It's always interesting to see what the Newsbusters crew thinks the media should be paying more attention to. Today:
Bill Mann at HuffPost pulls back the curtain a bit and explains one of the reasons why Rush Limbaugh over the years has been able to line up approximately 600 radio outlets to carry his show, a number the media always use to tout the talker's influence.
Answer: Limbaugh and his syndicator give the show to some stations for free. Writes Mann:
Here's how a barter deal works: To launch the show, Limbaugh's syndicator, Premiere Radio Networks -- the same folks who syndicate wingnut du jour Glen Beck -- gave Limbaugh's three hours away -- that's right, no cash -- to local radio stations, mostly in medium and smaller markets, back in the early 1990's.
So, a local talk station got Rush's show for zilch. In exchange, Premiere took for itself much of the local station's available advertising time (roughly 15 minutes an hour) and packed the show with national ads it had already pre-sold.
Think Gold Bond Medicated Powder.
These days, the WashPost columnist thinks it's a bad idea to investigate any law-breaking that might have gone on during the Bush years, that it's best to look forward, not in the past:
I understand the reluctance to open a wide-ranging probe of past practices. It seems to me we are better off focusing on cleaning up the policies and practices for the future than trying to settle scores for past actions.
In doing so, Broder signs off on the beloved Beltway narrative that it's nuts to hold former administrations accountable for their actions, that only zealots want to drag out those kind of partisan witch hunts. Except that digging through the archives I can't find any examples from 2001 when Broder tsk-tsked the endless congressional investigations that were launched by a Republican Congress to investigate the last-minute Clinton pardons and gifts received.
In 2001, it made perfect sense to hold exiting administrations accountable. Today, the notion seems cuckoo.
From Howard Kurtz's article about Politico today:
When some Democrats were urging Hillary Clinton to get out of the presidential race last May, she told South Dakota's Argus Leader that "we all remember the great tragedy of Bobby Kennedy being assassinated in June." Harris told his reporter to quickly post an item -- which had already been picked up by the New York Post -- , but later wrote that it was a "deflating experience" when he watched a video of the matter-of-fact comments 90 minutes later.
That's all Kurtz wrote about the matter. Why was it a "deflating experience" when Harris watched the video of Clinton's comments? Kurtz won't say.
Well, according to the very Harris column Kurz referred to, it was deflating because Harris and Politico had hyped the Clinton comments in a misleading fashion, as the video made clear. Here's Harris:
The RFK remarks were deep in a 20-minute clip of an otherwise routine conversation. Then, once we actually got to the relevant portion of the video, it was hardly an electric moment.
Clinton does indeed mention the Kennedy assassination, speaking in a calm and analytical tone: "My husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere in the middle of June, right? We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California."
Martin and I both thought we saw a slight twinge in Clinton's facial expression, as though she recognized she had just said something dumb. Whether she recognized it or not, she had.
But it was also clear that Clinton's error was not in saying something beyond the pale but in saying something that pulled from context would sound as if it were beyond the pale.
It would be a big story if Clinton said something like this: "Hey, I know it looks bad for me now. But, think about it. Obama could get shot and I'd get to be the nominee after all."
It is a small story if Clinton said something like this: "Everyone talks like May is incredibly late, but by historical standards it is not. Think of all the famous milestones in presidential races that have taken place during June."
It seems pretty obvious that the latter is what Clinton meant, and not too far from what she actually said. It was not surprising that the Argus Leader's executive editor, Randall Beck, put out a statement saying, "Her reference to Mr. Kennedy's assassination appeared to focus on the time line of his primary candidacy and not the assassination itself."
Reading John Harris' version, you can't help but conclude that Harris and Politico (along with, to be fair, many other news organizations) were guilty of pulling Clinton's comments from their context and making them look worse than they were.
But reading the version Howard Kurtz provides this morning, you would have no idea of any of that. You wouldn't even know that Politico had posted the story before watching the video. Indeed, Kurtz's version reads as though Politico reviewed the full video, and killed their post as a result.
For weeks, the right-wing activists promoting the so-called "tea party" tax protests have been complaining that the media isn't paying enough attention to their stunt. They must be thrilled with the puff piece in today's USA Today.
The USA Today article begins by portraying the "tea parties" as the work of ordinary, apolitical Americans who have had enough:
Jenny Beth Martin remembers the day she became a protester.
Her husband's business had gone under, and the two were cleaning houses in Atlanta to stay afloat. That was when they heard about a tirade against President Obama's mortgage bailout scheme by a financial news analyst calling for a modern-day Boston Tea Party revolt.
"We had just lost our house and had ... moved into the rental house," says Martin, 38, whose husband Lee's temporary-employee firm had 5,000 workers before it went down in the recession.
"I didn't want other people paying for my mortgage, and I wanted to prevent that in other places," she says.
It isn't until 19 paragraphs later that USA Today gets around to telling us that Martin is a "former paid consultant for local Republican candidates."
Actually, it isn't clear that "former" is accurate. On the "About" page of her blog, Martin says she is currently a Republican political consultant:
But USA Today continued to portray the protests as a spontaneous grassroots uprising:
Bridgett Wagner, director of coalition relations at the conservative Heritage Foundation, sees a possible reprise of the tax revolt of the 1970s and '80s, when a California movement to slash and cap property taxes led to successful ballot measures from the West Coast to Michigan and Massachusetts.
"These movements in the past have shown that when people have finally had enough, even the politicians at some point have to listen," says Wagner, calling it a "bottom-up" phenomenon.
USA Today didn't bother to include a contradictory view, or any facts that might undermine the "bottom-up" assertion (more on that later.)
Here's another example of the "'bottom-up' phenomenon" USA Today provides:
Dawn Wildman of San Diego, who is organizing four tea parties, says lawmakers should not be dismissive.
"We're seeing how you vote," she says. "You're not paying attention to your constituency. We put you there, and we can take you out."
So who is Dawn Wildman? If you have ten seconds and an Internet connection, you can pretty quickly find out that she is a Republican activist affiliated with the "Neighborhood Republican Club."
Meanwhile, USA Today didn't make any mention of Fox News' role in the "tea parties," or the role played by conservative groups like Freedom Works (Chaired by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey) and Americans for Prosperity (run by a former partner of Ralph Reed.)
It's easy to portray the "tea parties" as grassroots uprisings if you ignore the roles played by the likes of Fox News and Dick Armey, hide the fact that the organizers you quote are Republican activists, and don't include any comments critical of the events.
Glenn's all excited about the April 15 "tea parties" and how authentically "grassroots" they are. How the corporate media are ignoring them, and how they're gonna be a huge success.
That's all well and good. Except Glenn plays dumb throughout his New York Post piece [emphasis added]:
Around America, taxpayers have had enough. Fed up with excessive spending, planned tax increases and a federal government that first caused the financial bubble through misregulation, and then grabbed power in order to "fix" it, they're hitting the streets to protest.
So this entire right-wing movement is built around the idea that taxes might go up? And these are the same protesters who sat on their hands during the Bush years while the federal government demolished previous spending records? Spare us, Glenn. These "tea party" events are likely going to be nothing more than anti-Obama mob events. Why can't you be honest about that?
And then this:
Now that the movement looks likely to be big and successful, various established groups (mostly on the right, though a lefty counterpart will march this weekend) are getting involved. But its genesis and enthusiasm are pure grassroots: a lot of people who've had enough, brought together by the power of the Web.
First, we love how Glenn dubs the protests a huge hit even before they've happened. Nifty trick. And what defines successful? If less than one million people turn out nationwide on Wednesday, will Glenn still proclaim the anti-Obama rallies were a success?
Second, regarding "pure grassroots," why is Glenn playing dumb about Fox News, the corporate media behemoth, which is advertising the events pretty much non-stop, sending its anchors to lend star power, and whose own Glenn Beck is even planning on attending a "tea party" fundraiser? Or is that Glenn's idea of true "grassroots"? If it is, than yes, we're laughing out loud.
In fact, here Glenn goes out of his way to deliberately ignore Fox News' role:
Many in the punditocracy will ignore this week's protests, to the extent possible, this week. But, thanks to alternative media and talk radio, they'll still get noticed -- in particular, by the members of Congress in whose districts they take place.
This is just priceless: it's the Internet and talk radio that are fueling the "tea parties," not that enormous, mainstream corporate entity known as Fox News.
Hey, Glenn, when the right-wing conservative movement actually is able to create and sustain a grassroots movement on its own (i.e. one that's not bought and paid for by Fox News), let us know. But your beloved "tea parties" ain't it.
UPDATE: Paul Krugman knocks down the notion that the "tea parties" represent an "authentic popular protest movement," as Glenn so proudly puts it.
UPDATE: Blogger Jane Hamsher further punctures the "grassroots" angle.
"His success is pretty simple," said Robert Thompson, a professor of television and popular culture at Syracuse University. "He puts on a consistently good show that is a great mix of culture and entertainment, with painstaking research to back it up. Plus, Beck's show is personality-driven. People genuinely like him."
A) That Thompson, who makes a living giving quotes to the media about the media, is so uninformed about Beck's professional mendacity and irresponsible programming is just embarrassing, both to Thompson and to Syracuse. And B), that the Tribune-Review's piece on Beck does not contain a single reference to any of Beck controversial (i.e. fictional) comments in recent weeks in months, or quote one critic of Beck, is equally lame.
UPDATE: Right on cue, in an article about Beck, here's how the AP, in its entirety, describes the controversial talker:
He's become a favorite target for Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert to lampoon, and been criticized by liberals for over-the-top criticisms of President Barack Obama.
That's it. No on-air Beck quotes and no context (i.e. Beck falsely claims Obama wants to take away people's guns.) Instead, the AP just plays dumb.
When the Washington Post hired Greg Sargent a few months ago, I wrote this about Sargent:
He has demonstrated both an understanding of many of the ways political reporting has failed its consumers, and a willingness to write about it -- a rare combination among professional journalists, as Bob Somerby frequently points out.
Here's a good example of that: On Friday, Sargent called attention to the odd disparity in David Broder's level of outrage about Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
It's hard to overstate how revered the Washington Post's David Broder is among the Establishment media. He's known as the "dean" of the Washington Press corps; he has won the Pulitzer; he has been described as the best and most respected political reporter in the country.
Needless to say, Washington Post reporters simply do not publicly criticize David Broder. When he was at the Post, Jim VandeHei (now at Politico) described him as "the best of the best." Post reporter Chris Cillizza placed Broder alongside the late David Halberstam as "titans of journalism." In short, your typical Post reporter is probably more likely to ask Broder for his autograph than to question his perspective.
Which isn't to say Broder's work doesn't deserve criticism; it often does. (Those interested in examples can find plenty in a column I wrote two years ago examining Broder's inconsistencies and shortcomings.) But he doesn't get that criticism from his peers and colleagues -- many of whom reflexively agree with his narrow Establishment views. Others probably just don't want step on any toes.
In light of that, Sargent's post on Friday is a reminder that his hiring is one of the more encouraging moves the Post has made in years.
Here's what we know: Fox News has gone all in with the "tea party" movement, which means Fox News is now synonymous with the "tea party" rallies. It owns them. Which also means that come April 16, Fox News is not going to be able to disassociate itself from whatever radical rhetoric is inevitably unfurled at the anti-Obama mob events.
The conservative site Little Green Footballs, which has been sounding a very loud alarm about Beck and what his loopiness means to the conservative movement (hint: it's not good), highlights an early Beck-affiliated "tea party."
Buckle up folks, April 15 is going to get ugly.
From LGF, which posts the video:
At a "Project 912 Glenn Beck Tea Party," an unnamed speaker rants about "infiltration by the Communist Party" (a John Birch Society talking point), says that digital cable boxes are "brainwashing machines" planted in our homes by the government, and swears to stop paying taxes. The rant begins at about 1:58.
This is some really deranged stuff, and the audience is eating it up.