From the October 3 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:
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From the October 3 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:
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From the October 3 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:
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In a piece set to be published in this Sunday's edition of The Washington Post, Dana Milbank goes through Glenn Beck's outrageous history of linking President Obama and progressives to Nazis as part of his fringe conspiracy theories. Milbank writes:
Telling the nation that Obama is leading the country into Nazism is outrageous -- and that's exactly why Beck has been so successful. He averages more than 2 million nightly viewers on his Fox show, brings in $32 million in annual revenue from his various ventures, according to Forbes magazine, and is an unofficial leader of the tea party and its mass anti-government rallies.
Beck has achieved this in part because he is willing to do what other leading right-wing talkers are not: "to give a platform to the conspiracy theorists and anti-government extremists," as the Anti-Defamation League puts it. His fellow Fox News host Bill O'Reilly once said Beck succeeds because he is willing to "take it five steps further than I do."
At the heart of Beck's technique of amplifying fringe theories is his obsession with Nazism. For much of the past 70 years, there has been an unwritten rule in U.S. political debate: Avoid Hitler accusations. Once you liken your opponent to the Nazis, any form of rational discussion becomes impossible. But Beck, it seems, has a Nazi fetish. In his first 18 months on Fox News, from early 2009 through the middle of this year, he and his guests invoked Hitler 147 times. Nazis, an additional 202 times. Fascism or fascists, 193 times. The Holocaust got 76 mentions, and Joseph Goebbels got 24 mentions.
Milbank details several of the bizarre comparisons Beck has made between Nazis and Obama and progressives, including:
Milbank's entire piece on Beck is definitely worth a read.
According to Dana Milbank, it's Feisal Abdul Rauf who's causing all the trouble by giving so many media interviews about the Islamic community center he's proposed building near Ground Zero. (He seems to "crave" the spotlight.) It's Rauf who's leading the media circus. How? By apparently defending himself from relentless and often false right-wing media attacks.
From Milbank [emphasis added]:
He claims he wishes to improve the standing of Muslims in the United States, to build understanding between religions, and to enhance the reputation of America in the Muslim world. But in the weeks since he -- unintentionally, he says -- set off an international conflagration over his plans to build an Islamic center near the scene of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack in New York, he has set back all three of his goals.
See, it was Rauf who set off the media fireworks in recent weeks. And it's been Rauf who's been "exploiting" the controversy."
Of course, the truth of the matter is the Islamic center was essentially approved by the city of New York in late 2009 and when The New York Times ran an A1 story on its Metro Section about the project last December, the reaction at the time was near total silence. Even Fox News' Laura Ingraham went on the air and announced she couldn't find anyone who objected to the center's construction.
But now Milbank tells us it's Rauf who recently "set off an international conflagration" (not Fox News
and the GOP Noise Machine). Good to know.
Milbank also portrays Rauf as a publicity hound:
Still, there is another cause that has flourished during the controversy -- that of Feisal Abdul Rauf. Here he is on the Larry King show; there he is writing an op-ed in the New York Times; that's him, again, on ABC's This Week. On Monday morning, he addressed the Council on Foreign Relations in New York (I listened in via conference call), offering many thoughts on what appears to be his favorite topic.
The imam, by Milbank's count, has given at least two television interviews and written a single op-ed. (Ego much??) Of course, what Milbank fails to mention is that while Rauf was strutting around giving at least two TV interviews, the mainstream press has produced more than 10,000 news items and columns this summer referencing the debate about the imam's construction plans. That, according to a search of Nexis.
But take Milbank's word for it; it's the imam who's "exploiting" the story.
In a column in today's Washington Post, Dana Milbank takes on Glenn Beck's ridiculous claim that his rally, held on the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s March on Washington would "reclaim" the civil rights movement from progressives.
Milbank observes that last year, Beck called President Obama a "racist" and states that Beck's response to the people criticizing that remark has been to be "patently offensive":
I was reminded of Beck's affection for deception as he hyped his march on Washington -- an event scheduled for the same date (Aug. 28) and on the same spot (the Lincoln Memorial) as Martin Luther King Jr.'s iconic march 47 years ago. Beck claimed it was pure coincidence, but then he made every effort to appropriate the mantle of the great civil rights leader.
Beck as the fulfillment of Dr. King's dream? And you thought "War of the Worlds" was frightening.
It's been just over a year since Beck famously called the first African-American president a "racist" with a "deep-seated hatred for white people." And now, accused of racial pot-stirring, he apparently has determined that the best defense is to be patently offensive.
"Blacks don't own Martin Luther King," he tells us, any more than whites own Lincoln or Washington. "The left" doesn't own King, either, he says.
No, Beck owns King. "This is the moment, quite honestly, that I think we reclaim the civil rights movement," he said this spring. "We are on the right side of history. We are on the side of individual freedoms and liberties and, damn it, we will reclaim the civil rights moment. We will take that movement because we are the people that did it in the first place."
Both columns obsessively detail Obama's events with various championship sports teams (a routine part of every presidency.) Both highlight Obama joking with non-Chicago teams about his preference for Chicago teams. Both dwell on Obama's own fondness for playing sports. Both even include the same ridiculous comparison to George W. Bush. Here's Milbank today:
Obama's foes have mocked him for playing golf more often than his sports-mad predecessor, who played only 24 rounds during his entire eight-year presidency. "Obama skips Polish funeral, heads to golf course," was one Washington Times headline. Liberals who once mocked George W. Bush's "watch this drive" moment on the golf course now speak of the need for Obama to clear his head.
And here's Milbank on July 28, 2009:
To observers of the presidency, the sports imagery may look familiar. Former president George W. "Watch This Drive" Bush was often ridiculed for playing the role of athletic supporter in chief. But Obama, while switching the focus from Texas to Chicago, has been no less fanatical. CBS News's Mark Knoller, the unofficial statistician of the White House press corps, counts 18 sports-related events for Obama in the first six months of his presidency -- not to mention a dozen golf outings and a few off-campus basketball games.
The invocation of Bush's "Watch This Drive" moment is, as I explained a year ago, completely absurd. People didn't criticize Bush's "watch this drive" comment because he was playing golf. They criticized it because he made a statement about terrorism to the assembled media, which he concluded by saying "I call upon all nations to do everything they can to stop these terrorist killers. Thank you. Now watch this drive," turned, and hit a golf ball. It wasn't that he was playing golf; it was the apparent flippancy with which he intermingled his comments about terrorism and golf.
And Dana Milbank knows that. Here's how Milbank described the incident on August 29, 2004:
In his first three years in office, Bush played golf 16 times. But, according to the White House's unofficial statistician, CBS News's Mark Knoller, Bush has not teed off since Oct. 13, 2003. Some muse that Bush was cowed by filmmaker Michael Moore's mocking of Bush's golf habit in "Fahrenheit 9/11" which featured footage of Bush mixing remarks on Middle East violence with a command to "watch this drive."
But now Milbank pretends the "Watch this drive" criticism was simply about Bush playing golf, in order to equate Obama and Bush. Twice.
Last week, the Washington Post reported on a new Kaiser Family Foundation poll:
The poll found that misconceptions about the legislation persist, including the "death panel" falsehood propagated by opponents of the legislation.
"A year after the town meeting wars of last summer, a striking 36% of seniors said that the law 'allowed a government panel to make decisions about end of life care for people on Medicare', and another 17% said they didn't know," Kaiser Family Foundation chief executive Drew Altman wrote.
Brendan Nyhan argues that "motivated reasoning appears to play an important role in the persistence of the misperception ... 55% of seniors with an unfavorable view of the law believed in the death panel myth, while only 17% of those with a favorable view did so."
I would argue that something else surely plays a role: The failure of the media to consistently and clearly explain that the "death panels" claim was false. Sure, most major news organizations made that clear at least once. But they didn't do so consistently.
Let's take the Washington Post, for example, since it reported on the persistence of the myth.
Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz has praised his paper's "death panels" coverage, writing on March 22: "One stellar moment for the press was the refusal to perpetuate the myth of 'death panels.' ... journalists at The Washington Post, New York Times, CNN and ABC News, among others, said flatly that this was untrue." And Post political reporter Perry Bacon said in June 21 Live Q&A: "If you recall, the death panels issue got traction in conservative media, even as papers like ours did not cover it very much."
But this year alone, Post readers have encountered more than a dozen references to "death panels" that failed to explicitly state that such panels didn't exist. The following articles and columns mention the "death panels" claim without stating its falsity:
"The doctor is (finally) in; Medicare administrator must usher in low-cost, efficient care," David Ignatius, July 9
"A patriot's second act," Dana Milbank, June 3
"Under the new health-care law, what will happen when providers' morals conflict with patients' rights?," Rob Stein, May 11
"History shows that Democrats aren't exactly the boys of summer," Al Kamen, March 26
"44: Grassley touts provisions he authored in health bill he voted against," Michael Shear, March 24
"Three points for conservatives," E.J. Dionne, March 23
"The Republicans who stirred the tea," Dana Milbank, March 22
"Would Reagan vote for Sarah Palin?; He's their hero, but Palin and the tea partiers need to understand his true legacy," Steven F. Hayward (AEI) March 7
"Political theater with a point," Kathleen Parker, March 3
"Obama ready to advance on health care; In radio address, GOP compromise still offered but has limited shelf life," Anne Kornblut, February 28
"Trig and political calculus," Kathleen Parker, February 14
"How can apple pie suddenly turn bad?; To learn what's gone wrong with health-care reform, go back to 1994," Abigail Trafford, February 2
"Funding for health-care interest groups often fuzzy," Dan Eggen, January 7
"Leader without a cause," Richard Cohen, January 5
Yes, some of those are opinion columns, including one written by an AEI staffer rather than a Post employee. That isn't a relevant defense: Opinion columns have the ability to influence readers, too -- otherwise, why would they exist? And the Washington Post is responsible for everything that appears in its pages.
And, to be sure, some of those references are critical of the "death panels" rhetoric. The March 23 E.J. Dionne piece, for example, read:
In its current incarnation, conservatism has taken on an angry crankiness. It is caught up in a pseudo-populism that true conservatism should mistrust -- what on Earth would Bill Buckley have made of "death panels"? The creed is caught up in a suspicion of all reform that conservatives of the Edmund Burke stripe have always warned against.
But it didn't say the "death panels" claim wasn't true. (To Dionne's credit, his July 26 column was explicit: "There were no 'death panels' in the Democratic health-care bills. But this false charge got so much coverage that an NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll last August found that 45 percent of Americans thought the reform proposals would likely allow 'the government to make decisions about when to stop providing medical care to the elderly.' That was the summer when support for reform was dropping precipitously. A straight-out lie influenced the course of one of our most important debates.")
No such credit is owed to Kornblut's February 28 news article, which simply stated "Death panels became part of the debate last summer, after prominent Republicans, including former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, claimed the government would set them up to decide who could live or die." Or Kamen's misleading statement that "the tea partiers got their operation in gear at the usually dull town hall meetings with lawmakers, berating them for supporting those death panels." Really? "those" death panels? Which death panels are "those"?
Washington Post readers shouldn't be surprised to learn that many people still believe in "death panels" -- not when the Post has repeatedly mentioned the death panel claim without debunking it.
Incidentally, Washington Post reporters and editors won't answer this simple question: Does the Post think it is sufficient to occasionally debunk falsehoods, or does the paper believe it should do so every time it prints those falsehoods?
In a column that will run in Sunday's Washington Post, Dana Milbank discusses Byron Williams' aborted attempt to gun down leaders of the Tides Foundation, a group often demonized by Glenn Beck. Noting our research indicating that Beck was virtually the only one on cable or network TV talking about the organization, Milbank writes:
It's not fair to blame Beck for violence committed by people who watch his show. Yet Williams isn't the only such character with a seeming affinity for the Fox News host. In April 2009, a man allegedly armed with an AK-47, a .22-caliber rifle and a handgun was charged with killing three cops in Pittsburgh. The Anti-Defamation League reported that the accused killer had, as part of a pattern of activities involving far-right conspiracy theories, posted a link on a neo-Nazi Web site to a video of Beck talking about the possibility that FEMA was operating concentration camps in Wyoming. The killings came after Beck told Fox viewers that he "can't debunk" the notion that FEMA was operating such camps -- but before he finally acknowledged that the conspiracy wasn't real.
Beck has at times spoken against violence, but he more often forecasts it, warning that "it is only a matter of time before an actual crazy person really does something stupid." Most every broadcast has some violent imagery: "The clock is ticking. . . . The war is just beginning. . . . Shoot me in the head if you try to change our government. . . . You have to be prepared to take rocks to the head. . . . The other side is attacking. . . . There is a coup going on. . . . Grab a torch!. . . . Drive a stake through the heart of the bloodsuckers. . . . They are taking you to a place to be slaughtered. . . . They are putting a gun to America's head. . . . Hold these people responsible."
Beck has prophesied darkly to his millions of followers that we are reaching "a point where the people will have exhausted all their options. When that happens, look out." One night on Fox, discussing the case of a man who killed 10 people, Beck suggested such things were inevitable. "If you're a conservative, you are called a racist, you want to starve children," he said. "And every time they do speak out, they are shut down by political correctness. How do you not have those people turn into that guy?"
Here's one idea: Stop encouraging them.
The Washington Post's Dana Milbank defends Marco Rubio's CPAC teleprompter joke:
The first three CPAC speakers made a variation of the teleprompter joke. I think in fairness to Rubio he was reading his speech (carefully) from paper, but the prompters were definitely up and he was looking back and forth mechanically, so it gave the appearance that he was using the hated technology. [Emphasis added]
That's totally irrelevant. The criticism of Obama for using a teleprompter isn't some luddite fear of The Machines; it's that he isn't delivering speeches from memory. Thus if someone poking fun at Obama for relying on a teleprompter is, himself, reading his speech from a paper copy, that's just as hypocritical as it would be if he was reading from a teleprompter.
Later in his online Q&A, Milbank -- perhaps best known for calling Hillary Clinton a "bitch" -- made what appears to be a joke about Roseanne Barr being fat:
Q. Bill Maher's show Dana, why aren't you on Bill Maher's show? I defy anyone to do snark better than you.
A. Dana Milbank writes: I did do his show once but I was eaten by my fellow panelist Roseanne Barr.
Currently featured on the front page of the Washington Post's web site:
Richard Cohen's frightened plea for more torture and fewer civil liberties
Dana Milbank's inane column about the purported sexiness of the Budget Director
Ramesh Ponnuru's unsubstantiated claim that President Obama "arguably implied" that voters are "stupid."
An "On Faith" guest post by the American Life League's communications director, who describes feminists as "pro-abortion."
Howard Kurtz's daily exploration of the love lives of the powerful and famous.
And that's just what's linked on the front page -- it doesn't include sports columnist Sally Jenkins' reference to "pro-abortion" feminists, who she mocks as "the 'Dwindling Organizations of Ladies in Lockstep,' otherwise known as DOLL" while criticizing "the group-think, elitism and condescension of the 'National Organization of Fewer and Fewer Women All The Time'" and "'The National Organization for Women Who Only Think Like Us.'" Jenkins concludes with a transparently silly attack on those who criticize CBS's decision to run an anti-choice Super Bowl ad while rejecting an ad for a gay dating service: "CBS owns its broadcast and can run whatever advertising it wants." Yeah ... So? That does not immunize them from criticism for the decisions they make.
I'm really starting to worry there's something in the water over at the Washington Post bulding.
Dana Milbank wants a debt commission, but doesn't expect to get one:
The debt commission is expected to be voted down Tuesday morning, as foes on the far left and the far right unite to form a status quo supermajority.
I'm not sure I've ever seen a columnist suggest that a "supermajority" holds extremist political positions, but I suppose it's possible, as long as you view "far left" and "far right" as absolute descriptions of positions on a theoretical political spectrum, rather than descriptions of distances from the mainstream.
So who is the "far left" in Dana Milbank's world? Take a look:
On the left, the AFL-CIO, the NAACP, MoveOn.org and other groups redoubled their opposition, even as President Obama gave the commission his last-minute endorsement on Saturday.
I guess someone's been watching Fox News.
Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank -- Dana Milbank! -- slams White House press secretary Robert Gibbs as a "smart-aleck":
Gibbs acts as though he's playing himself in the movie version of his job. In this imaginary film, he is the smart-alecky press secretary, offering zippy comebacks and cracking jokes to make his questioners look ridiculous. It's no great feat to make reporters look bad, but this act also sends a televised image of a cocksure White House to ordinary Americans watching at home.
And how many "ordinary Americans" are "watching at home" as Gibbs holds his daily press briefings? Basically, none. Milbank must know that, so I can only assume that what he really means is that he doesn't like the way Gibbs behaves. Too bad he isn't honest enough to make that clear rather than pretending he's channeling millions of Americans outraged over the performance of someone they've never heard of in a press briefing they never watch.
Gibbs didn't quite get it, though, as CBS's Chip Reid joked that he would try a question on "a different topic: the election in Massachusetts."
The press secretary drummed a bah-dum-bum on the lectern. Reid ignored the percussion and asked whether the "groundswell of support for a Republican in the blue state of Massachusetts for a candidate who's running against the president's agenda" meant that "the White House has simply lost touch with the American people."
Gibbs gave another dismissive wave and cited a CBS News poll that wasn't about Massachusetts.
Wait: Gibbs was asked whether the White House has "lost touch with the American people" and he responded by referring to a national poll, and Dana Milbank is upset that the poll "wasn't about Massachusetts?" That's inane. And it's a pretty clear indication that Milbank went looking for examples to fit his thesis rather than for a conclusion to fit the examples at hand.
In light of the news that the Washington Post either thought so highly of Dana Milbank's work as a columnist to give him a Sunday column on the op-ed page or couldn't afford to pay another salary, Politico's Michael Calderone asked Milbank how his Sunday op-ed would be different. In his regular "Washington Sketch" column, Milbank told Calderone he mostly writes on "what folks are doing wrong." In his new Sunday column, however, he hopes to "make a cogent argument that's not tied to a particular event and doesn't have the word 'yesterday' in it."
Don't count on many "cogent arguments" in Milbank's Sunday op-eds.
After all, in his attempt today to write about "what folks are doing wrong," Milbank himself is wrong.
Writing about the attempted airline bombing on Christmas, Milbank slams Janet Napolitano:
"The system worked," was Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano's original take on the would-be underwear bomber.
But, as we now know, the only system that worked to prevent a plane from blowing up over Detroit on Christmas Day was the system of luck.
Milbank -- throwing around names again -- goes on to call her "System Worked Napolitano" and criticized White House press reporters for not asking her about her initial comments during yesterday's press conference.
Perhaps that's because there was no need to. Those reporters either already knew that Napolitano's "system worked" comment was taken out of context or they had already asked Napolitano about the comments and she explained to them that the comments were taken out of context.
In fact, in her December 27 comments, Napolitano was describing the systemic response to the attack, not the circumstances leading up to the attack:
One thing I'd like to point out is that the system worked. Everybody played an important role here. The passengers and crew of the flight took appropriate action. Within literally an hour to 90 minutes of the incident occurring, all 128 flights in the air had been notified to take some special measures in light of what had occurred on the Northwest Airlines flight. We instituted new measures on the ground and at screening areas, both here in the United States and in Europe, where this flight originated.
So the whole process of making sure that we respond properly, correctly and effectively went very smoothly.
The conservative noise machine immediately dissected and distorted Napolitano's words and she was forced to explain them on the December 28 edition of Today:
I think the comment is being taken out of context, what I'm saying is once the incident occurred, moving forward, we were immediately able to notify the 128 flights in the air on protective measures to take, immediately able to notify law enforcement on the ground, airports both domestically, internationally, all carriers, all of that happening within 60 to 90 minutes."
Still, Fox News continued to beat the drum that Napolitano should or might be fired.
And finally, Milbank joined Fox's chorus, bringing the slant to the Post's news pages.
To review, not only is Milbank advancing a troublesome conservative talking point, he's doing so nearly two weeks after the rest of the conservative noise machine first invented it - at which point it was immediately debunked. And he's criticizing other reporters for not falling victim to it!
He should fit in just fine on the Post's Sunday op-ed page.
Everybody knows about the non-apology apology -- when a public figure says, for example, "I'm sorry if anyone was offended" rather than "I shouldn't have made that racist comment, and I apologize for doing so."
It turns out the non-apology apology has a sibling: the non-explanation explanation.
This week's issue of Newsweek features a cover photo of Sarah Palin wearing short running shorts -- a photo that was originally taken for a recent issue of Runner's World, and which has no obvious connection to Newsweek's coverage of Palin. Earlier today, Media Matters' Julie Millican has explained the problems with that cover:
Making matters worse is the equally offensive headline Newsweek editors chose to run alongside the photo -- "How Do You Solve a Problem like Sarah?" -- presumably a reference to the Sound of Music song, "Maria," in which nuns fret about "how" to "solve a problem like Maria," a "girl" who "climbs trees" and whose "dress has a tear."
Now, this photograph may have been completely appropriate for the cover of the magazine for which the picture was apparently intended, Runners World. But Newsweek is supposed to be a serious newsmagazine, and the magazine is certainly not reporting on Palin's exercise habits.
As Julie noted, Newsweek's lousy judgement extended beyond the cover: The magazine also ran a gratuitous photo focusing on Palin's legs, and another photo of a "disgusting Sarah Palin-as-a-slutty-schoolgirl doll."
So what does Newsweek have to say for themselves? The magazine's editor responded to a question from Politico's Michael Calderone, but he couldn't even muster an "I'm sorry if anyone was offended" non-apology apology:
Editor Jon Meacham responds in an email to POLITICO: "We chose the most interesting image available to us to illustrate the theme of the cover, which is what we always try to do. We apply the same test to photographs of any public figure, male or female: does the image convey what we are saying? That is a gender-neutral standard."
That's a textbook example of the non-explanation explanation. Read it again, and tell me: What does it mean? Meacham wants you to think he's explaining the cover choice, but he really isn't.
How, exactly, does putting Sarah Palin on the cover in short shorts "illustrate the theme of the cover"? (Let's assume Meacham meant the theme of the cover article; saying you choose a cover photo to illustrate the theme of the cover is more than a bit circular.) Meacham doesn't say. What is that theme? Meacham doesn't say.
How does the leg-centric image of Palin's legs "convey what we are saying"? Meacham doesn't explain. What is Newsweek "saying" with the article and the photo? Meacham doesn't explain.
It's a refusal to explain, dressed up as an explanation.
Another recent example: When Washington Post reporters Chris Cillizza and Dana Milbank produced an infantile and unfunny video calling Hillary Clinton a "bitch" and describing a wife suing for divorce from a cheating spouse as a "bitter woman from hell," they tried to explain the controversy away by saying the video was "satire."
But they didn't say what it was they were supposed to be satirizing. That's probably because what they were doing quite plainly was not satire; it was simply a couple of jerks sitting around making mean-spirited and sexist comments. There is a difference.
It's satire ... The photo illustrates the theme of the cover ... These things are designed to look like explanations; to win credit for addressing the issue and to cut off further questions and to justify bad behavior. But they aren't actually explanations at all. They are a refusal to deal with criticism in a forthright way, and should be recognized (and mocked) as such. Just as we all recognize the non-apology apology for what it is.