Update: Same Hypocrisy, Different Verse
At WorldNetDaily, the ACLU is evil -- except when it agrees with WND. Plus: Invasion of the ConWeb body snatchers, a question of context at the MRC, another ConWeb media elitist alert, and more.
By Terry Krepel
Joseph Farah spends his entire Jan. 6 WorldNetDaily column haranguing the American Civil Liberties Union as "America's Taliban." "Like the Taliban, the bigots at the ACLU use their own perverted interpretation of the law, guided by their intolerant worldview, to destroy these symbols," he writes. "It's a hate group. It always has been, since the day it was founded by Soviet-loving socialist radicals like Roger Baldwin. ... Our forefathers would be appalled at the work of the ACLU." In other words, pretty much your basic conservative attack on the ACLU. (Interestingly, WND ran a story about a year ago criticizing the idea that Democrats would compare conservatives to the Taliban during the 2002 elections.)
Fast-forward 10 days later. WND runs a lengthy unbylined story on a study that warns that 'warns you're about to be watched by Big Brother like never before." The report claims that "the U.S. has now reached the point where a total surveillance society has not only become a realistic possibility, but a likelihood unless the public fights back."
Okay, typical WND here, too; it's been the most vigilant of the ConWeb on issues of government surveillance and the privacy of citizens. So, who issued this study that WND touts at great length?
You guessed it -- those "Soviet-loving socialist radicals" at the ACLU.
Some might argue that the contrast of these two articles demonstrates that WND is not biased. Wrong; it shows once again exactly how biased WND is (already amply detailed). WND devotes original articles to a fairly narrow range of ideas; privacy issues and bashing the ACLU are just two ot them. It must have killed Farah to run the ACLU study article, but somewhere along the line a decision was made that the study's results were more important that their source. WND would likely have run it no matter who came up with those results. If this study had results other than these, it would not have appeared at WND.
If the ACLU is really the "hate group" that Farah says it is, they're at least hating something together.
* * *
Is there some ConWeb body-snatching going on? Consider:
WorldNetDaily runs a Jan. 4 story -- written by Jon Dougherty, no less -- citing a report that claims "the White House is manufacturing terrorist alerts to keep the issue alive in the minds of voters and to keep President Bush's approval ratings high." And WND does nothing to refute it (which is at least a little more in line with Dougherty's usual manner of reporting).
A NewsMax story Dec. 29 notes that "many of the nation's most solid Republican conservatives" are criticizing the way President Bush has fought the war on terrorism. NewsMax's source: Salon.com, which in an change from previous practice NewsMax neglects to tag as "left-leaning" or "pro-Clinton" even once.
A Jan. 14 story at CNSNews.com frets that "the failure of the Bush administration to produce evidence linking Saddam Hussein to weapons of mass destruction or to the al Qaeda terrorist network is causing an erosion of public support for an attack on Iraq." The story does offer some spin control, though, by quoting someone from the Heritage Foundation as saying that "establishing a link between Iraq and al Qaeda was not necessary to justify an attack on Iraq" and that "the public should take at face value claims by the president and other administrations around the world that they have evidence Iraq indeed possesses weapons of mass destruction or the means to produce them."
Chalk it up, perhaps, to the usual ConWeb gatekeepers taking some holiday time, allowing these anomalies -- and these are indeed anomalies to the usual ConWeb reportage -- to slip through.
* * *
Dubious assertion of the month:
A Dec. 31 CNSNews.com story on the end of the "luxury tax" on vehicles costing more than $40,000 quotes an official with the American International Automobile Dealers Association as saying the $40,000 threshold includes many automobiles not considered "luxury."
"The money came out of the pockets of the small business dealers and affected the purchase of family vans and SUVs, what the soccer moms were driving," said Heidi Blumenthal, AIADA director of legislative affairs.
And of course, CNSNews.com can't be bothered to question such a silly statement. Consider the fact that the average price of a new car these days is a little more than $20,000. If "soccer moms" can't find a van or SUV for less than $40,000, the "luxury tax" is the least of their problems.
* * *
The Media Research Center has something of a problem with the whole concept of context.
To wit: The Jan. 6 edition of MSNBC's "Donahue" was about media bias. Two of the guests were Bernard Goldberg, conservative darling and author of the not-entirely-factual book "Bias," and Al Franken, liberal author of, among other things, "Rush Limbaugh Is A Big Fat Idiot." Franken laid into Goldberg for pulling a quote from a 1991 NBC News commentary by John Chancellor -- suggesting that the problem in the Soviet Union was shortages, not communism -- that made no mention of the events of the day it aired, which happened to be the collapse of an attempted coup against then-leader Mikhail Gorbachev by hard-line communists. "Bernie, you regurgitate a quote that you got from some right-wing media watch group, and you didn’t care to look at the context of it," Franken told Goldberg.
On Jan. 8, we get the rest of the story from said "right-wing media watch group." The MRC's Tim Graham writes in that day's CyberAlert that it indeed record the quote and that "this bowls conservatives over with laughter every time it’s replayed, as it was at the MRC’s Dishonor Awards dinner in 1999." He then adds that "it’s hard to take out of context, unless you believe, as Franken does, that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics had been liberated from communism in about 1985."
Hard, perhaps, but the MRC found a way. Graham then reprints the entire Chancellor commentary -- which ends up showing just how out of context the quote MRC pulled from it is. It's clear that what Chancellor was trying to say was that the political machinations surrounding the coup attempt had little immediate effect on the plight of a people worried more about where their next meal was coming from. Chancellor also points out that Gorbachev's fate was in the hands of those people: "But it’s going to take time, and nobody knows how much time the people will give him, especially this week when millions of Russians got a taste of their own power."
That's the problem of context. The Chancellor quote standing on its own paints him as a clueless apologist, which the Graham and the MRC knows isn't true. But read along with his entire commentary, it means something different. But that doesn't keep those tax-deductible donations rolling in. And MRC has a history of pulling quotes out of context.
Selectively quoting people to draw attention to one's own cause is a lot of things, but "research" isn't one of them.
* * *
What's our favorite out-of-touch ConWeb media elitist doing with his social life these days? Why, attending Broadway premeires, of course.
A Dec. 10 NewsMax article reports that boss Christopher Ruddy attended the opening of the new musical "Dance of the Vampires" in New York with NewsMax columnists John LeBoutillier, Dick Morris and Steve Malzberg. Gee, it must be nice to be running a money-losing company and still be able to jet up from NewsMax HQ in West Palm Beach (and we somehow suspect Ruddy isn't flying coach) to attend a Broadway opening.
To show that this glitzy, Scaife-subsidized life isn't all it's cracked up to be, the article tosses in a little tension: "Sparks might have begun to fly when, seated a few rows away from the NewsMax crowd, were, among others, liberal warhorse Sen. Edward Kennedy, fill-in New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg, and the top Dem himself, Al Gore, joined by his attractive wife, Tipper." We'll ignore the fact that Lautenberg isn't exactly a "fill-in" since he won the election and consider the Liz Smith-esque tone taken when describing the Gores.
But alas, such conflict was not to be, the article informs us: "As it turned out, Ruddy and LeBoutillier had a pleasant chat with the former vice president. LeBoutillier had served in Congress with Gore during the early 1980s. A trim and relaxed Gore expressed to Ruddy and LeBoutillier that he had little doubt that popular support for President Bush would disintegrate over the next two years."
That is followed by a bizarrely inappropriate plug for Morris: "Gore is a shrewd politician, but he didn't ask Dick Morris, the man who saved Bill Clinton from political extinction, to join his campaign team. At least he hasn't yet."
Considering Morris' craven, backstabbing behavior in trying to make money dishing dirt on the Clintons even as he touts his work for them (not to mention his wildly inaccurate political prognostication), it's no surprise the Gores -- or just about everyone else in politics -- is staying as far away from Morris as they can.
Ruddy once railed against "elitist limousine liberals" in the media. Now that he's an elitist limousine media conservative (we also somehow suspect Ruddy and his buddies did not take a lowly cab to the show), does he still feel the same?
The surprise is not that WorldNetDaily ran a story Jan. 23 detailing Rush Limbaugh's musings on the subject of abortion -- WND has long been a Limbaugh sycophant. The surprise also is not that no clue is offered as to when Limbaugh made these remarks -- you know, your basic five-W journalistic stuff. Nor is the surprise that this story appeared in WND's "news" section, not the "commentary" section. The surprise isn't even that no effort is made to obtain any response to his remarks -- after all, Jon Dougherty still has a job there.
The surprise is that Joe Kovacs, WND executive news editor, thought so much of this story to put his byline on it, even though the vast majority of it is merely a transcription of an apparent Rush radio rant. ("Apparent" because, as noted, Kovacs forgot to tell his readers where he picked this stuff up.)
Is it surprising that the writer of such a story holds an "executive" position at WND? Not really.