I know you are, but what am I?

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

Not a parody:

Cheerleader in Chief by Fred Barnes.

This story reveals some of the perils -- and problems -- with straightforward MSM reporting, conscientiously undertaken.

For instance, this paragraph is true:

But the reasons given for the cancellation -- anger over comments about Barack Obama made the night before by Fox News chairman Roger Ailes -- give short shrift to an ongoing online campaign by activists at MoveOn.org and by influential blogs like the Daily Kos to have candidates shun the Fox News Channel, which they accuse of being too conservative and too closely allied to the Republican Party. Fox News, which vehemently denies the charges of bias made by its critics, sees itself as the wounded bystander in a Democrat-versus-Democrat battle.

But it is also beside the point. Everyone with a brain knows that Fox News is biased against Democrats and liberals. That strikes me as just as important as the short-shrifting of MoveOn and Kos.

Then there's this statement: "In a statement, the Fox News Channel vice president, David Rhodes, said the Nevada Democrats appeared 'to be controlled by radical fringe out-of-state interest groups.' " But in fact, if you look at the arguments made by these alleged "radical fringe" groups, you will find that their policies are, in fact, consistent with the majority views of most Americans, while those of Fox News, the Bush administration, and its supporters have become a "fringe." Check the data; it's there. What would be the harm in including it?

And I felt bad for Times reporter Noah Cohen having to read this: "William G. Mayer, a professor of political science at Northeastern University who studies presidential elections and the media, said that many conservatives consider the major broadcast networks biased in a liberal direction." It takes a professor of political science to say that? Oy.

Here's the last word and the real problem: "At the blog the corner, which is sponsored by The National Review, Kathryn Jean Lopez, the site's editor, posted this comment: 'If this becomes a tool of the blogosphere -- calling for boycotts -- the right will be making noise about an MSNBC/CNN debate any day now.' "

Oh, I see -- the fact that Fox News is run by right-wing extremists therefore somehow makes CNN and MSNBC biased the other way? Lefty MSNBC does have the only remotely liberal host, of course, but lookit at the rest of it. As our sponsor reports, Ann Coulter is admiringly termed "a smart lady" by MSNBC's Chris Matthews, who added, "we'd love to have her back," and hailed by MSNBC's Tucker Carlson for being "courageous" and "mak[ing] smart points." Isn't that special?

And there's Bob Novak, after a career of purposely twisting the news on behalf of right-wing extremists, and then deliberately outing a CIA agent, could not get himself kicked off CNN until he did so on purpose, crying "bullshit" on a live interview program and walking off in a huff.

This is one of the triumphs of decades of working the refs. And remember, it appeared in the "liberal New York Times" ...

For the record: I don't think what Roger Ailes said was a problem. Together with the Coulter thing, I worry about Democrats looking like a bunch of weenies if they keep making such a big deal out of such silly incidents. There are plenty of real-life outrages out there in the cases of both Fox News and Coulter without having to seize on silliness ...

Bloggers and responsibility: another view.

From the Benton Foundation:

MEDIA'S FOCUS NARROWING, REPORT WARNS [SOURCE: Los Angeles Times, AUTHOR: James Rainey]

News organizations confronted with declining revenue and increased competition are entering an era of more limited ambition in which they will drop a broad worldview for more narrowly focused reporting. The Project for Excellence in Journalism reports that the struggle to create sustainable media brands is driving "hyper-local" coverage in newspapers; encouraging citizen journalism on the Internet; and giving rise to opinion-driven television personalities like CNN's Lou Dobbs and Fox News' Bill O'Reilly. "The consequences of this narrowing of focus involve more risk than we sense the business has considered," said the report from the project, an arm of the Washington-based Pew Research Center. "Concepts like hyper-localism, pursued in the most literal sense, can be marketing speak for simply doing less." The review describes print, radio and television news operations as weathering "epochal" changes -- with audiences splintering so radically that is has become difficult to accurately measure new viewing and reading habits. Daily newspaper circulation declined 3% in 2006, for instance, but the increase in online readership is more difficult to quantify. The three television networks collectively lost an additional 1 million viewers -- about the average in each of the last 25 years -- but YouTube and other online services created a new delivery vehicle for the networks' content.

Well, thank goodness someone thinks they're getting good press coverage.

Hey, Joe, where you goin' with that gun in your hand?

From TomDispatch: Sociologist Michael Schwartz, who has consistently managed to prove more accurate in his Iraqi assessments from thousands of miles away than a bevy of reporters on the scene, returns to the three prongs of the President's surge plan: attacking and neutralizing Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia, confronting Iran, and launching a new offensive against the Sunni insurgents.

In the process, he gives meaning to the title of his piece, "Surge and Destroy." He concludes:

[I]n the confrontation with the Sadrists, the Bush administration appears to be edging toward search-and-destroy operations that will rubble-ize Shia neighborhoods; in the confrontation with Iran, it appears to be lurching toward a possible air assault on a remarkably wide range of targets inside that country, guaranteeing staggering levels of civilian casualties; in the confrontation with the Sunni insurgents, it is already mobilizing its ground and air power with the promise of the subsequent imposition of an extreme form of martial law. The hallmark of all these new strategies is the high level of destruction and mayhem they promise.

There is a larger pattern that should, by now, be clear in these developments, and all that have come before. The architects of American policy in the Middle East tend to keep escalating the level of brutality in search of a way to convince the Iraqis (and now the Iranians) that the only path that avoids indiscriminate slaughter is submission to a Pax Americana. Put another way, American policy in the Middle East has devolved into unadorned state terrorism.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Ron Erickson
Hometown: Ames, IA

From the mid 60s until today I've been a fan of live music starting with local garage bands on through to today with every kind of music you can imagine (except hip-hop). I've been to a lot of live performances by a lot of great artists and some were really special, but one show stands out. I got to hear the Roches in a small club on the ISU campus in 1984 and it's the only time I've been moved to write an artist and thank them. At the time I thought it was the best show I'd ever been to and I think it still is. They are special and I'm glad to hear other people feel the same way.

Name: Bill Dunlap
Hometown: Lake Oswego, Oregon

Eric: Did you see Bill Chinnock's obit in today's NYTimes? Here's a link to his hometown paper. He was a great guy and performer who always resisted the inevitable comparisons with Bruce. For a while in the '80s he was managed by NY club owner Pat Kenny. I and a friend signed on at one point to try to promote him, but he bugged out to Nashville before we could do much. I think he had some success there but less than he deserved, I'd say.

Eric replies: Here's Mad Dog Vini Lopez on Mr. Chinnock, alas.

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