One of the propaganda tactics most favored by Fox News is the snipping of a comment by President Obama and regurgitating it in a negative, and wholly dishonest, light. They did it last year on behalf of the Romney campaign numerous times with silliness like “You didn’t build that,” and other blatant misrepresentations.
Today Fox News is premiering their latest rhetorical deception by fixating on remarks the President made in a press availability with Vietnam President Truong Tan Sang. While describing the discussion Obama had with Sang, he noted that…
“At the conclusion of the meeting, President Sang shared with me a copy of a letter sent by Ho Chi Minh to Harry Truman. And we discussed the fact that Ho Chi Minh was actually inspired by the U.S. Declaration of Independence and Constitution, and the words of Thomas Jefferson.”
That’s it. Nothing praising Ho Chi Minh at all. Just a simple recitation of unarguable facts. No one on Fox or the right-wing fruitcake brigade disputes that Ho Chi Minh revered the people and ideas that inspired the birth of the United States. He used the Declaration of Independence as the model for Vietnam’s quest for its own independence from France.
Nevertheless, Fox News is now attempting to twist Obama’s words into something that he never said or even implied. And the “fair and balanced” network brought on two revolting characters with sordid pasts to advance the distortions. Oliver North is the convicted Reaganite who illegally sold arms to Iran in order to secure funding to support fascist rebels in Nicaragua, which was prohibited by congress. Ralph Peters is the Fox strategic analyst who called on the Taliban to “save us a lot of legal hassles” by executing an American soldier. He also advocated military attacks on the media. These two traitorous miscreants spent several unopposed minutes on Fox lambasting Obama as “stupid” and “evil” as they lied about what he said.
Anyone who seriously regards Fox as a credible news source should seek professional help. The unadulterated lie that Obama praised Ho Chi Minh can also be juxtaposed with the documented fact that Fox did indeed praise the Unabomber. This is the level of cognitive disconnect that exists at Fox, and it is the reason that their audience is so pathetically ignorant. It’s a good thing that their viewers are so small in number (less than 1% of the population) and so close to their judgment day (the oldest skewing audience in television).
Every media organization has had to, at one time or another, discipline staff who crossed an ethical line. If a reporter loses his or her cool and becomes offensive in the course of their work, they must be held accountable to some set of professional standards. Ideally the standards would be a set of objective criteria that focused on verifiable breaches of honesty or civility. A credible news organization must never tolerate a reporter lying or engaging in personal attacks. I repeat, a “credible” news organization…
Unfortunately, there is a disturbing lack of oversight in this regard. Often offenders are excused without consequence or, conversely, punishment is meted out to an innocent party. For example, NPR terminated their relationship with a couple of executives who were victims of false allegations in a video produced by James O’Keefe, the criminally convicted, right-wing activist best known for deceptively edited videos.
This past week presented a revealing lesson in contrast as to how different media enterprises deal differently with anchors and other editorial personnel who fail the test of principles that ought to govern all journalists.
CNN was put to the test this week when Roland Martin posted a Tweet that appeared to advocate violence against gays. Martin pointed out that it was not meant seriously and wasn’t even directed at gays, but at the sport of soccer. Nevertheless, CNN acted quickly to suspend Martin indefinitely.
By contrast, Fox News contributor Liz Trotta delivered a commentary on Sunday berating women in the military for complaining that they get raped too much (Trotta did not define what an “acceptable” amount of rape is). The news that triggered this revolting commentary was a Pentagon report that rape and sexual assault had increased 64%, a statistic that Trotta cavalierly dismissed. She further asserted that servicewomen should “expect” to be raped because they work closely with men. Fox News has had no comment on this matter despite fierce criticism from women’s groups and veterans offended by the assertion that male soldiers are innately animals and female soldiers should quietly accept assault as a part of military life.
These two examples illustrate the differences between a news enterprise that attempts to act responsibly and one that disregards such restraints in order to forge ahead with a sensationalistic approach and to pander to the scandal-lust of their viewers. CNN has faced this dilemma in the past by meting out punishments for ethical infractions to Lou Dobbs, Rick Sanchez, Octavia Nasr, Susan Roesgen, Peter Arnett, and Eason Jordan. MSNBC has done the same to Keith Olbermann, David Shuster, Mark Halperin, Markos Moulitsas, and Pat Buchanan. Some of these chastisements were warranted (Dobbs, Buchanan), and some were executions of petulant grudges (Markos), and CNN still inexplicably employs miscreants like Erick Erickson and Dana Loesch. So CNN and MSNBC should not necessarily be held up as models of morality. But at least there is some evidence of an internal criteria for ethical behavior of some sort.
Fox News, however, has yet to make any news staffer pay a price for professional indiscretions, despite the fact that things got so bad at Fox they had to distribute a memo asserting a “Zero Tolerance Policy” that warned of “letters to personnel files, suspensions, and other possible actions up to and including termination.” The memo was issued after numerous, embarrassing on-air blunders by Fox reporters and producers. But rather than undergoing discipline, Fox News bent over backwards to reward reporters who behaved badly. In fact, while other networks were firing such violators, Fox seems to be on a mission to recruit them. For instance: Juan Williams, Don Imus, Doug McKelway, and Lou Dobbs were all put on the Fox payroll after having been terminated for cause at other networks. Even Glenn Beck who, while no longer hosting his own program, appears regularly with Bill O’Reilly and others.
Fox maintains a clubby environment for recalcitrant reporters, and there remains a full stable of them on the air. Here is a selection of some of the more obviously repulsive people that Fox News should have fired for their absence of morality and professionalism, but to date have not even had their wrists slapped. And make no mistake, the job security enjoyed by these weasels is not due to carelessness on the part of Fox News. Controversy, hostility, and rabid right-wing advocacy are the hallmarks of Fox’s business model. It’s how they cultivate and reward the loyalty of their audience. What other explanation could justify this:
Todd Starnes: Unsurprisingly, Fox News has smeared the Occupy Movement from its inception. They have disparaged them as everything from unfocused to unclean to un-American. But it took Starnes, the host of Fox News & Commentary on Fox Radio, to equate them to mass murderers by asking, “What should be done with the domestic terrorists who are occupying our cities and college campuses?” By comparing Occupiers to the likes of Timothy McVeigh, Starnes is engaging in rhetorical terrorism and insulting hundreds of thousands of concerned Americans.
Cody Willard: This Fox Business reporter brazenly exposed his bias when he attended a Tea Party rally and feverishly barked at the camera this call to arms against the U.S. government, “Guys, when are we going to wake up and start fighting the fascism that seems to be permeating this country?”
Andrew Napolitano: The “Judge” is a notorious 9/11 Truther who believes that the attack on the World Trade Center towers was an inside job, orchestrated by agents of the United States government. That’s a position considered so crazy by Fox Newsers that it was instrumental in their campaign to get Van Jones fired from his post as a green jobs adviser to President Obama. But, in typical Foxian hypocrisy, it has no impact on the employment of Napolitano. [Note: The entire primetime schedule of the Fox Business Network, including Napolitano, Eric Bolling and David Asman, was recently canceled. But it was due to poor ratings, not content. And all remain active Fox News contributors.]
Bill Sammon: The Fox News Washington managing editor was recorded admitting to a friendly audience on a conservative cruise that he would go on air and “mischievously” cast Obama as a socialist even though he didn’t believe it himself. In other words, he lied to defame the President and rile up his gullible viewers. That would be cause for termination at most news networks, but probably earned Sammon a bonus at Fox.
Eric Bolling: Hoping to sustain Fox’s leadership in inappropriate Nazi references, Bolling accused President Obama of engaging in class warfare that was “forged in Marxist Germany.” And if that wasn’t asinine enough, he sided with Iran against the U.S. by accusing the American hikers who were held in an Iranian prison of being spies and said that Iran should have kept them.
Bill O’Reilly: Dr. George Tiller, a family physician in Kansas, was murdered by an anti-abortion extremist who may have been incited to violence by rhetoric like this from O’Reilly: “Now, we have bad news to report that Tiller the baby killer out in Kansas, acquitted. Acquitted today of murdering babies.” O’Reilly regards the acquittal of a doctor for performing legal medical services “bad news,” and the services themselves “murder.” But he never took any responsibility for fanning the flames of violent incivility that led to the actual murder of Dr. Tiller.
Col. Ralph Peters (Ret): In a rant that argued that the United States should fight back against our enemies with the same tactics they use against us, Peters turned the media into military targets: “Although it seems unthinkable now, future wars may require censorship, news blackouts and, ultimately, military attacks on the partisan media. And like Bolling, Peters also took the side of our foes by suggesting, without evidence, that a missing American soldier was a deserter and that “the Taliban can save us a lot of legal hassles and legal bills,” presumably by killing him.
Michael Scheuer: This former CIA analyst was concerned that the American people were not sufficiently afraid of future terrorist attacks. He regards that absence of fear as dangerous complacency. But he has a solution: “The only chance we have as a country right now is for Osama bin Laden to deploy and detonate a major weapon in the United States.”
Roger Ailes: The CEO of Fox News proves that a fish stinks from its head. In response to NPR’s firing of Juan Willimas for bigoted remarks about Muslims, Ailes let loose a tirade wherein he viciously attacked the NPR executives saying that… “They are, of course, Nazis. They have a kind of Nazi attitude. They are the left wing of Nazism.”
Liz Trotta: Ending up where we began, this abhorrent attempt at comedy simply could not be left off of this list. What started out as a verbal stumble became a call for assassination when Trotta said, “Now we have what some are reading as a suggestion that somebody knock off Osama, umm, Obama. Well, both if we could.”
It’s difficult to believe that anyone could retain a job in the media after making statements like those above. These were not mistakes or misunderstandings. They are not out of context. They were considered, deliberate expressions of opinion that represented the reporter’s views at the time. Yet all of these people are still employed and active at Fox News.
To be fair, there is an example of Fox News firing reporters who crossed a line that even Fox could not abide. Steve Wilson and Jane Akre investigated a story that detailed the health risks posed by the use of recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), a milk additive manufactured by chemical giant Monsanto. Fox objected to the story’s negative portrayal of a major advertiser and ordered the reporters to make modifications that they knew were false. When the reporters refused they were fired. In the subsequent litigation Fox argued in court that the network had a right to determine the content of their stories, and even to lie, and that employees who declined to comply could be terminated as insubordinate.
So while Fox News has no problem with their analysts advocating terrorism against Americans, they draw the line when it comes to suppressing their Constitutional right to lie. Fox has taken great care to set their priorities and to draw their ethical lines in sand that is always under the prevailing tide.
[Update] This week racist Pat Buchanan was sacked by MSNBC and radio schlock jocks John & Ken were suspended for calling Whitney Houston a “crack ho”. But Liz Trotta, Eric Bolling, et al are still happily working at Fox.
Looking back on 2009 can be a harrowing experience. There has been much that many people would rather not recollect. It was a year that began with dreadful economic suffering. From there it went on to unprecedented political division, animosity, and disappointment from virtually every perspective. And it ended with a reminder of our vulnerability to violent extremists at home and abroad. For that reason, like the mythical Medusa, it may be best not to look back on 2009 directly.
Nevertheless, News Corpse has compiled some moments that, for our own good, ought not to be forgotten.
Media Malfeasance of the Year: SPINCOM. In 2008, David Barstow wrote an article for the New York Times detailing how television news programs were employing Pentagon-trained military analysts to promote the Bush administration’s agenda for an unnecessary and illegal war in Iraq. In 2009, that article won a Pulitzer prize, a Golden Keyboard from the New York Press Association, and an Emmy nomination. Yet the article and its author never once appeared on television to discuss it. Despite Barstow’s many accolades and awards, the story was blackballed by the same TV producers who hired the phony pundits (who were also enriching themselves as consultants for the military contractors who benefited from the war). And by refusing to report on one of the most egregious examples of propaganda ever directed at the American people by their government, they also covered up their own complicity in cheerleading for the war.
Someone famous will die while fleeing from police in a high-speed TV chase after being caught cheating on a spouse for a new reality show.
The Pimp & The Prostitute
What passes for journalism took a huge hit in 2009 when a couple of rightist activists dressed up for a Halloween expose on what they regarded as America’s most feared enemy: community organizers. James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles played the roles they were made for, a pimp and a whore, as they visited offices of ACORN. The results were dishonestly edited videos that were played incessantly on Fox News despite having zero news value. The pair never appeared on any other television news network as they were closely guarded by their mentor Andrew Breitbart, and their patrons at Fox. Sadly, the other networks acquiesced by reporting the story despite having no access to the pseudo-news team.
2010 Prediction: Osama Bin Laden will buy Philip Morris, thus taking responsibility for killing 197,000 more Americans EVERY YEAR than he did that one time on 9/11.
Color of Change We Can Believe In:
After Glenn Beck called the President a racist, a previously little-known group embarked on a boycott campaign directed at Beck’s advertisers. By last accounting Color of Change had persuaded over 80 advertisers to pull or withhold their ads from Becks show. What’s more, they compelled a retraction from the DefendGlenn web site (whose proprietor, Gary Kreep, is a story unto himself) that had been falsely disparaging the boycott efforts.
2010 Prediction: Twitter will fold when its enfeebled users decide that 140 characters is too many to comprehend. It will be replaced by Blather, where messages are restricted to 26 characters and you can only use each letter of the alphabet once. The media will herald it as a phenomenon.
The Tea Party Delusion
What can be said about the year’s most overblown non-story: The Tea Party Movement? Never has there been a less significant amalgamation of disruptive whiners that received more attention from a controversy-challenged media. The Tea Baggers were always just a noisy minority who were fully sponsored by right-wing lobbyists and Fox News. But near the end of the year a poll was released that revealed the truth, even though the true part was ignored. The NBC/Wall Street Journal poll hit the airwaves proclaiming that Tea Baggers (at 41%) were more popular that Democrats (35%) or Republicans (28%). What they didn’t report, although it was in the same poll, was that 48% of respondents knew very little or nothing at all about the Tea Baggers. When almost half of the country doesn’t know who you are, you are not much of a movement.
2010 Prediction: Fox News will lie. (I know. That one was too easy, but it’s New Year’s Eve and I have a party to go to).
Undisputed Scumbag Pundit Hall of Shame
This award is a tie due to the presence of two so thoroughly deserving Scumbag Pundits. These despicable cretins earned their awards by claiming a couple of the most repulsive utterings ever contemplated in the press:
A few days ago, Fox News military analyst Ralph Peters appeared on the network to discuss PFC Bowe Bergdahl, an American soldier captured by the Taliban. In the course of the interview Peters, acting as judge and jury, declared that Bergdahl was a liar, a deserter, and that “the Taliban can save us a lot of legal hassles and legal bills,” presumably by killing him. (Watch here)
Last night Peters went on Bill O’Reilly’s show to explain his position. What took place was another episode of bashing Bergdahl wherein both Peters and O’Reilly branded him as “crazy.” However, they both also completely ignored Peters’ previous remarks regarding permitting the Taliban to execute an American soldier. (Watch here)
Now a truly bipartisan assembly of Congressional veterans is speaking out about this atrocious behavior. A letter from Rep. John Boccieri (D-OH) was sent to Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes. It was co-signed by 22 colleagues. It said in part:
“As members of Congress and veterans of the United States Armed Forces, it was with incredulity and disgust that we watched Fox News Strategic Analyst Lt. Colonel Ralph Peters (Ret.) suggest on your airwaves that Private First Class Bowe Bergdahl, “abandoned his buddies, abandoned his post, and just walked off,” and stated that, if this is true, ‘the Taliban can save us a lot of legal hassles and legal bills.'”
“We demand an apology to PFC Bergdahl’s family and to the thousands of soldiers who put their lives on the line for our country. As a member of the military family, Mr. Peters should measure his remarks and remember that the United States will never abandon one of its own.”
One of the co-signers of the letter is Rep. Eric Massa (D-NY) who goes even farther to call for Fox News to immediately fire Peters and O’Reilly. There is probably little chance of that, particularly with regard to O’Reilly who is Fox’s cash coward. But if there are no consequences for this sort of irresponsible behavior where will it end? It could conceivably progress to the point where Fox News programs host analysts who believe that our country’s only hope is for Osama Bin Laden to attack us again. Oh wait, Glenn Beck already did that.
It’s time for Fox News to start paying a penalty for these repulsive remarks, and it’s good to see members of Congress, who are also veterans, asking for some sort of redress. Frankly, I don’t think an apology is enough. Fox News has been piling up atrocities with impunity and it won’t stop until there is a price attached to their disgusting antics. We must make them pay that price.
Ralph Peters is a retired U.S. Army officer and a Fox News strategic analyst. He is also the author of a column that advocates waging wars without any regard for the most basic tenets of human morality. The article, Wishful Thinking and Indecisive Wars, for the neo-con Journal of International Security Affairs, argues that anything goes in warfare, and it doesn’t matter who gets hurt or what violations of international law you commit.
“As our enemies’ view of what is permissible in war expands apocalyptically, our self-limiting definitions of allowable targets and acceptable casualties – hostile, civilian and our own – continue to narrow fatefully. […] Instead of agonizing over a fatal mistake made by a young Marine at a roadblock, we must return to the fundamental recognition that the greatest ‘war crime’ the United States can commit is to lose.”
That statement is ridiculous on its face. Losing, while not on anyone’s list of goals, is not a war crime at all. But gassing six million innocents is. Peters is conflating tactics with conclusions to make a point that would shame a lobotomized imbecile. His view, which justifies the killing of non-combatants, women, children, allies. and even our own troops, is a perfect example of just how depraved the warmongering hawks on the right have become. It is a view that goes a long way toward explaining how conservatives can tolerate, and even endorse, torture. But Peters goes even farther than condemning to fate the unfortunates who have to fight wars or reside in proximity to them. Peters has come out as an advocate of directly attacking the media, whom he regards as “killers without guns.” On this Peters says:
Today, the United States and its allies will never face a lone enemy on the battlefield. There will always be a hostile third party in the fight, but one which we not only refrain from attacking but are hesitant to annoy: the media.
Rejecting the god of their fathers, the neo-pagans who dominate the media serve as lackeys at the terrorists’ bloody altar.
Although it seems unthinkable now, future wars may require censorship, news blackouts and, ultimately, military attacks on the partisan media.”
Peters doesn’t bother to qualify these outrageous remarks, so I suppose that he would condone this tactic being carried out either on battlefield correspondents or in Manhattan newsrooms. Presumably he would support Marines advancing on television studios in New York and Washington and slaughtering everyone from the anchors to the interns. After all, if they are just “lackeys at the terrorists’ bloody altar,” why should they be afforded any mercy?
This is not an academic debate, either. The media has too often been the target of military attacks. This is what happens when you permit your values to be weakened by fear and vengeance. Peters justifies this repulsive strategy by asserting that, since our enemies have no ethical barrier to inhumane conduct, we shouldn’t be constrained by it either. Then Peters anticipates the obvious response to his paean to barbarism:
“In closing, we must dispose of one last mantra that has been too broadly and uncritically accepted: the nonsense that, if we win by fighting as fiercely as our enemies, we will ‘become just like them.'”
Peters then proceeds to refute the premise by asking if the bombing of Dresden in WWII made us like the Nazis. The problem with his construction is that it isn’t comparable. To be accurate, he should ask if we were to have built concentration camps wherein we starved, tortured, and murdered prisoners, would that have made us like Nazis. The answer is quite obviously, yes. And, unfortunately for Peters, that is precisely what he is proposing. When he says that we ought to fight as “fiercely” as our enemies, he means that we ought to be as neglectful of humane principles as the terrorists we are battling.
When moral degenerates like Peters mouth off about abandoning the values that have made our nation great, one would hope that no one would listen. But Peters has managed to secure for himself a platform that reaches millions of the already deluded – Fox News viewers. I just wonder if Peters would extend his philosophy to the Fox studios when the Marines are dispatched to kill him and his pals in the media.