Archive

Archive for the ‘“Liberal” Media’ Category

It Has to Be True

April 4th, 2014 3 comments

It’s easy to fool people that want to be fooled. If you have people who are addicted to nicotine and you give them a BS “scientific study” showing that the deleterious effects of tobacco smoking have been overblown, chances are most of them will buy into it. I know, I’ve seen it, many times—people who are intelligent enough to know better, but they hold up “studies” paid for by tobacco companies as evidence that smoking isn’t so bad.

Want to see this principle in action, right now? Then head over to Fox “News.” The big, blaring headline there:

Hundreds of cases of potential voter fraud uncovered in North Carolina

Wow! Voter fraud! In large numbers! Just the proof we’ve been looking for that Republican voter-ID laws are not a political scheme to steal votes, but instead are completely reasonable efforts to stem massive amounts of voter fraud!

Of course, the headline does warn that the fraud is just “potential,” but we know that this is just Fox being unusually cautious, right? After all, if it weren’t real, then why would Fox make a big deal out of it?

So, let’s see the really convincing evidence!

State elections officials in North Carolina are investigating hundreds of cases of potential voter fraud after identifying thousands of registered voters with personal information matching those of voters who voted in other states in 2012.

Oooh! Thousands! Fox was being really cautious, to say it was just “hundreds!” After all, this lede just says it all: thousands of voters with matching personal information of people who voted in other states. This paragraph doesn’t say that any of these people voted in North Carolina, but I’m sure they will.

Tell us more!

Elections Director Kim Strach told state lawmakers at an oversight hearing Wednesday that her staff has identified 765 registered North Carolina voters who appear to have cast ballots in two states during the 2012 presidential election.

Umm… OK, we’re back to hundreds. Not sure what’s up with that, but hey, they appear certain that these people all voted twice in the last election. (I bet they all voted for Obama!)

Strach said the first names, last names, birthdates and last four digits of their Social Security numbers appear to match information for voters in another state. Each case will now be investigated to determine whether voter fraud occurred.

Well, that’s pretty convincing! If all those things match, then it’s pretty certain that they’re the same people. This paragraph doesn’t say the people among the “hundreds” cast any votes at all in 2012, just that they were “voters.” But I’m sure this will be cleared up soon.

“Could it be voter fraud? Sure, it could be voter fraud,” Strach said. “Could it be an error on the part of a precinct person choosing the wrong person’s name in the first place? It could be. We’re looking at each of these individual cases.”

Um, what? “A precinct person choosing the wrong person’s name?” What does that mean? Nothing, I’m sure, they’re just being cautious again. I won’t take the time to figure out what that means. Let’s read on.

WRAL.com reported that 81 residents who died before election day were recorded as casting a ballot. While about 30 of those voters appear to have legally cast ballots before election day, Strach said “there are between 40 and 50 [voters] who had died at a time that that’s not possible.”

Um, wait. Voters who died? I thought that this was about voters who matched other voters in other states. And it was hundreds, maybe thousands.

No matter! It’s the graveyard vote! I’m sure that that’s tied in, somehow! Onward ho!

“We have the ‘Walking Dead,’ and now we’ve got the ‘Voting Dead,’” said state Sen. Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenburg. “I guess the reason there’s no proof of voter fraud is because we weren’t looking for it.”

Yeah, right! Because the five years the Bush administration spent looking for fraud doesn’t count, especially because they only found a hundred or so cases nationwide, most of which were simple errors, and the few that were real involved local races—that doesn’t count, because it didn’t show us what we know is real! That, and the whole US Attorney thing, and the huge amounts of scrutiny and attention by conservatives and the media over the past decade—hell, it’s like nobody was looking for anything!!

So, how did all this come to light, anyway?

A law passed last year by the Republican-dominated state legislature required elections staff to check information for North Carolina’s more than 6.5 million voters against a database containing information for 101 million voters in 28 states.

Money well spent, I’m sure! Let’s see the results!

The cross-check found listings for 35,570 North Carolina voters whose first names, last names and dates of birth match those of voters who voted in other states. However, in those cases middle names and Social Security numbers were not matched.

Well, that kind of makes that number irrelevant, but it sounds like a lot! Otherwise, why mention it? Go on!

The analysis also found 155,692 registered North Carolina voters whose information matched voters registered in other states but who most recently registered or voted elsewhere. Strach said those were most likely voters who moved out of state without notifying their local boards of elections.

Wow! A hundred and fifty-five thousand! That’s another big number! OK, so it’s just matching information and may have no relation to people who voted twice, but it’s still a big number!

Let’s hear more of this unusually consistent and convincing evidence!

Republicans leaders immediately touted the preliminary report as evidence they were justified in approving sweeping elections changes last year that include requiring voters to present photo ID at the polls, cutting days from the period for early voting and ending a popular civics program that encouraged high school students to pre-register to vote in advance of their 18th birthdays.

Exactly! Because what we have seen so far is rather shockingly clear and damning evidence that as many as dozens, hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands, or more than a hundred thousand people may have somehow been in two databases at once! An absolutely iron-clad reason to believe that laws which just happen to throw roadblocks in front of mostly Democratic voters are completely justified and are not political chicanery at all! And I’m sure they’ll tie all those numbers together somehow at some point, or eventually show that any of the names are really the same person and that they actually voted twice in the same election—but at this point, do they really need to?

I mean, hey, where’s the outrage?!

“That is outrageous. That is criminal. That is wrong, and it shouldn’t be allowed to go any further without substantial investigations from our local district attorneys who are the ones charged with enforcing these laws,” state Sen. Thom Goolsby, R-Wilmington, told the Charlotte Observer.

State House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, and Senate Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, issued a joint statement Wednesday on what they termed as the “alarming evidence.”

“While we are alarmed to hear evidence of widespread voter error and fraud, we are encouraged to see the common-sense law passed to ensure voters are who they say they are is working,” said the statement. “These findings should put to rest ill-informed claims that problems don’t exist and help restore the integrity of our elections process.”

There’s the outrage! Yeah! About time! Alarming evidence! Which I’m sure has been somehow proven by this time, I mean I’ve lost track, but dammit, it’s alarming! And outrageous!

Of course, by this time, I have seen so many mentions of large numbers, and so many different ways people are cheating, that I have completely forgotten about how every paragraph seems to have wildly varying numbers of people, and that nothing whatsoever in the article is anything close to actual evidence of anything more than clerical errors and the fact that when people move, they almost never bother to remove themselves from voter rolls in their former states. (As it turns out, the 765 number appears to be the only relevant number, as it is the only one with names that might actually match—but it is very likely that most if not all were errors where the precinct worker checked the wrong name on a list—not at all surprising considering the millions of ballots involved.)

And that’s the trick: just throw a whole bunch of nothing, just random clumps of bullshit—even better, toss in a few words of caution that there might be errors involved, so the story comes across as more honest—and pepper it with just the correct amount of righteous indignation, then wait for a few weeks or months—and then most of the people who read the story will only recall that they saw a news story where it was all but certain that rampant voter fraud had indeed taken place. They proved it! At least I’m fairly sure that that’s what happened after all that evidence was looked at, though I never saw it or anything.

Also, after months have gone by, the same people will have seen many other reports of the same nature, with the same results, and bullshit piled on to bullshit will come across as even more convincing. Because few people dismiss total bullshit completely, and when they see variations of the same bullshit enough times, they begin to believe that at least some (probably most) has got to be true.

Especially because they want to believe it.

It’s what you call “modern journalism in action.”

Categories: "Liberal" Media, Right-Wing Lies Tags:

Aftermath Analysis

November 10th, 2012 3 comments

Jeesh, have I been busy. Have been putting in 10- to 13-hour days this week, only to get home needing to do another 2-3 hours before getting to bed. The weekend is for catch-up. However, I want to comment on some of the post-game analysis going on regarding the election.

Many on the left are saying now that all that Super PAC spending “didn’t matter,” and that attempts to suppress the Democratic vote failed. I am not so sure. I have serious trouble believing that, had the spending been equal on both sides, and had there been no attempts to suppress the vote, that the results would have been exactly the same, or almost so. It’s hard for me to accept the idea that Obama did not lose a fair amount of the popular vote, maybe as much as a few percent, as a result of the GOP’s more extreme efforts.

It’s possible that the electoral outcome would have been the same, because Romney had no close-call states. The closest margin Romney won by was 2.2%, in North Carolina; in all other states he won, he won by an 8% margin or higher. Obama might possibly have won North Carolina, but he could not have gone so far as to get Georgia.

On the other hand, Obama could have easily lost Florida, and perhaps Ohio and Virginia, had Republicans gone even further. If, say, the courts had not backed Democratic efforts to open polling places, or had they allowed voter ID laws to stay in effect.

What’s interesting—and what one could easily point to to suggest a mandate for Obama—is that in almost all other states, Obama also won by significant margins. While Florida might have been a squeaker, and Ohio & Virginia were around 2%, every other state he won by nearly 5% or better. Almost no amount of additional Republican election fraud (possibly not even including extreme hacking of computerized vote counts) would have pulled those states into Romney’s column.

Even if Obama had lost Florida, Ohio, and Virginia to Romney, he still would have had 272 electoral votes—still more than enough to win. In a fascinating turn of events, Ohio was, it turns out, not the key state—Colorado was. And Obama won it by 4.7%, meaning Romney would have had to push the dial that far back in the other direction in order to win the White House.

So, Obama did not just win by 2.6% of the popular vote, nor did he win by getting Ohio by a margin of 1.9%. Effectively, Obama won by a 4.7% margin. Nationwide, that represents 5.7 million votes, close to double the 3.2 million popular votes Obama received.

This election was not a squeaker, not by a long shot. Nor was Obama’s lead one that he could have easily lost. While not a landslide, it was a solid, insurmountable win for the president.

As a result, we can conclude that the GOP’s efforts failed not because they were ineffective, but because Obama simply had so much support that he won by a wide margin. Which is why Nate Silver’s forecast never had Obama drop below 280 electoral votes; no matter how “close” things seemed in the polls, Obama had a very strong electoral position from day one.


Now, Republicans are already trying to wring the numbers to make it look like Obama’s support is weak, or that their own policies were somehow affirmed. Mitch McConnell even suggested that voters did not “endorse” the president, but instead the mandate was to not raise taxes on the rich.

Let’s take a quick look back to 2004, shall we? Bush won 286 electoral votes, compared to 332 for Obama this year. Bush won by a 2.4% margin, compared to Obama’s 2.6% win. At that time, conservatives across the board proclaimed a Bush mandate, followed by Bush himself. Well, if Bush had a mandate with 2.4% and 286 electoral votes, how does Obama not have one with 2.6% and 332 electoral votes?

Republicans hang on to the thread that is their House majority, claiming it shows that Americans want them there, or at least that Americans don’t want change. However, along with picking up two seats in the Senate, Democrats won the House as well—or, they would have won the House, had Republicans not gerrymandered the hell out of more than half the states. Democrats, in fact, beat Republicans in House races in the popular vote by half a percent; that this led to a 35-or-so-seat margin of victory for Republicans, despite Republicans have deep support in limited places and not broad support overall, can only be explained by gerrymandering.

Think about it: Obama won by 2.6% to 4.7% in terms of actual people voting. Democrats picked up 2 extra seats in the Senate.

Why would people vote for Democrats at the presidential and Senate levels, but switch to Republican in local districts?

The answer: they didn’t. They voted Democratic. That was their choice. The only reason it is not reflected in the election results is because the Republicans engineered districts to allow them—in a more traditional, time-honored way—to steal votes.


Of course, that fact does not stop the Republicans from coming up with various excuses as to how Obama’s win was illicit, and the people really voted for them all the way. Fox’s favorite is now almost a cliché: to suggest that The Liberal Media bought Obama the election. The Liberal Media blamed Bush too much for the current state of things. The Liberal Media failed to report enough of “the numbers” that showed Obama to be a failure.The Liberal Media glossed over Obama’s scandals. The Liberal Media gave unfairly lopsided fact-checking against Romney. And The Liberal Media focused too much on little stuff like Chris Christie’s positive comments. As one conservative summed it up:

The media lauded Obama no matter how horrendous his record, and they savaged Obama’s Republican contenders as ridiculous pretenders.

Yeah, they never said anything bad about Obama, and never stopped bashing Romney unfairly. That was it.

What that really means is, the non-Fox media outlets didn’t go completely Fox on Obama. Which is equivalent to being in the tank for Obama and throwing the election his way.

Another Fox analysis was more in-depth, which is fun to pick apart:

The Media’s Biased Gaffe Patrol Hammered Romney: The media unfairly jumped on inconsequential mistakes — or even invented controversies — from Romney and hyped them in to multi-day media “earthquakes.”

Laughably, they equate Romney’s “47%” remarks with Obama’s “The private sector is doing fine,” as if these were equal gaffes that should have gotten equal criticism. In response, Andy Borowitz said it best: “BREAKING: Man Who Told Half the Nation to Fuck Themselves Somehow Loses Election.”

Number 2:

Pounding Romney With Partisan Fact Checking: There’s nothing wrong with holding politicians accountable for the honesty of their TV ads and stump speeches, but this year the self-appointed media fact-checkers attacked Republicans as liars for statements that were accurate.

Yeah, not really. I posted on that here, the upshot being that the fact-checkers drowned themselves in false equivalencies; Romney demonstrably lied 3 or 4 times more than Obama, but the “fact-checkers” worked hard to make the truth levels seem the same. As bad as that was, it wasn’t nearly enough for Fox & Family.

Number 3:

Those Biased Debate Moderators: Upset liberals scorned PBS’s Jim Lehrer for taking a hands-off approach in the first debate on October 3, with MSNBC analyst Howard Fineman slamming him as “practically useless” for not jumping into the debate on behalf of President Obama.

Yeah, how dare those other two moderators actually note Romney’s lies, right there in front of everyone. Moderators are not guardians of truth or fact, they’re supposed to sit still and shut up when a candidate spouts outrageous lies. How dare they.

Number 4:

The Benghazi Blackout: Right after the September 11 attack in Libya, the networks proclaimed that the events would bolster President Obama — “reminding voters of his power as commander-in-chief,” as NBC’s Peter Alexander stated on the September 14 edition of “Today.” But as a cascade of leaked information erased the portrait of Obama as a heroic commander, the broadcast networks shunted the Benghazi story to the sidelines.

Here we see classic conservative projection: as happened with 9/11 and other tragedies, right-wing media rush to politicize events as they claim their competition did for Obama. This is kind of similar to the anguished cry of the late 90′s right wing, Where’s the outrage that the president got a hummer and lied about it? Can’t you see that children are being traumatized by our endless splashing of lurid details in the media? Sometimes, manufactured outrage is so hard to generate and so often unappreciated.

Benghazi was, at most, a wash. That Obama did not transform the diplomatic bureaucracy into a fast-acting juggernaut of security-wielding effectiveness is not a valid criticism, nor is it really credible to suggest that withholding judgment for a few weeks till the facts were straight, and only indirectly noting the incident as terror-related was more than a PR bumble at worst. On the other hand, Romney’s instant and fact-poor attack before the facts were in were hardly a bright spot, and easily matched whatever mistakes Obama made. Citing poor security also paled in light of Ryan’s vote to defund diplomatic security. In the end, all Fox has is an opportunistic smear exploiting a tragedy neither candidate would have been able to avoid. The rest of the media not jumping on the partisan attack wagon is hardly proof that they engineered a whitewashing of the affair in Obama’s favor.

Number 5:

Burying the Bad Economy: Pundits agreed that Obama’s weakness was the failure of the US economy to revive after his expensive stimulus and four years of $1 trillion deficits. But the major networks failed to offer the sustained, aggressive coverage of the economy that incumbent Republican President George H.W. Bush faced in 1992, or even that George W. Bush faced in 2004 — both years when the national economy was in better shape than it is now.

“Pundits agreed”? Which ones? And why should we listen to “pundits”? Granted, you could classify it as a possible “weakness,” but only if you looked at facts from certain angles.

This analysis, for example, assumes that the stimulus failed, and it was Obama’s fault. However, one of the more cogent arguments Obama made, most pointedly put forth by Bill Clinton, was that Obama stepped in as the economy was collapsing, headed for a new Great Depression—and Obama quickly turned that around and brought us into job-creating territory, with 32 straight months of private sector job growth.

The stimulus didn’t fail, but it was too weak. Why? Because there were too many tax cuts, and not enough infrastructure spending—Obama tried to pass a better plan, but Republicans blocked him. We know that the stimulus brought an abrupt change for the better, and the amount it failed was minor—if critical—compared to the overall improvement. We also know that tax cuts are ineffective at stimulating job growth—meaning that it had to be the spending that improved the economy. Meaning that had Obama’s original plan passed, we’d have stronger growth. Meaning that the failure was more a Republican one—and although the media, especially Fox, did repeatedly bring up the economy and point out it was owned by Obama, nobody mentioned the dragging effect that Republicans had had, and during the six months leading up to the election, few even pointed out the game-playing the GOP did with the debt default, and very little was mentioned about the Republican obstructionism that prevented further reparative efforts on the part of the president.

As for the relatively “aggressive” economic criticism in the MSM in 2004, I somehow doubt that this Fox analyst actually relied on facts to support his claim. Nor, I think, would the claim hold water if a review of media attention of the 2000 election were to be included.


What Fox’s entire criticism boils down to is that the rest of the media did not follow Fox News’ partisan attacks.

Some are going a bit further, predictably:

Karl Rove told Fox News’ Megyn Kelly on Thursday that President Obama won re-election “by suppressing the vote” with negative campaign ads that “turned off” potential voters, citing a victory that carried a smaller percentage of the popular vote compared to that of the 2008 presidential race.

…Which is record-breaking irony, as Rove’s own Super PAC was responsible for the lion’s share of negative campaign ads.

As for Rove’s and other conservatives’ use of the specific expression “suppressing the vote,” it is a blatant attempt to smear the other side with the crime rather egregiously committed by themselves. Seriously, when you unilaterally target battleground states with initiatives to obstruct voting by requiring extra effort to obtain IDs, and shut down polling places at specific times, all orchestrated to hinder voting in ways that specifically target voters belonging to the other party… to go around saying the other side is “suppressing the vote” because they ran one negative ad to your four… that’s pretty damned egregious. You could even call it “breathtaking.” It is like a corporate raider who legally stole billions from seniors’ retirement funds whining that he was overcharged when he paid a buck and a half for a 12-ounce Diet Coke.

At least one guy on the right gets credit for not staying on the Kool-Aid IV drip, and that’s Dean Chambers, the guy who started the “Unskewed Polls” web site when Romney was closer to his actual popularity levels before Obama screwed up royally in Denver. Chambers, in face of facts, actually owns up honestly and makes no excuses:

I was wrong on that assumption and those who predicted a turnout model of five or six percent in favor of Democrats were right. Likewise, the polling numbers they produced going on that assumption turned out to be right and my “unskewed” numbers were off the mark.

He even went on to congratulate Nate Silver for getting the numbers right better than anyone else.

Now, in one sense, this is not a big thing, recognizing the facts. But in light of the fact that nearly every other right-winger in the “Liberal Media” is still in denial, it’s rather significant. As unreasonable as Chambers’ assumptions were during the campaign, he can at least face facts when they are incontrovertibly placed in front of him.

If more conservatives were able to do this, we’d be much better off.

Divided Realities

November 7th, 2012 6 comments

Pop quiz: can you see anything in this screenshot from their web page which looks like it might be biased?

Foxhl-1

The real question is, do you see anything that’s not biased? Seriously, I think the red banner citing closing times for polls is maybe the only content on that page that’s not laughably prejudicial.

In particular, note the photo: Fox seems to have found the only image of a line of voters which doesn’t have a single black person in it. Not only that, but note the lawn chairs—meaning that this photo was taken before the polls opened, meaning that it was not a problem where people had to wait for 6 to 9 hours, but instead just a lot of people getting ready early in the morning. Two solid bets: one, that the line shown here abruptly ends just out of frame on the right, and two, that once the polling place opened, the line quickly disappeared. Looking back at their web site, they show similar photos in place of that one—but all are of whites only, and all photos are only of small segments of lines, obviously from short waits made to look long.

The headlines are almost comical. Three stories on how a voting place in Washington D.C. has a mural of Obama on the wall, as if it’s some vast conspiracy to sway voters… when it’s an elementary school in a predominantly African-American district, the mural (along with another of Oprah Winfrey) having been voted for by students three years ago. The image of Obama was covered, but Fox, which minimized the fact that it was a school to make it sound more like someone had just painted a mural on a stark municipal building wall or something, made a huge deal about how, at least at one point, the Obama logo was still visible. As if this, and not tens of thousands of legitimate voters illicitly knocked off voter rolls, was the big story of the day.

Then there’s the massive invasion of marching armies of Black Panthers intimidating voters… no, wait, in fact it’s one guy, and he’s a duly appointed poll watcher. Definitely worthy of national headline news. Then there’s a story on union shenanigans, alongside a story about how Super PACs really aren’t so bad.

Like I said, comical… and yet, not so comical once you realize that millions of people look at this site and somehow come away feeling that they are being given unbiased news coverage.

I’ve known people like this, people who look me straight in the eye and insist that Fox’s coverage is, in fact, fair and balanced, not a hint of bias.

Nbchl1Here’s the thing: when I visit sites like Talking Points Memo or Washington Monthly, I know they’re biased to my point of view. I can also tell that sites like Five-Thirty-Eight are not biased. If I see the headline lineup, shown at right, from NBCNews.com, I can tell there’s a left-leaning slant due to the specific positive quotes for Obama and Biden, the neutral story about Ryan, and the story on corporate money in the race. It’s easy to tell that NBC is not nearly as slanted as Fox, but I can see and freely admit that there is a slant, and take that into account when trying to register what’s what.

Too many right-wingers, however, seem to take the slant as truth. They have real problems admitting there’s a bias at work. You see the right-wing talking heads on TV confronted with this, asked to admit that there’s even a little bias, and they immediately shift focus and start talking about something on a tangent, or else they get this sudden inability to talk, as if they know they should say something to sound like they are at least open-minded, but can’t find any words to express such a thing. It’s like a very specific kind of aphasia.

But the fact remains that there is a very significant Reality Distortion Field at play here. Fox News is weighing down the scales on the right so much, it really has created a separate, artificial reality, a lens through which tens of millions of Americans now see the country and the world. There is a liberal false reality as well, but let’s face it—it is nowhere near as pronounced. There is no equivalency here; the difference is as stark as PBS pledge drive and a Ted Nugent concert—where the people getting the tote bags understanding fully well how dorky and stodgy they’re being, while the Nugent fans think it’s perfectly defensible to publicly suggest the president suck on a machine gun.

Categories: "Liberal" Media, Election 2012 Tags:

More False Equivalencies Over Debate Fact-Checking

October 24th, 2012 7 comments

FactCheck.org has more to be ashamed of in its “fact-checking” of the final debate. Once again, they go out of their way to create a false equivalency by making it seem like Obama and Romney were equally untruthful. They list ten “incorrect or twisted factual claims” during the debate, five from each candidate.

From Obama (who, strangely, is featured in 4 of the top five items, making him appear more untruthful), they cite distortions of Romney’s statements on Pakistan, Iraq, Russia, and the Detroit bailout, and dinged him for a claim about veteran employment.

From Romney, they cite the Naval weakness, “apology tour,” federal debt claim, taking credit for Massachusetts’ education accomplishments, and a claim about terrorism not being mentioned in the 2000 debates.

Here are Romney errors and lies they missed:

  • Syria is Iran’s route to the sea
  • Obama failed to deal with Syria and begged for help from the U.N. and Russia instead
  • Obama was “silent” on Iran’s Green Revolution
  • Obama said he’d distance ourselves from Israel
  • Obama wasted four years doing nothing about Iran
  • Obama has allowed “jihadists” to strengthen and spread
  • Government investments never make businesses grow and hire people
  • Claims about the nature of Medicaid and how states can run it better
  • Romney was strikingly bipartisan in Massachusetts, when in fact, he exercised the veto 844 times and failed to get his big-ticket items through the legislature
  • Romney will create 12 million new jobs
  • Romney will eliminate Obamacare unilaterally
  • Romney would stop Iranian oil imports that don’t exist
  • Romney will balance the budget (with a $5 trillion tax cut on top of Bush’s plus increased military spending)
  • The debt is Obama’s fault, is like Greece’s, and Romney’s plans will shrink the deficit in comparison

Ironically, FactCheck.org dings Obama for misrepresenting Romney on his Detroit statements, while Romney also misrepresented himself—but that was not mentioned in their analysis. In fact, Obama’s “inaccurate” depiction of Romney’s statements is kind of a weasel: Obama is dinged for saying that Romney did not approve of “government assistance,” when he was referring to direct aid; Romney said he’d approve federal guarantees for post-bankruptcy financing, which involves indirect government support for a private sector bailout—a bailout which would not have occurred. Calling Obama out for splitting hairs while not citing Romney’s lies about what he proposed is completely inappropriate for a fact-check like this. Romney lied more significantly, but Obama is called untruthful for not being specific enough.

How about Obama “lies” left out of the analysis? FactCheck.org has dinged Obama in the past for claiming that Romney’s tax plan would create 800,000 jobs overseas, but it’s an interpretation based on Romney’s vagueness about what the plan would be exactly; so not including it in the fact-check was a good decision.

Other than that? Well, there’s one I heard on CNN, when they were “fact checking” the claim about the Navy. To my disgust, they called Obama the one who was wrong. Why? Because bayonets are standard issue, and so there are probably more in the military now than there were in the past. As if Romney’s vast overstatements about naval weakness are somehow even close to being equivalent to that. It was a throwaway line, a “zinger,” if you will, and part of a larger point which was 100% true: that the number of ships, especially over the span of a century, is not the way you determine naval power.

In short: Every single misstatement by Obama is listed save one or two inconsequential ones, while at least a dozen whoppers made by Romney are edited out of the fact-check. Romney lied his ass off, making bigger and more significant misstatements, and somehow, Obama gets top listing for inaccuracies in a determination that counts the same overall number of untruths?

This is the great shame of the media in this election: ever since the first debate, where Romney made his sudden Etch-a-Sketch move, the media has been willing to eviscerate Obama, while backing off on Romney. Probably as much to create a horserace which will get them bigger ratings than because of their conservative bias, but the motive makes little difference.

The fact is, Romney is getting away with a massive amount of lying, and the media is his immediate accomplice.

You Didn’t Invent the Internet

July 22nd, 2012 3 comments

The conservative world is gleefully playing with Obama’s statement, “If you’ve got a business–you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” Out of context, just that one bit, is being used endlessly by the right wing to attack Obama, claiming that he denigrates small business owners, as if Obama was saying that no business owner built their own business.

Which, of course, is an outright lie. Obama did not say, “If you’ve got a business–you didn’t build your business. Somebody else made your business happen.” Obama did not even come close to saying that. Every politician and pundit attacking Obama with it knows they’re lying, or are blind and stupidly following the party line without checking. By now, almost certainly the former.

Here is Obama’s complete quote, with relevant parts in bold:

There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me — because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t — look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business–you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

Reading the entire statement, in context, it is very clear that Obama is not saying that business owners didn’t build their own businesses; he was saying, without any doubt, that business owners did not build the support structures that helped them build their business. A business owner didn’t educate himself, didn’t build the country himself, didn’t build the roads and bridges. The society built these things, other people pitched in, and it was the community effort which gave the business owner the vital tools without which that business would not thrive. Obama followed the statement by issuing another example, that a business owner didn’t invent the Internet, which helped their business like a hundred other support structures.

His meaning was clear: we all depend on the community, and so we all owe the community. Instead, right-wingers cut off the beginning and end, and falsely claim that Obama was putting down hard-working job creators. There’s no way you could actually look at the whole context and honestly conclude that Obama was saying that small business owners had no hand in building their own businesses.

It’s complete and utter bullshit they’re pushing–but it’s the kind of bullshit that works, and perhaps can win an election.

If you’re wondering why this sounds familiar, it’s because there was another case, about 12 years ago, of a Democratic presidential candidate making a statement about creating the Internet which was taken out of context in the exact same way–and the result of it was that the American people, to this day, still believe the bullshit lie. And the Democratic candidate lost the election by a few hundred votes. (Well, technically he won by thousands, but that’s another story.)

From my 2006 article:

Let’s get one thing straight: Al Gore never said that he “invented the Internet.”

There are a lot of myths out there perpetrated by conservatives. … This one started on March 9th, 1999, when Al Gore appeared on Wolf Blitzer’s “Late Edition” show on CNN. On the program, Gore made the following statement:

During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our country’s economic growth and environmental protection, improvements in our educational system. [the full context of the quote in the interview can be reviewed here.]

… An unkind (and dishonest) interpretation of Gore’s quote makes it seem like Gore was claiming that he single-handedly created the Internet. But that’s not what he said. He said that he took the initiative, that he took an early leadership role–which, by definition, means that he was not alone in the task, nor does it even mean that he was the only leader.

… The irony here is that Gore, in fact, was instrumental to the creation and popularization of the Internet as we know it today. In the 1980s, DARPA had defunded civilian use of the Internet; it could have died right there had it not been for Gore pushing for funding to restart the Internet as a civilian and business network. That took the form of the 1989 National High-Performance Computer Technology Act introduced by Al Gore. The fact is, all along the way, Gore was behind the growth of the Internet, which in itself was largely responsible for the huge economic boom of the 90′s. Ironically, conservatives who enthusiastically credited Reagan with every bit of good economic news in the 80′s, churlishly denied Clinton and Gore any credit for the boom of the 90′s, claiming that it was the Internet that was responsible.

Gore was instrumental in creating a huge economic and industrial miracle worth countless trillions of dollars to the nation. In return for this, the GOP distorted his rightful claim, mocked him as a liar and made a laughingstock out of him. In an election won by only a few hundred votes, the value of the “invented the Internet” lie could easily have been worth that many votes in Florida.

Good to see that the GOP’s priorities are in order.

To back this up, you can read a letter written by Robert Kahn and Vinton Cerf, the two guys most credited with “inventing” the Internet (more specifically, developing the TCP/IP protocol suite central to Internet technology), in which they praise Gore for his work. Or, if you prefer a more mainstream debunking, see Snope’s teardown of the lies told by the right wing.

Despite all of these facts being available before the 2000 election, people believed the lie. In part it was because the right-wing moved in lockstep to repeat the lie ad nauseam; in part because there was a sound bite which sounded similar to what the lie claimed (people still swear they “heard” Gore say he “invented the Internet”); in part because debunking the lie takes longer than and is more complex than perpetuating it; and in part because the “liberal media” played along with the lie.

Guess what’s happening all over again?

FAIR not only debunks the current lie, but points out how the media is implicit in perpetuating it. Some are calling it out as a “distortion,” but usually in the last line of an article; no one in the mainstream media applies the headline, “Romney and Conservatives Distort Obama’s Statement,” which would be fair and accurate. Instead, they simply report on Romney attacking Obama with it, or worse, that it is a “problem” for Obama–which, ironically, is chiefly because the media is not doing its job in debunking the outright lies.

When reporters do get around to mentioning how the attack is completely false, they usually “balance” the piece with a statement about Obama’s use of Romney’s “I’m not concerned about the very poor” line–in effect, excusing Romney’s lie instead of just reporting it. Well, Romney’s remark about not being concerned about the poor was quoted out of context, but it was not distorted in meaning. Romney said that as part of a statement about how he was not concerned about the rich, either, but instead was concerned about the middle class. While that shows he was not favoring the rich over the poor, it does not change the fact that he openly stated that he was not concerned about the very poor, that he believed they were well taken-care of. Obama’s citing that was not a distortion, and did not change the meaning of the words spoken.

In contrast, what Romney and conservatives are doing now is a bald-faced lie; they are distorting what Obama said, they are changing the meaning completely. Obama never did that. So, why are reporters, who already bury the fact that Romney and others are lying, use the story to show “equivalence,” when, in fact, there is none?

Imagine at work, you say something innocent, but another worker, trying to beat you to a promotion, takes it out of context and makes it sound like you were insulting the boss, and then spreads it all around. A coworker who knows all that has happened meets with the boss, and does not tell the boss about the real statement and the lie behind it, and instead tells the boss, “Yeah, it’s a problem for the guy who said it, all right! I can see why you’d be angry about it!” When the boss asks that worker for a detailed report on the topic, the report is titled “Smear Against Boss a Problem for Worker Seeking Promotion,” and only mentions the distortion on the last page, next to an item which points out that a year ago, the person being lied about did something that could, incorrectly, be interpreted as a similar act.

How would you feel about such “fair and impartial” reporting of your actions?

This is money in the bank for the right wing; they will not let up on this. They know, from experience, that lies like this are easy to spread, are very damaging, can have a strong effect, and that the media will let them have it.

The only think to do is to fight the lie. The problem is, that didn’t work before.

If there’s one thing that Republicans excel at, it’s playing dirty.

Identify the Source

February 10th, 2012 4 comments

Scientists released information today on the results of a NASA study of melting ice on Earth. Here is one story from the press:

NASA mission calculates global ice melt and rising sea levels

From 2003 to 2010, NASA satellites systematically measured all of Earth’s melting glacial ice–the results added up to 4.3 trillion tons of water and a global sea level rise of half an inch.

Put in perspective, that’s enough ice to bury the entire U.S. 1.5-feet deep.

These calculations are detailed in a new study released today by a team of scientists at the University of Colorado. The scientists used satellite measurements from the NASA Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE), which launched in 2002 and focused on how melting ice from glaciers and ice caps is adding to global sea level rise.

“Earth is losing a huge amount of ice to the ocean annually,” said professor John Wahr, who helped lead the study. “These new results will help us answer important questions in terms of both sea rise and how the planet’s cold regions are responding to global change.”

Now, here’s the headline and first four paragraphs from the exact same story, but from a different source:

Himalayan glaciers have lost no ice in the past 10 years, new study reveals

The U.N. got it wrong on Himalaya’s glaciers — and the proof is finally here.

The authors of the U.N.’s climate policy guide were red-faced two years ago when it was revealed that they had inaccurately forecast that the Himalayan glaciers would melt completely in 25 years, vanishing by the year 2035.

Rajendra Pachauri, head of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and director general of the Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) in New Dehli, India, ultimately issued a statement offering regret for what turned out to be a poorly vetted statement.

A new report published Thursday, Feb. 9, in the science journal Nature offers the first comprehensive study of the world’s glaciers and ice caps, and one of its conclusions has shocked scientists. Using GRACE, a pair of orbiting satellites racing around the planet at an altitude of 300 miles, it comes to the eye-popping conclusion that the Himalayas have barely melted at all in the past 10 years.

Guess which one is from Fox News?

Not hard to figure out, is it? Right away, you have a pretty serious problem: if your reporting can be identified purely by it’s specifically slanted perspective, then there is no question but that it has a heavy bias and a penchant for intentional distortion. Odds are that I could show you this story as reported by any other major media source and you would be completely unable to identify the exact source just by reading the beginning of the piece. Fox News stories are the only major outlet (note that I am studiously avoiding calling it a “news” source) which can be easily picked out by evaluating the skewed and heavily lopsided perspective it generates.

Not only that, you might note that the Fox story blatantly lies right there in the headline–claiming no ice melted from the Himalayas–when even in their own story (albeit in the fourth paragraph) they note that the mountains have indeed lost ice. They claim that the Himalayan ice “barely melted at all,” but the actual figure is in the billions of tons per year–hardly “none.”

So, what’s with the Himalayan deal which Fox zeroed in on? The first story (written by a journalist at CNet, by the way) explains in context:

Some of the study’s results are unexpected, such as the ice melt in Asia’s Himalayan, Pamir, and Tien Shan mountain ranges. Previously estimates were as high as 50 billion tons of ice loss a year in the three ranges combined, but calculations from GRACE put it closer to 4 billion tons annually.

“The GRACE results in this region really were a surprise,” Wahr said. “One possible explanation is that previous estimates were based on measurements taken primarily from some of the lower, more accessible glaciers in Asia and extrapolated to infer the behavior of higher glaciers.”

Although some of the findings in this study are lower than prior estimates, NASA warns that melting glacial ice and sea level rise are still a deep concern regarding climate change.

Fox News simply focused on a statement from the U.N. Climate Panel a few years ago which correctly reported global ice depletion but mistakenly attributed more melting to higher-altitude ice. Reading Fox’s story, you would think that ice is hardly melting at all; indeed, Fox buried any mention of global melting rates to the 11th paragraph.

Fair and balanced, right?

Categories: "Liberal" Media, Right-Wing Lies Tags:

The Cry of the Oppressor

January 28th, 2012 3 comments

Newt Gingrich, in the latest debate:

…one of the reasons I am running is there has been an increasingly aggressive war against religion and in particular against Christianity in this country, largely by a secular elite and the academic news media and judicial areas. And I frankly believe it’s important to have some leadership that stands up and says, enough; we are truly guaranteed the right of religious freedom, not religious suppression by the state.

The general claim is nothing new, but Newt’s statement is notable in two ways: how comprehensive it is, and where it was said.

Usually, such claims are made in specific circumstances. For example, Jessica Ahlquist, a high school student and atheist in Rhode Island, successfully sued her school to remove a prayer that it had displayed prominently in the school auditorium for nearly half a century. Her objection was proper, and, as the courts recognized, the entirely legal thing to do. A public school using public funds to deliver a religious message is absolutely illegal; that it happens so often is not an expression of the founders’ wishes, but a daily abrogation of one of their highest principles. That the case took down an infringement which had hung for so long, far from being a slap in the face to tradition, was a refreshing sign that perhaps other similar infringements–such as religious statements on currency or in a pledge children are forced to recite–may also someday be rectified.

However, the Christianists believe that “separation of church and state” means, if anything, that the state cannot interfere with whatever religion wants to do, including proselytizing from public office using taxpayer money; and that the prohibition of Congress against making laws “respecting an establishment of religion” means the state cannot create a religion from scratch all by itself. Thus, they see the accurate reading of the law as being not just wrong, but an actual assault against their freedom to express religion wherever and whenever they please.

As a result, you’ll hear Christianists complaining about a “war on Christianity” in that context, with the atheist or religious secularist getting bashed and smeared as some hooligan trying to rob people of their religious freedom.

Or else you’ll hear Christianists getting all upset whenever “Christmas” is referred to as a “holiday,” in the horrific context of other religious or secular celebrations being held equal to the Christian one. To the Christianist right, “Happy Holidays” is now a slur, a godless curse, an insult to their beliefs and an attempt to deprive them of their rights.

Gingrich, however, piled on the whole list of grievances in one short, clearly scripted utterance. Let’s look at it in chunks:

…there has been an increasingly aggressive war against religion and in particular against Christianity in this country…

First of all, we get the “War on Christianity” claim. This is a catch-all which includes the exclusion of school-directed prayer (individual prayer in schools is completely OK), Christian displays on public property required to share the stage with other beliefs, and the generalization of religious celebrations into a generic holiday description. The former two are often the result of lawsuits, which are focused on sharply as a primary source of attack.

What’s fascinating here, however, is Newt’s claim that not just Christianity, but religion in general is being attacked. Why is that fascinating? Because the people attacking religions other than Christianity are not the secularists, but the Christians themselves. When was the last time you heard of an atheist filing a lawsuit against an Islamic prayer? Almost never–and not because they favor other religions (which Christianists sometimes claim), but because no other religion is ever in a dominant enough position to infringe on the rights of others.

What is truly hypocritical is the fact that Christianists are the only ones who actually try to deny others the right to freedom of belief and legal expression. They openly discriminate against people who believe differently from them. They refuse to serve atheists or Muslims in their businesses. They clamor to take down atheist billboards and actually fight to prevent Islamic mosques from being opened, even in remote rural areas with no one else around. They’re the ones that howl in protest when any other religion aside from Christianity gets to deliver an invocation or inaugural prayer. They vote down anyone who is not Cristian from getting into public office. Even Gingrich himself has said he would not allow anyone who is non-religious to even serve in government, and you know he would shut out most non-Christians in the same way.

And the Christian claim to persecution? Despite being the dominant religion with their beliefs almost everywhere, including on the currency, in prayers before public sessions, in the Pledge of Allegiance and nearly all other public oaths, etc. etc.–the persecution against them is horrific because they don’t get to slather their religion in every last nook and cranny of society. Not because they’re actually being shut out, but because they are not allowed to dominate everywhere.

Who is doing this dastardly shutting out?

…largely by a secular elite and the academic news media and judicial areas.

This one prepositional phrase carries an amazing load of trumped-up and untruthful invective against innocent and even imaginary non-Christians.

First, the “secular elite.” Exactly who, pray tell, would that consist of? This is as false and dishonest a boogeyman as the “liberal elite” from which Gingrich pawned it off. According to Gingrich, there is some secret cabal of atheists out there plotting to destroy religious liberty in America. Boogah boogah.

Second, the “academic news media.” Academic? What, is there a news media made up of college professors and researchers that I haven’t heard of? Apparently, education, schools, and teachers are just as evil to Gingrich as “moderates” are, to the point where just saying “academic” (where it even makes no sense) is somehow a justifiable slur. As for the “news media,” that is, of course, the “liberal media.” But wait–how is the news media attacking religion? Truth be told, I hadn’t heard that one before. Is it because they report news Gingrich doesn’t like? That’s the only thing I can think of.

And finally–and this is the scary part when it comes to Gingrich–the judiciary. Long libeled and slandered by the right wing for deciding cases according to law rather then by far-right ideology, the judiciary has the utter gall to follow the Constitution as it was written and intended by the founders. Even conservative judges, like the Bush 43 appointee who ruled against Intelligent Design in Dover, PA, more often rule by the law rather than by their personal political preferences (although that balance is disturbingly migrating in the other direction).

Why is Gingrich’s focus scary? Because Gingrich himself actually suggested that judges could be arrested and hauled before Congress if they dared rule cases in a way that displeased the far right.

So, we come to:

And I frankly believe it’s important to have some leadership that stands up and says, enough; we are truly guaranteed the right of religious freedom, not religious suppression by the state.

“Suppression.” What he means is, Christians (just like everyone else) cannot promulgate religious doctrine using government funds, or via the office of public representatives. That is the only way Christianity (in the exact same way as every other belief system, including atheism) is “suppressed”–and it is that way for the sole purpose of protecting religious liberty, to keep a single religious sect from acquiring power and thus actually suppressing all other religious beliefs in all avenues of life, as it has in so many countries which marry church and state.

This protection of the freedom of belief is called “suppression.” Which makes me wonder how, exactly, Christianists like Gingrich define “suppression.”

Is it like when Christians suppress the right of Muslims to build a mosque? When was the last time Christians were barred from building a church in America?

Like when Christians suppress the right of atheists to erect a billboard? When was the last time an American Christian organization was harassed into taking down a billboard with an inoffensive message?

Like when Christians run a Jewish family out of their Delaware town for protesting when their kids are singled out in Christian prayer at school? When was the last time a Christian family was run out of town after an Imam, preaching in a public school, singled out the Christian child, surrounded by Muslims, and prayed for her to convert?

Like every single election in America, when, with only rare exceptions, you can only get elected if you profess your Christianity? When was the last time a candidate lost for being mainstream Christian? Christians are so vehement about this kind of suppression that even other Christians (today, Mormons, earlier, Catholics) are heavily disfavored?

I wanted to say that Christians suppress religion far more than others in America–but even that’s not true. Outside of church and state issues, as far as I am aware, Christians are the only ones suppressing the freedom of belief in America.

Gingrich is partaking in the long-favored conservative practice of accusing people he is persecuting of persecuting him.

Ewww

January 3rd, 2012 4 comments

Now when I see headlines like Santorum surges in Iowa, How Slimy Is Santorum?, or Murdoch Tweets That He Likes Santorum Surge‎, I have to wonder if they’re double entendres.

However, it seems pretty obvious looking at all the headlines that the media is trying its best not to create headlines which could be giggled at in light of the candidate’s Google-bombed alternative definition.

Let’s face it, the most logical headline from Iowa in the past week should have been “Santorum Comes From Behind,” which this Catholic news site almost used. Had it been anyone else, it would have been the standard headline; as it was, nobody in the media used it except one guy in Pittsburgh, and that was intentional.

My guess is that the “Liberal” media is holding it in and keeping it clean until Santorum fades away, which they expect will be in a few weeks anyway. Though one has to wonder if they would ever bring it up out front.

Categories: "Liberal" Media, Election 2012 Tags:

OWS at a Disadvantage

October 19th, 2011 4 comments

Some people are criticizing the Occupy Wall Street crowd for hating corporations, but using corporate goods–using video cameras made by Sony, cell phones by Samsung, clothes by The Gap, bags from Eddie Bauer–even razors, hair dye, posterboard, markers, etc.–all made by the corporations they are protesting.

The criticisms are, of course, idiotic. What do they expect, for people go go naked, unwashed, and carrying nothing? Virtually everything you get nowadays is made by corporations. It would be like criticizing workers going on strike for wearing clothes and eating food they bought with wages made by working at the company they were on strike from.

Worse, if the protesters did go for the non-corporate solutions–hemp clothes, papyrus banners, etc., they’d be ridiculed even more. In short, it’s a cheap, ill-considered, snarky jab.


A real problem with the OWS protests seems to be the nature of the political support behind it. When the Tea Party had far less groundswell (especially protests not paid for or otherwise supported by billionaires), they wielded incredible political influence. This was because the conservative establishment immediately picked up on the influence they represented and made the most of it. Fox put their full weight behind them, and the conservative political force responded strongly to it, took full advantage of a popular protest.

In the case of OWS, there is no “liberal media” (outside of a few MSNBC shows) to rally behind it (while Fox has spent all their time vilifying and/or mocking it), and Democrats seem to be unsure of what to do. Obama even seems to be ignoring them for the most part–all in character, of course. As a result, we see this huge movement which seems to be running in place, getting nothing at all accomplished.

Someone please tell me I’m wrong on this.

Misinformed

June 23rd, 2011 Comments off

When Jon Stewart appeared on Chris Wallace’s Fox News show, he made the statement that Fox News viewers are the most consistently misinformed media viewers–which is likely correct–but then added a tag which he probably regretted, saying that this was proved “consistently, every poll.”

Politifact then gave Stewart a “False” rating on their Truth-O-Meter, pointing out that they are not the most consistently misinformed on every poll, pointing to polls which show the statement to be untrue. While Politifact is technically correct, their determination nonetheless gives an impression which is decidedly contrary to actual fact.

In the following video, Stewart both owns up to his own factual misstatement–and proves that, in his more general meaning, he was precisely correct, using Politifact’s ratings on Fox News’ statements as evidence:

I saw the Politifact story before the Stewart piece, and frankly, was disappointed. Yes, they were correct about Stewart being wrong; factually, it is not true that every poll shows Fox News viewers to be the most misinformed. However, the spirit of Stewart’s comment was, as he demonstrated in the bit, very much correct.

In fact, Politifact’s article itself is misleading.

Here’s why: in most of the polls about being informed, the status of “informed” with “high knowledge” is determined with questions like:

  • who is the vice president?
  • who is the president of Russia?
  • is the Chief Justice a conservative?
  • does the U.S. has a trade deficit?
  • which political party has a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives?
  • what is the name of the current U.S. Secretary of State?
  • who is the current prime minister of Great Britain?
  • which company is run by Steve Jobs?
  • which country has an active volcano that has recently disrupted international air travel?

Frankly, in the context of whether Fox News misinforms its viewers, these questions are meaningless. The charge is not that Fox misinforms its viewers about general facts, like who the vice president is, but politically charged facts, like whether the president wants to kill your grandmother.

This 2010 study (PDF), meanwhile, was discounted, because it contained determinations of truth that, while accurate, were challenged–by organizations like Fox News. Questions like:

Is it your impression that most economists who have studied it estimate that the stimulus has (a) saved or created several million jobs, (b) saved or created a few jobs, or (c) caused job losses.

That’s a perfectly legitimate question, but was challenged because, supposedly, it measured whether the respondent is a person “who agrees with the conclusions of experts in government agencies.” That criticism, however, is BS–the questions did not ask if the respondent agreed with the experts, but rather what the experts were saying. Which is a legitimate measurement of knowledge and misinformation.

Nevertheless, this was used to dismiss the results–even though this one survey was the only one that actually measured the political misinformation for which Fox News has become so infamous.

What Stewart should have said was that in a 2010 survey, one designed to measure political misinformation due to bias, Fox News viewers scored worst on almost every single point. The points Fox News viewers were the most misinformed on:

  • most economists estimate the stimulus caused job losses (12 points more likely)
  • most economists have estimated the health care law will worsen the deficit (31 points)
  • the economy is getting worse (26 points)
  • most scientists do not agree that climate change is occurring (30 points)
  • the stimulus legislation did not include any tax cuts (14 points)
  • their own income taxes have gone up (14 points)
  • the auto bailout only occurred under Obama (13 points)
  • when TARP came up for a vote most Republicans opposed it (12 points)
  • and that it is not clear that Obama was born in the United States (31 points)

Many of these points are legitimate for measuring viewer knowledge because they represent knowledge which is necessary to make wise, informed judgments on which policies and politicians are most likely to benefit the country at large; all points measure whether viewers have been swayed by political attacks driven by raw bias.

I think it’s safe to say that, yes, Fox News viewers are, if not the most misinformed, consistently, then they are pretty damned misinformed.

Categories: "Liberal" Media, Right-Wing Lies Tags:

The Anti-Obama Media Tilt Begins

June 9th, 2011 6 comments

In elections over the past twenty years or so, the media has rather noticeably leaned to the right. It forgives the right-wing candidate egregious faults and fallacies, and focuses disproportionately on those of the left-wing candidate.

In 2000, Gore’s Internet quote (which he never made) and his alleged “lies” (such as precisely which of many forest fires he had visited the scenes of with exactly which people) were hyped up as indicative of Gore’s “problem with the truth,” but far more serious issues and lies on the Bush side, including his drunk driving conviction, his record on education in Texas, his past with drugs, and much more, were given short shrift. Most of the tilt, however, was in smaller things–the kinds of photos the press chose to use, the polls they chose to quote, the specific stories they paid attention to. It added up.

This propensity showed up in 2004 as well (one small example: attention was given to the Swift-boaters, but not to Bush’s clearly faked security alerts), but flared significantly in 2008. McCain was allowed to duck and quickly forget all kinds of lies, flip-flops, and scandals, while Obama was criticized in the media for stuff that was far more tame, or even not true.

Case in point: On offshore drilling, McCain did a complete 180 within days, but the media more or less left him alone for that. Obama, meanwhile, was charged as being a flip-flopper when he did not change his policy or goals, but said he might accept a compromise with Congress on the issue. Earlier, McCain had even violated campaign finance laws but was given a bye from the media–while the press sounded huge alarms when Obama made the completely legal move of foregoing public financing of his campaign.

I laid it out at the time:

Think of it this way: what if Obama were the Republican and McCain were the Democrat? What if the Republicans had a youthful, charismatic, African-American candidate who was a great orator, and the Democrats were running a septuagenarian fuddy-duddy with a weird laugh and a so-so-speaking style? What if the Republican was outspending the Democrat four-to-one in advertising? What if the Republican was the one with consistent policies and the Democrat had flip-flopped on almost every issue? What if the Republican promised bigger tax cuts to the middle class, and the Democrat’s proposals were the ones promising to explode the deficit more? What if the Republican had a solid if not-so-exciting running mate while the Democrat chose a lightweight, far-left whacko? What if the Republican had a solid campaign organization running a competent 50-state policy while the Democrat’s campaign was in disarray? What if the Republican was standing tall while the Democrat was lying left and right and running a pathetic smear campaign?

Take all that, and then add the idea that the election comes after an 8-year Democratic presidency mired in war, corruption, and policy disaster ending with the biggest economic downturn in generations, and the Democrat was running on essentially the same policies as his predecessor?

I mean, seriously: are you freaking kidding me? The Republican would be ahead by huge margins. A landslide would be confidently predicted. There would simply be no question.

As I then pointed out, there were no end to the times you saw McCain do something stupid or repellent, and could say, “if Obama had done that, he’d be toast.” The media didn’t really care. They had their narrative, and were sticking to it. Yes, they do want an election to be more of a horse race than a blow-out–though when put to the test, I have no trouble believing they’d be OK with the Republican having a comfortable lead, and would not bother tilting back the other way to make it closer.

Well, it was bound to start sometime for 2012, and it has now. The Washington Post and ABC released a poll which showed Romney ahead of Obama, 49% to 46%–within the margin of error. Romney ahead, they declare; Obama has “lost his bounce,” the headlines shout. Do a Google News search, and about 500 stories come up.

Quinnipiac releases a poll which shows Obama ahead by six points, 47% to 41%, but only a few dozen sources in Google News carry it. The most prominent is the L.A. Times. Guess how they cover it? The headline: “Mitt Romney more competitive with Obama in poll, but religion remains a sticking point.” That’s the headline. “Mitt Romney More Competitive with Obama,” and the reason he’s not doing better is because of religious bigotry.

Worse, despite being an article about the Quinnipiac poll, it doesn’t mention that Obama leads Romney by 6 points until the tenth paragraph. Almost as an afterthought or something. People reading the article might even come away with the impression that Romney was ahead, especially if they stopped reading about half-way.

Yeah, no tilting here.

This is just the beginning. Be prepared for a long road cluttered with crap like this.

Categories: "Liberal" Media, Election 2012 Tags:

Trapped in a Closet Without Vanna White

March 29th, 2011 1 comment

Recently, the blogosphere–and a good portion of the news media–went nuts about how Joe Biden “locked a reporter in a closet” during a Democratic fundraiser. Even the milder reports made it sound like the man was stuffed into an actual closet, the sort in which jackets are hung, with no lights, where you have to stand up in the dark. Not so; it was a “closet” only in the sense that things were stored in the room. The room itself was not dark or even windowless, and was big enough to hold storage and have enough space for a table and chair. But now everyone calls it a “closet,” despite the fact that the word is highly misleading.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the right-wing echo chamber immediately exaggerated the exaggeration so we got headlines like “Biden Thugs Imprison Reporter.” Of course, nothing of the sort ever happened. The reporter’s own story:

Here’s what happened. I showed up at the private home of developer, philanthropist and political contributor Alan Ginsburg Wednesday morning to file a pool report on the visit there by Biden and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Orlando. When I arrived I was told I would not be able to speak with any of the people at the party, and that I was to wait in a room until Biden and Nelson arrived. I went in willingly, with the understanding that I was free to leave — but if I left I’d probably have to leave the house entirely, and not get to cover the speeches.

I called it a closet, because it was stuffed with shelves, boxes, baskets and other items in storage, and it felt like a closet. The vice president’s office called it a room used for storage. It had a light, a window somewhere in the back behind the shelves full of boxes, and a few square feet of open space in the front. They set up a small table and a chair for me. They offered me food, which I declined, and brought me a bottle of water. They closed the door.  I sat to wait, mistakenly thinking it would be only a few minutes. The door wasn’t locked, though every time I opened it and stepped out to see what was going on a staffer told me I couldn’t come out yet. He’d let me know.

So, this “closet” was a room with a window with enough space to set up a table. They offered him food and drinks and a place to sit. The only bad thing was that the room was also used for storage, and wasn’t roomy. The door was never locked, and the reporter was free to leave at any time.

From that, we get the story that Biden uses thugs to imprison reporters in closets. Compare this to last year when a private security agency hired by GOP Senate candidate Joe Miller handcuffed a reporter in a public area and held him for about half an hour against his will. No media headlines at that time used terms like “thugs” or “imprisoned.”

Damn that liberal media.

Categories: "Liberal" Media Tags:

Because “News” Is All about Backing Your Side and Vilifying the Other Guys

March 6th, 2011 2 comments

This would be hilarious if it weren’t so depressingly normal. In the midst of his outrageous lie-spinning on the Wisconsin protests, Fox News “reporter” Mike Tobin claimed that someone in the crowd “punched” him in the arm. He knew that the Fox camera was being blocked and that what really happened was not broadcast on the air.

As it happened, protesters were filming also–and when the video was shown, it was pretty clear that a guy in a Santa hat simply tapped him on the shoulder. Though it could have been a pat. But a punch? Not even remotely close.

A little later, Fox host Megyn Kelly tried to play up the incident, one she did not witness, calling it an “assault.” When Tobin tried to walk it back a little, Kelly pressed even harder, insisting that it was, in fact, “battery.”

This is a tactic they have picked up: the side which has the violent thugs loses, so they do everything they can–use fake footage, exaggerate wildly, lie outright–to make people they don’t like seem violent.

Just for a little perspective, remember when the woman at the Rand Paul rally was grabbed, wrestled to the ground, and had her head stomped on by a Paul supporter? Did Fox call that an “assault”? Maybe “battery”?

Nope. It was a “scuffle.” A term they used repeatedly. “Assault” was only referred to in the context of legal charges, but the headlines were all about “scuffles.” Which sounds like something kids get into when they call each other names and maybe throw kid-punches at each other.

I wonder, if the Wisconsin protesters wrestled Mike Tobin to the ground and stomped on his head, do you think they would call that a “scuffle”? Considering that someone tapping his shoulder is “assault and battery,” somehow I don’t think so.

Similarly, Fox is pulling out all the stops in demonizing the Wisconsin protesters, repeatedly calling them “angry mobs.” However, when large crowds of bused-inTea Party protesters invaded town hall meetings in which Democratic representatives wished only to speak to their constituents and answer their questions, mobbing the events and angrily screaming as a means of shutting them down, did Fox call them “angry mobs”?

Of course not. They were “boisterous crowds” enacting “democracy in action.” Sometimes they were “rowdy” or even “antagonistic.” But an “angry mob”? Hell, no! Fox got upset when the term was used by Democrats. These were red-blooded American patriots, how dare you call them an “angry mob”!

But those teachers in Wisconsin? Very different story. These are scary people, folks. Lazy, greedy people who get off work at three in the afternoon and take the whole summer off. Yep, that’s actually what they’re saying, in their attempt to make school teachers sound evil and the cause of all our problems. You know who goes home at three in the afternoon and gets summers off? Students. Teachers, actually, stay much later than three o’clock, and when they do go home they have papers to grade and lessons to plan. And summers? Yeah, no teacher ever has summer duties. They all go to Florida and get drunk for three months at taxpayer expense. Yeah, that’s what they do.

Besides, those “angry mobs” in Wisconsin are all “professional protesters” who were “bused in” by mysterious, unnamed left-wing organizations. (Psst! It’s Jews like George Soros!) What makes them think this? Apparently, because some have signs that were well-drawn, even though not professionally printed, and otherwise, just the “sense” they get from the crowd. That’s the word from Bill O’Reilly and Mike Tobin, so it’s as good as gospel.

Watching them just makes one blanch at the feckless parody “news” reporting on the right has become, nothing but a sheer political BS brigade, just making crap up out of thin air. To make the protesters look violent, they took footage from a protest in California, complete with t-shirts and palm trees, and tried to pass it off as violence happening in Wisconsin.

What I found laughable was the fact that they made a big deal about protesters being “bused in”–not only are the protesters local, but when the whole thing kicked off, the ones doing the organized busing were the Tea Party activists–and I am pretty sure that Fox never dismissed them for busing people in, though that’s what they’re famous for.

When masses of Tea Partiers bused in from out of state were shoving and screaming and generally disrupting any attempt at Democratic politicians communicating with their legitimate constituents, they were patriots. When local teachers and workers try to hang on to their median incomes as the Republican governor attempts to send them to the poorhouse for purely partisan political reasons, they are frighteningly violent union thugs.

In other words, it’s all about the message. Because it’s certainly not about the facts.

Tilting Even More

February 28th, 2011 3 comments

Remember when, during the Bush administration, Sunday political talk shows used to favor Republican guests, having them on in greater number than Democratic speakers? The claim was that since Republicans controlled all the branches of government, or that the White House was held by Republicans, such a setup was simply natural, and when the balance went the other way we could expect the opposite.

Yeah, well, we knew it was BS back then, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that it’s still going on despite a Democrat in the White House and Democrats in control of half the Congress. This week,two networks (CNN and ABC) had a pretty even balance of right and left. Three networks (Fox, NBC, and CBS), however, had Republicans only.

Two weeks ago, there were no Democrats among the featured guests. At all.

Search the records, and you’ll see that Republicans dominate over time, with a majority of Democratic guests being quite the rarity.

There’s your Liberal Media™ for ya.

Categories: "Liberal" Media Tags:

Irony Broken Again

February 23rd, 2011 1 comment

It hurts me to see a news organization get involved in politics to that level.

–Juan Williams, talking about CNN on Fox News

CNN, for the record, had a guy on the scene who rather simply and straightforwardly said that doctors were “helping out” teachers in Wisconsin by writing false notes that the teachers were ill when they were participating in a sick-out. The statement was not even sympathetic to the teachers or the doctors, it was simply stating that the doctors supported the teachers, nothing more than what actually happened. That was Williams’ assessment of how CNN was “getting involved in politics.”

Generating Fear

February 23rd, 2011 Comments off

Anjem ChoudarySean Hannity dedicated two segments of his show to this guy. Fox & Friends debated him as if he were a serious media figure and an actual threat. Right-wing blogs, magazines, and news sources are abuzz about him. Other, less outrageously right-wing media outlets have picked up on him.

Who is this major news figure? His name is Anjem Choudary. He’s a British Islamist who wants to lead a protest outside the White House to brand America as criminal and institute sharia law. Essentially, he’s a small-time loud-mouthed radical extremist who otherwise would be ignored.

So, why isn’t he being ignored? Why, instead, is he all over the news? Because he makes for a great bogeyman. He’s scary and is happy to go on any TV show and say exactly the kind of stuff that right-wingers want Americans to be afraid of, stuff that isn’t anywhere near being real but they want us to think it is.

Or, in summary: Oogah Boogah!!

Scared yet? Because the U.S. is just a few short steps from becoming a fundamentalist Islamic dictatorship, you know.

Categories: "Liberal" Media, Right-Wing Lies Tags:

Believing the Opposite

February 9th, 2011 4 comments

Reagan cut taxes, but raised others; in the end, more people wound up paying more in taxes. However, people mostly believe that Reagan only cut taxes.

Obama raised some taxes, but cut others; in the end, more people are now paying less in taxes. However, people mostly believe that Obama only raised taxes.

Such is the effect of the right-wing PR machine.

This comes up via Obama’s second interview with Bill O’Reilly. Only two interviews? Obama must be afraid of Fox News “journalists,” I guess. Remind me, though: how many times did Bush go on Olbermann? Hell, Palin won’t even go one some Fox News shows herself, much less any other media outlet.

Categories: "Liberal" Media Tags:

Doing Something Bad Twice as Much Apparently Makes It Good, or, IOKIYAR Yet Again

January 5th, 2011 Comments off

Remember how the filibuster was unconstitutional and evil, until Republicans lost the majority and abused it like never before in history? Remember how Republicans thought reconciliation was fine when they used it, but was outrageous when Democrats used it?

They’re at it again, this time with a process called “deem and pass.” When Democrats used it, Republicans almost literally “demonized” it, calling it every name in the book; some called for Pelosi’s impeachment over the issue, even though Democrats eventually did not use the measure for health care passage.

Now that they’ve got the gavel back, guess what procedure is suddenly OK again?

Not that this is a surprise. When Democrats used the procedure in the 80′s and early 90′s. Republicans railed against the procedure. But when they took over in the mid-90′s, they used the procedure at about double the rate Democrats did.

This is the Republican SOP: call Democrats villains for doing something, then do it twice as much themselves. Because, after all, IOKIYAR, and the “Liberal Media™” which greatly publicizes Republican outrage will rarely if ever say anything about the hypocrisy once Republicans do the same thing but worse. Note the virtual absence of reporting on Republican filibustering in the media after the extensive coverage of Democratic filibustering at far lower levels.

You’ve Probably heard This

December 24th, 2010 15 comments

Many people who voted in the midterm elections voted Republican, not because they knew Democrats did a bad job, but because they were misled into believing so. A poll conducted by the university of Maryland found that not only were voters misinformed on key issues, but viewers of Fox News were most misinformed, with the greatest lack of understanding about what is true and what is not. The highlights of how Fox News viewers fared on some basic points that the average voter should be be responsible for knowing:

  • 38 percent believe that most Republicans opposed TARP
  • 49 percent believe income taxes have gone up
  • 56 percent believe Obama initiated the GM/Chrysler bailout
  • 60 percent believe climate change is not occurring
  • 63 percent believe Obama was not born in the U.S. (or that it is unclear)
  • 63 percent believe the stimulus legislation did not include any tax cuts
  • 72 percent believe the economy is getting worse
  • 72 percent believe the health reform law will increase the deficit
  • 91 percent believe the stimulus legislation lost jobs

Seriously, it’s a pretty solid conviction of Fox as being a source of misinformation rather than of information. The evidence could not be more clear that the stimulus saved millions of jobs–not a few, but millions. And that a quarter to a third of it was tax cuts. And half of these people don’t even know what their own tax status is? Almost two-thirds are birthers?

Some of these I could almost understand–the economy certainly would feel like it’s getting worse to many, and it could be hard to understand health care’s impact on the budget. But let’s face it, it’s not as if these are issues that Fox gives a fair and balanced look at. They constantly spread lies (excuse me, “opinions”) about this kind of thing.

Nor are Fox viewers innocent dupes, the likelihood is that many if not most of these people watch Fox because it tells them what they want to believe. Which right now is anything bad about Obama.

Categories: "Liberal" Media, GOP & The Election Tags:

In Case You Bought Into Bush’s Self-Serving Image Repair

November 14th, 2010 1 comment

Okay, national crisis settled. Kanye West backed down from his statement five years ago about Bush not caring about black people, and Bush magnanimously forgave West his horrific sin. Goody.

For something slightly more relevant than whether or not a under-inhibited rapper hurt the feelings of a former president, why not go down to New Orleans and ask the families of the more than one and a half thousand people who died in the predominantly African-American city whether or not they forgive Bush for dawdling for five days before finally sending national guard troops to rescue and assist people and bring materials and support?

It speaks a great deal to the man’s judgment and humanity that he perceives his greatest mistake was to fly over New Orleans and publish a PR image of him looking out the window, and his greatest heartbreak was a rapper’s insult and not the people who suffered and died in the storm and flood.

In the photograph, he said, he looked “detached and uncaring,” as if that was really anything to be concerned about. As if staying on vacation to celebrate his birthday while the crisis raged was an understandable delay, or that waiting for five days before deploying the national guard was a minor technical detail.

Though he repeated it in his current book-selling tour, it was at his final press conference as president that he came up with this insipidly self-serving idea that he could have shown his concern more effectively by landing in the area and having a photo op. In what can only be called an astonishingly heartless attempt to spin the reality, he then acts out painful realization that landing his jet would just have distracted from the rescue effort. The rescue efforts he failed to begin for another three days.

Setting aside the fact that his failure to act, which caused hundreds of Americans to die in neglect, was his greatest blunder, Bush’s humanitarian concern over the potential disruption of rescue efforts is transparently dishonest. Remember the whole “Heckuva job, Brownie” incident? The irony of that unearned compliment is what caught the headlines, but what went largely unreported was that Bush’s photo op halted rescue efforts at a time when dozens of people were still dying every day. Instead, Bush commandeered the nice, shiny helicopters (not being used or serviced during his photo op in front of them) to serve as a backdrop for his heroic PR campaign where he lauded a criminally incompetent crony. Remember, that photo op came just as the guard troops began to arrive and were needed most urgently. Nor was it the only time he held things up. Bush made repeated trips to the area, each time diverting and delaying rescue efforts while lives were still being lost.

Worse, when Bush “came to the rescue” with supplies and equipment, these things tended to stay only slightly longer than Bush did. After he left, the supplies and equipment were pulled out after him, showing that they were for show, not for helping people. Flash but no depth.

And yet, even with all of this clearly recorded and easily available to anyone who cared to look back at it, we still allow ourselves to have the narrative hijacked by irrelevant bullshit like the story of Kanye West hurting Bush’s feelings.