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Update: Bloviating About 'The Passion'

The ConWeb goes way overboard in its unquestioning support of Mel Gibson's movie. Plus: The MRC rants about Bush-Guard coverage, WorldNetDaily gets caught plagiarizing, writes a book-length monument to itself, and much more.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 2/27/2004
Updated 3/5/2004

There's no need to get into just how biased the ConWeb's coverage of Mel Gibson's "The Passion of The Christ" has been. We all know that the ConWeb supported the movie unequivocally and incessantly and took Gibson's side to explain away charges of anti-Semitism (though if you need some examples of it, here's WorldNetDaily's archive).

Yet, as it so frequently does, the ConWeb took that support to absurd lengths. Each of our components had a hand in running stories that took even their unquestioning support into bizarre territory.

WorldNetDaily starts us off with a Feb. 25 story taking a defense of "The Passion's" extreme gore and violence to extremes by focusing on the comments of William Donohue, president of the right-wing Catholic League, who attacked film critics who didn't like the gore by comparing their comments with what they wrote about films they did like and presumably Donohue didn't. In doing so, of course, Donohue simplifies descriptions of those films beyond distortion: one critic is called "a big fan of the Marquis de Sade – the pervert who wrote the book on S&M – and that is why she liked 'Quill' (sic)"; another is accused of hailing as '"a must-see' movie a film about incest, 'The Dreamers.'" trotted out a review of the film by Jeff Johnson, last seen dancing around having to do accurate reporting on conservative gun expert John Lott's alter ego, Mary Rosh. He can't find a thing wrong with it, of course, and he even quotes his boss, Brent Bozell, defending Gibson from being "so relentlessly, unfairly, dishonestly and, yes, even personally by a small but vocal minority committed to defeating Passion's message and [Gibson's] reputation."

After stating that "the film has the potential to be an amazingly effective evangelistic tool," Johnson adds, "That potential for reaching the lost is, more likely than not, precisely why the film has been the subject of unrelenting attacks for its alleged anti-Semitism." He buys into the conspiracy theory the ConWeb has helped promote, insinuating two dangerous things: that anyone who raises charge of anti-Semitism is automatically anti-Christian, and that anyone who isn't a Christian -- or, more to the point, isn't Jeff Johnson's kind of Christian -- is somehow "lost."

To which a certain J.R.R. Tolkien quote comes to mind: "Not all who wander are lost." (Those folks probably aren't Johnson's kind of Christians, either.)

NewsMax, for its part, ginned up another bogus opt-in poll, which, unsurprisingly, showed near-unanimous support for Gibson.

In what passes for a caveat, the "'s online survey was not scientific, and included readers of the Drudge Report, MSN, Slate, the New York Post and hundreds of other Web sites." Translation: It took out ads on those sites begging people to take part, with exhortations like "Mel Gibson Needs Your Vote." One can assume that the vote NewsMax thought Gibson needed was not "no."

When your bogus poll carries the same favorability numbers as your news coverage, most people would consider that a problem. But we are talking about the ConWeb here.

* * *

The folks at the Media Research Center just can't get over the fact that the whole Bush-National Guard thing was ever covered at all.

See, they think it's one of those liberal-media conspiracies, and the fact that even with the document dump of military records we still don't know what the heck the president was doing for several months in 1972 and a few more in 1973 (because he sure wasn't attending his Guard drills) somehow still doesn't add up to a legitimate story in their eyes.

Lead ranter at the MRC (oops, maybe we shouldn't say "ranter" because the MRC's Brent Baker tells us that that a person is "denigrated" when you call their work a rant, and we know the MRC would never denigrate someone in that way) is, of course, Brent Bozell. He complains in a Feb. 20 column that that darn media is "chanting 'questions linger, questions linger, questions linger' about Bush’s honorable National Guard service" conveniently overlooking the fact that questions actually do linger. In a Feb. 12 column, he tries to bring up the bogus issue of "Just imagine what John Kerry (not to mention Tom Brokaw) would have said had Bob Dole tried to restart the draft issue with Clinton in 1996" (which MRC tried to do previously) again conveniently overlooking that, unlike with Bush in 2000, the entirety of Bill Clinton's, to quote Bozell, "draft-dodging record." (Again forgetting that if Bush entered the National Guard to keep from going to Vietnam, as Slate's timothy Noah writes, doesn't that make him a draft-dodger as well?)

MRC also trots out another "Media Reality Check," in which Rich Noyes laments that "Despite the fact that no Democrat had substantiated their AWOL claims, the networks put the burden on Bush to prove his innocence." Noyes also clings to the legalistic definition of absent without leave in claiming that "The records showed Bush was never 'AWOL.'" And, of course, we get the obligatory reference to "Bill Clinton’s draft-dodging scandal," despite the fact that Clinton's behavior didn't rise to the traditional fleeing-the-country definition of draft-dodging.

On the CyberAlert front, Brent Baker does his part for the team in attacking Bill Burkett, who claimed that he witnessed efforts to "cleanse" Bush' National Guard records, as "a member of a left-wing group" who "wrote a disgruntled screed blaming George W. Bush for his health problems" in which Baker claims Burkett "ranted."

Whoops. Didn't Baker himself just say that labeling someone as a ranter is "denigrating"? That is a bad thing, right?

* * *

WorldNetDaily will likely never apologize for printing anonymous rumors about a non-conservative politician's sex life and its other slanted behavior, but it did get nabbed for plagiarism that it had to apologize for.

Buried on Feb. 15, a Sunday, was this little story, reproduced here in its entirety lest WND decides to make it magically disappear one day:

A Sept. 8, 2003, story in WorldNetDaily and Joseph Farah's G2 Bulletin on whether Osama bin Laden sees himself as an Islamic holy figure known as ''The Mahdi'' included unattributed research and quotations from Timothy R. Furnish, Ph.D, from Middle East Quarterly, Spring 2002.

WorldNetDaily apologizes for the error.

One suspects WND's plagiarism wasn't exactly an "error" given its history of lifting stories from other news organizations and putting them under a WND byline. Now, if we can get WND to apologize for that egregious journalistic behavior ...

* * *

Speaking of books, we knew it was inevitable, and now it's coming soon: the WorldNetDaily-published book that lionizes WorldNetDaily. The book "Hillary's Secret War" props up "a group of "renegade journalists" – including, prominently, WND's Joseph Farah" and how the allegedly "fought to expose America’s darkest scandals through the Internet, and how the most powerful woman in the world tried to stop them."

"Written with all the drama and tension of a gripping novel, this carefully researched book gives the inside story of how these modern-day patriots endured Hillary’s attacks, and emerged from the battlefield to become a sprawling, innovative news source reaching tens of millions each day," the overheated WND blurb reads.

Surprisingly, it's not a WND employee that was made to do the dirty deed -- the writer is right-winger and Farah mustache copycat Richard Poe. (Update: Poe says WND did not commission the book but picked it up "only after Random House spiked it.") whose own site reveals that Jim Robinson of Free Republic wrote the introduction. It's as conspiracy-minded and Clinton-hate-filled as the rest of Free Republic (and, presumably, the rest of Poe's book), with references to "Hillary and her secret police" and "forces at work in America that killed to protect the Clintons and their secrets" and a description of Hillary as "the godmother of the Clinton crime family."

* * *

Other recent silliness by WorldNetDaily:

-- The hate-Kerry campaign continues apace on its news pages. One recent entry: a Feb. 26 story by Ron Strom (we have to note the bylines at WND since they're so rare these days) on some other guy who wrote a hate-Kerry article. There's also a Feb. 23 article (this one semi-bylined, sourcing WND sister site Joseph Farah's G2 Bulletin) that claims that Kerry's wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, has "a track record of support for the causes of radical, anti-American groups – including Islamists, terrorist-defense law firms, abortionists and homosexual activists." This type of smearing of multimillionaires by association was, according to Farah, a bad thing when the millionaire was Richard Mellon Scaife. Of course, Farah took (happily, he says) some of his money.

-- Also continuing apace is WND's presentation of book ads disguised as news articles. Lately, this is taking the form of treating anything Michael Savage says as newsworthy, like a Feb. 25 piece in which he tries to link homosexuality and Marxism. Sorry, Michael -- Scott Hogenson at beat you to it last year.

This extends to people tangentially related to WND business interests. How else to explain a Feb. 23 puff piece on talk-radio host Laura Ingraham, except for this prominent paragraph from the article stating that her syndicator "is an affiliated company of Talk Radio Network, which syndicates the top-rated Michael Savage Show. Savage is the author of 'The Enemy Within,' currently in its 7th week on the New York Times Best Seller list, as well as last year's No. 1 New York Times best seller, "The Savage Nation." Both books are published by WorldNetDaily's publishing division, WND Books."

-- WND's Alexa rating continues to slide, down to No. 685 as of this writing. If you still question why, reread this article.

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