Tuesday, December 29, 2015

On Major Networks, The Bernie Blackout Continues

To the presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders, the corporate press has dished out the usual treatment given liberal or left candidates; the Vermont Senator has been been persistently marginalized, talked down or simply ignored. Particularly ignored. This author has written about it more than once, as have others. Even as Sanders draws larger crowds than any other candidate of either major party, sets one fundraising record after another--nearly all in small donations--and has been leading in the always-prominent New Hampshire primary for months, the silence has just grown louder. Eric Boehlert over at Media Matters has been giving some attention in recent weeks to some work by media monitor Andrew Tyndall that quantifies this phenomenon with real numbers.

Tyndall tracks coverage of the various presidential candidates by the evening newscasts of the three major networks. From 1 Jan. to the last day of November, Sanders' campaign has received only 10 minutes of coverage--less than a minute a month. ABC's World News Tonight--the worst offender--gave Sanders' campaign only 20 seconds, a brief mention on the day of his official announcement that he had, in fact, entered the race. And part of that was devoted to Hillary Clinton's reaction to this development.

Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, managed nearly as much coverage as Sanders--8 minutes--merely be announcing he wouldn't be running again, something no one expected him to do anyway. Speculation regarding a potential candidacy by Vice President Joe Biden, something that never even materialized, received nearly an hour (56 minutes).

Who is getting the coverage?

Donald Trump is the Republican frontrunner but while his national poll numbers have consistently shown him on par with or behind Sanders in popular support, he's received over 23 times Sanders' coverage and is, in fact, the most covered candidate by far, drawing nearly 4 hours (234 minutes). That's over 1/4 of all coverage of all the various campaigns and nearly twice as much as that offered all of the Democratic candidates combined.

Jeb Bush is the second-most-covered Republican with 56 minutes devoted to his campaign. Ben Carson is at #3 with 54 minutes and Marco Rubio fourth at 22 minutes. All three of these candidates are way, way behind Sanders in popular support. Bush's campaign is stalled in single digits, Rubio is barely cracking double.

When Sen. Sanders launched his campaign, the biggest initial hurdle he had to overcome was that few knew who he was. The corporate press, following its dismal, long-established pattern with regard to liberal and left candidates, has done its level best to ensure that as few learn of him as possible. The press insists on treating Hillary Clinton, his chief Democratic rival, as the heir to be coronated. She is, overall, the second-most-covered candidate in the race. Nationally, she leads Sanders by more than 20% but she's received more than 11 times the coverage (113 minutes) and while, throughout the year, her numbers have trended flat or have declined, Sanders, who started as a 4% margin-of-error candidate, has, with his minimal coverage, managed to rise to more than 30%. One can only imagine where he could be if the press actually reported his existence.

--j.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Rush Limbaugh: Plagiarist

Many years ago. I was writing a book about Rush Limbaugh. It was never finished and then I lost most of it through a series of often ridiculous disasters. While the more polished, nearer-to-finished work is gone for good, a large portion of rough, unfinished, earlier versions of most of its chapters and sections managed to survive for many years. I've lost some of them since--more disasters--but I still have some of it and today, while going through it, I found a section in which I'd outlined an example of plagiarism by Limbaugh.

A little background: In 1992, Democratic challenger Bill Clinton and incumbent Republican President George Bush Sr. were duking it out in the presidential race. California Republican congressman Bob Dornan--one of the worst crackpots in congress at the time--would stay up late at night making special-orders speeches from the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives in which he weaved bizarre tales about Bill Clinton's college days, including suggestions that Clinton was working as an agent provocateur for the KGB during the Vietnam war after being recruited during a 1969 trip to the Soviet Union. These were conducted long after the House had finished its business for the day and the chamber was empty--Dornan was just talking to himself or sometimes to another Republican congressman--but the venue granted Dornan immunity from slander suits and his late-night ravings became a popular circus for C-SPAN junkies.

At the time, Dornan was a regular guest-host on Rush Limbaugh's radio show, sitting in when Rush was away. Though unsubstantiated by a single fact, his outlandish assertions regarding Clinton eventually bled into the rhetoric of an increasingly desperate Bush reelection campaign.

In his second book "See, I Told You So," Limbaugh was red-baiting Clinton and revisited this material. Of Clinton's college-era trip to Russia, he darkly asked, "...how about that mysterious vacation to Moscow and Prague in the dead of winter?" Later in the book, he comes back to the subject:

"Six weeks after he [Clinton] helped organize a massive anti-war, anti-U.S. protest in England in 1969, he turned up in the Soviet Union--the pre-Gorbachev Evil Empire that was supporting the communists in Vietnam with weapons and advisors."

This, I discovered, was plagiarized directly from a Bush campaign press release. Dated 5 October, 1992 and entitled "Back in the USSR," the copy read, in part:

"Six weeks after he helped organize a massive anti-war demonstration in London, at the height of the Vietnam war, then-student Bill Clinton turned up in the Soviet Union for a visit  during the dead of winter."

If anyone else ever caught this, I'm unaware of it. In more recent years, Limbaugh has had other interesting brushes with the plagiarism issue. In 2012, his newsletter blatantly plagiarized an image from a 2002 Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual. In 2011, he falsely accused President Obama of plagiarizing him in a speech to the UN. In 2006, he came to the defense of right-wing blogger Bob Domenech who was caught up in a plagiarism scandal. In Limbaugh's fanciful version of what happened, the "left-wing fringe" complained about Domenech and "the liberal Washington Post buckled... and they concocted some phony excuse that the guy that they had hired was a plagiarist... [T]hey couldn't handle the heat from the left, and so they couldn't offend their audience, and so they had to get rid of the conservative blogger. At the same time, they had to put out a bunch of garbage to impugn his character and reputation at the same time." But in the real world, Domenech had admitted to the plagiarism and had apologized for it.

--j.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

That Which Is Lost With the Ed Show

Distressing Developments Dept. - The Ed Show on MSNBC is being cancelled. I don't really like Ed Schultz--he carried over far too many bad habits from his years in right-wing talk radio for my liking--but his show was indispensable when it came to an extremely important issue, the Trans Pacific Partnership.

As I've noted in the past, the corporate press has almost entirely ignored this, a massive trade deal developed first by the Bush Jr. then by the Obama administration. In 2012, a draft portion of the negotiation leaked. Writing in the Nation, Lori Wallach of Public Citizen characterized it as
"a stealthy delivery mechanism for policies that could not survive public scrutiny. Indeed, only two of the twenty-six chapters of this corporate Trojan horse cover traditional trade matters. The rest embody the most florid dreams of the 1 percent — grandiose new rights and privileges for corporations and permanent constraints on government regulation. They include new investor safeguards to ease job offshoring and assert control over natural resources, and severely limit the regulation of financial services, land use, food safety, natural resources, energy, tobacco, healthcare and more."
The corporate press has largely buried not only the details of the TPP but its mere existence. On MRC Watch back in May, I wrote:
Liberal publications and orgs have been trying to draw attention to this matter for years now, while the big dogs of the corporate press — those big dogs the MRC insists are so slavishly devoted to heathen liberalism — have almost entirely buried it.
For years, liberal press critic Project Censored has assembled a list of important stories that received little or no coverage in the previous year; in 2013, the Trans-Pacific Partnership finished at #3. In March 2014, Steve Rendall of liberal media critic Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) noted that
“TPP would seem to be a major story with significant real-world impact. But despite its apparent newsworthiness—and two major leaks, providing grist for reporting and debate—there were no stories about TPP on the three major network news shows in the year following Barack Obama’s 2013 State of the Union mention of the agreement. The same goes for cable channels CNN and Fox News.
“The only thing preventing a total blackout of TPP on national commercial TV was MSNBC, where the Ed Show practically made TPP a feature of the program, offering critical coverage and commentary in 25 segments. TPP was also discussed once on Melissa Harris-Perry (12/14/13), when it was briefly criticized by The Nation’s John Nichols.”
Shortly after, FAIR launched a petition demanding that the major networks stop their blackout of this story; others have done the same.
It didn’t seem to help. In February, liberal press critic Media Matters undertook a study of tv news coverage of the TPP.
“A Media Matters transcript search of the CBS Evening News, ABC’s World News Tonight, and NBC’s Nightly News from August 1, 2013, through January 31, 2015, found no mention of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. By contrast, PBS NewsHour mentioned the TPP on during eight broadcasts, most of which were substantive discussions of the trade agreement.”
Among the cable news operations, “CNN and Fox News each mentioned the TPP during two broadcasts,” while MSNBC was the only outlet to give the matter any real attention — it was covered in 71 broadcasts, mostly the Ed Show.
On Monday — three days ago — Media Matters followed up. From 1 February to 10 May, the network evening newscasts had continued their complete blackout — not a single mention from any of them. The PBS Newshour had done 6 additional segments on the subject. Among the cable outlets, CNN hadn’t offered a single new mention while there had been 10 on Fox News. Again, only MSNBC devoted any notable attention to the matter, covering it in 53 segments.[2]
Print coverage has been pathetic as well. In April 2014, FAIR examined the attention given the TPP by two of the largest papers in the U.S.:
“In the year between Barack Obama’s 2013 and 2014 State of the Union addresses (2/12/13– 1/28/14), the New York Times and Washington Post had a combined total of 18 news reports discussing TPP, featuring 48 sources.
“TPP received a small fraction of the attention the papers devoted to stories of much less import, such as the Benghazi and IRS stories portrayed as scandals by the right—without much of anything scandalous behind them (FAIR Blog, 5/17/13, 6/25/13). Benghazi was mentioned in 618 stories in both papers. Using the search terms ‘IRS’ and ‘conservative’—according to the IRS scandal storyline, the agency singled out conservative groups for harassment—turned up 444 stories.
“In the two papers combined, sources favoring TPP (31) outnumbered those opposing (14) by more than 2-to-1. Three sources were expressly noncommittal. The Post presented an almost 3-to-1 ratio of supporters to opponents (16–6) with one noncommittal source, while the Times featured a nearly 2-to-1 imbalance (15–8) with two noncommittal sources.”
While barely covering the story, print outlets have managed to circulate all manner of nonsense about the deal and its critics.

And now, while Obama, in continuing to negotiate the deal, operates under fast-track authority just granted him by congress, the only major national news outlet to devote any real coverage to this subject is about to become extinct.

--j.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Networks Ignore IRS Non-Story, Dickens Fumes, Bozell Raves

MRC Watch Dept. -  "What’s it going to take," asked a flustered Geoffrey Dickens on Wednesday, 8 July, "for the networks to start seriously reporting on the IRS scandal again?" The item that had him in an uproar: a "stunning revelation" by Judicial Watch. A "bombshell" that "has yet to be reported on any of the Big Three (ABC, NBC, CBS) networks." For those familiar with Judicial Watch, a crackpot right-wing nuisance-suit mill, this hardly comes as any surprise. The org's history is a quite-long list of "bombshells" that turn out to be duds. The newest, yet another, was just the latest in a long line.

Here's how Judicial Watch reported it:
"Judicial Watch today released new Department of Justice (DOJ) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) documents that include an official 'DOJ Recap' report detailing an October 2010 meeting between Lois Lerner [of the IRS], DOJ officials and the FBI to plan for the possible criminal prosecution of targeted nonprofit organizations for alleged illegal political activity.

"The newly obtained records also reveal that the Obama DOJ wanted IRS employees who were going to testify to Congress to turn over documents to the DOJ before giving them to Congress. Records also detail how the Obama IRS gave the FBI 21 computer disks, containing 1.25 million pages of confidential IRS returns from 113,000 nonprofit social 501(c)(4) welfare groups  – or nearly every 501(c)(4) in the United States – as part of its prosecution effort. According to a letter from then-House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, 'This revelation likely means that the IRS – including possibly Lois Lerner – violated federal tax law by transmitting this information to the Justice Department.'"
The conservative Rage Machine has long pushed the narrative that the IRS wrongly targeted right-wing groups. Dickens, in recounting the story, includes a quote from Judicial Watch head Tom Fitton:
"The FBI and Justice Department worked with Lois Lerner and the IRS to concoct some reason to put President Obama's opponents in jail before his reelection. And this abuse resulted in the FBI’s illegally obtaining confidential taxpayer information. How can the Justice Department and FBI investigate the very scandal in which they are implicated?"

Dickens also includes a Fox News graphic using part of that quote, and, indeed, that's the characterization of this information that has gone all 'round the righty blogosphere since Judicial Watch published it.

The problem?

Not only is there nothing in the new documents that supports that characterization, the documents refute it.

In the first place, the documents don't show anyone trying to "concoct" ways to send Obama's opponents to jail, not "before his reelection" or at any other time; they don't, in fact, even mention "President Obama's opponents." Rather, the documents show there was a meeting in Oct. 2010 between IRS and Justice officials "to discuss recent attention to the political activity of exempt organizations." What activity?
"The section's attorneys expressed concern that certain section 501(c) organizations are actually political committees 'posing' as if they are not subject to FEC law, and therefore may be subject to criminal liability."
In short, the responsible parties were discussing tax cheats and what is to be done about said cheats. Shorter version: they were doing the jobs for which they're paid. Really scandalous stuff.

On the other hand, the assertion by Judicial Watch that the IRS provided to the Justice Department 21 disks "containing 1.25 million pages of confidential IRS returns from 113,000 nonprofit social 501(c)(4) welfare groups" is flat-out false--an outrageous lie. The disks contained the 990 forms for those orgs, which is public information. It is true that some non-public information from a handful of groups was also included on the disks but it appears to have been entirely accidental. The Wall Street Journal reported that
"the IRS said it recently identified 33 tax returns on the disks—out of a total of 12,000 returns—that inadvertently included 'some nonpublic information.' The agency said the 33 groups represented a wide spectrum of organizations and most don't appear to have any connection to political activity."
That Journal report, it's worth noting, was published over a year ago, which gives a good indication of how impervious to facts these right-wing faux-"scandals" can be. And the fact that these were the 990s on "nearly every 501(c)(4) in the United States" -- one thing Judicial Watch did get right -- conclusively refutes the assertion that this was part of any effort to target "President Obama's opponents" or right-wing groups in general.

The other big "revelation" was that "the Obama DOJ wanted IRS employees who were going to testify to Congress to turn over documents to the DOJ before giving them to Congress." An email from a Justice official to a lawyer representing the IRS employees reads
"One last issue. If any of your clients have documents they are providing to Congress that you can (or would like to) provide to us before their testimony, we would be pleased to receive them."
The Justice Department was, at the time, investigating what happened at the IRS and again Judicial Watch is trying to offer a sinister characterization to someone who, without so much as a hint of impropriety, is merely doing his job.

That's the substance of the latest Judicial Watch "bombshell, the one Geoffrey Dickens would have you believe the press is negligent in failing to cover.

His boss, MRC chief Brent Bozell, was even more outraged. On his best days, Bozell is as hostile to understatement as he is to facts but the hilarious, nail-spitting hate-rant against the press he unleashed the next day has to be read to be believed:
"The networks' refusal to cover these devastating revelations borders on being complicit in a cover-up of criminal misconduct by a tyrannical administration using Stalinist tactics against its political opponents."
And so on. Read the whole thing for a look into the black little heart of the unhinged protofascist half-wit at the head of the Media Research Center.

--j.


[This article was written for MRC Watch, a blog that disapproves of unhinged fascist half-wits, faux "scandals" and those who whine that the press doesn't cover non-stories.]
The networks’ refusal to cover these devastating revelations borders on being complicit in a cover-up of criminal misconduct by a tyrannical administration using Stalinist tactics against its political opponents.  - See more at: http://newsbusters.org/blogs/nb-staff/2015/07/09/bozell-media-silence-irs-scandal-borders-being-complicit-cover#.hafdzy:6sbb

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Deterring Democracy 3

MRC Watch Dept. - Series Intro: The excruciatingly narrow spectrum of opinion allowed in major media is a fundamentally conservative bias, but one the writers of the Media Research Center will certainly never acknowledge. Rather than trying to democratize media, they seek to even further constrict that spectrum. To deter democracy. A lot of the articles churned out by the MRC are merely devoted to scandalizing the fact that anyone who holds views with which the MRC disagrees is even allowed to offer such views in any media outlet.

This time around, it's Newsbusters contributor Tom Johnson. He spotlights an op-ed piece in the Washington Post by Katrina Vanden Huevel, editor and publisher of the Nation, which challenges the "constrained notion of freedom that has dominated our politics since Ronald Reagan" and urges Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to offer "a far more expansive American view of what freedom requires, and what threatens it."

Johnson doesn't take issue with anything in the editorial; he merely highlights it, as if the fact that such views were even published is, in itself, a scandal.

An odd footnote: On the Newsbusters homepage, Johnson's article is promoted with the headline, "Katrina vanden Heuvel: Right’s 'Freedom' Brings Oligarchy, Corruption," yet the actual article's headline reads, "Katrina vanden Heuvel: Hillary Should Challenge the Right's 'Constrained' Idea of Freedom."

--j.


Previous entries in this series:

Deterring Democracy

Deterring Democracy 2


[This article was written for MRC Watch, a blog that disapproves of the Media Research Center's efforts to deter media democracy.]
Katrina vanden Heuvel: Hillary Should Challenge the Right’s ‘Constrained’ Idea of Freedom - See more at: http://newsbusters.org/blogs/tom-johnson/2015/06/10/katrina-vanden-heuvel-hillary-should-challenge-rights-constrained-idea#sthash.Wyl4EtRw.dpuf
Katrina vanden Heuvel: Hillary Should Challenge the Right’s ‘Constrained’ Idea of Freedom - See more at: http://newsbusters.org/blogs/tom-johnson/2015/06/10/katrina-vanden-heuvel-hillary-should-challenge-rights-constrained-idea#sthash.Wyl4EtRw.dpuf

Monday, June 8, 2015

CNN Offers Fantasy Political Analysis, Connor Williams Approves

MRC Watch Dept. - Appearing on the 8 June edition of CNN's Wolf, political analysts Gloria Borger and Ron Brownstein held a little colloquy on Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders' surprisingly strong showing in a Wisconsin straw poll and among the chatter, both floated the notion that Sanders' success was an indication that the Democratic party had moved to the left. This delighted the MRC's Connor Williams, who whined that
"The liberal media virtually never recognize the glaringly obvious fact that the Democratic Party has moved far to the left in recent years. Almost without exception, they harp on the idea that the Republicans have shifted to the right, while suggesting that the Democrats are in mainstream."
Under the headline, "CNN's Borger States the Obvious: Dems 'Have Moved So Far to the Left'," Williams recounts that Borger: "noted that 'it won't work to be a centrist' in the Democratic Party anymore because the party 'has moved so far to the left.'" He approvingly quotes Borger:
"I think this started before Bernie Sanders officially got into the race. Look, the Democratic Party has shifted since Bill Clinton ran for president."
Brownstein, wrote Williams, "agreed and noted that the Democrats have 'unquestionably moved to the left on cultural issues since Bill Clinton's day.'"

Given his thesis, Williams wisely declined to quote Brownstein's next sentence, which inform these remarks, but he was kind enough to include a transcript: "And Hillary Clinton has followed that on things like immigration, on gay marriage." Williams, recall, objects that, as he sees it, the press is forever suggesting "the Democrats are in mainstream." On the issues Brownstein actually named though, that's exactly the case. Last month, the CBS News/New York Times poll asked,
"Which comes closest to your view about illegal immigrants who are living in the U.S.? 1. They should be allowed to stay in the U.S and eventually apply for citizenship, 2. They should be allowed to stay in the U.S. legally, but not be allowed to apply for citizenship or 3. They should be required to leave the U.S."
Overall, 57% of respondents chose the view supported by most Democrats, including both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton: let 'em stay and apply for citizenship. Even 38% of Republicans supported this position. The same poll has asked the same question 9 times since January 2014 and in every case, that option has been the majority view. The same is true with gay marriage; the same poll asked, "Do you think it should be legal or not legal for same-sex couples to marry?" A full 57% of respondents chose the view supported by most Democrats, that it should be legal. This has been a majority position in this same poll going back to Sept. 2012, and support for some form of legal recognition, either "marriage" or "civil unions," has had overwhelming majority support in this poll going all the way back to 2004 (which support for "marriage" became a majority view, the "civil unions" option was dropped from the polling). Williams asserts Democrats have "moved far to the left in recent years," but their position on both the issues Brownstein named is the broad mainstream view. And, of course, the premise of this entire line of commentary was the rise in popularity of Bernie Sanders, which is taken as, in and of itself, evidence of a Democratic lurch to the left, but as Josh Harkinson recently noted in Mother Jones, Sanders is, in his views on most of his major issues, also in line with the American mainstream.

All of this also impacts Borger's asinine assertion that "It won’t work to be a centrist anymore in the Democratic Party because it's moved so far to the left." As the good people at Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting have long noted, the mainstream corporate press always defines "the political center" as way, way to the right of the actual political center, and as the Democratic party lurches further and further to the right, it's always the "analysis" of mainstream pundits that the Democratic party has gone too far left and should, if it wants to be viable, lurch right. While Williams suggests these ideas as some sort of rare innovation in the "liberal" press, they are, in fact, vacuous, fact-free tropes that have been around for decades.

--j.


[This article was written for MRC Watch, a blog that is unimpressed with the Media Research Center's political analysis.]

Friday, June 5, 2015

CNN Gives Softball Interview, MRC Objects To Harsh Coverage

MRC Watch Dept. - Last month, Pam Geller and her fascist American Freedom Defense Initiative hosted a contest aimed at producing cartoons of Islam's prophet Muhammad. Muslims regard any visual depiction of their prophet as a blasphemy and two would-be jihadists turned up with guns intent on shooting up the event. Fortunately, they were stopped by police before they could cause much trouble but in the aftermath, the writers of the Media Research Center authored a series of articles that took the position that the event was "pro-free-speech" rather than anti-Muslim -- the fascist org's own characterization -- and, in effect, that anything less than unquestioning love of the AFDI and its event by the press amounted to pro-jihadism and anti-1st-Amendment-ism. For the MRC, it seems, "free speech" means only the right to agree with the AFDI.

Thursday, Connor Williams jumped into it again, approvingly spotlighting the mad ravings of Geller's sidekick Robert Spencer on CNN's At This Hour. Off in his usual haze, Spencer had his panties in a twist about the press. "[T]he mainstream press, including CNN, is going along" with Muslims who "are trying to frighten Americans into silence and submission," Spencer insisted. Though a white male Christian attacking adherents of a religion who make up less than 1% of the U.S. population, Spencer did his best to make himself sound quite heroic:
"We're never going to surrender and we’re never going to submit. The media is submitting by not showing the cartoons and kowtowing to these violent threats and intimidation. That's just the wrong thing to do because it's only going to encourage more violent threats and intimidation."
If Williams happened to notice this was the equivalent of the Ku Klux Klan complaining that the press is only submitting to Jewish domination by refusing to show their org's anti-Semitic cartoons, he didn't bother to say. Still, the matter has been allowed to drift well into Bizarro territory when Spencer, who, to no conceivable positive end, sponsors events aimed solely at insulting and angering a group of people who have done him no harm, says those who, in his view, decline to sufficiently spread his poison are more responsible for the reaction his activities draw than the activities themselves. And there's the Orwellian nature of Spencer's complaining that the press hasn't sufficiently helped spread his poison in the midst of an interview in which he's not only being allowed to spread his poison but is being aided in doing so. The question that prompted Spencer's initial outburst against the press, for example, was this puffball thrown by co-host Kate Bolduon:
"So, Pamela [Geller] has said some things that have stuck out recently I wanted to ask you about. She has said that ISIS is here, ISIS is in America and this is war. With that in mind, especially in light of this threat, and the threat you guys have been under, from your perspective, how do you wage that war? How do you fight that enemy? What's your prescription, if you will?"
Can one imagine a Klansman being asked such a question by a CNN host regarding the threat of Jewish domination of the U.S. government? That was nothing more than an open invitation for Spencer to rave (which Spencer, facing no challenge, then took), and it isn't the last time in the interview the CNN hosts do this.

Williams doesn't touch any of that. He focuses, instead, in following Spencer's lead in slamming co-host John Berman, who, in the face of Spencer's attack's on the press, helpfully tried to get Spencer back on point:
"Well look, leave the media aside for a second. The media didn’t target Pamela Geller, the media didn't attack that conference you had in Garland, Texas."
Despite this being a clear allusion to the two would-be jihadis who did target Geller and the Garland event, Spencer opted to misrepresent "target" and "attack" as press criticism of Geller:
"The media targets Pamela Geller all the time, are you kidding?! She gets hit pieces all the time from CNN and everywhere else."
Williams endorsed this misrepresentation, characterizing Berman's effort to refocus Spencer as his having "jumped in to defend the media's coverage of the Geller story" and, further, accusing Berman of having made an "inaccurate statement" in doing so, despite Berman having failed to offer so much as a word in defense of or even about "the media's coverage of the Geller story." After Spencer's rant about the press attacking Geller, Berman, in another effort to try to get Spencer back on topic, pointed out the obvious with regard to press coverage and extended another open invitation to Spencer's raving:
BERMAN: The media had Pamela Geller on this morning to talk about this. We are having you on to discuss this. Let's continue to discuss it rather than pointing fingers. Pamela Geller, one of the thing she did say is you have a couple more initiatives in the works.
SPENCER: That's right.
BERMAN: I wondering if you will tell us here what you are planning going forward.
At the end of his piece, Williams goes off even further into La La Land:
"Spencer was correct in saying that the media have gone after Pam Geller for her statements on Islam. It's unfortunate that CNN seems more committed to attacking Geller and Spencer than addressing the real issue, Islamic extremism."
Even setting aside the standard -- and tired -- implication that the press is in the wrong if it doesn't love Geller, this, offered as the conclusion of an article about a CNN interview in which Spencer was treated entirely seriously and not only given nearly unchallenged license to rant and rave but was repeatedly invited to do so, is pure Orwellian spectacle.

Williams includes a transcript of what he calls "the relevant portion" of the interview. It is, in fact, nearly the entire interview -- he omits only the closing moments. Not, one suspects, unintentionally. In the complete interview, Spencer is, at the end, asked by Bolduon, "Have you guys reached out to the Muslim community in Boston to work on how to engage, how to gain a better understanding, how to work together to fight extremist views?" Yet another puffball question and it elicited an ugly rant by Spencer indicting the entire Muslim community of Boston in terrorist activities. One of the standard tactics of the AFDI fascists is to tell the general public they're only opposed to "Islamic extremists," then turn around and assert that this includes all Muslims. Bolduon had been foolish enough to get caught up in the former claim but Spencer's last rant finally proved to be too much for Bolduon and Berman, who, in the closing seconds of the interview, challenged Spencer -- the only real challenge to anything he said in the entire course of the segment. Including that ugly rant would have shed light on why some in the media "have gone after" Geller and Spencer and on what Spencer meant by what Williams asserted was "the real issue."

--j.


[This article was written for MRC Watch, a blog that disapproves of the Media Research Center's propaganda on behalf of fascists.]

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Deterring Democracy 2

MRC Watch Dept. - Series Intro: The excruciatingly narrow spectrum of opinion allowed in major media is a fundamentally conservative bias, but one the writers of the Media Research Center will certainly never acknowledge. Rather than trying to democratize media, they seek to even further constrict that spectrum. To deter democracy. A lot of the articles churned out by the MRC are merely devoted to scandalizing the fact that anyone who holds views with which the MRC disagrees is even allowed to offer such views in any media outlet.

Tim Graham, who is the Executive Editor of Newsbusters, the Director of Media Analysis for the Media Research Center and MRC chief Brent Bozell's ghostwriter, has just offered up another example of this. He devoted his Saturday article to complaining that when the New York Times' gang celebrated forthcoming film festivals, "they were especially happy with left-wing films about 'social justice.'" Actually, it was only one Times writer, Mekado Murphy, the Times senior movies editor -- Graham makes it a "they" in an effort to indict the rest.

Graham further falsely claims "they highlighted the Human Rights Watch Film Festival, sponsored by the left-wing lobby of the same name." In reality, the HRW festival was only one of nine festivals covered by the article; it isn't listed first, no special attention is given to it and, in fact, fewer words are devoted to it than to any of the others. The article is simply a rundown of upcoming film festivals, and the HRW festival is one of them.

Graham doesn't have any substantive complaint. His gripe is merely that items that sound to him as if they may have some left point of view are being mentioned as potentially good movies instead of being ignored.

--j.

The previous entry in this series: Deterring Democracy.


[This article was written for MRC Watch, a blog that advocates a vibrant media democracy and frowns on the efforts of the Media Research Center to constrict it even further.]

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Lying Eyes 5: Bernie Sanders on Rape An Akin?!

MRC Watch Dept. - The MRC gang wants its readers to think it has a real scoop on its hands today. Well, sort of a second-hand scoop. On Tuesday, Mother Jones ran a biographical sketch of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders which included, among other things, a reproduction of a brief piece Sanders had written in 1972 for the Vermont Freeman. This morning at MRCTV, Dan Joseph jumped on that reproduction and tried to turn it into a major scandal; Tim Graham then pimped Joseph's article on Newsbusters. What's all the fuss about? In Joseph's telling:
"In a 1972 essay, presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) opined that men fantasized about women being abused.  He also claimed that women fantasized about being gang raped."
That sounds like a scandal all right!

The problem: It isn't true.

Joseph and, later, Graham are offering up a laughably false characterization of the article, even as, in Joseph's case, he reproduces it, thus debunking himself. Yes, folks, it's yet another case of Don't Believe Your Lying Eyes, a favorite pasttime at the MRC, wherein the org's writers regularly tell their readers to ignore plain words in plain English in favor of their own politically motivated falsifications of same.

The Sanders piece at the center of this faux-controversy is a bit of social commentary about various toxic elements in gender relations, issues that, in 1972, were being brought to the fore by the feminist movement (to which the piece alludes). It's offered, stream of consciousness-style, through a tale of an unnamed man and woman, including dialogue between the characters and a tragic ending.

Joseph focuses only on Sanders' opening lines:
"A man goes home and masturbates his typical fantasy. A woman on her knees, a woman tied up, a woman abused.
"A woman enjoys intercourse with her man -- as she fantasizes being raped by 3 men simultaneously."
This theoretical man and woman are what the MRC writers attempt to convert to all men and women, asserting, as Joseph puts it, that Sanders "opined that men fantasized about women being abused" and "claimed that women fantasized about being gang raped." To bolster this misrepresentation, Joseph goes a step further, saying the article is entitled "Men-And-Women." Its actual title, visible in Joseph's own reproduction of it, is "Man - and Woman." Graham gets the title right but keeps the misrepresentation and adds some of his own,[1] referring to the article as "an essay that Sanders wrote in February 1972 about the 'typical' rape fantasies of men and women." In reality, the word "typical" is only used in connection to the specific fantasy of that particular theoretical man (just as quoted above) and the article isn't "about" this at all -- the article briefly questions from whence such urges may have arisen then moves on. Joseph says his misrepresentation of those opening lines represent "[Sanders'] thoughts on male and female sexuality" and "[Sanders] early views on sexuality," while Graham calls them "Bernie's unique sexual theories."

Joseph's article is particularly slimy. He writes, "Sanders didn't specify as to how he had gained such a deep understanding of the male psyche," adding that "in terms of his understanding of female sexual fantasies, Sanders provided similar insight... It is unclear where Sanders acquired his early expertise on male and female sexual desires." And:
"Perhaps Sanders gets a pass due to his early work at a psychiatric hospital (No, he wasn't a patient.)..."
And so on.

In standard Conservative Persecution Mode, Joseph asserts that "what is clear is that had Ted Cruz or Rick Santorum wrote something along these lines--even 40 years ago--the media wouldn't stop talking about it for weeks." Graham approvingly quotes this, then writes, "The proof of that assumption is the Todd Akin hullaballoo of 2012" (Joseph alludes to Akin as well). Back then, Missouri GOP Senate candidate Akin, when asked if abortions should be denied to even rape victims, stated that, in cases of "legitimate rape," the female body has ways of preventing impregnation. As could be expected, a firestorm of coverage and condemnation ensued. And, contrary to Graham's assertion, if Sanders ever says anything that moronic and outrageous, the same will happen to him. That hasn't happened here and, unfortunately for Joseph and Graham, most people who have no reason to suspect their own eyes do believe what they see, which means this non-story is probably going nowhere.

--j.

---

[1] Graham also asserts that "Mother Jones dropped a little bomb on the Bernie Sanders campaign," as if MoJo had offered up some bombshell report. In reality, the MoJo piece draws no special attention to the Sanders article; it's merely reproduced as an example of something Sanders had written when, at that point in his life, he was doing some freelance journalism. Notably, Graham doesn't link to the MoJo article.

The Sanders article:



Previous entries in this series:

Tim Graham: Don’t Believe Your Lying Eyes on Steve Schmidt

Jeffrey Meyer: Don’t Believe Your Lying Eyes Redux

Lying Eyes 3: Shepherd Tries To Mislead the Sheep

Lying Eyes 4: Whitlock Says Don’t Trust ‘Em On Obama Remarks


[This article was written for MRC Watch, a blog that is rather skeptical whenever the Media Research Center suggests its eyes are lying.]

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

In Attack on Climate Change Activist, Larsen Snorts Koch

MRC Watch Dept. - Tuesday, billionaire and environmental activist Tom Steyer appeared on the PBS Newshour. Steyer, a big political financier, talked about, among other things, the influence of money in politics.
"...the way that money is used in campaigns isn't good for democracy. It's just in a situation where we felt there's an immense amount of money on the other side and as long as this is the system that the Supreme Court has put in place, there's gotta' be somebody on our side. And when you look at the relative dollars, it really is a David and Goliath situation, and we’re very definitely the small shepherd boy with five rocks and a sling."
This analogy was far too much for the MRC's Alatheia Larsen. "Apparently Tom Steyer knows his Bible better than he knows math," she snipes. "Or perhaps he just hasn’t had a heart to heart with his accountant in several years." Larsen, it seems, knows sniping better than she knows journalism. Of Steyer's shepherd boy comment, she writes,
"The analogy might be cute, but it’s also factually incorrect... Contrary to that image, Steyer was the number one political contributor in the 2014 election cycle. He gave $74 million through his NextGen Climate PAC to push the climate change issue during the election. The Koch brothers, who Steyer attacked in the interview, gave a combined $7.7 million towards the 2014 election - only slightly more than one-tenth of Steyer’s contributions."
But the data she cites from the Center for Responsive Politics only covers individual federal contributions; the Kochs have an entire network of orgs engaged in this activity. In November, as the 2014 campaigns wrapped, the National Journal reported
"The two groups at the heart of the Koch brothers' political network spent a combined $100 million on competitive races in 2014, spokesmen for the organizations tell National Journal."
For those who know the Bible better than math, that's over 14 times the amount Larsen attributes to the Kochs, and that's only accounting for two of the many Koch groups. Overall, the Koch network organizers reported in June that their goal was to spend $300 million in 2014. And when all is tallied, they'll probably have hit that mark (as the Washington Post documented, the network spent over $400 million in the 2012 cycle). Steyer's $74 million can't help but look rather puny by comparison.

While any analogy of a billionaire to a "small shepherd boy" may, in itself, be strained, the David/Goliath comparison isn't, relatively speaking, inappropriate here. The Koch network intends to spend nearly a billion dollars on the 2016 cycle. To put that in context, Tom Steyer's total net worth is reported to be $1.6 billion. David? Probably not. But against the Goliath of the Kochs -- net worth: over $80 billion -- it probably feels that way.

As always, while doing the dirty work of Big Oil by peddling an outrageous lie to to attack a climate-change activist, Larsen fails to disclose the fact that her own employer, the Media Research Center, has been partially financed by oil and gas interests, including ExxonMobil, Marlin Oil, T. Boone Pickens and -- wait for it -- the Koch brothers.

--j.


[This article was written for MRC Watch, a blog that becomes concerned when the Media Research Center snorts Koch.]

Left-Wing Press Only Treats Left-Wing Candidate As Radical, Doesn't So Label Him, Frets Williams

MRC Watch Dept. - Connor Williams is upset that "the extremist label has hardly been applied to self-avowed democratic socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders," who held his first campaign event on Tuesday in Vermont. He contrasts this unfavorably with the press reaction to hard-right Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz.
"When the mainstream press frequently labeled Cruz radical, dangerous, and slimy, no such words were used to describe the Vermont Senator on the May 26 edition of The Rundown with Jose Diaz Balart."
If one follows Williams' link, the one supposed to show where the press "frequently" so labeled Cruz, you come across an edition of Newsbusters' "Notable Quotables" wherein all of one pundit -- that is, someone specifically present to offer opinion -- is quoted as having once called Cruz both "dangerous" and "slimy" while another is quoted as having once described Cruz as "radical." Others quotes refer to Cruz as a rigidly hardline conservative, characterizations Cruz himself would not only probably not contest but would see as free advertising for his campaign (and it's hardly surprising that the leftist Sanders wouldn't be called a rigidly hardline conservative).

Williams writes that the guests on the Rundown -- Mark Murray and Steve Kornacki -- "both gave rather glowing reviews of Sanders." Those "glowing reviews" include the assertion that Sanders wants to be a "happy warrior" for his issues and that "he’s sort of the antithesis of the packaged political candidate." Williams gives kudos to Balart, saying the host "did note, fairly, that Sanders' brand of politics is a 'non-starter in national elections'," but he complains that
"Other than Balart's brief mention of Sanders' politics being unpopular nationally, not one of the three analysts bothered to point out the Vermont senator's radicalism. For the left-wing media, extremism can only come from one side of the aisle."
So let's break that down, shall we?

No one would argue Sanders is anything other than a candidate of the left. The sort of candidate a "liberal media" would adore and promote to no end. But how does the corporate press actually treat Sanders? On Tuesday morning, long before Williams had written his article, this author had written a piece over at News Reviews that spent a great deal of time dealing with how Sanders is, in fact, ubiquitously dismissed by the corporate press as some sort of fringe crank who can't win. Author Steve Hendricks, writing for the Columbia Journalism Review, had just covered this as well (his article being one of the spurs for my own). Both articles offer copious examples of this press mistreatment of Sanders but, as it turns out, Williams' own offers up even more. While both Murray and Kornacki at least concede Sanders could give Hillary Clinton a good run for the money -- far more than most of the corporate press commentariat will allow -- both adopt the common theme of talking down Sanders' candidacy. Murray's ultimate conclusion, offered in a comment Williams even quotes:
"Bernie Sanders is probably going into this realizing that he won’t be sitting in the White House come 2017..."
Williams includes a full transcript of the exchange after his article and in it, Kornacki, likewise, says "the bottom line odds of Bernie Sanders becoming president in 2017 are not very good." And host Balart, in the part Williams particularly liked, said, "You look at Sanders’ brand of politics, it's essentially a non-starter in national elections."

Yeah, there's a real "liberal media" for you.

While Williams approved of Balart's sentiment, it is, in fact, entirely false. In that News Reviews article, I wrote about a piece Josh Harkinson had written for Mother Jones:
"Calling Sanders 'an extremely long shot,' Harkinson asks, 'Does that mean his views on key political issues are too radical for America's voters? Not necessarily.' And then presents a significant cross-section of polling data showing that Sanders' views on major issues are, for the most part, perfectly in line with the American mainstream. Harkinson doesn't offer any sort of detailed analysis, making his piece vulnerable to charges of superficiality but it does a fairly good job of making a general case, and it isn't a surprising one to those who pay attention. On most issues, Sanders is by no means distant from the American political center. His distance is merely from the 'center' as defined by the corporate press, which is way to the right of the actual center."
While one may feel some sympathy for Williams, born to a country that doesn't hold his own right-wing views, his complaint is essentially that these fellows on the Rundown merely treated mainstream views he dislikes as "radical" and "extremist" and disqualifying for a candidate rather than overtly labeling them as such. And from this, he extrapolates a general assertion about "the left-wing media." The "left-wing media," in this case, that dismisses the left-wing pol as an unelectable candidate with unpopular views.

--j.


[This article was written for MRC Watch, a blog that disapproves of the Ministry of Truth operation that is the Media Research Center.]

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Corporate Press & Bernie: A Systemic Problem

Author Steve Hendricks has a pretty good article at the Columbia Journalism Review about the presidential candidacy of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. "Bernie Sanders can't win: Why the press loves to hate underdogs." A self-described social democrat, Sanders has, for the most part, received the usual treatment doled out by the corporate press to candidates with liberal or left views. Typically, he's entirely ignored and on those rare occasions when he is mentioned, he's treated as a fringe crank who can't win described as merely a potential stumbling-block for Hillary Clinton on her way to the Democratic nomination. As Hendricks describes it, the press, having settled on this "can't win" prophecy, "went about covering Sanders so as to fulfill it":
"The [New York] Times, for example, buried his announcement on page A21, even though every other candidate who had declared before then had been put on the front page above the fold. Sanders’s straight-news story didn’t even crack 700 words, compared to the 1,100 to 1,500 that Marco RubioRand PaulTed Cruz, and Hillary Clinton got. As for the content, the Times’ reporters declared high in Sanders’s piece that he was a long shot for the Democratic nomination and that Clinton was all but a lock. None of the Republican entrants got the long-shot treatment, even though Paul, Rubio, and Cruz were generally polling fifth, seventh, and eighth among Republicans before they announced."
As this author noted at the time, the evening newscasts of the three major networks virtually ignored Sanders' official announcement. ABC's World News Tonight disposed of it in less than 20 seconds, the CBS Evening News gave it only a portion of a single sentence as an aside at the end of an unrelated report about the Clinton Foundation and the NBC Nightly News shoehorned a few seconds about it into a report about Hillary Clinton's political chameleonism over the years. Not a single newscast ran a full report on Sanders, despite all three having devoted full reports to the campaign launches of Clinton and every Republican who had, to that date, announced his candidacy.

The good folks at Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting have spotlighted some of this sort of nonsense. On the week of Sanders' announcement, the reaction of the major network Sunday shows was mixed. ABC's This Week, to its credit, featured Sanders as a guest, but both Face the Nation on CBS and Meet the Press on NBC ignored the news.[1] Sanders' one and only appearance on Meet the Press happened back in September 2014 and his name hadn't even been mentioned on that broadcast since. When host Chuck Todd tried to brush off this criticism, FAIR opened the books on Meet the Press and revealed that, in 2015 to date, 24 candidates or potential candidates had been mentioned on Meet the Press, all but three of them more than once. But no Sanders.[2] FAIR also pointed to the New York Times' coverage of its own poll on the presidential race released earlier this month. In the poll, the Times had asked about Sanders and other potential Democratic candidates (Sanders being the only one of the batch who had announced); when it came time to write about it, the Times "chose not to share those results with readers in any kind of reader-friendly form."

Hendricks notes that, when faced, in the past, with charges they've shortchanged candidates like Sanders, editors have rationalized this by saying he's a longshot. And he takes down this premise.
"The trouble with this commonplace is that editors actually love covering long shots—certain long shots anyway. Ted Cruz, for example, received his serious, in-depth treatment in the Times’ news columns... The difference is that Cruz has not erected a platform whose planks present a boardwalk of horror to the corporate class atop the media."
Hendricks tackles the "Sanders can't win" talk head on:
"...over the last 40 years, out of seven races in which the Democratic nomination was up for grabs—races, that is, when a sitting Democrat president wasn’t seeking reelection—underdogs have won the nomination either three or four times (depending on your definition of an underdog) and have gone on to win the presidency more often than favored candidates."
The most recent of those underdogs took out Hillary Clinton in 2008. Clinton's negatives remain sky-high.

Hendricks does a pretty good, if basic, job of stripping away nearly every pretense the corporate press may offer for giving Sanders short shrift. One area where he falls short is when he notes that some of the press "chatterers... have continued to say that money or no, Sanders is a non-starter because of his distance from the political center" but he doesn't really challenge that premise. Josh Harkinson, writing for Mother Jones, did. Calling Sanders "an extremely long shot," Harkinson asks, "Does that mean his views on key political issues are too radical for America's voters? Not necessarily." And then presents a significant cross-section of polling data showing that Sanders' views on major issues are, for the most part, perfectly in line with the American mainstream. Harkinson doesn't offer any sort of detailed analysis, making his piece vulnerable to charges of superficiality but it does a fairly good job of making a general case,[3] and it isn't a surprising one to those who pay attention. On most issues, Sanders is by no means distant from the American political center. His distance is merely from the "center" as defined by the corporate press, which is way to the right of the actual center.

At the moment, multiple polls have shown that around 60% of Americans, give or take, haven't even heard of Sanders. That, alone, is a very damning comment on the work of the Establishment media. One routinely hears overblown claims about how New Media allow candidates to skip the filter of the corporate press but the reality is that a candidate who is ignored by the major media and persistently treated as "the crank who can't win" isn't going to be winning a national presidential race. And that isn't a chicken-or-egg question. The corporate press is not a bystander in the electoral process. In Iranian democracy at present, a clutch of unelected mullahs insist on the power to vet who can and can't present themselves as a candidate for elective office. What are the implications for the American version of liberal democracy when the corporate press takes up this function of deciding who is and isn't a legitimate candidate? This is a significant--and systemic--problem, one that yields to no simple solutions.

--j.

---

[1] Subsequently, on 10 May, Face the Nation did host Sanders as a guest.

[2] After FAIR pointed this out, Todd suddenly remembered Sanders' existence.

[3] Some of the items Harkinson cites could have used some further analysis. When, for example, Harkinson addresses the Trans Pacific Partnership, which Sanders opposes, he cites a 2014 Pew poll that showed majority support for it and concludes that Sanders is at odds with most of the public. But, of course, most of the public have no idea what the TPP even contains, as the negotiations have proceeded in secret and much of the press has declined to cover it. That Pew poll elicited a positive response by entangling its questioning in the broader matter of international trade, of which Americans have a generally positive view. In the same context, the poll asked about the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and received a similarly positive result but when the same respondents were asked about some of the specific elements of the TTIP proposal, support dropped across the board, a sure sign that the pollsters were queering their results.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Deterring Democracy

MRC Watch Dept. - A wide diversity of opinion is both emblematic of and critical to a healthy democracy. The often excruciatingly narrow spectrum of views allowed in the mainstream corporate press is a fundamentally conservative bias, but it's one the writers of the Media Research Center--always making such a show of being so centrally concerned with combating "bias"--will never acknowledge. Indeed, in the face of it, the MRC's writers seek to restrict the spectrum even further. A lot of the articles they craft for the org's Newsbusters blog are merely devoted to scandalizing the fact that anyone with whom they disagree is ever allowed to offer their views in a major media outlet.

Today, for example, Tom Johnson throws a spotlight on an article in Salon entitled "The U.S. military is a national security threat." The article's basic argument is summed up in its subheading: "America's armed forces are a massive drain on resources that could otherwise strengthen the country." Johnson doesn't challenge any of the significant evidence the article marshals in favor of this premise. He doesn't offer any counter-argument or point to anyone who has. He certainly can't object that the contrary view, in favor of ever-increasing military spending, is given inadequate attention in the corporate press. He simply spotlights the article as if the fact that any such view was even published is, in and of itself, scandalous.

This is standard operating procedure at the Media Research Center, where deterring a vibrant media democracy is part of the mission.

--j.


[This article was written for MRC Watch, a blog that doesn't care for the MRC's efforts to deter media democracy.]

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Lying Eyes 4: Whitlock Says Don't Trust 'Em On Obama Remarks

MRC Watch Dept. - On Thursday, Scott Whitlock was all hacked off that the network morning news shows ignored a Wednesday speech by Barack Obama to the Coast Guard Academy in which
"The President somehow blamed the rise of Boko Haram on global warming... By ignoring this controversial address, ABC, NBC and CBS thus rendered it uncontroversial."
Whitlock's headline: "Nets Ignore as Obama Blames Rise of Terrorism on Climate Change." And then Whitlock refutes his own premise by quoting Obama on this point:
"Understand, climate change did not cause the conflicts we see around the world. Yet what we also know is that severe drought helped to create the instability in Nigeria that was exploited by the terrorist group Boko Haram. It’s now believed that drought and crop failures and high food prices helped fuel the early unrest in Syria, which descended into civil war in the heart of the Middle East."
Bolding mine.

In recent days, several of the writers at the Media Research Center have struggled to convince their readers to reject the clear meaning of plain words in plain English in favor of their own politically motivated misrepresentations of same, even as they quote the original language. This don't-believe-your-lying-eyes-ism is hardly new when it comes to the MRC but it is, as Mr. Spock would say (and in the way he would say it), fascinating.

Previous entries in this series:

--j.


[This article was written for MRC Watch, a blog that disrespects the Media Research Center's disrespect for the intelligence of its readers.]

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Clay Waters Rehashes Republican Benghazi Lie

MRC Watch Dept. - Apparently finding it difficult to uncover any examples of press "liberalism" about which to gripe, Clay Waters decided to revisit one of the MRC's favorite faux scandals Wednesday: Benghazi. The New York Times seems to have run an article about the fortunes of the creator of the "Innocence of Muslims" movie, clips of which, displayed on YouTube, led to angry demonstrations and sometimes violent rioting across the Muslim world. I say "seems to" because Waters doesn't link to any such story -- he links to an entirely unrelated one from Monday's Times about Hillary Clinton and Sidney Blumenthal -- perhaps he fund it more interesting. That error aside, Waters quotes the Times story as saying "it was unclear when or if the 'Innocence of Muslims' video would return to YouTube. In 2012, it led to wide protests, beginning in Cairo and spreading to countries including Iran, Pakistan and Malaysia." And Waters objects:
"Yet one sub-plot was skipped in that roll call of countries that protested the Youtube video: the deadly protests by radical Islamists against the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya... The Obama administration initially (and falsely) blamed those deadly attacks on the Youtube video as well... The Obama administration famously sent U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice onto all five Sunday news shows on September 16, 2012 to argue (falsely) that the attacks were a 'spontaneous' reaction to 'a hateful and offensive video that was widely disseminated throughout the Arab and Muslim world.' How convenient, as 2016 draws near and Hillary Clinton bolsters her presidential credentials, for the Times to flush that storyline down the memory hole."
The assertion that the Obama administration deliberately manufactured then tried to sell to the public a false narrative about the Benghazi attacks being in response to the video in question is a very, very tired saw among the right's Benghazi scandal-pimps, the writers of the Media Research Center being particularly ambitious examples of the breed.

The facts: In the immediate aftermath of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, the assessment of the U.S. intelligence community was that the attack had grown from a spontaneous demonstration. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, having investigated this subject, issued a report in January 2014 that concluded:
"A dearth of clear and definitive HUMINT [human intelligence] or eyewitness reporting led IC [intelligence community] analysts to rely on open press reports and limited SIGINT reporting that incorrectly attributed the origins of the Benghazi attacks to 'protests'...  CIA's January 4, 2013, Analytic Line Review  found that '[a ]pproximately a dozen reports that included press accounts, public statements by AAS members, HUMINT reporting, DOD reporting, and signals intelligence all stated or strongly suggested that a protest occurred outside of the Mission facility just prior to the attacks.'"
In November 2014, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, which had carried out its own investigation, concurred:
"There was a stream of contradictory and conflicting intelligence that came in after the attacks. The Committee found intelligence to support CIA's initial assessment that the attacks had evolved out of a protest in Benghazi; but it also found contrary intelligence, which ultimately proved to be the correct intelligence. There was no protest. The CIA only changed its initial assessment about a protest on September 24, 2012..."
...which was 8 days after Susan Rice had appeared on those Sunday shows. Both committees concluded there was no intentional effort to mislead on this point. Right after the attack, on 14 Sept., 2012, the CIA's Office of Terrorism Analysis had prepared a memo, one that has been publicly available since early 2013, which said,
"The currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. diplomatic post and subsequently its annex."
...the Cairo protests in question having been in response to the YouTube video. When the administration prepared talking points for Rice prior to her appearance on the Sunday shows, this was cut-and-pasted into them virtually word-for-word and Rice's remarks in those appearances reflected them.

The Wall Street Journal reported that this analysis -- that the violence had spontaneously grown out of a demonstration -- was affirmed in the president's daily intelligence briefing, briefings which only began to question this conclusion on 22 Sept. This is how the intelligence community initially explained the attacks to the administration; the administration's initial public comments reflected this conclusion. That Wall Street Journal report appeared on 22 Oct., 2012, less than six weeks after the attack. In other words, as Waters took his lie to press Wednesday, this has been a matter of the public record for over 2 1/2 years.

And while the intelligence community eventually concluded there had been no demonstration, the New York Times reported on 18 June, 2014 that Ahmed Abu Khattalah, a suspected ringleader of the attack who had just been apprehended by U.S. forces, had said the attack had been in retaliation for the YouTube video:
"On the day of the [Benghazi] attack, Islamists in Cairo had staged a demonstration outside the United States Embassy there to protest an American-made online video mocking Islam, and the protest culminated in a breach of the embassy’s walls — images that flashed through news coverage around the Arab world. As the attack in Benghazi was unfolding a few hours later, Mr. Abu Khattala told fellow Islamist fighters and others that the assault was retaliation for the same insulting video, according to people who heard him."
Waters' attempted resuscitation of the lie that the Obama administration had manufactured and perpetuated a false narrative in this matter helps illustrate how very little facts matter to the writers of the Media Research Center.

--j.


[This article was written for MRC Watch, a blog that debunks the Media Research Center's lies.]

Monday, May 18, 2015

Lying Eyes 3: Shepherd Tries To Mislead the Sheep

MRC Watch - Having seen his companions Tim Graham and Jeffrey Meyer struggle to convince their readers to reject plain words in plain English in favor of their own politically motivated misrepresentations of same, Ken Shepherd apparently decided to get in on the action Monday in an attack on MSNBC's Chris Matthews. Under the headline "Chris Matthews Suggests Jeb's View on Marriage a Mere Appeal to 'Right Flank'," Shepherd writes that, on Monday's Hardball, Matthews asserted that Jeb Bush
"has recently stated his support for traditional marriage only because he's 'looking out for his right flank.' Apparently sincerely-held religious beliefs don't seem to play into the mix at all in Matthews's view."
And like Graham and Meyer before him, he also includes the full text of Matthews' comments, which debunks this claim:
"Well, Jeb Bush is looking out for his right flank. This weekend, he said he doesn't believe same-sex marriage is a constitutional right. And Bush told the Christian Broadcasting Network that marriage between a man and a woman is a sacrament and regardless of how the Supreme Court rules next month, he will be a stalwart supporter of traditional marriage. Bush said it's hard to fathom why thousands of years of culture and history are being changed at, quote 'time warp speed'."
While no one could seriously deny that a conservative candidate who goes on the hard-right Christian Broadcasting Network and talks about "support for traditional marriage" -- meaning opposition to allowing homosexuals to wed -- is blatantly trying to shore up his "right flank" just as Matthews said, nowhere does Matthews say Bush holds this position "merely" for this purpose or "only" for this purpose.[1] He offers straight reportage and doesn't even address why Bush holds such a view.

The MRC writers are devoted to bashing the "liberal press" but how "liberal" can the press be if, in order to have something to bash, they're forced to manufacture such sentiments then put them in the mouth of some news talk personality who never said any such thing?

--j.

---

[1] About marriage as a "sacrament," Shepherd writers "that is the official teaching of the Catholic Church, and supposedly believed by Catholics of all political stripes, Mr. Chris Matthews -- born and raised in the Church -- included." But, of course, most Catholics in the U.S. support gay marriage. Last year, Univision commissioned a massive survey of Catholics, soliciting their views on various contentious issues. One question: "Do you support or oppose marriage between two persons of the same sex?" Only 40% of U.S. Catholics stood opposed; 54% supported gay marriage.


[This article was written for MRC Watch, a blog that disapproves of Media Research Center Shepherds that mislead their sheep.]

Jeffrey Meyer: Don't Believe Your Lying Eyes Redux

MRC Watch Dept. - Last week, when Republican strategist Steve Schmidt noted that 'real voters worried about real issues' don’t care about how often a candidate talks to the traveling press corps and Tim Graham of the Media Research Center tried to transform this into some sort of attack on critics of Hillary Clinton, all the while quoting the actual Schmidt comments, thus discrediting that contention. Graham's message to his readers: listen to me and don't believe your lying eyes. Today, Jeffrey Meyer is playing the same game. By Meyer's imaginative account (appearing under the headline "Cokie Roberts Eagerly Defends Hillary's Press Blackout"), Cokie Roberts, during Sunday's edition of ABC's This Week, ""rushed to defend Hillary Clinton for continuing to not answer questions from the press in the month since she announced her presidential campaign." The basis for this? After some tape of criticism by Republican candidates criticizing Clinton for ducking the press, Roberts said:
"I don't think anybody votes on whether a candidate answers questions or not. [crosstalk] [S]he's, at some point, going to have to engage, absolutely. She's -- she can't just keep doing this. But I don't think it's going to -- she's going to do it exactly how she wants to do it."
Meyer broke this comment in two at the crosstalk and of the latter portion -- the "she can't keep doing this" portion --wrote "Roberts continued to dismiss the need for Hillary to talk to the press..."

He continued to drive home this misrepresentation: "While Roberts was quick to protect Clinton from any criticism, the rest of the This Week panel harshly scolded the Democrat..."

As if perpetuating a running joke, Meyer also referred to Graham's don't-believe-your-lying-eyes attack on Schmidt:
"Roberts' eagerness to excuse Clinton’s media blackout sounded almost identical to comments made by Republican strategist Steve Schmidt during an appearance he made on NPR’s Morning Edition on May 13... [W]hen Cokie Roberts offered up a similar defense of Mrs. Clinton she was met with unanimous skepticism from the entire This Week panel."
Following in Graham's footsteps, Meyer's quotation of Roberts makes clear his characterization is baseless -- Roberts makes no hint of any defense of Clinton, eager or otherwise -- and just to hammer home the point, Meyer not only tacks on a cut-and-paste of the full relevant portion of the transcript from This Week, he also includes the video of the incident.

That the MRC finds it necessary to engage in this sort of nonsense in order to try to substantiate their overarching claim of a "liberal media" has implications upon that claim that are obvious, but the question also arises, are the MRC writers just really stupid or do they believe their very conservative audience to be so? Or both?

--j.


[This article was written for MRC Watch, a blog where, contrary to the exhortations of the Media Research Center, we do believe our eyes when there isn't any reason not to do so.]

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Tim Graham: Don't Believe Your Lying Eyes on Steve Schmidt

MRC Watch Dept. - Wednesday on NPR's Morning Edition, reporter Tamara Keith filed a story in which she spoke with Republican strategist Steve Schmidt; on Friday, the MRC's Tim Graham set up a few straw men around that portion of the report, which discussed Hillary Clinton's avoidance of the traditional press, and proceeded to beat the stuffings out of them then went off on a series of unrelated Schmidt-bashing tangents. The article's URL ends in "npr-shoveling-Schmidt."

Graham's headline is "NPR Finds GOP Pundit Steve Schmidt To Call Critics of Hillary Stonewalling 'Ludicrous'," but one will struggle in vein to find anything like that in Scmidt's comments. Graham's text doesn't even make that assertion. It offers, instead, a slightly different strawman; Graham writes that "what stuck out in the story was failed 2008 McCain-boosting (and Palin-trashing) Republican strategist Steve Schmidt, arguing it's 'ludicrous' that any voter really cares that Hillary won't talk to anyone in the media." Here's the actual exchange between Keith and Schmidt:
TAMARA KEITH: But will avoiding reporter questions hurt her with voters?
STEVE SCHMIDT: The premise of your question presupposes that the way that Hillary Clinton needs to reach voters is through the national media. And that's simply not the case anymore.
TAMARA KEITH: Steve Schmidt is a Republican strategist. He says a campaign as sophisticated as Clinton's can bypass the media filter and target voters directly.
STEVE SCHMIDT: The notion that real voters worried about real issues cares one whit about how often a presidential candidate talks to their traveling press corps or answers questions from them is just ludicrous. It's not the case.
To note the obvious -- as is so often necessary when dealing with the MRC -- "real voters worried about real issues" does not equal "any voter who really cares that Hillary won't talk to anyone in the media," and Schmidt is dismissing the notion that voters care about how often a candidate talks to the press, not insulting those who do care about such things. Graham, while offering his false characterization of that exchange, quotes it in full, which suggests he's either not the sharpest tack in the box or is confident his readers aren't. Or both.

Graham then goes off on a bizarre and totally unrelated tangent about Schmidt's days handling Sarah Palin during the 2008 presidential campaign:
"This is the same Steve Schmidt who assented to putting Sarah Palin into a long interview with Katie Couric. After it bombed and McCain-Palin lost, Schmidt went on 60 Minutes on January 10, 2010 and blamed Palin (not Couric) for what happened in the hardball interview."
The entire world, of course, saw Palin spectacularly self-destruct in that interview. Throughout it, Palin was evasive, rambling, looking away -- the impression was that of a clueless idiot completely out of her depth. The notion that the rather softball questioning by Couric was a "hardball interview" was one of a series of fictions about the incident manufactured by Palin after the fact.[1] Steve Schmidt, in an interview quoted by Graham, notes that Palin had refused to prep for that interview, spending much of the day leading up to it preparing detailed answers to questions posed by a small-town micro-circulation newspaper in Alaska. "I don`t think that Katie Couric asked a single unfair question in that interview." While Palin has persistently lied about nearly every aspect of it, her ghostwriter, writing as her in "her" book "Going Rogue," concluded, "Instead of my scoring points for John McCain [in the interview], I knew I had let the team down." Graham omits this fact.

Graham complains that Schmidt, in that 2010 piece on 60 Minutes, "did go on to say it was 'fair criticism' to suggest that Palin had a serious problem with inaccuracy and truth-mangling. He didn't say anything like that about Hillary on NPR." Which may have something to do with the fact that the brief NPR questioning had nothing to do with Hillary Clinton's accuracy or truthfulness. This, too, seems rather obvious but Graham remarkably concludes, from Schmidt's failure to go off on such an irrelevant tangent, that "Schmidt knows how to behave when he does the liberal-media interviews. He's a Republican In Name Only in those venues."

Uh huh.

Continuing on the same Schmidt tangent, Graham referenced an appearance Schmidt made on MSNBC's Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell in which the Republican strategist said
"I think, Lawrence, specifically with regard to Elizabeth Warren, you see her emerging as a titanic figure on the Democratic left in the Democratic Party. And I think Earrenism is going to be something that we`ll see whether it`s Martin O`Malley, whether it`s Bernie Sanders. But someone is going to be a champion of Warrenism against the centrism of Hillary Clinton and Clintonomics over the course of the Democratic primary."
All pretty straightforward analysis of the current situation in the Democratic party, just as one would expect from a professional political consultant, but Graham characterizes it as "Schmidt seemed more impressed with Elizabeth Warren than with critics of Hillary’s press stonewalling," and highlights the "titanic figure" comment, as if noting that Warren was the current star in the party was the same as praising her. And, of course, Schmidt doesn't express any opinion on "critics of Hillary's press stonewalling" in those comments -- that isn't the subject on the table. As with the NPR business, Graham, even as he's ludicrously misrepresenting Schmidt's comments, quotes them in full. Don't believe your lying eyes!

Schmidt is a fairly regular guest on various news programs and if Graham had any real interest in Schmidt's views on Clinton (as opposed to bashing a straw man), Schmidt has certainly never been shy about expressing them. Only a few weeks ago, for example, Schmidt appeared on NBC's Meet the Press and was asked about Clinton's campaign rollout:
"Look, it's so contrived, so inauthentic. It's almost difficult to articulate it. She talks about meeting real voters. But in the one instance, when she walks into a store, where there's an opportunity, the Chipotle, to actually talk to voters, remains in silence in disguise behind dark glasses. Bashes hedge fund managers, at the same time, her campaign is raising the first of its maybe nearly $2 billion in donations from hedge fund managers. The dissonance between what she says and the reality is startling."
A few days before that, he appeared on MSNBC's Morning Joe to talk about Clinton's erasure of her private email server from her days as Secretary of State:
"...when you look at Hillary Clinton with this particular issue, the rules regarding the emails are unambiguous. Like a traffic light, red and green mean something very specific, not very difficult to understand, and clearly, her approach is 'I'm too big to fail. It doesn't matter. There is no consequence to me willfully, premeditatively breaking the rules on this,' and, in fact, there won't be an electoral consequence to it, but I think the issue that voters will focus on in is a person with that personality quality, do you want to make that person the most powerful in the world?"
And so on. Isn't Google a wonderful thing? Someone should perhaps introduce Graham to it.

--j.

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[1] Palin also falsely asserted that the interview was set up by McCain adviser Nicolle Wallace to boost the ratings and "self-esteem" of Wallace's pal Couric, that CBS had deceptively edited the footage to make her look bad and that the interview, as sold to her beforehand, "was supposed to be kind of light-hearted, fun working mom speaking with working mom and the challenges that we have with teenage daughters" -- in reality, the interview was supposed to help establish Palin's credibility on foreign policy and was scheduled to take place while Palin was in New York visiting the United Nations. Part of it even included a walk-and-talk in front of the UN building. The "hardball" question that elicited one of the most remarked-upon answers from Palin: "[W]hat newspapers and magazines did you regularly read before you were tapped for this to stay informed and understand the world?" Real tough stuff there, eh? Palin, who fumbled, fidgeted and was ultimately unable to name a single publication she read, later characterized this as a "'gotcha' question."


[This article was written for MRC Watch, a blog that teaches the Media Research Center how to use Google.]