You might have more credibility as a media critic if you didn't reflexively take the partisan positions of the Bush administration in your June 23 NewsBusters post (and Times Watch item) bashing the New York Times for writing about a Bush administration program to examine thousands of banking transactions without a warrant in order to monitor alleged transactions by alleged terrorists.
First, you use the term "terrorist surveillance program" -- the Bush administration's preferred term for this and the warrantless surveillance program previously exposed. Given that terrorists aren't the only ones being surveilled through these programs -- thousands of innocent people are, too -- it's also an inaccurate term.
Second, you appear to assume without evidence that a Bush administration is telling the truth when she says the program" is working to protect our citizens" but that Times editor Bill Keller is being disingenuous or lying when he says that "the administration's extraordinary access to this vast repository of international financial data, however carefully targeted use of it may be, is a matter of public interest."
If your media criticism sounded less like Republican talking points, you might have a little more credibility as a media critic.
ConWeb Downplays A Certain Inconvenient Fact on Alleged WMD Find Topic: The ConWeb
The ConWeb is playing up Sen. Rick Santorum's assertion that weapons of mass destruction in the form of munitions containing sarin or mustard gas were found in Iraq -- and glossing over the fact that the munitons were degraded and apparently not a threat as a WMD.
At NewsBusters, Brent Baker claimed when Keith Olbermann pointed out that particular fact, he did so "condescendingly" (Baker repeated the claim in a June 23 CyberAlert). Dave Pierre didn't mention the degraded state of the munitions at all. Both Baker and Tim Graham take the technicality approach that the find proves liberals wrong, however worthless those weapons are; in Baker's words: "Though these are not the weapons the Bush administration used to justify going to war, since they date from before the 1991 Gulf War, they do undermine the claims of those on the left -- too often repeated by members of the media -- that 'no' WMD existed in Iraq."
At WorldNetDaily, a June 21 news article played up the claim while burying the functional uselessness of those weapons. The article quoted "former U.N. weapons inspector" Tim Trevan, appearing on Fox News, claiming that "the weapons could still have posed a danger, even in a deteriorated state" -- not as a weapon but, rather, from just sitting here: "It goes from a liquid to a gooey mass."
CNSNews.com, meanwhile, also takes the technicality road -- with a self-promotion twist -- as its corporate bretheren at NewsBusters by claiming that the find "confirm[s] reporting in 2004 by Cybercast News Service that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, including mustard gas, when his country was invaded by coalition forces." It too downplays the degraded state of the munitions, insisting that the declassified report that contains the finding "appears to contradict" the claim that weapons were degraded, stating that "While agents degrade over time, chemical warfare agents remain hazardous and potentially lethal." That appears to refer to what Trevan said on Fox News -- that the danger is not from being used as a weapon but from just sitting there. In other words, you have walk up and touch that gooey mass leaking out of the munition for it to be a danger to you.
WND Deceives on Darwinism Topic: WorldNetDaily
A June 22 WorldNetDaily article touts that "More than 600 scientists holding doctoral degrees have gone on the record expressing skepticism about Darwin's theory of evolution and calling for critical examination of the evidence cited in its support."
If this sounds familiar, it should. WND did this same basic story back in February, when the list had 500 signatures. WND fails to make clear that this is the exact same petition it wrote about in February. Nothing newsworthy has happened on this front since then, other than getting a few more signatures and the pro-creationist Discovery Institute, which maintains the petition, issuing a press release -- which WND rewrote into this article.
As it did then, WND also fails to note that many of the signatories hold doctorates in fields other than biology that have little or no contact with evolutionary theory.
Another Reminder Topic: NewsBusters
Most of the people who write for the Media Research Center look at the media only through a conservative political prism and, thus, every issue the media faces has at least something to do with alleged media bias. This results in things like Mithridate Ombud's June 21 NewsBusters post, in which he/she/it suggests the following remedy for declining newspaper circulation:
Here's a suggestion for all you newspaper VP's. Why don't you get rid of the bias, the America-hating columnists, the socialist editorials, and the reporters pushing a gay/lesbian/transgendered/illegal alien/pro-abortion/anti-God/anti-gun agenda?
The pseudonymously named Ombud, if you'll recall, is the same person who thinks that journalists lack souls. No wonder Ombud doesn't use his/her real name -- he/she would have to stand behind such a statement.
Snip, Snip Topic: NewsBusters
A June 22 NewsBusters post by Matthew Sheffield made an interesting edit in repeating a Seattle Post-Intelligencer column on the less-than-dignified departures of both Dan Rather and Connie Chung from their respective TV gigs. Here's one paragraph that Sheffield didn't include, even though it contains a presumably sufficient amount of Rather-bashing for him (emphasis ours):
When one's steadily sinking career sails off a cliff after a reporting misstep, and said misstep involves a story, however true, that questions the president's National Guard service without having authenticated paperwork to back it up, it's time to retire.
One has to wonder: Is it MRC policy never to admit that parts of Rather's Bush National Guard story are true?
Headline of the Day Topic: CNSNews.com
"Benedict Arnold Was a 'War Hero,' Too"
-- Headline on a June 22 CNSNews.com column by Christopher Adamo attacking Sens. John Murtha and John Kerry as "not 'patriotic' nor are they voices of the 'loyal opposition,' for they can be neither patriotic nor loyal when 'carrying the water' for the mortal enemies of America."
AIM Hauls Out the Tabloid Canard Topic: Accuracy in Media
Today's alternate-universe quote of the day comes from Accuracy in Media's Cliff Kincaid, who claimed in a June 21 column floating the idea that a supermarket tabloid's sensational stories about President Bush are "political dirty tricks":
The right may be saddled with the embarrassing Ann Coulter, who accused a group of 9/11 widows of being "witches" and "harpies" and enjoying their husbands' deaths, but the left has to answer for Wayne Madsen, who is sticking by his sensational claim that President George Bush is having an extramarital affair with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Madsen's main offense here is being a source for a supermarket tabloid. Let's see ... Coulter: Hundreds of thousands of books in print, currently at the top of the New York Times bestseller list, appears on Today and Jay Leno. Madsen: Uh ... never heard of him. Not exactly the equivalent that Kincaid wants you to think.
Kincaid also plays the liberal-tabloid-media canard, noting that "one of the main financial sponsors" of American Media, Inc., publisher of the tabloids that are printing the sleazy Bush articles to which Kincaid is taking offense, "is Evercore Partners, an investment firm whose chairman is former Clinton Administration Treasury official Roger C. Altman," darkly suggesting there are "politics involved with the latest attack on Bush."
As we've previously noted, the Evercore-American Media connection is one that the ConWeb likes to haul out when it's convenient, ignoring the fact that the tabs also exposed Jesse Jackson's love child and repeated affair allegations about Bill Clinton. We don't recall Kincaid getting his knickers in a twist about that. In other words, in Kincaid's view, tabloids are truthful when they report nasty gossip about Democrats but are lying when they report nasty gossip about Republicans. (NewsMax has a particularly extreme love-hate relationship with the tabloids.)
A Reminder Topic: Media Research Center
In all of its most recent attacks on Dan Rather -- Brent Bozell's column, his MRC "Profile in Bias," Brent Baker's attacks on farewells dedicated to him, even a September 2005 CyberAlert item in which Rather defends the story -- the Media Research Center never disproves Rather's assertion that there is anything inaccurate in the parts of the Bush National Guard story that had nothing to do with the dubious documents. As Media Matters points out, there is plenty of evidence outside of those documents to support that claim.
Yet, as it continues to paint a broad, misleading brush over Rather, a June 21 NewsBusters item by Greg Sheffield repeats an Alan Caruba column castigating the media doing the same thing to Ann Coulter.
CNS Labeling Bias Watch Topic: CNSNews.com
The headline of a June 21 CNSNews.com article by Alison Espach uses the conservative term "pro-aborts" to describe what the article itself calls "a professional group of abortion providers."
Meanwhile, a June 19 CNS article by Susan Jones provides no ideological descriptor for the American Center for Law and Justice, despite its clear conservative leanings. Perhaps that's because Jones' article is essentially a rewrite of an ACLJ press release, and the only person quoted in it is ACLJ chief counsel Jay Sekulow.
WND Smackdown!, Part 2 Topic: WorldNetDaily
WorldNetDaily's Joseph Farah uses today's column to respond to Rebecca Hagelin's column yesterday attacking him for attacking the Heritage Foundation (where Hagelin works) and one of its major contributors in his Monday column. This is mostly about posturing -- Farah wants to paint himself as caring only about the issues and anyone who disagrees with him as motivated by money and popularity (as if Farah and WND are never motivated by that).
Farah disingenously paints the conflict as "the nature of WND. How many publishers would permit gratuitous slicing and dicing of themselves by one of their own weekly columnists?" In fact, the nature of WND is to highlight only its most extreme critics and portray them as representative of all its critics; its promotion of David Kupelian's book "The Marketing of Evil" is an example. (Another example: WND has yet to publicly acknowledge the existence of ConWebWatch, perhaps because we engage in fact-based journalistic criticism of WND.)
Farah also fails to mention that Hagelin is a former WND employee, which is likely the only reason WND printed her attack on Farah in the first place. Without that previous professional relationship, it probabaly would not have seen the light of day there.
Timmerman's Faulty Intelligence Topic: Newsmax
A June 21 (but posted today) NewsMax article by Kenneth Timmerman on Rep. Peter Hoekstra's views of intelligence matters repeats an unsubstantiated claim and ignores other facts.
Timmerman wrote that fired CIA agent Mary McCarthy "was identified in the media as having leaked information on the CIA secret prisons to Washington Post reporter Dana Priest." In fact, those reports, issued when the story of McCarthy firing first broke, have since been contradicted; a senior intelligence official told the Washington Post that the CIA "is not asserting that McCarthy was a key source of Priest's award-winning articles last year disclosing the agency's secret prisons."
Timmerman also plays up Hoekstra's claims that the firing of CIA director Porter Goss was "outrageous," blaming an "entrenched bureaucracy" who opposed Goss's efforts to reform the CIA. But Timmerman fails to note one significant factor in Goss' resignation: Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, whom Goss hired as the CIA's number-three man. Investigators are checking to Foggo's possible links to the bribery scandal that brought down Randy "Duke" Cunningham, and the New York Daily News and Newsweek have reported that Goss' failure to deal with Foggo was a factor is his own forced departure.
Just Askin' Topic: NewsBusters
If you're going to criticize a media outlet for conducting an interview of Ted Kennedy and not bring up Chappaquiddick, as Tim Graham does in a June 20 NewsBusters post, does that mean media outlets who interview Laura Bush should be similarly criticized for not noting the fact that she ran a stop sign and killed somebody?
WND Felon Update Topic: WorldNetDaily
A June 20 WorldNetDaily article by Art Moore details the latest doings by his Clinton-harrassing, convicted-felon buddy, Peter Paul. And, as he has done before, Moore whitewashes Paul's record of felony convictions.
Moore resorts to legal gobbledygook to describe Paul's most recent felony conviction: "Paul has pleaded guilty to a 10(b)5 violation of the Securities and Exchange Commission for not publicly disclosing control of Merrill Lynch margin accounts that held stocks in his company, Stan Lee Media. He has maintained that everything he did was under the aegis of Merrill Lynch management, compliance officers and corporate securities counsel."
PAUL admitted orchestrating a scheme in which he and others manipulated Stan Lee Media stock, trading it through numerous nominee accounts that hid from the investing public PAUL's ownership and control of large volumes of stock that were being traded. PAUL also admitted that to further the scheme, he sought to inflate and stabilize the price of the stock by instructing market makers in Stan Lee Media stock to execute trades that created a false appearance of constant demand and that concealed from the investing public the fact that PAUL had arranged for large blocks of stock to be sold at substantial discounts in after-hours trading. Finally, PAUL admitted that he had secretly borrowed millions of dollars on margin using as collateral the stock that he had traded through the nominee accounts; in this way PAUL concealed from the investing public that he was effectively liquidating a substantial part of his stock holdings in Stan Lee Media.
Why won't Moore describe Paul's felonies this clearly? Because Paul would lose what little credibility he has if people understood his felony record. Of course, Moore himself loses journalistic credibility every time he regurgitates Paul's claims without doing any fact-checking (which as we've noted, is a problem). Moore appears to be utterly enraptured by anything Paul says, no matter how dubious.
WND Smackdown! Topic: WorldNetDaily
WorldNetDaily editor Joseph Farah, in a June 19 column, attacked Republican Rep. Mike Pence because he supports an immigration reform plan that Farah and Pat Buchanan call "stealth amnesty." Farah further attacked the developers and promoters of that plan, the conservative Vernon K. Krieble Foundation and the Heritage Foundation, and attacked conservatives for "looking for handouts from Helen Krieble and affirmation from the Heritage Foundation."
It got a response: Rebecca Hagelin -- Heritage Foundation vice president and former vice president of communications for WND -- devoted her June 20 column to attacking Farah, claiming that he "makes numerous false charges and engages in character assassination based on sloppy research" and that he "concocts an extremely yellow tale – instead of investigating the facts." Hagelin concluded:
"Never let the facts get in the way of a good story," the saying goes. But Farah has done just that. In the process, he has maligned Mrs. Krieble and Rep. Pence – great Americans making great sacrifices to make America a better place.
There's no question that Joseph Farah is a red-blooded, true-blue American. But on this story, he comes out yellow.
Such direct, detailed criticism of WND in general and Farah in particular is extremely rare on the WND website (for instance, it refuses to publicly acknowledge the existence of ConWebWatch, even though we seem to have prompted a correction there yesterday). One can surmise that the only reason Hagelin's column ran at all is because she's a former WND employee.
WND even ran a letter (which aren't archived and cycle out after a week) criticizing Farah: "I believe your jump from disagreeing with Pence's proposals on immigration to personal attack are harmful to the cause and actually shows a side of you that I had not seen before. It was troubling."
Farah doesn't respond to any of this criticism; instead, he uses today's column for self-promotion, claiming that WND was the first to report the revelation, noted in Ron Suskind's new book, that al-Qaeda was planning to unleash poison gas in the New York subway system (though WND's account was less detailed than Suskind's).
Another Worthess NewsMax Poll Topic: Newsmax
To absolutely nobody's surprise, a statistically meaningless opt-in NewsMax poll found that most people like Ann Coulter.
A June 19 NewsMax article claims that the poll reveals "that Americans overwhelmingly support Coulter and strongly disagree with her critics." The article claimed that the poll drew "more than 90,000 respondents from sites across the Web, such as Drudge Report and The New York Times" -- read: NewsMax bought ads on these sites and, presumably, other conservative leaning sites and blogs -- but it doesn't say that the poll is meaningless because opt-in polls have no scientific validity. The article also does not reveal the full list of websites on which NewsMax advertised the poll, but you can assume that they are mostly conservative websites (the New York Times being thrown in as a ringer), thus further skewing the poll's numbers.
Nor does it reveal that the poll is, in reality, just a marketing tool to gather e-mail addresses for its mailing list.
The article claims that "NewsMax will provide the results of this poll to major media and share them with radio talk-show hosts across the country," but we can bet that NewsMax will not tell those hosts that the numbers mean nothing.