ConWeb Is Well Represented in Secretive Right-Wing Group Topic: The ConWeb
In May, the Southern Poverty Law Center published a list members (as of 2014) of the Council for National Policy, a secretive group of right-wing power players in politics, culture and the media. The CNP enforces a "Fight Club"-style omerta in which members are not to acknowledge that they are in fact members, and far-right extremists mingle with more mainstream conservatives. The group has been a behind-the-scenes force in coalescing right-wing support for Donald Trump's presidential campaign.
Thus, it's no surprise that the ConWeb is well represented in the CNP's membership among media members.
Needless to say, WorldNetDaily's Joseph Farah and Jerome Corsi are members of the group, with both being on the CNP's board of governors and Farah a member of the "Gold Circle," which sounds like some sort of super-elite faction within the group. Farah has been a longtime member; we've documented how Farah reported on a CNP meeting in 2007 despite the fact that the article had no byline, deduced from the fact that he's a CNP member, WND was one of the few media organizations in attendance, and he is presumed to have sought CNP permission to write about the meeting before doing so.
But a couple other members on the CNP list might be a bit more of a surprise. Newsmax's Christopher Ruddy is a member and on the board of governors, and CNSNews.com editor in chief Terry Jeffrey is also a member. (Interestingly, Jeffrey's boss, Media Research Center chief Brent Bozell, is not listed as a member.)
If we were as conspiratorially minded as Farah and WND, we could presume that the presence of bigwigs from WND, Newsmax and CNS means that the "news" organizations engage in some level of coordination when it comes to determining their editorial agendas.
But we'll never know, because not only have Farah, Corsi, Ruddy and Jeffrey continued to keep their CNP membership a secret from their readers, their websites have reported nothing on the CNP -- let alone the leak of the membership list -- in the month and a half since the SPLC's story came out.
Which means the ConWeb has put maintaining the omerta over reporting facts.
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The ConWeb Censors How Badly Benghazi Movie Tanked Topic: The ConWeb
We've detailed how the ConWeb plugged the heck out the new film "13 Hours," about the attack on Benghazi, and praised it for functioning as "rightwing propaganda." But the ConWeb won't tell you one key thing about it: how well it did at the box office.
That's because it didn't.
In its opening weekend, "13 Hours" -- which cost $50 million to make -- made just $19.2 million, despite having the action-film credentials of Michael Bay behind it and despite a wide opening on more than 2,300 screens. This past weekend, the film took in just $9 million. That does not bode well for the prospects of making back its production costs.
Forbes thinks that one reason the film is tanking is that it's "trapped by its inherently political origins" and how the film was marketed to conservatives and the right-wing media outlets who praised it as a way to torpedo Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. Remember the headline of Drew Zahn's WorldNetDaily review of the film was "How can Hillary possibly win after this?" Forbes adds: "In short, the film arguably wouldn’t have existed save for the controversies surrounding the 2012 terrorist attack, but it was the existence of said controversies that prevented the film from crossing over beyond the would-be converted."
You won't read any bad news about "13 Hours" in the ConWeb, however. WND, Accuracy in Media and NewsBusters have all censored news of the film's tanking. CNSNews.com published the usual Associated Press stories on weekend box office takes, one of which noted that the film "failed to make a large impact." But they were never given a link on the CNS front page, which means they may as well not have been published at all given how unlikely the typical CNS reader is to read anything on the site that didn't appear on the front page.
The film's flop hasn't stopped the ConWeb from promoting it, however. The Media Research Center's Tim Graham whined in a Jan. 18 NewsBusters post about how a Washington Post film reviewer told the truth about the film's political agenda. Even though that post was written after the opening weekend numbers came out, Graham made sure not to mention that his beloved film tanked.
That's ironic, because the MRC has a history of mocking paltry box office takes when they involve films they don't like.
ConWeb Praises The 'Rightwing Propaganda' Of '13 Hours' Topic: The ConWeb
The ConWeb is so happy that the new Michael Bay film "13 Hours," about the attack on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, because it reinforces the right-wing -- read: anti-Obama and anti-Hillary -- narrative on Benghazi.
Dreew Zahn pretty much gives the game away in his Jan. 17 WorldNetDaily review of the film, proudly proclaiming it to be "rightwing propaganda" and insisting that the film "doesn’t mispresent what actually happened in Benghazi." The headline of the review gets even more to the point: "How can Hillary possibly win after this?"
CNSNews.com serves up a review of the film by former soldier -- and, more relevant, an employee of the right-wing Heritage Foundation -- proclaims how the film is "highlighting the Obama administration’s inaction that directly contributed to the loss of four Americans." Wood goes on to note that one of the Libyan terrorists who attacked the facility had been imprisoned at Guantanamo, adding: "Various reports cite a recidivism rate of those released from Guantanamo of nearly one-third, surely something to keep in mind as Obama seeks to close the detention facility before the end of his final year in office." In fact, actual confirmed recidivism is about 17 percent; Wood makes sure not to explicitly point out that the Libyan terrorist in question was released from Guantanamo under the Bush administration.
The Media Research Center, meanwhile, whined that anyone dared to criticize the film. Christian Toto asserted in a Jan. 16 NewsBusters post that the movie's being bashed because it depicts "depicting heroic military types risking their lives against people from a foreign country" and because "the men in the movie are men." Toto also makes sure to get his right-wing talking points in on the incident: "We’re mad because Hillary Clinton blamed the coordinated terrorist attack on a YouTube video to the families of the dead and the media rolled over rather than speak truth to power. We’re seething because some of those who died that day might still be alive if help could have reached them in time."
Toto doesn't mention that this central narrative has been challenged by one of the key figures involved in the actual incident. The Washington Post reports that the CIA chief in Benghazi at the time that there was no stand-down order, as the movie claims. This reinforces findings by a Republican-led House committed that came to the same conclusion.
Toto also takes care not to mention that as someone who as written for right-wing sites like Breitbart and the Washington Times -- his personal website describes how Andrew Breitbart is an inspiration to him -- he is the target audience for "13 Hours," to the point that the filmmakers are actively courting people like him.
The Hollywood Reporter describes how the film is being marketed to conservatives, buying commercial time on Fox News and courting right-wing radio hosts. It describing the Texas-sized premiere held for it:
Even the film’s Tuesday night premiere, held at AT&T Stadium (home of the Dallas Cowboys), seemed to be aimed at the right. Beyond Bay, star John Krasinski and other castmembers, there were performances by The Band Perry, a country act, and Madison Rising, a patriotic group whose rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" closes Dinesh D’Souza’s film America (which clearly targeted conservatives). About 32,000 people attended the premiere, and each was asked to donate $1 to a veteran’s charity with Paramount promising to match the total collected.
Guess who was at that premiere? Accuracy in Media.
AIM's Roger Aronoff devoted his Jan. 15 column to the flim, lovingly describing how "This week I had the great honor and opportunity to attend the world premiere screening of the new Michael Bay movie, '13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi.'" It was quite the junket, too -- Aronoff points out that "I was there along with other members of the Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi." You remember, the right-wing kangaroo court AIM established a couple years back because it wanted some scalps and didn't care how they got them.
Aronoff didn't mention whether the list of commision guests included Wayne Simmons, the commission member who was scrubbed off the AIM website after it was alleged that hehad invented the 27-year CIA career he invoked to get government consultant jobs and get on AIM's little kangaroo court. He also doesn't mention who paid for the kangaroo court to fly from Washington, D.C., area to Dallas for that premiere -- that's no small expense for a shoestring organization like AIM.
Anyway, back to the slobbering. Aronoff pretends that the film doesn't have a political agenda, then praises it for serving right-wing purposes:
I personally thought the film was brilliant, powerful and emotional. It felt like you were watching this horrible nightmare unfold before your eyes. I strongly urge everyone to go see this film. You won’t wonder any more what all the fuss is about Benghazi. And I certainly hope that the members of the House Select Committee on Benghazi all see the film before issuing their final report.
Aronoff joined the rest of the ConWeb in avoiding any mention that the film's key event is disputed by one of its key participants. There's an agenda to advance, after all.
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ConWeb Censors GOP Candidates At 'Kill The Gays' Conference Topic: The ConWeb
Last weekend, Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal all spoke at the National Religious Liberties Conference in Iowa, hosted by anti-gay pastor Kevin Swanson. How anti-gay is Swanson? During his wildly ranting speech at the conference, he called for gays to be executed. Swanson also introduced Cruz, Huckabee and Jindal to the stage for their speeches.
But if you read the ConWeb, you wouldn't know anything about what happened at this conference.
There was some promotion of the speech on the ConWeb beforehand; for instance, it was advertised at WND beforehand -- and, strangely, well after it ended; the above screenshot was taken on Nov. 13. The Media Research Center attempted a little damage control before the event, with both NewsBusters and CNSNews.com highlighting Cruz being asked on CNN if he is “endorsing conservative intolerance” by appearing at the conference. But the MRC would only describe Swanson as an "activist pastor," playing down his well-documented anti-gay history.
But after the conference? Nothing. Zip, zilch, nada.
Not a word at NewsBusters, though it did publish a post referencing Jeremiah Wright, who did not avocate the killing of an entire group of people. Even the MRC couldn't be aroused enough to complain about Maddow highlighting the event.
Even Accuracy in Media -- home of noted homophobe Cliff Kincaid, who actually supported the proposed "kill the gays" bill in Uganda -- hasn't said a word about Republican candidates lending their support to, and receiving it from, a pastor who supports executing gays.
To demonstrate how radioactive Swanson currently is, WND columnist (and noted gay-basher) Michael Brown distanced himself from Swanson and the event -- but not at WND. He penned his distancing at fringe right-wing site BarbWire, run by professional gay-basher Matt Barber. Brown even ran to the defense of the andidates, claiming that "I also feel confident that, had they known in advance what Kevin Swanson, the conference’s chief organizer, planned to say, they would not have attended the rally."
The ConWeb's silence on Swanson's hateful remarks , and on Republican presidential candidates who are effectively condoning that hate by appearing with the man who spewed it, tells us the underlying anti-gay nature of the ConWeb. But you knewthatalready.
Wash. Times Touts First-Ever Profit, Silent About Who Kept It Afloat For 30 Years Before That Topic: The ConWeb
A few years back, we detailed how conservative newspapers lose massive amounts of money, staying in business only through the good graces of their deep-pocketed benefactors who made their money elsewhere. At the top of that list is the Washington Times, funded as a plaything for self-proclaimed messiah Sun Myung Moon to have entree to conservative Washington circles.
Well, last month the Times reported that "it achieved in September the first profitable month in its 33-year history, successfully transforming a traditional money-losing print publication into a leaner multimedia company with diverse revenue streams and a growing national audience."
Of course, print publications haven't been "traditionally money-losing" -- only the conservative ones have.
The Times plays rather coy about its historic financial situation, admitting that it piled up "losses that far exceeded $1 billion since its inception in 1982" and quoting Times president and CEO Larry Beasley quipping, "I know the owners can’t wait for us to pay them back."
Actually, the losses likely surpass $2 billion, a number forwarded by experts a decade ago. And there was never any expectation of a payback.
Article author Jennifer Harper also writes this:
The media landscape has been particularly unforgiving in recent years. Cutbacks, job losses and “newspaper death watches” have been the norm since 2009 as the Internet proved to be a profound game-changer in the news business. The Times went into reinvention mode, but never abandoned its original calling as a credible news source with a conservative backbone.
Harper avoids the actual history of the past few years at the Times that had little to do with the overall "media landscape" -- namely, that members of Moon's family got tired of paying the $35 million or so it took to keep the Times in business, setting off a power struggle in the Moon family and its Unification Church-linked business enterprises (not that the Times was actually run like a business, of course) that resulted in the paper being put up for sale in 2010. Ultimately, Moon himself bought the paper for $1.
Harper goes on to quote Beasley touting how the Times is "a digital-first business," but its website is so cluttered with ads and browser-clogging pop-ups that it's almost impossible to read.
Harper notes that the paper is now only by the nebulously, blandly named Operations Holdings, which appears to be a holding company for the business interests held by Moon himself when he died in 2012, an odd conglomeration of things besides the Times that include a fleet of fishing trawlers, New York's Hammerstein Ballroom and the New York TV studios where Al Jazeera -- longtime target of conservatives like the ones who run the Times for its purported closeness to Islamic terrorists -- has its New York headquarters.
Harper also repeatedly notes how "credible" a news source the Times is but she doesn't mention Moon's involvement in the paper until the 19th paragraph -- and she doesn't mention it was Moon's subsidies that kept the newspaper from feeling the effects of the free market it championed for nearly three decades.
The ConWeb's Big Prison Pork Freakout Topic: The ConWeb
When the Washington Post reported last week that the federal government had decided to stop serving pork to federal prison inmates, citing unpopularity and cost, it quoted Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations saying that the decision would prompt anti-Islam groups would spin the decision into a case of the federal government acting under pressure from Muslims, adding: “This is just the kind of thing that drives them crazy. ... It will stoke the fires of Islamophobia based on the usual conspiracy theories.”
Cue the ConWeb, which used the Post story to build their own articles, done in their own biased style.
Newsmax gave its story the full top-of-front-page treatment on Oct. 9:
The article, by Greg Richter, made sure to prominently mention CAIR.
CNSNews.com gave it a "CNSNews.com Staff" byline that also prominently featured CAIR, but took Hooper's comment out of context, claiming that he "warned that it might spark 'Islamophobia.'" Well, no, Hooper warned specifically that anti-Islam groups like CNS would do that.Curiously, CNS cited only the unpopularity angle, failing to mention the government's claim that pork was too pricey -- a strange omission given how close an eagle eye CNS normally keeps on government spending.
WorldNetDaily was a little late to the party, with an Oct. 13 article by Douglas Ernst (like fellow WNDer Cheryl Chumley, someone for whom the Washington Times apparently wasn't right-wing enough) going straight for the conspiratiorial angle:
The Obama administration wants Americans to believe federal prisoners are so unlike the rest of the world they even hate bacon.
The federal Bureau of Prisons is removing pork products from its menu. The decision will affect 200,000 inmates.
Ernst also made sure to mention CAIR but, like Newsmax, didn't mention Hooper's statement about the Islamophobia that would come from anti-Muslim groups over the decision -- you know, like WND.
The ConWeb's 'Porn Addiction' Defense for Josh Duggar Topic: The ConWeb
The ConWeb is seeking to absolve Josh Duggar of responsibility for his actions -- which include molesting his sisters and having an account at the affair-facilitating Ashley Madison website -- by promoting the right-wing idea that pornography is addictive, which is what Duggar himself blamed his behavior on (until he didn't).
In an Aug. 29 WorldNetDaily article, Greg Corombos interviews professional gay-basher Matt Barber, who gets space to blame Duggar's woes on porn, declaring it "a gateway drug that leads people to act on their fantasies." and insisting that the mere act of viewing pornography is adultery.
Because Barber is also an Obama-basher, he drags politics into the issue, lamenting that "The problem in this Obama administration is there is no one at the Department of Justice who has any interest in going after obscene material and going after these pornographers and so forth."
Meanwhile, an Aug. 27 CNSNews.com article by Penny Starr claimed that "Addiction to pornography affects millions of men and women in the United States, and many of those people identify themselves as Christians, according to a 2014 survey produced by a Christian organization dedicated to fighting pornography and sexual addiction." But the survey never defines, medical-wise or otherwise, what it means by "addiction" (other than a question to respondents if they thought they were addicted to pornography "based on your understanding of an 'addiction'") and seems to suggest that its definition of an "addict" is someone who views pornography as infrequently as once a month.
Starr's article doesn't mention Duggar, but it's clear that the article was written in response to Duggar's situation, to which CNS has devoted no original coverage.
Meanwhile, actual experts in the field generally dismiss the idea that pornography can be an "addiction," at least as we understand how addictions work. The Huffington Post reports:
A large study from neuroscientists at UCLA found that when people are shown erotic images, the brain's normal addiction reactions are reversed.
In the brain, porn "addiction" looks the opposite of addictions like cocaine, smoking cigarettes and gambling -- and therefore should be treated with different therapies.
Typically, addicts show increased brain reactions to the object of addiction. However, the new findings, which were published this week in the journal Biological Psychology, showed that people who struggled with excessive pornography consumption had decreased brain reactions when viewing porn.
So if porn functions differently from other addictions, as the findings suggest, it would be logical for them to be treated differently.
"Some people clearly struggle to regulate their porn viewing habits, but it is important to know why," Dr. Nicole Prause, a neuroscientist at the university and the study's lead author, told The Huffington Post in an email. "Calling it an 'addiction' may be harming patients, so we should require healthcare workers to provide treatments supported by research."
What, actual research on the subject? The ConWeb won't cotton to that.
But articles avoid the idea that Duggar may not actually be "addicted" to porn after all, despite what he sorta claims. As Bill Maher suggested, maybe he's "just horny" and isn't "cut out to be married."
The ConWeb won't buy that either -- not as long as it needs to get prominent Christians off the hook for their sex-fueled behavior by blaming it on a mythical "addiction."
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ConWeb's Climate Change Deniers Get It Wrong on Arctic Ice Topic: The ConWeb
Reports of increased Arctic Sea ice brought out the usual climate change deniers in the ConWeb to trumpet the news:
NewsBusters serial misinformer Tom Blumer touted "the cold, hard fact of growing Arctic ice cover, as well as its possible implications," as reported by British newspapers like the Daily Mail, adding: "As is all too often the case, in certain matters affecting things here in the United States, if we didn't have news from Britain, we wouldn't have any real news at all."
Newsmax's Melanie Batley similarly promoted how "An unusually cold Arctic summer has resulted in almost a million more square miles of ocean covered with ice compared to the same time last year, bucking predictions that global warming would result in the disappearance of the ice cap by 2013." She also cited the Daily Mail.
But as Media Matters documents, Arctic ice was at a record low last year, so a large percentarge increase of the kind conservative outlets are reporting is not unexpected, and the recent historical trend shows that Arctic ice is in decline and this year's numbers still fall short of the average over the past 30 years. Neither Blumer nor Batley mentioned the historical trend.
Further, Blumer might want to widen his British newspaper reading horizons to include the Guardian, which points out that "When it comes to climate science reporting, the Mail on Sunday and Telegraph are only reliable in the sense that you can rely on them to usually get the science wrong." The Guardian adds: "Every year when the weather acts to preserve more ice than the previous year, we can rely on climate contrarians to claim that Arctic sea ice is 'rebounding' or 'recovering' and there's nothing to worry about."
CNSNews.com's Barbara Hollingsworth -- who we last saw at the Washington Examiner promoting bogus statistics about tea party rally attendance -- devoted a Sept. 13 article to attacking Al Gore for repeating a prediction that Arctic ice could disappear by this year, repeating claims that there is "a 60 percent increase in the polar ice sheet. "Hollingsworth made no mention of the Guardian's statement that given the historical trend, "an ice-free Arctic appears to be not a question of if, but when."
What The ConWeb Ignores About Fired Newspaper Editorial Writer Topic: The ConWeb
Drew Johnson -- the Chattanooga Times Free Press editorial writer who was fired after publishing an Obama-bashing editorial headlined "Take your jobs plan and shove it, Mr. President" -- has been making the tour of the right-wing media, where his unsubstantiated claim that political pressure caused his firing have found a receptive audience. WorldNetDaily and Newsmax have uncritically repeated Johnson's claims, and even the Daily Caller's Jeff Poor (a former Media Research Center staffer) has given Johnson a pass. The result: creation of the impression that Johnson is a victim of the "liberal media."
But these ConWeb sources have all failed to report a couple of pertinent facts that back up the Times Free Press' claim that Johnson was fired for violating newspaper policy, not because of politics.
First, the Times Free Press is one of the very few newspapers, if not the only one, that runs two separate editorial pages each day -- the liberal-leaning Times page and the conservative-leaning Free Press page. That's a legacy from when there were two separate newspapers in Chattanooga. Johnson was editor of the conservative page, and his departure does not mean any diminishing, let alone the end, of conservative opinion in the Chattanooga newspaper.
Second, the ConWeb has been utterly loath to mention who owns the Chattanooga paper. It's WEHCO Media, which also owns the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. The head of WEHCO is Walter Hussman Jr., who made his biggest splash in the newspaper industry in the 1980s by engaging in a newspaper war in Little Rock, ultimately defeating and merging with his own newspaper the rival paper owned by deep-pocketted giant Gannett. It was under Hussman that the two newspapers in Chattanooga -- the Free Press and the Times, the latter formerly owned by the Ochs family of New York Times fame -- were combined and allowed to keep their separate editorial pages.
As the Arkansas Times points out, "Hussman's sympathies — indeed much of his game plan for his own newspaper building strategies came from the former Free Press owner — are not generally with those of the New York Times." Indeed, the Democrat-Gazette's editorial page is headed by Paul Greenberg, a conservative who's perhaps most notorious for his Clinton-bashing during the 1990s.The American Journalism Review has reported that Hussman says the best part of his day is "proofing the paper's stridently conservative editorial page."
It's lazy and dishonest for the ConWeb to shove Johnson's firing into its tired "liberal media" narrative. A conservative-leaning newspaper owner, after all, doesn't fit their agenda.
(Disclosure: I'm a former employee of the Democrat-Gazette.)
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