Hunter: The Rise of the Booboisie

Writing at the DailyKos, Hunter has articulated an insightful and inspiring essay about the embarrassingly inadequate pundit class in American media. It really needs to be read in full, but here are a few choice excerpts:

  • “What, and pardon my French, the flying baguette is going on in our media when large swaths of the pundit class, lethargic and addled, can’t figure out that the manipulation of our very system of justice itself…is not merely a political concern, but one with rather substantial implications towards the very way American democracy is practiced?”
  • “…there is a special place in hell for anyone who, at any point, figured that America should elect their President according to who they’d like to “have a beer” with, or opined in the national media that such reasoning was anything but a godforsaken sophistry.”
  • “…we’ve got possibly the least intelligent, most buffoonish President we’ve had in a generation (elevating all others as paragons of comportment and adroitness in the comparison), a man whose daily struggles with English are a window into a mind untarnished with complex thought, a man whose lack of understanding of foreign policy issues has knocked the wind from even those brought in to educate him on the subjects, a man whose daily pronouncements give trembling comedians ice cream headaches as they try to ingest the glory of it all.”
  • “…there is little evidence that the Washington pundit media ranks any higher on the competence scale than the fool-riddled government they purport to cover. Intelligence, is, shall we say, not held in high regard, in our national debate. Intellectualism is scorned: knowledge, such as the environmental knowledge that Gore was able to rattle off with little difficulty during the millennial American campaign, is seen as pushy, or snobbish, or gauche. It is decidedly unappreciated.”

The condensed version identifies a trio of pundit shortcomings: Heatherism, bias, and stupidity. But I don’t want to spoil it for you. Go read the whole thing.

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Kurtz Watch: Disclosure And Hypocrisy

Howard Kurtz is engaged in a battle with himself over when full disclosure is dangerous or admirable. In his article for the Washington Post, he frets that there is too much incivility on the Internet. He cites recent episodes where comments at the Huffington Post (which were deleted) and at Little Green Footballs (which left them up) exceeded the boundaries of Howie’s morality. He concludes that it is the Internet’s culture of anonymity that is responsible for the problem:

“What is spreading this Web pollution is the widespread practice of allowing posters to spew their venom anonymously. If people’s full names were required — even though some might resort to aliases — it would go a long way toward cleaning up the neighborhood.”

Kurtz doesn’t explain why full names, even aliases, would result in a change of demeanor. But if he is truly interested in cleaning up the neighborhood, then why did he himself quote an anonymous blogger last month who called the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, a bitch? He also refuses to explain how he magically stumbled on this blog that was less than 24 hours old, with only one posting on it. I guess he thinks it’s OK to be a profane, anonymous blogger if it suits his purposes.

If that’s not enough hypocrisy for you, on his CNN program, Reliable (?) Sources, Kurtz complained that reporters appeared biased when they pressed White House press secretary, Tony Snow, for answers. The issue they were pursuing was whether White House operatives should testify openly, before Congress, under oath, or be “interviewed” privately, unsworn, and with no transcript of the proceeding. The fact that Kurtz considers the reporters biased just because they prefer openness from the administration is just another example of the selectivity of his principles. He objects to citizens who express themselves freely, but he favors public servants who refuse to do so.

Adult Behavior

Adult BehaviorIn today’s White House press briefing, Tony Snow had some interesting comments regarding the testimony of Karl Rove and other Bush cronies and their involvement in GonzoGate: The Fired U.S. Attorneys Affair.

Question: We spoke with the Senate Judiciary Committee and the House Judiciary Committee. Senate says there is no precedent for having an official of this nature come and speak to the Committee without a transcript. The House also says they can’t find any precedent. Why should this case set a precedent?

Snow: Well, the fact is what they’re trying to do is to establish their own set of precedents. What we’re trying to do is to set a precedent for adult behavior in a way that is going to reflect well on a situation and offer an opportunity.

What do you suppose Snow means by “adult behavior?” And whom is he calling childish? Members of Congress? The American people? All that is being asked is that Rove and Co. testify under oath and in public. To resist this suggests that you intend to lie and/or have something to hide. But the White House is resisting and even insisting that the “interview” take place behind closed doors, no oath be given, and no transcript taken. When Democrats balk at this Skull & Bones approach to governing, Snow impunes their maturity. He later portrays this blatant stonewalling as a gift…

“I can’t imagine a more generous offer.”

He has a pretty sorry imagination. Or maybe he just thinks that telling the truth is obscene and should be subject to censorship.

Liberals Are The Mainstream

The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press released a new study that should put an end to the media fiction that liberals are some sort of fringe group that are out of touch with mainstream America. It should put an end to that, but will it?

The report reveals that the public has been growing more concerned about social programs, income inequality, and militaristic national security policies, and less interested in the so-called traditional social values promoted by conservatives. That values divide corresponds with a shift in political affiliation as well:

“In 2002, the country was equally divided along partisan lines: 43% identified with the Republican Party or leaned to the GOP, while an identical proportion said they were Democrats. Today, half of the public (50%) either identifies as a Democrat or says they lean to the Democratic Party, compared with 35% who align with the GOP.”

That’s a 15% divergence in 5 years. Following the Democratic electoral victories last November and the consistently low approval ratings of the Bush administration, one might think that the press would start to approach issues in a manner that reflects this reality. Instead, they persist in characterizing liberals as peaceniks and welfare moms. Partisans like Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity can’t say the word “Left” without appending “ultra-far” to the front of it. Even if they are talking about confirmed moderates like John Murtha.

Whether it’s the anti-troops leftists seeking a sane foreign policy, or the radical liberals who scotched the Fox News attempt to sabotage the debate in Nevada, or the mockery of Al Gore’s congressional testimony on global warming, or the loony netroots activists that have taken over the Democratic Party, the subtle, and sometimes obvious, defamation ought to be wearing thin. It’s the stenographers and spokesmodels who pass for the “mainstream” media who are out of touch. In poll after poll it has been shown that more Americans agree with the positions of liberals on almost every issue. That includes the economy, healthcare, the environment, civil rights, and most notably, the war. But the media continues to force their utterly misrepresentative narrative on a public that knows better.

This seems like a good time to remind and encourage people to let the press know that we know that they are being dishonest. If ABC News makes disparaging comments about “left-wing special interests,” call their newsroom. If USA Today belittles progressive congresspersons as not being aligned with their constituents, fire off an email. Do this every time you witness their bad behavior and point them to this Pew study. If we hit them over the head with the truth enough times, they might finally start to get it.

We can only hope.

The Days Of Our Los Angeles Times

A couple of weeks ago the Los Angeles Times announced that they were going to invite guests to edit their opinion section, Current. My initial response was that it was a terrible idea that trivialized the tradition of commentary in journalism. That impression was affirmed when they revealed that film producer Brian Grazer would be the inaugural guest editor. I have nothing against Grazer, but this is a newspaper (ostensibly) and its opinion pages should take that mission more seriously. If they had Bill Moyers or Peter Ueberroth launch the program, and held Grazer for a later edition, it would have given it more gravitas.

Well now the scheme has produced some Hollywood melodrama of its own. Apparently the Times’ Editorial Page Editor Andres Martinez, who selected Grazer, was romantically involved with a publicist who works with Grazer. That appearance of a conflict of interest led publisher David Hiller to scrap this week’s Current (albeit belatedly, and after denying any conflict existed). That, in turn, led Martinez to resign.

I really couldn’t care less about the management crowd at the Times who I believe to be journalistically challenged and beholden to their Chicago bosses and shareholders instead of their readers. But in a statement about his resignation, Martinez wrote the following:

“I will not be lectured on ethics by some ostensibly objective news reporters and editors who lobby for editorials to be written on certain subjects, or who have suggested that our editorial page coordinate more closely with the newsroom’s agenda.”

Martinez’ observation about the Times’ reporters, and his revelation regarding the incestuous relationship between the news division and the opinion pages, is a more scandalous affair than the one between Martinez and Mullins. But the real problem with the Times was eloquently stated by Jeff McMahon in a posted response to Martinez:

“It’s truly amazing that David Hiller has suddenly discovered the conflict of interest provisions of journalism’s codes of ethics. After all, the Tribune Company’s strategy has been to exploit situations in which interests are inherently conflicted – such as owning newspapers, television stations, radio stations, and in one truly unfortunate city, even a baseball team, in the same city, and then creating advertorial synergies between them. It’s a bit hard to believe anyone spawned by the Tribune Company headquarters is so concerned about ethics. So what’s really going on here?”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Update: This scandal may have more endurance than anyone currently anticipates. Bill Boyarsky, former city editor at the Times, thinks a full investigation should be conducted to ascertain whether any other conflicts may have occurred.

The Howard Kurtz Confessional Column

“For those who wonder why I quoted two new and obscure bloggers as criticizing the speaker–along with David Frum, who kind of defended her–I often try to look for average bloggers in their pajamas.”

With those rather unsettling words, Howard Kurtz attempts to justify what appears to be a prodigious deception. Click the link above and immerse yourself in a sordid tale of intrigue, betrayal, pride and its companion, ruin.

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The Rock And Roll Hall Of Infamy

The recent ceremony inducting new members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame served up its customary portion of controversy. While much of the entertainment press focused on the Van Halen soap opera pitting David Lee Roth against Sammy Hager, there was some more nuanced and poignant melodrama.

Inductee Patti Smith had a mixed night. Her televised performance included the song her deceased mother asked her to play if she ever got into the Hall. She did play the song, “Rock and Roll Nigger,” but it was so cut up by censors that it could hardly be enjoyed. On the other hand, the song chosen for the traditional group jam at the end of the broadcast was Smith’s “People Have the Power,” a churning anthem that is as relevant today as when she originally released it in 1988. She was joined on stage by Eddie Vedder, Keith Richards, Ronnie Spector, Michael Stipe, and the Grandmaster Flash crew.

Speaking of Grandmaster Flash, Roger Friedman at Fox News related charges that the Furious Five didn’t deserve their honor and that the vote was fixed. Friedman claims that the real winners were the Dave Clark Five, and that the Hall’s chairman, Jann Wenner, purposefully skewed the voting results because he wanted a rap act to win.

I wish Fox News would get this worked up about election fraud when it doesn’t involve denying an award to a truly ground-breaking group of African American artists in favor of some Anglo-Beatles wannabes. Friedman is just illustrating an unintended subtext of Smith’s “Rock and Roll Nigger.” Or maybe Fox would prefer an assimilated act. And now…

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Dave Clark Five singing their smash hit, “It’s Like a Jungle Sometimes, it Makes Me Wonder How I keep From Being Glad All Over.”

Lessons Of War Unlearned

The Washington Post thinks it’s time to “take stock” of America’s involvement in the war in Iraq. With tomorrow as the four year anniversary of the invasion, some might think that it’s long past time. Nevertheless, the Post is offering their ruminations in an editorial called, Lessons of War. It doesn’t take long for them to prove that they haven’t learned very much. They begin by soft-peddling the Bush administration’s culpability for the worst foreign policy in this country’s history:

“The easy way out is to blame President Bush, Vice President Cheney or former defense secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld: The decision was right, the execution wrong. There’s no question that the execution was disastrous. Having rolled the dice on what everyone understood to be an enormous gamble, Mr. Bush and his team followed up with breathtaking and infuriating arrogance, ignorance and insouciance.”

The decision was “right?” Can they really still believe that in light of the fact that all of the reasons that led to the decision were shown to be false? There was no imminent threat, there were no weapons of mass destruction, there was no connection to Al Qaeda or 9/11. It’s nice see the Post acknowledge the failure of the execution, but they have learned nothing if they think that the decision was right. And their assertion that everyone understood the “enormous gamble,” of the undertaking conveniently ignores all of the reassurances that the invasion would be a cakewalk and that Americans would be greeted as liberators.

Yet despite all of this and BushCo’s “infuriating arrogance, ignorance and insouciance,” the Post wants us to be careful about taking the “easy way out” by holding the President and his team accountable. They even suggest that the chaos and misery may have been inevitable:

“But the war might have spun out of control even under wiser leadership.”

Of course, under wiser leadership, we would not have gone to war in the first place. One must wonder what the Post considers wise leadership. They also appear to have a decidedly different view of comfort than would most folks:

“It would almost be comforting if Mr. Bush had ‘lied the nation into war,’ as is frequently charged. The best postwar journalism instead suggests that the president and his administration exaggerated, cherry-picked and simplified but fundamentally believed — as did the CIA — the catastrophically wrong case that then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell presented to the United Nations.”

I can’t think of anyone who would gain comfort from having the President lie to them. But if they would, they got their wish, because exaggeration, cherry-picking and simplification is the equivalent of lying if the intent is to mislead a nation into an unjustified war of aggression. And if stories reporting that the administration “fundamentally believed” the case with which Secretary Powell was saddled represent the best of postwar journalism, that’s more an indictment of journalism than a defense of the President.

The Post editorial concludes with an admission that they have been poor students:

“Unfortunately, none of this provides bright guidelines to make the next decisions easier.”

Then why did they print a headline above the column that says, “Lessons of War?” There is much to learn from the past four years of disastrous mistakes and dishonesty. Although the Post may not have learned anything, the people, who are overwhelmingly opposed to, and disgusted by, this war, have graduated ahead of the media class. And there is nothing in the curriculum that supports the Post’s conclusion that…

“A patient, sustained U.S. commitment, with gradually diminishing military forces, could still help Iraq to move in the right direction.”

The American people have run out of patience. What patience remains does not deserve to be wasted on a president and a policy that has been so wrong and so costly in both lives and resources. The Post, for its part, may want to consider enrolling in a remedial studies class, because the lessons of this war seemed to have been entirely lost to them

Kurtz Watch: Alberto Gone-zales?

Howard Kurtz is weighing in on the chaos at the Justice Department where eight U. S. Attorneys were dismissed under suspiciously political circumstances. The controversy extends to various shifting explanations from Alberto Gonzales and connections that reach into the White House. Kurtz begins by conceding that the matter was “badly botched,” calling it a “fiasco,” “disturbing,” and saying that it “raises questions about the Justice Department’s credibility.” That said, according to Kurtz, it still “doesn’t seem like a career-ender.” Kurtz must be holding out for a dead intern in Gonzales’ trunk.

The reasons for his leniency are that the scandal is not overheating the water-cooler circuit and that the only relevant decider is The Decider™. It’s too bad that Kurtz’ criteria has nothing to do with whether or not the Attorney General’s job performance is either competent or lawful.

Most of the rest of the comments regarding GonzoGate include excerpts from other columnists that seem to be uniformly advocating ditching the AG. And this is not just from progressives like Josh Marshall

“Who wants to guess how many days remain before Gonzales decides his presence at Justice is becoming an obstacle to the fulfillment of President Bush’s important law enforcement policy objectives?”

…but also from the far right National Review

“The administration’s supporters should consider whether the price of keeping Gonzales in office will be the surrender of important policies in order to try to appease his critics.”

But still, Howie doesn’t think there are enough gossips driving the story to merit serious discussion of Gonzales’ departure. Perhaps he needs to invent more typical bloggers that will back up his biases.

If It’s Sunday, It’s Still Conservative

Media Matters has published a report that documents the conservative bias of some of the most prominent political programs on television. Their extensive research shows that…

“During the 109th Congress (2005 and 2006), Republicans and conservatives held the advantage on every show, in every category measured. All four shows interviewed more Republicans and conservatives than Democrats and progressives overall, interviewed more Republican elected and administration officials than Democratic officials, hosted more conservative journalists than progressive journalists, held more panels that tilted right than tilted left, and gave more solo interviews to Republicans and conservatives.”

This report comes at a time when conservatives are still complaining that the media is unabashedly liberal. Bruce Bartlett at the National Review concedes that, while there is still an overall liberal slant, the press is becoming more neutral:

“In my view, the media did have a strong left-wing tilt for many years. But over the last 20 years or so, I think that has mostly disappeared. Major newspapers like the Post and New York Times are now fairly evenhanded in their news coverage. Their editorial pages are still pretty liberal, of course, but the Post in particular is far less liberal in its editorial positions than it was in the 1970s.” […and…] “If, as I believe, the major media tilted left and have moved toward the center, then this means they moved to the right. It is this movement that the left has picked up on and is complaining about. But the idea that the media now tilt toward conservatives is absurd.”

It makes for an interesting contrast to juxtapose Bartlett’s personal recollections with Media Matters’ scholarly documentation. The Media Matters project clearly demonstrates that the press has been deferential to conservatives for some time. If, as Bartlett believes, the media has moved to the right of late, then that would just compound the imbalance. It is also interesting to compare their conclusions:

Bartlett: “I would advise my liberal friends to stop whining about media bias. You had a free ride for a long time, and now it’s over. Get used to it, and learn how to use the media.”

Media Matters: “As ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox make decisions about their coverage of political affairs in the coming days, they should consider how they could better serve their viewers and the public.”

Bartlett takes the more cynical view that the press is just there to be exploited and spun. Media Matters hopes to nudge the press and its subjects to aspire to higher journalistic ethics and integrity. Which conclusion sounds better to you?