George Bush Lauded By Berlusconi For Time 100

GoodfellasTime Magazine has published it’s fifth annual list of the World’s Most Influential People. It’s a mixed collection with a few standouts for hilarity.

Rupert Murdoch made the list as a “Builder and Titan,” an honor he shares with Radiohead. Thom Yorke would make a great media mogul, and they could keep the band’s name as their corporate brand. Disney temptress Miley Cyrus is listed in a category where she challenges Tim Russert, the only “journalist” of the group. They are both listed under “Artists and Entertainers.” Which of these Russert is supposed to be, I don’t know. But Russert is apparently quite influential, as he has reportedly had Arianna Huffington banned from promoting her new book, Right Is Wrong, on any NBC program.

Also on the list is George W. Bush under “Leaders and Revolutionaries.” I can’t see where he’d place in either group. But the truly creepy aspect of this is that the essay accompanying his inclusion was written by the Italian Murdoch, Sylvio Berlusconi. Berlusconi, media baron and Prime Minister, related his impressions of Bush as a leader who knows that…

“…justice, freedom and democracy can flourish only if there is security.”

Spoken like a true totalitarian fascist. He is, however, right about Bush, who has shown that he will sacrifice any Constitutional principle, civil liberty, or democratic process, in the pursuit of a false security predicated on fear and lies.

Having Berlusconi pen Bush’s bio for the Time 100 holds a unique significance in light of Berlusconi’s recent electoral successes in Italy. He declared after the election that “We are the new Falange.” The original Falange was the Spanish fascist party of Francisco Franco. Berlusconi’s supporters also hailed the victory of his party’s candidate for mayor of Rome, Gianni Alemanno, a former neo-fascist youth leader, with Hitlerian straight-arm salutes and chants of “Duce, Duce…”, Mussolini’s version of “Fuhrer.” Bush must be proud to have his friend Berlusconi compose this touching tribute.

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Fox News In Critical Condition

In the first quarter of 2008, Fox News was the slowest growing cable news network (10%), behind MSNBC (66%) and CNN (87%). For the first time in six years they finished in 2nd place. Now, in the first month of the 2nd quarter, the diagnosis is even worse.

Ratings April 2008

Notably, Fox is showing a 14% decline form their year-ago numbers, while their arch nemesis, MSNBC, posts a 9% increase. This comes in the midst of a contentious election year when demand for news is uncommonly strong. Why then is Fox waning? The same dynamics I wrote about a month ago are still in play today:

“The stagnation of Fox’s audience can be traced in part to the downward spiral of the Bush presidency. Fox has long tethered its fortunes to a conservative ideology that has fallen out of favor.”

Mainstream audiences are less interested in the partisan cheerleading of right-wing zealots. They may also be tiring of the Crossfire-style tongue lashing engaged in by the modern punditocracy. A case in point is Keith Olbermann’s Countdown, which has been criticized for avoiding confrontation by declining to book adversarial guests. But its strategy is validated by consistently being the fastest growing program on cable news. The numbers for April show that it is the only program to grow (+21%), compared to CNN’s Campbell Brown (-23%) and Fox’s Bill O’Reilly (-12%).

MSNBC also benefited from the contributions of the rest of its lineup (Race For the White House, Hardball, Verdict) which were all either stable or higher, while their competition was uniformly lower. Even Countdown’s repeat contributed by improving on last year’s Doc Block by 10%.

What is particularly disturbing is that, in this environment where Fox News is gasping for air, the Democratic candidates for president chose this week to succumb to the howl of publicity hounding. What we already know about the narrow-minded nature of Fox’s audience, combined with the evidence that it is shrinking precipitously, should be enough to convince rational Democrats to remove Fox News from their itinerary.

This is not the time to surrender. The Democratic embargo of Fox News has almost certainly played a part in the network’s decline. Their programming has suffered by being over-weighted with right-wingers and Republicans. They have resorted to whining on air about the kids who won’t play with them. If it wasn’t hurting them they wouldn’t mention it. Now, with Fox on the ropes, Democrats should stay strong and resist whatever urge it is that compels them to act against their own interests by accepting invitations to a party from a host that seeks only to diminish them.

Let’s hope that now that the thrust and parry of the Obama/Clinton appearances on Fox are history, they can manage to rein in their impulses and get back on the team. Fox is hostile territory and our generals should not be giving them aid and comfort.


Hillary Clinton To Suck Up To Bill O’Reilly

Clinton on O'ReillyHillary Clinton is following in the futile steps of Barack Obama after his appearance on Fox News Sunday. My analysis of that affair applies in spades to Clinton’s announcement that she will fraternize with the noxious Bill O’Reilly this Wednesday. This is what I said about Obama’s lapse in judgment:

“A strong performance will net him nothing because the audience is limited in both size and ideological diversity. It will end right there. But the slightest misstep will be magnified a hundred fold throughout the Murdoch empire.”

It’s even worse for Clinton. The number one priority for O’Reilly is to applaud his own magnificence. The boundaries of his ego are approaching a state that is becoming an imminent danger to Earth’s orbit. The number two priority for O’Reilly is to bash Democrats. In pursuit of that he will have an ally in Sen. Clinton. She is likely to use this opportunity to assail Obama on tangents like Rev. Wright. And if she doesn’t volunteer to do so, O’Reilly will provide her with the opening. O’Reilly’s obsession with Wright is a near fetish. He has featured the ex-pastor in 19 of his 26 Talking Points Memos since the story broke last month.

Clinton’s friendliness with right-wing media is nothing new, of course. She attended a fundraiser thrown for her by Rupert Murdoch, then was endorsed by his New York Post. She sat down with Richard Mellon Scaife, who had accused her of murder when she was still First Lady, then was endorsed by his Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Her campaign’s General Chairman, Terry McAuliffe, appears in Fox News promos lauding their fairness and balance. And now she will sit across the table from the 21st century’s Father Coughlin.

As I’ve said many times before, no good can come of this. In Clinton’s case it is even more foreboding because she has demonstrated a willingness to collude with conservative opponents for her political gain. Obama promised to “take Fox on” prior to meeting with Wallace. He didn’t. If Clinton gives O’Reilly a hard time, he will hit back, but not until after she has left the stage, and for days after that. But he will come close to endorsing her if she throws him enough red meat about Obama.

There is just no upside. Fox only exists to defeat Democrats. When will these people learn?


Spin-Com: Obama And Clinton Step Up – Media Cowers

SpinComThe propaganda scandal uncovered last week by the New York Times has been virtually blacked-out by the rest of the media – particularly television. Even though this may be the most brazen act of disinformation ever perpetrated against American citizens. Why would the press seemingly act in concert to bury this story?

It really doesn’t take much imagination to understand the panic these media outlets must be experiencing. The Pentagon-driven program of dispatching retired generals to serve as TV pundits with the intention of painting an artificially rosy picture of the war in Iraq poses a slippery dilemma. These TV networks were either pawns, dupes, or accomplices, in a scheme to mislead the country and enrich the players. Therefore, it is not surprising that the media has acted to sweep it all under the rug. To report on it would be to indict themselves.

Well, at least some of the candidates for president have finally weighed in:

Senator Clinton is very concerned by a recent press report that the Department of Defense (DOD) hid behind “an appearance of objectivity” in a concerted media “campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance.” The report raises issues of credibility and trust at the Pentagon.

~~~

Senator Obama is deeply disturbed by this latest evidence that the Bush Administration has sought to manipulate the public’s trust. From its misleading case to go to war with a country that had nothing to do with 9/11, to its argument for keeping our troops in Iraq indefinitely, the Administration has depended on spin because its assertions have not been supported by facts.

Both Democrats are calling for various levels of investigation. So is the Pentagon, whose spokesman has announced that they are temporarily suspending the program “pending further review.” The only candidate to fail to take a position is that straight-talking maverick, John McCain. Of course he may be the only public official who has been even more unquestioningly upbeat than the bought and paid for war spinners.

This isn’t over. It is still possible to get the press to be responsible and to perform their duty to inform the public. Write letters and emails to any national and/or local media outlet you patronize. And be sure to visit FreePress where they are collecting signatures to urge Congress to further investigate this breach of the public trust.


Barack Obama On Fox News Sunday

Obama on FoxJust prior to Chris Wallace’s interview of Barack Obama on Fox News Sunday, I argued the futility of making an appearance on Fox:

“A strong performance will net him nothing because the audience is limited in both size and ideological diversity. It will end right there. But the slightest misstep will be magnified a hundred fold throughout the Murdoch empire”

I was right. There were no notable gaffes or exploitable vagaries and, consequently, the interview has all but disappeared. So far today I have not seen a single clip of this program on Fox News (or any other network). This despite the fact that prior to the broadcast it was so highly anticipated and heavily promoted. After Wallace made such a big issue of Obama’s appearance, invented his “Obama Watch” countdown, and called Democrats damned fools for not going on Fox, they have not seen fit to re-air any portion of this news-making broadcast.

On the other hand, Fox News (and most other networks) have been re-playing Rev. Wright’s remarks in speeches before the NAACP and the National Press Club repeatedly all day long. That should tell you something about media priorities. Obviously the words of a controversial ex-pastor are far more important to the press than the words of an actual candidate for president.

As for Wallace’s priorities, Josh Nelson at The Seminal provides this revealing breakdown of questions he asked Obama:

  • Jeremiah Wright: 8 questions
  • Race: 6 questions
  • Reaching Across the Aisle to Republicans: 3 questions
  • The Economy (#1 issue for voters): 2 questions
  • Gas Prices (#2 issue for voters): 0 questions
  • Health Care(#3 issue for voters): 0 questions
  • Iraq (#4 issue for voters): 0 direct questions, 3 through the lens of Petraeus

Rush Limbaugh: Screw the World! Riot in Denver!

While the Conventional Media is still consumed with remarks made by Barack Obama’s pastor criticizing America, they are virtually ignoring the comments of Rush Limbaugh that are brazenly advocating violence for political gain.

Limbaugh: “Now, I am not inspiring or inciting riots. I’m dreaming. (singing to the tune of White Christmas) I’m dreaming of riots in Denver. Remember 1968?”

Limbaugh says that he isn’t inciting riots, but merely dreaming of them. That distinction is skimpy to say the least. Is he so naive that it has not occurred to him that some portion of his 14 million listeners might be motivated to help him see his dreams come true? Of all the well-deserved criticisms that can be leveled at this ego-bloated pundi-clown, naiveté is not amongst them. He knows the impact of words. He knows his audience. He knows very well the potential consequences of actions.

Limbaugh: “Riots in Denver at the Democrat convention would see to it we don’t elect Democrats – and that’s the best damn thing could happen for this country as far as anything I can think.”

Is it possible to deliberately instigate violence more explicitly than that? The title of this article, “Screw the World! Riot in Denver!” was lifted verbatim from Limbaugh’s web site. That is an unambiguous directive to his listeners who are not called “dittoheads” for nothing. But Limbaugh grants himself somewhat more leeway to engage in hypocrisy. Apparently there are worse things than electing Democrats – i.e. electing John McCain.

Limbaugh: “If I believe the country will suffer with either Hillary, Obama or McCain, I would just as soon the Democrats take the hit … rather than a Republican causing the debacle.”

That, however, hasn’t stopped McCain from pursuing Limbaugh’s favor. Just last February Politico reported that, according to Republican sources, McCain sent an emissary to bring Limbaugh into the fold.

The questions for today are: Will McCain denounce and reject Limbaugh’s repugnant and dangerous remarks? Will the media give an equal amount of airtime to Limbaugh’s lunacy as they did to Rev. Wright’s rant? Will Hell freeze over?

It would be too optimistic to entertain the notion that Limbaugh would be fired over this. He makes too much money for his greedy broadcast benefactors. But if Limbaugh doesn’t face some sort of sanction for this, then what would produce a sanction? Would he have to show up in Denver with a trunk full of Molotov cocktails? Would we need a canceled check payable to Outside Agitators, Inc. (a subsidiary of Blackwater)? If there is trouble in Denver, will there be an investigation to ascertain whether the troublemakers were Limb-bots?

There may not be answers to these questions today, but we must not stop asking them. And we must not stop prodding the press to ask as well. And we must not forget to ask them after the convention. If there is trouble in Denver, if blood is spilled, it will be on Limbaugh’s hands.

Updated to add: More comments from Limbaugh advocating violence:

“I mean, if people say what’s your exit strategery, the dream end of this is that this keeps up to the convention and that we have a replay of Chicago 1968, with burning cars, protests, fires, literal riots, and all of that. That’s the objective here.”

Contact Premiere Radio Networks, Limbaugh’s Clear Channel-owned syndicator, and tell them that inciting violence is illegal and unacceptable.

Here’s a link to Limbaugh’s advertisers who might want to reconsider sponsoring a program that advocates violence.

You can also file a complaint with the FCC.

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Barack Obama Falls Into Fox News Sunday Trap

Fox News has begun airing promos announcing that Barack Obama will appear this week on Chris Wallace’s Fox News Sunday. This is a huge error in judgment and is sorely disappointing. There is literally no advantage for Obama to subject himself to the prejudices of a network that is overtly hostile to his candidacy. What’s worse is that Obama seems to be capitulating to pressure applied by Wallace himself.

Last month, in a fit of pique, Wallace launched the Obama Watch to shame the candidate into granting Wallace an interview. The whole ploy was unprofessional and innately biased as it sought to portray Obama as either uncooperative or afraid. Having succumbed to the tactic, Obama will now be interrogated by a man who has called Democrats “damned fools” on a network that is an endless loop of Rev. Wright and Bill Ayers videos, when they aren’t talking about how elitist or unpatriotic he is.

At this point in the Democratic primary every appearance, every speech, every minute of a candidate’s time is precious. Why Obama thinks that this engagement with Fox in any way benefits him is inexplicable. The potential audience has little to no value for Democrats. And as the perennial fourth place finisher out of the four Sunday news shows, the potential audience is also, well … little.

My previous article, “Fox News: For Republicans Only,” shows clearly that Fox is unabashedly partisan. It’s CEO, Rupert Murdoch, is maxed out to both John McCain and Hillary Clinton in campaign donations. Nothing for Obama. For evidence of Murdoch’s hostile intent one need only to refer to his New York Post’s endorsement of Obama that reads more like an indictment. [See Starve The Beast for a detailed analysis of why it is not only pointless, but harmful, for Democrats to appear on Fox News]

This is nothing but a trap. It makes Obama look small for having conceded. It exposes him to risks from a pseudo-news operation that is working openly with his opponents to orchestrate his defeat. A strong performance will net him nothing because the audience is limited in both size and ideological diversity. It will end right there. But the slightest misstep will be magnified a hundred fold throughout the Murdoch empire. Look for any rhetorical slip to be broadcast incessantly on the Fox cable and radio networks. Watch for it to be published in over 100 News Corp. newspapers and magazines. Then wait for the rest of the media to pick it up and pile on.

Obama on FoxIn addition, Obama’s presence will lend his credibility to a news enterprise that has none of its own. Fox will immediately brag about having made him cry “uncle” and cite it as a victory that proves that they cannot be ignored. They may even edit Obama into future network promos as they just did with Clinton’s campaign chief, Terry McAuliffe.

We can only hope now that Obama has a change of heart or a scheduling conflict that forces him to cancel this interview. Almost any other use of his time will be more productive since this use will be only counterproductive. Fox only wants this so that they can build themselves up and tear the likely Democratic nominee for president down. No good can come of it.

Update: It didn’t take long but, just as I predicted, Fox is already bragging about Obama’s retreat. Chris Wallace responded to charges that his “Obama Watch” was obnoxious saying, “It may have been obnoxious but it was also effective.” He went on to boast that Obama must need Fox because of his loss in Pennsylvania. I told you so.


Fox News: For Republicans Only

The ratings for the cable news coverage last night reveal something at once interesting and expected:

25-54 5p: 6p: 7p: 8p: 9p: 10p: 11p:
FNC ElectionHQ: Hume: Shep: Primary: Primary: Primary: Primary:
  228 261 316 483 507 679 465
CNN Blitzer: Blitzer: Elec.Cent.: Elec.Cent.: Elec.Cent.: Elec.Cent.: Elec.Cent.:
  294 366 479 720 785 910 712
MSNBC Hardball: Spec.Cov.: Spec.Cov.: Spec.Cov.: Spec.Cov.: Spec.Cov.: Spec.Cov.:
  243 308 431 651 679 594 414

Fox News came in third in five of the seven primetime and prime adjacent hours. They finished the evening in third place.

Fox News is a Republican network. Their viewer base doesn’t care about news that they don’t think affects them. This is consistent with viewing patterns that show CNN and MSNBC spiking whenever a significant news event takes place. Viewers simply do not tune in to Fox for news. They tune in to have their preconceptions about public affairs validated.

This is proof that the Democrats who avoid Fox News are right to do so. The Fox audience is of no use to them. Last night’s ratings merely confirm studies that show the same thing. From Starve The Beast:

“The Mellman Group’s research revealed that Fox viewers supported George Bush over John Kerry by 88% to 7%. Only Republicans were more 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.”

It’s too bad some Dems still don’t get it. Terry McCauliffe, the general chairman of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, went on Fox News last night and slobbered all over Major Garrett. This Public Display of Affliction is downright embarrassing. So embarrassing that Fox turned it into a promo that has already hit the airwaves.


Murdoch Stalking Newsday

Rupert Murdoch is on the prowl again and the editors, employees and readers of Long Island’s Newsday had better pay attention. The News Corp. chief has announced that his ravenous appetite for world media dominance is far from satisfied.

“Media mogul Rupert Murdoch has been calling key state and local officials to say he is close to a deal to buy Newsday and that he looks forward to working with them.”

Murdoch already owns the New York Post, the Wall Street Journal, and two TV stations in the New York market, along with the Fox News Channel, and the Fox Business Network. The $580 million acquisition of Newsday would allow him to further tighten his grip on the biggest media market in the country. Murdoch hopes that by adding Newsday to his empire he might be able to reduce the debt he takes on from the Post, which has lost money for as long as he’s owned it. This would sharpen his aim at his real target, the New York Times, which he has previously vowed to bury.

As for the Newsday staff and customers, they need to be aware of what lay in store if Murdoch is successful. Despite having promised not to meddle in the editorial affairs of the Wall Street Journal as a condition for his purchasing it, his will cannot be denied.

“Marcus W. Brauchli will step down as the top-ranking editor of The Wall Street Journal after less than a year in the job, four people briefed on the matter said on Monday, just four months after Rupert Murdoch took control of the paper.”

As with most of the rest of Murdoch’s properties, Newsday would likely take on his world view. However, Newsday’s fate is not a foregone conclusion. Mort Zuckerman, who owns the New York Daily News, is reportedly preparing his own bid. This may be less because of his desire to own Newsday than his need to keep Murdoch from owning it. Whatever the reason, it may be time to start rooting for Zuckerman.


Mind War – The Pentagon’s Propaganda Assault On America

“World War Three will be a guerrilla information war with no division between military and civilian participation.” ~ Marshall McLuhan, 1968

SpinComThe New York Times has now documented the sad prescience of McCluhan. In an in-depth examination of supposedly independent, retired military analysts, the Times’ David Barstow has uncovered what may be the most brazen attempt at propaganda ever initiated.

“To the public, these men are members of a familiar fraternity, presented tens of thousands of times on television and radio as “military analysts” whose long service has equipped them to give authoritative and unfettered judgments about the most pressing issues of the post-Sept. 11 world.”

“Hidden behind that appearance of objectivity, though, is a Pentagon information apparatus that has used those analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance.”

“The effort, which began with the buildup to the Iraq war and continues to this day, has sought to exploit ideological and military allegiances, and also a powerful financial dynamic: Most of the analysts have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air.”

It should come as no surprise that the Bush administration would manipulate the press to shape public opinion. The press, of course, are their willing accomplices. Rupert Murdoch of Fox News even admitted it publicly. And the Pentagon has been caught doing the same in Iraq. The Associated Press reported that the U.S. military secretly paid Iraqi newspapers to publish stories intended to portray operations there in a positive light.

But the scale of this program, the fact that it was directed at Americans, and the added wrinkle of financial corruption and greed at the expense of thousands of lives, is thoroughly without precedent. The article reveals that there was deliberate intent on the part of the government to define what constituted news and to replace the analysis of independent journalists with that of hand-picked and conflict-laden Pentagon mouthpieces. It was further disclosed that many of these spokespersons provided commentary they knew was false in order to protect either their access to the media or their profits. These former military officers clearly were not protecting their troops.

“It was them saying, ‘We need to stick our hands up your back and move your mouth for you,’ ” Robert S. Bevelacqua, a retired Green Beret and former Fox News analyst, said.

That’s just one of the more than 150 retired officers participating in this program, most of whom worked for – you guessed it – Fox News. One Fox News crony, Paul E. Vallely, called it a “MindWar” – using network TV and radio to “strengthen our national will to victory.” Another analyst, General Conway, confessed that “The strategic target remains our [the American] population.” He went on to callously trivialize the loss of U.S. troops as incidental to winning in the court of public opinion and, he might as well have added, in the marketplace of war profiteering.

The scope of deceit and greed that this program encompasses is mind boggling. Read the whole story at the New York Times. Then visit FreePress where they are collecting signatures to urge Congress to further investigate this breach of the public trust.