Matt Drudge has long been conspiracy theorist Alex Jones' biggest ally. According to a Media Matters review, the heavily-trafficked Drudge Report has promoted at least 50 separate articles at Jones' Infowars website in 2013, and has linked to at least 244 different articles on the site in the past two years.
Drudge announced this week that he had privately told friends that 2013 would be the "year of Alex Jones." Considering Drudge's penchant for promoting Jones and his Infowars website, those comments are more of a promise than a prediction.
Alex Jones is a radio host famous for pushing absurd conspiracy theories about a host of issues, including that the U.S. government perpetrated or was otherwise involved in the 9-11 attacks, the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre, the Oklahoma City bombing, the Space Shuttle Colombia disaster, and the Aurora movie theater shooting.
Jones has lately made headlines for his most recent conspiracy that the Boston Marathon bombings were a "false flag" attack staged by the government. Drudge has provided several links to Jones' site in the days since Jones started floating Boston conspiracies, including an article highlighting the father of the bombing suspects claiming his sons had been set up.
The links to Jones' site in the wake of the Boston bombings are not surprising; he has sent a steady stream of traffic there in 2013.
Among the fifty Infowars pieces promoted by Drudge so far in 2013: a story mulling over claims that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez may have been "surreptitiously" given cancer, possibly by the U.S. government; numerous articles promoting conspiracies about supposedly ominous ammunition purchases made by the Department of Homeland Security; and a story comparing Obama to "other tyrants" -- including Stalin, Hitler, and Mao -- that have "used kids as props."
Drudge has been consistently linking to Jones' site for years (Drudge Report also features two permanent links to the Infowars mainpage). Among the 244 Infowars articles Drudge has promoted since April 2011:
Fox News host Heather Childers failed to disclose her employer's financial ties to NASCAR and controversies over the National Rifle Association's sponsorship of a NASCAR race during an interview with NASCAR chairman Brian France.
On the April 15 edition of America Live, France responded to allegations made by driver Brad Keselowski that he was unfairly targeted by NASCAR officials because of incidents leading up to the April 14 NRA 500 race. After France denied Keselowski's allegations, Childers allowed him to talk about NASCAR's Going Green initiative.
Childers failed to mention, however, that Fox Sports -- like Fox News, a division of News Corp. -- has a multibillion-dollar contract with NASCAR to televise races. Last year, Fox and NASCAR extended their contract to 2022. Fox will pay NASCAR a total of $1.76 billion to NASCAR under the terms of the current contract, which expires in 2014, and will pay an additional $2.4 billion under the eight-year extension. France stated regarding the extension:
NASCAR has been in very good hands and has enjoyed tremendous success the last 12 years in large part because of our fantastic partnership with Fox and Fox Sports Media Group.
Media Matters investigative reporter Joe Strupp has been named a finalist for the prestigious media industry reporting Mirror Award for Best Single Article - Digital Media for his 2012 story, "How A Right-Wing Group Is Infiltrating State News Coverage."
In a statement, Media Matters Founder and Chairman David Brock called Strupp "an invaluable addition to the Media Matters team" and said that the "well-deserved honor speaks to his incredible abilities as a journalist."
Strupp's reporting detailed the rise of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, a conservative news outlet funded by major right-wing donors and staffed by veterans of groups affiliated with the Koch brothers that seeks to publish its ideological journalism in the pages of state and local newspapers.
According to the Mirror Awards website:
The Mirror Awards are the most important awards for recognizing excellence in media industry reporting. Established by Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, the awards honor the reporters, editors and teams of writers who hold a mirror to their own industry for the public's benefit.
This is the fourth time Strupp has been named a finalist for a Mirror Award, with the previous three coming for his reporting for Editor & Publisher. It is the first time a Media Matters reporter has been recognized by the Mirror Awards.
From the April 5 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Washington Post media blogger Erik Wemple has re-confirmed that Fox News' supposed "objective" news coverage is filled with conservative-leaning programming.
In a March 27 blog post, Wemple watched Fox from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET -- the times that Fox officials have claimed are dedicated to objective news reporting -- and found that while there was "straight-up news coverage," there was also "ideologically tilted coverage":
The Erik Wemple Blog counted 14 meaty, beefy segments totaling around 64 minutes in which a rightward tilt was somewhere between slight and overwhelming. Here are some examples of how Fox News engineered the slant:
On Friday, Fox News's Alisyn Camerota substituted for the distinguished Megyn Kelly as host of "America Live," which runs from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Camerota moderated a discussion between two guests on the clash between the Democrats and Republicans over the federal budget.
The discussion was ho-hum, as many discussions on the federal budget tend to be. What put it in the column of tendentious Fox News coverage was not so much how it proceeded, but what preceded it. Fox News producers chose to tease the segment with the ad below, which comes from the Congressional Leadership Fund, a group that bills itself as "focused solely and exclusively on maintaining the Republican majority in the House of Representatives."
The ad repeats a frequently invoked talking point for Republicans in the battle over government spending: Families have to balance their budgets, so why doesn't the government? When Democrats are faced with that argument, they generally point out that families carry debt in the form of mortgages and student loans and the like.
Yet Fox News didn't play a Democratic attack ad with any such talking points.
These findings don't disprove the Pew study, but they call into question Fox's claim that its 9-to-4 is objective.
Wemple went on to note that, while Fox claims a hallmark of "moderated debates between two people of opposing points of view," many of the interview segments he watched consisted of a single guest, typically one who is conservative-leaning.
Wemple also highlighted how the personal agenda of Fox News chief Roger Ailes is reflected in Fox's "news" coverage:
One-sided coverage of Obamacare comes from the top. In his new book on Fox News chief Roger Ailes, author Zev Chafets asks the executive what he'd do if he were elected president. Killing the Affordable Care Act tops his list of priorities. His on-air lieutenants do a wonderful job of carrying forward that sentiment.
From the March 28 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Top conservative media voices spoke out on the need to keep stories accurate and in-depth, while at the same time citing some of the right-wing media's worst stumbles as points of honor during a panel discussion Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference.
It has been a rough few months for the right-wing media. After a variety of observers pointed to its ineffectiveness during the 2012 election, it has come under fire again over the last month as major stories from The Daily Caller and Breitbart.com have imploded.
But such concerns were largely ignored during the CPAC panel titled "Survivor: Conservative Media," which was billed as an examination of the future of right-wing publications. This comes as little surprise, given that representatives from both the Caller and Breitbart.com were featured panelists.
Moderated by Scottie Hughes of the Tea Party News Network, the panel included Katie Pavlich, news editor at Townhall.com and a Fox News Contributor; Seton Motley, a Breitbart.com columnist; Keith Urbahn, co-founder of Javelin; and Lars Larson, a conservative radio talk show host.
While defending their past work, each appeared to espouse traditional journalistic values of accuracy, in-depth reporting and balance.
"Listen to what everyone else is saying, but don't be afraid to break from the pack," Larson said. "When there is a story, get on it, because there are too many stories that are a sleeper. Fast and Furious was a sleeper for a long time."
Larson referred to the botched ATF mission, which Pavlich and others had baselessly spun as a a conspiracy by the Obama administration to implement stronger gun laws.
On March 12, the New York Times published an article on Google's acknowledgement of privacy violations during their Street View mapping project that quoted "consumer watchdog" Scott Cleland attacking the online search giant. When you're talking about issues having to do with online content, calling Cleland a "consumer watchdog" is a tough sell given that he's paid by the companies that provide broadband internet services to advance their interests.
Here's the Times' characterization of Cleland:
Complaints have led to multiple enforcement actions in recent years and a spate of worldwide investigations into the way the mapping project also collected the personal data of private computer users.
"Google puts innovation ahead of everything and resists asking permission," said Scott Cleland, a consultant for Google's competitors and a consumer watchdog whose blog maintains a close watch on Google's privacy issues. "But the states are throwing down a marker that they are watching and there is a line the company shouldn't cross."
It's true that Cleland is a for-pay Google critic and much of his time is spent attacking the online giant. But a "consumer watchdog"? Cleland is the chair of NetCompetition.org, a group that, per its mission statement, promotes "competitive Internet choices for consumers." Among the members of NetCompetition.org: Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Verizon, AT&T -- basically every big provider of fixed or mobile broadband.
Cleland may wrap himself in the cloak of consumer advocacy, but that doesn't necessarily make it so. He's on the payroll of broadband companies to argue for policies that best reflect their interests. He is an industry advocate, one of the many axe-grinders and hired guns in the broadband policy arena looking to earn their keep by getting themselves quoted in the paper advancing the argument for their side. And that's fine, so long as the paper in question informs the reader of the interests backing the sources they quote.
From the March 8 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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FoxNews.com featured an op-ed today by Colin Hanna, head of the conservative group Let Freedom Ring, pushing federal lawmakers to "address quickly and responsibly" the threat facing the film industry from "intellectual property pirates." This is important, according to Hanna, because "Hollywood sets the tone for the world for the industry while adding billions to the U.S. economy annually. Everyone wants to see American movies and everyone, it seems, wants to be in the movie business -- even if they have to break the law as the price of entry."
Hanna's over-the-top lobbying for Hollywood and regulatory action that favors the film industry is likely owed to the fact that the Motion Picture Association of America has paid Hanna to do exactly that -- a fact that Fox News neglected to disclose.
The MPAA's 2011 tax disclosure form (the most recent available) shows a $10,000 payment to Let Freedom Ring for the purpose of "promot[ing] film industry."
Let Freedom Ring received that grant just as the MPAA and major media companies were gearing up to push the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) through Congress. Hanna wrote an op-ed in December 2011 advocating SOPA's passage, and Let Freedom Ring launched an online petition backing SOPA and PIPA as "important pieces of legislation that are consistent with the Founders' view that property rights are important, even vital to America's success."
The campaign failed, and SOPA and PIPA were famously brought down through a combination of grassroots activism and opposition from big-name online entities like Google and Reddit. That failure left a bad taste in Hanna's mouth. His March 7 op-ed took an oblique and supremely hypocritical dig at the groups that killed SOPA and PIPA:
Congress has tried to address this issue before, but pressure campaigns relying on false information and hysterical allegations of government over-reach -- perhaps funded by entities who do not believe that someone else's intellectual property rights should be a barrier to their ability to make money -- dissuaded legislators from taking action. That must not be allowed to happen again. [emphasis added]
Yeah, we can't have outside actors funded by interested parties attempting to influence legislators on intellectual property issues. That'd be outrageous.
From the March 7 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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From the March 5 edition of Current's The Young Turks:
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Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano baselessly speculated that the government will invade personal privacy as a result of President Obama's executive order on cybersecurity, ignoring the fact that the order merely provides optional help for companies running critical infrastructure to combat cyber threats.
President Obama announced Tuesday during the State of the Union address that he had signed an executive order to improve cybersecurity for critical infrastructure that impacts national security, the national economy, and public health and safety."
On Fox & Friends, Napolitano said the order "goes too far," making the accusation that the order will allow the government to read personal emails and eventually punish and restrict individuals for what they say on the internet, claiming that "your freedom of expression will shrink."
But as The New York Times reported, the order has nothing to do with the Internet use of individuals, and instead introduces an entirely voluntary program to help specific companies combat cyber threats:
The order will allow companies that oversee infrastructure like dams, electrical grids and financial institutions to join an experimental program that has provided government contractors with real-time reports about cyberthreats.
It will also put together recommendations that companies should follow to prevent attacks, and it will more clearly define the responsibilities for different parts of the government that play a role in cybersecurity.
The Times further noted that according to industry experts, the most important measures needed to protect against cyberattacks still require congressional approval. Senate Republicans twice rejected cybersecurity legislation last year.
And the American Civil Liberties Union has approved of the privacy measures included in the executive order. The Hill's technology blog reported:
The executive order also makes clear that agencies are required to implement privacy and civil liberties protections into their cyber activities, according to existing privacy principles and frameworks. Agencies are also required review the privacy and civil liberties impact of their work and publicly release those assessments.
Those privacy-focused measures won approval from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
"The president's executive order rightly focuses on cybersecurity solutions that don't negatively impact civil liberties," Michelle Richardson, a legislative counsel for the ACLU, in a statement. "For example, greasing the wheels of information sharing from the government to the private sector is a privacy-neutral way to distribute critical cyber information."
Click over to Politico and you'll find an opinion piece by Mike McCurry, chair of the tech advocacy group Arts+Labs, championing a laissez-faire approach to regulation of the broadband and wireless markets, and highlighting the "investing, innovating, and competing" we're seeing from big telecom players like AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, and T-Mobile. There are a couple of key facts missing from McCurry's piece. First, Arts+Labs is partners with AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast-owned NBC Universal, which should have been disclosed given McCurry's advocacy on their behalf. Second, any discussion of the current spike in wireless investment has to acknowledge that government intervention -- killing the AT&T/T-Mobile merger -- made it possible.
Over the past five years, the nation's leading network providers have collectively invested over $100 billion in faster and better services on their on-ramps to the Internet. In 2011 alone, U.S. investment in wired and wireless network infrastructure rose 24 percent. These investments are being made because companies in the broadband industry -- both wired and wireless providers -- are competing like mad for customers.
Look at what four of the largest competitors are doing. AT&T announced that it will invest $14 billion in both its wired and wireless networks on top of its planned investment for a total of $22 billion a year for the next three years. Verizon is spending billions to keep up with relentless demand for wireless broadband services, seen most recently in its purchase of an additional $3.9 billion of wireless spectrum. Last fall, Time Warner upgraded the speed of its standard broadband Internet tier by 50 percent in many of its service areas. Comcast, which already widely offers speeds of up to 105 mbps and is rolling out 305 mbps speeds, has also focused on the populations least likely to sign up for broadband, offering discounted Internet service packages that start at around $10 per month for low-income families. Scores of other companies, from Sprint to CenturyLink to T-Mobile to Frontier, are also investing, innovating and competing.
Head to the Arts+Labs homepage and you'll see a list of their partners -- "entertainment companies, software providers, telecommunications providers, artists and creators." Featured quite prominently on that list are NBC Universal, AT&T, and Verizon. The bio appended to the Politico piece identifies McCurry as Arts+Labs' chair, but doesn't note these telecom companies' involvement with the group.
From the January 8 edition of Current's The Young Turks:
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