As questions remain as to the role race played in the shooting death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin and the decision-making by local authorities in the aftermath, the right is using race-baiting tactics to silence any broader conversation about racism and stereotyping.
More than a month after the shooting, the facts about the shooting remain unclear. What is clear, however, is that the right-wing media's modus operandi when it comes to racial issues hasn't changed. Now that prominent black Americans are singling out race as a reason the 17-year-old is dead, conservative media figures are out in full force with what can only be described as ferocious backlash against those they deride as "professional race baiters."
Here is a recent cover of Rupert Murdoch's conservative New York Post, bearing the headline, "Trayvon Hoodwink: Tragedy hijacked by 'race hustlers' ":
New York state Sens. Kevin Parker, Bill Perkins, and Eric Adams are shown in the photo above wearing "hoodies in solidarity" in Albany, while protesting the "demonization of minorities by police." The website url for the accompanying NY Post article read in part "race_buzzards_circle_trayvon."
This is the way the right-wing media are treating those who have dared raise the possibility that race might have played a role in Martin's death. They have been smeared as "race baiters" and "race hustlers," and are identified as "racially divisive." In other words, they are "playing the race card."
Right-wing media have attacked President Obama for his recent comments about shooting victim Trayvon Martin and his family, accusing Obama of "inject[ing]" himself into the debate using "racial code" and claiming that his statement is evidence that "he's got it in for this country."
The controversy surrounding the shooting death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin has played out, in some ways, contrary to the usual left-versus-right, shouting-match dynamic to which we've all grown accustomed. Calls for increased scrutiny of Florida's "Stand Your Ground" self-defense law (often cited as the reason Martin's killer, George Zimmerman, has thus far escaped charges) have come from both liberals and conservatives. That Zimmerman should be arrested and charged is a position shared by Al Sharpton and Rich Lowry.
But there is still that segment of the online right that is using the Martin controversy to stoke racial animus.
On March 19, Glenn Beck's news website, The Blaze, posted an article speculating that Martin, who was on suspension from school at the time of his death due to excessive tardiness, might have actually been suspended for any number of criminal acts, including arson, sexual battery, and murder -- an unsubtle implication that Martin had it coming. As Mother Jones' Adam Serwer pointed out, the article's original URL referred to Martin as the "aggressor."
Serwer also noted that The Blaze published a companion piece detailing the little-known New Black Liberation Militia's threat to take Zimmerman into custody. And last night, the Daily Caller's Matthew Boyle filed a story from Sanford, Florida on how "members of the New Black Panther Party ripped President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder for not responding forcefully enough to the killing of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager."
Another chapter in the right-wing media's campaign against Attorney General Eric Holder was launched yesterday as they attacked Holder's efforts to discourage people from violating the District Of Columbia's gun laws as detailed in a speech Holder gave in 1995. Not surprisingly the 17-year-old speech about trying to convince young men not to illegally carry guns instantly became the latest excuse to use the ATF's failed Operation Fast and Furious to attack Holder.
Following Breitbart.com's release of a short portion of Holder's speech, Glenn Beck's The Blaze, The Daily Caller and Breitbart.com's own Mary Chastain all pushed the highly tenuous connection to Operation Fast and Furious. As Media Matters noted this morning, Holder's speech addressed his role of U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia and efforts to teach young people in the city that "it's not hip to carry a gun anymore," an action that was illegal in the District Of Columbia at the time.
The Blaze opened with the suggestion that "New video of Eric Holder from 1995 has surfaced, and it may put "Fast and Furious" in a much broader perspective." The Daily Caller similarly suggested a connection saying "The revelation that Holder wanted to "brainwash" people into being "anti-gun" appears to be supported by what Congress and the American people have learned about Operation Fast and Furious." Breitbart.com's Chastain asserted that Fast and Furious was about providing Holder with "material" for the "anti-gun curriculum" described in this 1995 speech.
Despite a tremendous amount of hand waving, these attacks fail to personally link Holder to the initiation or approval of the controversial tactics used in Fast and Furious. As accurately noted by Charlie Savage in his December New York Times profile of Holder, "no documents or testimony" have disproved Holder's statement that he didn't know about Fast and Furious as it was underway.
Further, Bush-era investigations featured similar 'gun walking' tactics as those used in Fast and Furious. Rather then suggesting those investigations were gun control plots, Fox News and right-wing media outlets rushed to defend the Bush-era programs. The Democratic staff of the House Oversight Committee released a report in January documenting the three similar operations conducted under the Bush administration out of the ATF's Arizona offices.
Neither the Bush-era gun walking investigations or the dearth of evidence regarding Holder's purported connections to the tactics used in Fast and Furious have slowed down the right-wing media's increasingly nonsensical attacks against Holder.
The Breitbart empire isn't letting the massive humiliation following this month's Hug-gate manufactured controversy discourage them from further "Vetting" of President Obama and his administration. In their latest effort, they've discovered that as U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia nearly 20 years ago, now-Attorney General Eric Holder publicly discussed a campaign to... wait for it... encourage people in that city not to break the law.
The premise of these Breitbart.com "Vetting" pieces is that decades-old comments and connections of Obama and his advisers somehow tell us more about their agenda than what they have actually done in office. Gun violence prevention is a particularly ripe area for this effort: conservatives have desperately tried to maintain their fiction that the Obama administration is on the verge of a confiscatory gun crackdown, even as the White House makes little effort to push for even the mildest gun control legislation.
Thus, as Breitbart.com editor-in-chief Joel Pollak breathlessly explains:
Breitbart.com has uncovered video from 1995 of then-U.S. Attorney Eric Holder announcing a public campaign to "really brainwash people into thinking about guns in a vastly different way."
Holder was addressing the Woman's National Democratic Club. In his remarks, broadcast by CSPAN 2, he explained that he intended to use anti-smoking campaigns as his model to "change the hearts and minds of people in Washington, DC" about guns.
Pollak goes on to write that in his speech, Holder said that he wanted a campaign involving television ads and celebrities to convince young people in D.C. that it is "not cool, that it's not acceptable, it's not hip to carry a gun anymore." The implication from Pollak -- and the other right-wing media outlets now picking up on his post -- is that this is evidence that Holder is virulently anti-gun. Some are even echoing right-wing conspiracies to bizarrely link the video to the ATF's failed Operation Fast and Furious.
What the right-wing media never get around to mentioning is that in 1995, when Holder gave the speech, it was illegal to possess a handgun in Washington D.C.
In other words, in calling for efforts to teach young people that "it's not hip to carry a gun anymore," Holder, the chief prosecutor for the District of Columbia, was discussing a campaign to encourage citizens of his jurisdiction not to break the law.
What a bombshell!
Daily Caller editor-in-chief Tucker Carlson wrote a column on Thursday complaining that Rush Limbaugh's sexist and misogynistic comments about Sandra Fluke were being treated as if they are "a sin worse than murder." Carlson senses a double standard and contrasts the treatment of boxing promoter Don King, who served time in prison for manslaughter but "went on to become rich and iconic," with Mark Fuhrman:
Nobody, by contrast, likes Mark Furhman, the notorious cop in the O.J. Simpson trial. Furhman never murdered anyone. He did something far worse: He used foul language. In a tape-recorded interview, Fuhrman once uttered racial slurs.
Where is Mark Fuhrman these days? For a while, he was hosting a radio show on an AM station in Spokane. It's not clear what he's doing now. He certainly isn't headlining presidential fundraisers. People would break for the exits if he showed up. Nobody wants to be seen with a bigot.
I don't either. I'd rather have dinner with Don King than with Mark Furhman. But then, I'm American. I have no perspective.
With Rush Limbaugh's toxicity becoming (even more) of a problem for the conservative movement, the Daily Caller's Matt Lewis is issuing a call for "civility" in our discourse:
Conservatives, of course, will point to liberal examples of hatred and bitterness and say, "they do it, too!" Both sides do this. Both sides should be more civil. Both sides should show more character.
But since I suspect I'm reaching more conservatives here, let me make the case that you should not allow yourself to become obsessed with the political fight. In this, I agree with Peggy Noonan, who writes, "[I]n their fight against liberalism and its demands, too many conservatives have unconsciously come to ape the left. They too became all politics all the time."
At the end of the day -- at the end of our lives -- shouldn't our life's work -- our purpose -- have been noble? (Yes, political participation is honorable. Fighting for freedom is certainly honorable. But it is noble only if done in an honorable manner.)
What a load of self-serving nonsense.
This is a favorite defense for conservatives who find themselves in the unfortunate position of being forced to apologize: "I'm sorry for what I did, which happened only because I 'unconsciously' acted like a liberal." It's a neat little trick for sort-of accepting responsibility while at the same time heaping a considerable portion of blame your ideological foes.
Limbaugh himself made good use of it in explaining his "apology" to Sandra Fluke: "I don't expect...morality, intellectual honesty from the left. They've demonstrated over and over a willingness to say or do anything to advance their agenda. It's what they do. It's what we fight against here every day. But this is the mistake I made. In fighting them on this issue last week, I became like them."
I suppose it's possible that the conservative, in his natural state, is a peaceful and honorable being who only manages to debase himself after succumbing to the left's proprietary tactic of non-stop politicking. Of course, Lewis and other people who argue that are implying that the liberals are the ultimate cause of all incivility in our discourse. And I don't find that argument to be particularly civil.
Yesterday's testimony by Attorney General Eric Holder before a House Appropriations subcommittee concluded without the theatrical fireworks that many of his recent appearances before Congress have included. The hearing was so comparably calm that Holder even mentioned that he appreciated the more even-keeled tone of the questions even though some were critical of his tenure at the Department of Justice.
So naturally the right-wing media cherry-picked a brief moment where Holder showed somewhat heightened emotions and made that moment the focus of their hearing coverage, saying Holder was "not able to hold back his emotions," and describing Holder "losing his cool" as he "slammed the table" in response to congressional questioning.
Fox News America Live host Megyn Kelly teased a segment on Holder's testimony by saying "wait until you hear what's ticking off Eric Holder today," later describing an exchange between Holder and Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KS) by saying that Holder was "not able to hold back his emotions."
The Daily Caller's Matthew Boyle apparently found this angle so compelling that he wrote a highly derivative article adding little more than misleading hyperbole and bit of background information. Boyle has previously pushed a narrative of Holder of being unable to control his temper, claiming that he "lashe[d] out" during an exchange with a Daily Caller employee. In a separate article solely about complaints from conservative critics about this purported "loss of control," Boyle even paraphrased an activist suggesting Holder may be "dangerously unstable."
Boyle continued that depiction today, writing about the exchange with Rep. Yoder in an article headlined "Holder loses cool during House hearing when asked about the ATF's failed operation Fast and Furious." Boyle:
A visibly frustrated Attorney General Eric Holder slammed the table when responding to a question about Operation Fast and Furious during a Tuesday budget hearing before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies.
This is a highly exaggerated description of Holder's testimony, in which Holder forcefully said that he ordered use of the controversial gun-walking tactics associated with Operation Fast and Furious to be stopped as soon as he became aware of them. Watch the exchange highlighted by Boyle and Kelly:
I refuse to believe that this is real, and that someone is actually arguing this as a serious proposal, and that said proposal was deemed serious enough for publication by a secondary party, but it seems too earnestly argued to be parody, and nowhere is it identified as such.
A columnist at the Daily Caller writes today that people receiving food stamps should be forced to shop at government-owned stores selling sub-standard food so that they can feel the "humiliation and pain in receiving government assistance."
Oh, and they should "lose the privilege of voting."
My reform measures might seem draconian to some (and the antithesis of the free market), but they would hopefully have the desired result of reducing food stamp rolls so we could eventually eliminate the program and let the states handle the issue. Before accepting food stamps, people would have to carefully consider whether they want to face the loss of voting privileges, the humiliation of shopping at government stores and using government food, the inability to smoke or do drugs and the added inconvenience of having to make two or three stops for their groceries should they choose to buy snacks with their own money. Plus, tax producers would no longer have to knowingly be face to face with people at the check-out who are on government assistance but have nicer cell phones and accessories than they do.
So, essentially, Jim Crow for the poor. He even says food stamp recipients are "slaves to the government and should be reminded of that fact."
Again, it could be parody. I dearly, dearly hope it's parody. The author, Brion McClanahan, Ph.D.(!) might be a serious person, though his bibliography contains titles such as "The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Founding Fathers," which would suggest otherwise.
What I do know is that he's put forth an idea that is illegal, almost certainly unconstitutional, morally reprehensible, and altogether monstrous.
Today for the fourth time the Daily Caller has written about the Ryan Jerome, the New York City tourist and former Marine that was arrested last September for illegally carrying a concealed firearm. They currently have the story splashed across their front page:
The right-wing media is engaged in a campaign to falsely suggest New York City tourists are in danger of having "their lives destroyed" because New York has stiff penalties for illegal gun possession. In fact, New York prosecutors have repeatedly used their discretion to reach plea agreements for misdemeanor charges that keep people that made honest mistakes and are arrested for carrying concealed guns illegally out of jail.
Not surprisingly given The Daily Caller's status as a gun lobby propaganda dumping ground, they continued the depiction of New York's strong gun laws as callous, despite yet again a New York prosecutor showing a willingness to consider the mitigating circumstances of the alleged crime.
As automakers are starting to bring electric vehicle (EV) technology into the mainstream, conservative media outlets have repeatedly misled consumers about electric cars by trying to paint them as environmentally harmful and unsafe, among other false claims.
The Daily Caller's headline: "Holder's No. 2 in 2009: Gunwalking, Fast and Furious a 'terrific idea.'"
The Daily Caller's lede:
The head of the Department of Justice's Criminal Division and Attorney General Eric Holder's highest-ranking deputy, Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, called Operation Fast and Furious and gun walking a "terrific idea" in emails to now-former Acting Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Director Ken Melson back in late 2009, according a report released by Republican staff of the House Oversight Committee.
What Melson and Breuer actually said, as reported by the Daily Caller:
On Dec. 3, 2009, Melson wrote to Breuer, "Lanny: We have decided to take a little different approach with regard to seizures of multiple weapons in Mexico. Assuming the guns are traced, instead of working each trace almost independently of the other traces from the seizure, I want to coordinate and monitor the work on all of them collectively as if the seizure was one case. . . We should meet again just to catch up on where we are in our gun-trafficking issues and we could talk about the above idea as well. Let me know what you think."
Breuer responded on Dec. 4, 2009, writing, "We think this is a terrific idea and a great way to approach the investigations of these seizures. Our Gang Unit will be assigning an attorney to help you coordinate this effort."
According to the Republican Oversight Committee staffers' report, Breuer -- Holder's number two -- assigned a prosecutor to help ATF handle Fast and Furious. That attorney, according to the report, was Joe Cooley.
As the Daily Caller's own reporting shows, the emails in question don't mention the idea of allowing guns to be trafficked to Mexico; they deal with how data from seizures of multiple weapons that were recovered in Mexico would be treated by ATF in their investigations.
This isn't the first time the Caller's reporting hasn't matched up with the slant they apply to their stories on Holder and Fast and Furious.
By the way, "Holder's No. 2" isn't Lanny Breuer, it's Deputy Attorney General James Cole. Other than that, the Caller did a bang-up job.
Daily Caller columnist Yates Walker is frustrated at the conservative hand-wringing over Mitt Romney's "electability." As he sees it, the whole idea of "electability" is just a ruse concocted by the media that is intended to damage Republican candidates:
The electability question is a liberal media con. It is posed only when discussing Republicans. And it is posed often. The purpose of the question is to cast doubt on conservative candidates and, ultimately, keep them out of office.
And, tragically, it works.
It shouldn't be surprising that Walker finds questions of electability to be a pernicious conspiracy, given that he worked for Christine O'Donnell's 2010 Senate campaign, which was a master class on the dangers of baggage-laden candidacies. To wit: Walker himself gained a small amount of notoriety for floating the ugly rumor that O'Donnell's primary opponent, Mike Castle, was having a gay affair (he had quit the campaign at that point and was working for a pro-O'Donnell outside group, from which he was subsequently fired).
Walker's theorizing on "electability" earned an approving tweet from Erick Erickson, so it's likely we'll see this theme repeated elsewhere. And that's as good a reason as any to examine the evidence for the "electability" media conspiracy, such as it exists.
In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Obama said that his administration "will take every possible action to safely develop" America's reserves of natural gas, and that the "development of natural gas will create jobs and power trucks and factories that are cleaner and cheaper, proving that we don't have to choose between our environment and our economy." The next day, in Las Vegas, the president talked about "an America where more cars and trucks are running on domestic natural gas than on foreign oil. Think about an America where our companies are leading the world in developing natural gas technology and creating a generation of new energy jobs; where our natural gas resources are helping make our manufacturers more competitive for decades."
So Obama supports the development of natural gas. And conservatives think they have figured out the reason why: George Soros.
Lachlan Markay, of the Heritage Foundation, wrote yesterday:
George Soros, a billionaire investor and major backer of President Obama, stands to reap a windfall from legislation promoting natural gas-powered vehicles. The White House unveiled a proposal on Thursday that would do just that.
One company that stands to benefit handsomely from the president's proposal is Westport Innovations. The company converts diesel engines to be fueled by natural gas. Wall Street analysts predicted a boom for the company if the NAT GAS Act were passed.
If Westport reaps the predicted windfall, one of the chief beneficiaries will be George Soros, a major Obama donor and supporter. Soros's hedge fund holds 3,160,063 company shares (as of its last SEC filing).
Hot Air's Tina Korbe credited Markay for uncovering "a potentially key motivation for the president's recent proposal to offer incentives to companies to buy and use trucks powered by natural gas." Korbe added with an air of wildly unsupported certainty that this is an example of "the president's perpetual crony capitalism."
The Daily Caller also got in on the fun:
President Barack Obama, at a Las Vegas UPS facility Thursday, pitched a plan to boost the American use of natural gas, a plan that would not only benefit long-time natural gas proponent billionaire T. Boone Pickens, but also long-time Obama supporter, billionaire investor and progressive philanthropist George Soros.
So did the president craft a national energy policy based largely on how it would benefit George Soros' investment portfolio? It certainly seems likely, assuming you've been conditioned to believe that Soros is secretly pulling the strings at the White House, in which case the mere fact of Soros' connection to the natural gas industry is evidence enough to convict.
You just have to disregard the fact that the many millions of dollars in political donations made by the oil and gas industry and the natural gas pipeline industry -- which would also stand to benefit handsomely from expanded use of natural gas vehicles -- have overwhelmingly gone to Republicans. There's also the inconvenient presence of billionaire T. Boone Pickens. who cut checks to George W. Bush, funded the Swift Boat Veterans For Truth, and, as noted by the Daily Caller, would make some serious bank with accelerated development of natural gas.
So if Obama's goal was to line the already well-lined pockets of one of his prominent supporters, he's also throwing vast sums at the people and industries who have bitterly opposed him and are likely to continue doing so in the future.
But hey, it's a conspiracy! It doesn't need logic, it just needs selectively reported facts and the thinnest patina of plausibility.
(Full disclosure: Soros has donated to Media Matters)
The Daily Caller's Guns and Gear section recently featured two op-eds authored by retired Major General Jerry Curry. In previous statements Curry has raised questions about President Obama secretly being a Muslim, demanded that Obama release his long-form birth certificate or resign, and derided Muslims as inherently violent.