MSNBC’s Scarborough Has On-Air Mental Breakdown Over Liberal Media Myth

The resident Republican blowhard on MSNBC, Joe Scarborough, has staked out his post as the network’s voice of rightist disinformation. He commands his three hour block of airtime like a junta leader, ordering the topics of discussion and interrupting his guests incessantly.

MSNBC Joe Scarborough

This morning Scarborough appeared to have a severe cognitive collapse during a segment about the Republican Party’s debate-o-phobia (video below). Like most of his ideological allies, he is suffering from the delusion that the American media, owned by a handful of megalithic, multinational corporations, is dominated by liberals. Scarborough set off on a rant about the absence of conservatives on nightly news programs, Sunday shows, and in the executive suites. He badgered his guests to come up with examples of Republicans in those roles, and insisted that they could not do it.

Scarborough: Outside of Brit Hume, who has been a conservative in the mainstream media in the past 30 years who you’ve worked for? Outside of Brit Hume, who has held a powerful position at ABC, NBC or CBS News on the air? […] Name the single Republican that has hosted a Sunday show, that has been an anchor of a news network for the big three networks over the past 50 years. You cannot do it.

Setting aside the fact that Scarborough conveniently leaves out Fox News, the most watched, and therefore mainstream by default, cable news network, he repeatedly spits out this challenge to his colleagues, who are not particularly well informed on the subject. For instance, Mark Halperin, the senior political analyst for MSNBC, responded sheepishly saying “Joe, I agree with you 100%.” No one else on the panel was able to take up Scarborough’s challenge either.

For their future reference, they may want to note that Chris Wallace, now the anchor of Fox News Sunday, hosted NBC’s Meet the Press for a year. Tony Snow, who went on to serve as press secretary for George W. Bush was the first host of FOX News Sunday. Diane Sawyer anchored ABC’s World News Tonight for five years after serving as a press aide to Richard Nixon. So Scarborough’s sweaty insistence that no one can name such people is demonstrably false.

Scarborough kept switching from asking for on-air-personalities to executives in charge of the news operations. On that front there are right-wingers like David Rhodes, the current President of CBS News who had a similar position at Fox for fifteen years. Ken Jautz, the head of CNN, is the man who gave Glenn Beck his first job on television. NBC is now owned by Comcast, whose Roberts family owners are notorious righties.

There are certainly more conservatives in television newsrooms, but it’s hard to pin them down with proof. That’s because most career journalists are careful to avoid any open expression of partisanship. So people like CBS’s Scott Pelley, or NBC’s Chuck Todd, and many more, may have distinctly conservative views, but they have never worked for a GOP senator or made a donation to any political campaign, or even registered with a party, so there is no hard evidence. And the same is true for journalists who are accused of being liberals. That doesn’t mean they aren’t there. And it doesn’t warrant the loony outburst that Scarborough let loose today. If anything, the fact that no one at the table could cite any of the people mentioned above is proof that the media is conservative, and blind to their bias.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

Old Media Hacks And New Media Whores

The Shirley Sherrod story has been an embarrassment to just about everyone concerned. The White House, the Department of Agriculture, Fox News, and many in the conventional news bureaus and the conservative Internet. Sadly the person who should be most embarrassed is Andrew Breitbart who, due to his suffering from an acute case of sociopathic narcissism, is incapable of registering normal expressions of shame or decency.

Surprisingly, this unfortunate affair has produced a remarkable eruption of insight from an unlikely source. Mark Halperin of Time Magazine has owned up to a failing of the Convention Media that is not often acknowledged by someone within their own ranks:

“The Sherrod story is a reminder […] that the old media are often swayed by controversies pushed by the conservative new media. In many quarters of the old media, there is concern about not appearing liberally biased, so stories emanating from the right are given more weight and less scrutiny.”

No shit! This is something that has been obvious to conscious observers for years. The right has so befuddled the cowardly martinets of the media that any whiff of potential liberalism is received with a near hysterical recoiling. Regardless of how rooted in the truth it is, grown reporters and editors flinch and quickly avert their brains. This is an acquired response brought on by decades of conservative behavioral training – AKA working the refs.

Halperin’s sudden wakefulness is not universally held. Last month the ombudsman at the Washington Post, Andrew Alexander, published a demented apology to conservatives, going so far as to declare that…

“…traditional news outlets like The Post simply don’t pay sufficient attention to conservative media or viewpoints.”

Alexander’s position that conservatives don’t get sufficient attention is in stark contrast to Halperin’s position that conservatives are given more weight. Alexander cited stories about ACORN and Van Jones to support his thesis. As it turns out, both of those stories were as phony as the one about Sherrod being a racist, but I have yet to see the Post’s correction or adjustment to their editorial policy. In fact, Alexander’s journalistic dyslexia is precisely what Halperin is warning against. Halperin continues…

“Additionally, the conservative new media, particularly Fox News Channel and talk radio, are commercially successful, so the implicit logic followed by old-media decisionmakers is that if something is gaining currency in those precincts, it is a phenomenon that must be given attention. Most dangerously, conservative new media will often produce content that is so provocative and incendiary that the old media find it irresistible.”

What this boils down to is old-fashioned greed. Whether lured by the success of Fox News or the lust for controversy, these are both aspirations that translate into dollars. So the old media is simply aligning itself with the oldest profession.

The saddest part of this is that the White House has once again been seduced by these whores. This is pretty much what they should expect after allowing themselves to be bullied into casting off Van Jones. That sort of victory is like blood in the water to rightist thugs. Now they think they can get whatever they want by fabricating smears and disseminating falsehoods to a compliant press corps. That’s why they do it.

We’ve come along way from the days when former White House Communications Directer Anita Dunn told CNN’s Howard Kurtz that Fox News is “the communications arm of the Republican Party.” Or the days when David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel went on the air and correctly pointed out that Fox News is “not a news organization.” How did we get from there to last week’s disgraceful submission by the administration to Breitbart’s deceitful campaign of lies?

It is well past time that people recognize that Fox News, Breitbart, and the rest of the rightist press, are not credible practitioners of journalism. We don’t have to respond to their invented scenarios. We must not assign them credibility. We can turn down their invitations to appear on their programs. They do not deserve to be treated as if they were legitimate journalists. And above all, never make an important decision because of some story they initiated. They are liars!

Is that clear enough? If Mark Halperin can see it, then surely the rest of the media can.

The Phony Populism Of The Tea Crusades

It is beginning to set in amongst some members of the press that the Tea Party “movement” is a mirage that attracts far more attention than its paltry numbers deserve. I wrote about this a couple of months ago in The Tea Party Delusion. It is more true now than ever, and it would serve the media well to acknowledge it and report accurately.

Polls show that Americans are divided on their opinions about Tea Baggers. But the more interesting statistic is that more Americans have either no opinion or have never heard of them at all. This finding is consistent across most major surveys on the subject (all pdf files): NBC/Wall Street Journal: 48%; CNN/Opinion Research: 40%; CBS News: 69%; Washington Post/ABC: 64%; even Fox News/Opinion Dynamics: 44%.

Nevertheless, the media treats this ephemeral blur as if it were a political tsunami. They apparently aren’t reading their own polls. The Tea Baggers Ball last weekend brought about 600 registered attendees to the Opryland Hotel. The National Wild Turkey Conference next week is expecting 40,000 at the same venue. Yet there are no news networks camping outside the hotel salivating at the prospect of interviewing turkey aficionados in Revolutionary War garb.

The good news is that some in the media are starting to emerge from their comas. And it isn’t just a few predictable liberals at the Village Voice. Entrenched establishment pundits like Joe Klein and Mark Halperin have begun to recognize that the reality of the Tea Crusade doesn’t remotely resemble the mythology that has been dominating recent coverage. In a comparison of Sarah Palin to the Tea Partiers, Halperin notes that

“Both have far less support in the country at large than a gullible Old Media seems to understand or suggest. […] Both are the subject of endless fascination by cable TV. […] Both benefit from the extraordinary promotional machine that is the Fox News Channel.”

That last point is particularly salient as Fox News plays a unique role in promoting Tea Baggers and Republicans like Palin. The strategy is to keep their base star-struck, ill-informed, and distracted by tangential, but emotional matters. That’s what makes Palin an important figure in the Tea Crusades. She has the celebrity, the ignorance, and that ability to inspire panic from trifles and lies. Joe Klein observed that what she offered in her convention speech was “drivel” and went on to castigate those who have fallen for her shtick:

“Those who celebrate Sarah Palin’s lack of knowledge as a form of ‘authenticity’ superior to Barack Obama’s gloriously American mongrel ethnicity and self-made intellectuality are representatives of a long-standing American theme–the celebration of sameness, and mediocrity”

President Homer SimpsonThis is something I called Elitistism: the practice of discriminating against those who are perceived to be elite. The goal of Elitistism is to drive from public life anyone who diverges from the sacred visage of American Averagism. Because everyone knows that the guy you’d rather have a beer with is the best qualified to be president. Although the cold brew may have been replaced by the tea bag, and the barfly by the Tea Hag™ (i.e. Sarah Palin). And whatever you do, don’t exhibit any qualities of excellence or intelligence. As I previously wrote, in today’s politics those are flaws that separate you from the masses:

“Education is a key component in this new paradigm. It is absolutely critical that you not have too much of it. And never, ever use the word paradigm. Once the American people get the impression that you know more than they do about issues like economics or foreign policy, you’re disqualified from service. Achievement and expertise only spotlight how different you are from ordinary Americans.”

Hopefully more of the media will soon catch on and realize that the Tea Crusades are a fabrication of lazy and/or biased reporting, and dishonest politicos seeking to exploit a disgruntled demographic. As it stands now they are mostly embarrassing themselves by fawning over fake people and phony populists. They spent tens of thousands of dollars on those polls, they ought to use them. It is time they try reporting on reality for a change.

CNN’s Howard Kurtz On Glenn Beck, Fox News And Whores

Today on CNN’s Reliable Sources, host Howard Kurtz raised an issue of obvious hypocrisy on the part of Fox News. The segment addressed an incident a couple of weeks ago when Rep. Alan Grayson referred to an aide to Fed chairman Ben Bernanke as a “K Street whore.” Fox News jumped on the comment and repeatedly criticized Grayson for making an insensitive and sexist remark. Grayson has since apologized.

A few days ago Glenn Beck used similarly offensive language when referring to Sen. Mary Landrieu. Beck said that Landrieu was “hooking” but “not cheap.” Kurtz took this opportunity to upbraid Fox News for being less than fair and balanced because they didn’t report Beck’s remarks or criticize him. Beck has not apologized.

I suppose I shouldn’t complain that Kurtz properly observed Fox’s hypocrisy. However, Kurtz left something out of the story that many people might consider relevant. You see, Mark Halperin, editor-at-large and senior political analyst for TIME, had something to say about Landrieu as well. He posted this modified photo of the senator on his TIME web site, The Page.

Why didn’t Kurtz take Halperin to task for a visual commentary that was just as offensive and perhaps more repulsive? Could it have anything to do with the fact that Kurtz’s employer, CNN, is owned by Time Warner, and so is Halperin’s employer, TIME? It is unlikely that Kurtz was not aware of the Halperin incident, as it caused such a ruckus he was forced to remove the picture.

Kurtz’s impartiality has been questioned on numerous occasions. Most frequently with regard to his role as a media analyst for both CNN and the Washington Post. Critics have complained that he cannot serve both masters and expect to be regarded as thorough and neutral, while he insists that he has always been tough on every news enterprise on which he reports. However, in this case, he blatantly lets his corporate cousin off the hook.

If Kurtz wants to be taken seriously, he needs to begin acting like an impartial observer. All that he accomplishes with this sort of hackery is to embarrass himself and the news bureaus that employ him. But on one level we can have a fair measure of confidence: When Kurtz reports on the behavior of whores, he knows what he’s talking about.

To his credit, Kurtz did challenge Jim Geraghty, the right-wing lip-servicer from the National Review, who tried to excuse Beck’s boorishness, by saying…

“Oh, I see, Grayson should be held accountable because he’s an elected official, and Glenn Beck is in the gasbag business, like many of us on television.”

That’s telling him – and yourself too.

Comparing Sarah Palin To Howard Dean

Yesterday on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Time Magazine editor-at-large and senior political analyst, Mark Halperin sought to make a comparison between Sarah Palin and Howard Dean. Commendably, the show’s co-hosts would have none of it. Mika Brzezinski said flatly that it was “not the same.” Joe Scarborough went even further:

Joe Scarborough: “It is such a disservice to compare Sarah Palin, in any aspect to Howard Dean. Yes, because that is an insult to Howard Dean’s intelligence.”

Fox Nation and other rightist webizens are aghast at Scarborough’s slap at Palin. But do you think they ever bothered to actually compare the two?

Sarah Palin: Howard Dean
Attended four universities before attaining a degree in journalism. Earned a BA in political science at Yale and medical degree from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
Miss Wassila and third runner up in the Miss Alaska pageant. Stock broker on Wall Street.
Brief stint as a sportscaster for local Anchorage TV. Practiced family medicine in Vermont.
Served two-terms as Mayor of Wassila, AK. Elected to the Vermont House of Representatives and later, lieutenant governor.
Quit half way through her first term as Governor of Alaska. Served six terms as Governor of Vermont.
Selected by John McCain as VP candidate. Ran for the nomination of the Democratic Party for President.
Went Rogue. Was elected to chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee.

The similarities are mind-boggling. Scarborough was quite right to admonish Halperin for his simplistic and incorrect analysis. But the bigger issue here is how someone like Halperin can be accorded the respect and authority of an editor’s role at Time Magazine. Exactly how low are their standards?

The Powerful Powerlessness Of The Liberal Media

Mark Halperin is a political analyst for Time Magazine and runs The Page,” a political website, for Prior to that he was the political director for ABC News for ten years. It’s important to know this about him when considering what he said at a conference on the recently concluded election this past week at USC. He was expressing his opinion on the performance of the media during the campaign:

“It’s the most disgusting failure of people in our business since the Iraq war. It was extreme bias, extreme pro-Obama coverage.”

You can’t get more mainstream than Mark Halperin. Yet this exemplar of institutional media is taking his colleagues to task for failing to adhere to standards of objectivity that presumably he employs. So you have to wonder why Halperin didn’t bother to sound the bias alarm until two and a half weeks after election day. If he noticed what he now calls a “disgusting failure” in campaign coverage, why didn’t he bring it up when something could have been done about it? For that matter, why didn’t he bring up the failures with regard to Iraq before this? Seeing as he had a prominent platform in both publishing and broadcasting, but was absent with regard to these issues, what does it say about his credibility?

You also have to wonder how Halperin ranks failures with respect to their disgustingness. Does he really think that a candidate bias is equivalent to the utter professional neglect that the media exhibited while cheerleading for the war in Iraq? Even if there were a slanting of political preference, does that compare to inventing mortal enemies and printing lies about their imminent threat? Does he rate the consequences equally now that 4,000 plus Americans have been killed and perhaps more than a million Iraqis; now that we know the truth about WMDs and our leaders dishonesty; and now that our nation is approaching bankruptcy having spent $2 billion a month in Iraq for five years?

It strains the imagination to explain how he could place those two events in the same sentence. But what makes it even worse is that he doesn’t bother to offer proof of his contention that the media was pro-Obama. He seems to be jumping on the right-wing, Republican bandwagon that is flailing around to manufacture excuses for why they lost. It certainly couldn’t be because the people preferred the Democrat. Much of the noise about an alleged bias for Obama actually amounts to a realistic appraisal of events. Every report of McCain’s more frequent use of negative ads, a fact documented by independent studies, is regarded by conservatives as anti-McCain. Likewise, every report of Obama leading in the polls, which was the case for most of the last six weeks of the campaign, is regarded by the same right-wingers as pro-Obama. Under these circumstances, the only way to be considered neutral would be to distort the truth.

There is a rather duplicitous argument circulating that there is no way voters would have been stupid enough to have chosen Barack Obama were they not mislead by the media. However, that argument still implies that voters were stupid for having been mislead. So no matter how you look at it, the right believes that the voters are stupid.

The stupidity is compounded by the assertion that the people have fallen under the sway of an omnipotent press that is dominated by liberals. Everyone from Rush Limbaugh to William Krystal complain that Obama was given a free ride. They must think that there was never any negative coverage of him. They must have never heard of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, or the “fact” that Obama was a Muslim, or how he “refused” to wear an American flag lapel pin, or that he was a Socialist, or an elitist, or that he palled around with terrorists. There must not have been any reports of how women would not support him, or Latinos, or Jews, or hard-working whites, or people who cling to guns and religion. The press must have buried news that Obama was the most liberal senator with a long record of far-left extremism, but was also inexperienced with no record of public service.

What it really comes down to, from the rightists perspective, is that the so-called liberal media has manipulated the people, who are so subjugated to its authority. This view requires acceptance as fact that the media has an unfettered ability to control the thoughts of its audience. Actually, I believe there is some degree of truth to that. The problem is that, in a feat of championship self-contradiction, the people making the complaint don’t believe it. In fact, they argue that the media has lost its influence due to its lack of balance. There is some degree of truth to that as well, but not what is proposed by conservatives. A study by the Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School shows that 62% of those surveyed are distrustful of campaign media coverage. That will certainly have an impact on the media’s influence and business status. Conservatives say that the presence of liberal bias is the principle reason that business is slumping and that people have stopped watching and reading. Rupert Murdoch calls it “a culture of ‘complacency and condescension.'”

“The complacency stems from having enjoyed a monopoly–and now finding they have to compete for an audience they once took for granted. The condescension that many show their readers is an even bigger problem. It takes no special genius to point out that if you are contemptuous of your customers, you are going to have a hard time getting them to buy your product.”

In other words, give the people what they want, not what represents reality. And in Murdoch’s world, the people want non-stop bashing of liberals and promotion of free-market, evangelical conservatism (along with Page 3 soft-porn and Page 6 gossip). Unfortunately for him, his theory falls apart when you note that his company, a condescending monopoly if there ever was one, has lost 67% of it value in the past year. It would be difficult to blame that on the liberal bias of Fox News and the New York Post.

Bottom line: According to conservatives, the all-powerful liberal media is directing the votes of a pliable electorate. And they are doing this despite the fact that voters don’t trust the media and are tuning them out. So somehow the media is able to sway public opinion even when the public has stopped listening to the media. That’s a neat trick. It’s also a failure of logic on the part of rightists who are desperately searching for an explanation for their loss that doesn’t include the phrase, “We suck!”