A couple of weeks ago the Oxford Dictionary selected “post-truth” as its Word of the Year for 2016. They define it as the preference for emotion and personal belief over objective facts. That’s been the operative model for Donald Trump’s campaign from the very start. Now his top staff are cementing the strategy into his developing presidency.
Trump recently tweeted that he would have won the popular vote but for the “millions of people who voted illegally.” That nonsense won him his 61st Pants-On-Fire lie from PolitiFact. He never bothered to provide any evidence to support the claim. And the evidence provided by his spokespersons didn’t even address the subject.
It’s clear that Trump and his minions have no respect for the truth. One of his most prominent surrogates, Scottie Nell Hughes of CNN, came right out and admitted it. In a recent radio interview she said that “There’s no such thing, unfortunately, anymore as facts.” We are truly over the rainbow here, folks.
The latest tunnel-blind defense of Trump’s brazen dishonesty goes even further to malign the existence of facts. His Chief of Staff nominee, Reince Priebus, was asked by John Dickerson of CBS’s Face the Nation about Trump’s tweet. Priebus responded saying:
“Here’s the thing, no one really knows. You don’t know. […] I think the president-elect is someone who has pushed the envelope and caused people to think in this country. He’s not taking conventional thought on every single issue.”
Indeed. He has caused people to think – that their President-Elect is a pathological liar. What Priebus is calling “pushing the envelope” and “unconventional thought” are better known to most people as bullshitting. This parade of euphemisms continued on the Sunday TV news circuit with VP-Elect Mike Pence. George Stephanopoulos asked him if Trump had “a right to make false statements.” Pence replied that:
“It’s his right to express his opinion. […] And I think the American people find it very refreshing that they have a president who will tell them what’s on his mind.”
Once again, propagating purposeful falsehoods is framed benignly as expressing an opinion. These people don’t think there’s any difference between a politically partisan spin on a personal belief and a demonstrable fact. They are actually seeking to abolish the concept of facts in order to dispense their fabrications without consequences. It’s the same approach they take to disparaging the media. They don’t do it as responsible criticism, but as a means to eliminate any critical judgment of their deliberate distortions of reality. And to that end, Trump tweeted this defense of his obsession with Twitter:
If the press would cover me accurately & honorably, I would have far less reason to "tweet." Sadly, I don't know if that will ever happen!
The media has been appropriately focusing on Donald Trump’s transition activities and its unending string of embarrassing and dangerous flubs. In the meantime, little has been said about what President Obama plans to do after he leaves the White House. Former presidents take different paths in retirement from government service. Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter went deep into charitable work. The Bushes merely slipped into near reclusive anonymity. And they all have libraries to promote.
However, President Obama is a unique figure in American history. He is, of course, the first African-American president. But he is also a pioneer in the age of digital media. He beat Donald Trump to social media and embraced its benefits without making an ass of himself. Combine that spirit of innovation and his natural communication skills and a prospective future in media seems plausible.
That’s exactly what is being speculated about by people in the Obama sphere. Jake Horowitz of Mic is reporting that:
“President Barack Obama has been discussing a post-presidential career in digital media and is considering launching his own media company, according to multiple sources who spoke on background because they were not authorized to speak for the president.
Obama considers media to be a central focus of his next chapter, these sources say, though exactly what form that will take — a show streaming on Netflix, a web series on a comedy site or something else — remains unclear. Obama has gone so far as to discuss launching his own media company, according to one source with knowledge of the matter.”
The article is careful not to introduce too much hype. Horowitz notes that some sources are downplaying the possibility. Also, the White House says that Obama “has no plans to get into the media business after he leaves office.” Such denials are to be expected and they haven’t quelled the background noise circulating around the idea. There is even talk about a relationship with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg who met with Obama recently in Peru.
Obama may be the most media-focused president in history. He frequently comments on the state of the media and offers insightful criticism. In a recent interview with Rolling Stone he observed that:
“I’ve got the majority on my side, and a healthy majority on my side. The problem is, we’ve got all these filters. Look, if I watched Fox News, I probably wouldn’t vote for me either. Because you’ve got this screen, this funhouse mirror, through which people are receiving their information. How to break through that is a real challenge.
“I think the question I’d have when it comes to the media is, ‘How do we create a space where the truth gets eyeballs and is entertaining,’ and we can build a common conversation.”
Truth has been the big casualty in the 2016 presidential campaign. We have a president-elect who has accumulated the longest list of provable lies of any other candidate on record. And the outbreak of fake news has become a defining characteristic of social media. It’s impact on the election is difficult to quantify, but studies show that it was far more prevalent among conservatives. Also, there is no doubt that foreign operatives (i.e. Russia) have been instrumental in its distribution.
Fox News, of course, is an ever-present stain on journalism. They have made it their mission to relentlessly attack the President and anything remotely progressive. Simultaneously, they steadfastly promote right-wing politicians and policies. What’s more, they virtually created Donald Trump with the gift of billions of dollars of free airtime.
Prior to the election, when it appeared that Trump would lose, there was speculation that he would might launch a media venture. There were several good reasons why that would fail miserably. However, Obama could have better odds in a difficult marketplace. He is near the top of his popularity as he approaches the end of his term. And his wide network of politicos and celebrities could shape an appealing roster of programming.
One thing is certain: the media is in dire need of a fundamental transformation. It needs to abandon the tabloid sensationalism and conflict model of news. Respect for facts, as opposed to symbolic balance and false equivalencies, needs to be reinforced.
The press is the only profession identified by name in the Constitution. That’s because the framers knew that democracy is unworkable without an informed electorate. What we have now is a vastly disinformed electorate. If Obama were to enter the media with the intention of resolving that problem it could be a more important part of his legacy than the presidency.
For the past few days there has been a big furor over the spread of fake news online. Much of the criticism hinges on what impact it might have had on the election. A BuzzFeed analysis revealed that fake news stories “generated more engagement than the top stories from major news outlets” such as the New York Times, NBC News, etc. What’s more, the study shows that Trump supporters were far more likely to be taken in by fake news than others:
“Of the 20 top-performing false election stories identified in the analysis, all but three were overtly pro-Donald Trump or anti-Hillary Clinton.” [and that] The research turned up only one viral false election story from a hyperpartisan left-wing site…The other false viral election stories from hyperpartisan sites came from right-wing publishers, according to the analysis.
Social media sites are taking steps to mitigate the problem. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg announced plans to address it saying that “we take this responsibility seriously.” However, if that’s true there is one very prominent producer of fake news that would have to be included in any purge.
Fox News has been creating a veritable cornucopia of disinformation for most of its twenty year existence. The volume of demonstrably false stories that it publishes dwarfs any of the fake sites that BuzzFeed studied.
So this might be a good time to provide some examples of why Fox News is the unchallenged leader in bullshit. These are all real headlines from Fox News:
Each and every one of those stories are patently false. They are not merely differences of opinion, but verifiably untrue. The question is, could any of this type of fiction have swayed the election? Who knows? But it certainly doesn’t help. And the fact that the gullibility of news consumers is slanted so heavily to the right is an alarming revelation. These types of stories may not move average voters, but Donald Trump’s voters are prime targets for such deception. Obviously they aren’t interested in truth or they wouldn’t be Trump voters (see the Trump Bullshitopedia).
Even President Obama took notice of this “breakdown” in the media:
“If we are not serious about facts and what’s true and what’s not, and particularly in an age of social media where so many people are getting their information in sound bites and snippets off their phones, if we can’t discriminate between serious arguments and propaganda, then we have problems. Then democracy will break down.”
The continuing saga of Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes just took a leap off a cliff. Longtime Ailes watcher and biographer, Gabriel Sherman of New York Magazine is reporting that:
“Roger Ailes’s tenure as the head of Fox News may be coming to an end. Rupert Murdoch and sons Lachlan and James — co-chairmen and CEO, respectively, of parent company 21st Century Fox — have settled on removing the 76-year-old executive, say two sources briefed on a sexual-harassment investigation of Ailes being conducted by New York law firm Paul, Weiss.”
Sherman’s sources say that the Murdochs are torn between waiting to pull the trigger until after the Republican National Convention, or giving Ailes a choice to quit now or face being fired.
Ailes was recently named in a lawsuit by former Fox host Gretchen Carlson for sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and retaliation for reporting those abuses. The suit alleges that Ailes told her “I think you and I should have had a sexual relationship a long time ago.” And shortly after Carlson’s suit was filed numerous other women came forward with similar accounts of improper conduct by Ailes.
Roger Ailes long history of exploiting sex in the workplace has been well documented. The environment at Fox is known for making inappropriate demands on female staff, including wearing revealing clothes and engaging in other provocative behavior on-air. Sherman wrote in his biography of Ailes, “The Loudest Voice In The Room,” that Ailes has repeatedly given direction to his staff regarding the display of female body parts. For instance:
When the view of reporter Kiran Chetry was obstructed, Ailes called the control booth to demand that they “Move that damn laptop, I can’t see her legs!”
Ailes complained about host Catherine Crier’s attire saying that “I did not spend x-number of dollars on a glass desk for her to wear pant suits.”
The casting of The Five included one particular co-host because “I Need The Leg. That’s Andrea Tantaros.”
In addition to Gabriel’s reporting, NPR’s media correspondent David Folkenflik was told that Fox News, on Ailes instructions, made use of a “Leg Cam” that “goes directly for the legs.” And when host Megyn Kelly was interviewed by GQ (with an accompanying, and revealing, pictorial), she was asked about her own “glass table that shows off your legs.” She responded that “Well, It’s a visual business. People want to see the anchor.” That must be why Bill O’Reilly wears those low-cut blouses.
If these reports are correct then Ailes’ days at Fox are numbered. His role in creating the network, and serving as its chief executive for twenty years, could end in disgrace and humiliation. And for that to happen just as Fox News is covering their biggest GOP event of the year, it could have serious political ramifications for Donald Trump’s campaign as well. The Murdoch kids who are assuming control of the company are not likely to be as supportive of Trump as Ailes. This story is still unfolding, so stay tuned.
And the plot thickens:“Kelly has told investigators that Ailes made unwanted sexual advances toward her about ten years ago when she was a young correspondent at Fox.”
Politico is reporting that Fox News has declined to renew Sarah Palin’s contract which expired June 1. This development might have been predicted based on Palin’s recent history of appearances (or lack thereof) on the network. In fact, News Corpse did predict it back on June 3, in an article titled “Missing From Fox News: The Incredible Disappearing Sarah Palin,” that revealed her mysterious absence from her cable news home.
“More ominous from the perspective of Palin, and those who need a regular fix of her unique brand of incoherence, she has been absent from her duties as a Fox News contributor. The last appearance on the network seems to have been in January on Sean Hannity’s program. That booking four months ago was clearly arranged as an attempt to recover from a speech she gave at Wingnut Steve King’s Iowa Freedom Summit, where she so embarrassed herself that even fellow conservatives were turning their heads in shame.” […]
“Palin’s demeanor was so unpleasant that it would be understandable if Hannity and other Fox News hosts are now reluctant to invite her back. Or maybe she’s busy with her web video channel. Nah, that can’t be it. She only posted nine videos the whole month of May for a total of 20 minutes of programming. A more likely scenario is that a Fox honcho (i.e. CEO Roger Ailes) has decided that Palin is now a liability as the 2016 campaign season heats up and they don’t want her around screwing up their plans to send a Republican to the White House.”
So the paucity of Palin’s bookings was no accident. She was unceremoniously dumped without a farewell or a tribute or even a press release offering best wishes for what ever she does to make a laughing stock of herself in the future. This should leave her more time to focus on her neglected web video channel. Or maybe not. Since her dismissal from Fox she has spent even less time there, having posted only five videos in June so far, for a total of less than seven minutes. And yet she still makes her glassy-eyed disciples pay the full $9.95 a month for her lame video selfies and stream of unconsciousness meanderings.
Palin’s last appearance on Fox seems to have been on June 8, where she defended the repulsive Duggar family. It was a typically dimwitted tirade of the sort that may have been the inspiration for her now ex-boss Roger Ailes calling her an idiot. Although there is no shortage of reasons to hold that opinion, including Palin’s campaign to impeach President Obama for both solving and not solving the debt crisis, or her infamous and mythical death panels.
No wonder Ailes had fired her once before. It was back in January of 2013, when the story was that Fox offered a low-ball contract renewal that she was certain to reject. Six months later they made up and Palin was back on Fox. The reasons for the reconciliation run from Ailes’ admission that he rehired her to “piss off the people that wanted her dead,” to the reality that her finances took a nosedive after she departed from her Fox News perch.
So what’s next for the Quitta from Wasilla? She still has her low-rated travelogue on the Sportsman Channel. She still has her Facebook page. And she still has an abundance of fans too stupid to grasp what the rest of America has already realized: That Palin is a grifter who has never had an original thought or an ambition that didn’t involve enriching herself. It is always comedians who are first to suffer when a cartoon character like Palin leaves the stage. But this couldn’t have happened at a better time, since Donald Trump just announced that he is running for the Republican nomination for president of the United States. Hallelujah.
The past couple of weeks has seen an ever-expanding exposition of brazenly dishonest reporting from Fox News star Bill O’Reilly. There are now at least five documented examples of his embellishing his own exploits in war zones and other “dangerous” assignments. His accounts have been refuted by both hard evidence and the testimony of his colleagues.
So how does O’Reilly respond to these charges that would severely damage his credibility if he had any? Well, after issuing some unsupported but emphatic denials, and threatening journalists covering the story, O’Reilly is now widening the battlefield and lashing out at his favorite target, the “liberal” media (video below).
On last night’s Factor O’Reilly presented a segment on “The Collapse of Liberal Media.” Of course, O’Reilly has done this before and has even declared the liberal media dead. So the fact that it is well enough to be collapsing is kind of an improvement in its condition.
O’Reilly began his rant by exalting himself (surprise) and his success in the ratings as compared to MSNBC. It’s true that Fox News has been the dominant player in cable ratings, but that is not a particularly groundbreaking revelation because it has been true for several years. So why is O’Reilly suddenly making a headline out of this worn out self-promotion? Could it have anything to do with his fury over being exposed as a pathological liar and his compulsion to seek revenge against his accusers?
The guest for the segment was O’Reilly pal and disgraced former CBS reporter, Bernie Goldberg. The first point Goldberg made was that in five of the last six presidential elections the more liberal candidate won the popular vote. Therefore, he surmised, that should have been helpful to liberal media. How he came to that conclusion is a mystery as there is no correlation between ratings and the political party of the White House. In fact, MSNBC’s best ratings were achieved during the Bush administration.
Goldberg went on to offer his list of the three reasons that MSNBC was is such dire straits. And they actually weren’t bad. Particularly the first reason which he said was the most important:
“Liberal news media violate the cardinal rule of all media. They’re not entertaining.”
That’s true. Fox News has redefined television journalism by fundamentally transforming it from an information medium to an entertainment medium. They dress up their pseudo-news segments in the same melodramatic packaging that entertainment outlets use: conflict, scandal, mystery, and hyper-charged emotions including hero worship and fear. Fox employs flashy graphics and attention-grabbing audio whooshes and gongs to decorate their reports that are presented as “ALERTS” regardless of the news value. And always there is sex. Fox’s roster of hosts has more former beauty pageant contestants than journalists. And they aren’t shy about putting their “talent” in revealing clothes and camera angles. In fact, Fox CEO Roger Ailes demands it. As for news, Fox’s concentration on tabloid thrill-fiction like Benghazi and Obama’s birth certificate is the news equivalent of porn.
This presents a dilemma to serious news enterprises that seek to carry out a mission to inform the public, but also need the public to watch. Fox News has gone out farthest on this limb and virtually abandoned the practice of ethical journalism. MSNBC and other networks need to find the proper balance.
Goldberg’s second reason was also surprisingly rational. He said that…
“People tune in to opinion journalism not so much to get information, but to get their own opinions validated by people on the air.”
Indeed. However, that isn’t something that explains MSNBC’s ratings or distinguishes them from Fox. There is no network that is more guilty of pandering to a partisan ideology than Fox News. So Goldgerg’s second reason only manages to accurately describe why Fox is so successful in corralling a loyal, uncritical audience.
On the other hand, his insight into MSNBC is way off base. He asserts that MSNBC fails because their politics are so far-left that they don’t validate the liberals in their target audience. Apparently Goldberg has never watched MSNBC. The notion that it is radically leftist could only be held by someone who is either unfamiliar with the network or utterly confused about liberal politics. Plus, he ignores the three hour morning block anchored by Joe Scarborough, a conservative Republican and former congressman.
The third reason Goldberg gave for MSNBC’s poor ratings is that “there are plenty of other places to get left-of-center information.” He’s right. And that is a key factor in Fox’s success. They have cornered the market for right-wing TV news. That means that viewers who want conservative slanted reporting will congregate at Fox, while all other viewers are dispersed across the dial, thus diluting the standings of any single network. So it isn’t that there are more conservatives watching TV, it’s just that they all watch one channel. Additionally, Goldberg conceded that Fox was designed from the start to be the right’s mouthpiece saying that…
“If you want to get conservative information on television, you do what Roger Ailes did. He found the niche, as he put it. Fifty percent of America.”
O’Reilly didn’t bother to object to Goldberg’s characterization of his boss or his network. Fox hardly ever tries to defend their fairness or balance any more. They now proudly regard their biases as a marketing feature to the wingnut demographic. But when the discussion turned to alternative sources for news, both O’Reilly and Goldberg slipped off the rails. They asserted that there were few places to find conservative views online. It makes you wonder which Internet they are using if they aren’t familiar with the Drudge Report, Glenn Beck’s TheBlaze, Breitbart News, the Daily Caller, National Review, WorldNetDaily, Townhall, Newsmax, and of course, their own fib factory Fox Nation.
On the flip side O’Reilly gave his impression of the left’s Internet presence in a rant that was loaded with his unique brand of animus and hostility. He was veritably frothing as he said that…
“There are some conservative websites, but the left-wing dominates the Internet. There are all these sleazy, slimy, far-left throwing it out. And that’s hurt the television industry.”
So O’Reilly and Goldberg don’t see any significant right-wing Internet sites, but the many left-wing sites they see are all slimy. How they are hurting television isn’t explained. In all likelihood, O’Reilly is covertly referencing his own problems with Internet sites like Mother Jones that have exposed his rank dishonesty. By telling the truth about him, O’Reilly believes that his Internet critics are destroying television. And, according to O’Reilly & Company, all of this is happening in an environment wherein it is the so-called liberal media that is collapsing. But how is a collapsing liberal media destroying the all-powerful conservative media?
O’Reilly really needs to make up his mind. Are liberals a dangerous cabal that are having a profound and negative effect on O’Reilly’s TV kingdom, or are they a band of weaklings who are struggling to keep from dissolving into the ether? Or is it a waste of time trying to figure out the hypocrisies that infect O’Reilly’s mind since the only thing that’s ever on it is what benefits him?
In a development that will surprise only a few mentally deficient cave dwellers, President Obama’s State of the Union speech was greeted by Republican politicians and conservative pundits with barefaced disdain. Naturally, Fox News took the lead in developing a hostile rapid response in order to provide the President’s foes with an easily referenced collection of attack themes. In fact, Fox was so diligent that their oppositional strategy was actually launched before the speech even began.
To set the scene, Obama presented a rosy picture of the nation after six years of his presidency. He spoke of the economic renewal that has created more than 11 million new jobs, reduced the deficit by two-thirds, and produced unprecedented private sector growth. He addressed many of the issues that have long been a part of the Democratic agenda including tax reform that eliminates loopholes for the rich and benefits the middle-class, enhancing opportunities for education, reducing our dependency on foreign oil and advancing the development and use of alternative fuels, Climate Change, equal pay for women, raising the minimum wage, Net Neutrality, and access to affordable and effective health care. And he noted that the successes of the last six years were achieved despite the fact that “At every step, we were told our goals were misguided or too ambitious; that we would crush jobs and explode deficits.”
So how did the right respond to these facts? By denying them, of course. And they topped that off with some distractions and ad hominem insults. The apparent primary line of attack from the right is to accuse Obama of not having heard the message sent by voters last November. However, if there was any message at all it was delivered so faintly that the President could be excused for not hearing it. It was the lowest voter turnout in 70 years. Sixty-two percent of Americans didn’t vote at all, and the Republican victories were achieved with about 20% of eligible voters. That’s not exactly a mandate.
The GOP complained that the American people want him to work with Congress. But their definition of that is to abandon his principles and capitulate to Republicans. Obama tried to work with the GOP for six years and was rebuffed at every turn. It’s ironic that Republicans demand that Obama pay heed to the election results when they so flagrantly ignored them in 2008 and 2012, even plotting to oppose everything he did from day one of his administration. Where were the Republicans insisting on respect for the decision of the voters when Mitch McConnell declared, on inauguration day, that his first priority was making Obama a one term president? And it should be noted that Obama enjoyed landslide victories with much larger voter participation.
It didn’t take long for one of the points Obama made in his speech to get rolled over by the Fox News editorial positioning. The President sought to inspire a more substantive relationship between the White House and Congress saying…
“There are a lot of good people here, on both sides of the aisle. And many of you have told me that this isn’t what you signed up for?-?arguing past each other on cable shows, the constant fundraising, always looking over your shoulder at how the base will react to every decision. […] A better politics is one where we debate without demonizing each other; where we talk issues, and values, and principles, and facts, rather than ‘gotcha’ moments, or trivial gaffes, or fake controversies that have nothing to do with people’s daily lives.”
The response to this by Fox anchors and guests was to embrace trivialization and fake controversies. Within seconds of the end of the speech, Bret Baier complained that Obama had not said the name “Al Qaeda” during the address. Of course, Obama did speak at length about terrorism and his administration’s commitment to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the enemy. The problem is that if you don’t specifically say “Al Qaeda” you are criticized for it. If you do say it you are criticized for not saying “jihad.” If you do say that you are criticized for not saying “Islamist.” If you do say that you are criticized for not saying ….. Well, you get the idea. Obama would have to make a list of every word the right obsesses over and make sure to stuff them all into every one of his speeches.
The Fox News collective, and the Republican Party they serve (or is it the other way around) suffers from Oppositional Defiant Disorder: a persistent pattern of tantrums, arguing, and angry or disruptive behavior, generally associated with children. A perfect illustration of this is the way the Fox Nation website characterized a post-SOTU article by the Associated Press. Their headline was “AP Fact Check Obliterates Obama’s SOTU.”
To be sure, the AP took a decidedly biased and negative tone, as the so-called liberal media usually does, but even so, they could not find substantive fault with Obama’s speech, much less obliteration. Here are the “facts” they allegedly checked:
Obama: At this moment – with a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry and booming energy production – We have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth.
— The AP’s analysis essentially concurred saying that “Job growth has been healthy. […] Inflation-adjusted median household income…is about 4 percent higher than when it bottomed out in 2011. […] Booming energy production is indeed a reality.”
Obama: I am sending this Congress a bold new plan to lower the cost of community college to zero.
— This, of course, is not a refutable fact and the AP didn’t bother to refute it. They simply argued that Republicans in Congress will not be receptive to the plan. But that knee-jerk obstructionism has been the GOP stance ever since Obama became President.
Obama: We’ve set aside more public lands and waters than any administration in history.
— The AP acknowledged that this is true saying that “Expansion of the massive Pacific islands monument puts Obama on top.”
Obama: Thanks to a growing economy, the recovery is touching more and more lives. Wages are finally starting to rise again. We know that more small-business owners plan to raise their employees’ pay than at any time since 2007.
— Yes, said the AP: “A survey of small businesses by the National Federation of Independent Business does show that a rising proportion plans to raise wages.”
It appears that Fox News is confusing the concept of “obliteration” with the diametrically opposed concept of “nearly complete concurrence.” That degree of cognitive failure explains the antsy grumbling of FoxPods and the GOP who are distressed that Obama has not concluded that the last two years of his presidency are irrelevant and that he should work on his presidential library and let Republicans in Congress govern the country. And it also explains how they can insist that his speech was defiant and combative despite these closing remarks:
“If you share the broad vision I outlined tonight, join me in the work at hand. If you disagree with parts of it, I hope you’ll at least work with me where you do agree. And I commit to every Republican here tonight that I will not only seek out your ideas, I will seek to work with you to make this country stronger.”
It would be naive not to recognize that this sort of rhetorical communion is common in political discourse and is often insincere. But it was nevertheless an outstretched hand and the GOP ought to at least try to grasp it before they swat it down. But that would be totally out of character for a party that has made rancid animosity the hallmark of their tenure.
There is a serious cognitive disconnect in the ranks of the modern conservative establishment. It seems that their ability to shape a consistent message is hampered by their fixation on being the champions of negativity. They are so obsessed with being against things, they have ceased to make any sense at all.
Take, for instance, this article by the Washington Free Beacon, a pseudo news wire that is run by Republicans and closely associated with the Koch brothers. The boastful headline brags about having found “The Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy Explained in One Chart.”
The allegedly secret chart that the Beaconites (or B-Cons) discovered was published by those brazen lefties at the little-known Washington Post (yes, that’s sarcasm). It illustrates a network of progressive organizations that have been vetted for contributions from wealthy donors by the Democracy Alliance, who serve as an aggregator of worthy causes.
The problem with the B-Cons complaints is that they are criticizing the Democracy Alliance for helping to steer funds to political enterprises – something that the B-Cons fully and fiercely support. So what is their message in condemning the Democracy Alliance? Does their wrath apply equally to their benefactors, the Koch brothers? Apparently not. This is how their sycophantic fluff piece begins:
“The Koch brothers—taking a break from such nefarious endeavors as spending money in support of their political positions and, worse, donating to hospitals—are going on the offensive with a campaign to expose the vast web of dark money spun by the Democracy Alliance.”
Yep, the kingpins of dark money are taking on the dark money of the left. How reassuring. I’m certain they’ll get to the bottom of it by distributing their chart to Republicans on the senate floor, as reported by the B-Cons. However, while they are attacking the left for what they themselves have pioneered, they cannot make a case for hypocrisy because the left has made it clear that their involvement in these affairs is decidedly reluctant. They oppose the destructive influence of unregulated, and in many cases anonymous, donoations from wealthy individuals and corporations. They have stated repeatedly that they are only engaging in the practice because, for as long as it is the law, they have to be able to respond to the rich wingnuts in kind. However, they would prefer that the laws be changed prohibiting all of this sort of money from politics.
In fact, on the chart that the B-Cons are so alarmed by are several organizations who have as their mission to remove money from politics. They include the Center for American Progress, Common Cause, Democracy for America, Public Citizen, and the Sunlight Foundation. There is even the Friends of Democracy, a Super PAC founded by Jonathan Soros (son of George) whose main goal is to eliminate Super PACs. In short, these progressives are only in it until they succeed in cutting it off for everyone. Nevertheless, the B-Cons see a nefarious plot:
“Democracy Alliance is able to obscure the identity of the donors included in its network through its strategy of having members make private donations […] No donations are made by the Democracy Alliance itself.”
That’s right. They merely make available a list of progressive organizations to which independent members can freely choose to donate – or not to donate. And that is seen as an evil left-wing conspiracy. Contrast that with the Koch brothers who bankroll dozens of right-wing groups, mostly anonymously, and are beholden only to themselves and their own personal self-interest. The Democracy Alliance’s list consists of public organizations whose work in the their communities is easily documented. That is not, however, the case with the Koch brothers and the groups they finance. To the contrary, they work very hard to keep the details of their operations secret.
It is funny, in a horrifying way, to see the B-Cons disseminating this propaganda that is straight from the Koch brothers without ever disclosing their relationship. It is also characteristic of their rank dishonesty as they attempt to chastise the left for an activity that they support and engage in every day. Obviously shame is the only thing that the Free Beacon has less of than respect for the truth.
Despite having the top rated cable news network in the country, and a ridiculously undue influence over much of the rest of the mainstream media, conservatives are still not satisfied with their stranglehold on the press. That’s the only explanation for why they keep launching new right-wing cable news networks to compete with Fox News.
Most of these competing enterprises complain that Fox News has betrayed their cause and defected to the enemy liberal camp. Thus the necessity of forming a new network that is devoted to the true conservative agenda that Fox has abandoned. The disappointment with Fox’s brand of conservatism has stirred a flurry of challengers and even a boycott by some determined Tea Party “Fire Ants.”
The latest entry in the field is the ultra-rightist webzine, Newsmax. The CEO of Newsmax, Chris Ruddy, has a staunchly conservative resume going back to the days when he opposed the Clintons and accused them of murdering their friend Vince Foster. These days Ruddy claims to be on more friendly terms with his former adversaries and is positioning his NewsmaxTV as a “kinder, gentler Fox News.” But It’s hard to see where NewsmaxTV will succeed in the wake of the other recent attempts to pry wingnuts and Tea Partiers away from Fox.
In 2010, a project from Hollywood conservative (and Friend of Abe) Kelsey Grammer and former Comcast-Spectacor chairman Ed Snider, was given a flashy fanfare as it promised to bring conservative values to both news and entertainment programming. However, the RightNetwork never seemed to get past the website stage and today doesn’t even have that.
That was followed by the much hyped One America News Network in March of 2013. One America was announced at last year’s CPAC with support from Herring Broadcasting and the “Moonie” Washington Times. It’s founder, Charles Herring, said he was motivated by his perception that “the sources of national news tend to lean to the left…and all we have is Fox.” So far, that has not proven to be a sufficient justification for a new right-leaning network.
And now we have NewsmaxTV – a network that admits that much of its success will rely on the same advertising and hucksterism that fuels Newsmax. That business model is heavily reliant on two non-journalism revenue streams: 1) Selling the email lists of conservative pundits, and 2) Selling highly dubious nutritional “supplements” and medical services. Business week described Newsmax as…
“…a smorgasbord of political, health, and financial information, self-help books, and even vitamin supplements constantly pushed through the website and e-mail lists. This eclectic array of products—the company made $46 million in subscription revenue from its 17 newsletters and $6 million from vitamin supplements in 2013—makes Newsmax less of a news business and more of a strange hybrid of the Heritage Foundation and Amway.”
Given the rapidly expanding roster of competitors, Fox News is surely quaking in their Tea Party tri-corner hats and pilgrim boots as a result of this new player in the right-wing media circus. Keepe your eyes peeled because, if NewsmaxTV is anything like the efforts that preceded it, it isn’t going to be there for very long.
This week a disturbing story emerged from Afghanistan in the form of a video of U.S. Marines urinating on the corpses of Afghans presumed to be members of the Taliban. Such behavior is repulsive and contrary to the standards of the Marine Corps. The acts portrayed in the video have been condemned by the highest representatives of the military.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta: I have seen the footage, and I find the behavior depicted in it utterly deplorable. I condemn it in the strongest possible terms.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey: Actions like those are not only illegal but are contrary to the values of a professional military and serve to erode the reputation of our joint force.
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos:[The behavior is] wholly inconsistent with the high standards of conduct and warrior ethos that we have demonstrated throughout our history.
Nevertheless, CNN contributor Dana Loesch (who is also a Tea Party leader and the editor-in-chief of Andrew Breitbart’s BigJournalism) took to the air to exacerbate the offense and defend the soldiers saying…
“Now we have a bunch of progressives that are talking smack about our military because there were marines caught urinating on corpses, Taliban corpses. Can someone explain to me if there’s supposed to be a scandal that someone pees on the corpse of a Taliban fighter? Someone who, as part of an organization, murdered over 3,000 Americans? I’d drop trou and do it too. That’s me though. I want a million cool points for these guys.”
The subsequent controversy erupting from Loesch’s offensive remarks has generated a secondary controversy centered on the appropriate role of news analysts and the lines drawn for decency and civil discourse. Loesch, in a tacit acknowledgement that her comments crossed the line, sought to defend herself by claiming that she was not condoning the Marines, but ridiculing the media response. But the dishonesty of that excuse is apparent just by re-reading her statement. She explicitly says that she would do the same thing the Marines did and praises them for being “cool.” If that isn’t condoning the behavior, what is?
Loesch’s web site, BigJournalism has gone to work to absolve her sins, not by demonstrating that her comments were appropriate, but by attacking anyone who criticized her. They started with Politico, a news operation started by unabashed conservative journalists, and tagged them as leftists because of their article that merely reported that the controversy exists. John Nolte, editor-in-chief of Breitbart’s BigHollywood, desperately stretched to imply a bias by Politico because the article included this:
“I’ve reached out to CNN to ask for their response to Loesch’s comments, and whether or not it will have any impact on her role at CNN.” Nolte’s emphasis.
Most people would regard that as a standard inquiry in a situation where a news analyst’s big mouth got them in hot water. From there Nolte descended into an hysterical rant that accused Politico of “pushing to have Dana taken off the air or punished.” And he escalated that nonsense to claim that Politico had an even bigger agenda to “marginalize” and “silence” Loesch. The conspiracy in Nolte’s mind extended all the way to George Soros, as all conservative conspiracies do. And the entirety of this clandestine plot was drawn from Politico’s perfectly reasonable and responsible desire to get a response from CNN.
Another Breitbart hack, Dan Riehl, weighed in on the subject to accuse Media Matters of being…
“…fixated on a mission to try and silence the free speech of Big Journalism editor Dana Loesch, while also engaging upon a campaign to somehow damage her with CNN.”
Riehl’s evidence is an article by Media Matters that correctly observes that Loesch’s comments were Too Extreme For Rush Limbaugh. Riehl disputes that assessment mainly by changing the subject. He utterly ignores the fact that Limbaugh, with reference to the Marines, said explicitly that “There’s no defense of this.” But Riehl peels away from that fact to post a rambling quote from Tea Party Republican Allen West that also advocates punishing the Marines and says outright that “The Marines were wrong.” It appears that the fixation is on Riehl’s part to avoid the reality that the behavior of these particular soldiers was indefensible to almost everyone but Loesch.
As for Loesch, her own defense that she published on BigJournalism was an incoherent jumble of phony patriotism and self-aggrandizement. Her primary argument was that…
“There is a difference in advocating for the Marines to break the law, which I didn’t do, and defending them from overly-dramatic hysteria.”
Of course, defending them is precisely what she did. Even to the point of declaring that she would have “dropped trou” and joined them (which I’m sure they would have loved). Nevertheless, she contradicts herself a few paragraphs down by stating that “I won’t condemn American soldiers on the battlefield.” Not even, apparently, when they engage in condemnable acts that their commanders have no problem condemning.
The triumvirate of Loesch, Riehl, and Nolte, all touched on what they regard as an underlying evil aimed at Loesch and conservatives in general. They are convinced that any criticism they incur is an attempt to silence them. Ironically, they call for such criticism to be silenced. Conservatives believe that free speech is sacrosanct exempt when exercised by liberals. Consequently, any critique of Loesch is viewed by rightists as akin to censorship.
It is, however, perfectly appropriate to question news analysts who engage in a dialogue that advocates unlawful acts in the conduct of a war. CNN should take the responsible steps to review incidents wherein contributors bring disrepute to their network. But I don’t anticipate that they will. The current head of CNN, Ken Jautz, is the hack who gave Glenn Beck his first job on television. He also recently hired Beck associate Will Cain. These two uber-rightists share the air with CNN contributor Erick Erickson, who called former Supreme Court Justice David Souter a “goat-fucking child molester.” And it was under Jautz that CNN partnered with the corrupt AstroTurf PR firm, Tea Party Express, to host a GOP debate.
The hard-right turn that CNN has taken has landed them squarely in third place. And that decline is due in large part to people like Loesch. The American people are not looking for this kind of substanceless, bombastic, hate-speech from their news sources. They can get that from Fox News. And if anyone’s job should be in jeoprady, it is the person at the helm, Ken Jautz.