For twenty years, the media has told us that Mike Dukakis was a wimp and an unfeeling automaton because he didn't show outrage when asked how he would react if his wife were raped and murdered. The question was absurd, and the commentary about Dukakis' reaction nearly as bad -- but given that the punditocracy hasn't changed its view of the matter in the past twenty years, one wonders if the same standards will apply to another politician who fails to demonstrate what the press deems to be sufficient outrage.
Today, John McCain was asked about the ongoing feud between his daughter and right-wing radio host Laura Ingraham, which has included Ingraham criticizing Meghan McCain's voice and weight. Rather than express outrage at Ingraham's comments, McCain merely said "I'm proud of my daughter and she has a right to her opinions." Asked if he agreed with his daughter, who has said such things as "stop talking about my body," McCain responded "like any family we agree on some things and disagree on others."
Anyone think the media is going to criticize McCain for failing to speak out against Ingraham's attacks on his daughter? Anyone?
The paranoia over at Newsbusters is really getting out of hand.
They've been hyperventilating for months over the rather mundane fact that George Stephanopoulos, Paul Begala, James Carville and Rahm Emanuel talk on the telephone. (Newsflash! People who have been friends for two decades sometimes, uh ... talk to each other.)
Today, Newsbusters' Noel Sheppard goes so far as to write a convoluted post suggesting Stephanopoulos played a role in the creation of a DNC ad criticizing Republicans. In order to do so, Sheppard pretends that there is something unusual about a television reporter like Stephanopoulos asking a political figure about a television ad criticizing that politician. Such questions are beyond common; they are standard operating procedure, and have been for as long as television ads have existed. But to Sheppard, it's all part of a grand, secret conspiracy.
Meanwhile, Sheppard's colleague Warner Todd Huston has an overheated post headlined "Ultra Secret Website for Behind Scenes Media Planning Sessions Revealed." Huston links a Politico article which, he says, "revealed the existence of a hush, hush web message board where denizens of the lefty media get together on a daily basis and plan how they will all cover the news for the great unwashed out there."
That's not actually what the Politico article "revealed," mind you, but that doesn't slow Huston down as he goes on about a "great cabal of underground left-wing plotters attempting to co-opt the message emanating from the bowls* of the Old Media."
Huston and Sheppard seem to think they're on the verge of uncovering a vast conspiracy in which secretive liberals plot to undermine capitalism, stamp out religion, rob cavefish of their sight and rig every Oscar night.
What they have instead stumbled across is the fact that sometimes people talk on the telephone. They also sometimes send email. Some of those conversations are private. Scandal!
* I think he meant "bowels."
The Post uses a lot of breathless language today to announce the scandal over the AIG bonuses is "increasingly blowing back on Obama" and "threatening to derail" the young administration's agenda. Not just its banking agenda. But the AIG story, according to the Post, could torpedo everything Obama wants to accomplish.
Really? Americans, as well as members of Congress, are that angry at Obama? After hearing about the bogus bonuses they're focusing their wrath on the White House, and not the insurance execs and the culture of Wall Street greed? According to the Post, that's how the story's playing out. It's "hounding" Obama.
How does the Post know the Obama White House is paying a stiff political price? The Post just knows. Meaning, the Post doesn't/can't actually point to anything to suggest "the public" is taking its anger out on Obama, or that the public has decided he's to blame for Wall Street's greed. (Greed the president has denounced.) The daily can't point to any polling data, and provides no anecdotal evidence to suggest Obama's entire agenda is now threatened. The Post just knows.
Are people angry at AIG and the government for the bonus scandal? No doubt. Are people focusing their wrath on the White House, and is the entire Obama agenda now in danger of collapsing? There's no proof of that.
Here is today's daily Red Scare Index -- our search of CNN, CNN Headline News, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, MSNBC and CNBC for uses of the following terms: Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic, Communism, Communist, Communistic, Marxism and Marxist.
Here are the numbers for yesterday, Monday, March 16, 2009:
Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 11
Communism, Communist, Communistic: 13
Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 0
Communism, Communist, Communistic: 0
CNN Headline News: 0
Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 0
Communism, Communist, Communistic: 0
Fox News Channel: 16
Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 4
Communism, Communist, Communistic: 9
Fox Business Network: 1
Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 1
Communism, Communist, Communistic: 0
Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 5
Communism, Communist, Communistic: 3
Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 1,
Communism, Communist, Communistic: 1
The above numbers are the result of a TVeyes.com power search for these terms on these networks.
From Frank Gaffney's March 17 Washington Times column:
President Obama on Friday reiterated for the umpteenth time his determination to develop a "new relationship" with the Muslim world. On this occasion, the audience were the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and the Philippines.
Unfortunately, it increasingly appears that, in so doing, he will be embracing the agenda of the Muslim Brotherhood - an organization dedicated to promoting the theo-political-legal program authoritative Islam calls Shariah and that has the self-described mission of "destroying Western civilization from within."
As part of Mr. Obama's "Respect Islam" campaign, he will travel to Turkey in early April. While there, he will not only pay tribute to an Islamist government that has systematically wrested every institution from the secular tradition of Kemal Ataturk and put the country squarely on the path to Islamification. He will also participate in something called the "Alliance of Civilizations."
Once again, Richard Cohen devotes his Washington Post column to attacking a ... comedian. Worse, he is again attacking a comedian for having higher expectations for journalism than he does.
In 2006, when Stephen Colbert delivered a devastating take-down of the political media during his performance at the White House correspondents dinner, Cohen blasted Colbert. Here's how I described it at the time:
This week, Cohen blasted comedian Stephen Colbert, whose performance at the White House correspondents' dinner skewered guests from President Bush to the journalists who invited him. Cohen's complaint? Colbert was too hard on Bush, even going so far as to make "jokes about Bush's approval rating, which hovers in the middle 30s." Oh, the horror! By comparison, Cohen never uttered a word of complaint about Bush's own performance at the Radio and Television Correspondents Association in 2004, which featured Bush making jokes about the weapons of mass destruction he falsely told America were the reason why he sent thousands of our troops to die in Iraq. In other words, to Richard Cohen, joking about your false claims that got Americans killed is fine -- but joking about the low poll numbers of a president who made false claims that got Americans killed is being a "bully." Perhaps that isn't surprising; Cohen, after all is one of the ever-shrinking number of people who still don't think Bush knowingly made a false case for war. He even went so far as to defend the Bush administration's outing of a covert CIA agent as "what Washington does day in and day out."
And now Richard Cohen is upset that Jon Stewart made Jim Cramer and the financial media look bad:
What Jon Stewart needs is Jon Stewart. He could use a droll comedian to temper his ferocity and correct him when he's wrong, as he was about the financial media, particularly CNBC and its excitable analyst Jim Cramer. They didn't cover up the story of financial shenanigans. They didn't even know it existed.
Cohen then offers several paragraphs worth of "proof" that the financial media didn't know about the financial shenanigans. The "proof"? The fact that executives at AIG, Lehman, Citi, and Bear Stearns lost money when their companies collapsed. Cohen concludes: "If these people kept their money in these companies -- financial and insurance giants they had built and knew from the inside -- how was even Jim Cramer to know these firms were essentially hollow?"
Nonsense. Ken Lay lost money when Enron collapsed. Does Richard Cohen think Ken Lay had no idea all was not well at Enron?
Think about what Cohen's argument suggests: That the people closest to a given situation know it best, and the media shouldn't question their judgment and behavior. If that's the case, why do we need the media at all?
Cohen does later make what he calls the "minor concession" that Stewart has "a small point" that CNBC and the business media in general have "often been a cheerleader for the zeitgeist -- up when the market's up, down when it's down."
That seems neither "minor" nor "small" to me, but Cohen is convinced that it doesn't matter that the media is "a cheerleader for the zeitgeist." After all, he tells us, bubbles existed before cable news:
It does not take cable TV to make a bubble. CNBC played no role in the Tulip Bubble that peaked, as I recall, in 1637, or in the Great Depression of 1929-41. It is the zeitgeist that does this -- the psychological version of inertia: the belief that what's happening will continue to happen.
But Cohen has inadvertently - and unknowingly - identified something the financial media could have done better: making clear that what's happening probably won't continue to happen forever. They might even have identified similarities between the current and previous bubbles, and detailed what happened when those bubbles burst.
It is astonishing to see someone who has spent his entire career working in the news media - and reached the lofty heights of the Washington Post op-ed pages - have so little belief in the importance and influence of his profession, and expect so little of it. Richard Cohen thinks it's fine for journalists to simply reflect the spirit of the time. He thinks it's fine for journalists to defer to the judgment of the powerful people they cover.
On some level, Cohen must understand the absurdity of what he has written. He concludes by conceding "Stewart plays a valuable role. He mocks authority, which is good, and he mocks those, such as the media, who take the word of authority as if, well, it's authoritative." But Cohen just spent a column suggesting that the word of authority is authoritative - that was his explanation for why the business media couldn't have seen the collapse coming. And, sure enough, Cohen's concession to Stewart's usefulness isn't really his point in the end. No, his point is that the person who really needs skewering is ... Jon Stewart: "he ought to turn his wit inward: Mocker, mock thyself."
You have to wonder why the Washington Post continues to publish someone who thinks so little of his profession. I'm sure the paper could find a liberal columnist who thinks journalism is about more than simply going along with popular sentiment and trusting the judgment of the rich and the powerful.
The son of Arthur "Pinch" Sulzberger Jr, AG Sulzberger, is the author of this masterpiece of hard-hitting journalism.
So the son of the NYT's publisher was tasked to write a ridiculously solicitous article regurgitating the former Vice President's propaganda for daddy's paper.
That's troubling for a number of reasons. Paunch's daddy (I'm taking liberties with the family's naming conventions), after all, was the guy who delayed a story reporting Cheney's illegal wiretap program for over a year--up until the time James Risen threatened to scoop the NYT with his book. And, at precisely the same time Pinch Sulzberger was bowing to Cheney's request not to expose the illegal wiretap program, Sulzberger was actively shielding Scooter Libby's perjury in the name of reporter privilege. From October 2004--just before the Presidential election--until late 2005, Daddy Sulzberger was helping Cheney hide two incidences of egregious law-breaking.
I guess I shouldn't be surprised to see Paunch taking up the family trade, then, protecting Dick Cheney?
Today Media Matters president Eric Burns joined several prominent writers, journalism professors, economists, media critics and progressive leaders in signing a letter demanding CNBC take substantial steps towards fixing their broken network.
Among many others, the letter was signed by Co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research Dean Baker, Columbia University journalism professor Todd Gitlin, President of the Economic Policy Institute Lawrence Mishel, economist at the Institute for Research on Labor & Employment Sylvia Allegretto, and Senior Economist at the Center for American Progress Heather Boushey.
You can read the letter for yourself here.
CNN's Ed Henry, moments ago: "In terms of the politics, what's fascinating is that Robert Gibbs clearly feels that dragging both Dick Cheney and Rush Limbaugh back into this debate is good politically for this White House. I can tell you a lot of Republicans on the other side are telling me privately, though, they wonder whether this could blow up in the White House's face."
Oh, the Republicans are privately saying this might backfire on the White House? They must really mean it, huh?
When political actors make statements against their own interests, it may be justifiable for journalists to grant them anonymity. And those unattributed statements may have added credibility, for the very reason that they are contrary to the interests of the speaker.
But in this case, Henry's "lot of Republicans" are telling him something that is consistent with their interest. Indeed, they are telling him the most predictable spin possible: that the current political debate will redound to their benefit. The statements have essentially no value. And yet Henry treats them as though they are some deep secret the Republicans are guarding, and as though his ability to tell viewers this secret constitutes some sort of scoop.
If Henry insists on spending precious air time recounting these private conversations with Republican operatives, I would suggest the following wording, which would more accurately convey the situation: "A lot of Republicans claim to think this could blow up in the White House's face, though I should note that I haven't been able to find any willing to attach their names to that prediction."