Media Criticism

Let’s call them all lunatics: Fearful “balanced” “journalists” let wingnuts run wild

Let's call them all lunatics: Fearful "balanced" "journalists" let wingnuts run wild

(Credit: Reuters/Chris Keane/CNN/AP/Carolyn Kaster/MSNBC/Salon)


In their 2012 book, “It’s Even Worse Than it Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism,” Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein argued that America’s political dysfunction had two causes: First, the mismatch between our constitutional system, requiring compromise, and our increasingly polarized, parliamentary-style politics. Second, the fact that polarization has been asymmetric, turning the GOP into an insurrectionary anti-government party, even when in power. They wrote:

The Republican Party has become an insurgent outlier — ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.

Despite overwhelming historical data showing asymmetrical polarization in Congress (more recent additions here), their argument did not convince the anecdote-obsessed Beltway pundit class, with its deep belief that “both sides do it,” no matter what “it” may be. It’s true there are “extremists on both sides,” but as this Wonk Blog post showed, the percentage of non-centrist Republicans skyrocketed from under 10 percent in the Ford years (less than Democrats) to almost 90 percent today, while the Democratic percentage has stayed basically flat [chart]. What’s more, in the last session (2013-2014), the data shows that 147 House Republicans — more than half the caucus — were more ideologically extreme than the most extreme Democrat in the House. There is simply no comparison between the two parties. Asymmetric polarization is not only real, it’s one of the most dominant facts of American politics today.

But it’s a fact that “balanced” journalism has to ignore. To admit that the political world isn’t balanced would shake their whole belief system to its core. And yet, the shaking seems to have begun. As dysfunction in the GOP has reached new heights, not just threatening America and the global economy, but the party itself (both in Congress and the presidential race), the power of that denial may have begun breaking down, as Republican politicians are now criticizing their own party for what it has become, with conservative pundits like David Brooks castigating the GOP for its “right-wing radicalism.”

So it was only natural for Bloomberg View to engage in an email Q&A with Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein, “Republicans Gone Wild,” bringing their perspective to bear on where things stand today.

Ornstein first pointed out that the current state of crisis — both in Congress and in the presidential primary — had predictable roots in past strategic moves, heedlessly initiated by party leaders who were now reaping the whirlwind. This basically reverses the order of causation proposed by critics, like Chris Cillizza, who argued that GOP congressmembers were simply following the spontaneous rightward movement of the folks back home:

The fact is that the “Young Guns” — Eric Cantor, Kevin McCarthy, Paul Ryan, as we wrote early on in the book — actively incited anger and raised expectations among populist Tea Party adherents when they went out in 2009-2010 and recruited candidates to run in the midterms. They told them to use the debt ceiling as an issue and to promise to bludgeon Obama with it to force him to his knees, to repeal Obamacare and cut government dramatically. They promised that if they took the majority they would immediately cut spending by $100 billion.

Of course, the American political system doesn’t work like that. Parliamentary systems do. But not presidential ones. For folks calling themselves “constitutional conservatives” this was a pretty fundamental moment of “Oops!” Continuing:

That led to the debt limit debacle in 2011, when they finally backed down at the brink — after Jason Chaffetz, whom we quote in the book, led the charge to take the country over. And the promise of $100 billion in spending cuts went unfulfilled. The combination of empty threats and unfulfilled promise, amplified by tribal media and social media, has created both a broad public anger at Republican establishment leaders among more radical Tea Party voters, and a seething anger among the 40 to 50 most radical House members at their own leaders for their fecklessness.

The wild promises that the “Young Guns” made played a key role (along with outside groups and money) in winning GOP House control in 2010, but they were alwaysutterly unrealistic — a minor detail that no one inside GOP leadership seemed to notice or care about at the time. One could argue that after 30 years of supply-side, trickle-down mumbo-jumbo they’d become completely adapted to living in fantasyland. How were they to know that this time they’d be getting their fair share of the resulting pain? (An early 2014 report concluded that “lurching from government breakdown to breakdown” had already significantly damaged the U.S. economy, resulting in an additional 750,000 unemployed.)

After that, Mann added:

Norm’s response underscores the reality of asymmetric polarization, which the mainstream media and most good government groups have avoided discussing — at great costs to the country. [Emphasis added.] As we wrote, Republicans have become more an insurgency than a major political party capable of governing. Their actions in Congress in recent weeks and on the presidential campaign trail underscore this reality.

But I would go even farther than Mann regarding the media. Their stubborn adherence to a false balance narrative has, ironically, become an integral part of the GOP’s relentless rightward push. By talking about “government dysfunction” instead of “Republican obstruction,” the media actively helps the most extreme anti-government Republicans thwart any efforts at competent governance and it helps promote their “government is horrible” worldview. It normalizes the abnormal, even the bizarre.

There was once a penalty for becoming too politically extreme: one’s actions would be characterized as unrealistic, destructive, heedless of past experience, etc. Sometimes this was justified, sometimes not (as with the Civil Rights movement). But right or wrong, this media practice inhibited radical movements in either direction. For quite some time now, however, conservative Republicans have realized that by moving right and attacking the media for any criticism, they can turn the media into a tacit ally, forcing them to treat preposterous claims as serious ideas, or even proven facts. Thus, when they were planning to force a government shutdown, a key part of their strategy was spinning the media with a preposterous argument that it was the Democrats who were shutting down the government, even though, as the New York Times reported, the shutdown plan traced back to a meeting early in President Obama’s second term, led by former Attorney General Edwin R. Meese.

In fact, at the time of the shutdown, in October 2013, I wrote a piece, “‘Balanced’ coverage ignores nine reasons why the shutdown is a GOP Idea” in which I argued:

[P]erhaps the single greatest asset the GOP has on its side is the so-called “liberal media,” with its ideological bias toward “balance” that prevents it from honestly reporting that the shutdown is a entirely Republican creation — which would dramatically intensify the pressure on Republicans to fold.

Far from producing accurate, objective reporting, the media’s adherence to “balanced” reporting blotted out almost all relevant history. The nine reasons I cited were:

1. The longstanding GOP fixation on shutting down the government.

2. The GOP’s creation of the shutdown crisis by blocking the budget reconciliation process.

3. The emergence and evolution of the incoherent Ted Cruz/Tea Party plan to force a shutdown over “Obamacare.”

4. The record of prominent Republican politicians and others who repeatedly warned against forcing a government shutdown — including many who are now trying to blame the Democrats.

5. The contrary historical record of some Republicans downplaying the severity of the shutdown.

6. The record of drastic Democratic budget concessions embodied in the “clean CR” [which Republicans rejected].

7. The polling evidence that only GOP base voters are opposed to political compromise — and are indifferent to crisis.

8. Evidence that GOP base intransigence drives policy.

9. The framework of American legislative history.

This was just one example, but the point is true in general: “Balance” does not ensure a clearer, more honest, more complete, more objective picture of the relevant facts — especially in current circumstances.

The GOP’s strategic logic is simple and straightforward: If the media is going to split the difference between what Democrats and Republicans say, then if Republicans simply double their demands, suddenly the media, embracing the “sensible center,” will now articulate the old GOP position as the “sensible center,” the “common sense” place to be. It will also adjust its reporting of “facts” accordingly, screening out all the facts that would once have made the Democratic position seem reasonable or plausible, and bringing in new “facts” — such as the GOP canard that it was really the Democrats who wanted to shut the government down. What’s more, once the media plays along, it’s a trick that can be used over and over again. One can keep moving farther and farther right indefinitely, pulling the “objective” media along for the ride, every step of the way. (Conservatives even developed an operational model to describe the process, known as the “Overton Window,” explained by a conservative activist here.)

The basis for all this is a cultural illusion that the “nonpartisan” media is somehow objective, philosophically in tune with science. But historically, this is far from true. Up until the late 19th century, American journalism was quite partisan, serving substantial “niche” audiences, sustained by subscriptions. When advertising exploded as a revenue source in the early 20th century, a new journalistic model emerged, trying to appeal across parties, while taking care not to anger large advertisers. The broader story is well told by Paul Starr in “The Creation of the Media,” while Jeremy Iggers incorporates this history into his account of how journalism ethics confuses the purposes of journalism in “Good News, Bad News: Journalism Ethics and the Public Interest.”

One of the most persistent critics of the “balanced journalism” that results is James Fallows of the Atlantic magazine, in his ongoing “false equivalence” blog posts, begun in 2012. One such post, quoting from correspondent Shreeharsh Kelkar at MIT, references Starr’s work, along with the concept of “boundary work,” which Kelkar describes as “a kind of rhetorical work that is performed in public argument: something is asserted to be science by stressing what it is not.” He goes on to say:

I think this kind of boundary work exists in journalism too… it’s what you call false equivalence (and Yglesias calls bipartisan think). Here the newspaper is seen as above politics, which is what grubby politicians do.

Such is the basis for the media’s claims of “objectivity.” Starr’s history explains the forces leading to why this happened. And Kelkar goes on to note that these forces are changing once again, corresponding with another change in outlook:

Interestingly enough, we’re now back in more partisan times, thanks to the Web. And it’s interesting to me that you, Matt and others who call the editorials on their false equivalence operate in a completely different new media ecosystem.

The one thing missing from this account is that partisan, ideological and other niche journalism (black newspapers, for example) never went away, although they were pushed toward the margins. But they continued to play important cultural and political roles, especially for movements locked out of power, struggling to find their way in. In this very real historical sense, the blogosphere’s origins were not just Usenet, email lists and the like, they were also the underground press tracing back toIF Stone’s Weekly and George Seldes’ In Fact; the black press, both commercial and movement-based; political journals of the left and right; and so on. These underappreciated traditions provide largely untapped examples of how to do quality political journalism outside of the artificial construct in which false balance is rooted. They point the way forward for us, beyond our current state of asymmetrical dysfunction.

H/t: DB

Maher Goes off on ‘Asshole’ Garrett: Why Not ‘Just Scream the N Word?’

Bill Maher, David Brooks (Credit: HBO/AP/Nam Y. Huh)


CBS News White House correspondent Major Garrett raised everyone’s hackles yesterday with his question about President Barack Obama’s “contentment” in excluding American prisoners from the Iran nuclear deal, a question that drew a sharp reaction from Obama. Garrett’s colleagues quickly divided over whether they found the question contentious or Obama’s response unacceptable.

File Bill Maher in the former category:

FWIW, Garrett said he intended to be provocative.

Bernie Sanders gets slimed by the New York Times: This is what a smiling, condescending hit job looks like

Bernie Sanders gets slimed by the New York Times: This is what a smiling, condescending hit job looks like

Bernie Sanders (Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst/AP/Mark Lennihan/Photo montage by Salon)

The good, the bad and the ugly of presidential election politics…


A cheerfully disparaging Sanders profile aims to trivialize him to trivialize his politics. It’s just the Times way

On the fourth of July, the New York Times gave its readers a first extended look at the political history of Bernie Sanders in Vermont. The article, by Sarah Lyall, is titled “Bernie Sanders’s Revolutionary Roots Were Nurtured in ’60s Vermont.” This sketch of the young Sanders is free of obvious malice. It would serve its purpose less effectively if it were malicious.

The attitude that Lyall adopts toward Senator Sanders is, instead, mildly and cheerfully disparaging — affectionate, but at the proper distance of condescension; ironically agreeable, as you are allowed to be in dealing with a second cousin or an eccentric uncle who is a bit of a blowhard. Hers is not the first such article to appear on Sanders in the Times. Is it safe to predict that this will remain the paper’s approach to his campaign for as long as he stays in the race?

Though malice is absent, the pejorative shading here begins with the title. Does Sanders today describe himself as a revolutionist? “Revolutionary roots” implies that he does. Sanders indeed calls himself a democratic socialist. But it was a pretty steady difference between socialists and communists, throughout the twentieth century, that socialists would choose not to describe themselves as revolutionists. They were radical reformers and tended to reject the violence that revolutionists embrace. “Radical reformist roots” would have made a truer but a less eye-catching headline.

Symptomatic excerpts from the article follow in boldface, with my comments below:

“[The young Bernie Sanders] came to Vermont in the late 1960s to help plan the upending of the old social order.”

Did he in fact come to Vermont to execute a plan? The word suggests that Sanders was a bit deluded. More likely, he came to Vermont with no plan except to organize and reform: something that people with political convictions have been known to do. The word “upending” is curious. It comes from football: a linebacker who tackles a charging halfback by grabbing his ankles and tossing him head-over-heels is said to upend him. You can’t do that to something as heterogeneous and extended as American society. The word suggests as much without having to say so. But it is unlikely that he ever used the word “upend”; once again, the relevant missing word and idea is reform.

“[A youthful article by Sanders in the Vermont Freeman gave] an apocalyptically alarmist account of the unbearable horror of having an office job in New York City.”

The pileup of “apocalyptically alarmist” and “unbearable horror” triggers the sarcasm. You can almost hear the unwritten sequel: “An office job in New York City? Give me a break.” Various personalities of the era – Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel — seem to have shared the sentiments of the young Sanders, but the incredulous adverb and adjectives do their work.

“Chalk some of this up to being young and unemployed. Mr. Sanders, now 73, has had a steady, nonrevolutionary job for quite some time now.”

It is the usual dig. Resistance and protest come from dissatisfaction and failure; get a decent job and watch how your politics change.

“… barely 30, full of restless energy, with wild curly hair, a brash Brooklyn manner and a mind fizzing with plans to remake the world. Short on money but long on ideas…”

Human-interest writing may come disguised as biography but it performs that duty imperfectly. The fizzing mind is there because it rhymes with the frizzy hair. “Short on money but long on ideas” is a cliché so lazy that the barb is robbed of its sting.

“[Sanders’s description of himself as a freelance writer] is a bit of a stretch. A look through his journalistic output, such as it was, reveals that he had perhaps a dozen articles published.”

How many articles do you have to publish to qualify as a freelance writer? Two dozen? The pedantry is polemical.

Continued here>>>

S.E. Cupp on nude photos: Don’t own things other people want if you don’t want to have them stolen!

S.E. Cupp on nude photos: Don't own things other people want if you don't want to have them stolen!

Jennifer Lawrence, S.E. Cupp (Credit: AP/Arthur Mola/Chris Pizzello)

This is interesting in light of a recent conversation with a TFC regular on this issue…The debate continues…


Conservative columnist S.E. Cupp has weighed in on the recent theft of famous women’s photos by writing a passionate pro-thievery column for the New York Daily News. In this helpful column, she instructs people to not own things that other people may want, lest someone steal them. (This is real talk. Everyone is too scared to tell you this real talk. Everyone except S.E. Cupp.) Because, sure, stealing is illegal and all, but when people really, really, really want your things, they are just going to take them.

But it’s a little hard to understand just how into stealing Cupp is when she uses the word “hacker” instead of “burglar,” so I fixed that for her. And also, this idea of the iCloud — where you store things that are yours and not other people’s — is a little abstract for some, so I’ve just gone ahead and replaced it with the word “home,” since your home is also a place where you store things that are yours and not other people’s.

I think it really helps make her strong stand for theft much clearer! (Again: I’ve replaced “hacker” with ”burglar” and “iCloud” and “computer” with “home” here, to help make her point even more lucid.) Here we go:

After stars like Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton and Ariana Grande were quite literally exposed on Sunday by burglars who broke into their homes and then publicly posted hundreds of nude photos from their private photo albums, a pseudo-intellectual debate of sorts emerged (where else?) online over who is to blame for such an outrageous injustice.

This elaborate blame game shifts responsibility from an obvious fact: It just isn’t wise to keep nude photos of yourself in your home if you don’t want them made public.

No, I’m not excusing the burglars, who of course ought to pay for their crimes. Nor am I trying to stifle the right of women to express themselves sexually. I am simply stating what, to most of rational America, is already obvious.

And there’s this!

Yet these defenders of the [celebrities whose private photos were stolen] are downright indignant that you would dare to suggest a simple solution, as if posing for nude pictures is not only the right of every celebrity (who looks as good as Kate Upton does) but nothing short of a feminist statement.

Megan Gibson of Time: “If your reaction to the burglarizing of celebrities’ photos is to blame them for taking nude photos,” she threatens, “you’re pointing the finger at the wrong person.”

The right person, according to her? The burglars. As I mentioned, reasonable people have already decided that what the burglars did is illegal. I’ve not read anywhere in the vast repository that is the Internet a single instance of the burglars being defended. So, thank you for correctly identifying the culprit that everyone else has already identified.

And this!

Comedian Ricky Gervais found himself at the business-end of these indignant defenders of celebrity and feminism (celebinism? feminebrity?) when he tweeted: “Celebrities, make it harder for burglars to get nude pics of you from your home by not putting nude pics of yourself in your home.”

He has since deleted the tweet and assured that he thinks the burglars are “100% to blame” in order to appease this class of professionally offended outragists.

And here’s Cupp at her most pro-theft! (She also thinks women’s bodies are kind of like flashy cars!)

[O]wning things that are valuable, like flashy cars, expensive jewelry or photos of naked celebrities, does actually make you more susceptible to theft. This is not victim-blaming but a fact, and people who own these things know this.

Just as it is rational and reasonable to suggest protecting your credit cards and expensive things from fraud and theft, it is rational and reasonable to suggest the same of your nude photos.

And let’s bring it home!

Rational people actually do suggest you don’t store credit cards in your home, just as rational people like Gervais suggest you don’t keep nude photos  in your home, where stealing them is easier.

I’m very sorry we don’t live in a world where celebrity nude photos are unstealable. But until we have homes that are 100% impenetrable, doesn’t it only make sense to say that if you don’t want your nude photos stolen, don’t take nude photos and store them in homes that can be burglarized?

Apparently the truth is misogynistic.

The Magical President doesn’t exist: What the left must really do to defeat the wingnuts

The Magical President doesn't exist: What the left must really do to defeat the wingnuts

Barack Obama (Credit: Reuters/Jim Young)

Progressives need to pay attention and read this ASAP.  Kudos to Salon‘s Joan Walsh for putting this out there…

Salon – Joan Walsh

The myth of a president who can solve our problems alone is inane. The big task right now? Rescue these midterms

Labor Day marks the traditional kickoff to election season, and all Democrats can say for themselves about the coming midterms is: Things look bad, but they could be worse. Republicans will almost certainly gain Senate seats, and could very well take it over, though their chances diminish every time we hear new audio of Mitch McConnell and his GOP cronies sucking up to the Koch brothers at their last retreat. But traditional low midterm Democratic turnout could make McConnell the Senate majority leader in January nonetheless.

This political season opens against a backdrop of profound pessimism, captured in an August Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll that found that 71 percent of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track. The president’s approval rating is at an all-time low, but so is that of congressional Republicans. Even worse, the two big stories dominating the end-of-summer headlines – the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri. and the rise of ISIL – only deepen the political gloom, because they reflect two enormous American problems that are coming to seem almost unsolvable: profound and persistent racial injustice, and the shape-shifting chaos that is Iraq.

These problems are particularly vexing for people who subscribe to the Magical President theory of politics — which includes too many of us, including me sometimes – because those are two issues Americans thought we’d “solved,” or at least responsibly addressed, by electing our first black president, who’d famously opposed the “dumb” Iraq war and promised to end it. Now race relations are arguably worse than when Obama took office, and so is Iraq, and this is a rare case where you can fairly say people on “both sides” blame the president — mostly wrongly.

Cornel West is now slipping deep into Maureen Dowd territory: a formerly incisive, moderately influential social critic (a genuinely important one, in West’s case) driven to cruelty and irrelevance by Obama hatred. The National Journal’s Ron Fournier is a consistent proponent of what some deride as the “Green Lantern” approach to the presidency: If only Obama would justlead, our problems would solve themselves, though Fournier doesn’t stoop to channeling Abraham Lincoln or Aaron Sorkin when he criticizes Obama. But even fair and sober observers are frustrated with some of Obama’s moves.

You can certainly criticize the president on the margins – I have, and I’m sure I will again. Personally, if I worked for him, I’d probably have suggested not golfing after his moving statement on journalist James Foley’s execution, and not equivocating as much in his Ferguson remarks, which Michael Eric Dyson fairly laments. But those are issues more of stage management than statecraft.

Still, even for people who respect Obama, it’s hard to see us mired in what feels like ancient, intractable conflict in both Ferguson and Iraq. It hurts. Yet I would argue (after having been demoralized about both issues) that the unrest in Ferguson is in fact a kind of social progress: Within hours of Mike Brown’s awful shooting a network of new and seasoned activists came together to demand justice, pushing both Gov. Jay Nixon and the president to take action to rein in abusive local cops and drive the investigation into what happened.

Even the ugly situation in Iraq represents political progress, because as painful and outrageous as Foley’s execution was, and as disturbing as it is to see ISIL gain power in Iraq and Syria, the vital debate over what the U.S. can and should do there has actually been strengthened by the existence of intervention skeptics on the left and the right. Obama has repudiated the neocon approach, but he’s still wrestling with Colin Powell’s Pottery Barn doctrine: If you break it, have you really bought it? Certainly, we’ve already paid for it, many times over.

Let’s be clear: There is neither a Democratic nor a progressive consensus on what is to be done there. All we have is a profound skepticism, and I’ll take that over a cynical Cheneyesque certainty, built on lies to the American people. Disagreement, even deadlock, is preferable.

The belief that somehow Obama can lead us out of our summer of misery reflects Magical President thinking. Which leads me back to the rapidly approaching and dispiriting midterms.When I reviewed Rick Perlstein’s “Invisible Bridge,” I noted that the major political difference between the right and left seems to be that when defeated and disillusioned, the right gets back to the nuts and bolts work of electoral politics. The left, or some of it, disintegrates, a flank here promoting direct action over electoral politics (a debate that’s understandably renewed by events in Ferguson); a flank there preaching about a third party; and one over there fantasizing about the perfect left-wing challenge to the mainstream Democratic candidate, like that dreamy African-American senator who opposed the war in Iraq who looked so magical eight years ago. Meanwhile, Republicans count on division on the left, and low turnout by the Democratic base of younger, poorer non-white voters, to help them take back the Senate.

And when they do, Mitch McConnell has promised only more obstruction and gridlock. I should point out, this isn’t just a byproduct of Republican victories, but one of the goals. It’s become obvious in the GOP’s approach to Obama that obstruction is at least partly intended to demoralize the reluctant, occasional voters in the Democratic base. For if there’s no action on those “gosh darn” issues, in McConnell’s words, like a minimum wage hike, student loan relief or extended unemployment insurance, let alone immigration reform or climate change, even after Obama became the first president since Dwight Eisenhower to win more than 50 percent of the vote twice, those of us who say that voting is the most reliable path to social change sound either foolish or dishonest. People say, why bother?

The cause isn’t helped by spineless Democrats who try to blur their differences with Republicans instead of heighten them. Right now Karl Rove is attacking Democratic senators like North Carolina’s Kay Hagan and Arkansas’s Mark Pryor for endorsing Obama’s Simpson-Bowles commission report, which recommended cuts to Medicare and Social Security. But nobody could have predicted anyone would use entitlement cuts as weapons, right? Except many of us did. Again and again.

On the other hand, Hagan, Pryor and also-vulnerable Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana are doing better than expected, either leading their GOP opponents or tied, at least partly because during this election year, they’ve been feistier and more progressive, particularly when it comes to defending the Affordable Care Act. And Kentucky voters may yet make Mitch McConnell pay for sucking up to the Kochs. He shouldn’t be redecorating the Senate majority leader’s office, at any rate.

Democrats have two months to make sure this election doesn’t turn out like 2010 did. It’s not about the president right now, and we shouldn’t wait until 2016 for a new magical president. The kind of thoroughgoing change we need won’t happen in eight years, or even 80. It’s an eternal battle, the constant effort to expand the realm of human freedom to everyone, against the constant crusade by the wealthy to ensure that the trappings of human dignity – education, leisure, family life, childhood itself – are reserved for those who can afford to pay for them. The Kochs and their allies are trying to repeal the 20th century. Progressives can’t just suit up for that battle every four years.

The right’s ugly food-stamp obsession is back! Why lying dog-whistle politics returned…

The right's ugly food-stamp obsession is back! Why lying dog-whistle politics returned

Dick Cheney on “Cavuto,” on the Fox Business Network, Dec. 9, 2013. (Credit: AP/Richard Drew)

Salon – Joan Walsh

“Welcome to Obama’s America,” Fox’s Eric Bolling told his audience Tuesday – a dystopia where people now use food stamps to patronize “strip clubs, liquor stores, pot dispensaries.” Following up on its rubbishy August 2013 faux-exposé “The Great Food Stamp Binge,” Fox again profiled “surfing freeloader” Jason Greenslate, who is allegedly “livin’ large” in San Diego, thanks to the SNAP program, commonly known as food stamps. After Bill O’Reilly’s errand boy Jesse Watters caught up with Greenslate again Monday night, “The Five” used the lazy surfer as “the representative of literally millions of Americans,” in Bolling’s words. It was epic.

“He’s playing the system, he’s stretching the rules to their limits,” Bolling told Fox’s angry, fearful, mostly elderly viewers. “But what would you expect with a $105 billion program that’s almost tripled under Obamanomics? That’s what you would expect, right there, take a look at it. But what’s next? Strip clubs, liquor stores, pot dispensaries? Oh, that’s already going on, folks. Welcome to Obama’s America.”

Bolling’s rant came a day after Dick Cheney visited Fox and attacked Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s military cuts, telling Sean Hannity, bizarrely, that Obama “would much rather spend the money on food stamps than he would on a strong military or support for our troops.”

The right just can’t leave that old dog-whistle alone. It’s 2012 all over again – Newt Gingrich will be reviving his claim that Obama’s “the food stamp president” any minute now. In “Obama’s America,” the right is determined to make the president the tribune of a moocher-rewarding, ever-expanding welfare state, even if they have to lie to do so.

Of course in Obama’s America (and everyone else’s) SNAP regulations prohibit buying alcohol or tobacco with food stamps, let alone drugs, and they can’t be used at restaurants or bars, let alone strip clubs. But Bolling wants Fox viewers in a perpetual state of moral panic, and the notion that slackers like Greenslate are “livin’ large” – Fox’s term — on the public dime just works, the facts be damned.

Cheney’s rant was in some ways more offensive. Charging that the cuts proposed by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel are “really devastating,” Cheney went on: “It does enormous long-term damage to our military. They act as though it is like highway spending and you can turn it on and off. The fact of the matter is he is having a huge impact on the ability of future presidents to deal with future crises that are bound to arise.”

Of course, as Think Progress noted back when Cheney began lobbying against defense cuts in 2012, the former vice president himself presided over a 25 percent cut to the defense budget back when he was defense secretary under George H.W. Bush. The fighting force was reduced by 500,000 active-duty soldiers, a move that was blessed by Joint Chiefs of Staff chair Colin Powell.

That was then. These cuts are the work of Obama’s team. So not only must they be attacked as dangerous, they’ve got to be framed as something the corrupt Chicago “gangster” is doing to reward his coalition of slackers, moochers and lazy white surfers.

Now, maybe it’s progress that Fox is making a white surfer the poster boy for food stamp abuse – but it’s the link to “Obama’s America” that updates Reagan’s old imagery about Cadillac-driving welfare queens and “young bucks” using food stamps to buy “T-bone steaks.”

In fact only 1 percent of SNAP funds are wasted in fraud. Three-quarters of SNAP households include an elderly or disabled person or a child, and fully 42 percent of adult recipients are also working, but making too little to feed themselves and their families. Among the nation’s food stamp recipients are almost a million military veterans, who were slurred by Cheney, and thousands of active duty military too. Military families spent $100 million in food stamp funds at military grocery stores in 2013.

Fox and Cheney don’t want you to think about the veteran or the soldier or the single mother or the disabled senior on food stamps. They don’t want Fox viewers to ask why 42 percent of recipients make such low wages that they qualify for food assistance, or why so many veterans and even active-duty soldiers need help. To distract from an economy that’s increasingly hoarding rewards at the top, they point to a cartoonish moocher and blame Obama.

From Fox News to Rush: Secrets of the right’s lie machine

From Fox News to Rush: Secrets of the right's lie machine


Conservative media plays by its rules, and bends truth to back whatever argument they’ve decided to make that day

Excerpted from “Dollarocracy: How the Money and Media Election Complex is Destroying America” 

One key factor that has altered campaign coverage comes from the corporate right in the form of “conservative” media. If there has been a vacuum created by the downsizing of newsrooms, conservative media have filled it with an insistent partisanship unseen in commercial news media for nearly a century. The conservative media program has been a cornerstone of the Dollarocracy’s — the big money and corporate media election complex — political program since at least Lewis Powell’s 1971 memo. Initially, the work was largely about criticizing the news media for being unfair to conservative Republicans and having a liberal Democratic bias. Although the actual research to support these claims was, to be generous, thin—one major book edited by Brent Bozell actually claimed corporations such as General Electric were “liberal” companies with an interest in anti-business journalism because they had made small donations to groups like the NAACP and the Audubon Society—the point was not to win academic arguments. The point of bashing the “liberal media,” as Republican National Committee chairman Rich Bond conceded in 1992, was to “work the refs” like a basketball coach does so that “maybe the ref will cut you a little slack” on the next play.

The ultimate aim of Dollarocracy was, as James Brian McPherson put it, “to destroy the professionalism that has defined journalism since the mid-twentieth century.” The core problem was that professional journalism, to the extent it allowed editors and reporters some autonomy from the political and commercial values of owners, opened space for the legitimate presentation of news and perspectives beyond the range preferred by conservatives. That professional journalism basically conveyed the debates and consensus of official sources and remained steadfastly within the ideological range of the leadership of the two main political parties—it never was sympathetic to the political left—was of no concern. It still gave coverage to policy positions on issues such as unions, public education, civil rights, progressive taxation, social security, and the environment that were thoroughly mainstream but anathema to the right. Key to moving the political center of gravity to the right was getting the news media on the train, and that meant getting them to have a worldview more decidedly sympathetic to the needs of society’s owners. Newt Gingrich was blunt when he told media owners in 1995 that they needed to crack the whip on their newsrooms and have the news support the corporation’s politics. “Get your children to behave,” he demanded in a private meeting with media CEOs.

In the late 1980s, conservatives moved from criticism to participation with the aggressive creation of right-wing partisan media. The first decisive move came with AM talk radio. The elimination of the Fairness Doctrine (which required that a broadcaster provide two sides to controversial political issues) and the relaxation of ownership rules such that a handful of companies established vast empires opened the door to a tidal wave of hard-core right-wing talk-show hosts. By the first decade of the century, the 257 talk stations owned by the five largest companies were airing over 2,500 hours of political talk weekly and well over 90 percent was decidedly right wing.

The undisputed heavyweight champion was and is Rush Limbaugh, who emerged as a national radio force by 1990 and who by 1993 was already recognized by the bible of modern conservatism, William F. Buckley Jr.’s National Review magazine, as an unmatched political power in Republican circles; the Review dubbed him the “Leader of the Opposition.” Limbaugh and his cohorts have the power to make or break Republican politicians, and all who wish successful national careers have to pray at his far-right altar or suffer the consequences. As Kathleen Hall Jamieson and Joseph Cappella put it, in many respects Limbaugh came to play the role party leaders had played in earlier times.

Read the complete article here

Two scandals deflated, one persists

Salon – Joan Walsh

The Obama administration started Tuesday mired in three scandals the GOP seemed able to tie “into one ‘Big Brother Obama’ storyline,” in the words of Greg Sargent, and ended it appearing to face political culpability on only one, the Department of Justice’s broad subpoenas obtaining phone records from the Associated Press. It’s not to say Benghazi or the IRS mess went away, but the GOP’s creepy plot line got a whole lot less plausible.

The Benghazi “scandal” lost velocity thanks to CNN’s Jake Tapper reporting that an email key to the notion that the White House doctored talking points to protect the State Department didn’t at all read the way ABC’s Jonathan Karl reported it. Karl quoted White House national security communications advisor Ben Rhodes’ email specifically saying the talking points should “reflect all agency equities, including those of the State Department,” but the actual email obtained by Tapper didn’t mention the State Department at all. Karl ended the day with the shocking admission that while he’d reported on air that he’d “obtained” the emails in question, and wrote online that he’d “reviewed” them, in fact he’d only heard about them from the notes of a source – presumed to be a House GOP staffer.

Amazingly, Karl insisted Tapper’s reporting didn’t challenge the basic facts of his story, even though he acknowledged for the first time that he hadn’t actually “obtained” or “reviewed” the actual emails, but rather had notes about them read to him by his source. The fact that Karl put the purported email from Rhodes within quotation marks – which in actual journalism means you’re reading a direct quote from someone – seriously damages his credibility. But the ABC reporter reported concluded his self-defense by blaming the White House for failing to release all the emails – rather than blaming his source for misleading him, or himself for misleading his readers by using quotes around the Rhodes email.

Here’s hoping ABC News explains why the paraphrased depiction of notes about an email from a hostile source wound up within quotation marks attributed to Rhodes, and whether that’s the news organization’s policy.

On the IRS mess, the day closed with the release of the Inspector General’s report on the improper review of applications by Tea Party-related groups for tax-exempt “social welfare” status. The report blamed “inadequate management” for the review process, which began under Bush-appointed leadership, and it reads like everyone’s worst nightmare of incompetent government. But it finds no evidence that anyone higher than middle management was responsible for the review. Moreover, although it’s clear that groups with Tea Party or Patriot in their names came in for more scrutiny and delay than most liberal groups,  more than two thirds of the groups flagged for review had nothing to do with the Tea Party. And none of the conservatives were denied tax-exempt status, though many faced long delays.  Ironically, the only group that saw its status denied (for 10 of its chapters) was Emerge America, which works to elect Democratic women to office.

Within hours, President Obama sent a scathing statement about the IG’s findings, calling them “intolerable and inexcusable” and promising that Treasury Secretary Jack Lew would make sure all of its recommendations to correct the flaws in the IRS’s review process were implemented.

It’s the DOJ’s subpoena of phone records for 20 AP phone lines used by at least 100 reporters, in pursuit of a government official who leaked information about the U.S. foiling another al Qaida underwear-bomb plot, that has the capacity to damage the Obama administration. This White House is already shadowed by the fact that it has prosecuted more government “leakers” – also known as whistleblowers – than all previous administrations put together.

As Marcy Wheeler explained in Salon, the DOJ’s own guidelines require it to go directly to the news agency in question with its subpoena, which would have given AP the right to negotiate over it, or challenge it in court. The DOJ may subvert that requirement if going to the news agency would “pose a substantial threat to the integrity of the investigation.” Since the investigation into the identity of the leaker was already big news – in fact, congressional leaders in both parties had demanded it – it hardly constituted a secret operation that would be blown by negotiating with the AP.

So did Tuesday’s developments on the Benghazi and IRS fronts break scandal fever in the Beltway? Sadly, no. On Wednesday MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” remained scandal central, setting the day’s agenda. The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank’s wispy, fact-light “President Passerby” seems to be the top talking point: Even if some of the smoke is clearing, Obama hasn’t done enough personally to put out the fires. That’s leading the Drudge Report as I write.

Obama is not without blame here; the AP scandal particularly seems to stem from his administration’s overall approach to secrecy. With hindsight, he probably should have directed Jack Lew to take bolder steps on Friday night, when the IRS story broke. On Benghazi, the Beltway is determined to punish the president for insisting the talking points scandal is a “sideshow” – when that’s exactly what it is.

As I wrote Monday, before the AP news, some of the same bad actors who paralyzed the country during the Clinton years over phony scandals are getting ready to do it again. It’s too bad the genuine overreach by the DOJ is going to give some progressives understandable pause about wholeheartedly defending the administration. But people need to acknowledge that two of these three scandals were concocted by the GOP outrage machine.

Meanwhile, the headline crawl on “Morning Joe” announced: “U.S. deficit shrinks far faster than expected.” But the words sat there silently, drowned out by noise about mostly made-up scandals.


Jobs Report Covered Through 2012 Election Lens, Media Not Focused On Impact To American People

Jobs ReportIn my opinion, the media needs to report the real news and not just what’s happening in Washington or who gave the most millions to the latest super-pac.

So yes, I completely agree with the HuffPo’s Michael Calderone‘s article…

The Huffington Post

Romney’s up. Obama’s down.

That’s the takeaway from much of Friday’s media coverage of another disappointing monthly jobs report and unchanged unemployment number of 8.2 percent. Like clockwork, political reporters quickly sized up whether the addition of 80,000 jobs in June would help or hurt President Barack Obama’s chances of keeping his own job, rather than the broader impact on millions of unemployed Americans.

The Washington Post‘s Chris Cillizza tweeted that June’s number presents a “major political problem for Obama.” He later suggested in a blog post that any hope the president “will be able to run for reelection bolstered by an improving financial picture is rapidly disappearing.”

Kicking off MSNBC’s “The Daily Rundown,” host Chuck Todd said that “another disappointing jobs report puts more pressure on the president with just four months until election day.” On Twitter, Politico’s Ben White said the report is “not good news for Obama.”

In covering the campaign horse race, reporters often make snap judgements following statements, reports, or “gaffes” that are mostly forgotten days later amid the stream of non-stop election coverage.

Earlier this week, the consensus among reporters was that Team Romney was down, following adviser Eric Fehrnstrom’s comment that the individual health care mandate is a “penalty” rather than a “tax.” Similar to health care — where the media focused more on the politics of the bill rather than its contents — the jobs numbers could be reduced to a win or loss in a long election season.

But as the summer holiday week came to a close, Team Obama was on the defensive, as Friday’s news was ruled a tough blow for the president — at least according to the news media.

“The U.S. unemployment rate remained flat in June, which is bad news for President Obama,” began an ABC News piece.

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Right-wing press demands liberal media repeat “Occupy shooter” smear

Right -Wing Media is a wholly owned subsidiary of wackos and nuts…


How a disturbed would-be presidential assassin became another bizarre conservative meme

Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez tried to kill President Barack Obama, by firing a gun at the White House, and one would think that that combination of “hating Obama” and “using a gun” would make using him to smear liberals a bit of a stretch, even for Fox and the rest of the right-wing press. You’d think that they’d shy away from even mentioning the guy, as they generally do in prominent cases of decidedly right-wing politically motivated violence. You’d be wrong, though, because they’ve all decided that Ortega-Hernandez is the Occupy Wall Street shooter.

Ortega-Hernandez will soon be a minor historical footnote, like the guy who tried to crash a plane into Nixon’s White House, Squeaky Fromme and Sara Jane Moore, the weird guy who may have been a part of a secret plot to kill or scare Jimmy Carter, John Hinkley, the guy who tried to crash an airplane into Bill Clinton’s White House, the guy who fired bullets at Bill Clinton’s White House and the guy who fired bullets at George W. Bush’s White House. What did all of these people have in common? Their motives were … slightly difficult for rational people to comprehend. They tended to be paranoid and disturbed and their stated reasons for wishing the president dead were usually fairly incoherent.

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