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Monday, August 21, 2006
CNS Questions Poll That Contradicts Conservative Agenda

An Aug. 21 article by Nathan Burchfiel promotes the concerns raised by "pro-life advocates" who attacked a NARAL Pro-Choice America poll finding that a majority of respondents agree that "we need to keep politicians and government out of women's personal decisions about whether or not to have an abortion." According to the article, the poll is "inconsistent with numerous other surveys indicating that most Americans prefer that abortion be less available," ostensibly because only "registered and likely voters" were polled. This means that the "the poll was unable to gauge the general population's opinion." Burchfiel quoted one person, the National Right to Life Committee's Susan Muskett, as saying, "I think you just need to consider this is a poll that's released by a pro-abortion group."

But just 10 days ago, Burchfiel reported on an immigration-related poll by a "conservative grassroots organization" without noting the group's anti-immigration agenda as a factor that could skew the poll's findings. As we noted, the group's poll did indeed skew toward reinforcing its agenda by using biased language such as "illegal alien" (though Burchfiel included a wonderful disclaimer about the pollster's relationship to the Media Research Center, CNS' parent).

We would ask why a conservative news outlet scrutinizes polls that promote non-conservative views more severely than those that promote conservative views, but it's all pretty self-explanatory, isn't it?

Posted by Terry K. at 6:05 PM EDT
WND vs. The Rest of the World on Kidnapped Journalists
Topic: WorldNetDaily

Shortly after the Aug. 14 kidnapping of Fox News correspondent Steve Centanni and cameraman Olaf Wiig in Gaza, a WorldNetDaily article by Aaron Klein proclaimed:

Sources in the Al Aqsa Brigades told WND "independent Palestinian gunmen" affiliated with their group carried out the kidnapping "completely on their own."

(Meanwhile, radio host Rusty Humphries -- a WND columnist on whose show Klein regularly appears -- takes Klein's assertion even further, declaring that he "believes it is the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade terrorist group which has kidnapped" Centanni and Wiig.)

But that's not the story being reported by folks not working for WND. An Aug. 20 Associated Press article, posted at Fox News, points out that "all the militant groups have denied involvement and no demands have been issued."

Somebody's wrong here -- is it the Associated Press or is it Klein? Well, Klein does have a history of letting his ideology get ahead of the facts and tarring Palestinans and Muslims every chance he can; WND was forced to retract a Klein article linking an Islamic charity to terrorists and accusing it of making a fraudulent appeal for money. That certainly casts a shadow over Klein's reporting.

Posted by Terry K. at 1:50 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, August 21, 2006 4:07 PM EDT
Speaking of Deadly Fantasies ...
Topic: NewsBusters

In an Aug. 21 NewsBusters post, Mark Finkelstein harrumphs over a editorial cartoon depicting Ann Coulter being shot at by airport security after she "absolutely refuses to give up her bottle of hydrogen peroxide":

Let's play one of our favorite games: 'Imagine.' Imagine that a conservative columnist had drawn a cartoon depicting a liberal woman icon as the target of a hail of police and military bullets.

OK, let's do that, Mark. Let's imagine that a conservative icon had lamented that Timothy McVeigh didn't blow up the New York Times building or expressed a desire to poison a Supreme Court justice. Oh, wait -- we don't have to imagine that because Coulter has done both of those things (and more). Coulter's own deadly fantasies -- and the failure of conservatives like Finkelstein to condemn them -- arguably set the stage for others to express similar fantasies about her, something Finkelstein fails to address. 

Finkelstein doesn't expect anyone to condemn this cartoon because of the purported liberal bias of the MSM. But Finkelstein won't condemn Coulter because of his clear bias; if it's OK for Coulter to fantasize about killing people, why is it not OK for others to fantasize about killing Coulter?

Posted by Terry K. at 11:11 AM EDT
Sunday, August 20, 2006
Conservative Stockholm Syndrome?
Topic: NewsBusters

When a conservative wanders off the conservative reservation -- that is, criticizes President Bush -- those still on the reservation must find a way to intellectually divorce themselves from that person's view. Which brings us to Tim Graham's Aug. 20 post regarding Joe Scarborugh's "Is Bush An Idiot?" segment on his MSNBC show last week (or, more specifically, the Washington Post's article on it). Graham comes up with the dumbest excuse ever to discount Scarborough's viewpoint -- Stockholm syndrome:

What [Post writer Peter] Baker does not consider what one might call the Scarborough Syndrome: being a conservative host inside a liberal network -- not to mention a liberal network that has a history of changing prime-time hosts like socks -- might compel you to being more critical of Bush and conservatives.

Graham also suggests that Scarborough's point of view isn't worth listening to because Scarborough "often buried his viewers in tabloid piffle like the unending JonBenet Ramsey case, which isn't exactly honoring the intellect of your viewers."

Perhaps, by serving up such ludicrous claims, it's Graham and the Media Research Center who should be ignored instead of Scarborough. 

Posted by Terry K. at 1:37 PM EDT
Updated: Sunday, August 20, 2006 8:08 PM EDT
WND Changing Position on Executing Adulterers?
Topic: WorldNetDaily

Back in January 2003, WorldNetDaily editor Joseph Farah penned a column asserting that the estranged husband of Clara Harris, who died when Harris ran him over with her car, "deserved what he got" because he was cheating on her and that Harris "did the right thing" by killing him. A new WND article, though, seems to exhibit some moderation on that position.

An Aug. 19 article by intern Chelsea Schilling reports that "a 34-year-old mother of two young children" in Iran faces execution by stoning "after being found guilty of committing 'adultery.' " It's not clear why "adultery" is in scare quotes here; while Schilling cites critics of Iran's use of strict Sharia law who point out that "adultery" under Sharia describes any intimate (not necessarily sexual) relationship between a married woman and a man to whom she is not married, she also notes that the woman's husband and brother were sentenced to short prison sentences for killing the woman's lover.

But given that back in 2003, Farah was lamenting that "there's no penalty any more for adultery," shouldn't WND be rejoicing that that someone was being put to death for the crime of adultery? Farah also called for a return to the days when "courageous clerics and wise elders practiced excommunication, disfellowshipping and shunning of moral reprobates who didn't put their families first." Is that not what's going on here?

The only difference we see is that Farah presumably would rather that adulterers be killed under Christian justice instead of Islamic justice. That, and perhaps he considers being run over with a car to be a more humane form of execution than stoning.

Posted by Terry K. at 1:15 PM EDT
Saturday, August 19, 2006
The New Legal Standard
Topic: NewsBusters

Another semi-prominent blogger (along with penis-obsessed Jeff Goldstein) has joined the NewsBusters stable -- Dan Riehl of Riehl World View. In an Aug. 19 post (cross-posted from his blog), Riehl attacks the New York Times and liberal blogger Glenn Greenwald for agreeing with the federal district court decision ruling that the Bush adminstration's warrantless surveillance program is unconstitutional because of reports that some people were "distancing themselves from the decision’s reasoning and rhetoric." That report comes from the Times itself, which Riehl bashes elsewhere in his post as among "purportedly professional sources of anti-Bush rhetoric" and displaying "agenda driven shallowness" and "caring not a wit about what does or doesn't make good legal sense." Which makes us wonder why the Times is suddenly so trustworthy on questions about the ruling.

Riehl accuses the Times and Greenwald of ignoring the "evolution of American Law. ... What mattered was that they were reading the outcome they wanted; how our legal system went about getting there was just so much grist for the mill" (he also calls Greenwald a "superficial hack"). But that's exactly how Riehl appears to be approaching the ruling. He clearly opposes it, presumably because he is not the outcome he wanted, since it contracts a policy the Bush administration supports; he offers no reason to oppose it other than that the Times and Greenwald support it. We suspect that if the judge had upheld the surveillance program, Riehl would be praising it up and down, and if the Times had similarly reported that people were "distancing themselves from the decision’s reasoning and rhetoric," he would be bashing it for promoting "anti-Bush rhetoric."

Riehl is no less "agenda driven" than he accuses the Times and Greenwald of being. It's not good form to attack others for allegedly engaging in the same behavior that you yourself are engaged in, as Mychal Massie has so ably demonstrated.

Posted by Terry K. at 11:16 PM EDT
NewsBusters: Your Bush Talking Points Echo Chamber
Topic: NewsBusters

An Aug. 19 NewsBusters post by Lyford Beverage is headlined "The Early Show Continues To Mis-label Terrorist Surveillance Program," but it might has well be labeled "NewsBusters Continues to Repeat Bush Talking Points on Surveillance Program."

As we've previously noted, NewsBusters in general and Beverage in particular has been fond of repeating the Bush talking point of calling the NSA warrantless surveillance program a "terrorist surveillance program," which is misleading: the NSA does not know for sure that the subject of surveillance is, in fact, a terrorist when surveillance begins.

Beverage's argument is that "The Early Show" is being "inaccurate or incomplete" in referring to the program as a "domestic surveillance program" (an argument he has also previously made). Beverage then tries to parse the definition of "domestic," claiming:

The program is not, despite the mainstream press' continued insistence, a "domestic" surveillance program. The NSA is not monitoring American's domestic calls without warrants, or at least, if they are, that has not been made public. That's not what the program being talked about covers. The NSA is monitoring overseas communications of suspected terrorists and terrorism supporters. If some of those communications are into the United States, they're continuing to monitor. That doesn't make the conversations "domestic."

But if "some of those communications are into the United States," that makes the call, at least in part, domestic. Beverage then switches to the term "entirely domestic conversations," which is deliberately muddying the issue, then insists that "The program that has been talked about and discussed is not about surveilling Americans." If one end of the call is in the United States, then an American is, in fact, being surveilled.

Note to Mr. Beverage: Rebuffing a claim with political talking points isn't exactly "newsbusting." 

Posted by Terry K. at 10:38 AM EDT
Friday, August 18, 2006
NewsBusters vs. Reality
Topic: NewsBusters

"Sadly, yes, my brother is a Republican ... he's running for lt. governor of Pennsylvania. If he'd watch my show, I'm sure he would be convinced of the error of his ways ..."

-- "Gaggle" cartoon, NewsBusters, Aug. 18

" And a special nod to my brother Jim Matthews, my little brother, my younger brother, who this weekend won the Republican endorsement for lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania. ... Our family is very proud of him."

-- Chris Matthews, "Hardball," Feb. 13

"If I ever knew that Chris Matthews' brother Jim Matthews is the Republican candidate for Lt. Governor of Pennsylvania, I had forgotten. "

-- Mark Finkelstein, NewsBusters post, Aug. 17

"My -- my brother -- and I always like to remind people of this, although I am not involved at all -- is running for lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania as a Republican. He is a Republican."

-- Chris Matthews, "Hardball," July 12

Posted by Terry K. at 2:58 PM EDT
Kessler's Fluff du Jour
Topic: Newsmax
An Aug. 17 NewsMax article by Bush administration fluffmeister Ronald Kessler gives the softball profile treatment to Kevin Sullivan, the new White House communications director. Kessler unironically allows Sullivan to do his job, quoting him as saying, "The president has such great humanity, and he's so good with people, and the public doesn't see that enough."

Posted by Terry K. at 1:40 PM EDT
WND Roots for Overthrow of Olmert
Topic: WorldNetDaily

Further undermining a political leader during a time of war, WorldNetDaily delivers a one-two punch as part of its continuing attacks on Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert. An Aug. 18 article by anti-Olmert reporter Aaron Klein quotes Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt as predicting that questions over how Israel fought its conflict with Hezbollah -- questions Klein has been eager to promote through unsourced anonymous accusations -- will "likely bring down Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's government."

Meanwhile, WND editor Joseph Farah goes on an anti-Olmert rant in an Aug. 18 column, calling Ehud's government "morally bankrupt" and claiming that its acceptance of a cease-fire was a "surrender":

For the life of me, I don't understand why Israeli civilians are not massing in the streets of Jerusalem demanding the immediate resignation of Olmert and his Cabinet. The Israeli army is returning from Lebanon with its tail between its legs.

Farah concluded: "Israel has just one shot at surviving its terminal illness – cutting out the cancer that is the Olmert government."

Posted by Terry K. at 11:27 AM EDT
The Depiction=Approval Fallacy
Topic: NewsBusters

One prominent feature of the ConWeb is what we call the Depiction=Approval Fallacy, which holds that any behavior depicted by a media outlet that does not explicitly condemn that behavior, by default, approves of that behavior. It's a logical fallacy because failure to express disapproval does not mean approval. This is seen most often in gay-related issues, in which outlets such as WorldNetDaily often criticize things as, say, "pro-homosexual" simply because they aren't explicityly anti-homosexual.

It's also one of the arguments conservatives use in making accusations of liberal bias. NewsBusters helpfully provides a nice example of this in an Aug. 16 post claiming the the Washington Post "glorifies" what he called "liberal suburban dumpster divers who call themselves 'freegans' " by writing an article about the trend.

But Shepherd fails to note that the article points out that grocery stores throwing out the food disapprove of the practice, not least because they believe it's not fit to be eaten. The article also notes one dumpster-diver who "said he does not eat out of the dumpster because he believes privileged people should not take free food from people who need it"; he instead gives the food he finds that way to the homeless.

A longer version of Shepherd's article on the MRC's Business & Media Institute website complains that the article "didn’t include any law enforcement officials or inform her readers of any criminal penalties a so-called 'freegan' can rack up when foraging for expired foodstuffs." Still, Shepherd offers no evidence that the lack of such information automatically means that dumpster-diving is being "glorified."

Posted by Terry K. at 1:22 AM EDT
Thursday, August 17, 2006
Kincaid Opposes HPV Vaccine?
Topic: Accuracy in Media

Does Accuracy in Media's Cliff Kincaid oppose giving a vaccine to stop the human papilloma virus (HPV) -- which can lead to cervical cancer in women -- to young people? That's the vibe we're getting from Kincaid's Aug. 17 AIM column. While most of the column is dedicated to calling research on an AIDS vaccine a waste of money, Kincaid notes the following:

There are also calls to force young people to take a new vaccine, Gardasil, to combat the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV), which can lead to cervical cancer in women.

Kincaid certainly seems to oppose any mandatory vaccination -- something that would put him in league with many conservatives. But some conservatives take that opposition further; as The New Republic notes, some conservatives see the vaccine as a license for promiscuity and oppose giving it to young people altogether. Does Kincaid think that too? He doesn't say.

Posted by Terry K. at 5:33 PM EDT
A Meeting of the Wingnut Minds
Topic: Newsmax

An Aug. 17 NewsMax article provides us with the spectacle of Phil Brennan -- best known around these parts for his poorly written, factually dubious attack on Bill Moyers -- first drooling over David Horowitz's questionably sourced book "The Shadow Party," then tossing softballs at Horowitz in a Q-and-A.

Brennan starts off by predictably praising "The Shadow Party," writing of the book's purported claims about George Soros: "He might just be the most dangerous man in America, a frenzied leftist ideologue with both a surfeit of the money – an estimated $33 billion - and the brains needed to use his money skillfully to impose his twisted will on the United States and the world." Brennan also notes that the book details "a network of private think tanks, foundations, unions, stealth political action committees, and other front groups that exist only to carry out Soros' sinister plans for America and the world."

The last half of Brennan's article is dedciated to an interview of Horowitz himself. Brennan tosses such hard-hitting questions as "Just how dangerous is George Soros?" and "What is Soros ultimate aim?" Horowitz responds in kind with his anti-Soros spiel, including the following bons mots:

-- "He has overthrown many governments – he's gotten away with a lot."

-- "He regards the Bush administration as a radical administration. He has this hatred of George Bush. Bush-hatred is a displacement of hatred for the United States."

-- "George Soros has put together what is really epic making on his part – he's put together an organization – a shadow party that consists of anti-American billionaires, mob-run unions and government unions, 60s radicals who want a revolution in this country, and the heart of the Democratic party apparatus."

Of coruse, there's no mention of that other Shadow Party run by that other billionaire political activist -- Richard Mellon Scaife, funder of both NewsMax and the Horowitz organization.

And we're still waiting on that "effective" response to come from Horowitz and co-author Richard Poe regarding Media Matters' takedown of their book's dubious claims. It must really be effective.

Posted by Terry K. at 3:23 PM EDT
Counterspin of the Day
Topic: NewsBusters

In an Aug. 17 NewsBusters post endeavoring to defect criticism of George Allen's "macaca" comment, Tim Graham joins Allen in beating up on S.R. Sidarth's haircut, using a Washington Post article explaining that the style is "popular in Spain" as the basis:

(Counter-spin to the Post: if Allen was joking about Sidarth being a representative of Hollywood-screenwriter Jim Webb, joking about the exotic Hollywood lifestyle vs. Virginia's, does not the fancy Spain-hair prove the oh-so-cosmopolitan point a bit?)

Graham not only offers no evidence that Allen was referring to the "exotic Hollywood lifestyle," he tips his hand to how the Republicans will attack Webb: as an elitist Hollywood type who's not a "real" Virginian. Graham, of course, fails to note that by the same standard, the California-born Allen is arguably not a "real" Virginian either.

And does Graham really find it so out of character for a young person to have a trendy hairstyle that he needs to bash it as " fancy Spain-hair" and "oh-so-cosmopolitan"?

Posted by Terry K. at 1:29 PM EDT
CNS Misleads on Field Hearing

An Aug. 17 article by Kevin Mooney misleadingly claims that the entire House Judiciary Committee is involved in field hearings designed to promote the House version of an immigration reform bill and attack the Senate's version of the bill.

Mooney starts the article by writing, "Key provisions of the border security bill passed by the U.S. Senate are 'meaningless' according to the House Judiciary Committee, which is holding a field hearing on the bill in El Paso, Texas, Thursday." Later, he wrote, "The House committee is also concerned that the Senate bill would inhibit local sheriffs and police departments that want to help enforce immigration laws. Mooney further attributes a statement attacking the border fence provision in the Senate bill to the entire committee.

In fact, as the Hotline details, these field hearings are being operated only by the Republicans on the committee, not the entire committee. (Perhaps the fact that the only committee members Mooney quotes are Republicans might have clued him into that.) While the press release issued by committee chairman James Sensenbrenner, from which Mooney pulled his quote criticizing the Senate's border fence provision, obscures the fact that the statement is coming only from the committee's Republicans, the partisan nature of the statement should have set off an alarm bell or two for Mooney as well.

In other words, this is a Republican spin item being passed off as a "news" article.

Posted by Terry K. at 11:33 AM EDT

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