was not named), "and I'm trying to find out the flu. Am I going to allow the government to give my child a flu shot?"
"No, don't do it," a mother responded." "Take them out of school," said another. "You know what this is about?" a third guest asked. "One word -- it is about control." Later in the program, a mother who was homeschooling her children explained her decision: "I didn't want them being exposed to everything that they're exposed to in schools. I didn't want to vaccinate even on the government's schedule."
The list of government-mandated inoculations for children attending public and private schools includes such historically devastating diseases as hepatitis, pneumonia, whooping cough, measles, mumps, and polio. The fact that infection and death rates from these diseases have fallen so precipitously over the years is undoubtedly connected in large part to widespread inoculations. (A 2007 Harvard study estimated that 1.1 million cases of polio alone have been prevented in the United States.) And yet, Beck allowed his show to promote a generalized rejection of such a practice, one considered a staple of modern medicine.
Average Americans believe that the United Nations is stripping them of their right to raise their children as they see fit
On the program, a guest made the following claim, which Beck allowed to stand without challenge:
Parental rights are being taken away by the United Nations right now. Barbara Boxer is very involved with the United Nations Children's Rights Commission, trying to put our children's rights, including going to church, going to do homework, anything of that -- they can be taken out of your home.
The United Nations Special Commission on Human Rights is indeed focusing on issues involving children. As the commission's website explains:
While victims of injustice and poverty have always had trouble being heard, none have had more trouble, historically, than children. Whether exploited as child labourers or prostitutes, drafted as young teenagers into armed forces, forced as young girls into a lonely life as domestic workers, deprived of an education to work on the family farm, or denied adequate nutrition and health care, children need help and protection from an adult world that perpetrates most of the abuse.
Further statistics highlighted by the U.N. include:
In the last decade, an estimated two million children have been killed in armed conflict, many of them by some of the 100 million landmines thought to be concealed in 62 countries. A total of perhaps four to five million more have been disabled as a result of their experience in war, and more than 12 million have been made homeless.
As for child labour, while experts agree that there are few accurate statistics available, the best estimates from the ILO [International Labour Organization] are that there are nearly 80 million children under 15 working as labourers. It is also estimated that the number of children under 18 involved in prostitution exceeds two million, one million of whom are in Asia and 300,000 in the United States.
Despite such horrific realities -- realities which the United Nations is at the very least publicizing in the hope that they might be addressed -- Beck allowed his program to serve as a forum for the broadcast of blatantly anti-U.N. views. The substance of the actual work of the U.N. Human Rights Commission was not addressed. This should be surprising, considering Beck's rage against the former ACORN employees who offered advice on how to set up a fake underage brothel.
Are these truly average Americans?
There were many other parts of the broadcast that are worthy of correction -- guests, for example, blamed Obama for "apologizing for freedom," bowing "to kings," and asking forgiveness "from dictators" -- all falsehoods that networks like Fox have actively pushed, even cropping the president's words in a deliberately deceptive fashion to make the point.
But the central question viewers should ask themselves after watching a show like this one is the following: Are these the kind of views we want to become "average" in America? Beck is doing his best to create such a reality. The confusion and misguided concern that result from his misinformation are obvious for all to see, and should make the deleterious nature of the conservative media machine all the more apparent.
Washington Post reporter Howard Kurtz begins today's "Media Notes" column with a section on reaction to Roman Polanski's arrest. Kurtz quotes right-wing bloggers Patterico, Ann Althouse, and Ed Morrissey -- but no progressives.
He doesn't quote, for example, my criticism of two Washington Post columnists who argued for lenience towards Polanski. He doesn't quote Scott Lemieux at The American Prospect. Or Jill Filipovic at Feministe. Or Kieran Healy at Crooked Timber. Or Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon. Or any of countless others who have been critical of Polanski and his defenders.
Kurtz' decision to quote three conservative bloggers and no progressives is bad enough. What's worse is that Kurtz quotes Morrissey claiming that defending Polanski is, as Kurtz puts it, a "liberal cause":
At Hot Air, Ed Morrissey sees Polanski as the latest liberal cause:
"Hollywood has tried to sell the statutory rape as some sort of misunderstood love story. They tried again last year in the documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired. The reality is that Polanski drugged, raped, and sodomized a 13-year-old girl . . .
"The victim would now prefer to see the charges dropped, but that doesn't account for 32 years of fleeing justice. Polanski still needs to be held accountable for his crimes, at the very least by getting hauled back to an American court to face the process of justice. He's no hero; he's a rapist, and it's about time that someone make it clear that being a fabulous Hollywood director does not give one a license to commit violent crimes."
Kurtz offered not so much as a hint that any liberals have been critical of Polanski and his defenders; he simply quoted and paraphrased a conservative blogger claiming liberals support Polanski. And then he left out any of the progressive criticism of Polanski that would have disproved the conservative blogger's bogus claim.
And yet Washington Post executives tell us the paper needs to be more responsive to conservatives. Right.
Washington Post reporter Ed O'Keefe passes on an opportunity to explain that the Republicans have dramatically increased the use of the filibuster over historic norms:
VP tie breaker: I just realized how funny that question is! With this strange use of the non-filibuster filibuster, the VP's role is hugely curtailed, isn't it? There are few tie votes, because those bills never make it past the minority's filibuster. How often has the VP had to break a tie, since this strange, undemocratic Congressional "rule" (protocol?) was contorted into it's current bastardized form?
Ed O'Keefe: Both Gore and Cheney definitely had to break a few ties in their day.
That was O'Keefe's full answer. Of course, part of the reason Gore and Cheney had to break a few ties is that there weren't nearly as many filibusters as there are now -- which was precisely the point of the question. But O'Keefe completely ignored the obvious reality that the Republicans are currently making extraordinary use of the filibuster -- that there is not only nothing democratic about the filibuster, there isn't much precedent for its current preeminence, either.
Norman Ornstein explained last year:
From its earliest incarnation, the filibuster was generally reserved for issues of great national importance, employed by one or more senators who were passionate enough about something that they would bring the entire body to a halt.
But after the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the filibuster began to change as Senate leaders tried to make their colleagues' lives easier and move the agenda along; no longer would there be days or weeks of round-the-clock sessions, but instead simple votes periodically on cloture motions to get to the number to break the log-jam, while other business carried on as usual.
Still, formal filibuster actions-meaning actual cloture motions to shut off debate-remained relatively rare. Often, Senate leaders would either find ways to accommodate objections or quietly shelve bills or nominations that would have trouble getting to 60. In the 1970s, the average number of cloture motions filed in a given month was less than two; it moved to around three a month in the 1990s. This Congress, we are on track for two or more a week. The number of cloture motions filed in 1993, the first year of the Clinton presidency, was 20. It was 21 in 1995, the first year of the newly Republican Senate. As of the end of the first session of the 110th Congress, there were 60 cloture motions, nearing an all-time record.
What makes this Congress different? The most interesting change is GOP strategy. Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell (KY) has threatened filibuster on a wide range of issues, in part to force Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to negotiate with his party and in part just to gum up the works. Republicans have invoked filibusters or used other delaying tactics on controversial issues like Medicare prescription drugs, the war in Iraq, and domestic surveillance-and on non-controversial issues like ethics reform and electronic campaign disclosure.
David Weigel at the Washington Independent does the honors as he quickly dismantles Kaus's did-ACORN-steal-the-election-for-Al-Franken nonsense. (Apparently Kaus can't tell the difference between a partisan opinion column and a newspaper "story.")
It's one thing for, say, Newsmax to engage in this; I am mystified as to why Kaus would do it.
UPDATED: Turns out Media Matters had debunked Kaus, as well.
Last week I noted that Glenn Beck's new book, Arguing with Idiots, is a tour-de-force of straw-man attacks. Beck debates with "the idiot" throughout the book and has little difficulty smacking down "the idiot's" laughably absurd arguments, but only rarely does he provide examples of actual people making the silly arguments he attributes to "the idiot." As I wrote at the time, Beck is essentially arguing with himself, and boasting about how he's winning the debate.
Well, I had the rare opportunity to experience this same process first-hand as it leaped from the static pages of Arguing with Idiots to the vibrant world of talk radio. Today, Beck responded to a "stupid blog" that criticized the free-market health care pitch he made in Arguing with Idiots. He didn't mention the "stupid blog" by name, but since I'm so eager to put a name and face to "the idiot," I'll assume for the moment that "the idiot" is me, and Beck was responding to what I wrote yesterday about his exhortation of retail health clinics as a free-market solution to rising health care costs.
Here's what Beck and what I guess I'll call the "radio idiot" mockingly said this morning:
RADIO IDIOT: I read in your health care chapter in your dumb book, you don't even address how to cure my child's specific illness. You don't even address it.
BECK: Is this a serious critique?
RADIO IDIOT: Yes it is! Your solution for every illness is to go to Wal-Mart. You can't cure my son's impossibly rare disease at Wal-Mart.
RADIO IDIOT: Really.
BECK: I was sure that you could perform all major surgeries in the frozen food aisle at Wal-Mart.
Beck has a point here -- it would be very stupid to fault him for not addressing how to cure impossibly rare diseases in his book. Thankfully, my critique didn't come anywhere close to doing that. I specifically mentioned the plight of professional baseball player Sal Fasano, whose son has hypoplastic heart syndrome, because that is exactly the kind of serious medical condition that is primarily responsible for driving up health care costs. Beck's example of a free-market solution to rising health care costs -- retail health clinics at Walgreens -- dealt only with minor health problems, and thus didn't address the primary drivers of rising health care costs. Here's what I wrote, word-for-word:
A 2006 study by the Department of Health and Human Services found that the five most expensive health conditions to treat were heart disease, cancer, trauma, mental disorders, and pulmonary conditions, and that these five conditions alone accounted for 31 percent of the total growth in health care spending from 1987 to 2000. To what extent can retail health clinics defray the expense of treating these conditions? Beck doesn't say -- indeed, it doesn't appear as though he even considered it.
Nonetheless, Beck goes on to smack his newly created man of straw right in the face:
BECK: Do you know why I didn't address your child's incurable disease in the section about Wal-Mart in Arguing with Idiots?
RADIO IDIOT: Yeah, I know why -- because you have no answers! No answers!
BECK: No, it's because that's not what that section is all about. It's not how to cure the individual children's illness, it's not about catastrophic scenarios. That particular few paragraphs is about how the free market causes new innovation and cost reduction.
RADIO IDIOT: How convenient for you.
BECK: That overarching principle is the best long-term way to attack health issues, big and small. Wal-Mart was just a good example of the small.
Beck and the "radio idiot" go on to claim that I said the entire chapter was about Wal-Mart (I didn't), and that I "cherry-picked" Beck's arguments (I didn't). You get the idea.
The bottom line is that Beck isn't interested in addressing what real people are saying. It's much easier to just make up the other side's arguments, make them sound stupid, and then heroically portray yourself as the arbiter of sense and reason.
From the September 28 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto: