Tea-Bola Infects The GOP: Symptoms Include Secession Obsession And California-itis

Today’s Republican Party is very, very sick. They are exhibiting symptoms of acute cognitive failure and an inability to distinguish fantasy from reality. This severe case of Tea-Bola is what accounts for their insistence that the federal government keep its hands off of Medicare; and their denial of Climate Change despite 97% of scientists affirming it; and their perception of a collapsing economy that has actually grown significantly.

The GOP, driven by its Tea Party caucus, is obsessed with repealing a health insurance reform plan that has resulted in lower costs and a substantial decrease in the number of uninsured Americans. They incessantly shout “Benghazi” as if they were suffering from a perverse form of Tourette’s Syndrome. And they want so badly to impeach President Obama that they have forgotten to establish any rationale for such a blatantly deranged legal overreach. Indeed, they are slipping away into wingnut delirium and there doesn’t seem to be any cure.

Tea-Bola

The latest manifestation of the right’s raving lunacy is illustrated in a poll conducted by Fox News (who is both suffering from, and spreading Tea-Bola). The Fox poll asked a question that reveals just how on target Jon Stewart was when he yelled at right-wing hypocrites, with exasperation, “Fuck you and your false patriotism.” The questions hinges on the notion of secession by one or more states. There have been several episodes of pseudo-patriotic Republicans articulating a desire for the United States to break apart, or for their state to secede. And now we have a survey that puts the matter into partisan perspective.

The poll asked: If your state were to hold an election on whether or not to split off from the United States, how would you vote? Democrats, at 4%, weren’t too keen on the idea, but three times as many Republicans (12%) favored it. However, it was the Tea Party that really lapped it up with 23% opting for secession. So much for American exceptionalism.

In another question, the divide was even more stark. The question asked was: Are there any states that you would vote out of the United States if you could? This wording is somewhat more hostile. It no longer wonders whether you would want to leave America yourself, but whether you would like kick out some other state. The party breakdown was: Democrats: 13%; Republicans: 21%; and a full third of the Tea Party contingent (34%) were firmly committed to banishing some other state from the land of the free.

The Tea Party’s favorite state to excommunicate is one that they frequently attack as a bastion of socialism and/or wacky secular heathens. To no one’s surprise it is California that was chosen by 83% of the Tea Party martinets of virtue. That’s six points higher than Republicans as a whole.

The incomparable idiocy of their blind hatred ignores the fact that California, by itself, accounts for about 13% of the nation’s GDP. If booted from the union it would become the sixth richest country in the world. It has all of the assets required to guarantee its ongoing prosperity, such as abundant natural resources; a diverse economy that includes agriculture, manufacturing, energy, technology, entertainment, and tourism; 800 miles of coastline and ports for access to the world’s trade routes; numerous defense plants and military installations; and an affluent population for its tax base. Let’s face, the U.S. needs California more than California needs the U.S.

If the GOP/Tea Party had its way they would end up with a much poorer America. California is a net positive contributor to the federal budget, getting back only 87 cents for every dollar paid in. Compare that to the Tea Party utopia of Mississippi where they mooch $2.47 for each dollar paid. And if the Teabaggers crusade extended to their second choice for banishment, New York, they would lose even more. New York is another prosperous (and Democratic) state that gets only 72 cents back on each dollar paid to the feds. The two-state combination of California and New York account for nearly a quarter (22%) of the entire nation’s GDP.

This display of stupidity extends to other questions in the Fox poll. For instance, when asked: How concerned are you that the Islamic extremist group known as ISIS will try to launch an attack on U.S. soil in the near future? Democrats had a reasonably healthy concern of 39%. Republicans were a bit more nervous with 59%. But the Tea Party are shivering in their bunkers with 76% consumed by the fear they’ve been fed by Fox News.

This may partially explain the serious diversion from reality that exists in the American electorate. The same poll shows that Obama’s approval rating is currently at 40%. That’s surprisingly low for a president who presided over the nation’s recovery from the worst financial calamity since the Great Depression; who disposed of Osama Bin Laden; and who signed the first major health insurance reform bill.

And yet Obama’s low rating is a drag on Democratic candidates in the upcoming midterm election. Polls show that many of the battleground states are perilously tight, with Republicans leading in some. But while Obama is riding around in the low forties, Republicans in Congress are floundering at 23%, almost half of Obama’s placing.

So why are voters considering casting their votes for Republicans whom they like much less than Obama and the Democrats? The answer is that the polling is counting “likely” voters. When a broader group of registered voters, or all eligible voters, are surveyed, the Democrats come out ahead. So the problem here is that Democrats are not considered likely to vote. That makes turnout for this year’s election the most critical objective. If Democrats vote in ratios comparable to Republicans, Democrats will win.

Of course, Republicans are doing everything they can to suppress voter turnout, and particularly to suppress Democratic turnout. They have been implementing voter ID laws that do nothing to prevent fraud, but are deliberately aimed at preventing Democrats from exercising their right to vote. Republicans are spending unprecedented sums on negative and dishonest advertising, largely bankrolled by the Koch brothers and other baldly partisan operatives.

The GOP/Tea Party wants very badly to block your ability to cast a vote. If you allow them to do that you are, in effect, aiding their cause. You are succumbing to their tactics. You are their bitch.

Shameless self-promotion…
Get Fox Nation vs. Reality. Available now at Amazon.

It’s time to stand up for something positive, as opposed to the relentlessly negative harping of the right. A Republican senate is not a symbolic victory for the other side. It means that every chairman of every committee will be a Republican. It means a senate filled with Darrell Issas and Louis Gohmerts and Michelle Bachmanns deciding what legislation will be considered and what phony investigations will be pursued. It will put more power in the hands of Mitch McConnell and Ted Cruz and Rand Paul. It will almost certainly result in an attempt to impeach the President.

But it doesn’t have to end that way. There are more of us than there are of them. All we have to do is vote. It isn’t that hard. You can register online in many states, and you can vote through the mail. Just fucking do it. Otherwise some toothless, tea-swilling, racist, moron will vote in your stead. The polls are all consistent. If we vote, we win. We can overwhelm their “likely” voter paradigm by simply showing up. And if we do, we beat back the Koch brothers, the GOP elitists, the Tea Party dimwits, and the cynical media that thinks YOU are too stupid to act in your own best interests.

As it turns out, voting is the cure for Tea-Bola.

FLASHBACK: Fox News Is Killing The Republican Party

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.



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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.

Occupy The Media: Progressives Rule – Republicans Drool

A new study by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press explores the public’s attitude toward their elected representatives and the ideological viewpoints that divide our culture. The results reveal a surprising discordance between what the people want and what our representatives think we want.

If a neutral foreigner were to be deposited in America and asked to describe the aspirations of the American people based on his observations of politicians and the press, he might describe a populace consumed with conservative values, evangelical fervor, and personal greed. It’s an appraisal colored by the inordinately excessive volume of congressional Tea Partiers, moralistic spokespeople, and Republican anti-tax crusaders.

However, the true character of the American people has only recently been demonstrated via the actions of Wall Street Occupiers and their protests against the undemocratic usurpation of power by wealthy corporations and individuals, and their benefactors in government. We are a far more tolerant, charitable, and forward thinking people than we are portrayed to be.

Pew Survey - Political TermsThe first, and perhaps most notable, revelation in the Pew survey is that, contrary to the conventional so-called wisdom, when Americans are asked for which term they have a more positive impression, “progressive” ranks highest (at 67%) and significantly higher than “conservative” (62%).

This reverence for progressivism will come as a surprise to many in the media who seem to have bought the persistent complaints of conservatives that Americans lean to the right. That has never been true. There has just been a concerted effort to demonize the liberal label, which has been successful to some degree. Glenn Beck tried to do the same thing to “progressive,” but obviously that didn’t work at all. He must be scarfing down Prozac by the handful right about now. And even with the decades-long bashing of liberals, the term still ties with “capitalism” at 50%. Meanwhile, socialism fares pretty well at 31% for a nation that once blacklisted anyone who expressed sympathy for workers or the poor – a nation to which today’s GOP would like to return.

In addition to the disconnect on ideology, the media has presented a pitifully shallow analysis of the public’s affinity (or lack thereof) for Congress. It has been widely reported that the approval rating for Congress is at historic lows (11%). However, that number has not been broken down to reflect the specific object of the public’s disaffection – until now.

The Pew survey reveals that the nation’s mind is firmly made up as to who is responsible for our national woes. When asked who is to blame for the “do-nothing” congress, respondents chose Republicans over Democrats by almost 2-to-1 (40% to 23%). Republicans were also seen as more extreme in their positions (55% to 33%), and less willing to work with the other side (25% to 51%). Meanwhile, Democrats were viewed as better able to manage government (41% to 35%) and more honest and ethical (45% to 28%).

Fox Nation - CongressThis places media reports of low congressional approval ratings in context. What people hate about Washington are its GOP inhabitants. November 2012 can’t come soon enough for Democrats. And, as can be expected, Fox News leads the pack of truth-distorters by publishing an article on low congressional approval with an accompanying graphic that features Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, but no sign of the Republican Speaker of the House, John Boehner, or his cadre of lieutenants and committee chairmen who presided over the least productive congress in 60 years.

A similar contextual perspective can be applied to reporting on the Occupy Wall Street movement. While right-wing propagandists have gone to great lengths to insult the protesters as unfocused, unclean, and un-American, the Pew poll paints a very different picture. A plurality of 44% support the movement. Even more (48%) agree with its goals. An overwhelming majority (77%) believe that there is too much power in the hands of a few rich people and large corporations. That includes majorities of Democrats (91%), Independents (80%), and even Republicans (53%).

This information ought to be a part of every story broadcast or published about the nation’s moods and preferences. The low opinions expressed in media polls do not exist in a vacuum. Those numbers have no meaning without digging further to understand why they are what they are. If you were to put Gandhi in a room with a coven of neo-Nazis and poll the public as to their opinion of the people in that room, it would certainly yield a poor result. The inscrutable press would then report that America hates Gandhi. Of course, a more detailed survey would show that it was only the Nazis that brought the polling down.

That’s precisely the sort of deception that the media is engaging in with regard to Occupy Wall Street and Congress. And it’s why we have to be continually vigilant in monitoring the media and correcting it when necessary. In the meantime, we, as progressives, can be proud that the people are on our side, and we can keep reminding the world that it’s the other guys in the room who are stinking it up.

Who Is Really Responsible For The National Debt?

The debate over whether to increase the debt ceiling has included relentless assertions as to who is responsible for the nation’s debt having skyrocketed to its present state. The media has utterly failed in presenting the issue objectively. So here it is (pdf) from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office:

National Debt Chart

The Republicans have increased the national debt far more than Democrats in the last five administrations, including that of the sainted Ronald Reagan. If the Tea Party were to honestly observe the reality of the nation’s economic history they would all be voting Democratic. Unfortunately, the Tea Party is a wholly owned subsidiary of the the Republican Party and Americans for Prosperity and is unlikely to alter their support for the GOP. However, that shouldn’t stop the press from accurately reporting the truth about the debt.

Priorities USA: More Of This, Please

Prioroties USA just released this video exposing the dangers of the extreme (aka mainstream) Republican/Tea Party:

Transcript: The extreme right is aptly named. They are extremely powerful, extremely well-funded, extremely frightening, extremely paranoid, extremely hateful, extremely irresponsible, extremely ill-informed. And just plain extreme. Which makes them all extremely dangerous. It’s time to stand up and fight back. Join us at PrioritiesUSAAction.org. Taking on the politics of fear and smear.

This video addresses the cream of the rightist assault on America. It covers everything from the Koch brothers, to Glenn Beck to Karl Rove and more. The folks behind Priorities USA are familiar Democratic operatives like Bill Burton, former deputy White House spokesman. The group appears to be a lefty version of Rove’s CrossroadsUSA.

It’s about time. While these sort of groups are exploiting the onerous Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court that permits unlimited, anonymous donations by corporations, as long as that decision is the law of the land, the GOP should not be alone in benefiting from it. In fact, Democrats should exploit the hell out of it in the hopes that Republicans will eventually see the harm and join Democrats in drafting a legislative repeal.

So, as the video says, “It’s time to stand up and fight back.”

Eight False Things The Public “Knows” That Just Aint So

OurFuture.org has put together a list that should be in every American’s mailbox before election day. It’s a perfect manifestation of Mark Twain’s admonition that, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” So here is a short list of some things the GOTea Party “knows” for sure:

1) President Obama tripled the deficit.
Reality: Bush’s last budget had a $1.416 trillion deficit. Obama’s first budget reduced that to $1.29 trillion.

2) President Obama raised taxes, which hurt the economy.
Reality: Obama cut taxes. 40% of the “stimulus” was wasted on tax cuts which only create debt, which is why it was so much less effective than it could have been.

3) President Obama bailed out the banks.
Reality: While many people conflate the “stimulus” with the bank bailouts, the bank bailouts were requested by President Bush and his Treasury Secretary, former Goldman Sachs CEO Henry Paulson. (Paulson also wanted the bailouts to be “non-reviewable by any court or any agency.”) The bailouts passed and began before the 2008 election of President Obama.

4) The stimulus didn’t work.
Reality: The stimulus worked, but was not enough. In fact, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the stimulus raised employment by between 1.4 million and 3.3 million jobs.

5) Businesses will hire if they get tax cuts.
Reality: A business hires the right number of employees to meet demand. Having extra cash does not cause a business to hire, but a business that has a demand for what it does will find the money to hire. Businesses want customers, not tax cuts.

6) Health care reform costs $1 trillion.
Reality: The health care reform reduces government deficits by $138 billion.

7) Social Security is a Ponzi scheme, is “going broke,” people live longer, fewer workers per retiree, etc.
Reality: Social Security has run a surplus since it began, has a trust fund in the trillions, is completely sound for at least 25 more years and cannot legally borrow so cannot contribute to the deficit (compare that to the military budget!) Life expectancy is only longer because fewer babies die; people who reach 65 live about the same number of years as they used to.

8‌) Government spending takes money out of the economy.
Reality: Government is We, the People and the money it spends is on We, the People. Many people do not know that it is government that builds the roads, airports, ports, courts, schools and other things that are the soil in which business thrives. Many people think that all government spending is on “welfare” and “foreign aid” when that is only a small part of the government’s budget.

The fact that there are so many people who believe things that are demonstrably untrue is a sad reflection on the media that ought to be informing the public. And worse, it’s evidence of how the corporations that control the press so blatantly misrepresent the truth. That’s why it’s so important for the rest of us to pass along the information above.

Is The GOP Ashamed Of Its Tea Party Base?

This morning the Fox Nation has placed as its top story an article on the Democrats’ new campaign to tie Tea Partyists to Republicans. Is that supposed to be a criticism? I thought the GOP and the Tea Baggers were best buddies. Republican candidates across the nation have embraced the Tea Party and enthusiastically sought their support. Tea Party candidates like Sharron Angle in Nevada and Paul Rand in Kentucky have been lauded as heroes within the GOP. Now, all of a sudden, they are complaining that Democrats are calling attention to the affection these conservative comrades have for one another.

When did the Republicans come to view the Tea Party as a liability? Why would this ad rattle them? Recent polling shows that 79% of Tea Partyists identified themselves as Republicans. And some of the top Republicans have been pandering to the Baggers in the most overt manner possible:

John Boehner, House Minority Leader: There really is no difference between what Republicans believe in and what the tea party activists believe in.

Sarah Palin, 1/2-term governor/Fox News contributor: The Republican Party would be really smart to start trying to absorb as much of the Tea Party movement as possible because this is the future of our country. The Tea Party movement is the future of politics.

Sen. Jim DeMint, GOP Chair Michael Steele, Newt Gingrich, and more, share these sentiments. However, the Fox Nationalists seemed to be worried about the association with extremist elements of the Tea Bagging faction. The posting links to an article on The Daily Caller that goes into more detail about this troublesome trend. But the article doesn’t support the contention that it is the Tea Party that worries them. The Caller asserts that the Democratic effort is…

“…a swipe at House Republicans for not offering more specifics of how they would govern if they retake the House. But it’s also an attempt to force the GOP to own proposals by Rep. Paul Ryan.”

Are they worried about the Tea Party or their own Republican agenda? Paul Ryan may be a Tea Party sympathizer, but he is also a Republican leader and the ranking member of the House Budget Committee. Why would the GOP need to be “forced” to adopt the budget proposals of their own budget committee chief? Why are they ashamed to endorse their own platform and people? That’s all the Democrats are putting forth in their video and on the web site dedicated to the Republican Tea Party Contract on America. The site is a summary of the Republican agenda as stated by Republicans, and is fully annotated to document their positions.

While Fox Nation is serving the interests of the Republican Party by seeking to mock the Democrats’ campaign, the Fox Nationalist citizens of the web site (which hilariously just added the words “All Opinions Welcome” to their logo) are not as anxious to distance themselves from the Tea Bagging contingent. Here is a sampling of comments from these completely sane and reasonable folks:

Wolverine Oathkeeper: I do not think it is necessary to puke the reasons why I am not voting for ANY DemonRats especially Obama “The man from Kenya who scammed our country”. My core thought is that they do not represent “One Nation under God, Indivisible With Liberty and Justice For All”

Judgment: Decent People have the common sense to know that the Democratic party has become a Servant of Satan and is using all his favorite ‘tools’ of lies and deception to decieve the people.

Muslim socialist democrats …….taking lying to a whole nother level !: These muslim socialist democrats are runnin scared…………….There is no antidote for the socialist policies of the muslim moron ! America is fed up with these morons and there is nothing the muslim socialist democratic party can do !

WHITE&PROUD2: Hey Liberals, who gives a f–k what you do? Your time is up and you are irrelevant!!

s-t-g: I like the ad. I wish the republican party was more conservative and would enact much of what the tea party stands for.

Exactly! This ad is not the least bit derogatory from the perspective of the Tea Bagger. It is a documentary exposition of the current state of the Tea-publican establishment. No Tea Partyist would find this ad objectionable. So the question is…why do the Republicans and their media mouthpieces?

Update: House Minority Whip Eric Cantor is ashamed. He announced today that he would not be joining the Tea Party caucus in Congress recently founded by Michelle Bachmann (R-TP).

Waterloo For Fox News?

Fourteen months. Fourteen long months of the most venal, histrionic, sensationalized, dishonest, and relentless crusade of disinformation, and what do they have to show for it?


[Purchase FreakShow stickers at Crass Commerce

Fox News has been the official campaign headquarters for opposition to health care reform. They dispatched their top personalities to headline rallies and protests. They consigned thousands of hours of valuable air time to anti-reform politicians and pundits. They converted their studios into Republican platforms for electioneering and fundraising. They adopted the Tea Party “movement” so thoroughly that they even rode along on its bus tours and branded its events as Fox enterprises.

And they lost.

Fox News is fond of reminding everyone of their ratings dominance. Although the cable news universe is comparatively tiny (Fox News has less than half the viewers of the lowest rated broadcast news program on CBS), Fox incessantly boasts that it is the leader in the space. But the fallout from the health care debate ought to demonstrate precisely how little that victory means in the macro world of politics. If the number one cable news network cannot sufficiently move public opinion to produce a legislative victory after fourteen months of persistent propaganda, it would be folly to regard them as if they were some formidable bastion of power or influence. Yet that is exactly how they are regarded by their patrons in the Republican Party (and many in the press).

Last July I wrote an article describing how “Fox News Is Killing The Republican Party”

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.). […]

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. […]

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.

See also: As Fox News Goes Up, The GOP Goes Down

Undoubtedly, Republicans will still embrace Fox News. They are not about to abandon the media megaphone that they believe is most in tune with their agenda. Consequently, they will continue to be hampered by the association with unhinged hyperbole like this:

Glenn Beck: This is the end of prosperity in America forever if this bill passes. This is the end of America as you know it.

Hannity: If we get nationalized health care, it’s over; this is socialism.

Neil Cavuto: National Healthcare: Breeding Ground For Terror?

In an inspired fit of illogic, Stephen Hayes of the Weekly Standard appeared on Fox News this morning to accuse Democrats of being partisan. His evidence was that 34 Democrats voted with Republicans against the health care care bill, but no Republicans voted with the Democrats in favor. Of course, that’s actually evidence that the Democrats were NOT partisan. They demonstrated some diversity in their views while Republicans all marched in lock-step against the bill. In further support of this inane argument, Hayes may have uttered the day’s funniest, and most truthful, commentary:

“If Bart Stupak was a Republican crazy he probably would’ve stuck with his original position.”

I couldn’t agree more. Sticking with his original position against the bill, would certainly have qualified Stupak as a Republican crazy. And it is generous of Hayes to admit that holding the Republican view is tantamount to being insane.

Where do you go after you’ve argued that Armageddon will be the result if your alarms are not heeded (as GOP chair Michael Steele did today) and your argument is rejected? Do you moderate your rhetoric and attempt to restore civility to the debate? Or do you accelerate into a frenzied panic and march a phalanx of livid lemmings over a cliff? My money is on the latter, so far as Fox News is concerned. They still consider it to be in their best interests to manufacture the sort of melodrama that captures television audiences.

Here it’s important to remember that the interests of a television network are worlds apart from those of a political party. So while Fox is happy to gin up the rancor in hopes of attracting more viewers stimulated by bloody conflicts, the GOP will only be further damaged by the partnership. However, unfortunately for them, they have nowhere else to go. Fox News, and a few other rightist authors and radio talkers, have become the de facto face of the Republican Party. This is a point made by conservative strategist David Frum in his discussion of health care winners and losers:

Yes it mobilizes supporters – but by mobilizing them with hysterical accusations and pseudo-information, overheated talk has made it impossible for representatives to represent and elected leaders to lead. The real leaders are on TV and radio, and they have very different imperatives from people in government.

Frum goes on to predict that the continuing, and escalating, hysteria will be a boon to right-wing media. I’m not sure that I agree with him on that point. Certainly the hardcore disciples of Beck and company will remain glued to their sets. But we might also see audiences recede out of frustration and/or fatigue. After pouring everything they had, including their sanity, into a winner-take-all death match and losing, it would surprise no one if a significant segment of the audience decided to take a vacation from the lunacy. If an effort as determined and prolonged as the one Fox just concluded could not prevail, then what would it take?

The good news from all of this is that, as abhorrent as Fox News is, it ought not to be viewed as a Goliath that will crush any opponent. They gave it their all and came up short. They huffed and they puffed, but the House stood strong (oh wait, that was a wolf). This is the clearest evidence yet that Rupert Murdoch’s empire is a paper Fox. However, that doesn’t mean that it should be neglected. It can still bark ferociously and the other members of the media pack continue to give Fox more credence than they deserve. And for these reasons we must remain vigilant and prepared to respond to the deceitful and unethical practices of this phony pseudo-news enterprise.

In the long term I continue to believe that an informed public will reject Fox’s brand of shallow and divisive disinformation. And looking back, the health care debate may one day be perceived as a turning point. It may be that this long, sordid affair will be the battle that turns the war for responsible journalism to favor reason and truth. It may be Fox News’ Waterloo.

[Update: 3/25/10] David Frum has been dismissed from his job at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. That’s what he gets for going rogue.

Why Does Glenn Beck Hate Democracy?

In another display of hysterical dementia, Glenn Beck spent much of his program yesterday mangling American history and redefining the meaning of progressive. As usual, his interpretation of current events is rife with Apocalyptic gloom:

Beck: What we’re talking about is an ideological movement that has set its sights on the destruction of the Constitution and the fundamental transformation of the republic.

Beck’s proof for this prophesy of despair was a series of videos wherein Democrats described themselves as progressive, or promised to make progress on matters of interest to the nation. Progress, of course, is something that Beck and other conservatives deeply despise. That is why there has never been much of it during conservative administrations. As for progressives, Beck is recasting them as Satan’s minions who are “sucking the blood” out of the Democratic Party (Republicans too). He insists that there are no more Democrats, that they have all become infected and are now Marxists. To illustrate his point, Beck quoted Michael Moore issuing a warning to Democrats.

Moore: To the Democrats in Congress who don’t quite get it: I want to offer you a personal pledge. I, and a lot of other people have every intention of removing you from Congress in the next election if you stand in the way of health care legislation that the people want. That is not a hollow or idle threat. We will come to your district and we will work against you. You think that we’re just going to go along with you because you’re Democrats? You should think again. Because we’ll find Republicans who are smart enough to realize that the majority of Americans want universal health care.

To which Beck replied: “Got it? They don’t care about the parties. They never have.”

You see? Moore articulated a pointedly non-partisan challenge to the people’s representatives, exhorting them to align themselves with the public will or face payback at the polls. It’s called democracy. Yet Beck construes this expression of democratic engagement as hostility to party politics. What’s funny about this, aside from Beck’s daft analysis, is that he himself has made a career of being hostile to party politics. In fact, if you remove some of the identifying words in Moore’s statement it could easily be mistaken for Beck himself.

Last August Beck embarked on a major project that he called “In or Out 2010.” It’s whole purpose, he said, was to hold elected representatives accountable to the people and to a 5-point pledge he proposed. In the program introducing the project Beck said:

“If your politician doesn’t believe, support or reflect these beliefs, in their actions, not what they say in cute little speeches, then they aren’t supporting you. You bring these words to them. They’re not supporting or protecting or defending the Constitution of the United States…It’s time to throw those bums out…You tell these politicians that you’re either in, or next election season, you are out.”

How is this different from what Moore said? The only difference is that it’s OK for Glenn Beck to say it, but not Michael Moore. It is the result of the entitlement Beck feels to threaten whoever he wishes, a right not afforded to anyone else. It is a decidedly anti-democratic attitude that pervades Beck’s philosophy. Yesterday’s blackboard sermon was an extended assault on democracy that focused on how corrupt it must be because Americans voted to send more Democrats to Washington than Republicans.

Beck: I could erase the Republicans. We could take them all outside and send them to the zoo all day long and it doesn’t matter. The Democrats could still pass all their legislation.

First of all, that would only be true if there were no diversity of opinion in the Democrat’s caucus, which we all saw last year is far from the case. Secondly, so what if were true? Isn’t that what democracy is all about? If you persuade more citizens to vote for your party/platform then you get to implement it (pay attention Democrats). But Beck gets even more squirrelly as he continues bashing democratic principles.

Beck: That’s why the Democrats need these phantom villains because who’s resisting them? There’s no debate, right? Except the debate inside their own party. Inside the 256 Democrats and the 58 Democrats. You see debate…debate…that’s a needed ingredient for a recipe. One that doesn’t end up in tyranny. Debate. That’s not what we have now in the house and the senate.

In Beck’s world, which is overrun with phantoms and villains, there is no debate amongst Democrats. Of course, in the real world, getting Democrats to agree on anything is a Herculean undertaking. That’s why they have failed to invoke cloture on the record number of Republican filibusters. And it’s why so many judges and other White House appointees are still awaiting confirmation. And it’s why there still isn’t a health care bill.

On the other side of the aisle, however, the GOP marches in lockstep, holding together their homogeneous caucus without debate. It is a strictly disciplined organism that will not countenance dissent. It is the epitome of the recipe for tyranny that Beck assails. But somehow Beck recites this quotation from John F. Kennedy with no irony whatsoever:

JFK: Without debate, without criticism, no administration and no country can survive.

Unless they are Republicans, in which case they get a free pass from Beck who simply finds democracy distasteful. If the people speak out in favor of candidates or policies that Beck dislikes they are misguided and the system is broken. If Beck approves of the people’s decisions then those in the minority should shut up and stop trying to peddle their socialist propaganda. That’s what passes for debate in Beck’s cartoon brain. After all, how do you argue with someone who believes that God is the grantor of rights?

Last year, Beck announced that “the whole approach changes” for his show starting this month. I haven’t seen any evidence of that, but the month isn’t over yet. His announcement coincided with the disclosure of yet another Beck initiative (following the 912 Project, Re-Founders, In or Out 2010, etc.), the ominously christened “The Plan,” a one hundred year blueprint for the restoration of an America that exists only in his mangled mentality. Speculation circulated that this would be a voter registration/community organizing project. In other words, Beck may be starting his own ACORN. So we’re still waiting to see if the democracy-hating Beck will emulate an organization that he regards as anti-democratic.

Fox News Is Killing The Republican Party


[Purchase FreakShow stickers at Crass Commerce]

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.