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Update: Getting Rank ... Again

Is NewsMax gaming the bestseller list for more cheap publicity? Plus: WND's one-source wonder checks in, the MRC falls for a Clinton sex joke and ignores a factual error, Harry Potter the Nazi, and more.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 7/11/2003

As the investigator on any given TV detective show might say, it's got the same M.O.

NewsMax spent Wednesday touting the sudden rise of its book, "Tales of the West Coast" by James Hirsen, on the bestseller list -- "an amazing 22,000 rankings on Amazon's best-seller list in one day," according to a story posted midday Wednesday (which also somehow keeps a straight face in calling the book "the most important expose on Hollywood ever written"). This was followed by what passes for a conservative coup de grace these days, ranking (slightly) ahead of Hillary Clinton's "Living History."

We've seen this before from NewsMax -- the sudden, unexplained rise, the e-mails and messages promoting it, the linking from NewsMax to Amazon despite the fact that drives away sales from NewsMax's own retail operation, which also happens to be a major profit center for the money-losing company. It happened last fall, when NewsMax had another book to sell; ConWebWatch theorized that NewsMax itself or its agents purchased several copies of the book from Amazon, promoted the resulting jump in sales rank and encouraged its readers to buy from Amazon (even though Amazon was selling the book for more than NewsMax was), creating a cycle of cheap, inbred publicity.

So, is the same thing happening again? Perhaps. Then again, a story popped up midday Thursday gloating that Hirsen's appearance on Bob Grant's radio show "catapulted to No. 9 on Amazon, leaving Hillary in the dust at No. 12." (Only in the mind of NewsMax can being three slots ahead be construed as leaving the lower-slotted item "in the dust.") Hmmmm ... why did NewsMax say this in the first place?

If previous efforts to promote books as temporarily outselling Hillary is any indication, expect Hirsen's book to fade quickly, while Hillary's book has remained in the upper reaches of the Amazon list since its release nearly a month ago.

* * *

WorldNetDaily's Jon Dougherty demonstrates once again just how lousy a reporter he is.

He turns in yet another one-source wonder July 5, this time on John Lott's book "The Bias Against Guns." Dougherty's lone source: John Lott.

The talk-only-to-the-author approach does make things easier, because otherwise he would have had to use his journalistic instincts (assuming he has any) and look into the various accusations of shoddy research against Lott. Heck, even put some effort into its Lott puffery, addressing some of the accusations (though not the most serious one).

On the other hand, neither WND nor CNS say a word about Mary Rosh.

* * *

Who still runs opinion pieces criticizing rap music? WorldNetDaily does. A May 16 piece by "columnist and award-winning author" Erik Rush beats up on rap for being "no more a substantive or integral part of black culture than pimpery or drug addiction" and "one of the lowest forms of so-called 'art' born of a culture that labels urine-immersed religious icons and public sex acts with root vegetables as art." Rap performers are dismissed as "gesticulating, unhygienic illiterates" and "undereducated, foul-mouthed, marginally-talented thugs."

Like a lot of other rap critics, he sounds like a snooty musical elitist, saying at one point, "I started teaching myself piano when I was about six, and now play five instruments. I'm currently working on the sixth."

He also says that rap comes from an urban culture where "entitlement programs and class envy are firmly entrenched," and that anyone who likes or promotes rap is "culturally impoverished."

And Mr. Rush manages to sound so very 1991.

* * *

The only thing that Brent Baker got out of the June 8 "Fox News Sunday" discussion about Hillary Clinton's book was Brit Hume's slam about Bill Clinton "waving his wand at everyone who walked by." Then again, Baker does have a weakness for Clinton sex jokes.

What Baker didn't (or refused to) see was that elsewhere in the program, Hume got a key fact wrong about the Monica Lewinsky affair. Hume claimed that it wasn't until "seven months after the rest of the world had seen all the evidence and even after the stain on the dress came up positive" that Hillary became upset about Bill Clinton's affair with Lewinsky. As the Daily Howler reminds us, the infamous dress had not undergone DNA testing until after Hillary said Clinton admitted his affair to her.

Then again, when you're busy sniggering over sexual references, it can be hard to pick up those kinds of factual screw-ups.

* * *

Remember a few months ago when NewsMax ran a story about stories the media initially got wrong about the war in Iraq? There's another one to add to the list.

George Galloway, a member of the British Parliament, had been accused earlier this year in a Christian Science Monitor article of accepting $10 million over 11 years from Saddam Hussein's regime to promote its interests. But on June 20, the Monitor ran a retraction, saying the documents used to back up its original story were apparently forged.

WorldNetDaily ran two stories and an Ann Coulter column featuring the original accusation. NewsMax ran two stories mentioning it. ran four stories. Accuracy in Media also gives it a mention.

To date, only AIM has reported the Monitor's retraction. It took more than two weeks to do so, and doesn't bother to point out AIM's original mention of the Galloway accusation.

* * *

Most whacked-out commentary of the month: Caryl Matrisciana at WorldNetDaily, who takes Harry Potter to task for being anti-Christian and ... a Nazi?

In her June 20 piece, on the eve of the release of "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," Matrisciana wrote:

    Is it a coincidence that Adolph Hitler also used the phoenix as his symbol of reincarnation and "born again" power to resurrect the Second Reicht to his Third Reicht in an attempt to bring about the New World Order? His Nazi uniform boldly emblazoned both the phoenix and another powerful occult symbol, the lightning bolt. Interestingly enough, the so-called descending phallus of heaven, the lightning bolt believed to impregnate Mother Earth, or the sea-womb with life, is the curse mark Harry's arch enemy, the Evil Lord Voldemort scarred Harry's forehead with when he murdered Harry's parents on Halloween night.

Matrisciana also likens the lightning-bolt mark to the Biblical "mark of the beast."

WorldNetDaily wouldn't have run something like this if commerce wasn't involved, and sure enough, Matrisciana has made a video claiming that the Potter books is a "repackaging of Witchcraft in probably its most dangerous form -- children's fantasy literature." It was made by Jeremiah Films, which also made the factually challenged, Jerry Falwell-promoted "Clinton Chronicles" and another Clinton-bashing tape about which a federal appeals court wrote that "the lines of fact and fiction are blurred."

And -- coincidence of coincidences -- WorldNetDaily has it for sale.

* * *

We already know what kind of political coverage to expect from WorldNetDaily during the 2004 presidential election -- relentlessly negative on Democrats, soft on Bush. If you need another clue, read the opening of Joseph Farah's May 8 column:

    This is the first of a series of occasional columns I will write ripping to shreds every single Democratic candidate for president.

    Why just the Democrats? Because they are all evil. They are all rotten to the core. They are all miscreants not even deserving citizenship in our great country, let alone the privilege and honor of serving as president of the United States.

    They are liars – one and all. They are thieves. They want to steal more of your money. They want to steal more of your freedom. They want to steal your country away from you.

    They are moral reprobates. They would sell their souls to gain the White House if any of them had one.

Not exactly fair and balanced. Farah then claims he's no fan of Bush -- "I'll probably have a few choice words to say about his ill-conceived domestic and foreign policies between now and then" -- but we suspect that Democrat-bashing will get much more prominent play on WND than any criticism of the president.

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