What's this? Dan Riehl telling his fellow conservative bloggers not to jump to conclusions about a media-bashing story he himself put into play? Yup:
As the originator of the Red Cross Ambulance story, I would urge the elements of the blogosphere still running with the story to at least slow down, if not back up. They are increasingly looking like the very drive by media against which we so often rant, running the risk of being exploited by propagandists on another side of an issue. And no matter how much many of us may support that side, propagandists on both sides do exist. For the record, I'm guilty, too.
How is it that someone sitting thousands of miles away can claim to know precisely what that something was or wasn't? Sorry, one can't.
Riehl even chastises Little Green Footballs and Power Line for claiming roles in the story they don't deserve. And he throws in a bit of a mea culpa:
As I said, I'm not innocent. Today on my second anniversary, I have to cop to being as caught up as everyone else. While I moderated my posts, apparently some juvenile posting board member was impersonating S R Sidarth and, frankly, I got duped. Last night I went to jump into the Reuter's vehicle story against my better instincts and made a gaffe.
I've learned some hard lessons in two years of blogging, obviously I haven't learned them all. But the past week or two has been one for the books, let me tell ya. Hopefully it'll only make me a better blogger in the end. Either that, or I'll eventually just quit.
Once I start seeing and believing what I want to believe, as opposed to the truth - I'll have become the beast I set out to battle when I took up the keyboard in the first place.
It reads like a guy who has learned a thing or two about jumping to conclusions. This is one thing that j-school ideally teaches (and, for the most part, does).
Conservatives like Riehl love to portray journalists as hopelessly biased and driven by the all-consuming desire to promote liberal causes and attack conservative ones. The reality is that the vast majority of workaday journalists are just trying to tell the facts as best they can. Most don't have the luxury, like bloggers, to pick and choose what they get to report on; nobody aspires to cover, say, the local city government, but a good journalist will have done that at some point. It's boring, but as a governmental building block it's important to learn how to explain its actions in a way that readers can understand. And once a journalist has figured out how to do that, it serves as an invaluable stepping stone for other journalistic endeavors.
Watergate inspired numerous aspiring journalists to enter j-school; the Dan Rather/Bush National Guard story appears to have inspired numerous conservatives to try their hand at trying at discrediting the media. As Riehl has discovered -- and most journalists already know -- agenda-driven writing is not only not what journalism is about, it's an insignificant tool in the quiver (and even then, if you prefer that, stick to being a pontificating blogger). Research skills and a good BS detector are much more important.
Hopefully, the lesson Riehl has learned here sticks -- and that other bloggers will learn from it as well.
P.S.: So, Dan, any chance that you can share you mea culpa with the folks at NewsBusters, where you made some of these faulty allegations?
UPDATE: On second read, we're not sure if Riehl is talking about the UVA discussion boards or the comments on his own blog. We're assuming he's talking about the UVA boards. If we're wrong, we'll edit accordingly.
UPDATE 2: We've added a section about Riehl's Sidarth-vulgar-words attack to the ConWebWatch article that also covers the false racism charge.
An Aug. 29 WorldNetDaily article uses alarmist language and the depiction-equals-approval fallacy to distort a new law in California that adds "sexual orientation" to the non-discrimination provisions any group accepting state money must abide by.
That's not how WND described it, though. Here's the article's alarming lead:
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has tossed out all sexual moral conduct codes at colleges, private and Christian schools, daycare centers and other facilities throughout his state, if the institutions have any students who get state assistance.
The governor yesterday signed a bill that would require all businesses and groups receiving state funding -- even if it's a state grant for a student -- to condone homosexuality, bisexuality and transsexuality.
The article goes on to assert that the law means groups must not just "condone" it, it must "endorse such behavior." Another passage asserts that the law "specifically requires 'any program or activity that receives any financial assistance from the state' to support the alternative sexual lifestyle choices."
Such claims assume that because a group isn't allowed to discriminate against gays, it is therefore endorsing or promoting homosexual behavior -- which is a logical fallacy. The article -- using language apparently taken from the Campaign for Children and Families, a California group fighting these proposals, without explicitly stating so -- further promotes the fallacy by asserting that "several other 'sexual indoctrination bills' are heading to the governor":
One would prohibit textbooks or school-sponsored activities from "reflecting adversely" on a certain list of sexual choices.
Another would allow the California superintendent of public instruction to arbitrarily withhold state funds from any district that does not adequately promote the State Department of Education's "model policy" promoting transsexuality, bisexuality or homosexuality in its school policies.
Still another would spend state money promoting transsexual, bisexual and homosexual lifestyles.
Of course, there is no "promoting" involved. The "model policy" bill (AB 606), in fact, amends current law on school non-discrimination programs to permit withholding of state funding to schools who don't show demonstrated progress on the issue. The above description comes from a CCF "analysis."
The "state money promoting transsexual, bisexual and homosexual lifestyles" bill (AB 1056) -- again, language that WND copied from a CCF "analysis" -- is, in fact, for "tolerance education." Tolerance does not equal "promotion."
WND actually diverged from the CCF description of the textbook bill (SB 1437), substituting "a certain list of sexual choices" for the actual list that CCF uses. WND's wording reflects the conservative bias that any non-heterosexual behavior is a "choice."
Needless to say, the WND article quotes only opponents of these bills.
(Hat tip to Sadly, No!, which did a fine job of picking apart not only Kevin McCullough's misleading Aug. 25 WND column on the subject but an AgapePress article that not only signed on to the depiction-equals-endorsement fallacy but even more alarmingly claimed that the newly signed bill "gives homosexuals new and far-reaching powers.")
Ronald Kessler's role at NewsMax appears to be about bringing a certain level of gravitas to frivolous topics (like his constant fluffing of the Bush administration).
In an Aug. 29 article, Kessler ventures into tabloid territory to forward a claim that Patsy Ramsey played some role in the death of her daughter JonBenet Ramsey. Patsy Ramsey, of course, is conveniently dead and, thus, unable to rebut Kessler's claims.
Dan Riehl is in the process of walking back his smears of S.R. Sidarth, the target of George Allen's "macaca" comment.
After accusing Sidarth of posting a series of vulgar comments -- the point being, of course, to discredit any claim by Sidarth to be offended by what Allen said -- Riehl is now stating: "Whether the S R Sidarth posting on the board in question is the same as the one currently in the news cannot be verified."
Between this and Riehl's false claims of Sidarth's purported racism, this whole episode has been one big oopsie for an eager-to-smear blogger.
I could not even begin to explain my family's disappointment and frustrations in regards to the mainstream media and how they continue to distort, omit key details and inaccurately report my sister's situation.
Equally disturbing is how these "professional journalists" make no effort to assure that the facts they publish regarding what Michael Schiavo and others say have been thoroughly researched and validated, blindly endorsing their blatant inaccuracies and lies. It has become obvious that they have no problem embracing Schiavo as their euthanasia "hero," praising him for needlessly killing an innocent disabled woman.
Schiavo is no hero – he is the symbol of a coward.
Perhaps Schindler and WND can share with the public how much of WND's biasedcoverage of the Schiavo case came from coordination and cooperation with the Schindler family.
More on the Joseph Farah column linked above here. (WND letters are not archived and cycle out after a week.)
An Aug. 28 article by Aaron Klein serves up WorldNetDaily's recommended daily requirement of Ehud Olmert-bashing, this time dredging up a report accusing him of hiring "unqualified cronies" while holding a post "nder the previous administration." Funny that Klein can't bring himself to mention that the "previous administration" was run by Ariel Sharon.
Klein uses the article to rehash "several charges on Olmert brought to the comptroller's office," but he fails to report, as the Associated Press did, Olmert's denial of the charges. But then, being fair to Olmert is not part of Klein's agenda -- forcing him out of office is.
Conservative Stockholm Syndrome, Revisited Topic: NewsBusters
An Aug. 27 NewsBusters post by Tim Graham aims to defend his previous assertion that MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, as a conservative who did a segment asking "Is Bush an Idiot?" is suffering from a form of Stockholm syndrome wherein conservatives who work for "liberal" TV channels feel compelled to criticize fellow conservatives. He does so, unsurprisingly, by further attacking Scarborough.
This time around, Graham's focus is on an Aug. 23 interview Scarborough did with "the hard-left website Salon.com" (later in the comments, Graham also calls Salon "socialist") in which Scarborough responded to Graham's charge by suggesting that Graham is "more of a Bush loyalist than he is a conservative." While Graham apologized for "the 'snarky' echoes of a 2003 interview in which he suggested that Scarborough wouldn't last on TV because he had no prior experience and because of MSNBC's frequent schedule-shuffling, he stands by his "Scarborough syndrome" depiction:
Rich Lowry and William F. Buckley also provided the Post with some anti-Bush fodder on Iraq, and I didn’t attack them – because unlike Scarborough, they don’t have liberal bosses to please, and unlike Scarborough, they didn't suggest the president needed a bib to catch the drool.
I’ve accused Scarborough of nothing more than what he suggested of Bush in his Salon interview: that maybe "staying in power is more important than staying true to the values that put you in power in the first place." (Replace "power" with "TV" in the sentence. Sometimes the terms are closely related, sometimes not.)
Graham also insists that he's not really a Bush loyalist, claiming: "I do like President Bush, and generally support him, but not to the point where I can’t make an argument against him when I think he’s liberal or he’s goofed up." So, apparently, only conservatives in good standing with whatever sanctioning body is in charge of that -- Lowry and Buckley and Graham belong, but Scarborough doesn't -- are allowed to criticize Bush. Interesting. It's the one-drop rule applied to politics -- by dint of working for MSNBC, Scarborough is now 1/8 (or 1/16 or 1/32) liberal, no longer a pure conservative and, thus, unqualified to speak for them.
CNS Labeling Bias Watch Topic: CNSNews.com
An Aug. 28 CNSNews.com article by Jeff Johnson repeats the terminology used earlier by colleague Susan Jones, describing those who oppose a bullet-microstamping bill in California as "Second Amendment groups" and supporters of the bill as "anti-gun."
WND Tweaks NewsMax, Pimps Schiavo Case Again Topic: WorldNetDaily
In his Aug. 28 WorldNetDaily column, Joseph Farah takes a shot at NewsMax for endorsing Charlie Crist for Florida governor because Crist, as Florida attorney general, refused to intervene in the Terri Schiavo case. Farah called Crist a "power-hungry, ambitious politician," adding, "Some "conservative" media outlets have gone so far as to endorse Crist," linking to NewsMax's Aug. 21 endorsement.
Farah concluded his column by writing, "I urge Floridian Republicans to support Crist's opponent, Tom Gallagher, to be their next governor," but he tells his readers nothing about Gallagher. There might be a good reason for that: Back in June, Gallagher -- who is running for governor on a platform of family values -- admitted to having an extramarital affair and smoking marijuana. Under Farah's declared standards, that makes Gallagher a dead man. Apparently, holding (or at least appearing to hold) certain conservatively correct political views makes up for a lot of things in Farah's eyes.
Of course, since Farah's column is centered around Schiavo, we get the usual WND self-promotional blather. It once again describes its coverage of the Schiavo case as "unparalleled" and "in-depth" (in fact, it's biased and unfair to Michael Schiavo's side) and Diana Lynne's book "Terri's Story" as "the definitive book on Schiavo's life and death" (which it isn't).
An Aug. 27 WorldNetDaily article serves up a biased presentation of an ban on teacher's texts of schoolbooks on the auction site eBay.
The headline -- "eBay prohibits textbooks for homeschool teachers: Lumps them with illegal drugs, bootleg recordings, prompting avalanche of complaints from customers" -- most egregiously misstates the issue. It's not "textbooks" that have been banned; it's teacher's texts, which, as athe article itself notes, contain "special answer keys, exams, teaching tips, and guides." And the headline's claim that the teacher's text are being "lump[ed] with illegal drugs, bootleg recordings" is simply inflammatory, especially given the misleading reference to "textbooks." This leaves the impression that eBay considers homeschool textbooks as "illegal" or "bootleg," which has no basis in fact.
The unbylined article itself is somewhat more balanced. It does note in the third paragraph that the ban "is inclusive of all teachers' texts," but it waits until the 23rd paragraph to give an example of how inclusive it is, quoting a "public school teacher" as stating that "she cannot get a teacher's edition from a publisher unless she provides proof of her teaching employment." For all the complaints from homeschool teachers, neither WND nor the people it quotes offers no explanation of why homeschool teachers should be exempt from having to provide proof of being a teacher before obtaining teacher's texts.
The article also contradicts itself about eBay's response. It states about halfway through that "WorldNetDaily did not get an immediate response from eBay about the situation," but the very last paragraph notes that an eBay spokesman "told WND" that "we are actively working on a solution."
An Aug. 26 NewsBusters post by Dean Esmay launches a vitriolic attack on Daily Kos, calling it a "far-left hate-blog" and its posters "crypto-nazis," "Blame America First defeatists" and "hatemongering idiots." Esmay adds: "The Lamont Democrats have not yet gotten a tenth the kicking around they deserve. They are are vicious beyond belief." It would seem Esmay is calling the kettle black in hurling "hate-blog" accusations.
Esmay also bizarrely charges that "there is no Republican equivalent to the Daily Kos or Firedoglake or MyDD at the moment"; apparently, he's never heard of Free Republic or Lucianne.com or Liberty Post or ...
Esmay is among the quasi-prominent bloggers who post on NewsBusters, joining such luminaries as Dan Riehl and Jeff Goldstein. The goal, it appears, is to lower the level of dialogue on the site (not that it was all that high to begin with).
An Aug. 26 Associated Press article posted at NewsMax about Rob Reiner's comment about Mel Gibson's drunken, anti-Semitic rant carried the headline, "Meathead: Mel Gibson Reflects Anti-Semitism."
We're pretty darn sure that AP didn't stick that headline on the item, especially since it doesn't even reference Reiner's role on "All in the Family." Or, perhaps, it's a generic reference -- NewsMax may actually believe that anyone who thinks Gibson's outburst and work marks him as an anti-Semite is a meathead.
WND Again Buries Real News About Darwin-Hitler Video Topic: WorldNetDaily
An Aug. 25 WorldNetDaily article on D. James Kennedy's upcoming video linking Darwin to Hitler leads with Jack Abramoff-scandal-linked Rabbi Daniel Lapin's defense of the video, once again burying the real news involving Francis Collins, director of the Human Genome Project, and his links with the video. WND also misses out on conflicting statements made by Kennedy's Coral Ridge Ministries about Collins.
It's not until the 14th paragraph of the article that WND gets around to addressing the Collins issue, repeating a statement from Coral Ridge claiming that, contradicting Francis' claim that he was deceived about his appearance in the video, "A producer told Dr. Collins in person before the interview began that he was being interviewed for a program that would address the adverse social consequences of Darwin," and that "he was asked specifically, during the interview, about the Darwin-Hitler connection and responded on tape that he did not agree with that view." Nevertheless, Coral Ridge has agreed to leave Francis' name off promotions and remove him from future airings of the video.
This, however, is a somewhat contradictory stance from the one taken in an Aug. 24 Baptist Press article by Jerry Newcombe, co-producer of the program:
"We interviewed a number of scientists for the science section [of the program]," Newcombe said. "We didn't interview Dr. Collins ... about Hitler. In hindsight, we would not have put Dr. Collins in the program. But he understood it was Coral Ridge Ministries. He understood we were doing a special about Darwinism.... We're sorry we had this misunderstanding and we wish him well."
Newcombe seems to be the one who's being the most straightforward here; the Coral Ridge statement is defensive and couched in vagaries, such as the reference to "a program that would address the adverse social consequences of Darwin," which indicates that they were hiding the program's specific thesis from Collins. Coral Ridge did rather quickly acquiesce to Collins' demand to be disassociated from the video, which appears to be something of an admission nof guilt.
That's how biased WND is: Promoting right-wing Christian views is more important than reporting the news -- and Coral Ridge's deception of Collins is the real news here.
Unnamed Sources vs. Unnamed Sources Topic: Newsmax
"Unnamed sources in the Pentagon with their own agenda have been leaking false information about the killing of civilians in Haditha by Marines last November," begins an Aug. 25 NewsMax article by Phil Brennan. To whom does Brennan attribute this claim? Unnamed sources with their own agenda, of course -- Brennan cites anonymous "Marine intelligence sources" and " one well-placed NewsMax source" to counter "the usual unnamed sources" making claims about Haditha.
It's a good thing nobody at NewsMax has a sense of irony; otherwise, this wouldn't have seen the light of day.