Science fiction is, of course, more popular than ever. James Cameron's blockbuster hit "Avatar," about a crippled Marine who takes an ambitious assignment to infiltrate native aliens on a far away world, has now grossed more than any movie, ever. Just as Jules Verne's novel reflected the tide of popular and public opinion in his day, "Avatar" does as well: The movie is a spectacularly animated collage of left-wing melodramatic sentiments, misconceptions and prejudices. It scorns capitalism, rejects commerce, vilifies Western culture, deifies native Americans (for whom the blue aliens in what has been called "Dances with Smurfs" are an obvious analog) and spits on the United States military, portraying Marines working as mercenaries as little better than baby-killing, genocidal maniacs.
The only sympathetic characters in the movie are those soldiers who betray their fellows and turn their guns on their fellow Marines – and the audience is expected to root for the aliens and against all humanity. By the film's end, the humans have been expelled, sent back to their dying planet. That such a film could shatter all previous box-office records says a great deal about the current state of our society, as reflected in our opinions about space aliens and how we will or should treat them.
For that matter, if the aliens are more advanced, it would pretty damned stupid of us to act as the traveling Amway salesmen of the universe, beaming our address and phone number into the galaxy and asking that people we don't know stop by for lunch. We've even sent them naked pictures of ourselves, as well as a pile of personal data, in the form of a satellite or two whose only job is to let them know who and where we are. You wouldn't do that on an Internet bulletin board. Why does it become OK when the venue is the Milky Way instead of Craigslist?
If science fiction has taught us anything, it is that when the talking apes from the future land on the beach in their space capsule, you should help them out of the spaceship – and immediately murder them. They don't have your interests at heart, and neither do the visiting space aliens. It's a cookbook, as the old saying goes. If they have to tell you they come in peace, they probably don't.
CNS Whitewashes Anti-Gay Uganda Law Topic: CNSNews.com
A Jan. 28 CNSNews.com article by Karen Schuberg whitewashes the proposed anti-gay law in Uganda, strangely fixating on a provision that would permit the death penalty for "any HIV-positive person who willfully and knowingly engages in homosexual relations." Schuberg suggests that this is the only controversial provision in the law that is generating criticism of it, and asks Democratic members of Congress critical of the law what penalty they would apply to someone for "knowingly putting others at risk."
But as the summary of the law Schuberg links to from Warren Throckmorton -- as well an AP article CNS published last month -- make clear, the bill has many other controversial provisions, such as imprisoning those who fail to report homosexual behavior to authorities and penalizing landlords who rent to gays. We've previously noted other harsh provisions that Schuberg doesn't mention.
Also unmentioned by Schuberg: the facts that the number of gays in Uganda are "negligible," and by far the most prevalent method of HIV transmission in Uganda has historically been either heterosexual or mother-to-child.
Throckmorton, by the way, has been critical of the bill's Draconian provisions, and he takes CNS to task for not only Schuberg's HIV-transmission fixation but also the slant of her questions to Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin:
Rep. Baldwin makes clear that the actionable offense is intent to harm. However, the CNSNews reporter does not seem to get the crucial distinction – a distinction not made in the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. In the bill, there is no language that requires the offender to have harmful intent. The clear intent of the bill, as was recently confirmed to me by a researcher in the Ugandan Parliament Research Service is “to outlaw all same-sex sexual conduct.” Being HIV-positive gets the strongest penalty. In the bill, intent to harm is not relevant. The CNSNews reporter ignores Rep. Baldwin’s response.
“Willfully and knowingly” engaging in homosexual relations should not be penalized according to Baldwin; doing so with the intent to spread HIV is what she addressed. HIV-positive people may engage intimacy with appropriate precautions. Failing to make this distinction might be an oversight on the part of CNSNews or it might be an attempt to change the subject from what the bill says to focus on something that many readers would want to see addressed in law.
However, it is important to note that the bill as written intends “to outlaw all same-sex sexual conduct” and to impose the death penalty on same-sex intimacy, including touching, where one or both parties are HIV-positive, even if the touching is with mutual consent.
Of course, if CNS has no interest in fixing such an obvious error as the defintion of "Christian Identity" in smearing Erroll Southers, addressing rank anti-gay bias is even less of a priority.
Noel Sheppard on Obama Speech: 'Someone PLEASE Cue Joe Wilson!!!' Topic: NewsBusters
What was NewsBusters' Noel Sheppard desperately tweeting during President Obama's State of the Union address? Media Matters has the screenshots.
Paranoid Farah Whines About LA Times Story on WND Topic: WorldNetDaily
Is there a more thin-skinned and paranoid head of a supposedly major "news" organization right now than Joseph Farah? We don't think so.
A Los Angeles Times profile of Farah and WorldNetDaily revealed that Farah "believes his life is in danger because of his occupation," and that he "agreed to sit down at a Starbucks in northern Virginia" for an interview "as long as the name of the town wasn't given." It accurately points out that he "runs a must-read website for anyone who hates Barack Obama," and notes that Farah claims that "Revenue is on track to hit $10 million annually," adding that this "comes in no small part from the storehouse of 'birther' T-shirts, books, DVDs and postcards for sale in his virtual 'superstore.'" (Which confirms what we suspected.)
The Times piece is a generally balanced account of WND. But Farah doesn't agree -- he spent his Jan. 27 WND column ranting about it.
He asserts that the original version of this article was "fair and unbiased." How would he know? The only way he would is if the original author, Peter Wallsten (whom Farah described as an "honest reporter"), allowed Farah to see it and sign off on it -- which would be a serious violation of journalistic ethics on Wallsten's part. Reporters aren't supposed to submit their stories to their sources for approval. Wallsten presumably knows that -- and Farah, as a self-proclaimed journalist himself, should know too. He should also know better than to not put reporters in the position of showing him what they've written about him so he can sign off on it, since we can't imagine he would let, say, President Obama sign off on WND's anti-Obama screeds.
Farah goes on to claim that "the editors at the L.A. Times looked over the story and determined it made me look responsible, eclectic, maybe even, God forbid, likable. So they turned the story over to another reporter." Again, Farah offers no evidence of this.
Farah then asserts that the reporter who was added to the story after Wallsten left the Times introduced "errors" into the story "with an eye toward making me look like some kind of irresponsible, opportunistic monster." But Farah doth protest too much, as he's prone to do.
At the top of his list: a descripton of WND as "serving up a mix of reporting and wild speculation." Farah complains that no examples are offered. Let's see ... how about the fact-free speculation by Farah and others that Obama's call for a "civilian national security force" refers to the creation of a Nazi/Marxist police force.
Farah is also upset by the article's claim that "The topic it pursues with tireless zeal, though, is the claim that Obama was born not in Honolulu but in Africa, and is therefore ineligible to be president." Farah responds: "Of course, actual readers of WND know that no allegation of an Obama foreign birth has ever been made by me or any other reporter in WND. I'm not even sure if any commentator has ever made that claim." As we've detailed the last time he asserted this, Farah is lying.
Farah also engaged in his usual denigration of his critics, describing THe Next Right's Jon Henke -- who has advocated an advertiser boycott of WND -- as "a little blogger and 'Republican strategist' no one ever heard of until he started criticizing me and WND." Farah has previously denigrated Henke for criticizing WND.
Farah then asserts that the article claims that WND believes "Obama would support concentration-camp-style detention centers for his political opponents" and would "build his own personal authoritarian civilian security force." But those direct quotes aren't in the article, at least how it currently appears on the Times website; rather, it states: "It was WorldNetDaily writers who suggested that congressional Democrats sought to build disaster-relief centers that could be used as Nazi-style concentration camps for political dissidents, and that Obama aims to build his own personal totalitarian civilian security force." Which, as noted above, is absolutely true.
Farah closes by whining that the Times "assigned another reporter to give it the right slant – or should I say the left slant?" Like Farah would know a "fair and unbiased" story if he saw one -- they certainly don't exist in any significant number on his own website.
MRC Contradicts Its Own Fox News Cheerleading Topic: Media Research Center
Is the Media Research Center on the Fox News payroll? It seems so.
The MRC issued a Jan. 27 press release celebrating a study's determination that "Americans overwhelmingly trust the Fox News Channel more than any other network," featuring this statement by MRC chief Brent Bozell:
The proof is in the pudding. Americans want balanced news, not liberal advocacy. Fox offered them ‘fair and balanced’ journalism, and America has embraced them.
But didn't the MRC the other day note another study demonstrating that Fox News is not balanced inits coverage of President Obama? Yes, it did. But the MRC tried to spin that too, claiming that Fox News' obvious anti-Obama bias is nothing more than "historically normal scrutiny" of a president.
Fox News is not "balanced news," and Bozell knows it. So why did he issue a statement saying otherwise? Perhaps because Fox News told/paid him to?
UPDATE: We've expanded on this post at Media Matters.
Last week, the Cato Institute's Daniel Griswold penned an attack at NRO on Jerome Corsi's latest anti-globalism book "America for Sale," assailing its conclusions (claiming Corsi's protectionism makes him sound like Dennis Kucinich) and his factual errors. After an initial response at WND that included no actual rebuttal of any of the claims Griswold made, choosing to instead bash "free-trade Republicans" for daring to criticize him. As we noted, Corsi forwarded an initial response at WorldNetDaily that included no actual rebuttal of any of the claims Griswold made, choosing to instead bash "free-trade Republicans" for daring to criticize him.
Corsi has followed up with a lengthier, if only slightly more detailed, Jan. 26 WND column. Kicking off with attacks on Griswold, defending his own credentials, and highlighting what Griswold didn't write -- mendacious tactics repeated during his defense of his error-laden anti-Obama book -- it's not until the 24th paragraph that Corsi gets around to rebutting something Griswold actually did write, and a healthy chunk of that is defending his definition of when the current recession started because it conveniently absolves President Bush of most responsibility for it:
Yet, Griswold chooses to quibble about when the current recession began. He insists the National Bureau of Economic Research, "the accepted authority on the U.S. business cycle," puts the start of the recession at December 2007.
The National Bureau of Economic Research is a private, nonprofit research organization that is not part of the federal government and has never been appointed by the federal government to make official declarations of when recessions begin or end.
Pushing the start of the current recession back to December 2007 is a subjective determination that serves political purposes, allowing organizations like CNN to push blame for the economic downturn into the Bush administration, suggesting President Bush was responsible for the housing bubble that caused the recession.
I chose instead to use the more conventional and objective standard defined by economic statistician Julius Shiskin in the 1970s and commonly used by economists since then that a recession officially begins after two consecutive quarters of negative growth in GDP; this definition would set the start of the recession to December 2008.
To use Shiskin's definition of when a recession starts is not an error, as Griswold insists in his intentionally deprecating essay.
Just as convenient as Corsi's use of the Shiskin recession definition is Corsi's overlooking criticism of Shiskin's definition as simplistic and outmoded:
Ignorance about recessions has taken hold because of a simplistic idea that a recession is two successive quarterly declines in gross domestic product (GDP), a measure of the nation's output.
The idea originated in a 1974 New York Times article by Julius Shiskin, who provided a laundry list of recession-spotting rules of thumb, including two down quarters of GDP. Over the years the rest of his rules somehow dropped away, leaving behind only "two down quarters of GDP."
Like most rules of thumb, it's far from perfect. It failed in the 2001 recession, for example. At the time and until July 2002, data showed just one down quarter of GDP, leading policy makers to claim there had been no recession. Yet, later that month, revisions showed GDP down for three straight quarters. Complicating matters further, with the benefit of time, we now know that GDP actually zigzagged between negative and positive readings, never showing two negative quarters in a row.
The far more important issue in 2001 was the loss of 2.7 million jobs - more than in any postwar recession. Even taking into account labor force growth, those job losses were greater than in most recessions over the past 50 years.
That's why Corsi has so little respect among actual economists -- politics is more important to him than facts.
New Article: Mistaken Identity Topic: CNSNews.com
CNSNews.com thinks an official's reference to "Christian Identity" refers generically to Christianity, even though context makes clear he's talking about the extremist group. Is CNS getting this wrong on purpose? Read more >>
What Was Once Bias Is Now 'Historically Normal Scrutiny' Topic: Media Research Center
The Media Research Center hashistoricallypresented overly negative news coverage of Republicans presidents and their causes, like the Iraq war, as evidence of liberal bias. But what happens when the MRC's favorite news channel, Fox News, is accused of overly negative news coverage of President Obama? Why, that's just "historically normal."
A Jan. 26 MRC item by Rich Noyes highlights a study by the Center for Media and Public Affairs (which he describes as "non-partisan" despite admitting that he's a former employee) noting Fox News' highly negative coverage of President Obama. But rather than admitting that Fox News has a bias, Noyes framed it as, according to the headline, "historically normal scrutiny," claiming that Fox News merely offered "scrutiny roughly equal to that provided by the old networks in the past."
Indeed, the word "bias" appears nowhere in Noyes' item. Nor does Noyes use the word "balance," even though the CMPA found that overall coverage of Obama was almost evenly split between positive and negative coverage, demonstrating further how far out of the mainstream Fox News' coverage of Obama is.
Morris' 'Secret Plot' Not So Secret Topic: Newsmax
A Jan. 24 Newsmax column by Dick Morris carries the headline "Pelosi and Reid Plot Secret Plan for Obamacare." In it, Morris claimed that "Highly informed sources on Capitol Hill have revealed to me details of the Democratic plan to sneak Obamacare through Congress."
But as Media Matters points out, this "secret plan" is not "secret" at all -- the plan Morris describes has been reported in the media since the Democrats lost their Senate supermajority with the victory of Scott Brown.
WND, Klein Falsely Impugn J Street Again Topic: WorldNetDaily
The headline of Aaron Klein's Jan. 26 WorldNetDaily article reads, "'Anti-Israel' group recruiting across nation." But at no point does Klein quote anyone saying, or does Klein himself assert, that the group in question, J Street is "anti-Israel."
The closest Klein gets is his longtime, one-sided smear that J Street has been "accused of working against Israel," again failing to note that the charge comes from right-wingers like himself who have an agenda of marginalizing any perceived critics of Israel.
As per usual, Klein refuses to allow J Street to rebut the charge.
WND Gives Conservative Propagandists A Pass Topic: WorldNetDaily
A Jan. 25 WorldNetDaily column by Andrea Shea King carried the headline "Feds controlling media? It's been done before." King highlighted a claim that "the Department of Justice has hired bloggers as propagandists and sock puppets," likening it to the 1940s "Operation Mockingbird" as an example of "behind-the-scenes media manipulation."
Unmentioned by King were examples of "media manipulation" under the Bush administration:
As we've noted, columnist Armstrong Williams accepted $240,000 from the U.S. Department of Education to promote the No Child Left Behind education policy through his TV appearances and in his syndicated radio and TV shows and his newspaper column.
Columnnist Maggie Gallagher had received tens of thousands of dollars from the Department of Health and Human Services during 2002 and 2003 for helping the Bush administration promote the President's Healthy Marriage Initiative.
Retired military officers were used by the Pentagon to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance.
Interesting how conservatives get a pass for disseminating propaganda from King and WND, while others don't.
NewsBusters Thinks Scott Brown Posed Only 'Semi-Nude' Topic: NewsBusters
A Jan. 19 NewsBusters post by Lachlan Markay referenced the "semi-nude photo shoot" Sen.-elect Scott Brown did for Cosmopolitan magazine in the early '80s. A Jan. 23 NewsBusters post by Tim Graham similarly noted the "semi-nude picture from 1982."
In fact, as one can see, Brown is completely nude in the photo in question, with only a strategically placed forearm to keep it from being toally NSFW (at the MRC world headquaters, anyway).
Or are Markay and Graham including the accompanying clothed photos to declare that the photo spread, as an aggregate, is "semi-nude"?
Hirsen Launches Baseless Attack on Conan O'Brien Buyout Topic: Newsmax
James Hirsen baselessly asserted in a Jan. 22 Newsmax column that Conan O'Brien was getting federal bailout money to leave NBC:
Are we, the American taxpayers, financing a bailout for Conan O’Brien?
It has been reported that in order to buy out Conan’s contract and cut him loose from the network, so Jay Leno can become the “Tonight Show” host again, NBC will pay out around $44 million. $32 million will go directly to Conan and $12 million will be paid to the late night host’s staff.
What does this have to do with taxpayers?
Remember, although part of a spinoff to Comcast, NBC is still owned by General Electric. Reuters reports that when it comes to government assistance to troubled American businesses, GE is “among the largest recipients of taxpayer help.”
The company, which has been decidedly supportive of President Obama, jumped enthusiastically into a government program called the Temporary Liquidity Guarantee Program (TLGP).
Through this program, GE was able to issue debt with a government guarantee, which means you and I are guaranteeing GE’s bonds. It also means easier access to funds for the company and much lower interest rates. Although GE was one of 88 companies in the program, the $60 billion GE borrowed was almost one fifth of the total TLGP guarantee amount.
NBC is on track this year to lose more that half a billion bucks. So, the ability of GE’s subsidiary to pay Conan his multimillion-dollar severance is thanks to us taxpayers.
In fact, as we pointed out the last time someone (NewsBusters' Ken Shepherd) tried to make a similar argument, the bailout money went only to one GE subsidiary, GE Capital, not the corporation as a whole. And NBC Universal remains profitable, so there's no need for it to dip into corporate funds to pay off O'Brien.