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An Exhibition of Conservative Paranoia

Exhibit 47: Shocked By the Non-Shocking

NewsBusters' Noel Sheppard has an uncanny ability to be surprised by things that aren't very surprising at all.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 9/11/2008

ConWebWatch has previously detailed how NewsBusters associate editor Noel Sheppard has misled on global warming and other issues, even telling falsehoods about Al Gore. But he has one skill that may be even be even more surprising: Sheppard has an apparently limitless capacity to be shocked by things that aren't terribly shocking.

In an Oct. 11, 2006, NewsBusters post, Sheppard appeared to be stunned that a court ruled against a woman who was awarded $11.3 million in a lawsuit against another woman who used Internet forums to falsely accuse her of being a "crook," a "con artist" and a "fraud." Sheppard notes: "Without question, this decision has startling ramifications for Internet denizens, bloggers, and message board posters, as it makes it quite clear that folks can’t just write whatever they want regardless of facts with total impunity." He concluded: "As Sgt. Esterhaus used to say, 'Let’s be careful out there.'"

Is it really all that "startling" that a person can be sued over, and made to pay damages for, making false statements about someone? Nope -- it's the basis of centuries of libel and slander law.

In a Jan. 21. 2007, post, Sheppard claimed it was "shocking," not to mention "quite odd," that Chris Matthews referred to Hillary Clinton as "Dukakis in a dress" on his syndicated weekly talk show, thus calling her, in Sheppard's words, "a female incarnation of one of the biggest left-wing failures in decades."

But, again, it's not as shocking as Sheppard professes to think: Matthews had called Clinton "Dukakis in a dress" at least four times previously.

Three days later, Sheppard wrote: "Here’s something you don’t see every day: a columnist at a liberal newspaper saying bad things about Democrats," adding, "No, folks. This isn’t from the National Review, the Weekly Standard, or the Washington Times. This really is an article by Jeff Jacoby, who writes for a paper owned by The New York Times Company."

Once more, not so shocking. Jacoby is an unambiguous conservative who has been a regular columnist for the Globe since 1994. It would be more shocking for NewsBusters to allow someone other than a conservative post there.

In a Nov. 2, 2007, post, Sheppard wrote:

Imagine if you will an editorial from a major American newspaper entitled "The Petraeus Curve: Serious Success in Iraq is Not Being Recognised as it Should Be."

Think such a thing would ever be published by the New York Times, the Washington Post, or any of the drive-by media?

No, I don't either.

Yet, The Times of London, one of the most respected newspapers across the Pond, published such a shocking commentary Saturday.

Er, not so much. The Times is owned by Rupert Murdoch, also owner of Fox News Channel and the New York Post, and like those outlets, the Times is right-leaning.

In a Jan. 1, 2008, post, Sheppard reported that "the New York Times of all entities published a rather shocking piece pointing fingers at folks like Nobel Laureate Al Gore for being part of a group of 'activists, journalists and publicity-savvy scientists who selectively monitor the globe looking for newsworthy evidence of a new form of sinfulness, burning fossil fuels.'" Sheppard effused further: "Checking that link to make sure it really goes to a Times piece? I understand, I've checked it about nine times, and I still don't believe it." He finally concludes: "After all, it will truly be a happy new year if newspapers like the Times regularly publish articles tearing to shreds the deceptions fostered by Gore and his sycophants."

The article in question was written by Times columnist John Tierney (though Sheppard refers to him only as an "author" and buries his identity far down in his post), and he doesn't bother to mention one pertinent piece of information: Tierney is a conservative, and it's therefore unsurprising that he would take the same denier point of view associated with conservatives such as Sheppard.

Sheppard also seems to be unaware that newspapers like the Times regularly publish multiple points of view on a given subject -- which is more than can usually be said about NewsBusters or any other branch of the Media Research Center empire.

Sheppard followed up in a Feb. 6 post by declaring that the New York Times has done the "almost unthinkable" by printing a "surprisingly skeptical piece concerning man's role in the liberal bogeyman known as global warming" -- by, yes, John Tierney. Why Sheppard would think a Tierney op-ed in the Times was "almost unthinkable" is beyond imagination, especially since Sheppard himself cited a precedent for the Times to do so not only the month before but also the previous September.

Somehow, even declaring something he documented at least twice before to be "almost unthinkable" didn't break Sheppard of is ability to be shocked by the unshocking.

In an April 21 post, Sheppard declared it "astounding" that the notoriously right-leaning Investors Business Daily -- it once bizarrely suggested that Barack Obama would "put African tribal or family interests ahead of U.S. interests" -- would publish an editorial praising President Bush.

And in an Aug. 25 post, Sheppard declared it "astonishing" that CNN's Lou Dobbs would assert that "My colleagues in the national media are absolutely biased, in the tank supporting the Obama candidacy while claiming the mantle of objectivity." It's a little less astonishing if one knows, as Sheppard apparently doesn't, that Dobbs hosts a conservative-leaning show and has repeatedly and falsely attacked Obama.

You'd think that, with all of these purportedly shocking things happening, Sheppard would have somehow become inured to surprise by unsurprising things by now. But it appears he isn't. If we didn't know better, we'd be shocked.

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