ABSOLUTELY UN-AMERICAN: Fox News And Darrell Issa Squelch Democrats In IRS Hearing

In an extraordinary hearing Wednesday morning, Republicans put on a display of tyrannical suppression of speech that would make the Taliban green with envy.

Fox News

Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee (and recidivist criminal), called to order a hearing on allegations that the IRS targeted conservative groups for enhanced scrutiny on their applications for tax-exempt status. The sole item on the agenda was testimony from former IRS official Lois Lerner. Lerner had previously notified the committee that she would be exercising her Fifth Amendment right to decline to answer questions. Ignoring that, Issa scheduled the hearing anyway as a sideshow that he hoped would embarrass his Democratic colleagues. His strategy blew up in his face.

After making a five minute opening statement, Issa proceeded to ask a series of questions, each time eliciting the same response from Lerner saying that, on advice of counsel, she was exercising her constitutional right to decline to answer. Since Issa already knew that Lerner would not be testifying, it is clear that his only purpose was to hear himself ask a bunch of questions that he framed to imply something incriminating. But it’s what happened next that demonstrates just how disreputable and dictatorial Issa is. [Full video of the hearing via C-SPAN]

Upon completing his opening statement and faux inquiry, the committee’s ranking Democrat, Elijah Cummings, began his opening statement, as is the practice of congressional proceedings. However, Issa immediately cut him off and ordered the hearing adjourned. Issa did not permit Cummings, or any other Democrat to utter a single word on the record. And after silencing Cummings, Issa stomped out of the hearing room.

Not surprisingly, this outraged Cummings who insisted on having his time to address the committee and the witness. Whereupon Issa instructed his staff to cut Cummings microphone off. Cummings valiantly persevered without a mic and made his objections known. He pointed out that Issa’s behavior was one-sided, wrong, and “absolutely un-American.”

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The coverage on Fox News of this shameful display of Republican hubris was pretty much what you might expect. Fox broadcast most of Issa’s opening statement and questions. Then, when Cummings began to speak, Fox curtailed their coverage after showing a brief portion of the dust-up between Issa and Cummings. Fox did not show any of the remarks Cummings made after Issa walked out of the room. Ironically, Fox host Martha MacCallum said that “We’re trying to give equal time to both of these gentlemen here.” Apparently equal time on Fox News is seven uninterrupted minutes of a Republican harangue and 42 seconds of a Democratic response.

Following the hearing, the same measure of biased coverage occurred when Issa and Cummings addressed the press. Fox again broadcast Issa’s press conference in its entirety, but cut away as Cummings approached the same podium from which Issa had just finished speaking. Fox aired none of Cummings remarks to the press. [Full video of the press avails via C-SPAN]

To matters even worse, Fox aired a segment about the hearing shortly afterward with a reporter from U.S. News and World Report. In addressing concerns by Lerner that she was getting death threats, Fox host Jon Scott made this unbelievably grotesque comment:

“I can see why if you’re getting death threats, maybe you wouldn’t want to open yourself up to more scrutiny. But at the same time, it would seem that answering some of the questions might cause some of these people who are so angry to ease up if she’s got legitimate answers for why the IRS did what it did.”

In other words, just comply with the demands of those making death threats and maybe they won’t kill you. See? Problem solved.

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After numerous hearings, testimony from more than three dozen IRS employees, and review of thousands of pages of documents, the Issa Inquisition has proven none of its allegations about corruption, partisanship, or White House involvement. What Issa has proven is that he is a brazenly dishonest hack who has repeatedly deceived the public and the media by issuing reports and releasing documents that he purposefully manipulated to create a falsely negative impression of malfeasance by Democrats. In the process he would systematically remove any data that contradicted his fictional version of events.

As for Fox News, they could not have been more obviously biased in their coverage of this affair. In all they broadcast about a quarter hour of Issa’s propaganda and less than a minute of the Democratic side of the debate. What’s more, they are already promoting appearances by Issa (and only Issa) on Fox News later today. And not once has Fox made note of the fact that Issa, and his GOP led committee, held an unprecedented hearing where only he was allowed to speak.

[Update 3/6/14] The Congressional Black Caucus has put forward a motion to condemn Darrell Issa for his tyrannical abuse of power and to remove him from the chairmanship of the committee. However, Speaker John Boehner has already expressed his continuing support for Issa whom Boehner believes acted appropriately.

Also, Media Matters has obtained and posted the emails that Issa referenced during his sham hearing. Consistent with Issa’s repeated acts of deception and partisan cherry-picking of information to make public, these emails actually prove that IRS director Lois Lerner was taking great pains to avoid any politicization of the agencies activities. As usual, when all the information is made available, it shows that Issa and Co. have lied through their teeth.

IRS Email

Rupert Murdoch Proposes Legislation To Outlaw Fox News

The chairman and CEO of News Corp, Rupert Murdoch, has been busily Tweeting his support for the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). His point invariably refers to nefarious characters who are trying to steal his intellectual property. And not one for understatement, Murdoch has labeled his opponents as terrorists.

SOPA was drafted in a manner that would not punish any actual content thieves, but would empower the government to shut down any web site that contained a link to pirated material, even if that link was posted by a visitor to the web site or was picked up by an automated process that scans Internet pages. Consequently the law could result in shutting down sites with user communities like Boing-Boing or search indexes like Google.

Today Murdoch posted a Tweet that suggested his support for even more government regulation that could have an effect on his own businesses:

Rupert Murdoch

There is something profoundly disturbing about Murdoch connecting the phone hacking scandal, for which his company was responsible, with his campaign against SOPA. The News Corp phone hacking victimized thousands of people. It has resulted in 15 arrests (so far). There have been numerous resignations from News Corp, as well as the British government and police department. It is perhaps the worst scandal an international media enterprise has ever perpetrated. To compare that with a power-grabbing effort to legalize Internet censorship is absurd and ignorant.

However, Murdoch’s Tweet could backfire on him. Think about it. Murdoch believes that passing legislation that permits shutting down Internet sites if they link to unauthorized copyrighted material is warranted and appropriate. And also he thinks there is a connection between that position and the phone hacking scandal. Therefore he must believe that it would be appropriate to shut down any enterprise that engaged in phone hacking. So a SOPA-type law addressing phone hacking would permit the government to shut down News Corp, Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, and other Murdoch entities.

As beneficial to the world’s media landscape as that would be, I cannot endorse it. Murdoch is wrong about SOPA, and he is wrong about over-reaching legislation that grants the government inordinate power over the Internet or the media. He is completely delusional if he thinks there is a connection between SOPA and phone hacking. And the only message he is conveying is that he still doesn’t understand the extremity of the criminal acts for which he and his company are guilty.

Fox News Anchor Chris Wallace Is “In Touch” With His Ass

Chris Wallace has been described by some of his peers as the face of journalistic integrity on the famously biased Fox News Channel. Even the Daily Show’s Jon Stewart once praised him saying that…

“I think that you are here, in some respects, to bring a credibility and an integrity to an organization that might not otherwise have it without your presence.”

That was an uncharacteristically muddled moment for Stewart. He was right, of course, that Fox News has no credibility, but he was way off in his assessment of Wallace who has repeatedly demonstrated that he is right at home on the network that deliberately falsifies the news.

On today’s Fox News Sunday, Wallace provided another example of his overt prejudice when he rudely cut off his colleague Juan Williams (video below). They were discussing presidential politics when Williams sought to make a point about the Republican’s affinity for the rich One Percenters:

WILLIAMS: The Republicans, in this time of Occupy Wall Street, are the protectors of the super rich.

WALLACE: [Laughing] I’m not sure if we should talk about Occupy Wall Street as a plus anymore…

WILLIAMS: Yeah, I think we should!

WALLACE: Really? With all the violence in the streets? You really think that most of the American people…

Wallace pointedly interrupted Williams to make a snarky remark about OWS, which he followed up with a distortion about the incidence of violence. Most of the violent episodes at OWS sites have been perpetrated by law enforcement against the protestors. Williams made a valiant attempt to counter Wallace and complete his thoughts, but Wallace was unrelenting.

WILLIAMS: You know what? You are getting distracted, and you’re getting distracted by people who are crazy…

WALLACE: I think I’m in touch with what most people are thinking, which is they’re getting fed up with it.

When did Wallace become the arbiter of “what most people are thinking?” He is the host of the lowest rated Sunday news program and a representative of a minority viewpoint with regard to the key issues expressed by the 99% movement. Every poll shows that broad majorities agree with the agenda of OWS, particularly on taxation of the rich, protection of Social Security and Medicare, and reining in the power of corrupt and abusive corporations and getting them out of politics.

Clearly Wallace is wildly out of touch with the American people and pitifully unaware of that fact. Consequently, he persists in trying to censor Williams who plainly tells Wallace that he is not in touch.

WILLIAMS: The fact that is when you ask most people is Wall Street out of control; is there inequality in terms of income in this country? People say ‘Yes.” And those are the basic tenets of Occupy Wall Street.

At this point Wallace cuts Williams off again even as Williams is pleading to be allowed to finish is point.

WALLACE: Juan, there’s a limit. We want to play fair here.

WILLIAMS: You’re not playing fair, but go right ahead.

Wallace was determined to prevent any positive characterization of OWS from being articulated on his program. It was obviously a frustrating moment for Williams who criticized Wallace on the air for his unfairness. That’s nearly unheard of in these news talk circles.

It is particularly interesting in that Williams regards himself as the victim of editorial repression at the hands of his previous employers at NPR. He wrote a book on the matter called “Muzzled.” One has to wonder if that’s how he felt this morning with Chris Wallace.

Apple Seeks Patent For Censorship Device

Do you want to prevent cell phones from recording video at concerts or birthday parties or public protests? There’s an app for that (almost). From Tim Karr at FreePress:

Late last week reports uncovered a plan by Apple, manufacturer of the iPhone, to patent technology that can detect when people are using their phone cameras and shut them down.

Really? They can do that?

Apple says this technology was intended to stop people from recording video at live concerts, which should worry the creative commons crowd. But a remote “kill switch” has far more sinister applications in the hands of repressive governments. And it further raises concerns about the power new media companies hold over our right to connect and communicate.

No kidding! Karr goes on to list examples of the kind of potential abuses that could be imposed. He notes how this technology would have prevented many of the now iconic episodes of citizen journalism from around the world: Tehran, Tahrir Square, Madison, Wisconsin, etc.

But the best way to illustrate the chilling ramifications of this abhorrent technology is to imagine how you would feel if you pointed your camera at something and, through the viewfinder, read a message that said “Sorry, you may not photograph this.” Imagine extending this technology to other devices in order to prohibit phone conversations, DVD players, and even Internet connections.

This opens the door to censorship on a scale never before contemplated. If corporations like Apple, and their co-conspirators, are ever able to control the means by which people can document the world around them, we are in BIG trouble – as citizens, as activists, and as artists.

FreePress has a petition calling on Steve Jobs to Stop The Kill Switch. Please add your name to it.

Fox Nation -The White Trash Pravda- Squelches Free Speech

Most fair observers already know that Fox Nation is a cesspool of right-wing propaganda and deliberately dishonest attacks on Democrats and progressives. Their blatantly biased approach to news would embarrass any conscientious journalist. The Fox Nation is the perfect communications model for other nations like China or North Korea. They are publishing what would best be described as the White Trash Pravda.

Fox Nation CensorshipIt appears that their comments section is no more fair and/or balanced than their so-called news. Despite the fact that their logo says “All Opinions Welcome,” the truth is that only opinions that don’t challenge their readers’ sensitive preconceptions are permitted. When attempting to post comments there I am now being rejected with a message that says “Your comment must be approved by a moderator before appearing here.” Then, of course, it never appears. And my comments are always civil and relevant to the topic.

For instance, in an item about Bill O’Reilly’s appearance on The View, the Fox Nationalists noted with shock that Whoopie Goldberg and Joy Behar walked off the stage in response to O’Reilly’s bigoted assertion that “Muslims killed us” on 9/11. Here is my comment on this:

“How come no one on this site seems to have noticed that O’Reilly backed down and apologized for his outrageous bigotry?

He was wrong and even HE knew it. Yet most of the comments here are supporting the bigotry for which he apologized.”

This doesn’t even seem to me like a particularly controversial remark. It simply states a fact that was being ignored by the Fox Nation community. Nevertheless, I made two additional attempts to express this opinion and all were rejected by the Fox Nationalist censors. Comments that were approved included references to the the show’s hosts as “bitches” and to all Muslims as terrorists.

That should tell us something about Fox and their audience. They are clearly afraid of engaging in an open dialog. They have determined that their arguments are too weak to undergo debate and that their readers are too stupid to be allowed exposure to free thought. But when all you have on your side is disinformation and lies, I suppose it’s necessary to shield your feeble flock from frightening concepts like the truth.

This principle is in play throughout the Fox News empire. And it is why Fox News is so harmful to the state of discourse and to democracy.

An Open Letter To Rachel Maddow Re: Jan Brewer

Rachel Maddow has been reporting on a wide-ranging scandal in the Arizona statehouse. The local CBS affiliate in Phoenix has been investigating Governor Jan Brewer and her staff for alleged improprieties surrounding the passage of SB1070, the anti-immigrant bill. The investigation has shown that members of Brewer’s advisors and staff are also lobbyists for private prison enterprises who stand to gain from the bill’s passage:

“As CBS station KPHO-TV has revealed, two of Governor Brewers advisers, Paul Senseman and Chuck Coughlin, have extensive ties to a private prison company called the Corrections Corporation of America, CCA. As a prison operator in Arizona, that company stands to benefit from every person detained under SB1070.”

Since the story broke the Brewer campaign has removed all campaign advertising from KPHO-TV. Maddow followed up and learned that the decision was Brewer’s and that the reasons were specifically due to the station’s investigation.

What this amounts to is a sort of blackmail on the part of the Governor. It is considered inappropriate and unethical for a public servant to seek to punish members of the press for doing their jobs. This is very different than declining to grant interviews to an adversarial reporter. This attacks the news enterprise financially by refusing to purchase advertising.

However, there is a bigger question here. While KPHO-TV is to be commended for their integrity in pursuing this story in the face of these repercussions, I have to wonder where the rest of the Arizona media is. I have not heard any reports that Brewer’s campaign has halted advertising on any other Arizona television station. Maybe that’s because I have also been able to find any stories on this subject by any other station. This is clearly a matter of importance to residents of the state. So why haven’t the other stations covered it? Are they now afraid of losing ad dollars? Are they deliberately suppressing the news to facilitate the Governor?

These would be great questions for Maddow to raise when following up further on this story. If the media in Arizona has been either biased in favor of Brewer, or intimidated by her or her staff, it needs to be revealed and reported to the citizens who have an important election coming up in a couple of months. Are you listening Rachel?

Christian Broadcasting Network v. News Corpse

The Christian Broadcasting Network, home of The 700 Club, has notified News Corpse of a defamatory posting on this web site. I received an email from their legal team that included an attached letter (pdf) from Louis Isakoff, Vice President and General Counsel of Pat Robertson’s Regent University. Isakoff is representing Pat Robertson’s son (and CBN’s CEO), Gordon. The letter said in part:

“It has recently been brought to our attention that your internet site, newscorpse.com, has posted comments from Cheryl Spencer which are false, misleading, and defamatory. A copy of that post is included with this letter. The posting accused Mr. Robertson of adultery. Obviously this accusation is inaccurate.”

The letter goes on to demand that I “remove the posting immediately” to “avoid legal action” against me. The posting in question is over two years old and it did not address Robertson in any way. It was about the hiring of the late Tony Snow, former Fox News host and Bush press secretary, by CNN. The offending material was contained in a comment made by a reader. Cheryl Spencer, whom I do not know, made a comment, that I did not endorse, concerning Robertson’s marital fidelity. News Corpse, as an advocate for higher standards in the media, respects free speech and provides an open forum for opinion from all ideological perspectives.

CBN and Robertson are demonstrating a rare measure of sensitivity by bringing down the hammer on a small Internet publisher of opinion over an old article that didn’t even mention their client. Isakoff may be a Yale lawyer and the head of the legal division of a big university and media enterprise, but he is woefully uninformed on matters of new media publishing and free expression. Had he taken the time to research the matter, he would have quickly discovered that US Code Title 47, Chapter 5, Sub-Chapter II, Part I, ยง 230(c) provides immunity from any cause of action related to comments posted on blogs:

(1) Treatment of publisher or speaker
No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.

There is an abundance of case law affirming the protection for bloggers from lawsuits stemming from comments made by readers. The Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Citizen Media Law Project have extensive documentation of this. And that protection even applies when a blogger is notified of an allegedly defamatory comment and declines to remove it.

I can’t say whether this misunderstanding of the law is typical of Regent University lawyers, but there are certainly curious circumstances associated with that crowd. The Bush administration hired some 150 of them, including White House counsel Monica Goodling, who took the fifth before a congressional committee investigating the potentially illegal firing of U.S. Attorneys by the Bushies for partisan political reasons. And the presence of 150 lawyers in the Bush Department of Justice from a single Christian law school that was less than thirty years old is startling and unprecedented.

I have no intention of removing the comment posted on my site. I believe that the demand by CBN is without merit and is deliberately intended to harass me and to stifle free expression. This sort of bullying tactic has a chilling effect on individuals and organizations who seek only to exercise their Constitutional rights and provide forums for others to do so as well. It’s disappointing to see a religious institution, who’s rights are protected by the very same Constitutional amendment, exploit their power by threatening innocent authors and publishers.

Fox News: Obama Hates The iPad

Last weekend President Obama gave a commencement speech at the historically African-American Hampton College in Virginia. But, as has become routine, any utterances of the President are merely new opportunities for the rightist deception machine to misconstrue his remarks. This speech was no exception.

Much of the right-wing media eagerly ignored 95% of Obama’s speech to focus on a short passage that was partly humorous and entirely true. The President told the graduating students that…

>”…you’re coming of age in a 24/7 media environment that bombards us with all kinds of content and exposes us to all kinds of arguments, some of which don’t rank all that high on the truth meter. And with iPods and iPads; and Xboxes and PlayStations – none of which I know how to work – information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation. So all of this is not only putting pressure on you; it’s putting new pressure on our country and on our democracy.”

“With so many voices clamoring for attention on blogs, and on cable, on talk radio, it can be difficult, at times, to sift through it all; to know what to believe; to figure out who’s telling the truth and who’s not. Let’s face it, even some of the craziest claims can quickly gain traction. I’ve had some experience in that regard.”

This common sense observation of modern media has stirred up the wingnut faction from one end to the other. Everyone from David Horowitz to the John Birch Society to BigGovernment to RedState, and on and on, set about picking apart this soundbite to accuse Obama of being anti-technology. And to no one’s surprise, Fox News was all over it.

The consensus amongst these psycho-Chicken Littles is that Obama was warning students that all technology is dangerous and evil, and that information is bad. They start by registering shock that the President would assert that not everything on the Internet is true (oh my). Glenn Beck went down this path, staring incredulously into the camera after playing Obama’s remark about the “truth meter.” Beck couldn’t believe what he was hearing. In his response he accused the President of advocating censorship and the banning of information.

Beck: Name the president in the history of America that has said, “information is a…it’s a diversion. It’s distracting. There can be too much information out there. Some information is…we’ve gotta stop it.”

Then Beck said that he has never before heard a president say these things. Well, he hasn’t seen this president say them either. Obama never even implied that any information should be stopped. He simply said that there’s a lot of it and information consumers need to be discriminating. The funny thing is that Beck says the same thing almost every day. Beck is constantly criticizing the media as a purveyor of lies, and warning his disciples to pay close attention so that they don’t get duped. But if Obama says it, he is somehow crossing over into suppression of free speech. Beck even compared it to book burning.

Beck might want to consult Dr. Keith Ablow, a psychiatrist and a frequent guest on his show. Ablow wrote a column on the Fox News web site that agreed with Obama:

“President Obama has apparently had a moment of epiphany and realized that new media and new technology can cleave young people from the truth and render them addicted to gadgets and entertainment. He said as much – attacking the iPod and iPad – at a speech to graduates of a college in Virginia last week.

The president is doubly correct. First of all, he is right (as I have written a number of times) that the Internet, Facebook and, yes, the new iPad and many other devices can interfere with people becoming wise and knowledgeable, rather than simply deluged with facts. They can also become estranged from real relationships and from themselves as they become obsessed with pretending to be stars on YouTube or worthy of ‘followers’ on Twitter or popular with thousands of ‘friends’ on Facebook.”

Of course, Obama didn’t actually “attack” any gadgets. He simply noted that they should be used sensibly. Then, because he is a Fox News contributor, Ablow went on to make some rather predictable criticisms of Obama that had no relevance to the topic before conceding that “None of this discounts Obama’s astute observations.”

It is remarkable how determined Obama’s critics are, that they can find so many straws on which to grasp. And now that they have declared Obama a foe of iPads and other technology, perhaps they will stop accusing him of using technology to thrust decent, patriotic citizens into slavery. That is another of the current falsehoods that the right is spewing with regard to Network Neutrality. And they have just launched a $1.4 million campaign to convince people that giant corporations should be able to decide what you can and cannot access online.

Feel free to visit FreePress.net and help them in their efforts to keep the Internet open, free and independent of the crushing influence of government and business. And don’t forget the iPad burning tonight that will start at 8:00pm in front of Rockefeller Center.

Fox News Is Afraid Of Confusing Their Viewers

An advertisement from VoteVets that promotes clean energy was rejected by Fox News, although it is currently running on CNN and MSNBC. The reason given for the rejection was that the ad is “too confusing.” What do you think?

I don’t think I’ve ever heard the confusion standard for declining ads before. There are standards for profanity, violence, libel, nudity, and even factual accuracy. But confusing? That’s a new one.

Idiot FoxI think that what Fox may be concerned about is that this ad is from an organization of American veterans. It advocates enhancing domestic security by reducing our dependence on foreign oil. It features unflattering pictures of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. These are three of the top bullet points right-wingers harp on in pursuit of their pseudo-patriotic Americism. The confusion that Fox is worried about is that their carefully trained viewers might wind up agreeing with these vets that our security is threatened by enriching our enemies in Iran and other unfriendly oil oligarchs. This ad could undo so much of Fox’s painstakingly hypnotic propagandizing.

So Fox’s solution is to censor the ad and protect their gullible audience from hearing any argument that might conflict with the Fox News world view. Fox undoubtedly regards this as their obligation to shield their viewers from the anxiety of having to think for themselves. Heaven knows that’s often confusing and so does Fox’s standards and practices department.

What Fox didn’t say is that Saudi oil tycoon, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, owns 7 percent of News Corp. He is the largest shareholder outside the Murdoch family. That wouldn’t have anything to do with Fox’s reluctance to air an ad proposing to reduce expenditures on Middle-East oil, would it? Or is this just confusing the matter?

Law And Order LBO: Limbaugh, Beck, O’Reilly

As the year comes to a close, many people view the remaining days as an opportunity to tie up loose ends, complete unfinished projects, and maybe produce another accomplishment or two to top off the year on a high note. For folks like Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly that means achieving something that surpasses their ordinary annual output of anger, hatred, and ignorance. This is the time of year to go for the gold, and you have to admire the tenacity of these professionals as they endeavor to reach new heights of stupidity and malice. Happy Holidays.

To this end, both Beck and O’Reilly serve up a heaping portion of boorish outrage directed at an episode of NBC’s Law and Order: SVU. The storyline concerned the murder of three immigrant children by a man obsessed with illegal aliens and possessed by the hateful rantings of a fictional TV talk show host, Gordon Garrison. In a pivotal scene, the lawyer for the defendant, played by John Larroquette, describes Garrison, Limbaugh, Beck, and O’Reilly as…

“…a cancer spreading ignorance and hate. I mean, they’ve convinced folks that immigrants are the problem, not corporations that fail to pay a living wage or a broken health care system.”

Perhaps that description, and the general plot, cut a little too close to the bone for Beck and O’Reilly. They may have seen more of their own dark underside in Garrison than they are comfortable acknowledging. This sends them both into a tizzy, infuriated by what they regard as a direct insult by the show’s producers and writers.

Billo-pediaBill O’Reilly starts off by telling his television audience that Dick Wolf, creator of NBC’s Law and Order, is “a despicable human being,” a “liar” and a “coward.” Seconds later he asserts that he doesn’t “demonize innocent human beings.” Apparently you lose your innocence if you disagree with O’Reilly or say anything unflattering about him. The entirety of his Talking Points rant was devoted to disparaging Wolf and glorifying himself. He even took partial responsibility for security fences on the US/Mexico border. But most of his tantrum made little sense, as usual.

In the course of his tirade, O’Reilly labeled NBC as “Propaganda Central in the USA.” (He must not watch much Fox News). But he undermines his own argument by immediately adding that it has the lowest ratings. How can it be the paragon of propaganda if no one is watching it?

For the record, NBC Entertainment is in fact the lowest rated broadcast entertainment network, but NBC News is the highest rated news broadcaster with four times as many viewers as O’Reilly. And that’s what makes all of this particularly bizarre. O’Reilly can’t seem to differentiate between reality and theater. He thinks that the dialogue of a character in a fictional TV program represents the opinion of the author. He thinks that if John Larroquette’s character says that O’Reilly is a cancer, then it is Wolf who believes that. And that’s as deep as O’Reilly’s comprehension can go.

The problem is that Larroquette is portraying a thoroughly unsavory character. He is not remotely sympathetic. He is, after all, defending a man who murdered innocent children. He is attempting to get his client off on an insanity defense and cast the blame elsewhere – to the talk show host. He is reviled by the show’s main characters and heroes. [SPOILER ALERT] He ultimately demonstrates his own extreme behavior by murdering his client. So the words to which O’Reilly objects were put into the mouth of the most unethical and unlikeable character. How on earth does O’Reilly interpret this as advocacy for those remarks? All of this easily discernible context notwithstanding, O’Reilly was mad as hell and he wasn’t going to take it anymore:

O’Reilly: I mean enough is enough with these network pinheads who shove propaganda down our throats under the guise of entertainment.

Is he referring to Dick Wolf or Roger Ailes? Because it seems to me that it is Fox that is using entertainment to disseminate propaganda. It is Fox that turned journalism on its head by casting loudmouth demagogues and witless beauty pageant rejects as news anchors. It is Fox that decorated their broadcasts with flamboyant graphics, alarmist “alerts,” and noisy soundtracks and gongs to announce even the most trivial events. And it is Fox that still pretends to be a news enterprise, while Law and Order has never presented itself as anything but drama.

Can O’Reilly tell the difference? Maybe his comment above is referring to Glenn Beck, who describes his own program as the “Fusion of Entertainment and Enlightenment.” Wouldn’t that make Beck a “pinhead” shoving “propaganda down our throats under the guise of entertainment?” For his part, Beck also misread the Law and Order segment for all the same reasons O’Reilly did. But Beck took a different tack. Rather than hysterically attacking Wolf and company, Beck launches into a self-serving defense to absolve himself of responsibility for the sort of violence portrayed in the program. He describes himself as “just a dad” and defiantly asks: “Where is the evidence for inciting any violence?”

Beck has the sort of convenient memory that allows one to be a sociopath without any messy recollection of his vile deeds. He forgets that he once fantasized about choking Michael Moore to death with his bare hands:

“I’m thinking about killing Michael Moore, and I’m wondering if I could kill him myself, or if I would need to hire somebody to do it. No, I think I could. I think he could be looking me in the eye, you know, and I could just be choking the life out…”

He forgets his frequent radio bit wherein he mulls over who he would like to beat to death with a shovel:

“I’ve been sitting here for the last few minutes trying to come up with a list of people I want to kill with a shovel. […] How many people have I said let’s kill with a shovel, huh? How many people have I said let’s line ‘em up and shoot ‘em in the head? I think quite a few.”

I don’t know many dads who articulate these revolting ideas. Beck also forgets the numerous calls for his legion of demented disciples to “fight back” against an enemy that is deliberately trying to attack your family, your values, your faith, and even to destroy your country. Marxists and fascists are taking over Washington. They are indoctrinating your children. They are on your doorstep. Beck insists that this is not a time for compromise or debate. He says that “You don’t compromise on your destruction.” It is an Apocalyptic Gospel that leaves little option for true patriots. They either fight or they, and everything they love, dies. It doesn’t matter if Beck occasionally recites legal disclaimers to refrain from violence. Once you’ve convinced people that the very essence of their existence is threatened, there are going to be those who will conclude that violence is acceptable – even inevitable – as self-defense.

Rush Limbaugh - Riot in DenverBeck speaks in a Da Vinci coded language about things that only he can see to a congregation that is especially vulnerable to a message that only they can hear. Rush Limbaugh is even more direct. In advance of the Democratic National Convention in Denver last year, Limbaugh told his listeners to Screw the world! Riot in Denver!

“I mean, if people say what’s your exit strategery, the dream end of this is that this keeps up to the convention and that we have a replay of Chicago 1968, with burning cars, protests, fires, literal riots, and all of that. That’s the objective here.”

He couldn’t be much clearer than that. Limbaugh has yet to comment on the Law and Order episode that mentioned him and O’Reilly and Beck, but his record of offensive and hostile rhetoric like that above is well documented.

If you take the combined blather of these shoutcasters, it isn’t hard to foresee an outcome not unlike that of the one played out on Law and Order. And perhaps much worse. Yet they will continue to deny any culpability for their irresponsible fear mongering. And they will fire back at any criticism that holds them accountable. Even if it doesn’t make any logical sense, as this incident with Law and Order demonstrates. And even if it contradicts their professed appreciation for the First Amendment, as they seek to silence the creative output of a television dramatist. (Note: O’Reilly’s guest for the discussion on this subject was Laura Ingraham, author of “Shut Up and Sing,” a repulsive assault on free expression that reduces the role of artists to trivialities, ignoring their contributions to society and their potential for insight and inspiration).

But more than anything else, this affair reveals how intellectually vacant these losers are. They are incapable of grasping the meaning of a popular TV cop drama – which is not exactly the pinnacle of human intelligence. They are just angry that someone said something about them that they vaguely regard as adverse. And that’s enough to launch a full scale media war. Because, in the end, all they really want is an issue to blow out of proportion; a hyperbolic fireball of frenzy; a meaningless and dishonest controversy. An excuse to raise their voices, pull out their hair, and drive their viewers into a panic.

Like I said above…Happy Holidays.

p.s. Ice-T has a few words for O’Reilly.

Update: Just one day after all the whining about how liberal Law and Order is, and how it is spewing leftie propaganda, the program aired an episode that told a very different story. This one featured an ACORN-like community organizer whose murdered body was found with the word “FED” scrawled across his chest. However, the conclusion revealed that it was not some right-wing, anti-government, Beckoid who was responsible, but the head of the community organizing group who was attempting to cover up an affair. So having indicted the liberals in this episode, will Beck and O’Reilly and the vast, conservative, Hollywood-bashing, over-reactionaries retract their allegations of bias against producer, Dick Wolf? Don’t bother staying tuned.

Fox News Commits Censorship Against Itself

For much of the past year, Fox News squawking heads have bitterly complained that President Obama and his secret Muslim socialists have been plotting to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine. Never mind that no one in the administration has advocated this, no one in the Congress has drafted legislation or even held hearings on the subject, and the President himself is on record opposing it. Nevertheless, the panic on the part of the right-wing mouth brigades is threatening to cause a Prozac shortage.

The fear expressed by these mongers is that free speech would be obliterated and the Constitution rendered moot. And we all know that the right has been a stalwart proponent of free expression, just ask the Dixie Chicks and Bill Maher – and Jon, the YouTube news junkie who has posted hundreds of Fox News clips under the name of News1news.

While Jon’s clips contained no added commentary, they were often segments in which Fox News personnel looked foolish. This was not Jon’s doing. He just posted the unadulterated video and the FoxPods acted naturally. Fox News has filed numerous complaints against Jon for copyright infringement, and now, YouTube has suspended Jon’s account and removed his videos.

Why would Fox do this? It certainly wasn’t because they were upset that their content was being recorded and distributed without their permission. They have not bothered to remove other Fox-owned content posted by sycophantic fans like TheRightScoop, BuckFarack, GlennBeckDailyClips and ConservativeNewMedia. But the liberally-inclined News1news has been shut down.

Granted, News Corp has been making noises lately about securing their content by charging Internet users and barring Google indexing (although to date it has been all talk and no action). But clearly this is not a case of protecting intellectual property. The selective nature of Fox’s legal actions prove that they are only interested in squelching liberals. Well, that and erasing the record of their dubious broadcasts, replete with lies and embarrassing behavior that reeks of anger, racism and ignorance.

Recently, Glenn Beck lost his bid to shut down a satirical web site with the name: glennbeckrapedandmurderedayounggirlin1990.com. The argument was that the public might confuse it with an official Beck site because the URL had the name Glenn Beck in it, along with 32 other characters. I wonder why they haven’t come after me. My URL has the name News Corp in it with only two additional letters. If they think the public is so stupid they would mistake the Beck parody site as official, what’s to stop those morons from thinking that I represent Rupert Murdoch?

What Fox is doing here is an unabashed curtailing of speech – THEIR OWN! They are prohibiting the dissemination of information and ideas based solely on political criteria. I wonder if the First Amendment advocates at Fox will now mount a campaign exposing Fox as anti-speech. What is it about their own broadcasts that they are seeking to hide from the public? Will Rush Limbaugh take to the air and lambaste Fox for destroying the American values of open dialogue and expression? If these hyper-alarmists are afraid of a Fairness Doctrine that exists only in their delusional imaginations, then shouldn’t they be doubly ascared of a cable news network that strongarms harmless citizens who are merely passing on the broadcasts of the very same cable news network?

Jon has created a new YouTube account under the name NewsPoliticsAmerica. Let’s see how long this one lasts.

Bush Justice Department Harrassed Indymedia

CBS News is reporting that the U.S. Department of Justice sent a formal request to an independent news site ordering it to provide details of all reader visits on a certain day. U.S. Attorney Tim Morrison in Indianapolis, issued subpoenas to Indymedia.us demanding information that included e-mail and IP addresses, Social Security numbers, bank account numbers, etc. There was also a demand that Indymedia not disclose to anyone that they had received the subpoenas.

This was an unprecedented affront to both freedom of the press and the right to privacy for citizens who happened to visit a particular web site. Indymedia sought advice from the Electronic Frontier Foundation who succeeded in getting the subpoenas withdrawn. However, many questions remain. There was never any disclosure as to the criminal case that was being investigated by Justice Department. The subpoenas themselves were improper, as was the gag order, but no one in the Justice Department is commenting on that.

An amusing side note to this is that rightist media groups are framing this as an abuse of power by the Obama administration. Although this is just now coming to light, they fail to note that the investigation began during the Bush administration, months before the election in 2008. The date specified in the subpoena for the information they were seeking was June 25, 2008. The subpoena itself was issued on January 22, 2009, just two days after Obama was inaugurated. Obviously the investigation had to precede the issuance of subpoenas.

As further evidence of Obama’s culpability, it was noted that subpoenas to the media have to be approved by the Attorney General. The right-wing leaped on this factoid to accuse Obama’s AG, Eric Holder, of complicity in this outrageous act. Unfortunately for that theory, Holder was not confirmed to the position until February 2, 2009, after the subpoenas had already been sent.

So the whole affair was conducted by the Bush Department of Justice, with a Bush-appointed U.S. Attorney (Morrison), and an acting AG who was also left over from Bush’s administration. This is typical of the Bush regime’s disrespect for freedom of the press. And the response from the right is typical of their embrace of disinformation and propaganda.

Behavior like this by officials in law enforcement is unconscionable, and should not be tolerated by any administration. It appears that the Obama administration did the right thing when it was brought to their attention by withdrawing the subpoenas, but they need to go further and reveal the nature of the investigation that led to this action, and the role of Bush officials in the affair. And it would also be nice if they would make a statement disapproving of such behavior and declaring it outside the policy of this administration.

GE And News Corp: The Saga Continues

As previously reported, executives at GE and News Corp have been attempting to broker a deal that would end the bickering between the networks and, mostly, Keith Olbermann and Bill O’Reilly. I continue to maintain that it would be a violation of journalistic ethics for the execs to interfere with the judgment of their commentators. But the brass at GE and News Corp don’t seem to agree with me.

The first attempt at a truce was broken within 48 hours by Olbermann who, on returning from vacation, skewered O’Reilly royally, just like the good old days. O’Reilly took up the gauntlet and, as per his routine, ignored Olbermann and went straight after his boss at GE, Jeffrey Immelt. The tactic of bypassing Olbermann and aiming at Immelt is said to have been personally suggested by Fox News CEO Roger Ailes. With the war on again, the combatants began to reveal some of their innermost thoughts – particularly Ailes who, according to the Washington Post, summarized the situation thusly:

Ailes offered a blunt, if slightly jocular, diagnosis of the problem. He could control his nutcases, Ailes said, but Immelt couldn’t control his.

That says so much. First, Ailes is acknowledging that his people are nutcases (as if we didn’t already know). And second, Ailes is admitting that he has the power to manipulate the content and views of the nutcases who host Fox programs.

GE has issued a statement saying that they haven’t “told anyone at NBC News or MSNBC how to report the news.” But the New York Times claims to have sources who said that, not only was there a deal that covered Olbermann and O’Reilly, but also…

“Employees of daytime programs on MSNBC were specifically told by executives not to mention Fox hosts in segments critical of conservative media figures.”

What I want to know is, how can you produce a segment critical of conservative media figures without mentioning Fox hosts?

Olbermann (and anyone in his position) deserves respect for standing up to interference from the suits in the suites. It is the ethical thing to do in the news business. You simply do not let them intrude on your news judgment, especially if your job is to provide analysis and opinion. Unless, of course, you’re Bill O’Reilly, who is a coward, and a puppet for Ailes, who has previously admitted that he has the ability to direct what is said by Murdoch-owned pundits on TV and in print (over which he has no executive authority):

“Ailes warned that if Olbermann didn’t stop such attacks against Fox, he would unleash O’Reilly against NBC and would use the New York Post as well.”

This was basically extortion on the part of Ailes who literally served notice on GE saying that, “If you stop, we’ll stop.” The objective by both the GE and News Corp executives has nothing to do with the pursuit of news. Rather, it is a self-serving plot to tamp down any criticism of the parent companies. They are looking after their corporate interest, not the public interest.

This whole affair is a near perfect illustration of why monolithic corporations, with vested interests in far flung business and government affairs, should not be permitted to own news enterprises.

Bill O’Reilly Books, Then Bumps, WorldNetDaily Birther

Joseph Farah is the editor of the uber-conservative WorldNetDaily. He is also one of the chief proponents of the Birther Conspiracy that holds that Barack Obama is not eligible to be president because, they hysterically allege, he isn’t a U.S. citizen. This thoroughly caramelized nut case for reversing last November’s election has been debunked repeatedly, but continues to be peddled by dogged rightist reality deniers.

Now, the WorldNetDaily is reporting that their leader, Mr. Farrah, was all set to appear on The O’Reilly Factor until his list of demands was rejected by Bill O’Reilly himself. Here is the list as printed at WND:

  • Though a sober and civil discourse is always welcome, shouting is not;
  • No other guests on during the segment with Mr. Farah;
  • Discussion to be limited to the facts of the story;
  • Accurate, approved description of Mr. Farah and news organization he represents;
  • Screen ID chyron to be approved by Mr. Farah.

If this account is true, then O’Reilly retracted his invitation to Farrah because he objected to constraints on his freedom to shout at people and distort facts. But just the fact that a right wing web editor felt it necessary to itemize a list of criteria that included no shouting, stick with the facts, and chyron approval, for a right wing TV host, is pretty delicious irony. Even O’Reilly’s natural allies don’t trust him.

GE And FOX Agree To Censor Their News Divisions

In a report in the New York Times, the corporate parents of NBC and Fox News were brought together at a summit for CEO’s in an attempt to settle a long-simmering feud. Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of GE, and Rupert Murdoch, CEO of News Corp, sat down to try to work things out.

What they were striving to resolve was the eternal and bitter competition between MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann and Fox’s Bill O’Reilly. This affair has been a rancorous, and often humorous, battle wherein Olbermann frequently awarded O’Reilly his “Worst Person in the World,” trophy, and O’Reilly countered by slandering NBC, GE, and Immelt personally (O’Reilly would never utter Olbermann’s name). According to the Times’ Brian Stelter…

“It was a media cage fight, televised every weeknight at 8 p.m. But the match was halted when the blood started to spray executives in the high-priced seats.”

There are two things that are immensely disturbing about this backroom handshake. First and foremost, the corporate parents of news enterprises ought not to be dictating the content of their news divisions, or the opinions of their commentators. That is especially true if the reason for the ivory tower interference is to dampen any blowback on the parent company’s business or executives resulting from controversial positions. This is about the best example of why it is unwise for corporations with vested interests in broader business and government affairs to own news publishers to begin with.

Secondly, the result of this inter-cable warfare is precisely what Fox News wanted. MSNBC is caving in to a deliberate tactic designed to halt criticism of Fox and its personnel. It is a one-sided victory for Fox that comes at the expense of MSNBC’s best interests and dignity. It was less than four months ago that Fox News CEO, Roger Ailes, laid down the threat from which they are now reaping the harvest. Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post reported the tantrum Ailes threw in response to the escalating on-air debate:

“Ailes warned that if Olbermann didn’t stop such attacks against Fox, he would unleash O’Reilly against NBC and would use the New York Post as well.”

That’s precisely what happened, and it didn’t even take two weeks for Fox to follow through on its threat. Now we see this truce in effect at least partly because Immelt doesn’t like being called “a despicable human being” by O’Reilly. And the worst part is that Fox’s blatant bullying is being rewarded with a complete capitulation by MSNBC.

For these networks to enforce this agreement is nothing short of censorship. Olbermann responded with an email that said that he was not a party to any agreement, but he also seems to have halted his once routine attacks on O’Reilly and Fox News. As for Fox, their position now is that it is appropriate to direct their commentators to steer clear of certain topics. But that appears to apply only to topics that negatively impact the company brass. Just last week, after Glenn Beck called President Obama a racist, Fox released a statement that said that beck had merely…

“…expressed a personal opinion which represented his own views, not those of the Fox News Channel. And as with all commentators in the cable news arena, he is given the freedom to express his opinions.”

That freedom, of course, has limitations. From the Fox News point of view, it is alright for one of their hosts to comment disparagingly on the President of the United States, but it is not OK to comment on the president of the company. The company, after all, is sacrosanct and its interests are superior to those of the nation.

It is disheartening to see this sort of corporate thuggery imposed on what should be independent news divisions. One can only hope that the truce will fail and free expression will prevail.

Update: Olbermann returned from vacation and struck down any notion that the network brass would dictate the content of his program. To prove it, he returned Bill O’Reilly to the “World’s Worst” list and reprised his old “Bill-O the Clown” routine. Apparently, news of a network truce were exaggerated. That’s good news.

Emmy News: Nominations – PBS 41 / Fox News 0

The Emmy nominations for News and Documentaries were released today by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. PBS scored the lion’s share with 41 nominations, including two more for Bill Moyers, who has won more than 30 Emmys already. CBS was a distant second with 23. One notable name missing from the list of honorees is the #1 cable news network in the country, Fox News. There are two principle reasons for the absence of Fox News.

First, Fox claims to have declined to participate because they believe that the Emmys are biased against them. That’s a rather piddling complaint that, more than anything, exposes their self-centered pettiness with an attitude that recalls a school child taking the ball and going home.

The more likely reason for their Emmy snub is that Fox is not actually a news network and, knowing this, they are acknowledging that nominations will not be forthcoming. I suspect that they are preparing to submit their programming for Emmys in the drama and, perhaps, comedy categories, where they have a better chance of being recognized. Of course then their other fictional fare, like “24” and “The Simpsons” will have to compete against the far more flagrant fiction produced by Fox News. Whatever will they do?

Well, we can expect Bill O’Reilly to issue a blistering condemnation of the Academy shortly. He did the same thing when the Peabodys snubbed him (again), despite honoring Moyers and Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert on multiple occasions. What does it say when a comedy network’s fake news programs receive more plaudits from their journalism “peers” than a network that pretends to be a bona fide news enterprise? And furthermore, what does it say about the viewers of a so-called news network that is held in such ill repute by other news professionals?

Amongst the Emmy hopefuls is David Barstow, the New York Times reporter who wrote Message Machine. This article, which has already won a Pulitzer Prize and the New York Press Club’s Golden Keyboard, described how the Pentagon in the Bush administration conspired to train and deploy former military personnel to spread propaganda in support of the war in Iraq. And if that weren’t bad enough, the program also permitted them to use their high profile media platform to enrich themselves and the defense contractors to whom they were attached.

Despite the acclaim the article has received, Barstow has still yet to be invited to tell this important story in any conventional media venue. The only in-depth broadcast interview was conducted by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now. This may be the most egregious example of a heralded, Pulitzer caliber investigation being so brazenly suppressed. The obvious explanation is that the media organizations that have actively blackballed the story are also the subjects of it. They are the news enterprises employing the compromised Pentagon Pundits, and they have a vested interest in preventing the truth from getting out.

Now that the report has been awarded another honor, will Barstow’s phone start to ring? Will the media pay attention to what may be the worst instance of propaganda executed by the U.S. government against its own people? At the very least, MSNBC has a special obligation to pursue this story. They have a contractual relationship with the New York Times, and their own John Harwood is a frequent guest on both MSNBC and CNBC. Why on earth wouldn’t the Times be lobbying to promote a story by their own Pulitzer award winning reporter who has now been nominated for an Emmy?

Contact MSNBC and tell them to book David Barstow:
MSNBC General
Keith Olbermann
Rachel Maddow
Ed Schultz
David Shuster
Chris Matthews

SPINCOM: Still A Deafening Silence

A couple of weeks ago, I posted this story on David Barstow, the author of Message Machine for the New York Times. Yesterday, the New York Press Club awarded Barstow it’s Golden Keyboard Award. Barstow had previously won a Pulitzer for the story.

Message Machine described how the Pentagon in the Bush administration conspired to train and deploy former military personnel to spread propaganda in support of the war in Iraq. And if that weren’t bad enough, the program also permitted them to use their high profile media platform to enrich themselves and the defense contractors to whom they were attached.

To date, Barstow has still not been invited to appear on any of the major news networks to discuss his article. The allegations have been investigated by Congress and by the Inspector General of the Pentagon. The Department of Defense halted the programs exposed by Barstow. He is continuing to receive accolades from his peers, but none of this is enough to persuade television news editors to book him.

We can eliminate Fox News as a potential host for a discussion with Barstow. But at the very least we ought to be able to get MSNBC to schedule a segment or two. Feel free to give them some encouragement.

Contact MSNBC:
MSNBC General
Keith Olbermann
Rachel Maddow
Ed Schultz
David Shuster
Chris Matthews

Carrie Prejean Dishonors The First Amendment

In last month’s Miss USA pageant, Carrie Prejean replied to Perez Hilton that she believed that marriage should be defined as between one man and one woman. That response ignited a controversy that extended well beyond her role as Miss California. The controversy has since snowballed into a soapy opera that is dripping with deceit, pornography, and greed.

This morning Prejean’s crown was pulled from the fire by pageant owner Donald Trump with his pronouncement that she will be permitted to continue her reign. But there is a story here that diverges from the debate over gay marriage and beauty queens. And it’s a story that has just as much impact on Constitutional liberties.

Much of the debate circling around Prejean has been focused on the content of her answer and whether same-sex marriage should be recognized under the law. But underlying that discussion were allegations that she was being discriminated against for her point of view and/or her religion. She was amongst the first to decry what she felt was the violation of her right to free speech. But she was not the last. Numerous pundits piled on with their hysterical assertions that Prejean was not being allowed to speak.

That imaginary allegation peaked this morning with the speech Prejean gave (YouTube) during a news conference with Trump. The speech presented a severely contorted view of the First Amendment and her rights under it. First of all, since there was no government entity involved with any of the alleged stifling, the First Amendment was not violated because the law only applies to suppression by the state. But even her complaints that she was unable to express herself were absurd fabrications. At the press conference she said:

“Three weeks ago I was asked a politically-charged question with a hidden personal agenda. I answered my question honestly and sincerely from my heart […] As [Perez Hilton] was trying to be self-promoting and hateful while I have remained silent since, I am honored to be here today to finally let my voice be heard and address the hateful attacks, despicable rumors and false allegations I have had within the last three weeks.”

I’m not even going to enter into speculation about how Prejean knew there was a “hidden personal agenda” or her disparagement of Hilton as “hateful,” and “self-promoting” (like beauty pageant contestants don’t promote themselves). But her statement that she has “remained silent” until today and that only now can she “finally let [her] voice be heard.” is outright delusional. She has been a fixture on TV news for most of the three weeks since losing the Miss USA pageant. She has been interviewed by Sean Hannity, Neil Cavuto, Megyn Kelly, and Courtney Friel – all of Fox News. In addition she appeared with James Dobson (Focus on the Family), Pat Robertson (700 Club/CBN), and Matt Lauer (Today/NBC). If that represents suppression of speech, what on Earth would free expression require? Perhaps her own primetime network talk show? In her speech she also offered a tearful remembrance of her veteran grandfather:

“On April 19th, on that stage, I exercised my freedom of speech and I was punished for doing so. This should not happen in America. It undermines the Constitutional rights for which my grandfather fought for.”

So what’s all the fuss about about? Here she admits that she was in fact allowed to exercise her freedom of speech. Her assertion that she was punished for doing so is utterly without foundation. Some reports indicate that she was behind in scoring even before her fateful question. It appears that what she is actually bemoaning is that there is also freedom of expression for anyone who happens to disagree with her. She is one of those who believes that free speech is defined as the right to speak your mind without fear of rebuttal.

There is a peculiar irony in the fact that Prejean is so disturbed by her imagined slights; that after flooding the airwaves with her opinions, she perceives herself as being silenced. But she has only praise for Trump and the pageant operators who are affirmatively constricting her public appearances and utterances:

Meanwhile, if Ms. Prejean wants to speak publicly about same-sex marriage in the future, she will have to go through the Miss California USA pageant officials to discuss the platform where she will speak and how she will present her opinion.

“We’re not changing our rules for Carrie,” Keith Lewis, a co-executive director of the California pageant, said in an interview. “We’re bringing her back into compliance with her contract; every appearance is approved by us, every statement is a reflection of us.” He said that if she is asked about her views, she should answer honestly, but that pageant officials would help her “fine tune” her response so that it “is accommodating to both parties.”

Wait a minute. Didn’t she just finish saying that “That should not happen in America?

When people exploit false arguments that rely on claims to Constitutional liberties, they trivialize those liberties. It is a form of crying wolf that harms all of those who have legitimate grievances. Prejean’s views on marriage are her own business, and she has a right to form and convey her opinions as she chooses. But that right does not include imposing a gag on everyone else. She must be tolerant of opposing views and she ought not to wrap herself in the Constitution when her situation is so far removed from any reasonable interpretation of it.

In the case of Carrie Prejean, not only was she not constrained by the government, she was not constrained period. And whining about her perceived victimhood makes for a distinctly unattractive beauty queen.

Update: This was inevitable: Prejean has been tapped to fill in for Gretchen Carlson (Miss America, 1989) on Fox & Friends on May 27. Also, Sarah Palin (Miss Wasilla, 1984) made a statement in support of Prejean wherein she doubled down on the misunderstanding of the First Amendment.

Why We Need A Blogosphere

Television news was a great idea. Just think of it: A box that sits in your living room and brings you important information from around the block or around the world. Sounds too good to be true. And apparently it is.

Whatever value television adds to the distribution of news must be weighed against the harm it produces through its incorporation of bias, selective editing, and the pursuit of its own self interest.

SpinComFor example, last year David Barstow of the New York Times wrote a meticulously well researched and documented story that should have sparked a national uproar. The story described how the Pentagon in the Bush administration conspired to train and deploy former military personnel to spread propaganda in support of the war in Iraq. And if that weren’t bad enough, the program also permitted them to use their high profile media platform to enrich themselves and the defense contractors to whom they were attached.

Barstow’s story was received with what some call a “deafening silence,” particularly from the TV news community. Then, last week, Barstow won a Pulitzer Prize for the story. The silence built into a crushing whisper. Even progressive media icons like Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow only glanced over this story. Obviously there are strong arm tactics being employed to prevent the public from learning that our government purposefully and unlawfully engaged in propaganda directed squarely at us. The TV news networks are simply covering their own asses since it was primarily their facilities that hosted the phony military analysts.

Yesterday, Barstow was interviewed by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now to discuss the announcement that the Pentagon inspector general’s office had withdrawn its own report that had previously exoneraed the program. In the interview Goodman asked Barstow to comment on the lack of reporting on his story. Barstow said…

“You know, to be honest with you, I haven’t received many invitations-in fact, any invitations-to appear on any of the main network or cable programs. I can’t say I’m hugely shocked by that.”

“On the other hand, while there’s been kind of deafening silence, as you put it, on the network side of this, the stories have had-sparked an enormous debate in the blogosphere. And to this day, I continue to get regular phone calls from not just in this country but around the world, where other democracies are confronting similar kinds of issues about the control of their media and the influence of their media by the government.”

“So it’s been an interesting experience to see the sort of two reactions, one being silence from the networks and the cable programs, and the other being this really lively debate in the blogosphere. “

When an important and newsworthy story that exposes government wrongdoing at the highest levels – a story that appears on the front page of the New York Times and wins a Pulitzer Prize – cannot get the attention of television news outlets, there is something seriously wrong with that medium. When a respected journalist has to console himself with having his story get traction only on the Internet, it tells us a great deal about how corrupt the corporate-run news divisions of America have become.

Barstow should not have to be satisfied with generating lively debate in the blogosphere. The revelations in his article illustrate a betrayal of trust on the part of our government. The public deserves and needs to know the facts about this affair. But the failure of the television news enterprises to responsibly carry out their duties is also a betrayal of trust. How are we supposed to rely on their journalistic integrity if they refuse to exhibit any?

I don’t expect Sean Hannity to be issuing an invitation to Barstow anytime soon. Fox News has always been as deeply integrated into the Bush administration’s propaganda machine as any of these Pentagon Pundits. But if Olbermann, Maddow, Ed Schultz, or even Chris Matthews don’t extend an invitation to Barstow, then we need to let them know that they are failing to serve the public and they are buckling under to a media conspiracy to keep the people ignorant.

If it embarrasses NBC/MSNBC to admit that they participated in this charade, they need to suck it up, take responsibility, and ask for forgiveness. Permitting these phony analysts on their air was bad enough. They should not compound the offense by attempting to cover it up.

Barstow is right about the blogosphere. But we need to shape it into something more than a forum for debate. We need to use it to make the old media behave responsibly; to hold their feet to the fire. And this is as good an issue as any with which to assert that principle.

Contact MSNBC
MSNBC General
Keith Olbermann
Rachel Maddow
Ed Schultz
David Shuster
Chris Matthews

The Fox News Blackout Of President Obama

Granted there are a lot of stories vying for coverage these days. The economy, AIG bonuses, the fiscal stimulus bill, etc. There are also a couple of wars, a health care crisis, and a dangerously warming planet (in case anyone still cares about those trivialities). But since when did the President of the United States cease to be newsworthy?

The past three days has seen President Obama making appearances around the country in support of his economic program. Some of those appearances were town halls that included questions from the public. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the issues at play are amongst the most serious our country has encountered in decades. So how has the media handled these events?

CNN and MSNBC have broadcast some or all of Obama’s appearances live.
Fox News has broadcast NONE of them.

It appears that Fox News has decided to refrain from any coverage of the President other than that which has been prepackaged by their in-house cadre of anti-Obama ranters. They are preserving their airtime for scripted hit pieces where they can selectively misrepresent Obama’s remarks and follow that up with vitriolic responses to outrages that they have invented.

For anyone who still thinks that Fox should be treated as a bona fide news enterprise, this should put the final coffin nail in that point of view. And if Fox News isn’t going to cede any airtime to the President, than Democrats should respond in kind by not appearing on Fox News. If Democrats submit to this blatant unfairness, they are, in effect, rewarding Fox for discriminating against them.

It has been obvious for years that Fox is a partisan cheerleader for Republicans and an active basher of Democrats. But this behavior is beyond the pale. Fox has implemented a de facto blackout of the President in unedited public forums. This is a deliberate tactic to control their message by preventing the administration from communicating freely with citizens.

If Fox wants to manipulate the news, and the public’s access to their leaders, they must not be permitted to do it with the help of other Democrats. We must let Fox know that they aren’t getting away with anything. We know what they’re up to, and we won’t be accomplices to it. This overt censorship must not be tolerated.

It’s as simple as this: STAY THE HELL OFF OF FOX NEWS!