FLASHBACK: Before Fox News Attacked The IRS, They Embraced It To Attack Media Matters

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.

Fox News - Media Matters

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.


Media Matters Has Fox News Scared And Desperate

[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.

Contine reading

Fox News Covers the Obama Inauguration: ‘Saddest Day Of The Year’

Seconds after the first inauguration of President Obama, Chris Wallace of Fox News speculated that he wasn’t really president because the oath was flubbed by Chief Justice John Roberts. That suggestion that Obama was not a legitimate president foreshadowed what would become a cacophony of Birthers and Republicans determined to reject any and all of what Obama put forth.

On this morning’s broadcast of Obama’s second inauguration, Fox News continued their dismissive coverage of the President. They led it off with the kiddies at Fox & Friends who exhibited their respect for this historic day by reporting what an awful day it is.

Steve Doocey: “As if a cold Monday in January wasn’t dreary enough, today has been dubbed ‘Blue Monday’, the most depressing day of the year.”

I’m quite sure that the day of Obama’s inauguration is decidedly depressing for the these remedial, right-wing buzzkills. But Fox was not through casting aspersions on this day and the President. Immediately following the inaugural address, Fox’s panel of sourpuss pundits picked apart the speech, which they universally agreed was a partisan screed aimed at bashing the GOP.

Chris Wallace: “This was an unyielding, uncompromising espousal of a liberal agenda.”
Brit Hume: “This is utterly bereft of an outreach to the opposition.”

Never mind that the President repeatedly spoke of how the nation’s greatest accomplishments were achieved by working together and how that was a necessity for moving forward today in light of the difficulties that lie ahead. Fox is positioning itself for another four years of blind opposition to anything that might help this president – or this country while this president is in the White House.

Fox Nation

Their community web site, Fox Nation, went to even further extremes to disparage the President with at least five derogatory articles by virulent Obama adversaries, including their headline piece featuring Mark Levin who was quoted from a Breitbart interview where he ripped the President in the most repulsive terms.

Levin: “I think there’s a lot of perverse thinking that goes on in Obama’s mind, radical left-wing thinking. He was indoctrinated with Marx and Alinksy propaganda.”

And this is how Fox News covers Obama on the day of his inauguration, a day usually set aside to celebrate America’s democratic principles and offer best wishes for the new administration’s efforts to meet the challenges facing the nation. We can hardly wait to see what Fox is dreaming up for tomorrow, or the next day, or the next four years. And Fox wonders why they are shunned by the White House.

Succumbing To Desperation: Fox News’ Loony Last Days Of The Election

As hard as it seems to believe after an interminably long and divisive campaign, election day is upon us in just four short days. And with momentum shifting toward President Obama, Fox News is pulling out all the stops to find something – anything – to smear the President and grease the skids for Oily Mitt Romney. But this is getting ridiculous…

Fox Nation Smears

These articles are bordering on Dadaist absurdity in their wild flailing about for subjects of attack. If anything, this only makes Fox look more desperate and childish than they usually do.

For Fox to note that there are New Yorkers who are still struggling with the devastation of Superstorm Sandy is not exactly news. Every projection of the impact of the storm prior to its arrival made it clear that there was going to be severe damage and that recovery would take weeks, if not months. But to ask “Where’s Obama,” as if he should be delivering cans of soup from the back of a van is ludicrous. The truth is that Obama’s federal response is managing a variety of agencies working on restoration of power, cleanup, rebuilding, and rescue and medical attention. On top of that, CNN reported that…

“The federal government shipped one million meals Thursday to New York, where National Guard troops were distributing them to people in need, [New York Governor Andrew] Cuomo told reporters.”

Obama has cut red tape to declare disaster status and accelerate aid. And he has been universally praised by the local authorities, including political adversaries like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Where’s Obama? Right where he should be – in charge and showing leadership.

The other daft article by Fox was a reporting of a column from the Daily Caller, a right-wing rag run by Fox News contributor Tucker Carlson. The headline snidely asks if Obama had a grade-point average of 2.6 while at Columbia University. But as if to refute their own brash slander, the second paragraph of the story says…

“The 2.6 grade can’t be confirmed, is contradicted by some evidence, and it doesn’t say anything about the courses, professors and associations Obama was immersed in during his two-year stay in Columbia.”

They why fu heck print it? This is the lengths that the right will go to tarnish the President on the eve of the election. It has nothing to with his record, his leadership, or his vision for the future. It reaches back twenty years to speculate about something that they admit they have no evidence of. However, if they are determined to bring up Obama’s academic history they could just mention that he graduated from Harvard Law Magna Cum Laud. That’s verifiable and a clear indication of his scholastic excellence. It’s interesting that Fox continues to be obsessed with Obama’s decades old school files but isn’t the least bit interested in Mitt Romney’s tax returns, which are far more relevant to the question of fitness to serve as president.

Fox News NewsBustersThis sort of reporting brings Fox down to the level of the broadly ridiculed “challenge” by Donald Trump to ransom Obama’s academic records in exchange for five million dollars. The tone of Fox’s reporting just keeps getting sillier. That may be because they have handed off their editorial duties to the uber-conservative Media Research Center and their comically inept NewsBusters. Recently Fox stacked their op-ed page with content exclusively acquired from MRC/NewsBusters. Fox seems to have outsourced their opinion pages to one of the most partisan GOP flacks in the nation. The four articles featured were by Noel Sheppard, Tim Graham, Clay Waters, and Dan Gainor, all MRC/NewsBusters hacks.

This actually isn’t too surprising considering that Fox’s former chief anchor, Brit Hume, effusively credited MRC when he retired from the anchor desk saying…

“I want to say a word, however, of thanks to Brent and the team at the Media Research Center [...] for the tremendous amount of material that the Media Research Center provided me for so many years when I was anchoring Special Report, I don’t know what we would’ve done without them. It was a daily buffet of material to work from, and we certainly made tremendous use of it.”

Just four more days. Thank God. How much more preposterous do you think Fox can get in that brief window of opportunity? Will we see articles blaming Obama for extreme weather catastrophes? Will they charge him with murdering American ambassadors? Will they find his Kenyan passport in a shoebox along with love letters from Hugo Chavez? Don’t rule it out. Desperation causes strange and deranged behavior. And Fox is already exhibiting symptoms of Obama Dementia Disease (ODD).

Right-Wing Noise Machine Still Terrified Of Media Matters

Further affirming the desperation of the mavens of the conservative media, a new campaign of slander and innuendo has been launched to tarnish the reputation of Media Matters for America (MMfA), and its founder David Brock. This is reminiscent of a similar campaign orchestrated last year.

This latest barrage of defamation was initiated by Tucker Carlson’s Internet rag, The Daily Caller (TDC). Carlson is a Fox News contributor so it isn’t surprising that Fox immediately jumped aboard this effort with featured segments hosted by Steve Doocy and Megyn Kelly. They also posted the story on their Fox Nation web site, twice. [Update: Carlson later appeared on Bill O'Reilly's program as well]

The gist of the story, as described by TDC, is that MMfA is manipulating news organizations, coordinating messaging with the White House, and struggling to cope with the “volatile and erratic behavior” of Brock, whom TDC alleges is mentally ill. TDC never reveals from where they got their psychiatric credentials, nor when they had an opportunity to examine and diagnose Brock. Likewise, they never reveal where they got any of the information for the other allegations they make against MMfA.

MMfA was created to document conservative media bias and work to implement reforms that would produce more balanced reporting. Yet, TDC is confused by the fact that MMfA’s research is cited by progressive organizations and media analysts. Why that would confuse them is, in itself, confusing. MMfA makes its materials available for that very purpose. They are providing a service that other interested organizations are free to employ or ignore. They are not manipulating anybody, nor are they forcing anyone to coordinate with them. Additionally, TDC thinks it’s unusual that people and enterprises who share an ideological viewpoint might produce commentaries that have certain similarities. Of course they do. It would be unusual if they didn’t. Does TDC think it’s unusual when John Boehner and Rush Limbaugh say similar things?

TDC’s multipart series on MMfA kicks off with a personal attack on Brock:

“David Brock was smoking a cigarette on the roof of his Washington, D.C. office one day in the late fall of 2010 when his assistant and two bodyguards suddenly appeared and whisked him and his colleague Eric Burns down the stairs. [...] The threat he faced while smoking on his roof? ‘Snipers.’”

TDC then asserts that Brock is suffering from severe paranoia and believes that there are right-wing assassins out to get him. But how can Brock be characterized as paranoid when, while he was having a leisurely break, his security team took action to protect him. Perhaps the bodyguards are paranoid, but nothing in this story suggests that Brock is.

For contrast, it should be pointed out that there is no mention by TDC of the reported paranoia of Fox News CEO Roger Ailes. No mention that he was cited as the reason that the NYPD provided police protection for the Fox headquarters at a cost of $500,000 a year to the people of New York. No mention of the obsessive fears described by Tim Dickinson in a Rolling Stone profile:

“Ailes is also deeply paranoid. Convinced that he has personally been targeted by Al Qaeda for assassination, he surrounds himself with an aggressive security detail and is licensed to carry a concealed handgun. [...] Murdoch installed Ailes in the corner office on Fox’s second floor at 1211 Avenue of the Americas in Manhattan. The location made Ailes queasy: It was close to the street, and he lived in fear that gay activists would try to attack him in retaliation over his hostility to gay rights. (In 1989, Ailes had broken up a protest of a Rudy Giuliani speech by gay activists, grabbing demonstrator by the throat and shoving him out the door.) Barricading himself behind a massive mahogany desk, Ailes insisted on having ‘bombproof glass’ installed in the windows – even going so far as to personally inspect samples of high-tech plexiglass, as though he were picking out new carpet.”

The TDC article went to great lengths to expose something that ought to have been obvious – that liberal news outlets like DailyKos and Salon would utilize information compiled by MMfA. [Full disclosure: News Corpse has used MMfA materials frequently. It isn't coordinated. It's just reliable, documented content] The grunt work of aggregating video and other reporting is appreciated by those who use MMfA materials. Much of it is provided without any editorializing. The right has always been fearful of any entity that would simply record their disinformation, nonsense, and hostility, and then hold them accountable for it. But in condemning MMfA for providing such content to liberal media, they demonstrate their rank hypocrisy. They have yet to criticize NewsBusters or their parent organization, the Media Research Center. However, the former managing editor of Fox News was abundantly grateful:

Brit Hume: I want to say a word, however, of thanks to Brent [Bozell] and the team at the Media Research Center [...] for the tremendous amount of material that the Media Research Center provided me for so many years when I was anchoring Special Report, I don’t know what we would’ve done without them. It was a daily buffet of material to work from, and we certainly made tremendous use of it.

Much of the remaining TDC article is a montage of incongruous allegations and lame assumptions. For instance, they cite a meeting between Brock and Obama aide Valerie Jarret as signaling some sort of conspiracy. It was a one-time meeting that occurred over a year and a half ago. They complain that reporters would “get a thousand hostile emails” after exposure on MMfA. But isn’t that sort of accountability the point of an enterprise whose purpose is to unmask media bias?

TDC posted a link to a video of Brock that they labeled an “odd media appearance,” but which seemed pretty restrained and composed to me. They described his aspiration to develop a political action committee to challenge Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS as “unsettlingly grandiose.” Is that just their standard put-down for anyone who would dare to take on the mighty Rove? And perhaps the most disturbing revelation of all was that “there were very harsh penalties for getting things wrong. And justifiably so.” Imagine that…Brock actually insisted that his staff pay attention to detail and accuracy. What a beast! After all, they are just an organization that monitors the detail and accuracy of other organizations. Who cares if they get some things wrong? They should adopt the attitude of Fox News anchorette Gretchen Carlson:

“When we make a mistake reading the news headlines, whereas at a [broadcast] network you’d probably get fired, instead, we’re like, ‘Eh, we screwed up.’

TDC says that there will be additional installments of this series throughout the week. I should hope so, because there was nothing in this installment that could be considered newsworthy. However, I expect that the upcoming chapters will be equally devoid of any useful information. So far the only thing that TDC has achieved with this expose is wasting their bandwidth with unsourced, anonymous gossip and personal insults. If it gets any play at all it will be due to the help they got from Carlson’s bosses at Fox News. And the only thing that any of it proves is how dreadfully afraid the conservative propagandists are of Media Matters. It is astonishing how the innocent act of recording their words can set the rightist empire to trembling.

[Update] The Fox Nationalists just posted their third fourth item about Media Matters (although all of them link to the same TDC article). Apparently the other two did not have sufficiently sensationalist headlines to stir the scandal-lust of their perverted readers, so this time they packed in unsubstantiated allegations that Brock is “believed to be” using illegal drugs.

Fox Nation

My anonymous sources have confirmed to me that Rupert Murdoch is believed to be funding the New American Nazi Party and patronizing Mistress Helga in swastika-print diapers.

Media Matters Has Fox News Scared And Desperate

This is a compilation of several previous News Corpse articles that I put together for Alternet.com.

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.

Contine reading

Shameless Right-Wing Hypocrisy On Media Funding

There has lately been an excess of rage expressed over a couple of charitable donations by George Soros. Both NPR and Media Matters were beneficiaries of Soros’ generosity. These are both media-related entities that play no direct role in politics.

But the same rightist critics of donations don’t seem to have any problem with Rupert Murdoch giving millions of dollars to overtly political enterprises: the Republican Governor’s Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. That money is used to buy ads against Democrats on Fox News, so the money Murdoch donated ends up right back in his pocket. And another big difference in these donations is that Soros was open and honest about announcing his largesse, while Murdoch gave in secret and even remarked that he had anticipated that his donations would remain secret.

A fair observer would have to wonder why the munificence of Soros is problematic but the fact that Right-wingers are just as generous to their ideological allies isn’t worthy of discussion. They will never mention, for instance, that uber-rightist Richard Mellon Scaife has given millions to the conservative Media Research Center (which runs several right-wing operations like NewsBusters). And while Soros remains outside of the organizations to which he contributes, Murdoch has moved inside as a board member of the Associated Press.

The hypocrisy demonstrated by the right is world-class. While the left is taking heat for being totally transparent, the right takes pride in enforcing silence about its clandestine activities. Since they have admitted that they aspire to fund their friends in secret, we have no way of knowing what other donations have been made by folks like Murdoch and his billionaire comrades. Murdoch confessed that he gave the RGA money due to his friendship with John Kasich, a candidate for governor in Ohio and a former employee of Fox News. Karl Rove is presently an employee of Fox News. Is he also receiving financing from Murdoch? We don’t know because they are not required to disclose it and they keep it obsessively private.

What we do know is that Fox News has a record of shilling for the right. Their daytime anchor Jon Scott (who, ironically, is also the host of their Fox News Watch) once read an RNC document on the air as if it were his own research. He even displayed a graphic on screen that contained the same typo that was in the original RNC memo.

We also know that Fox News relies heavily on the work of the Media Research Center and NewsBusters. We know this because their top news anchor at the time, Brit Hume, said so in public:

Hume: I want to say a word, however, of thanks to Brent and the team at the Media Research Center [...] for the tremendous amount of material that the Media Research Center provided me for so many years when I was anchoring Special Report, I don’t know what we would’ve done without them. It was a daily buffet of material to work from, and we certainly made tremendous use of it.

The left has nothing to compare with the media domination of the right. Only the right has their own cable news network. They rule talk radio in part because of conservative broadcasters who deliberately shut out liberal programming. Independent studies show that even the supposedly liberal segments of the press actually lean more to the right in their editorial positions, their guests and sources, and their staffing.

So it seems curious that all of sudden we have right-wingers going bonkers over a couple of donations that will certainly help those organizations, but will have little impact on the broader media landscape. It just proves that the right is focused on maintaining their competitive advantage, that they know the value of “working the refs,” and that they have no shame when it comes to acting out their hypocrisy.

Welcome To The New Fox News Ministries With Brit Hume

Pray for Fox NewsBrothers and sisters, on this, the first Sunday of a new year, a new decade in the sight of our Lord, it is a blessing that we may now profit from the teachings of a new holy messenger of the Word of God. Salvation can now be achieved directly from the Most High – Definition, that is. Our Cable path to redemption is clear and the signals are strong. For we now are relieved of the weekly burden of attending a cold, dank church with uncomfortable pews. Now we can get salvation from the convenience of our sofas. We can worship at the alter of Television and absorb the Good News in the comfort of our homes thanks to the advent of the New Fox News Ministries.

Today’s sermon is one that effects every believer and non-believer alike. It concerns the fate of all who have sinned and, of course, that means everyone. Except for those sinners who have already placed their faith in the Savior and have repented and been saved. They can do whatever the Hell they please. But not so fallen stars like Tiger Woods, whose moral indiscretions require urgent redress. And thank the good Lord that we have the Reverend Brit Hume of the Fox News Ministries to counsel unto the golfer lost in the woods.

Rev. Brit Hume: The Tiger Woods that emerges, once the news value dies out of this scandal, the extent to which he can recover, it seems to me, rests on his faith. He’s said to be a Buddhist. I don’t think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith. So my message to Tiger would be, “Tiger, turn your faith, turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world.”

Hallelujah and amen! Repent Brother Woods. It is obvious that those heathen Buddhists have nothing whatsoever to offer a poor sinner. They cannot redeem your cursed soul with the blood of a 2,000 year old martyr, can they? They rely merely on ancient wisdom that holds people accountable for their actions, not by judgment, but by the observance of respect for all creation. They reject the sort of forgiveness and redemption that absolves one of guilt or the suffering of consequences for their behavior. Well, unless you regard karma as a model for a virtuous life and a guide for honorable conduct.

Brother Woods, you must ask yourself if you want to embark on a challenging journey of self-examination and knowledge, or if you wouldn’t rather join the likes of Mark Sanford, David Vitter, John Ensign, Larry Craig, Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, etc., as adulterous sinners who have been pardoned by the grace of a merciful God. You too can be a great example to the world, just as these bags of scum who have preceded you.

Heed the words of the Rev. Hume, all ye sinners. And follow these teachings as ye have those of Rev. Huckabee and Rev. Beck (see The Gospel according to Beck). Get down on your knees and beseech the Lord Fox for forgiveness. Kneel in the sacred blue glow of the Fox light and submit yourself to its flickering divinity. Because by worshiping at the alter of Fox all sins are forgiven. You are free to start wars; to kill innocents; to torture; to befoul the Earth; to pass judgment on others; to revel in wealth and greed; to deny the less fortunate access to food, housing, or health care; to lie, cheat, steal, and even to live as an infidel with impunity.

Sounds like Heaven, doesn’t it? And what does Buddhism have to offer but a life of peace, awareness, enlightenment, and harmony with all the world? Sounds like Hell, huh? As the Prophet Murdoch said:

“Let there be lie: and there was lie. And Murdoch saw the lie, that it was profitable: and Murdoch divided the lie from the psychotic. And Murdoch called the lie Day, and the psychotic he called Primetime.”

Bless you Brother Brit. And may the Fox be with you.

Brit Hume Confesses To Fox News Right-Wing Bias

The Media Research Center, an uber-conservative media watch organization headed by professional propagandist Brent Bozell, held its annual gala last week to honor the heroes of rightist disinformation and to mock liberals and truth-tellers. The event featured Republican stalwart, war correspondent, and political strategist, Joe the Plumber, who greeted the crowd by announcing that their adulation made him “horny” (I know…eewww).

The main event of the evening was the presentation of the William F. Buckley Jr. Award for Media Excellence to Fox News’ Brit Hume. Hume’s acceptance speech provides further evidence that Fox News has always been a Republican mouthpiece:

Hume: I want to say a word, however, of thanks to Brent and the team at the Media Research Center [...] for the tremendous amount of material that the Media Research Center provided me for so many years when I was anchoring Special Report, I don’t know what we would’ve done without them. It was a daily buffet of material to work from, and we certainly made tremendous use of it.

A tremendous amount of material that he made tremendous use of? It sounds like the MRC was Fox News’ wire service. They saved Fox the trouble of having to go out and make up the news by themselves. It is this sort of admission that could get Hume into trouble for saying too much. But this isn’t the first time a Foxian has revealed that they are in the employ of rightist ideologues:

  • Fox Anchor Jon Scott was caught reading directly from a Republican press release as though it were news.
  • Rupert Murdoch admitted that he tried to shape public opinion on the war in Iraq.
  • Murdoch also boasted that his Fox Business Network would be a more “business friendly” network.
  • Chris Wallace, host of Fox News Sunday, noted that he generally agrees with Sean Hannity.
  • In a revealing bit of staff development, George Bush hired Fox anchor Tony Snow to be his press secretary.
  • Just added 3/23/09: In an interview with NPR, Fox News VP Bill Shine blurted out that Fox is the “voice of opposition.”

In addition to Hume’s shout out to the MRC, he lashed out at new media and blogs as being responsible for a narrowing of political views in the media.

Hume: I think that we also have the danger that everything will be presented from one political viewpoint or the other, and that the media that confront us are going to be more partisan than ever.

Exactly. You certainly wouldn’t want to have a network that only presented a single point of view, would you? Just ask Roger Ailes:

Roger Ailes Newsroom

George W. Bush Kept Us Safe

Bush SuperheroSeptember 11, 2001, was the sort of milestone that no one wants in their collection. Aside from the obvious and tragic loss of life, it opened up a vein of fear and a recognition that none of us are impervious to grievous harm in a dangerous world.

Thank God, then, for George W. Bush. He kept us safe – well, except for that one time on 9/11. But after that he was a like brave centurion shielding his weak and whimpering wards. That’s why Brit Hume of Fox News, on the day of Barack Obama’s inauguration, marveled

“That this country would pass into a new presidency eight years later with not a single attack? i certainly didn’t believe that. I woke up every morning for six months wondering whether we’d been attacked again.”

I’m not sure what’s going on at the Hume household, but maybe a little Thorazine would have helped. In the long run, though, Hume and innumerable rightist pundits and politicos, are quite correct in their legacy building efforts on behalf of the beleaguered Bush, who is already regarded as America’s worst president ever. The call has gone out to the Republican Establishment Media that it is only through Bush’s vigilance that any of us are alive today. Just take a look at the record:

  • No terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11. Bush kept us safe from terrorists.
  • No hurricanes in New Orleans since Katrina. Bush kept us safe from nature.
  • No comets have hit Earth since Tunguska, 100 years ago. Bush kept us safe from celestial collisions.
  • No #1 albums from Creed since Weathered (2001). Bush kept us safe from Power Ballads.
  • No reanimation of serial murderer and cannibal, Jeffrey Dahmer. Bush kept us safe brain-devouring zombies.
  • No sightings of the Four Horsemen on the Interstate. Bush kept us safe from the Apocalypse.

When you think about all of things that didn’t happen during the Bush years, you can’t help but be grateful for the omnipotent scope of his protective embrace. Along with all of the miracles enumerated above, Bush alone is directly responsible for our not having been consumed by a black hole, or our undergoing an epidemic of projectile vomiting, or the return of the Macarena. Since none of those things happened, then, just like the absence of another terrorist attack, Bush gets all the credit.

Sure, he also ignored intelligence warnings prior to 9/11 that, had they been heeded, might have prevented it. And his crony-infested federal emergency response apparatus resulted in needless death and suffering after Katrina. And his job creation record is the worst since Hoover. And trillions of dollars were lost from retirement and pension funds. And 47 million Americans have no health insurance. And our Constitutional liberties were revoked. But at least our cities have not been overrun by marauding herds of Bigfoots (Bigfeet?). And everyone knows that anything that didn’t happen since 9/11 was directly the result of Bush’s leadership. Well, except for the failure to capture Osama Bin Laden. That was Keith Olbermann’s fault.

So thank you, George W. Bush. And goodbye.


[Hat tip to Bill O'Reilly for alerting me to this video that he regards as child abuse]

Bret Baier: The Same Old Fox News Nonsense

The Washington Managing Editor for Fox News, and anchor of Special Report, Brit Hume, has now officially moved from the anchor chair to the rocking chair. In his place is Bret Baier, who was interviewed today by Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post.

Baier considers himself an independent (so does Bill O’Reilly), but his remarks in this interview reveal a somewhat more partisan stance. For instance, he commented on the presidential campaing saying…

“…this campaign has at times been an easy ride for the Obama team. If that were to continue, people would be disappointed.

That would be true if what he means by an “easy time” is having the press continually harangue the candidate as a radical, Socialist, Muslim-raised, inexperienced, unpatriotic, elitist, who palled around with terrorists. Sure, it was a breeze. And I think that the people Baier asserts would be disappointed are Republicans and Fox viewers. But the next comment by Baier may well disappoint those viewers:

“Fox doesn’t have to be in a mode of attack…”

No, it doesn’t “have to be.” That’s just the way they like it. But the newsmaking moment of the interview came when Baier said:

“I hope the media will cover the Obama administration with as much aggressiveness as they covered the Bush administration.”

Really? So Baier wants the media to sit back and let Obama get away with things like lying to initiate an illegal war; with usurping power by presidential fiat; with rolling back Constitutional rights; with demonstrating ignorance and arrogance as he drives the nation into a death spiral? Does Baier want the press to attend parties with Obama and dispatch lobbyists seeking favor for their corporate enterprises? All of that would have to happen for the media to cover Obama as they did Bush.

In this era of change, the only thing changing at Fox News is the scowling old visage of Brit Hume for a younger, smiling version of the same thing.

Brit Hume Doesn’t Get The Internet – Or Journalism

It’s a good thing that Brit Hume has already announced his retirement. When the primary anchor and managing editor of the Washington bureau for Fox News has such a total misconception of modern media, it is well past time for him to leave the scene. On the December 11 broadcast of the Fox News Special Report, Hume led off his Political Grapevine segment with this:

“The Obama-Biden transition team has launched a new feature on its Web site called “Open for Questions” which is designed to be an open forum for users to ask policy and issue questions. However, it is subject to what amounts to censorship by other users because the more votes an entry gets the higher it moves on the overall list. But some questions are being downplayed by Obama supporters who are trying to remove the entries entirely.”

Someone needs to explain to the old feller what “community moderation” is on social networks. They could start by telling Grandpa Hume that it is sort of like Democracy. He may remember what that is.

The whole point of the Open For Questions project is to solicit the public’s views on what issues the new administration should pursue. By allowing people to vote on the suggestions submitted, it presents a community consensus of what ought to take priority. But Hume is complaining that some comments were poorly received, or even flagged as inappropriate. He cites as an example this question:

“Is Barack Obama aware of any communications in the last six weeks between Rod Blagojevich or anyone representing Rod Blagojevich and any of Obama’s top aides?”

That may be interesting question if you’re a Republican toady trying to smear Obama, but it is not a policy suggestion for the President-elect. So it should come as no surprise that it would not rate highly, and that it might even be deemed inappropriate. It is certainly irrelevant and a distraction from the topic at hand.

Nevertheless, Hume’s assertion that the results of the public’s voting amounts to censorship is both ridiculous and utterly false. While some instances of the Blagojevich question were removed as inappropriate, many more remain on the site – just farther down the list. What’s more, commentary that went even further off topic, and could only be characterized as intentionally disruptive (not to mention immature), was also available for all to read. For instance…

  • Will Rev. Wright sing God (bleep) America at your inauguration?
  • Besides Rezko, the governor, and Bill Ayers, are there any other crooks you associated yourself with that we need to know about?
  • Are you a Muslim Terrorist in disguise? I do not believe you are American, prove it to us!
  • Is Michelle proud of America now that you are the president-elect?
  • Did you beat Clinton ’cause for the Dems it’s Bros befo’ Hos?
  • Are you a natural born citizen and if so will you show an authentic birth certificate?
  • Is it hard to be such a fucking phony all the time?

The fact that none of these items were removed proves that there is no censorship being practiced on the web site. It also proves that there are a lot of childish Republican smart asses clogging up the blogosphere. More to the point, it proves that Brit Hume is a lousy reporter and a flagrant promoter of disinformation. It took me all of fifteen minutes to compile this list. What kind of reporter is Hume if he cannot even use the search function provided on the web page to look for any information except that which affirms his predetermined view?

The transparency of Hume’s agenda driven ravings is testimony to the lie that Fox News is fair and balanced. It is further confirmation that Hume and his colleagues are dishonest and brazen purveyors of propaganda. And it is evidence that Hume is past his prime and unable to keep up with advances in new media. The sooner he trades in his anchor’s chair for a rocking chair the better. Buh bye, Brit.

Update: It appears that Hume’s source for his non-reporting is Ben Smith at Politico. Smith made the same inane accusation of censorship a day before Hume.

Progressive Media In The Obama Era

With the election over, prognostications about the new administration of Barack Obama, and the fate of the losers, began in earnest. Almost simultaneously, speculation arose concerning the direction and prospects for the media in general, and the cable news networks in particular. The conventional wisdom (always conventional, rarely wise) is that Fox News will thrive in the role of a voice for the opposition and MSNBC will struggle for lack of drama. This analysis presumes that audiences respond only to conflict and that the Obama victory will put conservatives on edge and liberals to sleep.

There is some merit to this theory, but, us usual, it is too narrowly drawn to be enlightening. If contrarian politics were paramount then Fox would not have flourished during its early years of the Clinton administration, which it opposed, as well as the Bush years that followed, which it embraced. A common misconception about the success of Fox News is that it was driven by its conservative point of view. The only role ideology played was that it funneled all of the right-leaning viewers to one channel, allowing Fox to score higher in Nielsen ratings. The larger truth is that it transformed stodgy news delivery into thrill-inducing combat and soap opera. They created an us-vs-them, hero narrative that feeds on the same zealotry as a religious cult.

The race for president provided ample opportunity for the sort of melodrama upon which the new generation of cable news networks thrive. Fox took full advantage of this promoting, and even creating, friction where it otherwise would not have existed. Who can forget (despite how desperately we try):

  • William Ayers
  • Rev. Jeremiah Wright
  • Samuel “Joe” Wurzelbacher (the Plumber)
  • ACORN
  • Drill, baby drill
  • Elitists
  • Flag pins
  • Muslim Madrassas

The irrelevance of these phony issues is confirmed by how quickly they have vanished from the news scene. The campaign season stirred the pot, but the conclusion of the campaign is not the end of controversy. We are still mired in war, a collapsing economy, a climate crisis, and a multitude of other critical affairs that will define the next four years.

Nevertheless, cable news is going to have to undergo a post-election makeover. Brit Hume has already left the building. Some reports from Fox News insiders suggest that they will be taking a softer approach toward the President-elect (don’t believe it). Keith Olbermann’s Countdown contains segments like “Bushed” and “McCain in the Membrane” that will need to be retired. Political contests will likely play a smaller role in his program and others, and the void will have to be filled by something else. In the search for new themes, I would like to suggest one that is ever-present and exerts an overdue influence on American politics and culture: the Media.

There will always be political, social, and global controversies. They will erupt between and within party affiliations. The one thing that ties them all together is that they are fodder for interpretation by the media. The characterization of ideas can be instrumental in their acceptance or rejection by the people. Ideally, news organizations would be neutral providers of information and analysis, but those days may be long past. The modern era of television news seems to have irreversibly digressed into partisan advocacy. Even Fox News, the home of the “fair and balanced” fallacy, seems to have abandoned that pretense. Chairman and CEO, Roger Ailes was asked by Broadcasting and Cable Magazine about their post-election prospects:

B & C: [W]ill the news side of Fox News face an apathetic audience, compounded by being on the losing end of a national election?

Ailes: There may be certain elements of our audience that turn away between now and the inauguration. I think cable numbers overall will drop, although there is a fascination with Obama.

Notice that Ailes doesn’t object to the question’s premise that Fox was “on the losing end” of the election. The reality of Fox’s bias is so well established now that he doesn’t even bother to refute it. If Ailes’ response isn’t validation enough, listen to his executive VP, John Moody, from the same article, describing Obama as…

“…a once-in-a-lifetime politician and that means he’s smart enough to know that, despite his prescient 2004 speech, there are red voters and blue voters. And he wants to reach out and get the red ones, too.”

Here we have Moody blithely confessing that Fox is the venue for conservative viewers. This is something that Moody and Ailes would have vehemently denied in the past. Today it is treated as a foregone conclusion. That’s what makes observation of the media such a rich vein for the sort of melodrama that excites cable news programmers and viewers. The presentation of the news is so narrowly focused and poorly produced that it invites criticism, sarcasm, and ridicule.

This is where progressive media can excel. The Rupert Murdochs of the world aren’t interested in self-examination or improvement. They have an agenda to pursue and they won’t let a little thing like truth get in the way. Witness the inveterate lying of folks like Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, and Sean Hannity. Liberals are generally more predisposed toward ethical oversight and, thus, make better watchdogs. With the decline of political content in the news cycle, this would be an opportune time to jump headlong into media analysis and criticism.

Scrutiny of the press has the added benefit of expanding the audience base because those who are skeptical of the press are a diverse group. An honest appraisal of reporters and pundits will appeal to a broad swath of news consumers. Evidence of this is the popularity of a couple of programs on Comedy Central. The Daily Show and the Colbert Report demonstrate the appeal of programming that takes on the press. Many analysts misconstrue these shows as political satire, but that is not an accurate characterization. They are media satire programs. Everything they do is less a statement on policy than it is a statement on the absurdity and incompetence of the people who bring us the news. It is also noteworthy that conservative attempts at this endeavor have all failed miserably.

Drawing attention to the media is also fertile ground for effective reform. It is potentially the most powerful avenue for political change. Every issue that faces citizens and their representatives has to be disseminated through the media apparatus. So whether it’s healthcare, education, taxes, energy, etc., it is the press that will shape much of the public’s view. The more light that is cast on the press, the more likely they will modify their behavior. So if cable news figures like Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, Campbell Brown, and even Fox’s Shepard Smith (who has been known to take swipes at his net’s coverage), step up and challenge their industry, they could have more impact, and do more good, then if they merely assume the posture of another kvetching pundit.

The next few weeks will tell whether the press has learned anything, whether it is interested in self-reflection and reform, and whether it is capable of fulfilling its traditional role as a check on a government that would much prefer to work in secret. This will also be an outstanding time to have media watchers illuminating the stage and exposing the imperfections and deceits of those who purport to inform us. Let’s hope they heed the call. Because, now more than ever, we need an open, honest, and diverse fourth estate to document the progress of what may be the most astonishing political achievement in this nation’s short history.

Submission Accomplished: MSNBC Demotes Olbermann

Keith Olbermann is MSNBC’s hottest property. His ratings eclipse those of the rest of the lineup. So clearly he is a significant draw for an audience that MSNBC has been struggling to expand and they would reward him commensurate to his contribution.

Think again:

“MSNBC is removing Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews as the anchors of live political events, bowing to growing criticism that they are too opinionated to be seen as neutral in the heat of the presidential campaign. “

This is another example of the media being so petrified of disapproval from right-wing critics that they act in opposition to their own interests. By effectively demoting their top talent, MSNBC is agreeing with critics that their coverage is slanted and that Olbermann is a journalistic liability. This action is remarkably stupid and short-sighted. Why would NBC want to denigrate their own reporting and insult their most popular program host? Apparently all is takes is a letter or two from the White House or the Republican National Committee to make NBC execs tremble.

To put this in perspective, try to imagine Fox News making a similar schedule adjustment in response to complaints from liberal sources. Obviously they get such complaints by the thousands on a daily basis. And not just from liberals, but from respected, independent journalistic institutions and professionals. Yet Brit Hume, Megyn Kelly, Neil Cavuto, etc. – not to mention Bill O’Reilly, and Sean Hannity – all have safe jobs and have never been chastised in the slightest for their brazen bias and partisan pandering.

What’s more, the contrast in tone between the left and right media is disturbing, to say the least. Liberals are accused primarily of partisanship and favoritism. But rightists are are guilty of far more hostile activity. Recall Fox News’ Liz Trotta who joked that Barack Obama should be assassinated along with Osama Bin Laden. And then there’s that continuous thread of racism that permeates Fox News. These ethical violations, however, are not sufficient to warrant corrective action on the part of the conservative press.

In addition to dissing Olbermann, muting an alternative perspective, and likely suppressing their ratings (and, thus, their income), NBC is also giving ammunition to their competitors, who will not praise this as a step toward neutral reporting, but cite it as evidence of bias. So MSNBC gains nothing from their capitulation. Fox News is already reporting on these events as having taken place due to MSNBC’s lack of neutrality. That Fox can even say that, without a hint of irony, demonstrates how low the media neutrality bar has sunk.

The timing of this announcement couldn’t be worse. With the party conventions over, the general election commencing formally, and debates coming soon, NBC has chosen to very publicly tarnish their own brand. This could only happen at a network that is faulted as being liberal by the entrenched media establishment. And yet, the myth that the media is liberal will persist despite all of the evidence to the contrary.

The real problem is that it is only the few liberal islands in the media sea that are punished for expressing their views. The monopolistic corporations who control the media, and their benefactors on the conservative side of the political spectrum, are the dictators of what the news audience will see and hear. They will always bend to the right and, sadly, cowards like those at NBC will choke the breadth of opinion from the airwaves to the point of suffocation.

Brit Hume Not Stepping Down From Fox News Program

Actually, Brit Hume is stepping down from his fox news program, Special Report. I just thought it would be nice if the headline of this article served as a tribute to Hume’s journalistic record:

Brit HumeFrom Howie Kurtz at the Washington Post:

“Sources familiar with the situation say that Hume, 65, will give up his job as Washington managing editor and anchor of “Special Report.” They say he is near a deal to continue with Fox in a senior statesman role, not unlike that of Tom Brokaw at NBC, for roughly 100 days a year.”

Kurtz notes in his column that Hume’s chummy relationship with the Bush White House helped him snag some exclusives. For instance, Hume got the only interview given by Dick Cheney after he shot a hunting companion in the face. What Kurtz didn’t say was that Hume and Fox News censored the interview to hide the fact that Cheney had been drinking that day.

No replacement has been named yet for Hume. One possible candidate is Jim Angle, presently the chief Washington correspondent for Fox News and a regular guest host on Special Report. Angle’s reporting is at least as slanted as Hume, so he would be able to slide right into the new role. But who know, maybe they’ll go with Sean Hannity or Karl Rove. At Fox News, journalistic credentials are not a prerequisite.

Right-Wing Media Label Obama A Marxist

The media has gone haywire (again) ever since Barack Obama had the temerity to tell the truth about economically struggling small town Americans.

Obama: “You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

For some reason, many news analysts believe that people who are getting shafted by economic policies that devastate their communities and burden their families are never bitter or have no right to be. They believe that the only proper characterization of these folks is as noble, hard-working, optimists who never complain.

But it gets even worse. The evolving theme that the press is embracing is not just that Obama is an elitist, a charge that makes no sense given both his personal history and the substance of his comments, but that he is a Marxist:

William Kristol put it this way in the New York Times:

“It’s one thing for Karl Marx to assert that ‘religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature’ and another for Barack Obama to claim that we ‘cling to … religion’ out of economic frustration.”

The Washington Post says:

“I find Senator Obama very smart, but that comment struck me as sort of stupid — the kind of half-baked Marxism that might be expected to appeal to a Bay Area audience.”

When asked if Obama is a Marxist, Sen. Joe Lieberman told Andrew Napolitano:

“Well, you know, I must say that’s a good question.”

Rich Lowry of the the National Review says:

“Versions of Obama’s insight have been expounded by a world-famous 19th-century economist (Karl Marx)…”

And Brit Hume of Fox News twice said on air that Obama has a Marxist view of religion.

Let the propaganda smears begin…

Brit Hume Just Doesn’t Get It

Brit Hume was interviewed by the magazine of his alma mater, the University of Virginia. He had some revealing things to say about his view of journalism and the world. The first question dealt with what changes he has seen in the country:

There used to be a general view that America was not what was wrong with the world. In many corners now today and in academia and in the media, I think we see an interest in the idea that maybe America is what’s wrong with the world. There’s a worry that when the U.S. undertakes something, that the U.S. is likely to be the problem, not the solution. I think that’s an attitude that didn’t exist when I first started in this business and I think it’s not for the better.

Another way of putting that is that there used to be a general view that America was infallible and that our leaders could not be questioned. Apparently Hume would like to return to those days.

When asked about the perception of Fox News as conservatively biased, he rattled off a litany of issues (without any support) that he believes his press associates lean leftward on. He then concedes that Fox takes a different stance on those issues. The admission that Fox has a stance on issues should be enough to dismiss them as a credible news organization. But Hume isn’t nearly done:

“As long as our competitors are convinced that we’re a right-wing news organization out to promote right-wing causes, they never will get it. That’s good news for us. They can’t fix their problem because they don’t understand it. As long as they continue to think in that way, they’re probably not going to gain much ground on us.”

It is hysterical on its face that Hume still insists that Fox is not a “right-wing news organization.” But even funnier is his delusional analysis of his competition not gaining ground. Here are the facts for just this year:

  • January 07-08 gains: CNN 42% – MSNBC – 37% – Fox 9%.
  • February 07-08 gains: CNN 133% – MSNBC – 62% – Fox 16%

I’d call that gaining ground. And those numbers reflect network performance going back at least two years. The fortunes of Fox have been trending down in virtual syncopation with the still sinking approval ratings for President Bush. While they still have a large reserve of Stepford viewers, Fox is at a decided disadvantage. Their audience is aging and is generally less appealing to advertisers. In fact, CNN is able to charge 50% more ($5.96) per thousand viewers than Fox ($4.06).

Recently Fox has lost outright to competitors. They came in last on March 4th’s primary coverage (after both CNN and MSNBC) and were bested by CNN for the whole month of February in the key 25-54 demographic. And Keith Olbermann’s Countdown beat O’Reilly again last week. Granted, it’s not an everyday occurrence, but it used to be unheard of. Mark your calendars for March 30, when Countdown will have it’s second broadcast on the NBC mothership. The last time they did that, Countdown’s subsequent MSNBC airings jumped by 17%, beating O’Reilly then as well.

The fallacy of Fox’s market domination will have to eventually tune in to Hume’s brain wave. Until then, we will likely be subject to more of these hallucinatory bouts of braggadocio. And in all likelihood they will stray even further from reality, because, in the end, it’s Brit Hume and his Fox comrades who “never will get it.”

Conservative Vultures Circling Over Wounded Media

John K. Carlisle of the arch-conservative National Legal and Policy Center is peddling a cynical strategy to exploit an ailing newspaper industry. The plan is an undisguised blueprint for media manipulation [Note: The NLPC scrubbed this article from their website, but through the persistent survivability of the Internet it is still available here and here]. Here are some examples of how Carlisle presents his initiative:

“The long-term decline in newspaper circulation presents the conservative movement with an excellent opportunity to increase its influence with the media.”

“Falling readership and tighter budgets are forcing newspapers to dedicate fewer staff to investigative reporting. As a result, they are increasingly relying upon nonprofit organizations to fill the gap.”

“If conservative nonprofit organizations significantly increase their use of investigative reporting, then the movement will be able to partly offset the liberal bias of the mainstream media.”

“…by aggressively getting involved in investigative journalism conservative nonprofit organizations stand to enormously change the terms of the media debate, perhaps in much the same way that Fox News and Talk Radio revolutionized media coverage.”

The plan, in short, is for conservative think tanks to produce stories that they could feed to newspapers and television who, due to their desperation for content, would gladly publish it. But you have to wonder what need is being filled when so much of the media is already shoveling rightist propaganda produced from within the media companies themselves. Carlisle even supplies the examples of Fox News and talk radio, which are dominated by conservative ideologues.

The real purpose of this proposal is not to offset any mythical liberal bias, but to fortify a conservative one. Carlisle cites the launch of ProPublica, an independent investigative news service, as evidence that conservatives need to redouble their efforts to influence the media. He correctly points out that the founders of ProPublica are long-time progressive activists. But he dismissed the fact that the service is headed by a former editor of the Wall Street Journal who insisted on, and was granted, editorial independence.

The right’s echo chamber is already at work attempting to discredit ProPublica, beginning with a report on Fox News where Brit Hume criticizes the new firm and its founders before they have published even one story (YouTube):

“They are major Democratic political donors, who gave all their campaign contributions to Democrats in 2006. They have also been longtime critics of President Bush.”

If that’s the criteria used to discredit ProPublica, what can be said of Carlisle’s group, the National Legal and Policy Center, that has received about 73% of their funding since 1995 from the ultra-right Scaife Family Foundations? The network of Scaife institutions has not only contributed millions of dollars to Republicans and criticized President Clinton, they have also spread outrageous smears against other Democrats including a story that accused Hillary Clinton of murder.

The NLPC is an avowedly conservative group that proudly asserts its intention to infect the media with its rightist perspectives. Their plot to plant slanted news items into conventional media outlets is a nauseating assault on journalistic ethics. And this is coming from an organization whose motto is “Promoting ethics in public life.” They are also mimicking the M. O. of Bush administration agencies that have previously been caught engaging in illegal distribution of propaganda through the use of video press releases and payoffs to public figures like pundits and celebrities. If Carlisle succeeds the government’s abhorrent practice of shipping pre-packaged fake news “reports” to media outlets for distribution, without disclosing the producer, will shift to the private sector where it could pick up steam from aggressive fundraising, marketing, and the absence of oversight.

The tactics of the NLPC and other organizations like them must be closely watched and, when necessary, countered to prevent them from succeeding in contaminating the media any more than it already is. Keep an eye on the bylines in your local paper and be aware of who you are reading. Know the names of staff writers and regularly syndicated independent and wire correspondents. If you see reports from other outsourced authors who are affiliated with partisan think tanks, let the editors know that this will not be tolerated and will result in a lost subscriber. Don’t let your local media become a bazaar where any two-bit propagandist can set up a stall and hawk their snake oil.

See update here (4/21/2010).

MSNBC: The Luckiest Network On Television

MSNBC may be the luckiest network on television. Republicans are threatening to boycott the cable net. That’s kind of like having lepers threaten to not French kiss you.

It all began when David Shuster asked Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) if she could name the last soldier from her district who was killed in Iraq. She could not, so he told her who it was. It was later reported that the soldier Shuster named was not from Blackburn’s district and Shuster apologized for the error on air. Now it turns out that Shuster was right in the first place. But being right was never a major article of concern for the right and they are still hammering Shuster. Even Brit Hume at Fox News participated in the pile on.

Now, according to Politico, Republicans are escalating the battle to new heights:

“We don’t mind skipping MSNBC. No one watches that channel anyway,” says a high-placed Republican consultant.

Word is, a growing number of GOP lawmakers have become mysteriously “unavailable” when asked to appear on MSNBC.

This would be a sublime development. I have long been advocating that Democrats and progressives swear off of Fox News (see Starve The Beast). Rupert Murdoch and his media megaphone is openly hostile to our agenda and our representatives. They will only use these appearances to distort our message and derail our mission. Studies have proven that their audience is unreceptive, and even antagonistic, to us and by appearing we will be rewarded more with ridicule than respect.

It has been difficult to advance this strategy because the siren’s call of the TV camera still lures people to Fox. Now, ironically, it is Republicans who are openly promoting the concept in reverse. If their effort has the residual effect of causing a reciprocal boycott of Fox, it will be well worth it. They won’t miss MSNBC and we won’t miss the further propagation of their propaganda.

Reminder: It has already been reported that Republicans have been more reluctant to appear on many programs regardless of network. Plus, they have refused to participate in televised debates sponsored by Gays, African-Americans, Unions, and even YouTube (on which they eventually agreed to appear).

Update on Shuster: It appears he was strong-armed into the premature apology by his boss.

Statistics, Damned Statistics, And Lies

As another small measure of the dishonesty of Fox News, note this report on the release of a new presidential approval poll. The Rasmussen daily tracking poll was cited this evening by Fox anchor and managing editor Brit Hume. Hume’s characterization of the poll, complete with a graphic to illustrate the point, was that Bush is enjoying a burst of popularity.

Bush Job Approval
Approve Disapprove
July 16 39 58
July 15 39 58
July 14 39 59
July 13 36 62
July 12 34 64
July 11 33 65
July 10 35 63
July 09 39 59

He compared the latest figure (39%) to the number on July 11 (33%), excitedly remarking as to the precipitous jump in Bush’s favor. Had he gone back just two more days he would have seen that Bush’s approval had not actually changed at all as compared to today. The July 11 number was a brief and unexplained anomaly and may have represented an event that took place on that day but had no lasting impact on the President’s overall approval. This, in fact, is one of the pitfalls of tracking polls and professionals know not to place undue significance on the short-term volatility of daily reporting. I guess that’s what tripped up Mr. Hume – the part about being a professional.

It is also worth noting that Rasmussen’s tracking poll varies from benchmark survey results for which 4 of the most recent 5 surveys put Bush under 30% approval.

Fox Is Just Misunderstood

Noam Cohen, writing for the New York Times business section, is an exceedingly compassionate fellow. In his article recounting the meltdown of the proposed Fox News Democratic debate, he cites unnamed “analysts of the cable news world” who speculate as to the fallout from the Democrats’ impudence:

“On the one hand it feeds the image of Fox News as besieged by mainstream media outlets and political enemies, which plays well to its loyal audience.”

On the one hand, therefore, Fox is reveling in martyrdom. If these analysts are correct, then what would stop Fox from covertly sabotaging the debate or its participants in order to enhance its reputation with its loyal audience (and further its conservative agenda)? Isn’t that exactly why the Democrats stood against the Fox-sponsored event in the first place? And who are these analysts that would describe Fox News as “besieged by mainstream media outlets” as if they didn’t know that Fox News is itself one of the largest mainstream media outlets in the world? But that’s not all:

“Yet, these analysts said, being shut out of a debate denies the channel the ability to be above the fray and be perceived as a mainstream journalistic outlet.”

These analysts must be residents of the Washington Home for the Criminally Obtuse. How is Fox being denied the ability to shape how they are perceived? They have 24 hours a day to demonstrate that they can be above the fray. They have 365 days a year to behave the way a mainstream journalistic outlet is expected to behave. To suggest that all Fox really wants is a chance to prove that they can play well with others is to ignore their past performance on the playground where they unrepentantly engaged in blatant bullying and hostility. Peruse these examples from their Permanent Record:

If Fox can’t be trusted to be fair and/or balanced in the course of their daily pseudo-news gathering and reporting, why should they be rewarded with a high profile event that would convey onto them a respectability that they have not earned and do not deserve?