Blog

  • The Jawa Report shoots and misses

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Oh, don't act surprised. The warblogging site has been part of the right-wing, stopped-watch brigade for years. (They're right twice a day, tops.)

    Jawa was at the center of an overexcited right-wing blog launch Monday morning ("extensive research" was involved!) with a completely circumstantial report that basically accused somebody who may or may not have had indirect relations with the Obama campaign of posting an anti-Palin video on YouTube "aimed at discouraging people from voting for McCain/Palin." Period.

    We know, it didn't make much sense to us either. We guess Jawa's point was that the Obama campaign was somehow trying to create the perception of a viral video when in fact the clip was professionally made. We're talking real above-the-fold breaking news, right?

    Well, it turns out the Los Angeles-based public relations specialist who Jawa accused of being the Obama bag man on the YouTube clip, Ethan Winner, did in fact create the video. He did it himself and paid for it himself and the campaign was not involved in making or spreading the YouTube clip. (Even if the Obama team was involved, so what?)

    Winner made this sort of glaringly obvious observation about the rise of user-generated media, which the right-wing bloggers just don't get:

    Just like the thousands of Americans who have posted videos on the Internet regarding the current Presidential campaign, I produced this video as an expression of my right to free speech, which is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

    Note that Winner pulled the YouTube clip in question because after JaWa published personal information about him, his family started receiving threatening and abusive phone calls and emails.

    So really, just another day at the office for the can't-shoot-straight gang on the far side of the blogosphere, which is now reduced to analyzing audio snippets of the voice-over pro who helped with the YouTube clip because she apparently is the key to unlocking this (none) mystery.

    Honestly, just once when right-wing bloggers claim to have the goods on some supposed blockbuster (Jamil Hussein, anyone?), couldn't they first line up some actual facts before going public with their half-cocked conspiracy theories and relying on hope-and-prayer language like, "If all of this is true...."? It would save us all a lot of time.

    Then again, their adventures do produce lots of unintended merriment for us, so we're torn over whether we want them to stop or not.

  • Politico gets one right

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    When a high-profile conservative complains about media coverage, the response from journalists tends to be entirely predictable: they uncritically type up the complaints as the media embark on days if not weeks of self-flagellation over their purported bias.

    We've seen that again and again during this campaign: the McCain camp complains about media coverage, and the airwaves and newspages then fill with reporters uncritically noting the claims -- and often adopting them as truth, no matter how thin the evidence.

    Today, Politico's Ben Smith took a different approach: he fact-checked the examples offered by McCain's aides. And, finding them to be rife with falsehoods, he wrote an article that didn't buy into the McCain camp's framing that the media is out to get McCain, but that, instead, made clear that the campaign wasn't telling the truth. Here's how Smith began:

    Sen. John McCain's top campaign aides convened a conference call today to complain of being called "liars." They pressed the media to scrutinize specific elements of Sen. Barack Obama's record.

    But the call was so rife with simple, often inexplicable misstatements of fact that it may have had the opposite effect: to deepen the perception, dangerous to McCain, that he and his aides have little regard for factual accuracy.

    I've been arguing for weeks that, even as they point out factual errors in McCain claims, the media often adopt those false claims as the framework for their reporting, rather than making the dishonesty of the McCain claims the frame.

    Ben Smith's article is a good example of how journalists can focus their reporting on the falsity of bogus claims rather than privileging the lie.

  • One side to every story

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Politico's Ben Smith, in response to Obama campaign complaints that the New York Times as inadequately covered John McCain's involvement in the Keating Five scandal:

    The Keating Five scandal, though, is hardly a secret. Indeed, the story is central to McCain's political narrative. He's called his actions a mistake, and the episode is what transformed him into a self-stylled reformer.

    "He has basically dedicated his career since that moment to the cleaning up of Washington," McCain aide Douglas Holtz-Eakin told me last week.

    Smith says the Keating Five scandal is well-known -- and points to McCain's spin on it as evidence. But that doesn't contradict the argument that McCain's actual relationship with Keating (as opposed to the pro-McCain spin that the incident turned him into a reformer bent on "cleaning up" Washington) -- it reinforces it.

    If there's a clearer example of the media's continued failure to subject McCain to the level of scrutiny they've given to Obama's relationships with Tony Rezko and Rev. Wright, I don't know what it is. Reporters rarely bring up Keating unless it's to remind us that the incident turned McCain into the World's Greatest Reformer.

    And yet when this is pointed out, Ben Smith says Keating isn't a secret -- hey, we know McCain's hand-picked "narrative" about it. What more could anyone ask for?

    How about a version of the story that isn't McCain's own chosen "narrative"?

  • Newsweek: America is a center-right country

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    And that for "40 years, Democrats have been mostly out of stop with the nation."

    Oh my. So for all those years in the last four decades when Democrats controlled Congress (and often the White House) they were out of step with the country? And when Democrats threw out the Republican majority in recent years, they were out of step?

    Also note that Newsweek's Jonathan Darman, in making his case, does not point to a single poll or survey result to back up his claim that America is a center-right claim. We're not surprised. Because as a Media Matters study indicated, the relevant polling data suggests just the opposite; that across the board Americans side with a Democratic, or liberal agenda, in terms of big government, gun control laws, gay rights, abortion rights, tax cuts and foreign policy.