Reporters tend to bristle when media critics refer to them as "stenographers." But Paul Kane of the Washington Post provides a pretty clear illustration of where that criticism comes from. Here's something Kane said during an online discussion Kane participated in today (the discussion carries tomorrow's date, but tomorrow hasn't occurred yet, so please believe me when I say it took place today):
Paul Kane: We reported what Olympia Snowe said. That's what she said. That's what Republicans are saying. I really don't know what you want of us.
Got that? Olympia Snowe said something, Paul Kane wrote it down, and he doesn't know what more anyone could want from him.
Well, it isn't very complicated: Context. That's what people want. Like the fact that Olympia Snowe had previously voted to do exactly what Kane quotes her criticizing -- that's useful context.
And that's the difference between "journalism" and "stenography."
Here's the full question-and-answer:
New York, N.Y.: Paul, do you care to defend yourself against this criticism from Media Matters?
"In an April 9 article about Democrats' legislative priorities, The Washington Post wrote, 'Democrats are sure to incite Republicans if they adopt a shortcut that would allow them to pass major health-care and education bills with just 51 votes in the Senate, where Democrats are two seats shy of the filibuster-proof margin of 60 seats. The rule, known as 'reconciliation,' would fuel GOP charges that (President) Obama has ditched bipartisanship.' The article, by Paul Kane and Shailagh Murray, then quoted Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) saying, 'If they exercise that tool, it's going to be infinitely more difficult to bridge the partisan divide.' However, Kane and Murray did not mention that congressional Republicans -- including Snowe herself -- voted to allow the use of the budget reconciliation process to pass major Bush administration initiatives. Indeed, Murray herself noted in an April 1 article that '(a)dvocates defend reconciliation as a legitimate tool used more often by Republicans in recent years, most notably to pass President George W. Bush's tax cuts.' "
Paul Kane: I'm sorry, what's to defend?
Someone tell Media Matters to get over themselves and their overblown ego of righteousness. We reported what Olympia Snowe said. That's what she said. That's what Republicans are saying. I really don't know what you want of us. We are not opinion writers whose job is to play some sorta gotcha game with lawmakers.
That's what columns and blogs are for. Look, Republcians will take reconciliation as a serious poison pill to Obama's so-called bipartisan/post-partisan era. The Republicans did this, in the most direct correlation, with welfare in the mid-90s. And Democrats took it as a vicious partisan maneuver.
That's what is happening, that's what we reported. [Emphasis added]
At least Villager Mark Halperin does. He billboards Karl Rove's utterly predictable WSJ column, in which he criticizes the Obama administration. Again. (It's only March and Rove reads like he's already out of new Obama-era ideas.)
From Halperin's The Page:
Karl Rove op-ed smashes Obama....Developing...
Love the Drudgy "Developing..." shtick. Like Rove saying mean things about Obama is breaking news. Like the Beltway is going to spend the whole day wrestling with the ramifications. And that of course the White House will have to weigh in.
The kicker, though, is that Rove's tsk-tsk column is all about how Obama is so partisan and polarizing.
UPDATE: How shallow is Rove's column? It's built around the idea that Obama's waaaay too partisan and it's going to cost him politically. Interesting, except for the fact that public polling already indicates voters blame Republicans for the lack of bipartisan cooperation. Meaning, Rove's entire column is knocked down by polling data, which Rove conveniently fails to reference.
In the wake of a string of shootings, including last weekend's slaying of three Pittsburgh police officers by Richard Poplawski, a conspiracy theorist who worried the government would take away his guns, Newsbusters' Noel Sheppard is rather unsubtly invoking Waco, under the guise of adding a new acronym to the paranoid Right's vocabulary.
Forgive the lengthy excerpt, but it is important to see exactly how Sheppard is using the term:
SHEPPARD: The War Against Conservative Opinion (WACO) took an interesting turn on Saturday when liberal bloggers blamed right-leaning media members -- in particular, Fox News's Glenn Beck -- for the shooting deaths of three police officers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
In the end, what's important here is that a new strategy in the WACO has clearly begun, and people better sit up and take notice for the very folks attacking those defending the Second Amendment are disgracefully trying to restrict the First.
Sensing their dream of all radio stations resembling Air America was fading away, the Left concocted a new scare tactic: conservative talkers are a security risk because they are inciting violence. People like Beck aren't just opposing the new President's ideas; they're making America a more dangerous place for law-abiding citizens to walk the streets.
Less than 24 hours later, the aforementioned cop killings took place in Oakland, but they couldn't act as an anti-conservative rallying point because the assailant was an African American that ended up being hailed as a hero by the Marxists in his community.
Enter Poplawski stage right whose rampage the very next day by a man apparently clinging to his guns if not his religion perfectly fit the bill.
And the war was on.
As a result, for the foreseeable future, a conservative talker will likely be blamed for every criminal act that can be somehow connected to anything uttered by a right-leaning media member until such individual is fired.
Though the accusers innocently claim this is not their intention, this is EXACTLY what this new WACO strategy is about - getting rid of all the voices in America that don't agree with the direction the far-left and the President they got elected are taking this nation.
So, to sum up:
Despite the fact that neither President Obama nor the Democratic Congress has announced any plans to pursue gun control legislation, right-wing media and activists have been warning ominously that the government is going to come to take away from freedom-loving citizens.
They have resurrected the insane anti-government rhetoric of the 1990s, ranting about an emerging "global government" and the government "tak[ing] your liberty and your property away" and even speculating that the government, via FEMA, is building concentration camps in order to impose totalitarian rule on its citizens.
Meanwhile, Richard Poplawski hears these dark warnings, worries the government is going to take away his guns, and shoots three cops.
Against this backdrop, Newsbusters' Noel Sheppard decides, just in case people haven't gotten the point, to begin bringing up Waco - er, "WACO."
Now, when most people think of Waco, they think of a tragic standoff that began when agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms attempted to execute a search warrant at the Branch Davidian compound, and ended when 76 people died in a fire nearly two months later.
But far-right extremists have a rather more ... excited view of what happened at Waco. They view it as a battle in a war between an oppressive federal government bent on taking away its citizens' liberty, religious freedoms, and guns, and the freedom-loving patriots who must protect their families from enslavement by the government.
When radio host Gordon Liddy offered listeners advice about how to kill federal government agents in the 1990s, he was motivated by Waco, and he was talking about ATF agents, whom he described as "thugs" coming "to kill your wife and children, to try to disarm you."
After Barack Obama was elected last November, Liddy instructed listeners:
LIDDY: The first thing you do is, no matter what law they pass, do not -- repeat, not -- ever register any of your firearms. ... Because that's where they get the list of where to go first to confiscate. So, you don't ever register a firearm, anywhere. ... [W]hat's gonna happen is, if you register your firearms, you're handing them a list of where to go to confiscate the firearms. So don't do it. ... [D]epending upon the intensity of the repression by the government, the way they're, you know, seeking firearms and so forth, then I would say, yes, with respect to Cosmoline and, you know, proper wrapping and storage, and then putting them where they will not be findable by metal detectors and things of that sort. I'll leave that up to your imagination, and because it differs from location to location, but that would be the thing to do.
Liddy has only championed violence against the government; he hasn't committed it himself, as far as we know.
Others motivated by their view of the events at Waco have not stopped at angry rants.
On the second anniversary of Waco, Timothy McVeigh blew up a federal building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people including 19 children. McVeigh was motivated by anger over things like the Brady Bill and the ban on assualt weapons. And he was motivated by Waco, saying after the bombing:
McVEIGH: I didn't define the rules of engagement in this conflict. The rules, if not written down, are defined by the aggressor. It was brutal, no holds barred. Women and kids were killed at Waco and Ruby Ridge. You put back in the government's faces exactly what they're giving out.
That's what happens when dangerous lunatics become convinced - in part by right-wing media - that the government is coming to take their guns and liberty, and become motivated by the memory of (what they think happened at) Waco.
That's the context in which Noel Sheppard is warning of a "war" on conservatives, sounding alarms about an assault on the Second Amendment, and yelling "WACO" over and over again.
Why Coleman Should Drop Out [Ramesh Ponnuru]
If he keeps up the fight, he is likely to lose, unnecessarily deprive Minnesota of a second senator, end his political career seen as a sore loser, and hurt his party in a state that is eager for this fight to be over. His team has talked enough about further legal challenges that if he leaves now, he will get some points for grace. (Needless to say, that sentiment would not be universal.) But this is, I think, the last moment where he can exit with some dignity.
It looks like conservative columnist George Will just wasn't content peddling misinformation about global climate change. He's now written on his ostensible subject of expertise, baseball, lauding a book about umpiring. Will claims:
Umpires are islands of exemption from America's obsessive lawyering: As has been said, three strikes and you're out -- the best lawyer can't help you. But because it is the national pastime of a litigious nation, baseball is the only sport in which a nonplayer is allowed onto the field to argue against rulings.
Now, aside from the fact that the first and second sentences seem to cancel each other out, Will falsely suggests that a "nonplayer is allowed onto the field to argue" balls and strikes. In fact, that will get the "nonplayer" an immediate ejection.
Also, "the best lawyer" can always help you, contrary to Will's suggestion. You can appeal any ruling by an umpire through two stages even when the motion to reconsider provided by arguing with the umpire who originally made the call is foreclosed because you can't argue balls and strikes: the appeal to the entire umpiring crew, and the appeal to the commissioner's office (formerly the league president's office) through the "playing under protest" system. The rules do say that such a protest has to be based on the violation of rules rather than a judgment decision. But that's a niggling detail that a lawyer like Clarence Darrow could probably get around.
(h/t A.H.S. who understands the rules of baseball far better than I, or Will, for that matter.)
According to the 2009'er, it's "crazy" to blame anyone but the Pittsburgh cop killer for doing what he did. (And it's especially crazy to blame Beck!) Yes, Beck goes on the TV and radio and claims the Second Amendment is "under fire," and that Obama will "take away your gun away, one way or another."
But it's loony to think there's a cause and effect between the crazy things he says and the crazy things people who listen to him do. Nobody pays any attention to him or to what's on TV. That seems to be Beck's defense. (i.e. He's just a flight attendant.)
Except, as blogger Bob Cesca (as well as Keith Olbermann last night) points out, that's not what Beck the 2008'er claimed about the cause and effect of pop culture and the crazies. Notes Cesca:
Here's the problem. The Glenn Beck who said this on Monday is clearly at odds with the Glenn Beck of Spring 2008 who blamed the video game Grand Theft Auto for "training our kids to be killers" and "our sons to treat women like whores."
That's right: In 2008, Beck was quite clear that video games, as well as "television" (all of "pop culture," really) were responsible for the rise in violent crime. (They were "training our kids to be killers.") Even doctors think so!
But today, when Beck goes on and on and a possible totalitarian state unfolding in America, and how Obama wants to take your guns away and how Democrats are "bloodsuckers" and the only way to make them stop is to drive a stake through their hearts, when Beck unfurls that kind of crazy talk, guess what? No effect on society.
Politico's Martin Kady's lede:
The heavy coverage of mass shootings in Binghamton, N.Y., North Carolina, Washington state and the cop killings in Pittsburgh has had little apparent effect on the nation's appetite for new gun laws.
Headline on Gallup report on which Kady based his post (emphasis added):
Before Recent Shootings, Gun-Control Support Was Fading
True, Kady did later admit, "It's important to note that the poll was taken before the massacre in Binghamton, but other mass shootings have been in the news for a few weeks."
But ... well, maybe he should have read that Gallup release a little more closely:
The latest figures come from the most recent installment of Gallup's annual Crime survey, conducted Oct. 3-5, 2008.
"Other mass shootings have been in the news for a few weeks," Kady tells us -- but the poll was conducted last year! That's long before the past few weeks.
Not only is Kady citing a 6-month-old poll to make assertions about whether attitudes have changed in the past week, he's cherry-picking results to overstate public opposition to gun control. Kady mentions exactly one poll result in his post:
A Gallup Poll out this morning shows support for a ban on private hand gun ownership at an all time low, with 29 percent of respondents saying they support such a law. It's the smallest percentage since Gallup started asking this question 50 years ago.
That leads him to conclude: "The poll may show why virtually nobody in Congress is rolling out new gun control legislation."
Well, OK. It's true politicians haven't had much appetite for new gun-control legislation in recent years, and almost certainly true that for many of them, politics is as much a part of the reason as are policy considerations.
That aside, Kady's post paints a pretty misleading picture of public opinion about gun control. He cites only one poll result, one showing little public support for a complete ban on private handgun ownership. And from that, he draws conclusions about "the nation's appetite for new gun laws."
Well, guess what? There are all kinds of potential new gun laws other than a complete ban on private handgun ownership. Like reinstating the assault weapons ban, or closing the gun-show loophole. When Gallup asked if gun laws should be more or less strict, 49 percent said more strict. That paints a far different picture than the 29 percent support for a handgun ban Kady cited.
UPDATE: Kady has updated his post:
UPDATE/CORRECTION: The folks at Media Matters have made a fair point in criticizing this post, noting that the polling was done several months ago -- even though Gallup posted this poll just today. It's still worth noting that there isn't yet a ground swell of support in the Democratic Congress for new gun control laws in wake of the tragic shootings, but I should have drilled into this polling data more closely. Paul Helmke of the Brady Campaign, writing in HuffPo, has also taken Gallup to task, calling the release of the poll today misleading.
Kady also added a line in the body of the post acknowledging "the poll also notes that 49 percent of Americans want stricter gun control laws than what's on the books now."
In February, the Washington Examiner glossed over Richard Berman's anti-labor record; on Monday, the San Francisco Examiner did likewise. The paper ran an op-ed by Berman attacking the UAW; here's how the paper identified Berman:
Rick Berman is executive director of the Center for Union Facts, a 501(c)3 union watchdog organization.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has much more about Berman on their Berman Exposed web page, including this summary:
Richard Berman has been a regular front man for business and industry in campaigns against consumer safety and environmental groups. Through his public affairs firm, Berman and Company, Berman has fought unions, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, PETA and other watchdog groups in their efforts to raise awareness about obesity, the minimum wage, the dangers of smoking, mad cow disease, drunk driving, and other causes. Berman runs at least 15 industry-funded front groups and projects, such as the Center for Union Facts and holds 16 "positions" in those organizations.
Each year, Berman, using his front groups to spread misinformation, spends millions of dollars distracting the public with misleading ads.