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King of the Hypocrisy Frontier

WorldNetDaily steals tactics it once deplored from critics of "The Passion of the Christ" to criticize "The Alamo." Plus: Richard Poe, "objective third party"?

By Terry Krepel
Posted 4/15/2004

Two movies, two vastly different reactions.

WorldNetDaily was one of the many conservative organizations that were part of the (near as we can tell) unpaid public relations corps for Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ," defending it from criticism by some Jewish groups after copy of a version of the movie's script was leaked.

"...[I]f the Anti-Defamation League chooses to make an issue of this film, it will be the organization's own undoing. In effect, the ADL will be telling Christians their most deeply held beliefs, their faith, their Holy Scriptures are offensive," WND CEO Joseph Farah wrote in a July 2003 column.

Another WND story, from February, focuses on conservative Catholic William Donohue, who "went through a long list of actions by critics, including scripts and tapes stolen and given to "those who could be counted on to slam it" and attacked critics who "have deceitfully gained admission into screenings of the film."

WND columnist Barbara Simpson joined in, lamenting in a January column how Gibson has "endured a stolen script which was publicly reviewed" and "scathing commentary by people who never saw it."

So, WND believes that stealing scripts of an unreleased movie and disparaging a film you've never seen is a bad thing, right?

So, how do you explain an April 6 story in which WND -- you guessed it -- criticizes a movie based on a stolen script?

The difference is the movie in question: "The Alamo," the big-budget Disney-produced epic. The WND story quotes B. Forest Clayton from the Freedom Alliance -- which the article calls "a pro-military nonprofit organization" but fails to mention that the group was founded by Iran-Contra technically-not-a-convicted-felon Oliver North -- who says "he obtained a screenplay of the film and found it to be 'full of inaccuracies.'" No speculation about the mean of said obtaining.

Clayton "says Davy Crockett is portrayed as a 'frightened wanderer' who wanted to escape 'over the wall' in the dark of night during the historic battle, but felt paralyzed and trapped by his own underserved heroic reputation," the unbylined WND article states.

Clayton's accusations are not allowed to be directly rebutted -- no one is interviewed for a response -- though the article quotes the curator of the Alamo museum, who said the new movie is more accurate than the 1960 film version starring John Wayne.

Farah followed that story up with an April 8 column that largely rehashed Clayton's accusations (in fact, pretty much the entire April 6 WND story) added with your basic conservative attack against Hollywood: "I never expected Disney would lie. I never expected the filmmakers would just make it up as they went along. That sounds like what Disney has done. ... This film needs to die a quick and unmerciful death at the box office."

A film, by the way, Farah has never actually seen and was not even released at the time of his column.

Thus, WND was more than happy to report that "The Alamo" made a meager $9.2 million on its opening weekend, which also prompted a gloating April 13 column by Farah. "... I have to believe the American people showed some good judgment," he wrote.

Never mind, again, that according to Farah himself, "No, I haven't seen the movie. Nor do I intend to see it." He then tries to deflect the reaction of the folks who "will jump down my throat with that statement and demand, "How can you know the movie is so bad without even seeing it?" The answer is simple: The script has been reviewed by historians." He then launches into another rehash of the WND story and his own previous column.

"Historians"? Farah (and WND) has cited exactly one person who was critical, and his agenda seems more political than historic. Clayton is described in the Freedom Alliance article containing his assessment of the purloined script as a "Freedom Alliance Visiting Fellow, former history teacher and author of Suppressed History: Obliterating Politically Correct Orthodoxies." According to his biography, he has a bachelor's degree in history and a master's degree in education and "taught U.S. History and World History for seven years." Does that make one a "historian"? We don't know, but Clayton seems to have a pretty clear bias and should not be the only person any news organization should cite as its sole source on matters of history.

But as we know, WorldNetDaily is not just any news organization -- it's a highly biased one, and Clayton fit its biases perfectly.

* * *

WorldNetDaily's intermingling of "news" and book promotion, always disturbing, has descended into the delusional.

An April 9 article plugs Richard Poe's WND-published book "Hillary's Secret War," which, if you'll recall, is subtitled "The Clinton Conspiracy to Muzzle Internet Journalists," WND being among those journalists.

The article gives a list of subjects tackled in the book, which reads like your usual Clinton-bashing laundry list. Among them:

  • Bill and Hillary's Secret Police Force – including notorious private investigators Anthony Pellicano and Terry Lenzner
  • Hillary's success in purging Andrew Sullivan at The New Republic … and her inability (so far) to stifle his growing influence online
  • The New Underground's crucial role in toppling the leadership of the New York Times – proving why Hillary is right to be concerned about the Net
  • Why the Left will never conquer the Internet
  • How the New Underground (Poe's term for conservative journalists, talk radio and cable TV) exposed the Clintons' connection to Iran-Contra
  • The Clinton "body count"

That's standard ConWeb stuff. The delusional part comes in when the article calls Poe "an objective third party."

Huh? Poe may be a lot of things -- and in the interest of fairness, we'll note that we have not yet read the book -- but objectivity is not something he has demonstrated a lot of in the past. Poe is a former editor of David Horowitz's FrontPage online magazine, not known for its objectivity.

He is also a defender of Ann Coulter, also not known for her objectivity. When a newspaper canceled her column, Poe called the newspaper's editor a "whining, mincing, bed-wetting liberal, speculating that the editor "believed that the only way he could bask, even briefly, in Miss Coulter’s limelight was by hurting her." Coulter returned the favor by plugging Poe's book "The Seven Myths of Gun Control" in one of her columns (one idea in Poe's book, as Coulter writes: "feminists hate guns because guns remind them of men"). He also lavishly praised a Web site that allows visitors to slap a virtual Hillary Clinton: "With each slap, we sense that we are drawing nearer to a Siberian prison cell. But our anxiety only makes the slap more thrilling."

Poe is not merely an observer of the "New Underground" he writes about -- he's part of it, moving in the same circles as those he writes about. NewsMax has a lengthy list of Poe-penned articles it has run. In addition, not only has WorldNetDaily published a Poe article in its magazine, Poe and WND's Joseph Farah joined in an alleged debate, moderated by one of Poe's colleagues at FrontPage, in which the two gang up on token liberal Eric Margolis on issues regarding Israel. Sample Farah quote: "I agree with Mr. Poe, of course."

We're risking another fact-free personal attack, we know, and Poe's book might be different from his past work, but given that it apparently dredges up old chestnuts like the "Clinton body count" -- which we somehow suspect he won't be debunking -- the proper reaction at this point to any statement claiming his objectivity may well be a cynical "yeah, right."

* * *

WorldNetDaily's plug of its latest issue of Whistleblower magazine -- topic, in WND's all-caps style: SEXUAL ANARCHY -- includes a large picture of the cover, which revealed something we hadn't noticed before. (We haven't seen the magazine -- it's not available at any newsstands we frequent, and we have better things to spend $40 on than a year's subscription to a hopelessly slanted piece of alleged journalism. The final volume of Abenobashi comes immediately to mind.)

In the black bar below the nameplate is the magazine's apparent slogan: "Credible, Independent, Fearless." ConWebWatch has addressed WND's alleged independence in the past, pointing out that its articles mostly follow either a conservative fundamentalism or serve as plugs for books it publishes. As far as "credible" is concerned, the fact that you feel the need to tell people you're credible on the front page of your magazine is perhaps a sign that you're not.

As for "fearless," lying about your independence and trying to convince others you're credible by using the word a lot takes a certain lack of fear. Well, lack of shame, anyway.

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