Fox Nation: The Week The Democrat Media Industrial Complex Died


Classy as always, Fox Nation has posted a headline graphic of an ass with its head up its ass (and, no, it isn’t Bill O’Reilly, which would have made more sense). Remember, this is the online face of Fox News, an enterprise that wants to be viewed as a legitimate purveyor of journalism. I guess that this is the visualization of what journalism means to Fox News.

The accompanying text reads: The Week The Democrat Media Industrial Complex Died. OK then, that settles it. Since this is the week it died it is safe to assume that there will be no more assertions of Democratic control of the media; no more accusations of the press being dominated by liberals; no more whining about bias against conservatives. All of that died this week, so SHUT UP!

Of course, the illusion of the liberal media has always been a false claim by conservatives who can’t take honest criticism. The notion that a few multinational media corporations, run by billionaires, whose self-interests are squarely aligned with the right, are somehow advancing liberal ideas could only be believed by a mental patient with a fresh lobotomy.

The article that the Fox Nationalists linked to from their juvenile image was posted on a site (jedeckart.com) named for a character in the movie Red Dawn, a favorite of rightist revolutionaries and Tea Baggers everywhere. Eckart was a militia-style dissident fighting a guerrilla war against Russian invaders. It is a mythology that appeals to right-wingers who pine for a new civil war.

The content of the article is just a short list of cliche conservative complaints. Only one even relates to the media. Obviously the Fox Nationalists just wanted to exploit the link for its headline which they must have found amusing.

Now that the fictional Democrat Media Industrial Complex has been declared dead, let’s get to work on the real Corporate/Media Complex that is perverting our press. Let’s break up the Big Media conglomerates that monopolize the industry. And let’s reveal the distortions and dishonesty of propagandists like Rupert Murdoch, Phillip Anschutz, and the Koch brothers. Addressing these real problems with a media that seeks to further its own power and profits will do far more to move us forward than the childish posturing we see on Fox Nation.

Uh Oh. CNN Takes A Sharp Turn Toward Hell

Remember the old days when CNN was the dominant cable news network? Or the even older days when it was the only cable news network? I didn’t think so. It was a long time ago. Viewers today don’t appreciate how remarkable an achievement it was to launch a 24 hour news channel when nothing like it existed at the time.

Whether or not you like Ted Turner, you have to give him credit for being a pioneer, although given the state of cable news today, I’m not sure he’d want the credit/blame. However, he recognized the unique environment in which his experiment was born, and he further recognized the changes that took place in subsequent years that preclude anyone from ever doing the same (see My Beef With Big Media).

Now CNN is mired in third place, overtaken by a bombastic, right-wing, agenda-driven, Fox News, and a lukewarm, marginally liberal, MSNBC. So it should come as no surprise that the brass at CNN would be looking to shake things up in hopes of recovering their glory days. To that end, yesterday CNN announced that its president, Jon Klein, would be leaving the network. That, in and of itself, would appear to be a routine response to poor performance in the marketplace. The problem here is not that Klein is leaving. It’s who they are elevating to his post that is worrisome.

Ken Jautz, presently the head of CNN’s HLN (formerly known as Headline News Network) has been tapped to replace Klein. He is a brash, iconoclastic, executive who is more interested in ratings than journalism. But perhaps the most disturbing item on Jautz’s resume is that he is the man who brought Glenn Beck to HLN, and to television. Looking back at that millstone in broadcast media is one of the best ways of getting a handle on what may be in store for a Juatz-run CNN. Here is what he had to say upon hiring Beck back in January of 2006:

“Glenn Beck is the next piece of the puzzle,” said HLN prexy Ken Jautz. “Glenn’s style is self-deprecating, cordial; he says he’d like to be able to disagree with guests and part as friends. It’s conversational, not confrontational.”

If Beck is Jautz’s idea of cordial, I hope never to meet anyone he considers to be rude. What’s more, Beck is not known for having guests with whom he disagrees, friendly or otherwise. And the notion that he is not confrontational is absurd on its face. Calling the President a racist; charging that progressives are a cancer; tagging anyone with whom he disagrees a Marxist; declaring his hatred for Woodrow Wilson as well as 9/11 families; these are not behaviors generally associated with being non-confrontational. Jautz went on to say…

“As part of the continued evolution of the network, we wanted another primetime show,” Jautz said. “We didn’t look for a conservative, a liberal or anyone of a particular ideology. It was about getting the best talent that would resonate with the most viewers.”

Well then, it’s a good thing he wasn’t actually looking for a conservative. He would have ended up with a modern version of Attila the Hun (or did he anyway?). It should also be noted that his desire to find the “best talent” who would “resonate” with viewers, was unfulfilled. Beck’s show was a dismal ratings failure on HLN. He would not be a success until he moved to Fox News with its built-in audience of pre-cooked FoxBots.

Given the remarks Jautz made when taking over HLN and bringing Beck into the fold, it is fair to say that he was somewhat disingenuous with regard to his public appraisals. And he was similarly disingenuous in private. In the book “Common Nonsense: Glenn Beck And The Triumph Of Ignorance,” author Alexander Zaitchik noted that Jautz mislead his employers at the time as to his intentions in reforming the channel:

“Facing a staff weary of rumored changes, Jautz gently presented Blue Sky [his programming initiative] as a trial balloon. He promised that CNN standards would not be diluted in the makeover and that soon-to-be-hired Headline News personalities would not appear on traditional CNN news programming. He broke both promises.”

Indeed he did. Glenn Beck not only appeared on CNN, he was permitted to fill in as a guest host on Larry King Live. Taking into consideration the duplicity of Jautz’s comments when he assumed command of HLN, it might be prudent to take note of what he is saying now with regard to his promotion at CNN. Jautz was interviewed by The Wrap and said…

Q: Can we expect a tone change, or any sort of ideological shift?
A: I think that CNN needs to be as lively and engaging and as informative as it is known for its reporting.

Whatever that means.

Q: For a long time, Jon Klein resisted any sort of partisan programming — especially as expressed by the hosts. Can we expect to see more opinions — or at least opinionated hosts — under your watch?
A: CNN has always been about adhering to non-partisan programming in general. And it will continue to be.

However, I do not believe that “facts-only” programming … it will not work. Viewers, if they’re looking for just the news, they can get that anywhere now. The news that happened that day, they probably know already. They want context, perspective and opinion. And we’re going to give that to them. As long as it’s non-partisan, in the aggregate, from all ends of the spectrum.

In other words, we will continue to be non-partisan except when we’re being opinionated. And none of those pesky “facts” that clutter up the news.

Jautz did improve the standing of HLN. But he did it by ramping up the volume with shouters like Beck and Nancy Grace, and by diving head-first into the tabloid world of pop culture and celebrity gossip. Could that approach help to restore CNN’s prior leadership? Who cares? It isn’t what anyone who truly cares about responsible journalism would want.

And that’s the problem with contemporary corporate media: It is more interested in serving the shareholders than in serving the public. Unless Jautz has recently had a revelatory transformation, CNN has taken a giant step backwards by giving him the reins to the network. The prospect of the man who launched Glenn Beck’s television career running a cable news network is troubling, to say the least.

In related news, NBC/Universal has announced that it’s chief executive, Jeff Zucker, will also be leaving his post. This is an entirely different situation than the one at CNN. NBC is presently the number one network in evening news, morning news, and Sunday news. CNBC is still the top business channel. Plus, under Zucker’s reign, MSNBC moved up from third place to second. The staffing change at NBC is due to its imminent acquisition by Comcast. It remains to be seen who will be replacing Zucker.

Sometimes these sort of changes are merely shifts designed to put a new management’s imprint on the merged entity. But Comcast has baggage that makes it important to keep an eye on them. And they will have an unprecedented range of influence as a result of the merger. Stay tuned.

Fox News Tells 9/11 Families To Fear Fox News

This morning on Fox and Friends there was another ridiculous, fear mongering, discussion of the non-mosque that is not at ground zero. In this farcical parade of ignorant banter the hosts were aghast at the notion that some of the funds for the proposed Islamic community center at 51 Park Place might come from sources in Saudi Arabia.

Brian Kilmeade: He [Imam Rauf] is going to be looking for fundraising to Muslim nations around the world.

Alisyn Camerota: If the 9-11 families are worried now and are concerned and feel hurt about this mosque, imagine if Saudi Arabia were to give some of this $100 million. … Saudi Arabia, where the majority of the hijackers, the terrorists came from. You can only imagine how much the victims’ families would speak out in that case.

Exactly! You can only imagine how much the victims’ families would speak out if Fox News were to get millions of dollars from Saudi Arabia, where the majority of the hijackers, the terrorists came from.

Murdoch MoolahOh, wait a minute…..Fox News does get millions of dollars from Saudi Arabia. In fact, the biggest shareholder of News Corp stock outside of the Murdoch family is Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal of the Saud family.

One has to wonder why it would be such an abomination for what is, in effect, an Islamic YMCA in lower Manhattan to be partially funded by Saudis, but no outrage is in order for an international news organization whose top investors include members of the Saudi royal family.

Rupert Murdoch has already shown that he is susceptible to influence by financial considerations and relationships. He agreed to let the government of communist China censor his news reporting in order to gain access to their markets. He acquiesced to a demand that MySpace China display a link on every page for users to report “inappropriate information” to the authorities (I wonder how many Chinese dissidents disappeared as a result of that little feature). He also altered stories on protests in France at the request of the very same Prince who is his business partner:

Al-Waleed: I picked up the phone and called Murdoch…(and told him) these are not Muslim riots, these are riots out of poverty. Within 30 minutes, the title was changed from Muslim riots to civil riots.

It seems to me that there is much more to fear from a worldwide media conglomerate caving in to the demands of foreign powers, than from a single interfaith social club in an old Burlington Coat Factory building in New York. And if the morons on Fox and Friends want to spin scary tales about imaginary terrorists, they would find more material in their own building than in the one a few blocks from ground zero.

Fair And Balanced Fox News Funds GOP

A report from Business Week reveals that Rupert Murdoch is keen on electing Republican governors. His News Corp donated a million dollars to the Republican Governors Association in June.

Fox News GOP TeaThis is a significant contribution to a partisan electoral committee. There are 37 governorships on the ballot this year. Democrats currently hold a majority of state houses, Republicans hope reverse that. And since this is census year, the control of state governments can have a huge impact on the make up of Congress for the next decade by managing the redistricting process.

It should come as no surprise to political observers that partisans on both sides are lining up to support the party they regard as most sympathetic to their views. Unions will back Democrats. Wall Street and Oil companies will back Republicans. But what makes this unique is that the media are supposed to be unaffiliated politically. How can they produce unbiased coverage of electoral issues while they are spending millions to benefit one side. Can we really expect them to be critical of the GOP when they are bankrolling their campaigns?

Not that Murdoch’s news enterprises have ever produced unbiased coverage in the first place. His Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, Fox Radio, etc., have made it their business to advocate on behalf of the GOP for years. Their anchors and reporters routinely bash Democrats and liberals. But the funds they are providing to the RGA will result in further Democrat bashing which Fox News will dutifully report on the air. And no doubt the RGA will allocate a considerable amount of their advertising budget to Fox News and other Murdoch entities. So Murdoch is effectively putting that money right back in his own pocket while advancing the goals of Republican candidates.

This is one of the most disturbing consequences of the modern media environment where giant corporations have been permitted to control so much of the press. They are devoted only to their own fiduciary interests as opposed to the public interest. Their international stature means that have no loyalty to any particular nation including the United States. Yet they can provide virtually unlimited funding to influence elections that impact the lives of millions of actual citizens who cannot hope to match that kind of political philanthropy. And with the recent ruling in the Citizens United case, these corporations can now expand their charitable largess to federal campaigns. Congressman Paul Hodes and Senator Chris Dodd have each introduced legislation in their respective chambers to reverse Citizens United, but there is still much work to be done.

What Can You Do?

  • Support Congressman Alan Grayson who has introduced a package of bills designed to “Defend Our Democracy.”
  • Sign on to the Pledge to Protect America’s Democracy sponsored by People For the American Way and Public Citizen.
  • Move to Amend the Constitution to establish that money is not speech, and that human beings, not corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights.
  • Support The DISCLOSE Act to combat the new, unregulated corporate influence over elections.
  • Join the Fair Elections Now campaign to end corporate funded elections.
  • And get aboard the Free Press movement to reform the media, save the Internet, and restore independence, diversity and local representation in the media.

If we don’t succeed in returning control of our elections and our media to the people, we will continue to see perversions of democracy like that which News Corp is engaging in. Media corporations can’t serve the public while simultaneously financing partisan politics and padding their bank accounts, all at the public’s expense.

Update: For reference, the RGA also received donations (pdf) from wingnut billionaire David Koch ($1,000,000), GE ($105,000), Comcast ($50,000), Time Warner ($25,000), and SEIU ($100,000) Does Glenn Back know about that last one?

The DGA received donations (pdf) from AFSCME ($1,000,000), GE ($105,000), Comcast ($100,000), Time Warner ($35,000), and SEIU ($325,000), but $0.00 from News Corp.

Note that many organizations, including unions and media companies, play both sides of the fence. But News Corp is the only media enterprise that contributed to just one party. Fair and balanced my ass.

The Many Faces Of The Tea Party

Malice in Wonderland - Tea PartyOn the cover of the new Weekly Standard is a caricature of two people that the magazine’s cover story regards as the banner carriers of the Tea Party movement. They are Rick Santelli, a correspondent for the cable business network CNBC, and Glenn Beck, a delusional Fox News host with a Messiah complex. The title of the cover story is The Two Faces Of The Tea Party.

The article by Matthew Continetti is an overly verbose examination of the Tea Party founding and philosophy. It employs a comparative clash between conflicting visions of the movement represented by Santelli as a sober, businesslike advocate for economic rationality, and Beck as a feverish, paranoiac warning of impending economic and social doom. The problem is that, even as Continetti defines the battle in terms of this duality, he entirely misses the real source of the Tea-volution. He insists on distilling it down to these two charactors, despite recognizing in his opening paragraph the multiple personalities residing in the body of the Tea Party:

“Is the anti-Obama, anti-big government movement simply AstroTurf fabricated by Dick Armey’s FreedomWorks? Is it a bunch of Birthers, Birchers, conspiracists, and white power misfits? Is it a strictly economic phenomenon […] Or are the Tea Partiers nothing more than indulgent Boomers […] Reagan Democrats and Perotistas?”

Continetti correctly answers his own question saying, “All of the above.” However, he then immediately retreats to present the argument as one between Santelli and Beck for the remainder of his interminably long essay. And Continetti takes sides. He characterizes Santelli and Beck in starkly different terms. Santelli is the “former businessman” who “you’d expect to find at the Rotary Club,” while Beck is the “former Top 40 DJ” who “was addicted to alcohol and drugs.”

On Santelli: They are the words of a man who is worried about America’s future, but who thinks the right mix of policy and leadership can cure the nation’s ills. They are the words of a forward-looking, optimistic, free-market populist.

On Beck: For Beck, conspiracy theories are not aberrations. They are central to his worldview. They are the natural consequence of assuming that the world hangs by a thread, and that everyone is out to get you.

As if to confirm Continetti’s portrayal of Beck as perennially victimized, Beck’s producer, Stu, posted a response that blasts the article and the magazine with both barrels. He condemned the author for his laziness and accused him of deliberately lying. But worst of all, says Stu, is that these attacks appeared in the Weekly Standard, an organ he must have presumed would always be friendly.

But Stu wasn’t finished. He helpfully published the Standard’s phone number so that readers could boycott the magazine by canceling their subscriptions. And then, in a fit of hysterical hypocrisy, Stu adds a postscript asserting that he doesn’t believe in boycotts.

The Weekly Standard (until recently owned by Rupert Murdoch) is one of the few remaining advertisers on Beck’s program. They may not take kindly to spending scarce advertising dollars on a program whose producer is encouraging people to cancel their subscriptions. Is this a trend on the part of Beck and company to insult their advertisers? Just a few weeks ago the Vermont Teddy Bear Company was blindsided by Beck bashing Mother’s Day in an intro to the company’s ad for Mother’s Day gifts.

I have to give Continetti some credit for drawing sensible distinctions between Santelli and Beck. Not that Santelli was right. He basically rallied a bunch of commodities traders to whine about financial aid for working people while supporting bailouts for their employers. But there is still a difference between his greed-infused ranting and Beck’s fear mongering.

There are many faces of the Tea Party that Continetti didn’t even mention. Nowhere in his eight page opus did he recognize Tea Party Queen, Sarah Palin, even though he is the author of a book called “The Persecution of Sarah Palin.” I think he is desperately trying to shift attention to folks he feels are reasonable and away from the Becks of the world. But Continetti’s most egregious failing was something that ought to have been pretty obvious. As the Tea Party was forming, neither Santelli nor Beck were representatives of the people. They weren’t activists or politicians or academics or citizen advocates. They were, and are, media personalities. They represent a class of elite, well-to-do broadcasters working for giant, multinational corporations.

Look back at the opening paragraph of Continetti’s article where he identified lobbyists, birthers, racists, etc., as the components of the aborning Tea Party. Notice that he left out what is arguably the most influential component of all – the media. Fox News acted as the public relations arm of the Tea Party. They hosted the early organizers and candidates. They produced lavish rallies that aired live with custom graphics and music. They dispatched their top anchors across the country to perform the duties of masters of ceremonies. They literally branded Tea Party events as Fox News productions.

The question as to what the face of the Tea Party is can be debated for hours on end. But there is one thing that is indisputable: Without the media, there would not have been any Tea Party.

The Opportunity At CNN: Replace Campbell Brown With The Daily Show

CNN Daily ShowNow that Campbell Brown has announced that she will be signing off of her CNN show, CNN has an opportunity to advance the state of journalism. They are the network that claims to be the champions of straight news and they dismiss the partisanship that is so deeply ingrained in Fox News and, to a lesser extent, MSNBC. So if they are serious, they need to take a long, hard look at themselves and begin to construct the sort of ethical news enterprise to which they claim to aspire.

The first thing they need to recognize is that they presently have no exclusive claim to being non-partisan. The only difference between them and their competition is that their hosts are not overtly partisan. But the substance of many of their programs is just mashed together panels of left and right pundits who argue with one another. That’s not non-partisan, it’s multi-partisan. More importantly, it’s not journalism.

If they are serious, CNN needs to fill this timeslot with a program that doesn’t seek to attain some sort of fabled balance. Balance is a phony metric. Journalism is not served when you balance reporting about say, the dangers of cigarettes, with a segment about how smoking cures cancer. The standard should not be balance, it should be truth.

One of the best examples of truth-telling in the media today is The Daily Show. Sure it’s funny and the correspondents are clowns (which is something they have in common with Fox News correspondents), but there is a determined effort to cast aside bullshit and back up their humor with facts. The technique of juxtaposing video of a politician making contradictory statements was a Daily Show innovation that has been picked up by some “real” news programs.

Am I seriously proposing that The Daily Show replace Campbell Brown? Let’s just say that I’m only half joking. It’s important to note that The Daily Show is not a news information show, in that it is not a collection of reports about what happened during the day. There is a presumption that their viewers already know what’s going on. It is also not political satire. It is media satire. Almost every segment is about how the media covers stories rather than the content of the stories themselves.

I think that a daily program that addresses the way news is presented would be a welcome addition to CNN’s schedule. By eight o’clock in the evening there has been plenty of time to observe and critique the reporting that occurred during the day. If they need additional time they could do the previous day. This would be more than a dry exercise in fact-checking. While taking a more sober tone than Jon Stewart, it could still be a raucous affair that would be both fun and enlightening. They could use dynamic and fast-paced Entertainment Tonight style graphics and charming, but well informed, hosts. They could even bring in special correspondents on occasion (I would recommend Stewart or other actual Daily Show personalities).

This show could provide true competition to the O’Reilly/Olbermann/Grace block that dominates the time period. It could also be a bellwether program that holds the media feet to the fire. They would have to play fair and include CNN’s flubs. Preferably it would be produced independently. But if they executed it right, I think many viewers would find it a refreshing change from the shoutfests on the other cable nets. Then CNN could use it to anchor a slate of truly responsible newscasts.

The only question is: Are the program executives at CNN smart enough to listen to me? Of course, they probably don’t even know I exist. Consequently, look for CNN to add another interminable hour of John King.

UPDATE: Fox News, Nielsen Ratings, And Trust In The Media

Last month I wrote an article detailing some suspicious activities and histories of Rupert Murdoch and his News Corporation, and their relationship to the monopolistic survey group, Nielsen Media Research. The article was titled, Fox News Caught In Massive Nielsen Ratings Fraud. It should be noted that the publish date for the article was April 1, 2010. It is important to recognize the traditional significance of that date when evaluating the content of the article.

The purpose of this update is to respond to ongoing interest in the subject matter. The article has been circulating the Internet via links from prominent media players, including Roger Ebert and Alan Colmes’ LiberalLand. So I thought I would take this opportunity to clarify a couple of points and to offer some analysis of the response.

First of all, despite the “first day of April” publication, the article’s primary factual assertions are true and documented. Fox News did object to early iterations of Nielsen’s then-new People Meter technology. News Corp did have a prior business relationship with the manufacturers of Nielsen’s set-top ratings collection devices. News Corp was connected to corporate espionage and sabotage, which was reported by Wired Magazine. News Corp did make payoffs to certain parties to suppress a scandal involving email hacking and other violations of privacy of public figures, which was reported by the Guardian. And Rupert Murdoch is enmeshed in a tangled web with businesses and government agencies and leaders in communist China, as reported in Esquire.

The foregoing factual basis for my column notwithstanding, the headline and conclusions were squarely in the grand tradition of the day upon which April begins. Nevertheless, many readers approached the whole of the article with a seriousness that was only partly intended. To me this illustrates an inherent distrust of ratings data, as well as an eagerness on the part of the public to accept any plausible allegation of deceit or misconduct on the part of the media. I would have to concur on both points. Indeed, those points were the primary motivation for my writing the article in the first place.

The very real problems with Nielsen data are well-known and ongoing. They employ a methodology that is archaic and unreliable. It’s so bad that their biggest customers repeatedly attempt to fund alternative data providers. The latest effort is the Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement. This group was formed last August by 14 big media enterprises including NBC Universal, Time Warner, News Corp, Viacom, CBS, Discovery and Walt Disney. At the time of the announcement I expressed skepticism that it would yield any positive results. Every other attempt to undermine Nielsen’s supremacy has ended badly for the new venture. The failures were due primarily to infighting amongst the coalition members and their self-serving pursuit of parochial concerns.

The CIMM does not appear to be faring any better than their predecessors. While it may be too soon to write them off, there does not seem to be any substantive progress outside of an initiative to agree on common definitions of research terms. The creation of an industry lexicon is hardly forward progress. And the companies that have some of the best data aggregation technology (i.e. cable operators, TIVO, etc.) have so far declined to participate. The CIMM is months away from producing any tangible results, and when they do you can expect sparks to fly as member companies find fault with what the coalition delivers.

As for Fox News, their recent ratings performance has not supported any conspiracy theory alleging cheating on their behalf. Their most recent quarterly numbers showed a harrowing 20% viewer exodus. Their star attraction, Glenn Beck, lost a third of his audience since January, along with many of his advertisers. But maybe this is just a ruse to calm the suspicions that are swirling around them. If their ratings decline temporarily, everyone will assume that they aren’t tampering with them. Then, when the heat’s off, they goose them right back up on demand. What a devious plot they are contriving. No one wonder no one trusts them.

Glenn Beck’s Excellent Vatican Adventure

Glenn Beck went to the Vatican and was anointed by…someone. You have to hear this to believe it. The tone of his voice, the pregnant pauses, all bring Jim Jones to mind. Unfortunately, the audio was deleted from the source, but here is the transcript:

BECK: We are entering a…we are entering a dark, dark period of man. Um, I was, um, I was in the Vatican, and I was surprised that the individual I was speaking to knew who I was. And they said: ‘Of course we know who you are. What you’re doing is wildly important. We’re entering a period of great darkness, and if good people don’t stand up, we could enter a period unlike we have seen in a very long time.’ It was odd to stand in the Vatican and hear those words. Of all places that would understand the Dark Ages.

Beck never bothered to identify the “individual” to whom he was speaking. The implication was that it was a Vatican official of some sort. The phrase “we know who you are,” suggests that it was not a private person speaking for himself, but a representative of a group. And Beck portrays this person as someone whose opinion carries some weight. Why else would we care that he regards Beck as “wildly important?” Of course, this is Glenn Beck we’re talking about, so it may just have been some schnook in line for the tour.

The creepy thing about this is that it is further evidence of Beck’s Messianic ambitions. He clearly wants to convince his audience that he is more than just a television pundit, he is a spiritual leader with a mandate from God. He even said as much on another program:

BECK: It’s darkness, and I can just feel it coming. And I started to say…I said the problem is…and I stopped. Because I don’t want to utter something like this without really thinking it through. But I was about to say, the problem is that God is giving a plan, I think, to me that is not really a plan. And I stopped myself because I didn’t want to utter those things out loud if that’s not exactly right, and it’s not. […]

Then I said the problem is is that I think the plan that the Lord would have us follow is hard for people to understand. But I’m telling you, here’s what I feel with everything in me. If you’ve listened to this program – oy, are they gonna use this against me – If you’ve listened to this program for a long time you know who I am. And you know that many of the things that I have done and said that have put me in, you know, harm’s way, one way or another, they always start at the same place. They always start at my gut or my heart. And then I figure it out as we go along. All the stuff that I feel has been important on this show has been things that I felt and didn’t understand. [..]

I beg of you to pray for clarity on my part. The plan that He would have me articulate, I think, to you, is “Get behind me.” And I don’t mean me, I mean Him. Get behind me. Stand behind me.

So God is giving him a plan (that isn’t really a plan) and you, his faithful listeners, know who he is (the Son of…?), and you know that he is suffering (in harm’s way) for your salvation as he prays to let this cup pass from him. Yet he will endure his fate and accept the things that he feels but doesn’t understand (not as I will, but as thou wilt). Yes, Glenn Beck is hearing the voice of God and passing His Word on to his disciples. First and foremost in the message is the imposing darkness that is enveloping us all. This is an image that Beck returns to often. It is an image of a world in total collapse:

“You’re gonna see a black and white world, man, that is nothing but destruction and ugly.”

“Find the exit closest to you and prepare for a crash landing, because this plane is coming down, because the pilot is intentionally steering it into the trees. […] They are taking you to a place to be slaughtered.”

“I know what our country is headed towards. I know the struggles that are ahead in my life and I know the struggles that are ahead in your life. It’s not going to be pretty.”

“It is the eve of destruction in America.”

“The rain is coming. I think you feel it in your gut. It is time to build an Ark. It is time to prepare yourself for some tough times.”

I don’t know where Beck wants to sail in his Ark, but I suspect it’s someplace like Guyana, or perhaps the free-market paradise of Somalia, the world’s best example of the conservative ideal of small government. Someplace he can preach to his congregants of God’s plan for him and the world he fears is doomed. And I hope his Ark is big enough to hold all those who are demented enough to want to follow him. America will be a better place when they set sail for their homogeneous, free-market, theocratic, utopia.

Bill O’Reilly Needs To Fire His Research Staff

I just had to document this here because it so ridiculous and because Huffington Post has such a great video of it.

Bill O’Reilly confronted Sen. Tom Coburn on his show a few days ago because Coburn had the temerity to point out to his constituents that they should not believe everything they hear on Fox News. The issue specifically addressed an assertion that the health care bill had a provision that would sentence people to jail if they didn’t buy insurance. The truth is that the bill explicitly prohibits such criminal penalties.

However, O’Reilly went to the extreme of insisting that Coburn’s remarks were unfair because nobody on Fox ever said that the bill had such provisions:

O’Reilly: It doesn’t happen here, and we’ve researched to find out if anybody on Fox News has ever said “You’re going to jail if you don’t buy health insurance.” Nobody’s ever said it. So it seems to me what you did was, you used Fox News as a whipping boy when we didn’t qualify there.

Oh yeah? Tell that to PolitiFact who rated O’Reilly’s claim as a “Pants on Fire” lie. Or Media Matters who had no problem finding what O’Reilly’s researchers could not. Or the Young Turks who compiled the video evidence:

Once again O’Reilly makes an ass of himself. He even joked about Coburn’s “mistake” the following night with Dennis Miller. By that time both of them ought to have known that a multitude of people said that the bill could send non-payers to jail – even Glenn Beck said it on O’Reilly’s show! It just doesn’t get any stupider than that.

This is the network that had to issue a memo to its staff warning them of a zero tolerance policy for on air mishaps. And O’Reilly, in particular, frequently boasts that he has never made a retraction on his show. Of course not. He’s made hundreds of mistakes and told thousands of lies, but has never bothered to correct any of them. That doesn’t mean they didn’t happen. It just means that he’s comfortable disinforming his audience. And why mess up a perfect record by suddenly being honest? Although there was one prior incident of honesty for which O’Reilly deserves some credit:

Thanks for the entertainment, Bill. I won’t wait around for a retraction.

[Hilarity Update:] O’Reilly began his program tonight with a Talking Points Memo about how NBC and Media Matters are dishonestly smearing him because of this health care/jail time controversy. He tried to exculpate himself from his assholiness with a tortured argument that went something like this: He claimed that all of the examples of Fox folks clearly saying that jail would be the penalty for not having insurance were made at a time when such a penalty was in the bill. But his assertion that no one ever said it was referring to the final bill which had no such penalty. He even played video clips of Obama and Pelosi that he intended as support for his contention that the penalty existed at some prior point in time.

There are only three things wrong with that. One, O’Reilly, in his remarks, made no distinction between different versions of the bill or time periods of debate. He simply made a flat statement of “fact” using unambiguous words like “never” that pretty strongly imply not ever. Two, there weren’t ANY drafts of the bill that had a jail penalty in it. NONE! So O’Reilly’s excuse is pure bullshit. And three, in the clips of Obama and Pelosi, neither of them said anything about such a penalty. In fact, responding to direct questions about it, they both explicitly declined to confirm that any such thing was in the bill or that they would support it. It’s surprising that O’Reilly even bothered to play the clips when they in no way supported his argument.

The bottom line is that O’Reilly is now lying to cover up his prior idiocy. This is something that he has gotten pretty good at over the years due to the many times he’s had to do it.

The Glenn Beck Advertiser Boycott Must Be Working

The way you can tell if a protest is effective is when the target of the action can’t stop complaining about it. For two days in a row, Glenn Beck has devoted valuable airtime to castigating the proponents of an advertiser boycott that began last year in response to Beck calling President Obama a racist with “a deep-seated hatred of white people.”

For Beck to divert so much time from fabricating paranoid conspiracy theories to fabricating smears on his perceived enemies is revealing. His anxiety could not be more apparent, even as he pretends that the efforts directed against him are making him happy:

“The fact is, I haven’t felt this good and positive in a long time. Why? Because the boycott attempts are the most transparent AstroTurf attacks I have ever seen or ever heard of.”

Ever? The truth is that the boycotts were initiated by a very small group that most people (including me) had never heard of. Color of Change began the effort with a small email list and a campaign to communicate with Beck’s advertisers. This shoestring effort produced surprising results, getting more than 100 advertisers to refuse to permit their commercials on Beck’s show. [Note: StopBeck later joined the effort further enhancing its effectiveness]

Beck spent the majority of his rebuttal inventing a plot that went all the way up to the White House. The first brick thrown by Beck was at his perennial nemesis, Van Jones. However, while Jones was a co-founder of Color Of Change, he left the organization two years prior to the Beck boycott. That didn’t stop Beck from building his cloud castle of hate.

He then tied Jones to Rev. Jim Wallis of the Sojourners. However, Wallis had nothing to do with the advertiser boycott, then or now. Wallis entered the picture after Beck took an astonishingly stupid stand against social justice and advised his listeners to “run” from any church that advocated it. Wallis responded by calling for Christians who believe in the venerable Christian practice of social justice to run from Glenn Beck.

And of course, Beck had to inject his distaste for working Americans by slandering unions. So he tethered Andy Stern to the boycott effort, although Stern and his SEIU had no part in the year-old boycott until about two weeks ago when they signed on with a new push by MoveOn.org.

After this hallucinatory construction of a widespread cabal attacking him, Beck capped it off with a wild accusation that it was a high level plot that the President was “coordinating from the Oval Office”:

“Is it possible, maybe, that pointing out every night that there are radicals, Marxists, and communists, in the White House, maybe that struck a nerve? Has someone decided that they must destroy my career and silence me because we’ve stumbled onto something? […] Has there ever been a case in American history…where an American president administration tried to destroy the livelihood of a private citizen with whom they disagree. Can’t think of any.”

Beck’s paranoia led to this declaration that nothing like this had ever happened before. He then immediately contradicted himself by comparing it to Richard Nixon’s famous “enemies list.” The only problem with that comparison is that Nixon’s list was documented and Beck’s delusions still only exist in his twisted cranium. What’s more, Nixon sought to use the power of the government against his opponents, but the Beck boycott relies entirely on the efforts of individual citizens engaging in free expression. Nevertheless, Beck elevates this to an absurd altitude wherein he literally compares himself with victims of Nazi atrocities:

“Where’s the media? Do the rest of you in this business think it’s gonna stop with me? Really? Once they get me what happens to you? Is there absolutely no chance whatsoever that you might be a target at some point in the future? What is that poem…First they came for the Jews and I stayed silent…”

Now they are coming for Glenn Beck. It is so like Beck to manifest his Messianic complex in this fashion. He is the persecuted one that suffers for his congregation. And his stylings are getting more televengelical and Apocalyptic by the day. Witness this fire and brimstone sermon:

It is a bizarre world. It is an upside down, inside out, quantum physics world. […] It is the eve of destruction in America.

I believe in God. I believe rights come from man, and this Constitution, and the founding of this nation, were divinely inspired. These are God’s rights and God’s freedoms.

If we appreciate those rights, if we do the right thing […] we are going to have to pay the consequence for our living and mistreating these rights. But in the end, have no fear, because nothing will thwart Him. Because these are His rights. This was His Constitution. This was His country for His purposes, not ours. And nothing…nothing…will thwart Him in the end.

Hallelujah. This may be the first time I have heard anyone declare that the Constitution was “divinely inspired.” To my knowledge, it has not been included in any version of the Bible. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison have not been beatified, nor is George Washington a saint. But in Beck’s mind a new holy doctrine has been proclaimed. One that permitted human slavery and denied women the right to vote. If the Constitution was divinely inspired, then what right did later generations have to amend it? Were they also the servants of God? And if so, did God screw up when he ratified Prohibition or the right to levy income taxes?

I have said this before, and it is all too apparent that it must be repeated: I genuinely hope that the people who care for Glenn Beck get him the help that he so obviously requires. It is way too tempting for his family and his producers and his hangers on, to hold back and revel in the riches he generates for them. But they will surely regret it when he self-destructs and splatters them all with the blood of their greed.

Now I’m sounding a little Biblical. And so I speaketh not further for the time is at hand for me to shuteth up. For now…..