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Friday, May 9, 2008
Depiction-Equals-Approval Fallacy Watch
Topic: NewsBusters

The headline on Warner Todd Huston's May 9 NewsBusters post howls: 'Outrageous: McClatchy Praises Terrorist's 'Charity Work'." Huston writes:

McClatchy had their hearts go aflutter over Sadr's "humanitarian aid" imagining it to be the "other" softer side of the terror chieftain giving Sadr a nice little bit of free positive publicity quite despite the truth of his murderous actions.


Don't you love how they give legitimacy to "Sadr City's main humanitarian organization"? This is Muqtada al Sadr we are talking about here. He is 100% backed by one of our biggest enemies in the world, Iran. Yet, here is McClatchy acting as if the Sadrists are a legitimate "humanitarian aid" group.


This is shameless pandering to a murderer and terrorist.


Sadr is no humanitarian. He couldn't care less about people other than how he can use them to continue his terrorist activities. Let's put it this way: if a child predator gives a child some candy, should we praise the molester for selflessly feeding the children? Obviously, the molester's motives are to rape the child, so the food is a lure not an altruistic gift! This is the same with Sadr and his henchmen. They are holding a bit of candy out so that they may further rape the people of Iraq.

But, to McClatchy, Sadr is a really good guy because of this supposed "charity work."

Ah, the Depiction-Equals-Approval Fallacy at work.

Of course, the McClatchy article in question doesn't "praise" al-Sadr or call him "a really good guy"; rather, it points out that he is what passes for a functioning government in that area and that public support for his charity work is undermining the U.S. military in Iraq. Huston included excerpts from the article in his post -- all taken out of context. Here's what Huston didn't excerpt:

Sadr, the fiery anti-American Shiite cleric, has again emerged as the U.S. military's No. 1 problem in Iraq, as his followers wage an increasingly bloody struggle with American soldiers for control of impoverished, militia-infested Sadr City.


Analysts point out that Hezbollah's military wing is much more disciplined than Sadr's younger and more fractured movement. But Sadr's charity work helps to maintain popular support for his movement even as its confrontations with U.S. and Iraqi forces plunge places such as Sadr City deeper into chaos.

"It's a reflection of the existing vacuum and the extremely poor capacity of the state to step in and provide these services," said Peter Harling, an Iraq expert with the International Crisis Group, a conflict-resolution think tank.

International aid workers and ordinary Iraqis say that the U.S.-backed Iraqi government is sitting on billions of dollars meant for humanitarian projects. Shiite and Sunni militias have stepped in to fill the gap, assuming control of basic services in neighborhoods they control.

"We would be glad if the government could really provide services," said Ibrahim al Jabri, who oversees the Sadr organization's humanitarian projects in eastern Baghdad, including Sadr City.

"But until now there is nothing provided by the government. It's not possible just to leave people waiting."

Iraqi government efforts to help war victims, by contrast, are a bureaucratic morass. The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs has established a committee to help Iraq's war widows, who are eligible to receive monthly assistance payments of $40 to $80. But advocates say that cases take months or years to wind through the system, and very few applicants end up receiving help.


Lt. Col. Frank Curtis of the 432 Civil Affairs Battalion in Sadr City is trying to jumpstart reconstruction efforts and help Iraqi officials spend the allocated money for the area. Now they get about 70 people a day at the center.

He acknowledged that the Mahdi Army may pay money to families but said that people are tired of its intimidation campaigns.

"Maybe they pay that money, but what the populace tells us and the sheiks tell us is that basically what they do is they steal their money and restrict where they're allowed to go," he said. "Everybody out there has to pay for the right to live in their home."

Warner, honey: Reporting something does not equal approval of what is being reported. But falsely conflating the two is something MRC writers seem to enjoy doing.

Posted by Terry K. at 4:41 PM EDT
Klein Decides What Olmert Is 'Implying' Instead of Actually Quoting Olmert
Topic: WorldNetDaily

In a may 9 WorldNetDaily article about a "bribery and corruption case" involving Israeli prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Aaron Klein wrote:

The Israeli leader denied any wrongdoing in the case, which has dominated headlines here this week and has prompted politicians from across the political spectrum to call for Olmert to step down.

"I never took bribes, I never took a penny for myself," said Olmert.

His comments, however, imply money was indeed exchanged.

Meanwhile, Reuters reported in an article appearing more than 12 hours before Klein's:

On Thursday, Olmert said all the cash he received -- put at hundreds of thousands of dollars by one judicial source -- was legitimate support from New York financier Morris Talansky to fund various election campaigns over nearly a decade from 1993.


In a terse six-minute address, Olmert said Talansky funded his two successful campaigns for mayor of Jerusalem in 1993 and 1998, an unsuccessful bid to lead the right-wing Likud party in 1999 and a further internal Likud election in 2002. He also said the American "helped me cover deficits" after elections.

Curiously, Klein chose to "imply" what Olmert said, rather than report what Olmert actually said -- that the money from Talansky funded his political campaigns but didn't go to Olmert personally.

Why would Klein put words in Olmert's mouth when he had actual words from Olmert to quote? Who knows? Perhaps AKlein was trying to make Olmert look as sinister as possible -- Klein does have an obvious hatred for the guy, even trying to undermine him during a time of war -- and claiming to report what Olmert "implied" made him look even more sinister.

Klein's attempt to "imply" Olmert is doubly laughable given that Klein himself has implied things that have gotten him into trouble. In November 2006, he implied that a $2 million ransom for the release of two Fox News journalists who had been kidnapped in Gaza was paid by Fox News itself. Klein vehemently insisted that he "never claimed Fox News paid money," but as we pointed out, he never explicitly stated in his original article that Fox News didn't pay the ransom.

Further, as he has done in his previous reporting on Olmert, Klein continues his aversion to accurately labeling right-wingers, describing Likud only as the "opposition party" while using "leftist" and "extreme leftist" to label other parties mentioned in his article.

Posted by Terry K. at 3:14 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, May 9, 2008 3:20 PM EDT
MRC-Fox News Appearance Watch
Topic: Media Research Center

MRC chief Brent Bozell appeared May 9 on "Fox & Friends." Following the template, Bozell appears solo and is not identified as a conservative.

Referencing the murky endorsement of Barack Obama by Hamas, Bozell said, "Wasn't it bin Laden who endorsed John Kerry in '04? And when Republicans talked about that, liberals said, 'Oh, well, that's awful. That's dirty politics. You can't talk about that." In fact, as Ron Suskind wrote, bin Laden's pre-election 2004 videotape, which conservatives portrayed as an endorsement of Kerry but contained no explicit endorsement, was actually "designed to assist the President's reelection."

Posted by Terry K. at 11:25 AM EDT
Farah Demands Credit He Doesn't Deserve
Topic: WorldNetDaily

Joseph Farah wants credit, dammit! From his May 9 WorldNetDaily column:

Yesterday, a story reported exclusively in WND became the hottest topic in the country as Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama sparred over a statement by a Hamas leader that sounded much like an endorsement of the latter.

There were hundreds of stories about the political feud in print. The story led most TV and radio newscasts in the late afternoon. It was the buzz of many talk shows from coast to coast.

All of these stories, newscasts and talk shows have one amazing thing in common: Not one mentioned the context of Hamas' kind words about Obama, the forum in which they were made, or the name of the only news agency that published them.

Um, wasn't this statement made on John Batchelor's radio show before it was reported on WND? Strangely, there's no mention of Batchelor -- who certainly deserves at least part of the credit -- anywhere in Farah's column.

Of course, Farah doesn't explain why a Hamas spokesman would chat up pro-Israel, anti-Hamas activists like Batchelor and WND's Aaron Klein, let alone why a Hamas spokesman would willingly contribute to their anti-Obama agenda, or why anyone should take the words of a Hamas spokesman at face value.

Farah goes on to whine:

They don't like to acknowledge the impact WND and the New Media are actually having on our society including our political system. 

Not to mention libel lawsuits.

It is indecent and shameful that other media people would overlook his work in this way. They overlooked his original story. It wasn't deemed important enough to be picked up by any other news agency. Only when it was picked up by a presidential candidate was it ever mentioned again. But, even then, not one other media enterprise had the common decency to explain the "who, what, when, where, why and how" of that story's origin.

But I won't accept that.

If the Big Media won't credit WND for its stories, maybe I should not credit them for theirs.

Ah, but he already has.

Posted by Terry K. at 1:22 AM EDT
'An Unusually Misguided Display of Anti-Porn Hysteria'
Topic: WorldNetDaily

Someone who can speak somewhat authoritatively on porn weighs in on Chelsea Schilling's manufactured Wikipedia porn scandal. From Fleshbot (NSFW, since they show the pictures Schilling is too afraid to):

Not only is this an unusually misguided display of anti-porn hysteria—anyone looking for free unblocked smut can do a lot better than Wikipedia—but their complaints show a shocking misunderstanding of how Wikipedia actually works. It's completely created, edited and policed by its users —i.e. anyone and everyone—and if there's a problem the users are the ones who fix it.

Take that infamous 1976 Scorpions album cover, which could be considered child pornography: it might have been banned, but one could also argue that it has some sort of historical relevance. If the community doesn't agree, then the community of Wikipedia users can remove it ... which they eventually did. (Here's the discussion about it, which predates the WND article.)

Tattling to the FBI about nudie pics on the internet is like complaining to Congress about evolution. Hating it enough won't make it go away. Besides, one way or another people have to learn about strippers—so it's either on Wikipedia or in a strip club. Take your pick.

Meanwhile, Schilling's latest article claims once again that "the FBI is reviewing the image" of the Scorpions album cover without offering any actual evidence it is, in fact, doing so. Schilling also repeats the results of WND's meaningless opt-in poll on the subject.

Posted by Terry K. at 1:06 AM EDT
Thursday, May 8, 2008
Aaron Klein's Scandal Bias
Topic: WorldNetDaily

Yet another example of Aaron Klein's biased reporting: A May 8 article on Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's alleged involvement in a "very serious criminal investigation" is his second in three days to feature it. But as we've noted, Klein has never done an article on the rape scandal involving former Israeli President Moshe Katsav (and has mentioned it only in passing) -- presumably because Katsav is a member of the right-wing Likud Party, with whom Klein sympathizes.

Klein continues his aversion to accurately labeling right-wingers, describing Likud only as the "opposition party" while throwing out "leftist" and "extreme leftist" for other parties mentioned in his article.

Posted by Terry K. at 4:11 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, May 8, 2008 5:11 PM EDT
New Article: Schmoozing With Smearmongers
Topic: WorldNetDaily
Why is a member of Hamas chatting up -- and endorsing Barack Obama with -- conservative radio host John Batchelor and right-wing WorldNetDaily writer Aaron Klein, who are pro-Israel and anti-Hamas? Read more >>

Posted by Terry K. at 1:42 AM EDT
Topic: WorldNetDaily


In a May 7 WorldNetDaily article, Chelsea Schilling follows up on her alarmist "Wikipornia" article accusing Wikipedia of peddling "sexually explicit images and content" but failing to explain that they appear in the context of an encyclopedia.

This time, Schilling focuses on a single image, the non-U.S. cover of the Scorpions' 1976 album "Virgin Killer," calling it a "photo of a nude adolescent that could violate federal child-pornography laws."

But Schilling does not explain that child nudity is not the same as child pornography, as some parents can attest. Pornography, child or adult, involves "sexually explicit conduct" or images on websites that "exist[] for the sexual stimulation of viewers." Given that Wikipedia is not a porn site (no matter how much Schilling and Matt Barber want to potray it as one), and given that the picture's primary use in Wikipedia is for illustrative purposes, not for "the sexual stimulation of viewers," Schilling would have a hard time pressing a federal child-porn investigation.

Of course, Schilling never explains any of this -- she's too busy trying to manufacture controversy and distort facts by smearing Wikipedia as a porn merchant. 

UPDATE: A couple other things worth noting about Schilling's article:

-- She claims "the FBI is now reviewing" the photo, but she offers no evidence -- i.e., a quote from an FBI spokesman -- that this is, in fact, the case. Schilling's previous article stated, though, that Matt Barber "said he will be contacting the Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney's office to determine whether Wikipedia may be engaging in the dissemination of illegal obscenity." Is that what she's going by?

-- She concludes: "In a WND poll related to that story, the No. 1 response at more than 47 percent had readers saying Wikipedia is clearly violating U.S. obscenity laws and should face prosecution." As we've detailed, since WND polls are opt-in, the results have no basis in reality and are not a reliable indicator of anyone's opinion on anything.

Posted by Terry K. at 1:16 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, May 8, 2008 9:22 AM EDT
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
Newsmax Columnist Demostrates Lack of Self-Awareness
Topic: Newsmax

From a May 7 Newsmax column by John L. Perry:

It wasn’t enough that journalists’ opinions (just forget the facts, ma’am) were choking out the sunlight in journalism like kudzu vine. Those opinions not only had to be seen and heard, they also had to be followed by the folks who make things happen.

The next leap, from influencers of action to takers of actions, was a short hop.

Today, the goal of insatiable pseudo-journalists has metastasized from being among the elite to being an equal of the elite who not only decide what’s to be done but actual do the doing.

Put more clearly, the accepted standard for failure among today’s aspiring, and aspired, pseudo-journalists is to become ineffectual, or, God forbid, irrelevant.

Assisting them in those pursuits, it became acceptable to write the news as those manipulators wished the world to appear, to make the soil of society more fertile for the seed of their ideological agenda.

Wearing self-deceiving blinkers like that, it’s no wonder today’s pseudo-journalists don’t get it, don’t get it why they, and the politicians cozying up to them, are the only ones left who have much respect for them or even take them seriously anymore.

What’s happened is that these pseudo-journalists have sucked the life’s blood out of journalism, and turned what was once a noble and respected profession into an empty husk.

Does that sound like a certain news organization we know?

Not to Perry. Instead, he concludes that "It is the leftists who are robbing this country of its genuine journalism," offering no evidence to back it up and refusing to examine the role his employer has played in debasing "genuine journalism" (something Perry has a habit of doing).

Posted by Terry K. at 4:17 PM EDT
Topic: WorldNetDaily

New WorldNetDaily hire Chelsea Schilling demonstrates that she's on board with WND's slanted agenda in a May 6 article that begins:

Wikipedia, the online "free encyclopedia" written and edited by its users that contains 9 million articles in 253 languages, now includes detailed photos of nude homosexual men engaging in sex acts and a variety of other sexually explicit images and content.

While Schilling actually talks to Wikipedia officials -- an relatively rare instance of WND actually making an effort to report both sides of the story -- she gives bigger prominence to attacks on Wikipedia by, you guessed it, Matt Barber.

While Schilling offers vivid descriptions of the Wikipedia images that offend her, nowhere does she describe the context in which those images appear -- which, given that we're talking about an encyclopedia that, in the words of a Wikipedia rep Schilling quoted, "contains the sum of all human knowledge," is an important element of the story. Nor does she note how many pages of those 9 million contain such images; her use of Barber's calling Wikipedia "a bunch of hard-core pornographers," without giving anyone from Wikipedia any apparent opportunity to respond to Barber, suggests that WND's ultimate goal is to discredit Wikipedia. (In that case, it had better tell Aaron Klein to delete his puffery-laden Wikipedia page so he doesn't spend so much time scrubbing criticism of him from it.)

Further, while offering a sole heavily censored image of "one of the more mild photos featured on Wikipedia in the 'striptease' entry," she does not provide links so that readers can judge for themselves the content and context (which, sadly, runs against WND's history of illustrating the things that offend it so).

And yes, the headline blurb for this article on WND's front page reads, "Wikipedia or Wikipornia?"

Posted by Terry K. at 2:27 PM EDT
WND Anti-Gay Agenda Watch
Topic: WorldNetDaily

WorldNetDaily keeps up its anti-gay agenda in a May 6 article headlined "'Gay' indoctrination starts in Minneapolis."

Of course, there is no "indoctrination" going on; the Minneapolis school district is merely instituting an anti-bullying program, "Welcoming Schools," that covers homosexual issues. But WND asserts without evidence that it is a "special interest program" that "promote[s] homosexuality," put together by the Human Rights Campaign, "which advocates for and promotes homosexuality."

The article uncritically repeats claims (pulled from a press release) by the conservative, anti-gay Alliance Defense Fund that the Minnapolis program "further[s]" and "promote[s] the homosexual agenda" and is designed to "indoctrinate young children." Like WND, the ADF offers no evidence to back that up, let alone how any mention of homosexuality specifically "promote[s] the homosexual agenda."

The article also references WND's previous anti-gay reporting, noting "the pro-homosexual 'Day of Silence'" and adding: "The advanced state of California's homosexual indoctrination program for public school students also has been documented." As we've documented, there's no "indoctrination" going on there, either; California merely added "sexual orientation" to a list of characteristics California schools are not allowed to "promote[] a discriminatory bias" against.

Posted by Terry K. at 9:22 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, May 7, 2008 9:28 AM EDT
AIM Attacks Kessler Again Over McCarthy
Topic: Accuracy in Media

Accuracy in Media has launched its second attack on Ronald Kessler's Wall Street Journal article countering Joe McCarthy revisionism. This time, a May 6 piece by the chief McCarthy revisionist himself, M. Stanton Evans, goes after Kessler's article by calling it "an odd amalgam of unverifiable hearsay and a handful of items checkable from the record. It's noteworthy that, on the checkable matters, Kessler is repeatedly, and egregiously, in error." Evans added: "Like many other critics of Joe McCarthy, Ronald Kessler would be more persuasive if he knew something of the subject."

But, like Wes Vernon before him, Evans fails to note that Kessler is a fellow conservative who works for conservative website Newsmax. 

So Kessler has been on the receiving end of two smackdowns by McCarthy apologists. How will Kessler respond?

Posted by Terry K. at 12:34 AM EDT
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Are You Biased Enough To Work For WND?
Topic: WorldNetDaily

A May 5 WorldNetDaily job posting for a "highly motivated editor-writer" begins: "Do you have what it takes to be part of the WND editorial team?"

While the posting lists only "demonstrable experience in reporting and editing" as a requirement, there's another important part of "what it takes" that's not mentioned: a desire to slant the news to the right, unfairly depict those you don't agree with and frame their claims through the eyes of their critics, and to portray conservative and/or right-wing Christians and Jews as positively as possible while refusing to report any criticism of them (or, if it is reported, not treat it as legitimate).

Well, that's obviously how folks like Aaron Klein and Bob Unruh got their WND gigs. Joseph Farah wouldn't have hired them if they didn't.

Posted by Terry K. at 5:12 PM EDT
NewsBusters Puts Words in Reporter's Mouth
Topic: NewsBusters

Asserting that "a liberal print journalist has seen racism behind conservative concerns about Sen. Barack Obama," a May 6 NewsBusters post by Lyndsi Thomas claims that Washington Post writer Shankar Vedantam "asserted" in an article "that it is not Revered Jeremiah Wright’s incendiary comments that have damaged Obama, it is his race, sex and public style. If Wright were a white female who wrote her outlandish ideas in a scholarly journal, Vedantam thinks the effects would not be the same."

But Vedantam didn't "assert" anything. Indeed, there are no unattributed assertions in the article that can be interpreted to represent Vedantam's own view; Vedantam presents the article as a "thought experiment." Vedantam merely reported that "social psychologist Steven Neuberg believes that Wright has damaged the biracial Obama because, in his public persona -- as much as in his views -- he activates unconscious fears and racial stereotypes that many voters have about angry black men." Despite Thomas' suggestion that the article was about "racism behind conservative concerns" about Wright, the word "conservative" appears nowhere in Vedantam's article.

Further, Thomas does not know for a fact that Vedantam is a "liberal print journalist." As fellow MRC'er Tim Graham has a habit of doing, Thomas is conflating the views of those whom the reporter quotes with the (supposed) views of the reporter him/herself.

Posted by Terry K. at 2:08 PM EDT
WND Suddenly Offended by Hitler Comparison
Topic: WorldNetDaily

The headline of a May 5 WorldNetDaily article shouts, "Evolutionist compares rabbi to Hitler!" It's a reference to Richard Dawkins alleging that Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, in a debate of sorts with Dawkins over evolution, delivered "a shrieking rant, delivered with an intemperate stridency of which Hitler himself might have been proud."

Why is WND so shocked? Its writers and columnists have regularly smeared those it doesn't like with Nazi allusions. Among their targets:

Critics of homeschooling/supporters of public schools


Al Gore

Bill Clinton

Hillary Clinton

"liberal special-interest groups"

Supporters of evolution

American Civil Liberties Union

And if the bone of contention is that Dawkins likened a Jew to Hitler, remember that WND editor Joseph Farah did essentially the same thing in September 2007, asserting that Israeli leaders Ehud Olmert and Shimon Peres have a "final solution" to the dispute over the Temple Mount.

Posted by Terry K. at 8:58 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, May 6, 2008 11:40 AM EDT

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