What do you do when you are the national mouthpiece for vile propaganda against a political party and a president that you were created to destroy, but all of your efforts have collapsed into a pile of bullshit due to the complete lack of evidence or even common sense? Well, just ask Fox News who have seen their every attempt to manufacture scandal blow up in their lying faces.
From Benghazi to the IRS, Fox News has struck out in their efforts to hang a juicy controversy around President Obama’s neck. So their answer to the question above is to trot out a brand new conspiracy theory that they invented from scratch: ObamaCars.
On Fox & Friends, the curvy couch potatoes were joined by radio shrew Laura Ingraham, Bush’s former press secretary, Dana Perino, and Rupert Murdoch’s personal lawyer, Peter Johnson, Jr. (the man with three names that are all synonyms for penis). In the course of their conversation they introduced a budding scandalette that they clearly believe will rip the heart out of their beastly foe in the White House.
What the Foxies are alleging is that, in the words of Steve Doocy, “there’s a provision in the Immigration bill that could be used to give free cars, motorcycles, scooters, and other vehicles, to young people.” Oh my. That would troubling – if there were even a scintilla of truth to it which, of course, there is not. This laughably ridiculous claim seems to have originated at the Official Birthplace of Laughably Ridiculous Claims, Breitbart News, where they extrapolated a nonsensical analysis of an amendment attached to the bill to allocate funding for youth job programs. The language that Breitbart and Fox found so offensive simply described that the funds were to be used…
“…to provide summer employment opportunities for low-income youth, with direct linkages to academic and occupational learning, and may be used to provide supportive services, such as transportation or child care, that is necessary to enable the participation of such youth in the opportunities.”
“Supportive services,” as regards transportation, are nothing more ominous than bus fare. They are certainly not promises to purchase vehicles for kids looking for work. Yet that is precisely what the conspiracy theorists at Fox have alleged. This delusion was directly refuted by Sen. Bernie Sanders, the author of the amendment, who said that…
“…the program has the option of providing funding for bus fare or subway tickets or other means of transportation. It is only the wild imagination that we have come to expect from Fox TV that would come up with this preposterous idea that we are buying automobiles for young people.”
Where does the dementia end with these people? It would be one thing if this were a fringe newsletter published by radicals in robes and hoods, pretending to defend liberty from their wilderness camp in Idaho. But is this Fox News, the most-watched cable news network, and their leading anchors and contributors. The next thing we can expect to hear from Fox is that Obama supporters were found to be using their ObamaPhones while driving their ObamaCars which led to their need for emergency ObamaCare. Don’t laugh. I’m sure they are working on this story right now.
In researching the recent controversies over the IRS and its alleged targeting of conservative non-profits, I stumbled across an article I wrote two years ago that unveils yet another blatant hypocrisy from Fox News (as if more were necessary to make the point). The current programming on Fox is dedicated almost non-stop to hammering the Obama administration for the misbehavior of low-level IRS staff. The story has even supplanted their previous pet scandal, Benghazi. And despite making broad accusations of complicity by the President, they have failed to provide even a smidgen of evidence that he had any role in the way that non-profits were selected for review.
That simple fact, however, has not stopped Fox from launching a sustained campaign of outrage aimed at the IRS, which they now regard as a totalitarian agency bent on destroying America and freedom. But it was not always thus. Not too long ago, Fox News was happy to use the IRS as a cudgel against their own perceived enemies. They embarked on mission to wipe the watchdog group Media Matters off the face of the earth. It was a weeks-long effort that included dozens of broadcast segments explicitly recruiting their viewers to file falsified complaints challenging the tax-exempt status of Media Matters. In the process they brought in pundits, and lawyers, and even their in-house “Psycho Analyst” to paint a disparaging portrait of the organization and its founder.
The irony of Fox using the IRS to harass a non-profit organization just because they disagree agree with it will surely be lost on everyone at Fox and everyone who watches it. Below is the article re-posted in full because it is still as relevant today as it was then. Actually more so, with the addition of Fox’s newly minted contempt for the IRS.
[July 11, 2011] In the untamed jungle that is cable news, there is a ferocious and predatory beast stalking the terrain. Anyone who has encountered Fox News in the wild can attest to the spine-chilling threat imposed by the pseudo-news network. And now Fox News has the scent of new game.
The Fox News pack is on the prowl for the media watchdog group, Media Matters, against whom they have recently initiated a sustained assault. In the past two weeks they have featured over 30 stories with the express purpose of challenging the group’s right to exist. Fox has assigned network stalwarts like Bill O’Reilly, Bret Baier, Charles Krauthammer, James Rosen, Ann Coulter, Dick Morris, and Bernie Goldberg, to the mission. This is an unprecedented, broadly distributed attack by a major media enterprise against a non-profit group they regard as an adversary.
This latest batch of complaints stem from comments made last March by Media Matters founder, David Brock. He was quoted in Politico as saying that the organization was shifting its focus toward Fox News to one of “guerrilla warfare and sabotage.” Giving Fox the benefit of doubt, one might conclude that it’s only fair that Fox defend itself from such an overt declaration of war. The only thing that might refute that perspective is – reality.
If this is war, it is one wherein Fox is the aggressor. Fox News initiated their attacks long ago with aggressive and false assertions that cast Media Matters as hacks, anti-American, violent, and communist. They alleged that George Soros was pulling their strings long before Soros ever made any contributions the group. Fox stalwarts like Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck engaged in rhetoric so hostile that it inspired actual physical attacks against Media Matters and their progressive allies. This video (courtesy of Media Matters) was posted two years ago and illustrates the hostility harbored across the Fox platform long before Brock’s recent comments:
The new and highly coordinated offensive by Fox asserts that Media Matters has violated the terms of their tax-exempt status by setting their sights on Fox. They quote from the IRS rules governing non-profits that state that…
“…501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.”
On the basis of that criteria, Fox News argues that Media Matters is in violation and should have their tax-exempt status revoked. However, in order for that to be valid, Fox would have to admit that they are a political operation so that attacks on Fox News would qualify as opposition to political campaigns and/or candidates. Without that stipulation there is no violation on the part of Media Matters. So Fox is, in effect, conceding their role as a Republican mouthpiece. Shocking, I know.
Once upon a time, the most outlandish fantasies of fringe political fabulists were confined to a narrow spectrum on the AM radio dial. They concocted delusional narratives that ranged from murderous first ladies to galactic alliances with Martians. It was an entertaining world of fiction and a guilty pleasure for some, even as the true believers were convinced of the frightening fate that was unfolding.
Today, however, the boundaries between rational political discourse and raving madness have been erased. The extremist peddlers of nightmare scenarios who were once thought to be charmingly eccentric at 1:00am are now advising elected representatives of the people to initiate investigations and draft bills addressing these non-existent threats. Congress today hosts members who are no more reliable (or sane) than the wooly denizens of Alex Jones-land or the lie factory of Fox Nation. Here are just a few of the urban legends that are now circulating in the halls of state and federal legislative bodies courtesy of the whack job broadcasting set.
The UN Arms Treaty That Threatens US Sovereignty
The United Nations recently passed an initiative to address the proliferation of “illegal” arms trading amongst terrorists and rogue nations. As expected, the right-wing Chicken Little Brigade immediately began protesting that this was another attempt to dilute national sovereignty and bring about a one-world government. Of course, there is nothing in the proposal that would infringe on the rights of any nation to set their own standards for gun ownership. The actual resolution explicitly states that countries will “exclusively” maintain the right within their borders to, “regulate internal transfers of arms and national ownership, including through national constitutional protections on private ownerships.“
This perfectly reasonable attempt to disarm criminals and tyrants was opposed initially by Alex Jones and similar fringe broadcasters. But eventually their outrage bubbled up to singe Republicans in congress who managed to prevent the treaty’s ratification. The GOP opposition was notable for the fact that it concurred with the only three UN nations that also opposed it: Syria, Iran, and North Korea.
Communists Have infiltrated The US Government
This may seem like a throwback to the 1950′s and the Red Scare promulgated by Sen. Joseph McCarthy and others. But make no mistake, this is all too current. Commie hunters in the fringe media are still accusing all liberals of having pinko sympathies. And they have an ally in former representative Allen West, who is now hosting his own web cast. West told a group of supporters that “I believe there’s about 78 to 81 members of the Democrat Party who are members of the Communist Party. It’s called the Congressional Progressive Caucus.” West lost his seat last November, but it is important to note that the leadership in the House never rebuked him or dissociated themselves or the GOP from his remarks.
Muslims Have Infiltrated The US Government
This is a corollary to the commie conspiracy updated to smear a more contemporary foe. Originally this allegation was espoused by the infamous Islamophobe Pamela Geller. She latched unto the fact that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had a close aide with a Muslim-sounding name. Huma Abedin has worked for Clinton for more than a decade and is respected by all who know her. She was even defended by House Speaker John Boehner and Sen. John McCain. That didn’t stop a cabal of House members, led by Tea Party queen Michele Bachmann, to fire off a letter to the State Department demanding an investigation and alleging that Abedin had ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.
There was never any evidence provided to support these allegations. Nor is there any evidence accompanying the new accusations by Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert, who told WorldNetDaily that Obama deliberately “bungled” the investigation of the Boston marathon bombing because “this administration has so many Muslim Brotherhood members that have influence.”
Benghazi Is Obama’s Watergate
The king of right-wing talk radio, Rush Limbaugh got the ball rolling with this one. He alleged on his program that Obama was deliberately blocking the investigation into the attack on the US facility in Libya. Limbaugh could not come up with an explanation for why Obama would want to stymie the inquiry, so the implication left hanging was that he had some connection to the attack that he wanted to cover up.
Numerous other media outlets jumped on this mini-bandwagon with Fox News assuming a prominent role. Every Fox program began banging the Benghazi drum, and integral to their publicity push was escalating the scandal to include congressional players to add Washington credibility (such as it is). Republicans like Lindsey Graham and John McCain were happy to comply.
The Most Important Story In History
Not one to be ignored, Glenn Beck joined the fray with what he considered to be the “most important story in history.” The plot involved a Saudi man who was briefly questioned following the Boston marathon bombing. It was quickly discovered that he was a victim, not a suspect, and he was released to recover from his injuries. Beck, however, would not let go of the story. He threatened the White House that if they were not forthcoming with the truth about this, he would reveal the evidence he had that would blow the roof off the White House.
Beck’s deadline came and went with no revelations of scandal. He merely repeated what he had previously alleged, which had already been debunked. Which makes it all the more curious that four members of congress are officially demanding answers from the Department of Homeland Security based on what they call “media reports,” but are really just Beck’s psychotic discharges.
The Government Is Stockpiling Ammunition To Kill Us All
Last year there was a flurry of panicky hand-wringing by notorious conspiracy mongers over reports that agencies of the federal government had purchased large caches of ammunition. In the minds of the nutcases on the right, that was evidence that the DHS is plotting a response to some impending disaster scenario wherein they will be forced to kill every person in America five times. That is precisely what Mark Levin, Sean Hannity’s replacement for Sarah Palin, is terrorizing his radio listeners with.
This phony horror story was summarily dismissed by the DHS with documentation and proof that nothing out of the ordinary was occurring. It was merely a purchase contract to lock in lower prices for ammunition used commonly by several law enforcement agencies for regular use and training. Nevertheless, congressional overreaction to the “news” has resulted in a General Accounting Office inquiry into the purchase request. That inquiry was spurred by GOP senator (and Levin listener) James Inhofe who has also drafted a bill to prohibit ammunition purchases in amounts larger than those of previous administrations. Presumably that’s to make sure that the black guy doesn’t get any ideas.
And Then There’s Agenda 21
Amongst the conspiracy theory elite there is only one supreme and all encompassing doctrine of apocalyptic disaster: Agenda 21. The furor over this initiative dates back to the John Birch Society. In reality it just a UN guide to sustainable environments that recommends some completely voluntary measures aimed at advancing smart growth and safer, more livable communities. It was adopted by 178 countries and signed for the U.S. by President George H.W. Bush. It was, however, never ratified by the senate.
Somehow this benign project was transformed in the minds of conservative mythmakers into a monstrously evil plot to steal the liberty of all mankind. Glenn Beck even wrote a book about it wherein he describes it as “centralized control over all of human life on planet earth.” But the panic doesn’t stop there. Multiple state resolutions banning its implementation with a foreboding tenor have been enacted. For example, Tennessee’s resolution condemned its “destructive and insidious nature” and began by saying…
“WHEREAS, the United Nations Agenda 21 is a comprehensive plan of extreme environmentalism, social engineering, and global political control that was initiated at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development…”
That’s fairly typical of the numerous legislative measures aimed at defending America from a tyrannical, global, one-world government, orchestrated by despotic environmentalists and the liberal media. And we might as well throw in George Soros because that’s who freshman senator Ted Cruz of Texas believes is responsible for the whole affair. Cruz has promised that he will “…continue leading the fight, to stop Agenda 21 and any other globalist plan that tries to subvert the U.S. Constitution and the liberties we all cherish as Americans.”
These delusional and thoroughly discredited inventions from the paranoia factories of Glenn Beck, Alex Jones, Rush Limbaugh, etc., were once the province of the radio backwoods and militia ham operators. And as frightening as these grim fairy tales are, what’s truly scary is that this conspiratorial fiction is now being embraced by elected officials in Washington and state houses across the country.
The compulsive, gnawing yearning is palpable. Fox News is so obsessed with terminating the presidency of Barack Obama that they are veritably bursting at the seams of their shrunken skulls. They are dripping with flop-sweat over the self-manufactured prospect of evicting from the White House the man they failed twice to defeat democratically.
It is truly an embarrassing demonstration of puerile covetousness as Fox’s leading mouthpieces gush inane and irrelevant comparisons that only serve to advance their deepest desires for political payback. Having realized that the American people refused to go along with their electoral smear campaigns, Fox is now throwing a tantrum as a desperate tactic to get what they crave so furiously.
The daft predictions served up by Fox are not only ludicrous and unfounded, they are as far removed from the comparable historical associations they are trying to jam into the public mind as is imaginable. The tragedies that took place in Benghazi are not impeachable, and they are not remotely similar to the Watergate scandal that brought down Richard Nixon. Nevertheless, Fox has been pushing this theme, without success, since nearly the day after Benghazi erupted.
As I wrote last September, after Fox had embarked on a massive campaign of propaganda and lies (something that Fox Nation lives for), there is nothing analogous about Benghazi and Watergate.
Ever since the mid-1970′s scandal that drove Richard Nixon from office, partisans have been attempting to slap a “gate” at the end of any controversy. But it should be remembered that Watergate was not simply some government gaffe. It was an intentionally criminal act that included breaking into Democratic headquarters, paying off accomplices for their silence, and lying to investigators from law enforcement and congress. All of that unlawfulness was in pursuit of personal political benefits to the Nixon White House and reelection effort.
What occurred in Libya was tragic, but it was certainly not the result of someone in the White House pursuing personal gain. Nor was there any hint of corruption or clandestine plots to sabotage a political foe. Nor were there any attempts to covertly mask unlawful activity. In other words, there is nothing in this story that remotely resembles Watergate.
Nothing has changed since then. There has been no new evidence. There have been no new revelations. Even the hearings being held today offer nothing censurable. The affair was exhaustively reviewed by an independent board led by Ambassador Thomas Pickering and Admiral Michael Mullen, career public servants who worked in the administrations of both Republicans and Democrats. And the myths proffered by right-wing pundits and politicians have been repeatedly debunked. Consequently, all of the hubbub produced by Fox and their congressional comrades is a conspicuous waste of time when the country has critical issues to resolve.
So all of this yammering about driving Obama from office is just the wishful thinking of whiny Republicans who couldn’t get what they wanted at the ballot box. The American people rejected them forthrightly, so now they are whimpering about it and demanding that their cries be heeded. They want an impeachment and, damn it, they will hold their breath until they turn red to get it.
Like so many other things in the GOP run House, their motives are purely political. They will hold the nation hostage to defend tax breaks for billionaires. They will harm the economy, even resulting in a downgrade of the nation’s credit rating, in order to make points with Teabaggers. They will filibuster executive appointments and judges and even bills they previously sponsored, if it will hurt the President. And now they are making irresponsible calls for impeachment that are not based on any credible facts.
This is the sort detachment from reality, and the American public, that has cost them two elections and lost them seats in both houses of congress. And it comes at a time when there are more urgent and pressing matters of importance to the American people. The Republican Party and their PR division at Fox News are betraying the people. It is interesting to note that no one would celebrate the downfall of Obama more than Al Qaeda. Obama is the man who terminated their leader. If it were possible to impeach Obama, which is highly unlikely, the GOP and Al Qaeda could save considerable expense by pooling their resources and throwing a joint party to commemorate the realization of their fondest shared dreams.
When you see a headline on Fox News that says “Americans Are Migrating to More Free Republican States,” it’s a safe bet that it emanates from an untrustworthy, right-wing source. That is precisely the case with the study that Fox is heavily promoting that ranks the “liberty” of the various American states and concludes that the highest ranking “red” states are more popular than those of the socialist-leaning “blue” variety.
This suspiciously partisan study was produced by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. What Fox does not inform their audience is that the Mercatus Center is a Koch Brothers-funded entity that is notorious for its overtly biased research that promotes conservative, libertarian principles. Source Watch notes that…
“The Mercatus Center was founded and is funded by the Koch Family Foundations. According to financial records, the Koch family has contributed more than thirty million dollars to George Mason, much of which has gone to the Mercatus Center.”
The founder of the Mercatus Center is the same Koch Industries executive who later founded both of the Koch-backed Tea Party groups, FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity. All of these entities were created to advance the financial and political interests of the Koch brothers. The notion that this think tank would command any credibility is absurd, but what’s worse is that Fox endorses them without disclosing who they really are.
The study itself draws conclusions that are skewed sharply toward libertarian values. The methods they use to rank the “liberty” of each state illustrate how biased they are. The highest weighted criterion to be considered “more free” is “Tax Burden” at 28.6%. Nothing else even comes close. You could be a political prisoner who is denied free speech and prohibited from voting, but if your taxes are low this study would consider you free.
The next highest weighted criterion is “Freedom from Tort Abuse” (11.5%), which victims of medical malpractice or corporate negligence might find curious. They would probably regard the freedom to seek compensation for serious injury or death a fairly important liberty. In fact, the freedom from tort abuse might better be described as the freedom from responsibility for catastrophic harm. This divergence demonstrates how one person’s freedom is another’s tyranny. The rest of the methodology is laughable and paints a disturbing picture of what Mercatus regards as the pillars of liberty. For instance:
Health Insurance Freedom (or the freedom to die prematurely for lack of health care)
Labor Market Freedom (or the freedom to be fired, discriminated against, and denied union reps)
Gun Control Freedom (or the freedom to own armories that rival a military base)
Campaign Finance Freedom (or the freedom for the wealthy to buy elections)
Furthermore, Mercatus values the freedom of smokers to foul the air wherever they wish unencumbered by the alleged freedoms of non-smokers; the freedom from seat belt and helmet laws that have been proven to save lives; freedom for cable and telecom companies to consolidate and gouge their customers; and of course, civil liberties which Mercatus inexplicably defines as…
“…a grab bag of mostly unrelated policies, including raw milk laws, fireworks laws, prostitution laws, physician-assisted suicide laws, religious freedom restoration acts, rules on taking DNA samples from criminal suspects, trans-fat bans.”
Not only does Mercatus exclude any mention of racial, religious, gender, or other discrimination in the definition of civil liberties, there is almost nothing that progressives regard as criteria for freedom in their rankings. Freedom of speech, or of the press, is missing entirely. Freedom of reproductive choice is not a consideration. Voting rights are nowhere in their criteria. Safe workplaces, a clean environment, accountability for politicians and corporations; fair administration of justice – none of these things are tabulated in the Mercatus methodology that overwhelmingly favors property rights over any other.
It is no wonder, therefore, that North Dakota ranked as their number one destination for freedom seekers. It was followed by South Dakota, Tennessee, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, and Idaho. Those are some of the lowest population states in the country. At the other end of the scale, New York ranked as the least free state, followed by California and New Jersey, which are amongst the most populous states. What is clear, if this study is to be believed (which would be foolish in the extreme), is that Americans, by the millions, have chosen to live in tyranny. They have snubbed those states that the Koch brothers think are bursting with freedom and embraced oppression and servitude (silly Yankees). This even includes David Koch, who lives in New York City.
The truth is that this is a study that affirms the freedom to make the Koch brothers as rich as possible. It is disguised as a study promoting liberty, but the weightings of the criteria reveal its ulterior motives. And the fact that Fox News would offer up this self-serving bunk as a serious exploration of American lifestyles, without acknowledging the affiliations of the authors, is itself a violation of the public’s right to be free from propaganda and disinformation.
Newspaper wires are buzzing over a report by the L.A. Weekly that billionaire oil magnates and Tea Party financiers David and Charles Koch are interested in buying the Los Angeles Times or even its parent corporation, the Tribune Company. Tribune owns the Times as well as the Chicago Tribune, the Baltimore Sun, and some 20 television stations.
On the surface this might appear to be an ominous development that would put a number of influential media assets in the hands of some notoriously self-serving political manipulators. The prospect of the plutocratic Koch clan assuming control of a network of media properties that they could convert into clarions for their Tea Party fronted campaign to expand their wealth and power is worthy of some concern. However, a deeper examination of this will take the sting off of it.
First of all, the Tribune newspapers are not exactly journalistic powerhouses that break major stories or shape public opinion. To the contrary, they are mere shells of their former glory having cut their editorial staffs to the bone which, not surprisingly, has resulted in a downward spiral in circulation. And if the Koch brothers were to assert their ultra-conservative political ideology on newspapers in liberal enclaves like L.A. and Chicago they are not likely to find many new subscribers.
This brings us to the question of whether an acquisition by the Kochs would represent any change in ideology at all. The Tribune Company was already a right-wing enterprise that published papers with editorial positions that conflicted bitterly with the majority of their constituents. The current CEO of Tribune is a former News Corp executive. Until 2008 the L.A. Times had never endorsed a Democrat for president. And, in a particularly telling and shameful action, the Times fired columnist Robert Scheer, a thirty year veteran with the paper and a Pulitzer Prize winner, and replaced him with Jonah Goldberg, a dimwitted conservative hack with no journalism credibility. So contrary to conventional wisdom, these media operations were not bastions of liberalism.
The Tribune rumors have added to speculation about the company’s future that has also included gossip about Rupert Murdoch as a potential buyer. News consumers in the cities affected must be excited about the prospect of having their hometown papers run by the man responsible for hacking into the phones of hundreds of people including a murdered schoolgirl. However, all of this chatter ignores some fairly steep obstacles for both parties. Despite their wide-ranging conglomerate, the Kochs have no experience with media companies. And as noted above, the specific entities available with Tribune would not be very helpful to their propaganda mission. Murdoch would likely be unable to close a deal due to his current ownership of TV stations and newspapers in the same markets. A Tribune acquisition would violate FCC rules (for which he has already received waivers) and would initiate a long and difficult approval process.
Given the impediments to the deals by these famous suitors, one wonders where the rumors might have come from. The most obvious source would be from within Tribune itself. They may be trying to create the illusion that there is acquisition interest in the company and its assets in order to stir up potential buyers and artificially inflate its value as it emerges from bankruptcy. That’s a more likely scenario than one wherein either Murdoch or the Kochs actually bid on the company.
If either of these rumored suitors actually did acquire all or part of Tribune, it would be a sad day for journalism, but only on a symbolic level. Seeing any media property with the history of these enterprises become so embarrassingly intertwined with Tea Party nutjobs would be unfortunate and disheartening. But on practical terms it really wouldn’t result in any observable change considering how stridently conservative and deeply ineffectual these properties have become in recent years. What is truly sad is just the fact that the papers have already fallen to such appalling depths that these rumored acquisitions by disreputable characters bent on deception wouldn’t really make any difference at all.
Never mind that Rupert Murdoch, the CEO of the Fox News parent company, supports taking “bold leadership” to restrict access to assault weapons, executives at Fox News have dictated that the subject of gun control is forbidden on their network. Sources told Gabriel Sherman of New York Magazine that…
“David Clark, the executive producer in charge of Fox’s weekend coverage, gave producers instructions not to talk about gun-control policy on air. ‘This network is not going there,’ Clark wrote one producer on Saturday night, according to a source with knowledge of the exchange.”
This is the sort of overt bias that is practiced at Fox News on a regular basis. There is nothing new about Fox demanding that their anchors and contributors follow the marching orders from the executive suites. They receive a morning memo informing them on the topics of the day and what their positions will be. Even loyal Fox associates like pollster Frank Luntz have revealed that failing to “comport with the outlet’s orthodoxy” will result in getting you blacklisted. Sherman’s sources went on to say that…
“During the weekend, one frustrated producer went around Clark to lobby Michael Clemente, Fox’s executive vice-president for news editorial, but Clemente upheld the mandate. ‘We were expressly forbidden from discussing gun control,’ the source said.”
Sherman noted that there was a bit of discourse on gun control on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. However, he did not mention that the program airs on the Fox Entertainment Network, not Fox News (although it is repeated later in the day on Fox News).
This is how Fox directs the editorial content of the network. They have a heavy hand enforcing what people may, and may not, say on the air. It is not a coincidence that nearly everyone on Fox spews the same talking points throughout their broadcast day. It is by design and it is imposed by an editorial politburo that monitors the dissemination of their propaganda.
Since Fox CEO Roger Ailes is against gun control, then everyone at Fox must be. And if they think that discussing a subject is not in the interests of their agenda, then discussion is shut down. In this case, the network’s censorship is in lock step with the NRA, who have been maintaining media silence ever since the tragedy on Friday. The NRA’s Facebook and Twitter accounts have gone blank. And so has free speech on Fox News, not that it was ever there in the first place.
It’s also worthwhile to note that while Fox has banned all talk of gun control, they have not similarly banished talk of other explanations for the atrocity in Connecticut. For instance, they had no problemn with laying the blame on movies and video games. And Fox host Mike Huckabee was permitted to go on the air and blame the killings on the absence of God in the classroom. That’s is a particularly idiotic theory when you consider that other mass killings have taken place in churches where there presumably was no shortage of Godliness.
The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward just published a story revealing that Fox News CEO Roger Ailes dispatched a Fox News defense analyst to deliver a personal request to Gen. David Petraeus. Ailes sent K.T. McFarland to Kabul, Afghanistan, with the message that Ailes wanted Petraeus to run against Barack Obama for president.
The notion of a news network soliciting candidates for political office is a repulsive perversion of the role journalists play in society. Ailes heads a network that pretends to be “fair and balanced” while brazenly campaigning on behalf of the Republican Party and conservative policies. But taking that a step further into the jurisdiction of GOP candidate recruitment is a violation of the core tenets of journalistic ethics.
In the audio that Woodward posted, McFarland can be heard discussing particulars of a Petraeus candidacy including the possibility of it being run by Ailes himself, and bankrolled by Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch has already contributed untold millions of dollars to GOP campaigns via free airtime and unconstrained support from Fox anchors, contributors, and guests. Their advocacy was so overwhelming this year that it resulted in a stunned electorate on the Republican side who believed, due to Fox coverage, that their victory was in the bag.
The conversation between Petraeus and McFarland was rife with ethical breaches on the part of McFarland. For instance, she began her message from Ailes saying “What I’m supposed to say directly from him to you, through me, is first of all, is there anything Fox is doing, right or wrong, that you want to tell us to do differently?” No self-respecting reporter would ever take orders from an interview subject on how to shape the coverage of their news. And it’s an even worse offense when it comes from the head of the operation.
What’s more, McFarland’s behavior should disqualify her from appearing on Fox as an analyst. How can she be trusted to be objective after gushing that she and “everyone at Fox love” the General? That bit of sycophancy notwithstanding, McFarland did return from Kabul and appeared on Fox with praise for Petraeus as “one of the greatest generals in American history.”
Petraeus responded to McFarland by expressing his distaste for certain criticisms of the Afghan war effort, which he said may have just been attributable to the headlines. So McFarland accommodated him by saying that it was “easy to fix” because she sits next to the woman who writes them. For McFarland to promise to insure more flattering headlines in articles about the general would be cause for termination from a reputable news organization.
Then McFarland hit Petraeus with Ailes’ advice that he reject any appointment offered by the President other than Chairman of the joint Chiefs of Staff. She said that Ailes specifically singled out the CIA as a post Petraeus should not accept. Her characterization of the machinations of the White House involved some sort of plot to dump Petraeus at the CIA where he wouldn’t be heard from and would not pose a threat to Obama’s reelection. Again, where do McFarland and Ailes get off politicking like this?
Despite the advice of Ailes, Petraeus told McFarland that he regarded the CIA and intelligence as a growth industry where he felt he could make a significant contribution. Obama later did offer him the job, but he was not as silent in that role as he might have hoped. The disclosure of his marital infidelity ended his career at the CIA and much of the speculation about his future.
When Woodward contacted Ailes to get his response to the McFarland/Petraeus tapes, Ailes admitted that he sent McFarland on this mission, but attempted to play down the candidate recruitment aspect of it:
“It was more of a joke, a wiseass way I have. I thought the Republican [primary] field needed to be shaken up and Petraeus might be a good candidate.”
Anyone who believes that dodge is sorely in need of a transfusion of healthy skepticism. It is highly unlikely that Ailes sent McFarland to Kabul to tell Petraeus a joke. He clearly wanted the General to run for president, just like he also wanted Chris Christie to do so after Petraeus declined. It was Ailes’ objective, and that of Boss Murdoch, to bring about the defeat of Obama.
But it is also notable that Ailes felt it was his right and/or duty to shake up the GOP primaries. News people are supposed to report the news, not make it. Where does this sort of chicanery end? If Ailes thought the debate over the budget should be shaken up, might he send a hooker to the hotel room of the House Budget Committee chair? If he thought the Supreme Court ruling on ObamaCare needed a jolt of excitement would he plant some cocaine on a wavering justice? If he needed additional ammo with which to attack Obama, would he manufacture a phony controversy about the President being responsible for the murders of U.S. diplomats in Benghazi? Oh, wait a minute, Ailes actually did that last one already.
The revelations contained in Woodward’s story affirm that Ailes is a Machiavellian scoundrel and that Fox News is a rogue operation. Their intrusion into the political process debases journalism by breaching all standards of ethical conduct. And they debase democracy as well by exploiting their power and wealth to manipulate political outcomes. Roger Ailes has now provided verification for every criticism of his villainy that has been directed at him. And Fox News continues to lack any moral standing to be considered a legitimate news enterprise.
[Addendum 12/20/12] The media has largely ignored this story, an omission that has now been noticed and pointedly analyzed by Woodward’s former partner, Carl Bernstein, in an article for The Guardian.
When Fox News debuted sixteen years ago, it was crafted from scratch to be a partisan outlet for right-wing propaganda and a platform for advancing a conservative agenda. Its founder, Rupert Murdoch, was already an internationally known purveyor of right-slanted newspapers and broadcasters. Complimenting Fox’s television presence is its Internet community web site, Fox Nation. The statement of purpose posted on the Fox Nation web site says that it is “committed to the core principles of tolerance, open debate, civil discourse, and fair and balanced coverage of the news.” However, a cursory glance at the site reveals that they have fallen wide of their stated purpose by several light years.
Fox Nation is layered thickly with far-right extremist diatribes and links to disreputable articles plucked from the Internet’s fringes. And the notion that civil discourse can take place on Fox Nation is quickly dispelled by reading their user forums with their frequent use of the “N” word and juvenile references to the President as “Odumbo” and the First Lady as “Moo-chelle.” These sorts of comments are not anomalies. Fox Nation is deliberately catering to this caliber of audience who revel in overt racist and hostile dialogue. This is not the conventional, freewheeling online chatter that is found on comment boards and is particularly unusual for a site sponsored by a major national news network.
Not much is known about the operations of Fox Nation. Unlike other news enterprises that identify their principle staff, Fox Nation treats their publishers, editors, etc., as if they were covert agents of espionage. There is no masthead or bylines or any other indication of who is responsible for the repugnant content posted daily on the web page. Requests for this information from Fox corporate communications officers went unanswered. And given the dishonesty, unprofessionalism, ignorance, and immaturity of the tone and substance on the site, perhaps it is their intention to remain anonymous in order to avoid the shame that would come with an association to such puerile trash.
Fox CEO Rupert Murdoch was a harsh critic of Google News, calling them “parasites,” because he said they steal his content by posting headlines and short blurbs and linking to the source articles. But that’s pretty hypocritical because it’s exactly what Fox Nation does. There is almost no original content, and what they harvest from other sources is often planted on affiliated sites like those of Fox News contributors Tucker Carlson, Michele Malkin, and Dick Morris.
What follows are ten excerpts from my ebook, Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Community’s Assault On Truth. The book chronicles more than fifty flagrantly dishonest reports by the Fox Nationalist team of faux journalists. These are not mere differences of opinion or discussions that might have varying degrees of perspective. They are obvious, provable, outright lies, and they are manifestations of a disconnect with the real world.
1) Human Carbon Emissions Could Put OFF a Lethal New Ice Age
According to the Fox Nationalists, the perpetrators of Global Warming are actually rescuing the planet from a frigid doom. They quote Cambridge University research published in the journal Nature Geoscience. The only problem with their conclusion is that the scientist they reference in the article, Luke Skinner, has a completely different conclusion. He says that he anticipated this response amongst climate crisis deniers and said that they are…
“…missing the point, because where we’re going is not maintaining our currently warm climate but heating it much further, and adding CO2 to a warm climate is very different from adding it to a cold climate.
“The rate of change with CO2 is basically unprecedented, and there are huge consequences if we can’t cope with that.”
Skinner told the BBC that the results of the study point to the sensitivity of the climate system to “quite small changes in CO2, let alone the huge changes that we’ve been responsible for over the last 200 years.” Of course, none of that is included in the Fox Nation article. They deliberately neglect the obvious point that by the time the presumed ice age begins, in 1,500 years, global warming, if unchecked, would have already put half the planet’s current land mass under water. But these facts do not sway Fox from cherry-picking out-of-context soundbites to mislead their audience.
2) College Mate: Obama Was An Ardent Marxist-Leninist
In this episode Fox Nation posted as their featured headline story an article with the title: College Mate: Obama Was an ‘Ardent’ ‘Marxist-Leninist.’ In order to fabricate this wholly dishonest smear, Fox sunk to re-posting a column written by conservative bomb-thrower Selwyn Duke. Duke’s article was originally published by The New American, the periodical of the extremist and notoriously fascistic John Birch Society.
In the article, Duke relied entirely on the testimony of John Drew, a man who has been pushing his dubious and uncorroborated account of a college relationship with Obama for years. He claims that Obama was a close friend and confidant. The truth is he only met Obama casually a handful of times at gatherings with many others present. He never attended college with Obama because the future President didn’t enter Occidental College until after Drew had graduated.
It’s painfully clear to anyone paying attention that Drew is attempting to exploit his brief encounters with Obama to exalt himself, disseminate his rightist propaganda, and earn a few bucks in the process. Now, after years of plodding through radical right-wing rags and Internet backwater rabble, Drew and Duke have succeeded in getting Fox Nation to sling their stale mud.
3) Obama Selling Amnesty For $465
The issue of immigration is one that the Fox Nationalists relish in demagoguing. They publish numerous stories that are openly racist, as has been thoroughly documented. This is just such a story that was designed to inflame prejudice with its utterly dishonest skewing of the facts. The headline composed by Fox Nation is wholly untrue. Not only is amnesty not a part of the administration’s program, nothing in it is for sale.
In truth, President Obama directed the Department of Homeland Security to exercise prosecutorial discretion so that innocent children who were brought to this country by undocumented parents are not unduly punished while a more comprehensive solution is negotiated with Congress. The program does not provide amnesty. The fee to apply for this program is intended to offset costs, but can be waived on a case by case basis for applicants unable to pay.
None of those facts stopped Fox from deliberately misrepresenting the matter in a way that leads their audience to presume that the administration is peddling citizenship to foreigners who come here to steal our jobs. It appears that Fox picked up the story from the juveniles at Breitbart News where John Nolte published an article that implied that Obama’s goal is to mint new voters. Never mind that the immigrants partaking of this program will not have voting rights because they will not be citizens.
4) Americans Not Buying Buffett Rule
The Buffett Rule that Americans are not buying refers to his remarks that wealthy folks like him should not be paying lower tax rates than average folks like his secretary. So all that the Fox Nationalists had to do to validate their headline was produce the results of a poll that shows that a majority of respondents do not believe that raising taxes on millionaires will do any good. And since, in this case, they are relying on the results of a poll conducted by Fox News, they should be able to support whatever preconceived myth they want to invent.
However, the very first paragraph of their own story states that “more voters think raising taxes on wealthy Americans will help (40 percent) rather than hurt the economy (24 percent).” And the margin of difference (16%) isn’t even close. Yet somehow the headline atop the article overtly refutes the facts in their own survey. Are these people even trying anymore? They must really think their readers are idiots. And since they must know their audience better than anyone else, I will defer to their assessment.
Sharpton: “What I don’t want to see is because he is black we act like he’s not the real president – he ought to be leading the black cause or the labor cause. He’s the President. To minimize who he is, I think, is an insult to the achievement of having him there.”
So this was not about Sharpton never criticizing Obama, just not constraining Obama to being merely the president of black Americans as opposed to all Americans. Fox, on the other hand, should acknowledge that their whole business model rests on not criticizing Republicans and conservatives. In a specific example you have Dick Morris, who has been on the Fox payroll for years, and pledged never to criticize Mitt Romney:
“I decided a couple of – a month or two ago to stop dumping on Mitt Romney, for example … Not because I approve of Romneycare, not because I approve of his flip-flops, flip on abortion, but because I may have to be one of those who carries this guy for a couple of months when he’s running against Obama and I don’t want to make my own task harder.”
Morris fulfilled that promise by becoming one of Romney’s most ardent cheerleaders. Just days before Obama won with a commanding Electoral College victory, Morris told Fox News that a Romney landslide was a virtual certainty.
6) Elizabeth Warren Praises Communist China
In response to an ad by Massachusetts senate candidate Elizabeth Warren, the Fox Nationalists have not only lied, but exposed their latent unpatriotic tendencies as well. To state bluntly that “Elizabeth Warren Praises Communist China” is a thoroughly manufactured falsehood. She never did anything remotely of the kind. What she did was advocate for the importance of America remaining competitive on an international basis and not permit China to take the lead. Here is what she said:
“We’ve got bridges and roads in need of repair, and thousands of people in need of work. Why aren’t we rebuilding America? Our competitors are putting people to work, building the future. China invests 9 percent of its GDP in infrastructure. America, we’re at just 2.4 percent. We can do better. We can build a foundation for a strong new economy and get people in Massachusetts to work right now.”
The Fox Nationalists have a decidedly shallow grasp of world affairs. They think that lamenting America falling behind on matters critical to international competitiveness is the same as praising a political system of government. Were these same conservatives outraged when Reagan, and other cold warriors, argued that the U.S. was falling behind the Soviet Union militarily and, therefore, they were praising Russia’s communism?
For Fox News, and its conservative benefactors, to criticize Warren for these comments is akin to advocating for America to succumb to foreign competitors. In effect, it’s conservatives who are acceding to China’s superiority – not the other way around.
7) Stocks Tumble Worldwide After Obama Speech
The implication of this headline is that Obama’s speech had something to do with a stock market decline. However, the very first paragraph of the Bloomberg News article Fox cites specifically states that the decline is due to…
“…escalating concern about Greece’s debt crisis and speculation congress won’t pass President Obama’s plan to boost the economy.“
In other words, the markets favor Obama’s plan and want it to be implemented. So a more honest headline would have read “Stocks Tumble Worldwide Due To Republican Obstructionism.” But then again, if you’re looking for a more honest headline then you probably wouldn’t be reading Fox Nation in the first place.
8) Guess Who Tried To Break Into Southwest Cockpit?
Notice that in this headline the Fox Nationalists explicitly describes Ali Reza Shahsavari as trying to break into the cockpit of a Southwest Airlines plane. But anyone who read a little further down would have seen that the article unambiguously contradicts the headline saying “Initially, authorities said the man had tried to break into the cockpit but Amarillo Aviation Director Patrick Rhodes later said that he was ‘not trying to break into the cockpit, but was unruly and had confronted the cabin crew.’”
The headline was wholly the creation of Fox News. The story itself was sourced to the Associated Press, whose article got the headline right: “Southwest flight makes emergency landing in Texas.” So what we have here is Fox deliberately falsifying the headline in order to make a derogatory insinuation about a man of Iranian descent who just happens to be an American citizen born in Mississippi. The article states that there is no indication of terrorism and additional reporting describe the incident as an episode of mental illness triggered by an argument with another passenger. The only conclusion is that Fox saw a brown man with Middle-Eastern features and decided to invent an international terrorism incident where none existed by appending a provocative question to the story that contradicted the article’s content.
9) Man Linked to ‘Occupy’ Protest Charged With Attempted Assassination of Obama
The Fox News Channel ran a story with this same deceptive theme. They hosted Michelle Malkin to engage in a discussion that was deliberately designed to smear the Occupiers. During the segment they displayed a picture of the suspect, Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez, with a caption that said: “‘Occupy’ Shooter.” There was no question mark or other qualifying notation to indicate that this was merely speculation on the part of Fox News.
For the record, the only link between this guy and the Occupy movement is the one invented by Fox. The Washington police have stated unequivocally that they have no evidence that he was affiliated in any way with the protesters. Reports that he may have tried to hide in the crowds at the Occupy DC site should not surprise anyone. Any densely populated location would attract somebody trying to elude law enforcement. A football game or an Alzheimer’s Walkathon would serve the same purpose.
What little is known about Ortega-Hernandez would likely lead objective analysts to suspect him of being a Teabagger. He is said to be anti-government, hates President Obama, and has a history of mental illness. That’s a profile that would fit perfectly for say … Glenn Beck.
10) Poll: Majority Blame Obama For Bad Economy
There have been numerous polls asking respondents to say who they hold responsible for the state of the American economy. In every one of them George W. Bush ranks at or near the top, with Congress and Wall Street following close behind. Usually President Obama is not the target of most of the blame.
Leave it to Fox News to come up with a poll that contradicts the others. And it should come as no surprise that the poll they’ve latched onto is the work of Rasmussen’s Pulse Opinion Research. However, even with a fixed pollster, and a rabidly partisan news outlet, Fox still finds it necessary to outright lie about the poll’s results.
In Rasmussen’s poll 34% said that Obama is the most to blame for the slow economic recovery. Most elementary school graduates know that that is not a majority. What’s more, if you add the responses of those who said that it was either Congress, Wall Street, or George W. Bush, it comes to a clear majority of 61% saying that Obama is not to blame. The Fox Nationalists must take great comfort in the knowledge that their audience is too incurious to actually look into anything themselves.
“The public’s opinion of the Tea Party movement has soured in the wake of the debt-ceiling debate. The Tea Party is now viewed unfavorably by 40 percent of the public and favorably by just 20 percent, according to the poll.
“The president’s overall job approval rating remained relatively stable, with 48 percent approving of the way he handles his job as president and 47 percent disapproving.”
To repeat, 48% approve of Obama while only 20% approve of the Tea Party. That means Obama’s approval is more than twice that of the Tea Party. What’s more, Obama is viewed favorably by slightly more people than view him unfavorably. The Tea Party is viewed unfavorably by twice as many people as view it favorably.
The only way to spin this poll positively for the Tea Party is to deliberately misconstrue the data by taking into account only the unfavorable numbers as if they existed in a vacuum. Leave it to Fox to lie to their audience and produce a community characterized by ignorance and wishful thinking.
These are just a few examples of the veracity-challenged deceptions that appear everyday on Fox Nation. In the ebook, Fox Nation vs. Reality, there are dozens more examples of the documented, deliberate dishonesty that is the hallmark of Fox News. It’s a handy reference for rebutting those crazy uncles who keep sending you conspiracy theory chain letters and berating you for having missed Hannity last night.
Fox Nation is an integral part of the Fox News family and a critical component of their mission to deceive the general public and reinforce the partisan tunnel-blindness of their glassy-eyed disciples. This makes it all the more necessary to shine a light on their cynical mauling of truthfulness in media. Mark Twain said that “Reality can be beaten with enough imagination.” And the fabulists at Fox have imagination in abundance as evidenced by all the tales they make up on their web site. So the more they seek to deceive, the more the rest of us need to be prepared to rebut and confront them. As difficult as that task may seem, we can take heart in Stephen Colbert’s observation that “Reality has a well known liberal bias.” Which explains why it is so at odds with what Fox represents.
With the presidential election behind us, the public discourse turns once again to more substantive matters, first of which is the fearful prospect of the so-called “fiscal cliff.” Setting aside the fact that the cliff itself is a figment of media imagination, it is nevertheless necessary for congress to address tax policy.
As the debate heats up in advance of the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, conservatives are trotting out their tired rhetoric about the risk of allowing tax cuts for the rich to expire and the allegedly detrimental impact it would have on what they call job creators. However, they are deliberately distorting facts in order to benefit their wealthy patrons. Last year I published an analysis of the right-wing effort to confuse the issue along with an infographic that laid out the case for who the real job creators are. This seems like a good time to re-publish it and direct credit for creating jobs to those who actually deserve it.
Occupy Messaging: Who Are The Real Job Creators?
December 13, 2011
For too long now, right-wing propagandists like Frank Luntz have been manipulating language to distort the real issues that impact so many lives of American citizens. They engage in dishonest wordcraft that disguises their true meaning in order to shape public opinion and deceive voters. It’s time to counter that rhetorical offensive by restoring definitions that actually reflect reality.
One of the most recent and insidious examples of this practice is the conservative effort to replace references to “the rich” with the phrase “job creators.” It is of no interest to these hacks that no evidence exists to validate the claim. In fact, NPR’s congressional reporter, Tamara Keith, asked members of congress and representatives of conservative business groups to refer her to business people who could substantiate the assertion that tax cuts for the wealthy would induce them to increase hiring. They were unable to come up with a single name or example to affirm their half-baked theory. However, Keith found several examples of her own that utterly refuted it. This caused Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to note that “Millionaire job creators are like unicorns. They are impossible to find and don’t exist.”
The agenda that Republicans have adopted has literally no popular constituency. Every poll taken on the subject reveals that majorities of Americans (including majorities of Republicans) favor increasing taxes on the rich. Even polls of the rich show that they believe that they are not presently sharing the sacrifice required to restore the nation’s economic health. An independent group of Patriotic Millionaires released a video beseeching Congress to raise their taxes.
So the next time you hear some GOP flunky whining about the plight of the rich whose only desire is to be unburdened from the shackles of what are the lowest taxes in decades, remember that they have not, and cannot, certify any claim that lower taxes will spur hiring. In fact, the evidence is all to the contrary. And whenever possible, we need to recapture the phrase “job creators” and use it in a manner that is more in line with reality. Here is a handy, shareable chart that illustrates who the real job creators are:
Some conservatives are beginning to admit that lavishing benefits on those who are already wealthy does nothing to stimulate the economy. Bill Kristol recently said that “It won’t kill the country if Republicans raise taxes a little bit on millionaires.” Ben Stein, with some apparent reluctance, told Gretchen Carlson that “With all due respect to Fox…” “We’re going to have to raise taxes on very, very rich people.”
This is the beginning of the wall crumbling down. The right knows that they cannot continue to be seen as only fighting for the welfare of the rich. They know that they have already lost this argument and that now it is only a matter of finding a way to concede without losing face (or Tea Party support).
If you were to look for a political pollster or analyst who spent more time manufacturing a false narrative about the presidential election than Frank Luntz, you would probably give up in despair.
Luntz is a Fox News fixture who appears on numerous programs flaunting his phony focus groups that invariably swayed to favor Mitt Romney. He was also called upon to review campaign ads, some of which were produced by his Fox colleague, Karl Rove. Those reviews always seemed to rate the GOP ads better, which further affirmed his assessment that Romney was the favorite to win. And to top it off, Luntz is a consultant for hire to the Republican Party, so anyone expecting anything like objectivity from him is terminally naive.
Now that President Obama has decisively won reelection with an electoral landslide, Luntz has crawled out from beneath his wretched rightist rock to make what may be the most hilarious, deceitful, and self-serving statement of the whole campaign season:
“The published polls that the Romney campaign and the Republican establishment were trashing day after day turned out to be accurate. [...] This is a bad day for establishment pollsters and it’s something they should be held accountable for. You have to tell your clients the truth. And you have to be accurate. And to miss so many states and to be this far off – Your Fox News viewers ought to be outraged, because day in and day out they were told that Mitt Romney was going to win.”
Indeed, Fox News viewers should be outraged – At Luntz and Fox News! After all, that is where conservative voters were fed the most conspicuously dishonest misinformation about the election and the projected outcome. They are the reason that Romney and his supporters were described as “shell-shocked” when they realized that he had lost. They are the ones who promoted nonsense like “Unskewed Polls” that ironically sought to skew published polling so that Romney came out ahead.
Fox News was so brazenly hypocritical in their reporting of election surveys that they chose to only publish polls that had Romney in the lead. They ignored or disparaged any poll that put Obama on top – even their own Fox News commissioned polls.
If election day was “a bad day for establishment pollsters,” it was a bad day for Luntz, because you don’t get more establishment than him. He was as much a part of the problem as anyone. Just a couple of weeks before the election he appeared on Fox to say that it was time to “take Florida off the swing state list,” because it had swung clearly and irreversibly to Romney. Of course, Florida went for Obama, as did all but one of the so-called “swing states.”
The disingenuous babble on Fox News has only one purpose: advance the political interests of conservatives and Republicans. That fact was illuminated by none other than Luntz himself when he told the Los Angeles Times that his airtime has previously been cut on Fox because “his findings didn’t comport with the outlet’s orthodoxy.” That’s an admission that Fox requires their contributors to toe a partisan line, and Luntz has obviously complied.
For Luntz to come out now and tell Fox viewers that they should be outraged is typical behavior for a propagandist who calls himself the “Word Doctor.” He is a professional flack who counsels his clients to lie by distorting language. It was Luntz who coined the term “government-run health care” as an alternative to the Affordable Care Act (or ObamaCare). It didn’t matter that the legislation was only aimed at health insurance and was not in any way a government takeover of medical services. The phrase itself was awarded the “Lie of the Year” from PolitiFact.
It’s what Luntz does. In one of his more infamous efforts to distort public discourse, he delivered a speech before a group of Republicans wherein he offered a series of rhetorical replacements for words he thought were damaging to the GOP cause. Words like “capitalism, compromise,” and “middle-class.” This screed was served up after first declaring his abject fear of the Occupy Wall Street movement, saying that he was “so scared of this anti-Wall Street effort. I’m frightened to death. They’re having an impact on what the American people think of capitalism.” And his approach to countering it was not to formulate a policy response, but to change the wording of the GOP rebuttal in the hopes of confusing the public.
So, should Fox News viewers be outraged? I’ll say. But, sadly, they will probably just sink back into their stupor and continue to believe whatever falsehoods Fox throws at them going forward. Fox is already trying to sell the myth that Obama’s victory was insignificant and comes without a mandate. They are soft-peddling an electoral blowout and the fact that Democrats won even more seats in both the House and the Senate in a year where they were expected to lose seats. They are fostering the notion that the GOP should resist tax increases on the wealthy, despite the fact that Obama ran (and won) on that platform and exit polls show that 60% of voters favor it.
This further demonstrates that Fox is doing precisely the same things that ought to have enraged their viewers, and when they lose these arguments as well, their audience will be similarly shell-shocked. But they are getting exactly what they deserve by being foolish enough to keep watching a network that deliberately lies to them.
With the 2012 presidential election behind us, there has been a flurry of post-election analysis by observers from all across the political spectrum. One theme that I have seen coming from both the left and right is the notion that Fox News has not been particularly helpful to the Republican Party, despite that being their primary mission. This criticism reminded me of an article I published three years ago titled “Fox News Is Killing The Republican Party.” So I went back and read it, and to my surprise, it seems just as relevant to today’s political landscape as it did then. In fact, it’s rather frightening (and disappointing) that so little has changed. That is, unless your a Democrat, because the harm that Fox is causing to the GOP is a gift to the Democrats.
So on this lazy Saturday afternoon I thought I would reprise this article for your enjoyment. I reprint it here without a single modification.
The case was made long ago that Fox News is a blight on the media map. It is bad for journalism. It is bad for Democracy. It is bad for America. A so-called “news” network that repeatedly misinforms, even deliberately disinforms, its audience is failing any test of public service embodied by an ethical press.
I, personally, have made the case for an embargo of Fox News by Democrats and progressives (see Starve the Beast:Part I, Part II, Part III), documenting via studied analysis that there is no affirmative value to appearing on Fox News – a network that has established itself as overtly hostile to the Democratic message and its messengers.
However, there is another side to this that has not been addressed previously. Republicans might be well advised to avoid Fox News as well. There is a case to be made that Fox News is demonstrably harmful to the Republican Party. In fact, it may be the worst thing to happen to Republicans in decades. That may seem counter-intuitive when discussing Fox News, the acknowledged public relations division of the Republican Party. Fox has populated its air with right-wing mouthpieces and brazenly partisan advocates for a conservative Republican agenda. They read GOP press releases on the air verbatim as if they were the product of original research. They provide a forum where Republican politicians and pundits can peddle their views unchallenged. So how is this harmful to Republicans?
If all we were witnessing was the emergence of a mainstream conservative network that aspired to advance Republican themes and policies, there would not be much of note here. Most of the conventional media was already center-right before there was a Fox News. But Fox has corralled a stable of the most disreputable, unqualified, extremist, lunatics ever assembled, and is presenting them as experts, analysts, and leaders. These third-rate icons of idiocy are marketed by Fox like any other gag gift (i.e. pet rocks, plastic vomit, Sarah Palin, etc.). So while most Americans have never heard of actual Republican party bosses like House Minority Leader John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, posers like Joe the Plumber and Carrie Prejean have become household names.
Fox News has descended into depths heretofore reserved for fringe characters. They are openly promoting the wackos who believe that President Obama is ineligible to hold office because he isn’t a U.S. citizen. They feature commentaries by secessionists and even those calling for an overthrow of the government and the Constitution. This explains how folks like Ralph Peters, a retired military officer who said that the Taliban captors of a U.S. Soldier would be saving us a lot of trouble and expense if they would just kill him, earn airtime on Fox. Peters previously told Fox News that he favors military strikes against media targets. This explains how Glenn Beck can agree with a guest that it would be a good thing if America were attacked again by Osama bin Laden. And don’t even get me started on Victoria Jackson, who has joined an ever-lengthening line of psycho-Chicken Littles who compare the President to Hitler.
Good Advice: “If crazy ideologues have infiltrated the news business, we need to know about it.”
~ Bill O’Reilly, 7/16/09
The list of loonies extends to politicians like Michele Bachmann, entertainers like Ted Nugent, and of course, the talk show pundits like Rush Limbaugh, whose maniacal rantings are elevated by Fox into their version of political dialogue. It’s a dialogue that is consumed with ACORN conspiracies and Manchurian presidents. The problem is that by elevating bona fide nutcases, they are debasing honest and informed discourse. The mental cases are crowding out any reasonable voices that might exist amongst the more moderate Republicans (if there are any left). Fox appears to have made a tactical decision to permit the inmates full run of the asylum.
As a result, the Fox News audience is being dumbed down by a parade of paranoid know-nothings. This strategy appears to be successful for Fox in that it has attracted a loyal viewership that is eager to have their twisted preconceptions affirmed. The conflict-infused fare in which Fox specializes is a ratings juggernaut – just like any good fiction. However, this perceived popularity is having an inordinate impact on the GOP platform. By doubling down on crazy, Fox is driving the center of the Republican Party further down the rabid hole. They are reshaping the party into a more radicalized community of conspiracy nuts. So even as this helps Rupert Murdoch’s bottom line, it is making celebrities of political bottom-feeders. That can’t be good for the long-term prospects of the Republican Party.
With the Fox network unabashedly promoting the most ridiculous rumors, myths, and nightmares of the rightist fringe, moderate and independent Americans will grow ever more suspicious of the Fox/GOP agenda. Most Americans do not believe that Sonia Sotomayor is a racist; or that FEMA is constructing concentration camps; or that we are on a march toward socialism, communism, fascism, or whatever the right is peddling this week. Most Americans do not believe that Barack Obama is a Muslim, a reptilian alien, or the anti-Christ. In short, most Americans think that the loopy yarns spun by Fox News are fables told by madmen – and believed by even madder men and women who wallow in their doomsday utopia.
Fox News is fond of boasting about their ratings dominance. It is a daily occurrence and the structural core of their argument that they reflect the mood of America. The GOP has bought this argument in its entirety. So it is important to note here that success in the Nielsen ratings has no correlation to public opinion polling. The ratings only measure the program choices of Nielsen’s survey participants. That is a subset of the population at large, and not a particularly representative one. It is a sample focused on consumers, not voters. And its respondents are just those willing to have their TV viewing monitored 24 hours a day, which skews the sample in favor of people who aren’t creeped out by that. What’s more, viewing choices are not necessarily an endorsement of the opinions presented in the program. There are many reasons people choose to watch TV shows, the most frequent being its entertainment value. So any attempt to tie ratings to partisan politics is a foolish exercise that demonstrates a grievous misunderstanding of the business of television.
As for what constitutes success in the television marketplace, due to the broad diversification of available programming, it doesn’t take much to be heralded as a hit. A mere 3 share (3% of people watching TV) will land you in the top 10. For cable news the bar is set even lower. In fact, the top rated show on the top rated cable news network (The O’Reilly Factor) only gets about 3 million viewers. That’s less than 1% of the American population. It’s also less than World Wrestling Entertainment, SpongeBob SquarePants, and the CBS Evening News (the lowest rated broadcast network news program). By contrast, America’s Got Talent is seen by 12 million viewers – four times O’Reilly’s audience.
Numbers this low ought not to inspire much excitement from political operatives. Nevertheless, Republicans are riding the coattails of Fox News as if it were representative of a booming conservative mandate in the electorate. They are embracing Fox’s most delusional eccentrics. This is leading to the promotion of similar eccentrics within the party. Which brings us the absurd spectacle of the network’s nuts interviewing the party’s pinheads.
The inevitable result of this system of rewarding those farthest from reality is the creation of a constituency of crackpots. It is an endorsement of the philosophy brewed by the Tea Baggers that espouses racism, tyranny, and armed revolt. It is enabling a frightening corps of openly militant adversaries of democracy, free speech, and Constitutional rule. It is the sort of environment that produced the murders of Dr. George Tiller and Holocaust Museum guard Stephen Johns.
This is a textbook example of how the extreme rises to the top. It is also fundamentally contrary to the interests of the Republican Party. The more the population at large associates Republican ideology with the agenda of Fox News, and the fringe operators residing there, the more the party will be perceived as out of touch, or even out of their minds. It seems like such a waste after all of the effort and expense that Fox put into building a pseudo-journalistic enterprise with the goal of confounding viewers with false news-like theatrics.
Make no mistake, Fox News is still managed by hard core party patrons. And I’m not referring just to opinion-driven commentators like Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, and Sean Hannity, although they are bad enough. No, I am talking about executives and editors like CEO, Roger Ailes, former Nixon and Bush media consultant. I’m talking about Washington Managing Editor and VP, Bill Sammon, an avid right-wing alum of the Washington “Moonie” Times. I’m talking about Business News Chief and VP, Neil Cavuto, antagonistic interrupter extraordinaire. And let us not forget the head hype-master, Rupert Murdoch, whose UK operations were just discovered to have been unlawfully wiretapping celebrities, politicians, and even members of the Royal Family. Augmenting that executive roster are the GOP regulars who are straight out of the just retired Republican White House: Karl Rove, Dana Perino, John Bolton, Dan Senor, and Linda Chavez. And then there are the Fox News clowns…er…“contributors” like Dick Morris, Ann Coulter, Fred Barnes, Charles Krauthammer, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Bernie Goldberg, Michele Malkin, and on and on. If nothing else, Fox is a full-employment program for rightist weasels (and they also operate the Conservative Book Promotion Club).
The mission of Fox News from its inception was to be more than just a voice of opposition to Democrats. It was to utterly crush the left end of the political spectrum leaving only a teetering right wing with no counter balance. Yet, despite the torrid embrace between Republicans and Fox News, it is apparent that Fox is the source of a sort of friendly fire that is decimating the GOP by exalting its most outlandish and unpopular players. And since Republicans have not been particularly popular anyway lately, the anchor being thrown to them by Fox can’t be all that helpful – - – Except to Democrats.
The more things change, the more they get even crazier than they were before.
Exploiting children for partisan political purposes is something with which Fox News is well acquainted. They frequently try to corral kids into political controversies for the benefit of a conservative agenda. Sometimes that doesn’t work out so well for them. But they soldier on with overtly biased reporting that exhibits a rampant hypocrisy. Here is the story they have been flogging this weekend:
What the Fox Nationalists find so outrageous is that a group of patriotic kids who are concerned about their country would dare to express themselves in a manner that indicts the right-wing extremism that imperils their future. The video was produced by The Future Children Project, and it is an admirable display of the sort of civic participation that should be encouraged in our society. Take a look at the video:
What a travesty! Young people with knowledge, awareness and an opinion. The conservative martinets of virtue think this must be stopped. Along with Fox, Noel Sheppard of the uber-rightist NewsBusters, posted a comically hyperbolic critique of this video, comparing it to the famous “Daisy Ad” produced by President Lyndon Johnson’s campaign nearly fifty years ago. That ad connected the election of Barry Goldwater with a visual of a nuclear bomb exploding. See…the two videos are exactly the same. Sheppard went completely off the deep end in his analysis saying…
“The advertising agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners has just released a pro-Obama commercial eerily reminscent of Lyndon Johnson’s controversial Daisy ad featuring children singing about a variety of horrors including an America – supposedly under President Romney – where ‘sick people just die’ and ‘oil fills the sea.’
“But more importantly, it’s one thing to write such disgusting lyrics. It’s quite another to get children to sing them. If the folks at this agency possess such a thing, they should be ashamed of themselves for involving youngsters in this project. Or do they believe like Goebbels did that it’s okay to involve children in spreading propaganda?”
So according to Sheppard, this video of children singing is not only analogous to a nuclear holocaust, but also to Hitler’s Nazi Minister of Propaganda. Coming from someone who works for NewsBusters, that’s pretty darned ironic.
To top it off, no one at Fox is cognizant of their hypocrisy in that they had no problem with kids singing an anti-Obama song. When a group of kids decided to protest Michelle Obama’s school lunch program that advocated for healthier food and providing for underprivileged students, they produced a Glee-like video complaining that the new standards left them unsatisfied.
While I don’t agree with the content, the production is really quite good and I commend the students for their involvement. The video expresses the feelings of these kids, and that’s a good thing. The problem is that the hypocrites at Fox News, NewsBusters and elsewhere in the conservative world are so myopic that they only see value in children when they can be exploited to advance right-wing themes. Kids who have a different opinion are “outrageous” little Hitlers and should shut the hell up. That’s the pattern of thought that produces a robotic, incurious, ignorant society. And it’s also a pretty good description of the Fox News audience.
Conservatives and professional Obama haters have been nurturing an animosity for Obama that far exceeds anything directed at previous presidents. The lengths that they will go to bury Obama in mud often resemble D-Movie spy plots that set new standards for implausibility. The all too familiar birther conspiracies that allege that President Obama is a Manchurian socialist bent on transforming America into an Islamic Caliphate are mere fairy tales when compared to some of the horror stories that shiver the spines of the delusional right.
The frequency and outlandishness of their conspiratorial imaginations grows in sync with their desperation. With Obama leading in most polls and the election season drawing to a close, it seems like a good time to recap some of the more ludicrous conspiracies hatched by our conservative fear mongers. So with our tin-foil hats securely strapped on, let’s venture down the primrose path of hair-raising hypothesis.
Cooking the Unemployment Rate
The most recent crackpottery of the right was revealed last week as new unemployment numbers were released. The new data put the unemployment rate at 7.8%, the lowest it has been since the Bush administration cratered the economy on their way out of town. Almost immediately, right-wingers declared that the numbers were manufactured by Obama’s henchmen in the Labor Department. Never mind the fact that the Bureau of Labor Statistics is an independent body that currently has no Obama appointees serving. That didn’t stop conspiracists like Jack Welch from alleging that they are “Unbelievable jobs numbers..these Chicago guys will do anything..can’t debate so change numbers.” That unsubstantiated charge was adopted by Rep. Allen West, Fox News’ Stuart Varney, and much of the rest of the right-wing media circus.
The Media is Skewing the Polls
For several weeks now, Obama has maintained a steady lead in election polling. That fact has been difficult for conservatives to square with their conviction that Obama is the most hated man in America. Consequently, they must conclude that all of the polls have been tampered with by scheming liberals. However, for their conspiracy to be credible, they would have to include Fox News and Rasmussen amongst the conniving lefties because their polling also puts Obama in the lead. One way they have found to workaround that inconvenient fact is to ignore the polls that challenge their thesis. Therefore, Fox News simply neglects to report on polls that show the President leading – even their own Fox News polls.
Politicizing the Stock Market
In a year when the economy is such an integral part of the news cycle, conservatives have found it necessary to glom onto any factoid that they can use to bash the President. That manifests into a frenzy of spin that casts any decline in the stock market as the fault of Obama, and any increase as investor speculation that Obama is on the way out. Last week, many of the right-dominated business networks feebly described a positive day for the Dow as a Romney rally, simply because it occurred on the day after the presidential debate. There is a long history of the right making idiotic assessments of the stock market. In May of 2009, Fox News anchor Brenda Buttner gushed, “Call it a tea party rally. Wall Street’s sure partying, up six weeks in a row.” In September of 2011, Fox Nation reported “Stocks Tumble Worldwide After Obama Speech.” Then in June of 2012, they fantasized that “Stock Market Drops After Obamacare Upheld.” Fox’s Neil Cavuto hosted a discussion of what he called the “Bush recovery” nine months into Obama’s term. What they commonly miss is that markets traditionally perform better under Democratic administrations than Republicans.
Obama is Coming for Your Guns
This conspiracy theory takes a considerable measure of willful suspension of disbelief. The National Rifle Association has alerted its members that a second Obama term will result in the repeal of the second amendment and a wholesale confiscation of guns. Their evidence of this is that Obama has done nothing at all to roll back gun rights during his first term. That, they surmise, is a devious trick to lull gun rights advocates into a false sense of security. Then, when Obama is no longer facing a reelection campaign, he will be free to curtail all of our precious liberties.
The Social Security Administration’s Arms Cache
When it was discovered that the Social Security Administration had purchased 174,000 bullets, the right-wing sirens went off and presumed that they were preparing for massive civil unrest and intended to use the ammo on Americans. “‘Why would the U.S. government want the SSA to kill 174,000 of our citizens, even during a time of civil unrest?’ Maj. Gen. Jerry Curry wrote on the conservative website The Daily Caller.” That would be a good question if it weren’t rooted in utter dementia. In fact, the actual reason for the purchase was a routine acquisition to arm conventional security personnel at the agency’s offices across the country.
The Muslim Mole in the Secretary of State’s Office
A longtime aide to Hillary Rodham Clinton was accused by conservatives of having ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. Huma Abedin has worked with Clinton for many years as a trusted and effective public servant. No evidence was given for the repugnant allegations that cast her as a traitorous double agent. She is also married to former Rep. Anthony Weiner, who is Jewish and unlikely to be affiliated with Muslim extremists. But that didn’t stop Rep. Michele Bachmann who said, “it appears that there are individuals who are associated with the Muslim Brotherhood who have positions, very sensitive positions” in our government. She was joined by other prominent conservatives like Newt Gingrich and Frank Gaffney. This conspiracy dove-tails nicely with those alleging that Obama is a Muslim plant as well.
Fact-Checkers Are A Liberal Plot
Creative and shameless conservatives are establishing a new and unique front in the political war zone. Not satisfied with bashing everything about the media (despite the fact that talk radio and their own Fox News are a huge part of it), the wackoids on the right have declared war against – get this – Fact-checkers! This may seem wildly deranged, but upon reflection it makes perfect sense. If your entire movement is built on a foundation of lies, then fact-checkers are your mortal enemy. This became clear a few weeks ago when Neil Newhouse, a Mitt Romney adviser, publicly declared that “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.” Since then they have disputed or ignored every challenge of their truthfulness. The result is a record setting collection of dishonorable mentions from PolitiFact and other media lie detectors.
The Secret Behind The Gulf Oil Spill
When millions of barrels of oil were pouring into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, most Americans were disturbed by the devastating environmental damage and the negligence of the company operating the drilling platform. But conservatives led by Rush Limbaugh saw through the scheme and revealed that the massive malfunction was actually a deliberate act of sabotage devised to create a justification for eliminating all off-shore drilling. Limbaugh told his audience that “I want to get back to the timing of the blowing up, the explosion out there in the Gulf of Mexico of this oil rig … What better way to head off more oil drilling, nuclear plants, than by blowing up a rig?” You can’t argue with logic like that, because it’s the logic of a mad man who thinks the President would murder twelve workers and foul an environmentally sensitive region in order to achieve a political goal.
Obamacare’s Death Panels
No list of conspiracy theories would be complete without a mention of Sarah Palin’s “death panels.” These nefarious groups were said to have the power to decide whether your grandmother would live or die based on her level of productivity to society as determined by a team of government bureaucrats. In reality the section of the Affordable Care Act to which Palin referred actually provided for coverage to pay for end-of-life counseling. These were voluntary sessions to help patients determine and document what sort of life-saving measures they preferred in the event that they were incapacitated and unable to communicate their wishes to their doctors. When that proved to be an embarrassing misinterpretation of the law, conservatives switched to another section of the bill, the Independent Payment Advisory Board, and called that the death panel. However, the IPAB was simply a board that assessed the best practices in medicine and made non-binding recommendations in order to prevent excessive billing and unnecessary procedures. Palin was awarded the “Lie of the Year” award from PolitiFact for her imaginary panel.
The Green Plot to Enslave the World
Conservatives have never taken to science. So it should come as no surprise that many of them regard global warming as a hoax whose purpose is to enrich Al Gore and a few socialist wind farmers. But there is another faction of the anti-environment movement that has uncovered something even more dastardly lurking behind the effort to maintain a clean, sustainable planet. Agenda 21, a little known and non-binding resolution adopted by the United Nations is viewed by some on the right as an attempt to control the lives of people throughout the world by regulating everything they do. Amongst their paranoid fears is that Agenda 21 will cede U.S. sovereignty to the U.N. and a one-world government. The truth is that Agenda 21 is a set of principles to guide the development of practices to preserve a sustainable environment for future generations. It is entirely voluntary and was agreed to by the U.N. in 1992 and signed by President George H.W. Bush. But to hear doomsayers like Glenn Beck put it, it will “suck all the blood out of [our communities], and we will not be able to survive.”
These are but a few of the tales woven by angst-ridden right-wingers in the dark moments when their thoughts wander from rational reality. However, the science that they scorn may have an explanation for their fantastical imaginings. Ryota Kanai, at the University College London Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, examined how liberals and conservatives brains differ. Among the findings were that the brains of liberals have a larger anterior cingulate cortex which has been shown to produce thought proceses that are more flexible and reliant on data, proof, and analytic reasoning. Conservatives are more likely to have an enlarged amygdala which is associated with greater inflexibility, emotion, and fear response.
This could account for conservatives having a greater susceptibility to conspiracy models of thinking. Whatever the explanation, it is clear that their senses are working overtime and the results produce some pretty wild visions of nightmarish liberals threatening America’s very existence. They seem to have taken very seriously the warning from the Reagan-era horror film, The Fly: Be afraid. Be very afraid.
A new report released by a right-wing organization is receiving a great deal of attention from the conservative media circus. The Government Accountability Institute’s report alleges that President Obama is unlawfully soliciting and receiving donations from foreign nationals.
At Fox Nation the headline is a sensationalistic “Foreign Fundraising Scandal Rocks Obama Campaign.” But it appears that their idea of “rocking” is something like the Eagles on Valium. Others in the anti-Obama press posted stories blaring that “Obama bundler tied to Chinese government? (Hot Air);” “Is the Obama Campaign Being Financed by Foreign Donations? (Examiner);” “How Much of Obama’s $181 Million September Haul Was Illegal? (Breitbart);” “Corruption: Exposing Barack Obama’s Illegal Foreign Campaign (Townhall);” “Obama Campaign Receiving Illegal Donations from Foreigners (Media Research Center).” And of course, the kiddies at Fox & Friends chimed in with an interview of the study’s authors that began with Steve Doocy asserting that “the Obama campaign is breaking the law.”
There’s just one little problem with all of this frothing outrage. There isn’t any evidence that any of it is true. The study doesn’t cite a single example of a foreign donation to the Obama campaign. The authors admitted to Doocy that there is no such evidence. The study’s premise is based entirely on their discovery of the Obama.com domain, which is not owned by or affiliated with the campaign or the President. The domain is registered in Shanghai and redirects to the official Obama web site (BarackObama.com). Donations cannot be made at Obama.com.
So the whole scandal consists of a foreign registered web site that cannot receive donations and links to President Obama’s campaign web site, but offers no proof that any non-American citizen made a donation. SHOCKING!
What the articles reporting this study leave out is that its authors are rabid right-wingers with long histories of bashing Obama and Democrats. Stephen K. Bannon, the co-founder and Executive Chairman the Government Accountability Institute (GAI) is also the Executive Chairman of Breitbart News and the director of disreputable and unsuccessful films such as Sarah Palin’s “The Undefeated,” and the anti-Obama diatribe “The Hope and the Change.” Steve Doocy of Fox News has interviewed Bannon before in connection with his films, but today introduced him only as the co-founder of GAI.
The failure to disclose the true identity of the study’s authors is another example of the utter lack of ethics on the right. But the most brazen dishonesty is that Breitbart News ran this story in an article by Mike Flynn asserting as fact that Obama had taken illegal donations and stating that “details about Obama’s fundraising windfall and a new report this morning from the Government Accountability Institute (GAI) raise troubling questions.” But Flynn never disclosed that the GAI he referenced in his story is run by his boss, Stephen Bannon.
This is a common tactic on the right. They create a bunch of shell organizations that release versions of the same propaganda and then refer to each other for verification of the things they already said. Eventually they cast the net wider to include friendly media like Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, and the circle of disinformation keeps spinning their lies. Then they complain that their fake news items are ignored by legitimate media. I wonder why.
The attack on the U.S. embassy in Libya was a tragic event that took the lives of four Americans serving their country. But rather than reporting what occurred with dignity and respect, Fox News immediately sought to politicize the tragedy in an effort to damage President Obama during a heated campaign. Unfortunately, their zeal to create a phony election issue has also harmed the families of the victims and the search for the truth.
In the wake of the attack there was rampant speculation as to the cause and the participants. Right-wing pundits and politicians didn’t wait for any facts before declaring their conclusions that it was premeditated terrorism. The Obama administration took a more thoughtful and responsible approach by not making any definitive statements. Conservatives portrayed that as weakness and continued to muddy the waters with baseless yammering.
As usual, Fox News took the lead in propagating rumors and innuendo. Their Fox Nation web site has published a steady stream of one-sided criticisms of the Obama administration. Amongst the wildly unfounded accusations are charges of deliberate cover-ups complete with comparisons to Watergate. Thus was born Benghazi-Gate.
Ever since the mid-1970′s scandal that drove Richard Nixon from office, partisans have been attempting to slap a “gate” at the end of any controversy. But it should be remembered that Watergate was not simply some government gaffe. It was an intentionally criminal act that included breaking into Democratic headquarters, paying off accomplices for their silence, and lying to investigators from law enforcement and congress. All of that unlawfulness was in pursuit of personal political benefits to the Nixon White House and reelection effort.
What occurred in Libya was tragic, but it was certainly not the result of someone in the White House pursuing personal gain. Nor was there any hint of corruption or clandestine plots to sabotage a political foe. Nor were there any attempts to covertly mask unlawful activity. In other words, there is nothing in this story that remotely resembles Watergate. This is just an attempt on the part of Fox to throw more mud at the President and hope that some of it sticks. It is their contribution to the Romney campaign that has been so woefully inept.
It has been less than three weeks since the Libyan embassy attack. That is hardly enough time to have conducted a thorough investigation and arrive at a conclusive decision. It doesn’t help matters with bitter partisans screaming for the heads of government agencies and even the impeachment of the President. In fact, that’s the kind of background noise that actually inhibits the process and unnecessarily incites further hostilities. Imagine the glee with which Al Qaeda would greet the news that their violent protests led to the downfall of the American president who ordered the killing of their leader. That is who the Republicans are aligning themselves with in this attempt to oust Obama from office.
For many months now, Fox News has been on the case of alleged voter fraud in America. And notwithstanding the fact that they have utterly failed to turn up any evidence of more than a handful of incidents (usually implicating Republicans), they persist in presenting it as a rampant crisis that threatens our democracy.
The latest example of this stain on journalism is an article Fox published yesterday about the discredited and disreputable Tea Party-affiliated band of voter intimidation activists, True the Vote. The headline for the article declares that “Voter watchdog says it’s uncovered absentee ballot fraud in Florida, New York.” This is precisely the sort of garbage that has earned Fox a reputation for demeaning professional journalism and violating ethical standards of practice. The article begins by stating that…
“A national voter fraud watchdog group announced Tuesday that it has uncovered at least 31 cases of absentee ballot fraud in New York and Florida — a finding the group claims is ‘just the tip of the iceberg.’”
That’s it. That is pretty much the whole article. There is nothing further that substantiates the claim by the “watchdog” group. There is no production of evidence. There is no affirmation from the state election agencies of New York or Florida. There is only a claim by True the Vote that their investigation yielded a massive trove of 31 voters whose names allegedly appear on the voter rolls of both states. But there is no indication that any research was done to ascertain whether they may have been different people with the same or similar names. So far as can be determined from the article, the voters themselves were not contacted.
So Fox News did precisely nothing to validate the assertions made by True the Vote. Yet they published the claims as if they were newsworthy. In effect Fox is acting as their press release publisher and as such have no obligation to verify any of the article’s content.
That’s convenient because True the Vote has never provided any documentation for their claims of election fraud. They have been operating for a couple of years after having spun off from a Texas Tea Party group called the King Street Patriots. They have been found guilty of conspiring with the Republican Party to provide in-kind contributions that were a violation of the law and cost them their tax-exempt status. And that history must be what Fox relied upon to give them the credibility of publishing their unsubstantiated allegations.
Fox News is using this hoax to further their phony campaign against non-existent election fraud and in support of voter ID laws that are designed to disenfranchise voters who happen to lean Democratic. It should be noted that the claims of fraud in this article are related to absentee ballots and would not have been prevented by any of the new laws, even if they were proven to have occurred. It is also noteworthy that the discovery of a mere 31 incidents would hardly justify purging voter rolls of millions of eligible citizens and thus denying them their right to vote.
In light of this, the only explanation for Fox publishing this story without even a cursory investigation into the substance, is that Fox News has signed on with True the Vote and is acting on their behalf. They are doing their part to prevent millions of seniors, minorities, students, and veterans, from casting votes this November. And that’s the real election fraud.
Republicans know that they can’t win this election fairly, so they are pulling out all the stops to corrupt the process and infringe on voter’s rights. And Fox News is a willing partner in this anti-democratic operation.
This morning on Fox & Friends (the stupidest ensemble, pseudo-news team on American TV), a prankster convinced the show’s producers that he was a college graduate who voted for Barack Obama in 2008, but who is now disappointed and intends to vote for Mitt Romney this November. The video of this train wreck appears to be the work of a stoned slacker who got a kick out of outsmarting the bigwig TV producers. And that may be true.
However, It was not my intention address this prank at first because it doesn’t really appear to be particularly well thought out or executed. What’s more, Gretchen Carlson seemed to quickly pick up on the fact that something was amiss. However, new information has emerged that is far more interesting than the event itself.
It seems that Fox News was determined to invent a story about disillusioned young people who were abandoning the President. This was not a “fair and balanced” study of attitudes among recent college grads, it was a deliberately biased piece of propaganda that jettisoned all journalistic principles in order to deliver their preconceived result.
Max Rice, the aforementioned prankster, spoke with various reporters after the fact and revealed the shoddy quality (or lack thereof) of Fox’s research. Rice told the bookers that he was a college graduate, but that could easily have been debunked by a Google search that would have found a video from his high school graduation only two years ago. Rice also gave contradictory answers to biographical questions, telling them at first that he was an English major, and later that he majored in Engineering.
Fox News let all of this go by because Rice fit the profile of a disaffected former Obama supporter. That was all they cared about. But even worse, Rice says that Fox coached him on what to say during the interview.
“They gave me a paragraph full of bullshit talking points. … They basically gave me a speech and they thought I was supposed to have it memorized.”
Rice is not a very good prankster, but his antics have allowed us to peer into the Fox machinery and see how their phony sausage is made. And that’s worth something all by itself. The news emanating from this episode should have less to do with the stunt that was pulled on the Fox & Friends crew, than with their dishonest attempt to fabricate a story with the intent of damaging Obama’s reputation.
Fox’s determination to manipulate their viewers and spread false information was clearly more important to them than doing proper research and fact-checking. And when all is said and done, this was not a story about a news team getting punked. It’s a story about a news network punking their audience.
Fox News has long served as the public relations arm of the Republican Party. Their purpose, as always, is to promote the GOP and the conservative agenda throughout their broadcast day. In pursuit of that mission they regularly feature Republican guests in the friendliest of environments. And whenever there is a conservative cause to promote (i.e. Tea Party, Palin movie, right-wing blog, anti-left messaging, etc.), Fox steps up to take the leading role.
Consistent with this mission, Friday night’s episode of Sean Hannity’s program on Fox News was a blatant infomercial promoting an anti-Obama movie by the people who brought us Citizens United. The crocumentary “The Hope and the Change” consumed the entire hour of Hannity’s program.
The primetime program featured lengthy clips from the film as well as interviews with the film’s creators, David Bossie and Steve Bannon. Bossie is the head of Citizens United, the organization that prompted the abhorrent Supreme Court decision that made it possible for individuals and corporations to donate unlimited sums of cash to political candidates and causes. Bannon is the director of the monumental flop, “Sarah Palin: Undefeated,” a movie that managed to fail miserably despite millions of dollars in free publicity courtesy of Fox News. Bannon went on to take the reins of Breitbart News after the sudden death of Andrew Breitbart, and he somehow succeeded in making the site even more idiotic.
Hannity opened the infomercial with the stark declaration that…
“I don’t say this lightly, but I mean every word of this. This is the most powerful documentary I’ve ever seen in my life.”
That’s quite a testimonial. Hannity didn’t reveal what other documentaries he’s seen, but it’s fair to guess that his second favorite would be “Triumph of the Will,” Hitler’s propaganda film directed by Nazi propagandist Leni Riefenstahl. Now that may seem like an unfair attempt to associate Hannity and the anti-Obama film with the Third Reich, but the film actually incorporates portions of Riefenstahl’s score, and Bossie openly admits to intentionally including the music for effect. When asked about his choice of music Bossie confessed that “There are no accidents in this film.” So the Hitler reference was deliberate on the part of the filmmakers.
Along with Bossie and Bannon, a key figure in the film’s production was Pat Caddell, the former democratic pollster who has become a fixture on Fox News whenever they need someone they can falsely identify as a Democrat who will mercilessly, and dishonestly, savage his former colleagues. Caddell’s role was to assemble a group of disenchanted Obama supporters who could be manipulated to bash the President’s reelection bid.
In fact, the whole focus of the film’s message was that there are some folks who voted for Obama in 2008 who don’t plan to vote for him again. That isn’t exactly an earth shattering revelation. Many people on both sides of the political spectrum change their minds. But the people featured in this film were particularly daft. They expressed their disappointment in the President because he didn’t fulfill their expectations of miraculous healings and the saving of souls. In their own words they seemed to believe that Obama could achieve the impossible, and when he didn’t they abandoned him. That is probably a tiny demographic in America and they are not likely to have a noticeable impact on the election.
By comparison, the Obama campaign just released a video of former Republicans who will be supporting the President in November. Their stories are far more representative of typical moderates who are surprised and appalled by the extremist leanings of the modern Republican Party.
Republicans just adopted a platform for the party’s convention that illustrates how far from the mainstream they have drifted. It includes an anti-abortion plank with no exceptions for rape, incest, or the life of the mother; an immigration plank that calls for “self-deportation;” a plank advocating a return to the gold standard; a provision denying women a role in combat; opposition to same-sex marriage; and support for turning Medicare into a voucher program that will cost seniors thousands of dollars more.
Those are real issues that will drive the voting decisions of rational moderates. The glassy-eyed sycophants plucked out of obscurity by the anti-Obama film crew will have zero effect on clear-thinking voters as they evaluate the agendas put forward by Obama and Romney. What may have an effect, however, are the millions of dollars the filmmakers have promised to spend on advertising their crocumentary. They can finance their campaign with funds acquired from the sort of Super PACs that their Supreme Court decision enabled.
What’s disturbing about this is that they freely admit that their purpose is not so much to promote the film, but to let their ads serve as disguised political messages aimed at disparaging the President and affecting the outcome of the election. The reason that they chose this month to release the film was so their advertising would appear during the campaign season and they could pretend that it was merely marketing for the movie. And I repeat, this is not a conspiracy theory, it is something they specifically admit to and boast about.
Of course, the filmmakers always have Fox News to fuel their hype. The GOP network is more than happy to donate as much time as necessary to promote the movie, just as they have done for prior projects. The Hannity show was just the beginning. The film will officially debut at the Republican National Convention Etch-a-Sketch next week, and there will surely be more segments devoted to the film on Fox News. And while they will help to boost the success of this commercial, for-profit hit piece, it is highly unlikely that Fox will give much time (if any) to the political communication above from the Obama campaign. That would, after all, be too much like actually reporting the news which, as we know, Fox doesn’t do.
Fox News has long been a source of blatant dishonesty and partisan propaganda. Most conscious observers are aware that much of what is broadcast on Fox is tainted and unreliable. That accounts for why so many independent surveys show that Fox News viewers are significantly less informed and/or misinformed, than consumers of other news media. Some studies even show that Fox News viewers know less about news events than people who watch no news at all.
But now Fox News has taken a step over the edge into pure Wackoland by linking to a known conspiracy theorist on their Fox Nation web site.
The article on Fox Nation, headlined “Soros Promotes UN Control Over Gun Ownership,” links directly to the Infowars web site run by Alex Jones. Jones is a noted proponent of some wildly off-kilter (and debunked) notions including FEMA-run concentration camps and 9/11 Trutherism. His imagination is boundless and he has provided the raw material for other looney fabulists like Glenn Beck. In fact, Jones accuses Beck of ripping off most of his material, such as the delusional fear mongering of a global caliphate engineered by a cabal of radical Muslims and western socialist atheists.
It’s not surprising to see the Fox Nationalists glom onto this nonsense because this single fable hits on three of the conservative community’s favorite phobias: George Soros; the United Nations; and federal agents coming for their guns. And in every case there is not even a sliver of reality to their nightmarish ravings.
First of all, the core issue centers on a United Nations initiative to address the proliferation of international “illegal” arms trading. There is nothing in the proposal that would infringe on the rights of any nation to set their own standards for gun ownership. The actual resolution explicitly states that countries will “exclusively” maintain the right within their borders to, “regulate internal transfers of arms and national ownership, including through national constitutional protections on private ownerships.“
Secondly, George Soros has nothing whatsoever to do with the UN’s activities in this matter. The only association that Jones/Fox News can assert is that the media watchdog group Media Matters has written about the NRA’s obsession with this issue and Fox’s frequent promotion of that viewpoint. Jones writes that…
“George Soros is financing the fight to give the United Nations control of your guns.
“Through his Media Matters organization, Soros is dumping pro-UN gun control propaganda into the mainstream media to coincide with the United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty”
Soros has contributed to Media Matters and therefore, according to the conspiracy theorists, Soros is exerting his omnipotent control over every charitable organization to which he has donated. Since Soros has given away billions of dollars to hundreds of organizations, he must be busier than God as he enforces his will on a defenseless world. Never mind that there has been no “dumping” of “pro-UN gun control propaganda.” All that Media Matters has done is to respond to the pro-NRA propaganda that Fox News has been disseminating.
Finally, if there is any conspiracy to be unveiled, it is the one engineered by Fox News to advance the agenda of the NRA. The NRA’s CEO, Wayne LaPierre, is a fixture on the Fox network, and his commentaries are never challenged by guests with opposing views, and certainly not by Fox hosts. Fox permits LaPierre to express his irrational belief that Obama is determined to confiscate all of the guns in America. His proof of that is that Obama is trying to lure us all into a sense of false security by doing nothing to inhibit gun ownership. It’s a demented logic that argues that the more Obama refrains from any gun control, the more his gun control aspirations are revealed.
That’s the sort of absurdity that makes for the most entertaining, albeit dangerous, conspiracy theorism. And it’s the sort of thing that has made Alex Jones a leading figure amongst conspiracy theorists. The fact that Fox has now joined up with Jones says a lot about the direction that Fox is heading during this election year. Apparently the lunacy and lies generated by the Fox News regulars is not sufficient for the current situation, so they have called in reinforcements from the masters of mayhem at Jones & Company. Just when you thought that the credibility of Fox News couldn’t get any lower.