Media Mythbusters Making Its Own Myths Topic: Washington Examiner
A new website has launched, Media Mythbusters -- promoted in a July 19 Washington Examiner column by Lorie Byrd -- with the goal of purporting to "debunk myths that take hold as a result of inaccurate or irresponsible media reports." But the website and the folks behind it are apparently intent on building a few myths of their own.
The first myth involves the partisan nature of the website. Ideologies are kept under wraps and most language is neutral, but site leader Byrd of the Wizbang blog -- as well as the rest of the declared contributors -- are all conservatives, and their target is the media they deride as liberal. Don't look for any myths promulgated by, say, Fox News here. Don't expect a section on Amir Taheri, who used conservative-leaning papers (aided by conservative blogs like NewsBusters) to spread the false claim that the Iranian parliament passed a law that would require the country's Jews and Christians to wear colored badges to identify them and other religious minorities as non-Muslims.
Indeed, the list of subjects covered (listed on the blog) -- Rathergate, Stephen Glass, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth -- reads like a who's who of conservative attacks on the "liberal" media. And even then, there's a lot more myth-making than truth happening. Indeed, many of the entries appear to be copied-and-pasted out of conservative blogs.
For instance, Byrd claimed in her Examiner column that the "Sunni burning six" story -- in which the Associated Press reported that several Iraq Sunnis were burned alive, a story corroborated by an Iraqi police captain named Jamil Hussein -- "was retracted, and that 'Capt. Jamil Hussein' was a pseudonym." But nowhere in Media Mythbusters' Jamil Hussein section does it unequivocally state that the AP retracted the story.
Further, in the Jamil Hussein section is a copy of a blog entry by Michelle Malkin asserting that because parts of four mosques were still standing, they were not "destroyed" as the AP reported; nowhere does the entry note that at least one of those mosques had its dome blown off -- which arguably fits the description of "destroyed."
The site is in a wiki format and presumably subject to change. We have doubts about how much change will actually occur, though, or whether any balance will be brought to the site. While the site's front page states, "Many of the Media Mythbusters contributors are members of the New Media with experience debunking and/or reporting on questionable reporting from major media outlets," it then adds, "Only approved contributors will be allowed to post at the Media Mythbusters site" -- something of a departure from a true wiki, which has fewer restrictions on contributors.
So, in the future, look for Media Mythbusters to become a cudgel to bash the "mainstream" (read: "liberal") media -- and for ConWebWatch never to become an "approved contributor," despite our own historyofbustingmediamyths.
A July 20 CNSNews.com article by Susan Jones states that former CNS editor-in-chief David Thibault has died of cancer. Our condolences go to his family and friends.
Jones writes of Thibault: "Under his leadership, the fledgling Cybercast News Service thrived and grew into a real journalistic powerhouse in the 'new media.'" At the risk of speaking ill of the dead, we note that Thibault was responsible for a few lowlights as well:
Thibault vociferously defended CNS' efforts to smear Democratic strategist Paul Begala, falsely claiming that Begala had said that Republicans are trying to kill him and his family.
Thibault similarly praised CNS' attacks on Rep. John Murtha, promoting smears advanced by defeated political opponents and other disgruntled and dead folks. Thibault even attempted to argue that CNS wasn't a conservative news organization.
Thibault insisted that Jeff Gannon -- the former Talon News employee discovered to be a conservative shill who moonlighted in the sex trade -- was no conservative because he was a "homosexual hooker" and that the only reason Gannon was singled out was that he "would have betrayed the liberal cause with conservative-slanted writing."
Lest you think this is too harsh, we remind you that upon Peter Jennings' death in 2005, the first response of the Media Research Center was to remind its readers that "[t]he MRC's archive is packed with documentation of liberal bias from Peter Jennings."
Bates Falsely Attacks Sun-Times Columnist Over Obama Topic: NewsBusters
A July 20 NewsBusters post by Michael M. Bates offers a misleading defense of Mitt Romney's bashing of Barack Obama's support of age-appropriate sex education by misleadingly attacking a Chicago Sun-Times column and hiding details about Obama's plan.
Bates referred to the July 20 Sun-Times column by Lynn Sweet, which asserted that Romney "is twisting benign comments Obama made about sex education." Bates wrote: "Ms Sweet notes that Obama emphasized that sex education needs to be "age appropriate." Left unstated is what exactly that means." Bates later asked: "What about parents who don't want schools teaching these concepts? How easy would it be for them to opt out and would their children be stigmatized if they did?"
In fact, Sweet did explain what "age appropriate" sex education is: "Obama spokesman Bill Burton said Obama backs teaching youngsters about inappropriate touching by strangers. And Obama would let parents opt out of a sex education course."
Bates concludes: "Ms Sweet is wrong about how benign all this is." And Bates is wrong in failing to report all the facts in his attack on Sweet and Obama.
Aaron Klein Bias Watch (Update) Topic: WorldNetDaily
WorldNetDaily's Aaron Klein has been keeping up his right-wing biases of late:
-- A July 19 article repeats an attack on Israeli President Shimon Peres by the Rabbinical Congress for Peace, but failed to note that the group's right-wing leanings. Klein reported that the Rabbinical Congress for Peace asked for Peres to "repent" for calling on the Jewish state to evacuate strategic territory the they fear will be used by terrorists to attack Israel. Klein has offered no evidence that the congress ever asked Peres' predecessor, conservative Likud party member Moshe Katsav, to "repent" for his actions in a sex and rape scandal -- but as we've documented, Klein has all but refused to report on Katsav even as he repeatedly attacks Peres.
-- We've previously detailed how Klein is so desperate to attack Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that he did so from the left, painting him as a tool of Israeli business interests. A July 19 article serves up another take on that, asserting that "Nineteen families control one-third of Israel's economy, including much of the Jewish state's news media" and -- even more offensive to Klein -- "support major leftist Israeli organizations" and give "campaign contributions to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and foundations associated with newly installed Israeli President Shimon Peres."
This comports with his complete abandonment of his onetime pledge to "report in an unbiased manner." Klein threw off those shackles of balance once and for all in a July 11 screed in which he ranted against "leftist" Israelis. The column was headlined "The Israeli left unmasked," but all that was really unmasked was Klein's identity as a biased, partisan journalist who can't be trusted to tell the full truth (as if we didn't alreadyknowthat).
UPDATE: Klein also made an appearance on al-Jazeera, which WND links to but does not host (here and here). WND offers no explanation as to why one of its correspondents would appear on a channel that its founder and owner has called a "quasi-news, quasi-propaganda news service that isn't terribly useful" that has "connections with Islamist terrorists around the globe."
A July 19 NewsBusters post by Noel Sheppard asks: "A federal judge has just dismissed Valerie Plame Wilson's lawsuit against members of the Bush administration. Will this be the lead story of this evening's newscasts?"
Well, probably not, since -- as Sheppard pointed out -- the lawsuit was dismissed on procedural issues, not on the merits of the case. The better question is: How will NewsBusters cover the dismissal?
If early posts are any indication, it appears relevant issues will be ignored. Missing from Sheppard's excerpt of the article he linked to the fact that the judge who dismissed the suit stated that he did not rule on the merits of the case, and Plame's lawsuit "pose[s] important questions relating to the propriety of actions undertaken by our highest government officials."
Ken Shepherd, meanwhile, repeated another blogger's false claim that "the offending party, Richard Armitage, wasn't even involved in the suit" -- followed quickly by an update noting that Armitage was indeed a defendant. Shepherd also obsseses over "initial reports" from the Associated Press that omitted information he considered important, thus showing his cluelessness over how the AP and other wire services operate in regard to breaking news -- that is, the focus in initial reports is on getting the basic information itself out first, then fleshing out the story in later updates.
(Shepherd's mention of Armitage is a remnant of another obsession of his -- the false, absurd belief that because that because Armitage leaked Plame's name to Robert Novak, and Novak was the first to report it ahead of the reporters to whom Libby leaked, that Libby's leak somehow magically didn't happen.)
And the headline of Mark Finkelstein's post says all you need to know about it: "NY Times Headline on Plame Lawsuit Dismissal Doesn't Mention Her Name!"
Missing from all of these posts, though, was the revelation that the judge, John D. Bates, is a Bush appointee who has previously ruled in favor of Vice President Dick Cheney. Why should NewsBusters have noted this? Because its writers were, as we've documented, quite upset when news outlets didn't state that two judges who ruled against the Bush administration's "policy of holding a sleeper cell suspect at a military brig without redress in civilian courts" were Clinton appointees. If the judge's appointment history was relevant then, why is it suddenly irrelevant now?
UPDATE: Sometime overnight, the exclamation point was eliminated from Finkelstein's headline.
The Procedural Maneuver That Dare Not Speak Its Name Topic: CNSNews.com
Nathan Burchfiel's aversion to the word "filibuster" as it applies to Senate Republicans' blocking of attempts to set a withdrawal date for U.S. troops from Iraq continues in a July 19 article in which he again mentioned the Republicans' "procedural maneuver that would have required a 60-vote majority to end debate," but failed to note that the "procedural maneuver" is better known as a filibuster.
Indeed, when Democratic senators used the same "procedural maneuver" to block votes on Republican judicial nominees they didn't like, CNS was not shy about calling that a filibuster:
An Oct. 31, 2005, article described Judicial Watch's "lawsuit against the U.S. Senate over the use of judicial filibusters," further stating: "The Democrats used the threat of a filibuster -- unlimited debate that can only be stopped by a vote of 60 senators -- to convince the Senate's Republican leadership not to call for votes on the challenged nominees."
A June 24, 2003, article noted "the Democrats' strategy of filibustering judicial nominees they do not have enough votes to defeat."
A Feb. 5, 2003, article pondered whether Democrats "will launch a partisan filibuster against of those [judicial] nominees."
A Feb. 19, 2004, article stated that "a majority of voters" in a poll "rejected Senate Democrats' filibuster strategy against President Bush's judicial nominees."
See? CNS does know what "filibuster" means. Why won't it apply the word to Republicans?
AIM Ignores Questions About Alger Hiss Topic: Accuracy in Media
A July 19 Accuracy in Media "AIM Report" by Wes Vernon attacks those who defend accused Soviet spy Alger Hiss. Among the evidence Vernon cites as proof Hiss was a Soviet spy is taken from Herb Romerstein's book on the declassified Soviet cables from World War II, known as the Venona documents:
In a March 30, 1945 message (decrypted in August of 1969) the Washington D.C. Residentua reported to Moscow headquarters on a meeting between "illegal" Resident Akhmerov and an agent for military intelligence called "Ales." In reading the message, "one sees clearly that 'Ales' was Alger Hiss."
Summing it up to AIM, Romerstein puts it this way: "When you read the Venona documents, you sort it out that he [Hiss] was a longtime agent of [Soviet] military intelligence, which is precisely what Chambers said. And [Hiss] says he received a medal from Vyshinski when he was in Moscow right after the Yalta conference, and that he went on the American plane from Yalta to Moscow. And there [was] only a handful of people on that plane. And none of the others could possibly be Ales, including the man who was Secretary of State [Edward Stettinius]. And so it's just ridiculous that it could be anybody but [Hiss]."
Vernon does not acknowledge that doubt has been raised about whether Ales was Hiss. In particular, a recent American Scholar article by Kai Bird and Svetlana Chervonnaya that posits that Henry Wilder Foote, then-assistant to secretary of state Edward Stettinius, was Ales.
The whole Alger Hiss/Whitaker Chambers thing has been a minor obsession at AIM this week. A July 16 article by Cliff Kincaid features the opening of a library of Chambers' papers. While Kincaid cites Romerstein's book as proof that "decoded Soviet messages identified Hiss as working for Soviet military intelligence," he doesn't mention Ales specifically or that there is doubt about the ID of Hiss as Ales, as forwarded in Romerstein's book.
A July 18 NewsMax article by Stuart Stogel is headlined: "Third World Socialists Find Home at Trump World Tower." But the ambassadors Stogel names as living in the building next to the United Nations hail from ... China, India, Romania and -- yes -- Iraq.
Actually, the article itself doesn't make that claim; some lazy headline writer plucked the phrase out Stogel's first paragraph: "Donald Trump represents unbridled capitalism, and his excesses in wealth and flash would make any socialist from a Third World nation flinch." Stogel describes the residents as "officials from an eclectic group of nations."
NewsMax's headline writers have a strange definition of what "third world socialists" are. And if Iraq is a seething den of "third world socialists," why is the U.S. helping them?
Gore Derangement Syndrome Watch Topic: NewsBusters
Noel Sheppard's case of Gore Derangement Syndrome is starting to spread through the rest of NewsBusters.
A July 18 NewsBusters post by Pam Meister repeats a claim that the Chilean sea bass served at the wedding of Al Gore's daughter is a threatened species, calling it "yet another addition to the annals of the 'do as I say crowd.'" In fact, Chilean sea bass can be harvested sustainably to the extent that those eco-freaks at Whole Foods Market sell it.
Beating up Al Gore over fish served at a wedding? These folks are desperate.
In a July 18 CNSNews.com article on Republican efforts to block efforts in the Senate to set a date for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, Nathan Burchfiel wrote that "Republicans used a procedural maneuver available to the minority party to requare a 60-vote majority to move the bill forward."
Um, dude, it's called a "filibuster." Why use a dozen words when one will do? Brevity is a virtue in journalism, remember?
Interestingly, the word "filibuster" appears nowhere in Burchfiel's article (nor in a companion piece in which he similarly references the mysterious provision that "allow[s] the minority party to require a 60-vote majority on controversial issues"). This comports with other members of the media who refuse to use the term to describe the Republicans' actions, even though it accurately describes what they're doing.
A July 17 NewsBusters post (and TimesWatch item) by Clay Waters asserted that an New York Times article on Hamas is a "whitewash" done by a reporter with a history of "pro-Palestinian reporting."
But Waters' excerpts from the Times article includes the following descriptions of Hamas:
"classified as a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union," though Waters insisted that this somehow meant that the reporter "failed to designate Hamas as a terrorist group."
"fighting infidels, with a holy sanction to kill."
Having an "effective strategy of military confrontation and terrorism." Waters added: "And notice which trait of Hamas was emphasized last."
Waters appears to have a strange definition of "whitewash."
UPDATE: Waters completes the contradiction of himself in the TimesWatch version, conceding that the article "made clear the thuggery of Hamas." Still, he insisted that it "doesn't shine the focus brightly on the terrorism that is Hamas' reason for existence."
CNS Selectively Questions Death Penalty Studies Topic: CNSNews.com
A July 18 CNSNews.com article by Kevin Mooney examined the possibility of New Jersey repealing the death penalty "in the face of academic studies challenging the view that the death penalty is not an effective deterrent to murder." Mooney cited a number of studies that claim a state-enforced death penalty prevents murders, as well a study that claims the opposite, but he bolstered the claims of the former studies and denigrated the claims of the latter.
Mooney specifically cited twostudies by Emory University researchers, as well as a study by University of Colorado researchers, claiming that the death penalty has a deterrent effect. He featured the first Emory study at length, which claimed "that there are an average of 18 fewer murders for every execution," quoting one of the study's researchers. Mooney also featured Michael Rushford of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, which favors the death penalty, calling these studies noteworthy because they come from economists "who have no political axe to grind."
Mooney also stated that "death penalty opponents cited another study, released last year in the Stanford Law Review, that directly challenging the findings in the Emory study and similar reports." But rather than bolstering the academic credentials of its researchers, Mooney quotes one of the authors of the Emory study calling it "a serious but flawed critique" and that "his team is preparing a rejoinder to the Stanford Law Review study."
Such selective reporting suggests that the Emory studies have never been seriously questioned on an academic level, which is false. As Casey Stubbs at the Huffington Post details:
John Donohue, Yale Law School professor and Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, and Justin Wolfers, Wharton School of Business professor and Research Affiliate at the NBER, analyzed the same data used in the Emory and Denver studies, as well as other studies by the same researchers and many other nationwide reports. They found that if anything, executions increase homicides, concluding: "The view that the death penalty deters is still the product of belief, not evidence ... On balance, the evidence suggests that the death penalty may increase the murder rate."
Donohue and Wolfers analyzed data from the 2006 study by the Emory researchers using non-death penalty states as a control group, a basic statistical tool used to study causation not used in the Emory study. When they compared death penalty states with non-death penalty states, they found no evidence of any effect of executions on murder rates, either up or down. Donohue and Wolfers also analyzed the data from the 2003 Emory study that concluded that each execution prevented 18 murders and found that the reduction or increase in murders was actually more dependent on other factors used in the study than whether or not the states had the death penalty. For example, when Donohue and Wolfers slightly redefined just one of the factors included by the Emory researchers, they found that each execution caused 18 murders.
Donohue and Wolfers also recomputed data from the Denver study of select states to account for overall crime trends, a factor not included in the Denver study, and reached inconclusive results. For two states included in the Denver study that had abolished the death penalty, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, Donohue and Wolfers found that the homicides rates actually fell after capital punishment was ended.
There's a lot more death penalty research going on than Mooney suggests -- and, also, more questioning of the "deterrent effect" than he wants his readers to know.
Mix a little shameless self-promotion with some misleading information, and what do you get? Joseph Farah's July 17 WorldNetDaily column.
Farah starts off by declaring that a Business Week column speculating on when the first major newspaper will stop publishing a print product and go completely digital is a "timely plug" for his own book, "Stop the Presses!" -- which is actually about using conservative media like WND to attack the "liberal" media (though he uses a couple pages in his book to rehash his bogus argument that WND isn't conservative). Farah then details financial losses by newspapers in San Francisco, Pittsburgh and Boston, adding: "By the way, what do each of these candidates for demise have in common? They all face competition from much-smaller, but feisty alternative dailies with a more 'conservative' view."
Farah might have added: "and owned by secretive conservative billionaires with lots of money they can afford to lose in establishing said paper." That is the case with the competition in San Francisco (Philip Anschutz) and Pittsburgh (Richard Mellon Scaife, though his Pittsburgh operation was apparently losing money to the extent that it was downsized and layoffs were made). The competition in Boston also has a history of losses.
Conspicuous by its absence on Farah's list is the Washington Times, which has been supported by Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church to the tune of billions of dollars. (Last time we checked, though, WND was singing the Times' tune.) Farah never explains why only the "liberal" papers (he never uses the word, but that's what he means), and not the equally money-losing conservative papers, are "candidates for demise."
Responding to the Business Week columnist's claim that those newspapers have "unassailable market positions, excellent editorial and massive traffic," Farah wrote, "To put this in perspective for those readers already inclined to the digital, all three of these major papers with 'massive' online presence are considerably smaller than the DrudgeReport. One of them, the Post-Gazette, is massively dwarfed online by WND."
To put it in even more perspective, Farah is comparing apples and oranges as far as website traffic is concerned. Regional newspapers (and their websites) cater to different audiences than nationally oriented websites like Drudge and WND. While the Post-Gazette's website may indeed be "massively dwarfed online by WND" in raw numbers, it's virtually certain that the Post-Gazette's website massively dwarfs WND's readership in the Pittsburgh area. Why? Because WND offers next to no news targeted to Pittsburgh, while local news is the Post-Gazette's job. Similarly, the Globe almost assuredly has more readers in Buston than WND does. Farah is being disingenous by omitting these caveats.
Nowhere in his column does Farah offer actual numbers regarding WND's website traffic or its financial situation, which would give his readers some raw data to examine.
And it wouldn't be a Farah column without a dollop of puffery on his part: "I do believe I alone hold one distinction in this history of the New Media. I think I can safely claim that I am the first daily newspaper editor in chief to launch an independent daily news source on the Internet. I did it 10 years ago – and you are reading it right now."
We'll be giving Farah's book the once-over in the near future. For now, suffice it to say that Farah is as disingenuous in his book as he is in this column.
Folger, WND Still Mislead About Anti-Gay Protesters Topic: WorldNetDaily
Janet Folger just bring herself to tell the real story about anti-gay protesters.
In her July 16 WorldNetDaily column, Folger purported to detail the "cliff notes of what so called 'hate crime' legislation has already done in America." She cited the following as "the facts":
Crystal Lake, Illinois. Two 16 year old girls are facing felony "hate crime" charges for the content of their flyers.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Arlene Elshinnawy, a 75-year-old grandmother of three, and Linda Beckman, a 70-year-old grandmother of 10 (along with nine others), were arrested for sharing their faith on the public sidewalk.
But as we've detailed, Folger's not big on "the facts" when telling the story of anti-gay protesters:
The girls in Crystal Lake, in fact, faced charges after allegedly plastering their high school’s halls and distributing anti-gay fliers directed towards a fellow student in the school’s parking lot.
Elshinnawy and Beckman not the meek, ordinary grandmothers that Folger portrays -- they are anti-gay, anti-abortion activists in thrall to bullhorn-wielding street preachers.
Given that Folger is hiding the truth about the Crystal Lake and Philadelphia cases, she's likely doing the same about the other two cases she cites:
Elmira, N.Y. The Elmira police arrested seven Christians for praying in a public park where a homosexual festival was getting started. A female officer told the group, "You're not going to enter the park, and you're not going to share your religion with anybody in this park." The group of seven didn't say anything, but got down on their faces and silently prayed. They were promptly placed in handcuffs.
Folger (and Bob Unruh, in the July 7 WND article from which Folger apparently got her information) leaves out one important detail: According to a June 24 Elmira Star-Gazette article on the incident, the group did their silent praying in front of the stage, thus disrupting the event. Folger and Unruh also fail to mention, as the Star-Gazette detailed, that the protesters were quickly released and returned to the event, but not in the park.
A June 27 Star-Gazette article describes the leader of the protesters, Julian Raven, as "a born-again Christian street preacher" and quoted an Elmira pastor as describing Raven's preaching style as "zealous and militant." The article adds: "
Julian preaches loudly and with a passion that borders on anger. He holds a Bible in one hand and waves his other in the air as punctuation, while he wails of woes and bellows about schools removing the Ten Commandments, television shows "full of filth" and violence spreading across the city and the nation.
Sounds like Elshinnawy and Beckman's kind of guy. How about Folger's other example?
St. Petersburg, Fla. Five Christians, including two pastors, were arrested at a homosexual rally for stepping onto the public sidewalk instead of staying caged in their officially designated "free speech zone." Their signs were also "illegal" because they were slightly "bigger than their torsos." Apparently, large people are entitled to more speech than those with smaller frames.
Yep, the leader of the protests, Rev. Billy Ball, is another bullhorn-wielding street preacher. And it turns out that one of his protesters frightened an 8-year-old child by walking up to her and her mother with a sign that said, "You're Going To Hell."
Unruh, for his part, uncritically repeats Folger's claims in a July 17 article on attempts to add a federal hate-crime law into a defense spending bill. Unruh quotes several opponents of the law, but nowhere does he allow supporters of the law to rebut their claims. Further, nowhere does Unruh note that a clause of the bill states: "Nothing in this Act, or the amendments made by this Act, shall be construed to prohibit any expressive conduct protected from legal prohibition by, or any activities protected by the free speech or free exercise clauses of, the First Amendment to the Constitution."
By painting these people as victims and Christian martyrs, Folger and Unruh clearly want to hide the true -- some might say obnoxious -- nature of these aggressive, boundary-pushing, bullhorn-wielding preachers and their followers.
Baker Misleadingly States Bias Poll's Claims Topic: Media Research Center
In a July 16 NewsBusters post (and July 17 MRC CyberAlert item), Brent Baker follows Noel Sheppard's lead by misleadingly stating the results of a Rasmussen Reports poll on media bias.
Baker wrote that "by about two-to-one or greater, the public recognize a liberal bias over a conservative bias on ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC, NPR as well as in the New York Times and Washington Post." But that's not exactly what the poll numbers say. The lead claim -- that 39 percent of Americans believe that "the three major broadcast networks deliver news with a bias in favor of liberals," compared with to "20 percent," the source of the 2-to-1 comparison Baker touts. But it's not clear from Rasmussen's press release what exactly the "20 percent" is referring to in relation to the 39 percent; the actual questions asked are behind a pay wall.
A much more accurate description of the poll's results would be to state that 61 percent of Americans do not believe network news is liberally biased -- but that wouldn't suit the MRC's agenda.