People say believe half of what you see ...

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

This Media Matters item is really pissing me off:

The Washington Post, in citing Post columnist George F. Will in a news article claiming that an "icy exchange between President Bush and Virginia Sen.-elect James Webb" has "angered conservatives," failed to note that Will, in his column on the incident, left out a key part of an earlier Post account of the conversation between Bush and Webb in order to assert that Webb showed "calculated rudeness."

Read it: The paper bought into Will's BS that Webb showed "calculated rudeness toward another human being" who "asked a civil and caring question." Nor did the December 2 Post article note that conservatives are not unanimous in their "anger" at Webb -- former Reagan speechwriter and Wall Street Journal contributing editor Peggy Noonan wrote that Webb has been wrongly criticized for his comments to Bush and faulted Bush for being rude to Webb." Oh, and by the way, Mort Kondracke bought into Will's BS, too.

What does this tell us?

1) That even the most revered and experienced conservative journalists (Washington Post, ABC's This Week) cannot be trusted to tell the truth.

2) Establishment journalists cannot be bothered to deal with this phenomenon.

3) Even though this has been repeatedly noted on various blogs, the journalists do not care -- this is in part because liberal blogs were noting it.

4) For the MSM all too often, it's not about what's true; it's about what works.

And it reminds me of this incident:

Media Matters for America presents a side-by-side comparison of the claims put forth by an April 9 Washington Post editorial that repeated numerous falsehoods in defense of President Bush's reported authorization of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby to disclose the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction, the corresponding falsehoods forwarded by conservatives and Republicans in the media, and the Post's own reporting -- some of it appearing in the same edition of the paper as the editorial -- that debunks these falsehoods.

Moral: They just don't care ...

Also, I keep saying this, but Nick Kristof is a great reporter but an awful pundit. See here. And remember, this guy is supposed to be the "liberal."

Reading around: Bill Moyers gave an incredible speech at West Point a couple of weeks ago. I recommend you read the whole thing but pay particular attention to the part of Thaddeus Kosciuszko, about whom I knew nothing. It's here.

Boehlert wants to know: Why did the press back in 2002 and 2003 categorically refuse to address the issue of whether Iraq might dissolve into civil war? That's the real press scandal.

And Tom Engelhardt suggests that, were the Iraq Study Group's recommendations accepted, it would in fact leave us embedded in Iraq for at least another three to five years, ensure the ratcheting up of American air power in that country, spread our problems "over the horizon," where we will be redeploying some of our forces, and leave our essential structure of permanent bases in Iraq untouched. He writes: "I can guarantee that, with eight months and a giant staff of experts at your beck and call, you and a small group of your neighbors -- with no ties to Washington, a cursory knowledge of our 1,347-plus days already embedded in Iraq, and ... no, let's say with just eight days, or maybe eight minutes -- could have come up with a plan at least this hopeless."

He also urges Washington and the media, already these last weeks embroiled in a debate about the uses of the phrase "civil war," to reconsider a few other phrases passing around these days. On one of them, "phased withdrawal," he explains:

Withdrawal ('"the act or process of withdrawing, a retreat or retirement") usually means sayonara, arrivederci, so long. And a "phase," of course, is a "stage." But put them together and, at least in the present collective Washingtonian imagination, we're still somehow embedded in Iraq the year after next with no actual plan for leaving in sight and none of our basic structures -- 5 or 6 bases the size of American towns and a goliath of an embassy -- in that country touched. Perhaps it's time to relabel this "option," something like "phased staying" or "phased permanency."

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Brian Kresge
Hometown: Lancaster, PA

Dr. Alterman,

Periodically, I end up in the car outside of the broadcasts of NPR's Morning Edition, and for the sheer sake of background noise, I change to the affiliate that carries the Glenn Beck program. The same kind of worrisome anti-Arab/anti-Muslim garbage makes its way to his radio program, where his audience must be mostly near-pubescent (intellectually) men of military age. Yet on CNN, he's automatically conferred a status as someone who can be taken somewhat seriously. Oy vey.

Anywho, I'm not buying the guy's self-effacing, "recovering alcoholic" schtick. It's his mantra each and every time he makes statements he knows are incendiary or dangerously ignorant. He's sober enough to know the hazards involved in what he's peddling.

Michael Richards, the ersatz Jew with his perplexing racial tirade, is far less frightening because he was never one we were bound to take seriously. Beck, however, commands the tacit support of his gracious cable hosts.

Would I be an American Muslim, I would be very concerned about what this man has to say and the frequency with which he says it. CNN needs to do more than just distance themselves from him, they need to cut the cord to his program feeds.

Name: Dan Vietor
Hometown: Philadelphia, PA

What really gets me is that his show is not only shown live at 7-8PM but is rebroadcast at 9PM and midnight plus several times in prime time on the weekend. He's about as right wing as you get and he exploits the Bush talking points more than O'Reilly does. So at a time I would like to see encapsulated news in prime time, all I get on CNN-HLN is a thorough beating by Glenn Beck. CNN is liberal ... yeah right!!

Name: M. George Stevenson
Hometown: Bronx, NY

Dear Dr. A.:

Glad to see you, too, are a Peter Riegert fan, and let me recommend Bill Nighy in The Girl in the Café, in which is so utterly unlike his Love Actually character and yet so completely believable it will once again prove your point.

Regarding your list of other performers, I would argue that Newman is more like your first category and that Pacino (yes, Pacino) can be more like your second, but only when he's got a strong piece of writing to work with (e.g. Glengarry Glen Ross, Looking for Richard and all of the stage plays I've seen him in).

The issue with all of those you list is that, with the exception of Hepburn, who was an old-school star and thus expected to portray a personality more often than a person, their body of work diminishes in range as their careers increase in box office.

One reason Nighy (and Riegert and, for that matter, Alec Baldwin) are able to do such varied work is because 1) they can, and 2) they're allowed to. People will hire them to be different because their audience isn't looking for a brand. Sadly, this has ruined a lot of really good actors who might have made more of themselves in a more European-style cinematic economy.

Eric replies: Good point on Baldwin, perhaps the other greatest actor in the world. And I liked Girl in the Café as well, which is on DVD from HBO.

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