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Wednesday, December 9, 2009
MRC's Double Standard on Conspiracy Theories
Topic: Media Research Center

The MRC's Culture & Media Institute has as its motto "Advancing Truth and Virtue in the Public Square." But it's now saying that truth and virtue can be ignored if you have a decent conspiracy.

A Dec. 2 CMI article by Jeff Poor defends Glenn Beck's frequent spinning of conspiracy theories, in this case about the breach of security that let a couple into a White House state dinner without an invitation:

The problem, Beck warned, is that if the media fail to do their job, it could lead to the start of a conspiracy theory – which some on the left loathe, like the whole Obama/birth certificate conspiracy theory.
“But this is how a conspiracy theory grows, because we're not – we don't have honesty, we don't have facts,” Beck said. “The situation doesn't – where is the common sense in this? How do we stop conspiracy theories? We do not bury our heads in the sand, and the media demands answers. It's called the Internet. People will come up with these if you in the media don't do your job. I mean, it can all go away if you're honest, you give us answers and facts and it makes common sense.”
Beck offered up his own theory behind what happened – that someone got the couple into the event and didn’t own up to the responsibility for it.
“I mean, here's what I think happened. These two guys were in line, they were having problems getting in, they weren't on anybody's list. And somebody walked by, I don't know who, and they said, ‘Oh, no, let me in. They're with me.’ The Secret Service – knowing the Secret Service – they went, ‘Oh, no, I don't think so.’ [But the other person said] ‘I've got responsibility and authority, let them in.’ It turned out bad. It's now a big deal. And that person didn't take responsibility. That seems most likely to me.”

So, it appears that Poor agrees with Beck's theory that if information about something (involving Democrats, anyway) is not forth coming to your satisfaction, it's perfectly OK to simply make up stuff about it and present it as a grand, evil conspiracy.

That, of course, conflicts with the MRC's previous criticism of conspiracy theories, at least when they're promoted by people they don't agree with. For instance:

  • Both the 2006 and 2007 MRC Best of Notable Quotables contain a "Tin Foil Hat Award for Crazy Conspiracy Theories" category.
  • A 2006 MRC press release bashed MRC's "Today" for "floating a conspiracy theory that the GOP is manipulating gas prices to influence the election -- a ludicrous idea for which NBC has no evidence and no facts and yet makes the theory into 'news' in its Oct. 25 broadcast."
  • A Sept. 21 TimesWatch item by Clay Waters claimed that New York Times book editor Sam Tanenhus, "who decries conspiracism on the right, indulged in his own when he declared of the 2000 election between Bush and Al Gore: '... the conservatives on the Supreme Court stopped the democratic process, put their guy into office.'"

No concern was expressed that these conspiracy theories were popping up because the media didn't do its job.

The MRC will occasionally be moved to shoot down a conspiracy theory -- or promote its own -- when doing so suits its interests. An example of it doing both is a 1998 report by Tim Graham defending the honor of right-wing moneybags Richard Mellon Scaife over his role in the "vast right-wing conspiracy" against the Clinton administration. It wasn't a conspiracy, Graham asserted, because the "Scaife foundations’ donations are hardly secret, with their IRS forms posted on the Internet." Further, Graham complained, "investigative journalism (much of it wildly incorrect) charging some highly implausible and terrible conspiracies committed by Republican Presidents was funded by liberal foundations without those elements ever being lumped into a 'vast left-wing conspiracy' by national media outlets." Though we suspect the MRC would have been happy to do so.

What Graham didn't disclose: The MRC was (and is) being funded by Scaife foundations. One of them, the Sarah Scaife Foundation, donated $150,000 to the MRC in 1998, and another, the Carthage Foundation, donated $10,000 to the MRC in 1997.

Posted by Terry K. at 12:16 AM EST
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Examiner Columnist Repeats Wildly Inflated Tea Party Protest Count
Topic: Washington Examiner

In her December 8 Washington Examiner column, Barbara Hollingsworth writes of the tea party movement:

The growing grass-roots movement will indeed destroy the political careers of many politicians who fail to heed the warning it delivered Sept. 12, when 1.7 million angry voters (according to a crowd estimate by Zac Moilanen of Indiana University) descended on Washington to say they were totally fed up with bailouts and stimulus packages, and want the country to return to its constitutional, limited-government roots.

But as Media Matters has detailed, Moilanen's estimate is somewhat less than authoritative. Moilanen, an undergrad studying East Asian Languages and Cultures at Indiana, cited such not-quite-unimpeachable sources as a Free Republic post and a message board to arrive at his crowd estimate.

In fact, the crowd size was much, much lower. Even Fox News -- a big promoter of the 9/12 rally -- concedes it was only in the "tens of thousands."

Posted by Terry K. at 3:27 PM EST
Bozell Lifts the Curtain, Spreads Misinformation (Part 2)
Topic: Media Research Center

We hadn't finished going through Brent Bozell's video to MRC Action Team members -- it's 43 minutes long, after all -- so here's even more misinformation he spread during it.

In attempting to distinguish between news an opinion websites, Bozell insists that there's no such thing as objectivity and all news has a bias. He complains that editors decide what goes on the front page of the newspaper, and that's bias too. "What you have to have is journalism that strives for objectivity, and that begins with recognizing the biases you have." Bozell's tone is that he thinks liberal journalists don't recognize their biases -- which he has absolutely no knowledge of. He states that NewsBusters is not a news site, then adds, "If you want to get strict news, you go to [MRC-owned] CNSNews. Go to Newsmax -- there's another one. Some people like WorldNetDaily."

Really? As we've documented, CNS has a definite bias -- even if Bozell will not forthrightly admit it -- and it has a problem following Bozell's dicatate of striving for objectivity.

Bozell goes on to baselessly bash the media for being "far left": "This media, news media we have today is far left, and it loves Barack Obama because he's far left. But just as they don't see themselves as far left, neither do they see Barack Obama as far left. They really do see themselves in the mainstream."

Of course, when you're on the far right like Bozell is, everything that isn't far right looks "far left." After all, this is a man who thinks far-right media like CNS, Newsmax and WND are "strict news."

Posted by Terry K. at 9:56 AM EST
New Article: Pamela Geller's Pretty Hate Machine
Topic: Newsmax
The far-right, anti-Islam, anti-Obama blogger brings her outrage to Newsmax -- thus making her the odds-on favorite to become the next Newsmax columnist to go too far. Read more >>

Posted by Terry K. at 12:44 AM EST
WND Bogus Poll Watch
Topic: WorldNetDaily

WorldNetDaily has a long tradition of embracing bogus online polls that reflect its biased editorial views despite being easily gamed and having no scientific validity whatsoever.

The tradition continues with a Dec. 5 WND article touting an AOL poll showing that "67 percent of users supporting questions about Barack Obama's eligibility to serve as president."

Posted by Terry K. at 12:11 AM EST
Monday, December 7, 2009
Another Newsmax Rehab Fail in the Making?
Topic: Newsmax

Newsmax's attempted career rehabilitation of Bernard Kerik didn't turn out so good. Is its other rehab project about to crater as well?

As we've detailed, Ralph Reed -- coming off being tainted in the Jack Abramoff scandal and a huge loss in a race for Georgia lieutenant governor -- has been getting the Newsmax rehab treatment, granted a column and benefiting from fawning articles. 

Meanwhile, Raw Story is reporting that Reed's former spokesperson, is shopping a memoir that appears to promise juicy details about him and other figures on the religious right. 

Sounds entertaining -- and perhaps the catalyst for another failed Newsmax rehab. Stay tuned.

Posted by Terry K. at 7:45 PM EST
NewsBusters Ignores Pinkerton's Conflict of Interest
Topic: NewsBusters

A Dec. 6 NewsBusters post by Brad Wilmouth highlights how, on "Fox News Watch," during a discussion of Mike Huckabee's granting clemency to Maurice Clemmons, who went on to (allegedly) kill four police officers in Washington, "Conservative panelist Jim Pinkerton of New America Foundation had to point out that Huckabee commuted the sentence at a time when Clemmons serving time for the non-violent crime of committing burglary." Wilmouth added that "Pinkerton even had to directly correct liberal FNC analyst Kirsten Powers, who seemed to convey that she thought Huckabee had commuted the sentence after the child rape conviction."

Wilmouth fails to mention Pinkerton's conflict of interest in defending Huckabee -- he was a senior adviser to Huckabee's 2008 presidential campaign.

Posted by Terry K. at 5:12 PM EST
Newsmax Still Running Interference for Huckabee
Topic: Newsmax

Newsmax's David Patten keeps up his previous efforts at playing interference for Mike Huckabee with a Dec. 6 article that again seeks to deflect blame from Huckabee for granting clemency to Maurice Clemmons in 2000 by blaming authorites in Arkansas and Washington state for "fail[ing] to keep him incarcerated" after numerous parole violations. Clemmons is accused of killing four police officers in Washington.

Patten features an Arkansas judge, Marion Humphrey, who favored clemency for Clemmons, but Patten fails to note just how close Humphrey is to Clemmons: he officiated at Clemmons' wedding.

Patten also buried criticism of Huckabee. It's not until the 22nd paragraph that Patten gets around to featuring Pulaski County Prosecuting Attorney Larry Jegley, whom Patten makes sure to note is "a Democrat." Patten waits until the very end of his article to allow Jegley to respond to Huckabee's claims that Jegley's being a Democrat is behind his criticism.

Posted by Terry K. at 8:46 AM EST
Bozell Lifts The Curtain, Peddles Misinformation
Topic: Media Research Center

A Dec. 3 NewsBusters post features a question-and-answer video made by Media Research Center chief Brent Bozell for his MRC Action group. It's an interesting behind-the-scenes glimpse at the partisan right-wing agenda that runs the MRC, as well as Bozell's platform for disseminating misinformation.

Bozell begins by asserting that the so-called "climate-gate" scandal over stolen emails from a major climate research Center is "hugely important to the conservative movement, and it'shugely important to the Media Research Center." That's right -- not important to science, important to right-wing politics. Bozell insists the emails "utterly incriminate the environmental movement" and show that global warming is "a fraud, that in fact they know there's been global cooling, and they have been doing things -- tricks to cover up the fact that their arguments don't work scientifically."

In fact, the emails do not disprove global warming, data was not fudged, and the allegedly incriminating claims in the emails are being cherry-picked and taken out of context.

Bozell then went on to argue against term limits with a dumb analogy:

Think about this. We talk about Cuba and Fidel Castro. We talk about Iraq and Saddam Hussein. When they would -- and the Soviet Union. When they would have their quote-unquote elections, and they would win with 98 percent of the vote or 97 percent of the vote, and we'd all laugh at the proposition, at the idea that they could get 97 percent of the vote. Here's something that's not a laughing matter. If you look at the election returns every single cycle, you will find that members of Congress in the House and the Senate are re-elected approximately 97, 98 percent of the time -- in this country they get re-elected. Why? Because they have voted to themselves so many privileges, so many advantages, that an incumbent [sic] doesn't stand a chance. That's not democracy.

Actually, incumbent advantages in America are quite different from dictatorships in which in which there is no meaningful opposition (or no opposition at all).

Bozell also insists that "there is no public demand" for health care reform,  "but the media are telling us every single day that that's what the public wants."In fact, polls have repeatedly shown that the public option has widespread support.

Bozell curiously takes on birtherism, claiming that they have to "get beyond it. Nothing good will come from this. ... Barack Obama is the president of the United States, and until he is defeated in a re-election campaign, he will remain the president of the United States." Bozell's sincerity on this might be a little easier to believe if his organization wasn't monetarily supporting the biggest media promoter of birtherism by advertising at WorldNetDaily.

Bozell then goes on to explain how "the left controls the media":

So what do you do about it? Well, the first thing you have to do is you have to realize why the Left controls the media. It is not a conspiracy. It's not that there's a cabal of left-wingers that have taken over the news media and they meet at 8 o'clock every morning to say, "what can we do to undermine the conservatives to America?" They don't do it; they don't work that way.

The liberals who are there were hired by fellow liberals because the liberals who were in charge of hiring felt that their liberal friends were the best qualified. And it's a simple formula, that's how it works. And their bias takes over, and sometimes, I don't think they even realize their bias is working.

Funny, that sounds like a conspiracy to us. Apparently, talent and aptitude for journalism has nothing to do with it.Plus, it ignores the fact that even MRC director of media analysis, Tim Graham has admitted that "the great majority of what we watch and read is not noticeably unfair or inaccurate." Which suggests that this is all a bit of a scam on the MRC's part.

He continues:

What has happened is the public is on to these reporters. When we first started in 1987, only 25 percent of the public believed that there was a media bias at all. ... Today, 89 percent of the public believes what they're getting is a reporter's personal opinion. The public now knows the bias that they're getting. It's incumbent on us to continue to expose that bias on a daily basis, because if we don't, then we lose the traction, and those numbers will go back to where they were before.

And the MRC keeps attracting money, and Bozell remains employed. And that's the important thing for the MRC.

Posted by Terry K. at 12:51 AM EST
Updated: Monday, December 7, 2009 12:57 AM EST
Sunday, December 6, 2009
NewsReal: Palin's Not A Birther Because Palin Said So Herself (Eventually)
Topic: Horowitz

It's kinda cute how David Swindle is pretending that Sarah Palin isn't promoting birtherism.

In a Dec. 4 NewsReal post, Swindle bashes "leftist polemicist[s]" for highlighting Palin's statement that "the public, rightfully, is still making" Barack Obama's birth certificate an issue and "I think it’s a fair question" to ask Obama to present further evidence of his birth. Yet Swindle insists that Palin is not "part of the cult of crackpot conspiracists who know for certain that President Obama was born in Kenya or, is at the very least, 'hiding his birth certificate'" becausePalin tried to walk back her statement on her Facebook page.

Based on that statement, Swindle declares: "So, no, Palin is not a birther. She was just caught off guard in an interview and chose her words poorly."

Swindle refuses to acknowledge the possibility that Palin is trying to have it both ways -- pretending she's not a birther (Swindle fell for that -- he has no evidence that she initially "chose her words poorly" on the subject) while also raising questions about Obama's birth certificate.

If birtherism is, as Swindle says, "poisonous crackpot conspiracism" on a par with 9/11 truthers, then why give Palin a pass by taking Palin's walk-back as a denial and ignoring the fact that she played into the hands of birther conspiracists like WorldNetDaily by answering the question as she did?

In an update to his post, Swindle complains about an Alaska blogger who noted that Swindle failed to note that Palin's statement, in the same interview in which she made the statement about Obama's birth certifciate, that she has released Trig Palin's birth certificate is apparently not true -- as Andrew Sullivan points out, no birth certificate or other evidence has been released by Palin. Still, it gives license for Swindle to complain about "crackpot 'Trig Birtherism' conspiracy theories." Never mind that his boss, David Horowitz, has flip-flopped on embracing conspiracy theories like depicting Obama as a "Manchurian candidate."

Posted by Terry K. at 1:55 PM EST
Updated: Sunday, December 6, 2009 10:51 PM EST
Hirsen Hides Right-Wing Views of Pair Demanding Gore's Oscar Be Withdrawn
Topic: Newsmax

A Dec. 4 Newsmax article by James Hirsen notes how "Two members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have called on the group to take back the Oscar awarded to former Vice President Al Gore for the documentary 'An Inconvenient Truth.'" At no point does Hirsen mention the right-wing partisan leanings of those two, Roger L. Simon and Lionel Chetwynd.

Simon is the founder of the right-wing Pajamas Media,  while Chetwynd, writer and producer of a a Citizens United-funded film attacking Michael Moore, "Celsius 41.11," has blogged there.

Then again, Hirsen is not exactly known for reporting the full truth in his articles.

Posted by Terry K. at 1:09 AM EST
Saturday, December 5, 2009
WND Spreads More False Smears About Jennings
Topic: WorldNetDaily

A Dec. 4 WorldNetDaily article by Bob Unruh parrots the right wing's latest smear against Obama administration official Kevin Jennings (about whom WND has lied before) -- that the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network, a group founded by Jennings, "is recommending XXX-rated sex writings for children as young as preschoolers."

In fact, none of the books whose "XXX-rated sex writings" Unruh cites is recommended for preschoolers -- indeed, none of them appear on GLSEN's list of recommended books for grades K-6. All of the books cited appear on a list of books recommended for students in graded 7-12.

Unruh also misleadingly crops a disclaimer on the GLSEN site, reporting only the statement that "All BookLink items are reviewed by GLSEN staff for quality and appropriateness of content." Unruh ignored the rest of that statement, even though it's in bright red type:

However, some titles for adolescent readers contain mature themes. We recommend that adults selecting books for youth review content for suitability. The editorial and customer reviews listed at often provide information on mature content.

But Unruh, it seems, is too distracted by hyperbolic descriptions of "stories of public masturbation" and "semen flying through the air" that this undermines his entire attack. Perhaps that's why he deliberately chose not to include it.

Posted by Terry K. at 10:38 AM EST
Is CNS Censoring Words Out of Comments?

At the end of the version of Brent Bozell's latest column (bashing the show "DeGrassi: The Next Generation" for "deliberately pushing its gay agenda to youngsters"), a commenter's post states: "And it's not like it's on Nickelodeon proper. It's on TeenNick. A network for TEENS. Teens with hormones, who are starting to think about *** and sexuality-- whether you like it or not." Later in the post, it states, "Being *** hurts no one."

Confused by the asterisks? It seems the commenter was too. That resulted in another comment by the same person:

For readers, the first *** in my earlier post is s-e-x. and the second *** is g-a-y. It's weird they're blanked out because the original article uses both words. If these words can't be displayed on a NEWS site, then how are our teens supposed to get accurate information, and have frank discussion on anything regarding sexuality. After seeing this unnecessary censorship and nervous tip-toeing around issues of serious importance to today's youth, I think we probably need shows like Degrassi now more than ever. Thank God for Nickelodeon.

The commenter appears to be right -- words like "sex" and "gay" are replaced, automatically or otherwise, by asterisks. Some of the comments in a Dec. 3 article on a California school on "a pro-homosexual workshop given to 8th grade students in a leadership class" replace the words "gay" and "sex" with asterisks, even though those same words appear in the article ("gay" is limited to quotes, since CNS' preferred word is "homosexual"):

  • "At age 13 most of these kids have already been sexualized. These programs start in first grade - I saw a clip where a *** man was singing a song to 6-year-olds praising the "virtues" of being ***." 
  • "Why do we need pro-homosexuality programs? Is the *** community recruiting? Is this a religion now?"
  • "Since the *** Ed classes started in the schools, we not only have more teen crimes like sexual assualt, but more teens having babies, and the dumbing down of teenaged America also started about then."

It's a strange bit of prudery that CNS doesn't appear to trust its commenters to use words like "gay" and "sex" in commenting about articles on gayness and/or sex. Are they really so incendiary that only professional journalists are permitted to use those words? (Again, CNS reporters aren't permitted to use "gay" unless it's in quotes.) CNS' comment threads aren't exactly hotbeds of vulgarity and promiscuity as it is; most readers are well-behaved, if right-wing reactionary.

CNS might want to explain this censorship things to its readers -- as well as why it frowns upon the usage of "gay" in its news stories.

Posted by Terry K. at 12:31 AM EST
Friday, December 4, 2009
NewsBusters Attack on Gore Backfires
Topic: NewsBusters

An earlier version of this blog post incorrectly stated that John Harris and Mike Allen of Politico declined to ask former vice president Al Gore about controversial emails from climate scientists who support the idea of anthropogenic global warming after knowledge of those emails was publicly disclosed.

In fact, the interview with Gore occurred before the emails were public knowledge, therefore Messrs. Harris and Allen could not have asked Gore about them. NewsBusters regrets the error.

-- Lachlan Markay, Dec. 4 NewsBusters post

Posted by Terry K. at 8:06 PM EST
Obama Derangement Syndrome Watch
Topic: WorldNetDaily

I can't get worked up by the specter of Tareq and Michaele Salahi frolicking with Rham, Barack and Biden. Trashy people crashed the White House. So what? The place was packed with nasty, noisome parasites. An extra pair should make no difference. Quite the contrary: There's something apropos about a couple of reality-show exhibitionists, who themselves "have left an extensive paper trail in federal bankruptcy and state court filings," brazenly elbowing their way into a party of ponces. (From the White House are issued shake-down schemes that make Bernie Madoff, much less the Salahis, look like babes in grand-larceny boot camp.)

Besides, the Salahis, like Obama, are of their time and place. Obama was launched by the Queen of Kitsch, day-time talker Oprah Winfrey. He now sits at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. It's entirely fitting that a supermarket culture should have representation at the White House.

-- Ilana Mercer, Dec. 4 WorldNetDaily column

Posted by Terry K. at 1:36 PM EST

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