Poor-Shaming On Fox News: Jon Stewart Is “Starting To Lack A Richness Of F*cks

Last night Jon Stewart delivered a segment that is destined to become classic among the Daily Show archives (video below). The brilliantly produced nine minutes of insight and comedy began with a montage of Fox News squaking heads doing what comes naturally to them: Complaining about President Obama.

On this occasion, the topic of the complaint was that the President did not talk enough about poverty, a subject that Fox News generally regards as a scam run by moochers and Democrats who are either trying to enslave them or are fishing for their votes. But since Fox’s mission is to denigrate Obama at all times, when he talks about poverty he is pandering and when he doesn’t he is heartless and hypocritical.

Fox News Jon Stewart

It quickly became apparent that Fox must have been watching a different President Obama than the the one that inhabits reality. Stewart noticed that divergence saying that Obama has indeed “been addressing those issues his entire presidency,” and that Fox ignored that fact in favor of obsessing over Obama making an unarguably true observation about Fox.

“Yep, just like college students at a four hour commencement, Fox basically paid no attention until they heard their own names. It turns out at one point during this incredibly thoughtful and productive session on poverty, the President made the easily provable and decidedly true point that the Fox News narrative is that poverty is not a function of economic condition, but of character.”

For the record, this what Obama said about Fox:

“If you watch Fox News on a regular basis, it is a constant menu, they will find folks who make ME mad. I don’t know where they find them. They’re all like ‘I don’t wanna work. I just want a free Obamaphone.’ And that becomes an entire narrative that gets worked up. And very rarely do you hear an interview of a waitress, which is much more typical, who’s raising a couple of kids, and is doing everything right, but still can’t pay the bills.”

Stewart accurately noted that the President has a “remarkably firm grasp” on the Fox business model and mocked Fox anchor Stuart Varney’s assertion that they are “honest messengers.” He then laid into what he called a “rich buffet of bullshit” when Varney claimed that Fox never characterized the poor as lazy. What followed was another montage of Fox News callously demonizing the poor in direct contradiction of what they had just claimed.

This caused Stewart to wonder “How fucking removed from reality” is Fox of their own coverage. That is, I assume a rhetorical question. Obviously Fox does not factor reality into their coverage from the outset. Otherwise, how could people like Varney say that the poor “have a richness of things, what they lack is a richness of spirit,” in one breath, and then pretend that he would never say such a thing in the next? Stewart’s response…

“Are these glaring contradictions a product of lack of self-awareness, or cynicism, or stupidity, or evil? I don’t know anymore, and I’m starting to lack a richness of fucks.”

It is easy to understand the sense of exasperation that Fox’s hypocrisy can incite. But the truth is that they have been doing this for years. Take for example this account of how the poor just have things way too good; or this one; or this one. And the funny thing is that all three of those stem from the same source that Fox keeps recycling for years on end. It’s a mantra that surely brings them the inner peace of a Bizarro World Buddha who lusts for ever more material possessions, while condemning anyone who is struggling to survive for wanting just the bare necessities of life.

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Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

America Wants A Black Jon Stewart For President – Or Center-Right Nation My A…

The conventional (alleged) wisdom from mainstream media punditry has been telling us for years that America is a center-right nation. Never mind the contrary evidence that polls reveal about a populace that favors higher taxes on the rich, marriage equality, action to mitigate Climate Change, immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship, enhanced gun safety measures, breaking up big banks, fewer foreign military engagements, an end to gerrymandering and voter suppression, and greater access to healthcare. Somehow the pundit class still manages to define the electorate much farther to the right than reality dictates.

Jon Stewart

Two polls this week illustrate the fallacy of the media perception of where America stands. These aren’t the first polls to set the record straight, but coming out within a couple of days of each other as a new presidential election cycle begins to gear up is instructional and ought to have an impact on how the press frames the political discourse for the next few months.

The first poll is from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal. It asked respondents to indicate their comfort levels with various traits of potential candidates. The poll produced an index that expressed the mood of the voters with regard to these traits. Topping the list as the most acceptable trait was “African-American,” with a rating of 75. Those that followed with ratings above fifty were women (74), persons under age 50 (66), Hispanics (63), military background (62), governors (62), and Catholics (57).

Even more telling (and troubling for Republicans) were those at the bottom of the list with negative ratings. They were persons with no prior elected experience (-39), Tea Party leaders (-28), and persons with no college degree (-22). Notables in those categories include Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and college dropout Scott Walker. Additionally, our allegedly center-right nation is more comfortable with a gay or lesbian presidential candidate (33), than with an evangelical Christian (7), or any of the previously mentioned bottom dwellers.

By contrast, when the poll is segmented by party affiliation, Republicans are exposed for their overt biases. They do not rank an ethnic minority until the fifth and sixth spots: Hispanic (69) and African-American (66). Women don’t rate until ninth place with a comfort level barely above fifty (54). However, as might be expected, gays and lesbians are second to last with a negative 15 rating.

The other poll is from Reuters who surveyed Americans to ascertain their favorite pundits. On this poll Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert were in a virtual tie with about 47% saying they admired them. The same two topped the charts on the question of who “generally shares your view of the world.” Rush Limbaugh brought up the rear with only 25% giving him any admiration. And it was all right-wingers (Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham, Glenn Beck, etc.) at the bottom for both the admiration and the world view questions.

One pundit in the survey must be particularly pissed off by these results. Bill O’Reilly ranked significantly lower than Stewart and Colbert on every issue. Since he has been obsessed with attacking them as “deceivers” and the “key components of left-wing television,” he isn’t going to take well the news that large majorities of Americans prefer the Comedy Central duo to him.

The real question is: When will the media take notice that the United States is not the center-right nation they keep pretending it is? We now have evidence that covers both policies and personalities that undeniably paints the country as more progressive. And the only reason that our political representation doesn’t reflect that is because of the corruption of money in campaigns and the corruption of gerrymandering in drawing legislative districts.

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Were those problems resolved we would see where the nation really comes down ideologically. But don’t count on Republicans to willingly allow more fairness and honesty in the electoral process. The corruption in the system currently is the only reason they have any power now and they aren’t about to let it go. It will have to be taken from them by committed proponents of true democracy. In the words of Patti Smith: “People Have The Power. The power to dream, to rule, to wrestle the world from fools.” We just need to exercise it.

Born A Crime: Trevor Noah To Succeed Jon Stewart As Host Of The Daily Show

In an announcement confirming recent speculation, South African comedian Trevor Noah has been named as the successor to Jon Stewart. After sixteen years of entertaining and thought provoking comedy, Stewart will be stepping down later this year, leaving a gaping hole in the world of political satire just as the 2016 presidential cycle is warming up.

Trevor Noah

The selection of Noah came as a surprise to many who regard him as an untested novice who cannot possibly fill Stewart’s shoes. That assessment comes from ignorance because a little research reveals that Noah is an accomplished performer who sells out shows around the world and has even hosted his own late night program in South Africa. He is also a smart observer of culture and politics who speaks several languages.

Some critics are pointing out that Noah has only appeared on the Daily Show three times. However, that is not a prerequisite for becoming host. Jon Stewart had never appeared on the Daily Show prior to his selection as host. Yet he leap-frogged a correspondent already working there named Stephen Colbert.

Noah’s personal journey holds promise for a unique perspective on American politics and media. He jokes that he was “born a crime,” which is actually no joke. His mother was a black South African and his father a white man from Switzerland. Under the racist Apartheid regime it was literally against the law for them get married and have children. Nevertheless, Noah transcended the harsh realities of his youth in Soweto to become a successful entertainer. No doubt America’s mush-brained birthers will note the parallels with Kenyan-born Barack Obama’s mixed-race heritage.

The future of the Daily Show is still in doubt. There have been rumors circulating that Comedy Central wants to take the program in a less political direction. That would be huge mistake from a business perspective because they would be abandoning a large and loyal audience that Stewart spent sixteen years building. But worse, it would be huge loss for the state of satire on television. There are few other places where it is available in such quantity and quality.

The selection of Noah suggests that the network may intend to maintain the current theme of the show. And Noah has praised the current production staff, which hopefully signals an intention to retain the writers and producers that have contributed so much to the show’s success.

After the departure of Colbert, Comedy Central made an inspired choice to give the timeslot to Larry Wilmore. Unfortunately, they delivered a program that doesn’t have the energy and edginess of its predecessor. Replacing an expertly scripted and rehearsed comedy program with one that is mostly a panel of talking heads could not possibly live up to the iconic stature of the Colbert Report. [More on that here]

Reaction to Noah’s selection has been mostly positive, citing his youth and international outlook as assets that could expand the audience and make it relevant to a new generation. Ironically, those are the same qualities that some critics are citing as drawbacks. In a hilarious critique by the cretins at Breitbart News, editor-in-chief Joel Pollack complains that Noah will be limited by “his specialty in racial and ethnic humor,” and that the new show “probably won’t last more than six months on the air.” But the Breitbrats have been trash-talking the Daily Show for years. So it comes as no surprise that Pollak would compose this bit of dumbfuckery:

“The reason Stewart is funny–even, at times to conservatives–is that he has a deep understanding of American politics, and especially American media, even if his ideological blinders prevent him from understanding every issue. That is not something a crack team of writers can produce on demand for any host, much less one from overseas, even for a fast learner like Noah.”

As usual Pollak’s brain is AWOL. Never mind his first-ever admissions that Stewart is funny and “has a deep understanding of American politics,” Pollak’s own ideological blinders have prevented him from recalling that John Oliver, another overseas alien invader, adroitly filled-in for Stewart for three months in 2013, and went on to achieve his own success at HBO.

You do not need to be born in America to understand American politics and media. Pollak, of all people, should know this as someone who was born in South Africa. Now he runs an American political media website and has the nerve to presume that another South African is unable to grasp the same subjects.

If Noah brings half the wit and charm that Oliver did, the next generation Daily Show has a good chance of matching and surpassing the program’s historic appeal. And as the video below shows, Noah has a pretty good handle on the wit and charm stuff.

News Corpse Presents: The ALL NEW 2nd volume of
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

Jon Stewart Warns That Watching Fox News Will Indelibly Burn Your Soul

The least humble network in cable news is whining (again) about not getting credit for something that they think they got right. It’s a rather embarrassing display of pretentious Narcissism that plays perfectly into the hands of the Daily Show’s Jon Stewart.

Jon Stewart Fox News

Sparking the smackdown was Fox’s Megyn Kelly, who insisted that she, Sean Hannity, and others at Fox had correctly refused to accept the rallying cry of protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, “Hands up. Don’t Shoot.” Her immodest appeal for applause came after a Department of Justice report finding that there was not sufficient evidence to charge Officer Darren Wilson with violating the civil rights of Michael Brown, the unarmed teenager Wilson fatally shot.

This set Stewart off on a hilarious rant (video below) about how Fox is constantly exalting themselves. He conceded Kelly’s argument that she was unjustly denied the acclaim she deserves for the three times in ten years that she was allegedly right. He further points out that, like a solar eclipse, “You can’t look directly at Fox. It will indelibly burn your soul.”

However, most of Stewart’s wit was aimed at how taken Fox News is with itself. There is an hysterical montage of Foxies congratulating themselves and even thanking God that they exist. Stewart observes that this magnitude of self love is aptly analogous to Fox’s relative immaturity.

“I get it now. You’re network launched in 1996. You’re 18 years old. And just like every other 18 year old, you have a massive ego and spend 24 hours a day jerking yourself off.”

While Stewart was typically brilliant comedically, he was overly generous in acquiescing to Kelly’s demand to be praised for the accuracy of her journalism. In fact, the DOJ report also found that the Ferguson police department had engaged in a “pattern and practice” of racism for many years. It was that conduct that produced the sort of suffering and grievances that the citizens of Ferguson were protesting. It went far beyond the sloganeering that Fox was so anxious to focus on. And Fox virtually ignored the part of the DOJ report that exposed the systemic racism in Ferguson.

So Kelly was not right and deserved no recognition for anything but her repeated misrepresentations. Nevertheless, Stewart once again created an entertaining and enlightening segment that sadly reminds us that he will not be doing it for much longer. So enjoy it now, while you can.

News Corpse Presents: The ALL NEW 2nd volume of
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

Captain Oblivious: Bill O’Reilly Denies That Fox News Is Conservative – Jon Stewart Proves It

After nineteen years of flogging the most partisan right-wing propaganda and serving as the PR division of the Republican Party, It is astonishing, and somewhat comical, that Fox News can still present itself as “fair and balanced.” That delusion requires a measure of either self-deception or rank dishonesty that defies comprehension.

Bill O'Reilly

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And yet, that is precisely the position taken by Fox’s Godfather of Gumption, Bill O’Reilly. On Thursday’s program O’Reilly butted heads gently with his frequent guest and sycophantic hanger-on, Bernie Goldberg, who tried meekly to assert the obvious.

Goldberg: Liberal news organizations are gonna play down liberal screw-ups. But Fox News is gonna play down conservative screw-ups.
O’Reilly: I disagree with that. Let me tell you why.

Thereupon, O’Reilly set out to prove that he and his “flagship” show is a paragon of neutrality goodness. As evidence he bragged about featuring “unbiased” commentators like Charles Krauthammer and Brit Hume. Which is a little like saying that inviting David Duke to dinner proves you’re not a racist. O’Reilly goes on to insist that rabidly partisan Fox hacks like Megyn Kelly, Bret Baier, and Chris Wallace are ideological straight shooters. And while Goldberg agrees with him on every count, he still asks O’Reilly incredulously…

Goldberg: So Fox isn’t the conservative network? Is that what you’re trying to tell us?
O’Reilly: What I’m saying to you is that I never bought that Fox is the conservative network. I buy that Fox gives conservatives a voice that they don’t have on the other networks. There’s no right-wing jihad on this network. If somebody’s screwing up on the right they get hammered.

Well, except for all the times that Fox has simply declined to mention conservative screw-ups, scandals, and blatant lies. And when Fox can’t help but mention some right-wing fiasco, they devote most of their time and energy to defending the wingnut miscreants responsible for it.

A conveniently timed example of this came in a segment from Thursday’s Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Reporting on the hypocrisy of Fox News coverage of the Justice Department’s investigation of police conduct in Ferguson, Missouri, Stewart noticed Fox’s one-sided focus on the exoneration of officer Darren Wilson, while completely ignoring the DOJ’s conclusions that the Ferguson PD engaged in routine discrimination and racist behavior. Stewart compared Fox’s response to the DOJ report with their non-response to a Republican House Intelligence Committee’s report debunking the lies that Fox had been telling about Benghazi for years. Summing up he succinctly articulated…

“…the beauty that is the ugliness of Fox News. They demand accountability for anger and divisiveness, whilst holding themselves entirely unaccountable for their anger and divisiveness.”

You’ll be waiting a long time for Fox News to apologize for getting virtually everything wrong about Benghazi. Apologies are a foreign concept to Fox. And O’Reilly is the poster boy for arrogant refusals to take responsibility for mistakes, deceptions, and outright lies. The recent unveiling of a career-long pathology of dishonesty and personal glorification, complete with documentary evidence of his deliberate falsehoods, has failed to produce the slightest bit of contrition or shame, much less an apology. To the contrary, O’Reilly’s response has been to lash out by insulting and literally threatening his critics. And when he isn’t on the attack, he resorts to distractions such as this week’s anti-Semitic segment calling Jewish philanthropist George Soros a “Puppet Master” who controls governments and banks and other institutional levers of power.

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Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

O’Reilly’s anger, divisiveness, and evasion of accountability are emblematic of the Fox mindset. And his inability to admit the starkly conservative biases of Fox indicates an acute case of denial. Anyone who continues to believe that Fox News is a fair arbiter of information needs to adjust their meds. And that includes O’Reilly.

Jon Stewart Challenges Fox News To A ‘Lie Off’ – He’s Gonna Lose

Last night Jon Stewart opened The Daily Show with a commentary (video below) on how his announcement that’s he’s leaving did not go unnoticed. He took particular umbrage at Megyn Kelly of Fox News for saying that “he was not a force for good,” and that “in his later years he got a little nasty.” But surprisingly the part that bothered him was “in his later years.” He then insisted that he still has “four to five productive years left,” but eventually he would hit “the last four or five angry confused years, or as they are sometimes referred to, the Fox News viewer demo years.”

Go Fox Yourself

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Then Stewart played clips of Fox Newsers accusing him of ignoring facts to offer nothing but “sarcasm, insults and dishonest editing.” (Sounds like watching Fox News). Once again Kelly was highlighted alleging that Stewart had “no foothold on the facts.” That spurred Stewart to challenge Fox News to a “Lie Off,” a contest that guarantees a victory for Fox News. He then played a six second Vine video that contained 50 Fox News lies. PolitiFact reviewed all of the lies in Stewart’s Vine video and agreed that every single one of them was false (eleven of them Pants On Fire). However, that evidence, as Stewart noted, would have no impact on Fox’s twisted perception of reality because…

“You see…Something of a conventional wisdom about this show has taken hold on the right. A thought that they’ve become so comfortable with that they don’t feel the need to offer evidence to support it. That we lie and distort things all the time to make them look bad.”

Stewart marveled at the suggestion by Rush Limbaugh that he “poisoned the Republican brand,” and after showing hilarious clips of how Limbaugh represented that brand asked “How do you poison a cyanide factory?” Then, challenging the notion that Fox cares about the truth, Stewart stated something that has been obvious for years, that “What matters to the right is discrediting anything that they believe harms their side. That’s their prime directive.”

Despite the conventional “wisdom” that Stewart mentioned, conservative media has often recognized the many times that Stewart’s wit was aimed at President Obama or other Democrats and liberals. Fox News has trumpeted those segments dozens of times. (News Corpse has documented them here and here). Nevertheless, they suffer a peculiar sort of amnesia that causes them to forget his even-handedness whenever they feel like bashing him again over some new perceived slight.

While conservatives may be celebrating the sunset of the Stewart Era on cable TV, they are forgetting that he will be replaced by somebody, and it will probably not be Dennis Miller or Sarah Palin or some other right-wing clown. There is a reason that there aren’t any conservative comedians (or any funny ones). Their world view is inherently humorless. It is consumed by fear and hatred and worship of the privileged. Jokes about the homeless, or sick folks without health insurance, are only funny to the ignorant, the sadistic, and the GOP (or Greedy One Percent), who are only aware of their own selfish concerns.

That’s why Fox News suffices as a comedy channel for conservatives. It’s as close as they can get to it. But liberals also find humor in some of the ridiculous and embarrassing statements that tumble from the tongues of Fox’s personalities. They also learn things from Stewart and gain insight from his well-informed satire. That’s why you hear many of them say that they get their news from Comedy Central and their comedy from Fox News.

News Corpse Presents: The ALL NEW 2nd volume of
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

To Rachel Maddow: Fox News Doesn’t Give A Fig About Bill O’Reilly’s Lies And Threats

The scandal engulfing Fox News, and its star blowhard Bill O’Reilly, is picking up steam as well as new allegations of dishonesty and flagrant self-glorification. The latest episodes of O’Reilly inventing harrowing journalistic adventures include his false assertion that he was present at the suicide of a figure associated with the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and his claim to have witnessed nuns being executed in El Salvador.

The initial response to the evidence that O’Reilly repeatedly lied about his experiences in Argentina as a “war zone” correspondent “in the Falklands” was to launch an attack on the reporters who exposed him and the so-called “liberal” media overall. He called them “liars, guttersnipes,” and “far-left zealots.” Even worse, when approached by a reporter from the New York Times he warned her that if he was unhappy with the story “I am coming after you with everything I have. You can take it as a threat.”

Bill O'Reilly

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Last night on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show, the issue was raised to inquire as to whether O’Reilly’s turpitude might disturb his employers or colleagues (video below). Maddow did an excellent job of explaining the events that led up to O’Reilly’s threats, but then she entertained the following scenario:

“Fox News has a bunch of folks like Mr. O’Reilly on their shows. It’s part of why I call them Republican TV. But they also have a lot of real reporters on staff who do real reporting all day long on real news. They have White House correspondents, and congressional reporters, and even media reporters. And I’m sure they don’t take kindly when their own reporters get threatened for trying to do their jobs. But it is hard to imagine what this is going to do to the work environment at Fox News Channel for the Fox News Channel’s real reporters, and they do have them.”

Maddow surely has decent intentions in characterizing Fox News as a network that employs real reporters. However, there is scant evidence that it is true. Their main anchor, Bret Baier, presides over a daily roasting of President Obama. Their chief White House correspondent, Ed Henry, is a deeply biased right-winger with open hostility to the President. Their media analyst, Howard Kurtz, went out of his way to defend O’Reilly in an embarrassing display that evoked either fear or fawning or both.

But one thing in particular that Maddow said was way off the mark. It is not hard at all to imagine what this is going to do to the work environment at Fox News. It isn’t going to do a damn thing. As fake news guy Jon Stewart correctly pointed out: “No one’s watching [O’Reilly] for the actual truth.” And referencing O’Reilly’s “No Spin Zone” tag line Stewart noted that “Misrepresenting the zone he is in is kind of his hook.”

Fox News is a network born of deceit and devoted to the dissemination of propaganda. They couldn’t care less if they are discovered to be distorting reality because that is what they were created to do. Their founder and CEO, Roger Ailes, has no scruples when it comes to stuffing his roster with partisan clowns, as evidenced by the existence of Steve Doocy, Sean Hannity, Judge Jeanine Pirro, Donald Trump, Elizabeth Hasselbeck, Keith Ablow, and, of course, Bill O’Reilly.

When some of his mouthpieces began to fray at the edges of sanity, Ailes admitted to keeping them on the air long after he had determined that they were detrimental with justifications that were purely political. The reason Ailes gave for putting off Beck’s departure was that he “didn’t want to give MoveOn and Media Matters the satisfaction.” And with regard to why he re-signed Sarah Palin after first letting her contract expire, he said that he hired her back to “piss off the people that wanted her dead.” How does that comport with the production of “real news.”

As for O’Reilly, he is a known ratings winner who satisfies the lust for wingnut outrage that boils in the withering hearts of the Fox News audience. Ailes isn’t going to risk that without some intense pressure being applied, and maybe not even then. He knows that O’Reilly is a hate monger whose persona is dripping with animus and ego. A study done a few years back by Indiana University revealed the depth of O’Reilly’s bullying attitude:

“The IU researchers found that O’Reilly called a person or a group a derogatory name once every 6.8 seconds, on average, or nearly nine times every minute during the editorials that open his program each night.”

Consequently, Fox News is well aware of how O’Reilly behaves and they approve. The only thing that might impact their decision to stand by him is if advertisers bail out in droves, which is what happened to Glenn Beck. And then they still kept his show on for a period of time to avoid looking like they caved in. In O’Reilly’s case, they would more likely announce his retirement after some twenty years on the network. It would then be announced that he would produce occasional specials and continue to write books about killing people. Which is an especially appropriate legacy for a bully like him to pursue.

News Corpse Presents: The ALL NEW 2nd volume of
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

Media Matter and MoveOn have a petition calling for Fox News to Hold Bill O’Reilly Accountable. Go add your name to it and let the advertiser community know that America’s television viewers aren’t going to stand for this.

The Queen Of Astroturf Doesn’t Know The Meaning Of Astroturf

When Sharyl Attkisson left CBS over her flagrant insertion of conservative political bias into the stories she covered, she might have tried to rehabilitate her decaying reputation by affiliating herself with a credible news organization. Instead, she immediately signed up with Fox News (not exactly the place to prove your aren’t shilling for the right) and took a position with the The Daily Signal, the pseudo-news Internet outlet run by the ultra-rightist Heritage Foundation.

Media Circus

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Her post-CBS work has mainly been limited to three areas of shameless whining: 1) Bashing those in her past that she felt had discriminated against her freedom to propagandize; 2) Promoting her anti-Obama diatribe “Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama’s Washington;” and 3) Telling paranoid (and ultimately debunked) tales of being spied on by shadowy, unnamed enemies in the government determined to destroy her professionally and personally.

Continuing her transparently prejudiced crusade against a select group of imagined adversaries, Attkisson has published her list of “The Top 10 Astroturfers.” In the process she has demonstrated that she is viscerally determined to persist in slandering her perceived foes. What’s more, she is proving that she doesn’t have any idea what Astroturfing is. For the record, here is the generally recognized definition of this neologism:

Astroturf: An apparently grassroots-based citizen group or coalition that is primarily conceived, created and/or funded by corporations, industry trade associations, political interests or public relations firms. It seeks to disguise a powerful special interest as a popular movement.

On that basis, here is Attkisson’s list:

  1. Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and Everytown
  2. Media Matters for America
  3. University of California Hastings Professor Dorit Rubenstein Reiss and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Dr. Paul Offit
  4. “Science” Blogs such as: Skeptic.com, Skepchick.org, Scienceblogs.com (Respectful Insolence), Popsci.com and SkepticalRaptors.com
  5. Mother Jones
  6. Salon.com and Vox.com
  7. White House press briefings and press secretary Josh Earnest
  8. Daily Kos and The Huffington Post
  9. CNN, NBC, New York Times, Politico and Talking Points Memo (TPM)
  10. MSNBC, Slate.com, Los Angeles Times and Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times, MSNBC and Jon Stewart.

There is not a single group on the list that meets the definition of an Astroturf enterprise. The one that comes closest is Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense due to its relationship with another group founded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. However, MDA was started by an actual mom in Indiana and has a membership of more than 150,000. The rest of the list is patently absurd.

Media Matters is a watchdog group that documents conservative bias in the media. It does not lobby any government entity, organize citizens to demonstrate, or otherwise engage in social activism. However, it is one of Attkisson’s most effective critics and thus won the number two slot on the list.

The U.C. professor and Children’s Hospital have worked on educating the public about the importance of vaccinations. Apparently that has stirred Attkisson’s ire. Also in this category are a few science-related blogs. However, Attkisson doesn’t explain why they should be on the list other than because they have a point of view. She never even bothers to try to connect them to some well-heeled benefactor. In any case, universities, hospitals, and independent blogs are not Astroturfers by any stretch of the imagination.

The most well-represented group on the list are media enterprises. They range from mainstream outlets like CNN, NBC, and the New York Times, to established magazines and Internet sites like Mother Jones, Salon, and Politico, to more alternative sources like Daily Kos, and the Huffington Post. The only conceivable reason for Attkisson citing these media players on her list is that they are all regarded by conservatives like herself as left-leaning, and therefore deserving of her wrath. But they are certainly not Astroturf.

Attkisson really goes off the rails by including the White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest and the Daily Show’s Jon Stewart on the list. How can anyone define either of them as faux grassroots-based citizen groups backed by wealthy special interests? More than any other people or groups on the list, these two show that Attkisson cannot be taken seriously.

Attkisson describes her list as “an informal, non-scientific survey.” Her footnote reveals that “the results represent 169 Twitter respondents who answered a public query either directly or through direct message.” What could possibly be more ludicrous as a sampling of opinion than a tiny group of respondents to her own Tweet? Is Atkisson purposely sabotaging her reputation in a public spectacle of professional suicide? The remainder of her commentary accompanying the list essentially redefines Astroturfing to fit her personal enemies list. It’s like dieters defining cupcakes as vegetables so they can eat more of them.

If she wants some examples of bona fide Astroturfers, she need look no further than her employer the Heritage Foundation, which began as a right-wing think tank, but with new leadership provided by former Republican senator Jim DeMint, it has become a full-fledged factory for fake activism. Under DeMint’s tenure it launched the Daily Signal which publishes highly biased articles including those by its new correspondent, Sharyl Attkisson.

Other Astroturfers include the Tea Party Express, which was founded by a Republican public relations firm and is notorious for funneling nearly all of the donations it receives back into its own pockets. Karl Rove’s American Crossroads. Numerous Koch brothers funded entities like Americans for Prosperity, FreedomWorks, Generation Opportunity, The LIBRE Initiative, Concerned Veterans for America, and many more. Even Sarah Palin has joined the con game with her Super PAC and the subscription Internet site she launched that often has no content for days on end. In all of these cases there is little evidence of public support, but massive bankrolling by wealthy conservative rainmakers.

News Corpse Presents: The ALL NEW 2nd volume of
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
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A recent study by a conservative news organization highlighted the rampant corruption in many of the right-wing Astroturf enterprises and political action committees. The Washington Post reported that…

“Right Wing News released a report on a group of conservative PACs that took in millions of dollars in contributions in 2014, ostensibly for the purpose of electing Republicans, but spent almost none of it on actual political activity. Instead, the money went into the pockets of the people who run the PACs and their associates.”

This appears to be the rule, and not the exception. And part of why it becomes so easy to rip-off the ignorant wingnut community is that fakers like Attkisson permit the scams to proceed without consequence. By shining her spotlight on an array of organizations that in no way qualify as Astroturf, Attkisson allows the grifters to operate freely while their victims are lost in a maze of false accusations.

The Sad Missed Opportunity Of Larry Wilmore’s Nightly Show

When Stephen Colbert Announced that he was leaving The Colbert Report to take over David Letterman’s Late Night on CBS, there was an understandable heaving of sighs at the thought of losing one of television’s most unique and talented observers of politics and the press. Colbert had forged a trail that had been unexplored for years and even brought his fake comedic persona into the real world with appearances before Congress, newsmaker interviews, and founding his own Super PAC that raised more than a million dollars.

While fans could look forward to his reemergence as the host of Late Night, the vacancy at Comedy Central gave the network the opportunity to build a new franchise with a fresh outlook. Their selection of Daily Show alum Larry Wilmore was a positive sign. He is a bright, experienced, likable, and truly funny personality. The anticipation for his premiere was bursting with hope.

Larry Wilmore Nightly Show

Unfortunately, the reality has not lived up to the expectations. Rather than presenting a program that could carry on in the tradition of satirical media scrutiny and, when appropriate, ridicule, the Nightly Show took a lazier approach that mimicked what many cable news networks already provide.

The opening segment is the best part of the program. It features Wilmore seated anchor-style at a desk delivering his take on the news of the day. The problem with the show is all of the rest of it.

By choosing to conduct a panel discussion with people that are often neither funny nor interesting, the Nightly Show took the lazy way out. What made Colbert and Jon Stewart shine was their penchant for bringing together the best professionals to write and produce highly entertaining and thought provoking material. There is no way that a bunch of random people sitting around a table engaging in extemporaneous banter, that is mostly attempts to impress the other panelists, is going to have the comedic punch of a well-scripted and rehearsed program. It takes work to be funny, insightful and entertaining, but what the Nightly Show did was to fashion a weak copy of The Five from Fox News and then lean back for a snooze.

The Nightly Show has very little preparation or input from pros with a track record for producing laughs or connecting with an audience. Consequently, the Nightly Show, in this format, can never have the relationship with viewers that Colbert and Stewart have had. As evidence of its failure, note that almost every episode of Stewart’s and Colbert’s shows resulted in clips being posted online that got as much or more attention as the original broadcast. The same thing happens with bits from John Oliver’s HBO program, Last Week. But this has rarely happened with Nightly since its debut a month ago?

Part of the problem is the array of guests. Those who have been reasonably good were the ones with actual experience in show business. However, the politicos and press performed no differently than they might have on CNN. That is not what most people watch Comedy Central to see. And the worst of it comes in the form of blatantly exploitative hacks like anti-vaxxer Zoey O’Toole, and Amy Holmes, who reports for the conspiracy-kook/televangelist Glenn Beck. Why would Wilmore give someone like that a platform on his show?

However, even with better guests there is no substitute for professionals with experience doing the hard work of crafting good comedy. And that is what Nightly is missing. It’s not too late to retool the program. Let Wilmore unleash his proven talent as a comedian the way he did in his appearances on the Daily Show. Strip out the gimmicky bits (i.e. Keep it 100) that will only become tiresome over time. Wilmore does not have to imitate Colbert, but he can learn from the format that was always changing things up. Colbert had The Word, Tip of the Hat, Better Know a District, the Threat Down, etc., and he kept them fresh by not doing hackneyed versions of them every day.

There is still an opportunity for Wilmore to become his own kind of icon over time if he’s committed to putting in the labor and collaborating with other talented pros. Television has enough panel sessions with people speaking off the top of their heads and saying nothing of interest. Wilmore is better than that and I hope he realizes it soon and trusts himself to carry the whole show on his own.

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On a separate but related matter, there will soon be another vacancy on Comedy Central’s schedule. When Jon Stewart leaves, the network needs to replace him with someone who can fit the format and expand it to even higher heights. It doesn’t have to be a superstar. Nobody knew who Stewart was when he took the helm from Craig Kilborn. (Although if they could scrape up enough cash to hook Tina Fey that would be awesome). But there is someone who seems to be uniquely qualified and well-suited for the job. John Fugelsang is a talented comedian with a broad knowledge of politics, current events, and culture. He can pontificate on matters that are serious in a way that is engaging, entertaining, and connects with an audience.

John Fugelsang

Fugelsang has the TV anchor good looks that draw people in before they’re aware that they are about to be hit with a punch line. And he has experience with both hosting a television program and interviewing people from politics and as well as other walks of life. It was Fugelsang who got Mitt Romney’s communications director, Eric Fehrnstrom, to compare campaigning to an Etch A Sketch, thus cementing his reputation as a flip-flopper.

Jon Stewart Is Leaving The Daily Show – Brian Williams Is Leaving NBC News – COINCIDENCE?

Breaking News in the Mediasphere: The controversy surrounding Brian Williams has led to an announcement by NBC management that, effective immediately, Williams will be put on a six month suspension without pay. They describe the punishment as “severe and appropriate” and leave the door open for a return, although without making any overt assurances of that outcome.

Within a couple of hours of that announcement, it was reported that Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, will also be stepping down sometime this year. While there is no scandal associated with Stewart’s separation (that we know of), it is nevertheless a profound blow to the world of media. Stewart has been a sharp, insightful, and hilarious observer of news programming for the past seventeen years.

So what to make of these near simultaneous bulletins? After digesting all of the possible repercussions and consequences, intended and otherwise, there is only one reasonable conclusion that can be reached:

Jon Stewart NBC News

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That’s right. Jon Stewart will be taking over the NBC Nightly News and assuming the duties of managing editor for the network’s news division. It’s an obvious choice considering his long history of media criticism and deep understanding of the workings of contemporary journalism. Stewart knows precisely where the pitfalls are for reporting stories that have real impact on the lives of ordinary Americans. He, more than anyone else, will be able to avoid the sort of embarrassing gaffes that he so deftly mocked on The Daily Show.

As for Brian Williams… What better assignment for someone with an abundance of experience on late night talk shows like David Letterman and Jimmy Fallon (where Williams so brilliantly slow-jammed the news) than to take over the now empty seat on The Daily Show? Williams has proven that he has a quick wit and his spellbinding tales of wartime peril show that he can handle fake news as well as any satirist.

On a serious note, Jon Stewart would be sorely missed under any circumstances. But coming so soon after the loss of Stephen Colbert, the state of political satire is taking a real punch to the gut. Stewart has won nineteen Emmys as writer and producer during his tenure at The Daily Show. And despite the fact that right-wingers suffer a knee-jerk animosity for him, Stewart has been more than fair and balanced. This has even been documented by Fox News who have done more than forty stories (listed here and here) celebrating Stewart’s willingness to go after President Obama and other liberal people or ideas. And his reputation for honesty and accuracy far outshines that of Fox News (see Fox News vs Jon Stewart vs Politifact).

Of Course, whatever grief comedy lovers feel today may be temporary. Colbert will shortly reemerge as the host of CBS’ Late Night. And a new host for The Daily Show will be christened and could be just as talented and stinging as Stewart. Think Lewis Black, W. Kamau Bell, Jessica Williams, Jeff Jeffries, or maybe the husband wife team of Jason Jones and Samantha Bee. Could John Oliver be coaxed back? Dare we hope for Tina Fey? And then we still don’t know what Stewart plans for his next act.

Clearly the landscape is shifting. But hopefully there will be some settling before we get too far into the 2016 election cycle. Till then, thanks for all the good times, Jon, and best wishes for the future. And now…your moment of Zen: