A couple weeks ago, when the Associated Press issued a memo advising its news organization members to avoid the term "Ground Zero mosque" to describe the proposed Islamic center in New York City because it's not at Ground Zero and isn't primarily a mosque, conservatives looked askance. At Michelle Malkin's website, Doug Powers suggested it was "a retread of a pro-mosque talking points memo" and asserted that the proposed center's site would be considered Ground Zero if the AP's headquarters were there.
The Media Research Center's Dan Gainor was just as harsh, claiming that the AP "had to choose sides" and was acting as "spinmeisters," adding that accurately describing things is "one of the games journalists play." He also repeated Powers' line about how the AP might think differently if its headquarters were closer.
Another day, another AP memo, a completely different reaction from the conservative media.
This time, the memo pointed out that "U.S. troops remain involved in combat operations alongside Iraqi forces, although U.S. officials say the American combat mission has formally ended." This was interpreted by the conservative media as a smackdown of President Obama, of which they approved:
Tom Blumer of NewsBusters -- operated by the Media Research Center, which attacked the AP over the "Ground Zero mosque" memo -- declared that in the new memo "at least one limit has been found to the establishment press's willingness to serve as this government's official apologists" and that "is asserting that Obama is at least not telling the truth in this instance." WorldNetDaily, meanwhile, carried an article on the memo with the headline, "Oops! Did Associated Press call Obama a liar?"
The lesson? The AP has been consistent in endeavoring to tell the truth. The only consistency the conservative media cares about is promoting its right-wing message; the truth is secondary.
Newsbusters' Tom Blumer demonstrates once again the idiocy upon which the Right's media criticism is based.
Blumer is upset that an Associated Press article about a former Detroit city councilwoman's bribery sentencing didn't mention in the headline that the councilwoman is married to Democratic Congressman John Conyers. Blumer thinks this reflects a pro-Democrat double-standard because a separate AP article about a former aide to Republican Congressman Chris Shays pleading guilty did mention Shays in the headline.
Now, on its face, Blumer's complaint probably seems like small potatoes -- but that can be forgiven. Sometimes small transgressions can be representative of greater trends. No, the problem with Blumer's complaint isn't that it doesn't identify a problem of sufficient magnitude. The problem with Blumer's complaint is that it's really, really stupid.
See, Monica Conyers is a public figure in her own right, and she was sentenced for crimes she committed as a Detroit city councilwoman -- crimes that had nothing to do with her husband. That's why the AP's headline identified her as "Ex-Detroit councilwoman": because she was convicted of taking bribes in her capacity as a councilwoman. That isn't terribly complicated, is it?
Meanwhile, the former Shays aide is ... just a former Shays aide. He isn't a public official in his own right; his significance stems directly from his relationship to Shays. And -- now, pay attention, this part is important -- he is pleading guilty to crimes he committed in his capacity as Shays' campaign manager, including embezzling funds from the campaign. I assume it is quite obvious to everyone other than Tom Blumer why Shays' name would appear in the headline.
Basically, Blumer's complaint boils down to this: The Associated Press handled different situations differently. Bias!
What's funnier than watching right-wingers try to convince each other that 500,000 ... No, a million ... No, two million ... Yeah, yeah, that's the ticket, two million people showed up for their anti-Obama protest over the weekend?
Watching right-wingers who realize that nobody will believe those sad little lies try to pretend that the inflated claims were merely made on a few obscure blogs.
Here's Newsbusters' Jeff Poor dismissing the inflated claims as the work of a few obscure bloggers:
And MSNBC's resident left-wing curmudgeon-in-training David Shuster didn't disappoint. The former host of the canceled "1600 Pennsylvania Avenue" took a report from the Huffington Post debunking attendance figures and attempted to belittle the event. The story focused on an old photograph that had been circulating on some minor conservative blogs showing a huge crowd for the Sept. 12 march.
But the inflated crowd claims weren't limited to "some minor conservative blogs," as Poor would have you believe. Indeed, protest organizer Matt Kibbe claimed from the rally stage that ABC News had reported between 1 and 1.5 million people were at the rally. (ABC had reported nothing of the kind, because nothing of the kind was even remotely close to true.)
But here's what's really hilarious: Poor's Newsbusters' colleague Tom Blumer claimed on Sunday that the rally "drew an estimated 1-2 million people." (Blumer hasn't corrected his post.) Blumer didn't use the phony photos to support his claim; but he did accept and promote the wildly inflated crowd numbers they purportedly demonstrated.
Newsbusters' Tom Bumer, 9/13: "the D.C. rally yesterday that drew an estimated 1-2 million people."
Newsbusters' Jeff Poor, 9/15: "The [Huffington Post] story focused on an old photograph that had been circulating on some minor conservative blogs showing a huge crowd for the Sept. 12 march."
Newsbusters' Tom Blumer sees some kind of liberal media conspiracy of silence in the lack of media coverage of a Gallup poll finding that more people self-identify as "conservative" than "liberal" at the state level as well as nationally. Blumer seems to think this finding has great significance, though Gallup provides no historical data for comparison, so we don't know which way things are trending.
And, as I've mentioned a time or two in the past, such labels are so imprecise and meaningless to many if not most Americans that these self-ID questions are of limited value. Indeed, the Gallup poll itself provides evidence that these questions don't mean much: Gallup finds that even in Massachusetts and Vermont more people self-identify as "conservative" than "liberal."
But Blumer thinks this one-off poll that is quite consistent with years and years worth of national-level polling is hugely important. Maybe that's because he doesn't really "get" how polling works. Here's Blumer:
The margins may not be "statistically significant," but the reported result still shows conservatives on top in HI (+5), VT (+1) and MA (+1). I also have to wonder how you can have a 5-point or more margin of error in a poll of 160,000 people. [Emphasis added]
Wonder no longer, Blumer:
Results are based on telephone interviews with 160,236 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Jan. 2-June 30, 2009, as part of Gallup Daily tracking. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±1 percentage point.
The margin of sampling error for most states is ±3 percentage points, but is as high as ±7 percentage points for the District of Columbia, and ±6 percentage points for Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Delaware, and Hawaii.
That little bit of explanation was carefully hidden in the Gallup article Blumer linked to and quoted. On the first page. Under the heading "Survey Methods." A heading that was presented in bold font.