The media has been in a virtual orgasmic frenzy for the past 24 hours as reports come out about troubling behavior by government agencies. Make no mistake, what appears to have been done by individuals in the IRS and the Justice Department is of enormous concern to Americans who are justifiably suspicious of the potential for abuse of government power. There is good reason to be outraged by recent events and it is clear that there is such outrage from across the political spectrum.
An equal amount of outrage must also be directed at the idiotic people at the IRS who thought that what they were doing was helpful to progressive affairs. Not only does that sort of behavior contradict the most basic principles of liberalism, the high risk of discovery and subsequent scandal ought to have brought anyone whose common sense had lapsed straight back to reality. The damage done by this stupidity could not have been more successfully achieved if it were a deliberate plot by GOP plants in the agencies.
That is why the exasperation expressed by Jon Stewart last night (video below) was so appropriate. By committing some obviously nefarious acts of abuse, these miscreants have also made it harder to advance the rational and necessary legislative initiatives aimed at restoring jobs and economic growth, fixing the immigration system, implementing healthcare, battling terrorism, etc. It was bad enough when all we had to deal with was obsessively obstructionist Tea-publicans in congress, but now, as Stewart put it so well…
“This has, in one seismic moment, shifted the burden of proof from the tin-foil behatted to the government.”
Indeed. Now, along with wingnuts like Michelle Bachmann, Louis Gohmert, and Ted Cruz, we have every psychotic from Alex Jones to Glenn Beck to Ted Nugent insisting that they were right all along when they said that Obama was a reptilian space alien sent here to breed. Never mind that their delusions are just as schizoid today as they were yesterday, they are basking in the limelight created by a few low-level dumb-asses who have nothing to do with the bigger agenda our nation needs to pursue.
Not to be left out, Fox News is all over these wannabe scandals. They are interviewing Darrell Issa about the AP phone records without disclosing that Issa voted against the bill that would have made such seizures unlawful. They hosted Dick Cheney on Sean Hannity’s program to say that Benghazi is “one of the worst incidents, frankly, that I can recall in my career.” And remember, his career encompasses Nazi concentration camps and nuclear bombings in Japan, as well as those for which he bears some personal responsibility, like 9/11.
Some news outlets have made the effort to demonstrate that these sort of IRS transgressions were not invented last week. During the Bush administration there were abuses like these on multiple occasions. Alex Seitz-Wald at Salon has enumerated a few: The IRS threatened to revoke the tax-exempt status of the All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena following an anti-war sermon; The IRS audited the NAACP after its chairman criticized President Bush; The IRS audited and threatened to revoke Greenpeace’s tax-exempt status.
As for Fox News, they also did a report on the over-reaching of past presidents. And look at who they identified as violators:
Fox managed to find two Democratic presidents (Kennedy and Clinton), who were never found to have done anything unlawful or even unethical via the IRS, and matched them up with one of histories most flagrant criminals (Nixon) whose abuse of IRS power is well documented and even recorded on tape. And somehow, George W. Bush, despite the cases noted above, was left out of Fox’s report entirely. Fair and What the Fuck?
Later in the day, Fox moved on to the story about Bloomberg News snooping on the users of their financial terminals. What could be more unsettling than the prospect of a powerful media institution secretly monitoring your private Internet and telecommunications activities?
Perhaps it might be a private media institution secretly hacking into the phones of thousands of individuals, including politicians, celebrities, and even a murdered schoolgirl. That, of course, is what Rupert Murdoch’s enterprise has admitted doing, but was never covered with the enthusiasm as Fox is now covering the story about their competitor, Bloomberg.
So for the foreseeable future, American news viewers are going to be bombarded with a flurry of sensationalistic stories bursting with speculation and hyperbole. We are already seeing reports that crunch together some of these affairs into conspiracies that assume a role by President Obama that no one has yet proven exists. Fox’s Neil Cavuto devoted a segment of his program to imply that the malfeasance in the IRS’s tax-exempt division will somehow spill over to the group that audits elements of ObamaCare, although they are not even remotely affiliated. The upshot of this conspiracy dementia is that if anyone in any agency does something untoward, then everyone in every agency is guilty.
What’s truly unfortunate is that the investigations into the failings that led to these abuses at the IRS and elsewhere, investigations that are warranted and could be beneficial, will undoubtedly distract both the media and the political class from working to resolve the many serious issues our nation is facing. So instead of creating jobs, protecting and educating children, addressing immigration, or pursuing terrorists, we will be inundated with ever more stories about Benghazi, the IRS, and Jodie Arias-style crime dramas.
If and when we get back to more substantive matters that affect the lives of real people, the scent of scandal will linger and further hamper progress. Consequently, without efficient and effective management of recent events, the nation may have to accept a period of stagnation, which is not what we need right now. And those jerkwads at the IRS are largely responsible for screwing over every citizen who had hoped that the country could move forward just a little bit. I hope they (figuratively) fry.