Thursday, October 01, 2009

Saying what needs saying: Fox News is not a news entity, it's a political creature

-- by Dave

I hadn't seen Eric Burns, the president of Media Matters, on TV previously, but he appeared on Countdown with David Shuster yesterday, and finally said what has needed saying for some time:

Fox News is not a news source. It's a political propaganda operation. And it needs to be treated that way.

Shuster and Burns were launching off Fox's most ludicrous recent endeavor to smear the Obama administration, by using videos of schoolchildren to charge that Obama wants to "indoctrinate" them. As they discuss, this is so hypocritical and absurd that it's hard to believe anyone actually is buying it:

SHUSTER: So explain to me, why is it indoctrination when kids sing about President Obama, but it's patriotism when kids sing about President Bush and FEMA?

BURNS: Well, David, it's not indoctrination to anybody except Karl Rove, Josh Bolten, Roger Ailes -- the rest of the Bush administration in exile over at Fox News, because they are trying to push a political agenda. And they're trying to destroy this administration, and they'll use any means necessary to do it.

And just to give you a little example of this, James O'Keefe, who is the author of one of the suspect ACORN videos that there have been a lot of questions surrounding, told Chris Wallace recently on Fox News that he was employing tactics that would, quote, "destroy his political enemies." So that's what this is about.

There's nothing abnormal about folks talking and children learning about their president and learning to be -- learning about their democracy through talking about the president. I did it when I was a kid.

Then they got to what this is really all about:

SHUSTER: And is that the general theme here with the right-wing media, I mean, undermining the president by manufacturing controversies, because many of the actual Obama policies are favored by the majority of Americans?

BURNS: Absolutely. We've seen it day after day. You know, Glenn Beck is the smearer in chief over at Fox News. And we see new charts, you know, documenting some new vast conspiracy theory every day, new attacks, and it's a constant barrage.

And I'll tell you, this right-wing noise machine has been ginned up. It's never been more ferocious, and their goal is simple -- as Rush Limbaugh stated at the beginning of the year -- they want Obama to fail. Roger Ailes said that this is the Alamo for conservatives and that Fox is the voice of the opposition.

So, this is no longer a news organization. This is a political organization, and their aim is to destroy a progressive policy agenda. They'd rather win in the ballot box than see any sort of real debate on health care. It's a real shame.

Every liberal who even considers going on Fox to act as props for their propaganda machine should stop and think again.

Moreover, every consumer of the news -- conservative, centrist, or liberal -- needs to understand that Fox is not a reliable source of information.

Mainstream media in general have become less reliable, but most of them strive to be factually accurate, even if they skew ideologically somewhat. But this skew has more to do with framing and news selection than the actual reporting.

This is not the case at Fox. It deliberately broadcasts falsehoods and fake information to serve its ideological agenda.

No doubt this makes the Kool-Aid drinkers of the right happy. But for anyone else -- particularly anyone who relies on accurate information for their business or occupation or the livelihoods -- Fox News is a wasteland or outright disinformation that anyone with smidgen of intelligence will avoid.

We need more people like Eric Burns making this point.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Lyin' Glenn Beck fabricates "bombs" to smear the Left

-- by Dave

Yes, Virginia, Glenn Beck lies.

Like a rug.

Last weekend at the Beck rally in Seattle, one of his supporters (you can see him in the video) was upset that one of the protesters carried a sign proclaiming, "Glenn Beck Lies". He wanted to know when Beck had ever lied.

Answer: Oh, about nightly.

Case in point: His program Tuesday night.

In his opening rant, Beck talked about his Seattle appearances, and opened up by pointing out that there were only "about 40" protesters outside his Safeco Field shindig. And this was true. But what Beck didn't bother to explain to his viewers was that up in Mount Vernon, at his main event, there were more than 500 who showed up to protest him.

Then he said this:

Beck: Now they're worried about bombings taking place. Well, let me show you some new footage. A bombing did take place this past week in a town just north of Seattle called Everett. The only reason why I know this story is 'cause I was there. Radio station KRKO, their towers were blown up. When freedom of speech is being squelched, the left usually says, "That's fascist!" But in this case the left doesn't even call them anything!

But in reality, there were no bombs in this incident at all. All Beck and his staff had to do was read the actual news reports -- you know, the same ones from which they obtained their ELF quote:

"What they used was a machine called an excavator, it has a front arm off the front end of the machine. They stole it out of the yard," Andy Skotdal, president and general manager of KRKO. "They went and attached it to the tower and pushed one of them over and pulled the other one down."

Moreover, the vandalism had nothing to do with "free speech" and everything to do with the towers being a public nuisance:

The towers have been at the center of controversy for years. There are four towers currently at the location and there have been plans to build two more towers. Opponents have claimed that AM radio waves can harm people and wildlife.

More recently, nearby residents claim radio signals coming over home phone and intercom lines have increased since KRKO recently boosted its broadcasting power.

Just to be clear: Eco-terrorism, even without bombs, is a despicable act that deserves to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The people who brought these towers down need to be caught and jailed.

But the threat they pose, at least so far, is strictly to property, not to people. The same cannot be said of the right-wing extremists who Beck is calling out of the woodwork now.

Someone needs to ask Beck: When, exactly, was the last time a left-wing activist walked into a church or a museum and opened fire with a gun? When was the last time an eco-terrorist gunned down police officers because he feared the President and his New World Order were trying to take his guns away?

Because just in the past year alone, there have been five such incidents involving right-wing extremists. Nancy Pelosi is right to be concerned about the potential for extremist violence from the right -- because it's already happening. And when we talk about right-wing violence, we're not talking about damage to property or facilities -- we're talking about terrorists who kill people.

Moreover, we can thank Glenn Beck for his share of fomenting it.

This wasn't the only case of Beck lying on Fox last night. He also went on The O'Reilly Factor and lied about the size of the crowds that came out to protest him:

You'll note he repeats the bit about how "only 40" showed up to protest him in Seattle. But then he claims that there were "about 400" among both the anti-Beck and the pro-Beck protesters in Mount Vernon.

That's simply a baldfaced falsehood. I was there, and can tell you that the anti-Beck protesters outnumbered the pro-Beck side by about a three-to-one margin. By my count, there were about 600 anti-Beck marchers, and less than 200 who supported.

I also asked people where they were from. I couldn't find a single pro-Beck protester who was actually from Mount Vernon; most of them came from the Seattle area, particularly from the Eastside suburbs. Most of the anti-Beck protesters came from Skagit and Island counties.

And yes, there was a single busful of protesters who arrived, though there was no indication they were brought in by SEIU, as Beck claimed. Rather, these were farm workers who came down from the nearby town of Linden, a conservative farming community a little to the north, in Whatcom County.

The way Beck described it to O'Reilly, SEIU was busing in inner-city protesters to Mount Vernon. But there were no such creatures there. Again, Beck lied. It's what he does -- practically every time he opens his mouth.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Lou Dobbs doubles down on gun paranoia by claiming Sunstein will be 'gun czar'

-- by Dave

From the very moment he was elected, right-wingers have been waiting, hoping, and watching anxiously for President Obama to take some kind of action -- any kind of action -- relating to guns. Just so they can start screaming, "He's trying to take away our guns!!!! Lock and load!!! Molon labe!!!"

Of course, he's done nothing. Nada. Zippo.

Which means they're now forced to just make stuff up.

This is never a problem for the paranoid, gun-toting right anyway. It's what they do.

Lou Dobbs was out leading the parade last night:

DOBBS: A record 1 million background checks on gun sales were completed by the FBI in the month of August alone. Those numbers show that gun owners are increasingly concerned that the Obama administration is on a mission to restrict Second Amendment rights in this country.

Supporters of those rights gathered in St. Louis over this weekend to fight attempts to strip Americans of their right to keep and to bear arms. Bill Tucker with our report.

And what exactly is the source of that fear? Um, well ...

TUCKER: Ask them why, and they recall the words of Attorney General Eric Holder on the need to ban assault weapons to help reduce drug violence in Mexico.

They point to the president's regulatory czar, Cass Sunstein, who personally is not just opposed to hunting, but said back in 2007 it should be banned. Or they will point to the president's consistent voting record for gun control, both in the Senate and back in Illinois.

Nor do these gun rights enthusiasts trust the newest Supreme Court justice, who in her only ruling on gun rights said the Second Amendment could only be applied to the federal government.

Hmmm. This sounds like almost exactly the same charges the NRA has been peddling since January, and yet the Obama administration has not acted on guns in any fashion.

The only new thing is the bit about Cass Sunstein, the demonization of whom began with Glenn Beck and has now spread to Dobbs' show. Dobbs and Tucker delve this in more detail:

TUCKER: All of them, of course, united under the banner of securing their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. For his part, the president does say he respects the constitutional right and promised that he will "protect the rights of hunters and other law- abiding Americans to purchase, own, and transport, and use guns."

But gun activists remain skeptical -- Lou?

DOBBS: I mean, the attorney general, Eric Holder, has said "They just want to do a few things with the Second Amendment." And the czar here, Cass Sunstein -- I mean, what's his deal?

TUCKER: He's a vegetarian, and he believes that hunting ought to be banned.

DOBBS: So, he's not big on hunting.

TUCKER: He's not big on hunting at all. But he has openly supported the right of animals to sue. He believes animals ought to have rights...

DOBBS: I'm sorry, repeat that again?

TUCKER: He believes animals should have rights, which would include the right to sue if they have been mistreated.

DOBBS: If they were hunted.

TUCKER: Or I guess hunted.

DOBBS: If they were hunted -- really?

TUCKER: I can't explain it, Lou, I'm just telling you.

DOBBS: I just think we should let this sort of percolate, because, presumably, the president knows this man, knows who he put there...


DOBBS: ... as the regulatory czar over guns. That's truly, truly interesting.

Thank you very much, Bill Tucker.

TUCKER: You're welcome.

Cass Sunstein, the regulatory czar over guns? Not exactly. And by "not exactly," we mean, "not even remotely related to the truth."

Sunstein has been nominated to head up the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, whose role it is to review draft regulations under Executive Order 12866; additionally, "OIRA reviews collections of information under the Paperwork Reduction Act, and also develops and oversees the implementation of government-wide policies in the areas of information technology, information policy, privacy, and statistical policy."

Guns are nowhere near this picture, except hypothetically (it would be possible, as a matter of conjecture, that Sunstein's office would review the efficacy of proposed gun regs coming out of the ATF). And that's it. That's the entire "connection" here.

But hey, don't worry, Lou. When the next Richard Poplawski kills three cops because he was afraid Obama was gonna take his guns away, we'll know who to thank.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Dave on 'Countdown': Did Clinton have it worse than Obama?

-- by Dave

I went on Countdown last night to chat with Lawrence O'Donnell -- who was filling in for Keith Olbermann -- about Bill Clinton's remarks the other day about the never-ending bloodlust of the "vast right-wing conspiracy".

O'Donnell was critical of Clinton for suggesting that the power of the conspiracy was less today than what he faced -- and regarding that aspect of Clinton's remarks, I agree with him. The reality, as I explained in the segment, is that the spread and reach of the really virulent wingnuttery that plagued Clinton -- the black-helicopter conspiracy theories like Mena, or the Vince Foster suicide, or the Clinton Body Count -- was largely relegated, until later in his tenure, to the fringes of the militia movement.

Obama, by contrast, is not even through his first year as president and he's already being plagued by Birthers and Tenthers and Teabaggers and Death Panels (along with, of course, the obligatory "He's Going To Grab Our Guns" conspiracies).

And it's true, moreover, the Clinton is right that the country has changed demographically since he was president, which means they do not possess the actual political power they held during much of his tenure. But they've made up for the lack of power with a much deeper reach into the mainstream. I dunno about you, but it sure looks to me like the Teabaggers are the new Patriots -- and there's a hell of a lot more of them.

Perhaps more to the point, they've already demonstrated -- by at least temporarily derailing the debate over health-care reform with wingnutty distractions like the "death panels" and the gun-brandishing nutcases showing up at health-care town hall forums -- that they continue to have an outsize influence on the national discourse. Especially because of Fox News and the rest of the mainstream media's willingness to be bullied by them -- led, as always, by the wise media poobahs of the Beltway Village.

That is -- and you can file this under the L'esprit de l'escalier Dept., since I meant to say it in this segment -- what they lack in power they've more than made up for by continuing to pull the media reins and shape the national discourse. They're able to move the media needles still -- which is, of course, the problem. The Village gives movement conservatives far more respect than they deserve, especially at this juncture, with the movement fully in the hands of nutty populist demagogues.

Glenn Beck is as popular as he is because everyone in the "mainstream" is too busy running fawning puff pieces to point out his actual extremism. No one has the guts to explain that these people are driving the Republicans over a cliff into political oblivion.

In The Eliminationists, I do talk a lot about how vicious the campaign against Clinton got to be -- and how many bridges and alliances were built between the far right and mainstream conservatives during those years as a result, particularly in the way right-wing talkers started picking up and transmitting memes from the far right.

Finally, I should add that, while I disagree with Clinton on this point, I generally agreed with the overall thrust of his recent comments, particularly his warning that the "conspiracy" (as it were) remains a potent force, capable of undermining Obama's presidency in unexpected ways. One can't help but suspect that Obama has been naive on this front -- how many times does he have to reach out to Republicans and come back with a chewed-up hand to get it? -- and I suspect Clinton intended to point out the cold reality. To which I can only add: Hear! Hear!

Cross-posted at Crooks and LiarsM.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Why does Fox insist on calling human beings 'illegals'?

-- by Dave

Fox News' morning crews -- both Fox and Friends and the regular newsroom -- were going ape about the Moonie Times' report on the pushback by liberal Democrats on including undocumented immigrants in the current health-care reform effort:

Fearful that they're losing ground on immigration and health care, a group of House Democrats is pushing back and arguing that any health care bill should extend to all legal immigrants and allow illegal immigrants some access.

The Democrats, trying to stiffen their party's spines on the contentious issue, say it's unfair to bar illegal immigrants from paying their own way in a government-sponsored exchange. Legal immigrants, they say, regardless of how long they've been in the United States, should be able to get government-subsidized health care if they meet the other eligibility requirements.

"Legal permanent residents should be able to purchase their plans, and they should also be eligible for subsidies if they need it. Undocumented, if they can afford it, should be able to buy their own private plans. It keeps them out of the emergency room," said Rep. Michael M. Honda, California Democrat and chairman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.

Of course, this really is only common sense, especially from a public-health perspective; do we really want people not getting treated for contagious diseases simply because they can't prove they're here legally?

However, as sensible as it may be, these efforts realistically have little chance of succeeding, given the toxic political environment about immigration and health-care reform that's been floating about us ever since Joe Wilson shouted out, "You lie!"

Nonetheless, this set wingnut gums a-flapping about the horrid prospect of actually using taxpayer dollars for something they're already required by law to pay for anyway.

And the folks at Fox were all over this angle. Notably, they kept referring to these immigrants as "illegals". Illegals, illegals, illegals -- it was running on the chryon and out of their mouths.

There's a reason the National Association of Hispanic Journalists urges their colleagues to avoid dehumanizing terms like "illegals":

The term criminalizes the person rather than the actual act of illegally entering or residing in the United States without federal documents. Terms such as illegal alien or illegal immigrant can often be used pejoratively in common parlance and can pack a powerful emotional wallop for those on the receiving end.

Moreover, as Eric Haas at the Rockridge Institute points out, it's a grossly misleading phrase -- and one that reveals a powerful xenophobia:

But the phrase "illegal immigrant" is misleading. There's a grain of truth, but the emphasis is only selectively applied -- it's misapplied -- we don't call speeders "illegal drivers" or people who jaywalk "illegals." And that selective application to immigrants is harmful.

Most people don't understand that "illegal immigration" is in fact only a civil misdemeanor -- which, as legal infractions go, places it on the same scale as speeding or illegal parking. Instead, we've managed to work it up in our minds that being undocumented in the United States is a big-time crime, and thus the undocumented are criminals.

Thus we get Rep. Steve King saying this in response to the Democrats' common-sense efforts:

"If anybody can, with a straight face, advocate that we should provide health insurance for people who broke into our country, broke our law and for the most part are criminals, I don't know where they ever would draw the line," he said.

I wonder if Steve King has ever exceeded the speed limit while driving on the freeway. Because, applying his own logic, he would himself also be "a criminal."

Moreover, nearly half of the undocumented workers in this country didn't "break into" the country -- they came here on legal visas that then expired, and they simply didn't leave.

Calling them "illegals" and "illegal immigrants" is a noxiously dehumanizing habit -- one that only encourages hatefulness and violence against Latinos. It would always help, as Marisa Trevino at Latina Lista points out, if President Obama himself would stop using it.

Because the logic of "illegals" eventually leads to a mindset like that noted by Albor Ruiz at the New York Daily News, describing the kind of commentary that usually accompanies discussions of immigration:

"Save the taxpayers of this country a great deal of money and kill them [the undocumented immigrants] on the spot, along with those who think [they] deserve anything better," he said as a reaction to "Immigration's self-deportation program is a real government gem," a column that ran in this space on Aug. 6.

Ironically, the writer used the case of an illegal immigrant who committed murder in Texas to justify calling - patriotically, I guess - for a much more horrible crime, an "ethnic cleansing" of sorts against all immigrants and - why stop there? - thousands of people "who think these pieces of (I'll spare the reader the disgusting epithet) deserve anything better." If this guy and others like him had their choice, I and others like me would be well advised to "go back to where we came from." Or else.

That, of course, is classic eliminationism. It underlies the use of "illegals." And that alone is reason for major-network TV anchors to stop using it.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Question of the day for Glenn Beck fans in Seattle: Does President Obama hate white people?

-- by Dave

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I have to give Max Blumenthal, who I had the pleasure of hosting here in Seattle this past week, credit for coming up with the ideal question to ask the fans of Glenn Beck who showed up Saturday in the Seattle area to root for their favorite right-wing fearmonger:

Do you think President Obama hates white people?

The first person I asked was Sean Salazar, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate -- he wants to take on Sen. Patty Murray, and so far appears to be leading the GOP field -- standing outside Safeco Field, where Beck's Seattle event was held.

Salazar, as you can see, hedged and stammered and then quickly found someone else to talk to. But he typified the response in Seattle: "When did Glenn Beck say that? Really? He said that? Well, I need to see the context." One woman said that "Beck explained that," but I pointed out to her that all he said was that he was sorry how it was worded, but that it's still a "serious" question Americans need to be asking. So I was asking them.

I also asked the man who was carrying the big sign making fun of Beck. He pointed out how white the crowd was. And it was true, particularly inside the stadium (more on that shortly). Eventually, I did manage to find an African-American man who was outside gathering signatures on behalf of Ron Paul's "Campaign for Liberty." He said he wasn't going in to see Beck.

Finally, right at the end, I did encounter one honest soul. As you can see.

I met many, many more of these folks at the Beck rally in Mount Vernon later that afternoon and into the evening. Unfortunately, I didn't manage to capture most of them on video (a camera burp) -- just one couple towards the end of the evening. But I had at least five different people at Mount Vernon, supporters of Beck's, tell me they firmly believed Obama was a racist who hated white people.

The scene at Mount Vernon was radically different from the one in Seattle. Outside Safeco, there were only 30 or so anti-Beck protesters. Everyone evidently saved their energies for Mount Vernon, where the mayor, a Republican named Bud Norris, unwisely decided to give the hometown-boy-gone-bigtime the keys to the city.

Locals chanted: "Change the locks! Change the locks!" And there were hundreds of them; the crowd estimate was at about a thousand, including several hundred pro-Beck counter-protesters. Those were the folks I talked to the most, and the toxic Obama-hatred was far stronger among this group than it was with the attendees in Seattle.

Fortunately, they were badly outnumbered.

And they were also, it need be said, uniformly white. The only whiter bunch I saw all day was the reported 7,000 who paid to hear Beck speak at Safeco (actually, it was Beck who reported that number, which makes it dubious on its face).

The only nonwhite face I saw inside at Safeco was that of the actor James McEachin, who was there to open up the event with a stirring tribute to veterans. Which was a big part of the whole spiel -- a Beckian appeal to the virtues of wrapping one's self in the flag and imputing unpatriotic motives to your opponents.

It was actually a pretty tedious affair, including Beck's speech, which really was just a kind of standard Beckian thesis bashing progressives and "big government" and touting the virtue of "real Americans" like the folks gathered that day. Real white Americans, that is. The ones President Obama hates.

The best part was getting to watch Beck pull his weeping schtick. You can watch him getting himself all worked up to do the choked-up thing, because, you know, he just loves him some real Westerners who made it over the mountains. Sniffle. He pulled the choke-up routine a couple times later in the talk too.

Wonder if he gets all choked up thinking about those "real Americans" who now agree with him that the President of the United States is a radical black who hates white people.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

'Indoctrinating' children? There go conservatives, projecting again

-- by Dave

Without a doubt the silliest "scandal" raised by right-wingers in many weeks has been the foofara over the supposed video showing schoolkids being "indoctrinated" with pro-Obama "propaganda" -- which is, of course, actually an innocuous video of a class of schoolkids singing as part of a Black History Month program.

The silliness would be funny, in fact, if the right-wing media's (particularly Fox's) coverage hadn't inspired death threats, whose existence were quickly airbrushed out of Fox News accounts.

But evidently these people weren't around during the Reagan or Bush years, when such encomia to the sitting president were fairly common. Indeed, as Blue Texan pointed out, they even named schools after Bush when he was president.

And you want to talk about indoctrination? How about the Texas schoolchildren whose curricula have now been revised to be explicitly creationist and anti-evolutionist?

Mike Stark brought this up on MSNBC Thursday, debating the issue with Tim Carney of the Washington Examiner, who was more interested in playing "gotcha" with Stark than actually, you know, discussing the issue. Like all good Republicans. This, of course, was because he really didn't have a good answer.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.