Michael Moore On The Media

Appearing on ABC’s Good Morning America to promote his new film “Sicko,” Michael Moore discussed the media’s complicity with the horror that is Iraq:

“Had ABC News, NBC News, CBS News been more aggressive in confronting the government with what they were telling us back in 2003 about Iraq, you might have prevented this war,” Moore said. “3500 soldiers that are dead today may not have had to die had our news media done its job.”

Well said, Michael. Now how about making the media the subject of your next film? What could possibly be more important? There is no problem that our society faces that can be fixed without fixing the problem of the media first. And as you point out, lives are truly at stake. Without an informed populace it is impossible to move policy and politicians to effect real change on health care, the environment, civil rights, Iraq, or any other issue. The media is the forum for educating people on a mass scale. Unfortunately, it is also the forum for deceiving and sedating them, which is how it is used most frequently these days.

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Campbell Brown Joins The Dobbs Brigade At CNN

If current reports from Media Bistro (via Drudge ?) are correct, Paula Zahn will shortly be leaving CNN. That’s no big loss as far as I’m concerned. But I do worry about speculation that Campbell Brown will be filling the void.

Brown is an NBC reporter who is married to Dan Senor. Senor’s resume overflows with rightist associations from serving as senior adviser and spokesman for Paul Bremer’s Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, to White House Deputy Press Secretary, to representative to Vets for Freedom, the Republican front group that advocated both the war in Iraq and the Senate candidacy of Joe Lieberman.

Senor recently declined a position on the campaign staff of Republican presidential hopeful, Mitt Romney, because of the potential conflict it would pose for his journalist wife. But the presence of such a conflict is already evident in his past and current activities, including his role as a consultant with his own Senor Strategies. And we don’t have to look to Senor for reasons to doubt the objectivity of Brown, who in an appearance earlier this year on the Today Show said:

“It’s difficult to say that you’re against the war and at the same time not say that you’re against the troops.”

That GOP talking point seems to have been pulled right out of her husband’s emails from Karl Rove. With this staff adjustment, CNN is enhancing the Lou Dobbs wing of the network – a wing that already includes the likes of Nancy Grace and Glenn Beck. If their goal is to turn the network into a cheap imitation of Fox News, they are doing an outstanding job.

Congratulations, CNN.


AP Editor Touts Accountability Journalism.
The Associated Press’ Online Political Editor, Ron Fournier, wrote a memo to his colleagues advocating what he calls “Accountability Journalism”, but what I call simply “Journalism.” Nonetheless, it is a welcome philosophical shift if the AP lives up to it. Here’s a choice cut:

Don’t give equal weight to spin. Just because a public official says it doesn’t mean you need to put it in your story or give his claim equal billing to what you know to be true.”

China Sentences Former Food And Drugs Chief To Death.
Zheng Xiaoyu was found guilty of accepting $852,000 (US) worth of bribes from pharmaceutical companies to expedite the approval of new drugs. How many American lawmakers and lobbyists would be on death row if this policy were in effect here?

Why The L.A. Times Called For Iraq Pullout.
Greg Mitchell at Editor and Publisher has an interesting column on how the L.A. Times went from “reluctantly” endorsing Bush’s escalation in Iraq just last month, to calling for troops to be brought home. Jim Newton, the editorial page editor at the Times, seemed surprised that, “the response from readers has been about 75% positive.” Why that would be surprising is a mystery considering that the war is opposed by about the same percentage of the city’s (and the country’s) residents.

FBI Seeking To Re-create Total Information Awareness.
The massive and intrusive data mining project that was scrapped under fire two years ago is getting a makeover by the FBI. The same FBI that was just found to be unlawfully gathering private information about citizens from Telecom, and other consumer companies.

Jolie Doesn’t Want Fox At Premiere.
Angelina Jolie requested that Fox News not be allowed to attend the premiere of her new movie, “A Mighty Heart.” Fox, upset at not being invited to the party, responds with a long diatribe against Jolie’s past tumultuous relationship with the press. The article kind of justifies her reluctance to accommodate the Fox network in particular and the press in general.

Wesley Clark Ditches Fox – Signs With MSNBC!

It’s About Time!

Hotline is reporting a shake-up in Punditville:

Retired Gen. Wesley Clark will now be exclusively on MSNBC as a military analyst, sources have confirmed to the Hotline. Clark has still not ruled out a possible White House bid and MSNBC would be a much more Dem-friendly audience than his old gig — Fox News Channel!

This is a long overdue move for Clark. It is a bit simplistic to say that he did this because MSNBC is a “more Dem-friendly audience.” He did it because Fox is an arm of the Republican National Committee. As I reported earlier, a Mellman Group study shows that:

“Fox News viewers supported George Bush over John Kerry by 88 percent to 7 percent. No demographic segment, other than Republicans, was as united in supporting Bush. Conservatives, white evangelical Christians, gun owners, and supporters of the Iraq war all gave Bush fewer votes than did regular Fox News viewers.”

Dems do not need Fox News and should not help to legitimize it as a news source. The departure of Clark is an extension of the trend to deny Fox the credibility with which it seeks to deceive its audience. The trend was significantly boosted by the rejection of the Fox-sponsored Democratic debate, as well as scholarly studies that prove that Fox is not a serious journalistic enterprise. We’re talking about a network with characters like Bill O’Reilly who makes up news, Roger Ailes who disparages Democrats, Neil Cavuto with his notorious “Cavuto Mark” and Rupert Murdoch who admits having tried to push propaganda on Iraq.

I have no problem with Democrats appearing on Fox as long as they are sufficiently disdainful, but they should not be on the payroll as analysts. That only allows Fox to claim they are balanced even though they only employ people like Clark to abuse them by getting into shouting matches that are distractions from the underlying issues.

MSNBC can make much better use Clark and vice versa. If he appears on Countdown or Scarborough he will bring thoughtful analysis to the discussion. If he appears on Hardball he will be a voice that Matthews can’t shut down. If he appears on Tucker he will thoroughly outclass the little twerp and, hopefully, awaken MSNBC’s programmers to the fact that they are wasting valuable airtime on him.

This is just another reminder that Fox News is TOXIC and must not be tolerated. And we have to guard against further poisoning of our media (i.e. Murdoch’s bid to acquire Dow Jones – see my Alternative To Murdoch For Dow Jones.

The O’Reilly Fiction: Making Up The News

A couple of weeks ago, Bill O’Reilly aired a hard-hitting piece from the wilds of North Carolina. He had dispatched his crack investigative team to dig up dirt on John Edwards. What he found was a trailer park across the street from Edwards’ home whose unidentified working-class residents had no love for Senator Edwards.

Unidentified Male: Everybody here is just normal income people. You know, just live day-to-day. And I don’t think he knows anything about us.

O’Reilly: We couldn’t find anybody in the trailer park to say anything nice about John Edwards.

This story would be irrelevant and dull in the best of circumstances. Finding people on the street to disparage any public figure really only requires two things: 1) a street and 2) people. But O’Reilly made this simple task even easier by making all of it up!

The News & Observer of North Carolina, having engaged in actual reporting, has learned that there is no trailer park across the street from Edwards’ home. The interviews actually took place at an auto repair shop. What’s more, the N&O identified the folks interviewed by O’Reilly’s team and it turns out they were the owners of the repair shop and the property on which it resides. Not exactly the picture of working-class citizens that O’Reilly had painted.

For my conclusion I would just like to paraphrase O’Reilly’s own conclusion from his fictional news item:

“Now ‘Talking Points’ News Corpse tries to respect all of those who want to serve their country report the news, but Edwards O’Reilly is an exception. I have no respect for him. He’s a phony and is in the tank for special interests to damage this country. Edwards O’Reilly is going nowhere to Hell, but deserves to be called out.”

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David Broder’s Circus of Contradictions

Writing for the Washington Post, David Broder’s latest apologia for White House law breakers, comes to the defense of Scooter Libby who was recently convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice. He trivializes the conviction, which he refers to euphemistically as a “controversy,” by falsely alleging that there was no underlying crime. The underlying crime, Mr. Broder, was the unlawful disclosure of the identity of covert CIA operative, Valerie Plame Wilson. There has been no conviction on that charge (yet) precisely because of Mr. Libby’s obstruction. Broder calls the prosecution…

“a sideshow — engineered partly by the publicity-seeking former ambassador Joseph Wilson and his wife and heightened by the hunger in parts of Washington to “get” Rove for something or other.”

If blowing the cover of a CIA agent is a “sideshow,” the main attraction must be truly spectacular. But the supreme irony in Broder’s comment is his accusation that Ms. Wilson, a career spy for many years, suddenly transformed into a publicity-seeker. And it’s equally absurd that Broder believes that the Wilsons were capable of “engineering” the activities of the office of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald.

Broder eventually comes around to making a coherent judgment on the matter:

“Lying to a grand jury is serious business, especially when it is done by a person occupying a high government position where the public trust is at stake.”

But it is apparently not serious enough to be considered anything more than a sideshow in Broder’s Circus of Contradictions.

BREAKING: Pace Replaced As Chair Of Joint Chiefs – Now, Back To Paris

Breaking News?

MSNBC reported that General Peter Pace is being replaced as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Then they immediately announced that they would continue coverage of the Paris Hilton residence where reporters and paparazzi (is there a difference anymore?) were waiting to stalk her as she returned to court. This is where the priorities of our media lie and it is repulsive. The general who is responsible for the whole of the military establishment, in a time of war, has been ousted and the media is more obsessed with surveilling a Bel Air residence where NOTHING is actually happening.

At 10:00 am PDT, all three cable news nets led their top-of-the-hour newscasts with…PARIS! The same thing occurred at 11:00 am. In between there was a short press conference by Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, announcing that Pace was sacked because…

“The focus of his confirmation process would have been on the past rather than the future. And further, that there was the very real prospect the process would be quite contentious.”

It would be nice if the press sought to examine these statements. Gates is essentially saying that political expediency trumps military necessity. The President often claims that decisions about the war would be made by generals on the ground, but in this case it is the administration’s fear of bad PR that is the deciding factor. Unless, of course, this isn’t the real reason for Pace’s dismissal. Pace’s tenure has hardly been replete with success and his recent letter of support for a pardon for Scooter Libby is a breach of protocol. But the press is too preoccupied with gossipy trivialities to explore the more consequential questions raised by the shake-up at the Pentagon.

After the Gates press conference, all three cable news nets went right back to Paris. An hour after the Pace announcement the TV press were all following an LAPD squad car down the L.A. freeways to the court downtown. It has always perplexed me that anyone would be interested in watching a vehicle from the air that might have someone in it, but who cannot be seen. The media could just point their cameras at any squad car they want and say Paris is in it. Of what journalistic use is this video?

And yet, they will continue following this car until they get to the court where they will set up camp to film more of NOTHING while Paris and the others are inside. And they will do this instead of trying to analyze the significance and impact of the dumping of General Pace. Well, maybe preventing these pundidiots from pontificating about matters of real importance is actually good thing.

As an addendum, Paris was taken screaming from the courtroom as the judge ordered her to be returned to jail. Whatever happened to her promise to serve her sentence and be a good role model? Never mind, don’t answer that. I bet we still won’t get much news about Pace.

To those who would complain that articles like this one perpetuate the problem, I would offer this distinction: It is not the “Paris” story that is important – it is the “judicial inequality” story that is important. And it is the story of the media’s irresponsibility that is important. What the media is covering is not judicial inequality or journalistic integrity, but celebrity melodrama.

Update: Paris now agrees with me that the media’s preoccupation with her travails is misplaced. She has released a statement saying that she will not appeal the judge’s decision and adds…

“I must also say that I was shocked to see all of the attention devoted to the amount of time I would spend in jail for what I had done by the media, public and city officials. I would hope going forward that the public and the media will focus on more important things, like the men and women serving our country in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places around the world.”

Obviously that statement was composed by her lawyer or agent or other representative. I doubt that she has ever addressed Iraq publicly before. And I doubt that she was either shocked or displeased by the attention her ordeal received. Still, at least her handlers are exhibiting some social sensitivity.

Paris Hilton: Bustin’ Out

It’s official! Justice in America has jumped the shark. Every prisoner with a rash should be paroled immediately. Every con who finds their cell too cold, or doesn’t care for the food should be sent home. Anyone who still thinks there isn’t a class division in legal matters should be institutionalized (they can have Paris’ cell).

Yet the “law-and-order” right-wing elitocrats will wave off Paris’ mockery of justice as trivial, even as they continue to call for the pardon of Scooter Libby. Paris might have killed a family of five that night she was driving drunk, but hey, she’s a Hilton. Libby might have tipped off international enemies as to the identity of our agents and sources, but hey, he’s a loyal Bushie.

Justice is blinded by the bling.

Update: Radar dug up campaign contributions to Lee Baca, the sheriff who ordered Hilton’s release. Contributors include Paris’ grandfather, William Barron Hilton and Rupert Murdoch.

Roger Ailes Links Fox News and Al Qaeda

In remarks given as host of the Eric Breindel Awards ceremony for Excellence in Journalism, Fox News CEO, Roger Ailes, made a connection that would be shocking if it was in reference to anything other than Fox News:

“The candidates that can’t face Fox, can’t face Al Qaeda. And that’s what’s coming.”

So Fox and Al Qaeda have something in common. Actually, they much in common. By Ailes’ own admission, Fox’s adversarial attitude toward Democrats is analogous to Al Qaeda’s adversarial attitude toward America. That’s reason enough for Democrats to decline invitations to appear on the network. But Fox also shares with Al Qaeda a desire to terrorize citizens with panic-soaked reports designed to invoke a climate of fear. As previously reported here at News Corpse, Fox airs far less coverage of the war in Iraq than its peers, and far more coverage of sensationalized threats like the recent episodes concerning Fort Dix and JFK airport. Also like Al Qaeda, Fox promotes a philosophy of militant fundamentalism via its one-sided editorial stance and its advocacy on behalf of the war and its enablers in Washington.

The Breindel Awards, it should be noted, were endowed, and are sponsored by, News Corporation. They are awarded to…

“…the columnist, editorialist or reporter whose work best reflects the spirit of the writings by Eric Breindel: Love of country and its democratic institutions as well as the act of bearing witness to the evils of totalitarianism.

Conservative author and senior fellow at the Council of Foreign Relations, Max Boot, took this year’s professional award of $20,000. John Wilson of Claremont McKenna University received the student award of $10,000, and an internship at either Fox News or the New York Post.

I’m sure Mr. Wilson will find good use for the cash, but why sabotage this young man’s future with an internship that will likely stunt his growth as a reporter and instill in him a disdain for journalistic ethics? That’s just sad.