Media Bias in 2010: A Top 7
Dear Scott Brown: Well, we’re almost here, aren’t we? The end of a long, arduous, four-month campaign for a Senate seat that you have approximately the same chance of filling as you did the pilot’s chair of the Starship Enterprise. … [The] notion that Massachusetts would elect a Republican to fill the seat left vacant by Edward Kennedy was the property of people who buy interesting mushrooms in interesting places. You might as well expect the House of Windsor to be succeeded on the British throne by the Kardashian sisters. … I would like to make you the permanent Republican candidate for US senator. Seriously, you’re good at the job of being a candidate, and it’s going to be hard enough for your party to groom another state legislator every six years. Think about it. It beats working for a living.
~ Charles P. Pierce of the Boston Globe in a January 10, 2010 piece taunting Scott Brown about his all but inevitable upcoming Senatorial defeat.
I can’t think of a better way to kick off a retrospective on the media follies of 2010 than the Pierce’s remarkable prognostication above. Apart from the fact it obligingly occurred at the beginning of the year, it contains most if not all of the major characteristics of any good leftist offering:
- Not only is it wrong, it is completely wrong. It is – to paraphrase Evan Sayet – 180 degrees from right.
- This completely, utterly, obviously wrong analysis is delivered with blithe self-assurance and a sneer.
- It is ideologically driven and thus completely impervious to fact. (At the time Pierce was playing Taps for Brown, the two candidates were virtually neck and neck in the polls.)
- It contains no logical arguments, as we understand the term, but a series of unsupported assertions presented as fact. (In fairness, more ambitious pieces of the Left do attempt to simulate logic with sophistry and fallacy, but they arrive at more or less the same place.)
- Despite self-conscious attempts at wit there is no evidence of a functioning sense of humor. Attempted zingers are artless, predictable and clumsy, rather like watching someone trying to dance by following the numbered feet on the floor. The author’s obvious tin ear is only a partial explanation – it is impossible to be dogmatic and funny at the same time.
- It contains at least one cheap popular culture reference to prove the author is a regular guy.
- It contains at least one reference to a Left icon (or appropriated historical event like the Civil Rights Movement) as if its very invocation should reduce the reader to reverent silence and foreclose all further debate.
- It is infused with a sense of denial and unreality that evokes in all but the most doctrinaire readers rapid head-shaking and exclamations of “huh?” and “what?”
- Above all, it tells us much more about the author than his subject.
There probably was a time when the Charles Pierce's of this world would have been consigned to some dank corner of the microfiche library to write obits and wedding announcements for more or less their entire careers, but these days we give them Pulitzers.
And thereby hangs our tale.
As a result of growing reversals of fortune and the undeniable devolution of the talent pool (which is what you get when you allow the Left to hollow you out), the media has progressively dropped all pretense of objectivity and exposed themselves in ways that would have horrified the more sophisticated and accomplished obfuscators that preceded them. This is never been more evident than it was in 2010.
Accordingly, here is a list of some of last year's stories where the media dropped their masks and/or pants and revealed a great deal more about themselves than the subjects they were attacking.
7. Scott Brown -- the attack dogs really needn't have bothered.
As insufferable as Pierce is, one can only appreciate what a third-stringer he is by observing a true master at work.
On the eve of the Massachusetts special election Keith Olbermann saw fit, in full view of hundreds of his viewers, to drain the festering wound that was his opinion of Scott Brown.
In Scott Brown, we have an irresponsible, homophobic, racist, reactionary, ex-nude model, teabagging supporter of violence against women and against politicians with whom he disagrees. In any other time in our history, this man would have been laughed off the stage as unqualified and a disaster in the making by the most conservative of conservatives.
Apart from the obvious neural malfunction that prompted this outburst, subsequent events have proven Olbermann wrong on even the modest assumption that Brown was a conservative of any kind, much less an uber-conservative. Brown, whose voting record and public statements have established him basically as a better looking Olympia Snowe, has been characterized as the best we could have hoped for in Massachusetts. This is akin to saying we elected the tallest Hobbit.
Olbermann has to be regretting wasting all that perfectly good bile on someone he would probably now hail as the moderate future of the party – if in fact he was inclined to concede the irresponsible, homophobic, racist, reactionary, ex-nude model, teabagging Republicans have a future at all.
6. HCR Passage -- In search of the “phantom spitter.”
The passage of the health-care reform bill, which the election of Scott Brown was supposed to prevent, proceeded apace anyway, propelled by a judicious mixture of procedural shell games, WWE level arm-twisting, outright bribes and deception.
One would think the passage of a law nobody really understood, using methods usually associated with small tropical countries boasting "leaders-for-life" dressed like doormen, would have piqued the interest of our media sleuths, but as it happens they had no particular problem with any of that.
What did exercise them mightily was the persistent and stubborn refusal of the hoi polloi to simply take it on faith that this swollen mutant was good for them and stop making such a fuss.
Olbermann (if I promise this is the last you'll see of him will you keep reading? Okay, deal.), who can always be counted upon to bring measured and sober reflection to the table, poured oil on troubled waters by equating insurance companies and HCR opponents to terrorists:
What would you do, sir, if terrorists were killing 45,000 people every year in this country? Well, the current health care system, the insurance companies, and those who support them are doing just that....Because they die individually of disease and not disaster, Neal Boortz and those who ape him in office and out, approve their deaths, all 45,000 of them — a year — in America. Remind me again, who are the terrorists?
Keith's flourishes aside, The Left’s problem throughout the HCR debate was that Tea Party people refused not only to behave like terrorists, but to even behave like jaywalkers or litterbugs. This stunning lack of cooperation persisted right up to the day of passage, despite every provocation Nancy "I've heard this kind of rhetoric before" Pelosi could think of, including marching through the middle of the protest with an enormous gavel and a boatload of potential willing martyrs.
When the protesters still wouldn't oblige the Left just shrugged their shoulders and made stuff up.
It was thus perhaps fitting that the actual passage of a bill no one had read was marked with persistent accounts of racism and homophobia that nobody saw.
A year-long debate that’s been rancorous and mean from the start turned even nastier yesterday. Demonstrators protesting the bill poured into the halls of Congress shouting ‘Kill the bill!’ and ‘Made in the USSR.’ And as tempers rose, they hurled racial epithets, even at civil rights icon John Lewis of Georgia, and sexual slurs at Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank. Other legislators said the protesters spit on them, and one lawmaker said it was like a page out of a time machine.
Bob Schieffer made these assertions without a shred of supporting evidence. We know this because to this day there isn't a single sound or video clip to indicate anyone used the N-word once, much less the 15 times Lewis claimed. This despite the fact that camera-enabled mobile phones, Flip cameras and a host of other technologies have made impromptu recording virtually ubiquitous.
Andrew Breitbart offered to reward of ten thousand dollars to anyone who could produce such a clip. At the time of this writing his money is still safe.
5. Media to Sarah Palin – "Okay no more Mr. Nice Guy!"
Throughout 2010 Sarah Palin continued to be the Left's piñata of first resort. It would've been bad enough if she'd just stood there in the corner and minded her own business, but she had the temerity to publish a book, host a TV series and intimate she might run for president in 2012. Any one of these would have been sufficient to drive the left's pit poodles into a lather but all three clearly made them apoplectic.
For sheer venom, and incidentally putting the lie to the notion that brevity is necessarily the soul of wit, the ne plus ultra has to be Aaron Sorkin, TV producer and aspiring psychotic:
Sarah Palin’s an idiot. Come on. This is a remarkably, stunningly, jaw-droppingly incompetent and mean woman.
For me the highlight of this clip is watching Eliot Spitzer, who probably never heard a "jaw dropping woman" reference he didn't like, and Kathleen Parker, whose every utterance on Palin is really a riff on "I just want to scratch her eyes out," nod and smile.
This of course is the same Sorkin who compared Palin's television series to a "snuff film." (Spitzer wasn't immediately available for comment.) Just a taste of his -- you should pardon the expression -- deathless prose:
I'm able to make a distinction between you and me without feeling the least bit hypocritical. I don't watch snuff films and you make them. You weren't killing that animal for food or shelter or even fashion, you were killing it for fun. You enjoy killing animals. I can make the distinction between the two of us but I've tried and tried and for the life of me, I can't make a distinction between what you get paid to do and what Michael Vick went to prison for doing. I'm able to make the distinction with no pangs of hypocrisy even though I get happy every time one of you faux-macho shitheads accidentally shoots another one of you in the face.
Is it just me or does this read like something you would find wrapped around a brick that just came through your front window? Yeah, thought so.
M.Catherine Evans has an effective rebuttal here. Suffice it to say that Sorkin’s thoughts on this matter are a noxious cocktail of outright lies, inane analogies and a frightening lack of rudimentary knowledge as to how his dinner actually makes it to the table. I'll give you a hint Aaron, abattoir is not French for "lethal injection."
For their part Richard Cohen of the Washington Post -- and Ed Schultz of "Out There On The Spiral Arm Somewhere" -- were so offended by Palin's more or less self-evident observations about Michelle Obama in her book that Richard had a flashback and Ed, as he is wont to do, melted into a pile of suet before our very eyes.
When I was 11, my father thought it was time to show my sister and me the nation’s capital. … I do remember we took Route 1 through Baltimore (no I-95 yet) and it was there that I saw my first sign with the word “colored” on it – a rooming house, I think. This was 1952, and the United States was an apartheid nation.
It is Sarah Palin who brings back these memories.
(Note to my editor: if I ever write anything this tunnelingly stupid please have someone take me out with a two by four. It will obviously be a kindness.)
As I noted in a previous piece, the sheer porcine ranting of Ed Schultz puts him in a class, and a weight class for that matter, of his own. His ability to insinuate the words “race”, “racist”, “hate” and “hatred” early and often into a short segment, all the while leaping great logical chasms on those little stubby legs, mark him as one of the most accomplished blowhards in the MSNBC stable.
As I've also noted before, the mere fact that such ghastly people despise her to the degree they do should be front and center on Palin's resume.
4. The Arizona immigration law -- militarizing Baskin-Robbins.
It takes a peculiar kind of ingenuity to take a modest and straightforward bill intended to help state officials enforce federal immigration laws and turn it into a Godwinian landscape of Latino grandfathers and doe eyed children being hauled out of ice cream parlors because their "papers aren't in order," but if there's one thing we've learned about the Left it's that it suffers no shortage of either peculiarity or ingenuity.
The truth of the matter, to which the usual suspects are completely indifferent, is ably summarized by Rich Lowry:
The Arizona law makes it a state crime for aliens not to have immigration documents on their person. This sounds draconian, except it’s been a federal crime for more than half a century — U.S.C. 1304(e). Has the open-borders crowd forgotten that it calls illegal aliens “undocumented” for a reason?
Byron York adds to the Left’s "things I must willfully ignore" list with a great deal of unwelcome clarification:
The heart of the law is this provision: “For any lawful contact made by a law enforcement official or a law enforcement agency … where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States, a reasonable attempt shall be made, when practicable, to determine the immigration status of the person…”
What fewer people have noticed is the phrase “lawful contact,” which defines what must be going on before police even think about checking immigration status. “That means the officer is already engaged in some detention of an individual because he’s violated some other law,” says Kris Kobach, a University of Missouri Kansas City Law School professor who helped draft the measure. “The most likely context where this law would come into play is a traffic stop.”
As far as “reasonable suspicion” is concerned, there is a great deal of case law dealing with the idea, but in immigration matters, it means a combination of circumstances that, taken together, cause the officer to suspect lawbreaking. It’s not race — Arizona’s new law specifically says race and ethnicity cannot be the sole factors in determining a reasonable suspicion.
None of this fazed demagogues like Luis Gutierrez who held forth with palpably false assertions about the law, interlaced with lengthy and pointless personal anecdotes just to get the human interest angle covered, while the media helpfully chimed in with prognostications of Arizona’s economic apocalypse and actually brainstormed with the likes of Gutierrez and Paul Rodriguez as to the best way to make that happen.
As I’ve pointed out before Rodriguez would do well to consider the observations of a younger Hispanic comedian offered a few years ago.
I feel that if you’re in America illegally, you’ve got two options: You fix your status and get legit, or leave. We should be more in favor of deportation than the non-Latinos, but my brothers don’t feel like that.
What part of illegal don’t they understand? Think about it: Both political parties are talking about reform, but that’s just what it is – talk.
We’re a nation of immigrants, but there’s a right way and a wrong way to do things.
As a promising middle-aged blogger of my acquaintance once put it:
[This] demonstrates a couple of principles that drive arguments from the Left. First, there is no requirement that any part of an argument be consistent with any other part. The assumption seems to be the people listening to one sentence are incapable of remembering the sentence that preceded it. Call this the “Memento” principle.
The second is that no argument is complete without a reference to at least one doe-eyed child, aging relative or miscellaneous victim of oppression to provide the necessary human touch in an otherwise incoherent assertion.
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
3. Glenn Beck’s 8/28 Restoring Honor Rally -- Bund rally, race riot or pit of hatred? The media reports, you decide.
One of the great challenges that confront any self-respecting propaganda organ is the story that is so big, so unequivocal and so well-documented that normal attempts at disinformation run the risk of doing more damage to the authors than anyone else.
Inasmuch as our media lost their self-respect years ago, taking on the 8/28 Restoring Honor Rally was perhaps less of a problem than it might once have been.
So when Glenn Beck announced plans for a rally that would be explicitly and emphatically apolitical, for the purposes of restoring honor to the country, through a renewed understanding and adoption of the values of our Founding Fathers, including (make that “especially”) God … the media made the obvious logical leap that this was actually conservative racist demagoguery aimed at sullying the memory of Martin Luther King.
No, seriously. That's what they came up with.
The New Black Panthers, possibly mistaking the Lincoln Memorial for a polling station, threatened promised to show up:
For [Glenn Beck] to go and secure the Lincoln Memorial on Dr. King’s birthday will meet not only opposition from civil rights leaders but it’s going to meet direct opposition from the New Black Panther Party. Since the Tea Party loves Glenn Beck and will be there, the New Black Panther Party can easily find the Tea Party, right with Glenn Beck. And so, he can bring his Tea Party and we’ll bring our party, and we’ll see Glenn Beck …
Unhappily, it doesn’t appear the minions of Shabazz were able to attend, or at least they went unnoticed among the hundreds of thousands of people who chose to be there despite the threats, jeers and doomsaying the Panthers had so generously contributed to.
(Full disclosure, that’s me in the yellow t-shirt on the right.)
Of course, we can’t all be hulking and otherwise unemployable social misfits with a redeeming talent for violence, so NPR had to content itself with using, straight-faced, the expression “pit of hatred” in an article that didn’t also feature a character named “The Dread Pirate Roberts.”
Stoking even more suspicions is how secretive Beck is being. Little is known about the event except that there will be speeches by Beck and Sarah Palin, and attendees are prohibited from bringing signs. The fear, of course, is that it will turn into a pit of hatred a la the health-care town halls. But there may be a glimmer of hope.
The glimmer of hope for me is that someone someday will take the crayons away from such people, or make them pass a basic comprehension test, which would amount to the same thing.
On the eve of the rally John Avlon of The Daily Beast achieved the remarkable feat of vilifying Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin as latter-day George Wallace’s in one breath then chastising them for their inflammatory rhetoric and divisiveness in the next.
Tomorrow on the site and anniversary of MLK's greatest speech, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and 100,000 friends will rally against everything the civil-rights leader stood for.
Now there's a statement with big shoulders if one ever existed. Typically one expects that such an assertion (roughly the equivalent of accusing someone of cheating at poker at three in the morning on the wrong side of town) will quickly be followed by a supporting argument that if not airtight is at least not embarrassing.
Avlon, trying not to disappoint, offers us this Aristotelian gem:
- George Wallace was a “constitutionalist” (in the narrow sense that he tried to invoke states’ rights in opposition of federally enforced desegregation, but let’s not get hung up on details).
- Glenn Beck is a “constitutionalist”.
- Therefore Glenn Beck is against everything Martin Luther King stood for.
I take it back, Miss Princess Bride at NPR made more sense. This isn't even passable sophistry; it's the kind of simplistic mangle liberals like Avlon used to find so amusing in people like Archie Bunker.
If you doubt my interpretation, and I can fully appreciate why anyone would who expects something a little more advanced than "my first syllogism" from its authors, the article in its entirety can be read here.
Perhaps sensing he hasn't quite made his case with his nimble construction, Avlon hedges his bets with the "they're so crazy, they're so fanatical, they're so God, guns and country…" line of attack with which he is obviously much more comfortable.
Time to suit up: Tomorrow, the 2010 Wingnut Super Bowl kicks off on the Washington Mall. Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and special guests like Ted Nugent will be entertaining at the "Restoring Honor" rally in front of an anticipated crowd of 100,000 true believers. It promises the politics of incitement wrapped up in the American flag and the Bible, offered from the national pulpit where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his "I Have a Dream" speech exactly 47 years before—a coincidence Beck modestly chalks up to "divine providence."
There's much more of the same for those with the fortitude. I won't sport with your intelligence by quoting any further.
To the palpable disappointment of the Greek chorus on the Left the 8/28 rally was massively well attended, completely apolitical as advertised and entirely peaceful. In the spirit of absolute fairness, I guess there could have been a "Hats Off to Hitler" banner somewhere ... but I didn't see it, and anyway we'd never know for sure because it would have been thrown away in the clearly marked receptacles like every other piece of trash after the rally.
2. Journolist – “What do you mean you didn’t delete the thread!”
It has been long observed that if the Left was merely stupid it would, by the simple law of averages, be right once in a while. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut occasionally; presumably Joe Scarborough (speaking of befuddled rodents) should be counted on to stumble onto a home truth himself now and again – maybe like, “Hey, I’m not a Conservative at all!”
That this doesn’t happen is not surprising to anyone who can spell the word “agenda” but even the most jaundiced of us had to be taken aback by the Journolist story broken by The Daily Caller in July, not only for the clear evidence of collusion it contained, but also that the cream of our fourth estate had been dumb enough to leave evidence lying around. Clearly, while it’s not enough to be stupid, it’s a very big bullet on the resume.
Journolist [was] a listserv comprised of several hundred liberal journalists, as well as like-minded professors and activists.
According to records obtained by The Daily Caller, at several points during the 2008 presidential campaign a group of liberal journalists took radical steps to protect their favored candidate. Employees of news organizations including Time, Politico, the Huffington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Guardian, Salon and the New Republic participated in outpourings of anger over how Obama had been treated in the media, and in some cases plotted to fix the damage.
Spencer Ackerman, only semi-accurately described as a “thinking man’s thug” in a previous piece of mine, was one member of that happy few with a particularly subtle and nuanced take on to how to engage the Right:
What is necessary is to raise the cost on the right of going after the left. In other words, find a rightwinger’s [sic] and smash it through a plate-glass window. Take a snapshot of the bleeding mess and send it out in a Christmas card to let the right know that it needs to live in a state of constant fear. Obviously I mean this rhetorically.
Well, I mean, obviously. Given what we’ve already read from other paragons of the new enlightenment we can only imagine what would have befallen the “rightwinger” if he’d turned out to be a caribou hunter.
Ackerman, whose tactical acumen clearly rivals his conservative-tossing ability, goes on to suggest an obscure and little-used gambit: protect candidate Obama by playing the race card! He isn’t clear whether this is supposed to happen before or after our guy goes through the window.
In one instance, Spencer Ackerman … urged his colleagues to deflect attention from Obama’s relationship with Wright by changing the subject. Pick one of Obama’s conservative critics, Ackerman wrote, “Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares — and call them racists.
Ask: why do they have such a deep-seated problem with a black politician who unites the country? What lurks behind those problems? This makes *them* sputter with rage, which in turn leads to overreaction and self-destruction.”
Here’s Ackerman attempting to use this one-shot-stop weapon.
Quick tip Spencer, give someone else the gun.
When not sounding … now what's the word I'm looking for … "faux-macho" the Journolist crowd flapped about like extras in "The Music Man" bemoaning trouble in River City. In retrospect, they needn't have gotten themselves into such a state; the fix was in, and although I'm sure their contributions were greatly appreciated, there were only a small piece of a much larger puzzle, mostly put in place by people smart enough not to leave tracks.
1. The Mid-Term Elections – “The people have spoken, the bastards!”
We have Democrats for one reason – to drag the ignorant hillbilly-half of this country into the next century, which in their case is the 19th.”
[Americans] don’t understand the issues. They’re too stupid. They’re like a dog. They can understand inflection. They can understand fear. They can understand dominance. They don’t understand issues.”
Against the explicit instructions of the media – and I don't know why anybody wouldn't have been wooed by dyspeptic commentators comparing them to dogs – American voters visited upon its elected representatives the most dramatic and decisive shift of power since 1932. In the face of this obvious and quantifiable repudiation of the leftward lurch that had been inflicted on the nation, the media – who had long been lamenting the abysmal stupidity of their viewers – came to the obvious conclusion that they'd been right all along.
Just once — probably never get reelected if you ever said it — I would like to hear somebody say, ‘The voters have spoken, the bastards.’ Or, ‘The voters have spoken. What a bunch of idiots.’ ‘The voters have spoken. God, they’re dumb. Dumb as hell.’ I just wish I’d hear somebody say that, because I think that happens to be the case this particular midterm elections.”
— Longtime CNN and MSNBC contributor Bill Press on his radio program, November 4.
Perhaps realizing they were into diminishing returns with the "you're so stupid" gambit (and one would think being reduced to a political grease spot would help drive that home) the media started trolling for signs of deep divisions within the Republican Party that would prove, some months before the 112th Congress even sat that, win or no win, the enterprise was doomed to failure.
Accordingly there was breathless coverage (in outlets like Politico of all things) of how ticked off party stalwarts like Lindsey Graham were that the Tea Party had cost them Delaware. This was in addition to the more or less constant drumbeat of releases arguing the Tea Party – which even the media had to admit had been instrumental in the landslide – was either an inconsequential blip,
…the tea party might likely be seen as a passing summer storm — whose legacy is distinctly limited to what it accomplished in 2010.
Or the populist spawn of Huey Long and Father Coughlin poised to take over the GOP:
Seventy-six years ago, Franklin D. Roosevelt found himself confronted with a tea party of his own.
Huey Long, the former governor of Louisiana and, by 1934, a senator, was leading an improbable movement to redistribute wealth.
Long was not alone. Charles Coughlin, a Roman Catholic priest in Detroit who had developed a vast audience for his weekly radio sermons, transformed his warm homilies into a passionate attack on “international bankers” and the gold standard.
Apart from the fact that both these gentlemen were somewhere to the left of Roosevelt (no mean feat in itself) and much closer in temperament to even a middling White House Czar than anyone in the Tea Party, this argument is airtight.
But no matter, it serves the purpose of minimizing the importance and impact of the midterm gains and the role of the Tea Party in obtaining them. It also creates an artificial sense of "been there done that" so people will accept the inevitability of a return to normal (read "the Left") after this brief interruption. I can think of no better fate for such writers than to have to make the same dreary arguments 10 years from now.
Speaking of dreary, the tenor of MSNBC's election night coverage, best characterized as equal parts mockery, doomsaying and incredulity, should leave no doubt in anyone's mind as to where they stand on the outcome in general and the Tea Party in particular -- and the basic themes they intend to pursue in 2011:
I wish them the best of luck with that. I can appreciate it was a rough night for them. I hope they understand it's going to be a much rougher year.
Because, with apologies to Bill Maher, “dog-stupid” Americans also understand what to do with a fire hydrant when they see one.
In considering the truly surreal cast of characters who populate much of the media -- none of whom I would let into my house much less trust to inform an unsuspecting public -- it is important to remember that they are only the latest point on a continuum that started long ago with names now regarded as journalistic icons. They are the logical end point of a philosophy that exalts "the greater good" over truth. As has been demonstrated with dreary regularity throughout history, once you take that fork in the road it's only a matter of time before the benevolent keepers of the flame are replaced by thugs and apparatchiks.
The future is now folks.
(Cross-posted at NewsReal Blog.)