I grew up reading Newsweek and then Time. I've read lots of issues of the New York Times and The Washington Post.

I said farewell to the MSM for several reasons: the increasingly snide and superior tone, the decline of prose standards, the bias. But perhaps most important was the deterioration in quality of reporting--more and more mistakes in fact.

Powerline in this post prints the New York Times Corrections from its own obituary of Walter Cronkite. The errors of fact made in the obituary of a god of Mainstream News sends the irony meter off the scale.

And they had the nerve to make fun of Dan Quayle and mock Sarah Palin.

16/06: Manipulation

Category: Media and Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
There are no windows in any casino I've ever seen. No clocks either. Casino managment wants to control the game-room enviroment absolutely, so as to separate the player from external reality. Cut-off from any external reference, plied with alcohol, over-stimulated with electronic lights and sounds, given enough wins to sustain the illusion of beating the house, the player becomes a Pavlovian animal with a twist: when the bells ring the players feed the house.

In American politics, if the media do not maintain an objective independence, the voters can lose touch with any external reality, and be manipulated by whomever controls the house. The media infatuation with Obama frightens me. May it end soon.
We have criticized the National Organization of Women on this blog before. We worry that they are more concerned with promoting a political agenda than speaking out for the general well being of all women. However, they deserve kudos for their response to the Letterman-Palin abomination.

This trenchant statement from their website is a welcome condemnation:

NOW Analysis: After two nights of "jokes" at the expense of Palin and her family, Letterman tried to explain himself and offer something of an apology. On his June 10 show, Letterman said he was referring to Palin's 18-year-old daughter, Bristol -- not the 14-year-old daughter who actually accompanied Palin on her New York trip. Letterman said "I recognize that these are ugly" jokes. NOW agrees. Comedians in search of a laugh should really know better than to snicker about men having sex with teenage girls (or young women) less than half their age.

The sexualization of girls and women in the media is reaching new lows these days -- it is exploitative and has a negative effect on how all women and girls are perceived and how they view themselves. Letterman also joked about what he called Palin's "slutty flight attendant look" -- yet another example of how the media love to focus on a woman politician's appearance, especially as it relates to her sexual appeal to men. Someone of Letterman's stature, who appears on what used to be known as "the Tiffany Network" (CBS), should be above wallowing in the juvenile, sexist mud that other comedians and broadcasters seem to prefer.

I associate myself with these remarks.
Category: Media and Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Stuart Rothenberg writes today:

"Like most of the evening programming on MSNBC and the Fox News Channel, Hardball has become a partisan, heavily ideological sledgehammer clearly intended to beat up one party and one point of view."

"I don't mean to single out Matthews for criticism because he actually understands politics and I believe that he would prefer to do a serious political show. Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow and the newest addition to MSNBC's unfortunate lineup, Ed Schultz, are far worse than Hardball."

"When I surf the channels and pause for a moment on O'Reilly or Hannity [FOX News], I rarely see guests who aren't openly partisan. But MSNBC's left-leaning shows do use political reporters and columnists who would bridle at the notion that they are ideologues or favor one party over the other."

Read it all here via RCP.

I agree with Rothenberg. These shows are fun, but they are also addictive and poisonous (and, for the record, I include Hannity and O'Reilly in that assessment).
You will remember a few weeks back that the President held a reception in the East Room for the Washington press corps celebrating his triumphal first one hundred days as chief executive. During the merriment, the President related a story that attempted to associate Winston Churchill with the administration policy on "enhanced interrogation techniques."

President Obama:

I was struck by an article that I was reading the other day talking about the fact that the British during World War II, when London was being bombed to smithereens, had 200 or so detainees. And Churchill said, "We don't torture," when the entire British -- all of the British people were being subjected to unimaginable risk and threat.

And then the reason was that Churchill understood, you start taking short-cuts, over time, that corrodes what's -- what's best in a people. It corrodes the character of a country.

The moment I heard that bold assertion, I immediately thought two things:

1. He better have this right.

2. It sounds wrong.

I was correct on one count. It was not a very reliable story. The historical account did not stand up to scrutiny. However, as it turned it, I was wrong on my first thought; it really didn't matter if he was right. For the most part, the members of the mainstream media were so grateful, evidently, to be invited to the nice party that they felt it awkward and impolite to criticize the host and guest of honor for his imprecise illustration.

Save for the conservative media (and, really who listens to them, anyway?), the President received a complete pass on his sloppy (perhaps even disingenuous) historical assertion. Oh, well.

New Question: does Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi merit the same protection?

I wonder. Speaker Pelosi finds herself in an utterly indefensible position in which her public statements on torture and her actions as a key member of the House of Representatives look to be completely irreconcilable.

Will it matter? Could Nancy Pelosi actually be in some political danger? Hard to say. But the press is asking some tough questions. Even Jon Stewart gave her the "hypocritical political gas bag" treatment on his show (see here via RCP video).

Stewart's surprising reaction is perhaps indicative of the dilemma Obama-boosters face.

True, they are fierce loyalists to the President and remain intent on going to any lengths to ensure his success; however, and here is the rub, they are also desperate to maintain some moral rectitude in their own eyes--and it gets harder every day.

How to square their unquestioning fidelity to this President and their journalistic integrity?

Maybe you take down a non-essential player on your own team. Perhaps then you can sleep better at night, look yourself in the mirror in the mornings, and view yourself as an independent agent solely intent on safeguarding the public interest.

Am I saying that Nancy Pelosi is in danger? YES--maybe. Her downfall still remains extremely unlikely (she belongs to several protected classes--Democratic leadership being the most sacred). However, the NYT and Jon Stewart have her in their sights. They can pull the trigger on her if they want to. Will they want to? MAYBE. If this goes much farther, they may have to choose between their political inclinations and their tortured self image as fair-minded denizens of the Fourth Estate.

The fall of Nancy Pelosi may be just the tonic the mainstream media needs to revive their own beloved self delusion.
Keith Olbermann is a popular news personality with many liberals. Lefties like him because he is not afraid to speak truth to the vast power of FOX News, intrepidly exposing the inherent right-wing bias of his cable news competition. He also drew high marks for his courageous calumny against George Bush. Why was that so courageous? According to Olbermann and his like-minded fans, the Bush years saw a "chilling effect" in the area of political speech. Even more remarkable, he does all this patriotic caterwauling in between delivering his signature objective reporting in a style self-consciously reminiscent of his hero, Edward R. Murrow.

Unfortunately, Katie Couric has already won this year's Walter Cronkite award for excellence in journalism for "her extraordinary, persistent and detailed multi-part interviews with Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, which judges called a defining moment in the 2008 presidential campaign.”

Maybe next year Keith Olberman can get some much-deserved kudos for this report on "teabagging" (view here courtesy of RCP Video).

FYI: just in case you don't know (and I am somewhat embarrassed and somewhat contented that I did not), "teabagging" is a word that describes a somewhat unorthodox sexual act.

SERIOUS QUESTION: should grownups really spend eleven minutes of prime cable-TV time snickering through this bawdy witlessness?

One more disappointment: shame on Howard Fineman for taking part in this abomination.
Category: Media and Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
This morning on the Laura Ingraham show she played a clip from ?MSNBC? in which talking heads were blaming the Talk Radio "echo chamber" for the murderous rampage in Pittsburgh in which a crazy gunman killed three police officers. According to the talking heads all the crazy Talk Radio convinced the gunman that Obama would be coming for his guns. One of the heads asserted that all it took was one or two crazies listening to their radios and taking Conservative Talk seriously to make it a danger.

As a social conservative I welcome these liberal talking heads into our camp.

For decades we social conservatives have been arguing that violent video games, music that degrades women, and media glorification of perversion and sexual experimentation, were affecting people's attitudes and actions. Liberal reaction to our assertions has been to deny any connection and to accuse us of being dumber than Dan Quayle when he criticized Murphy Brown.

Bravo to these liberal talking heads for admitting, finally, that the media can influence people's attitudes and behavior. I await their pronouncements on Gangster Rap.
Two weeks ago I could NOT have picked Jim Cramer out of a police lineup. As it turns out, he has been an on-air personality for CNBC since 1996. Who knew?

On March 3, 2009, his name finally penetrated my consciousness. That was the day the White House press secretary "called out" Cramer in response to his criticism of the President. The day before, Cramer had asserted that the recently announced budget represented a "radical agenda," and he held the President responsible for wanton "destruction of wealth."

Two days later, Cramer issued a manifesto of defiance, promising to lead an army of millions in revolt against the the President's policies.

A few days after that, Jon Stewart, host of the Daily Show, picked up the White House line of attack and castigated Cramer as a hypocritical menace and presented a series of examples of his erroneous predictions over the years. The next day I finally put a face to the name, as I came across a YouTube of Stewart's five-minute-plus comic excoriation of the Mad Money man.

Thursday night, March 12, Cramer appeared as a guest on Stewart's program, where the host lambasted him mercilessly for crimes against the economy. The Charge? According to Stewart, Jim Cramer and CNBC, the cable financial news channel that draws approximately 300,000 viewers a night, bears major culpability for failing to warn us sufficiently that the stock market was risky.

Friday the cable feud was above-the-fold news. I watched or listened to news stories reporting and reacting to the confrontation from three different sources (NPR, the Newshour, and the CBS Evening News).

Every one of those news-and-analysis segments offered a straightforward account of the dramatic televised duel between Stewart and Cramer (with video highlights), fully embracing and amplifying the premise that Stewart raised a salient point worth public discussion: how could the business reporters fail so grievously in their duty to protect the public good?

Seriously? Jim Cramer and his ilk are to blame for our current economic difficulties? Stewart is the king of irony, but doesn't anyone but me find it completely absurd that we should try to pin blame on some loudmouth, whom most of us had never even heard of two weeks ago, who appears on a cable network that captures an audience equivalent to less than .001 percent of the U.S. population?

Perhaps most troubling, not one of these mainstream news agencies connected Cramer's sudden national scrutiny and notoriety to his dispute with the President. What about some context? If you just tuned in today, you would have thought this story somehow spontaneously generated itself somewhere in the vast wasteland of cable TV. The reports offered no inkling that that the White House had initiated the counter-attack on Cramer.

No journalist asked the obvious questions: how much does this slug-fest have to do with Cramer's high-profile attack on the President? What role did the White House play in all this? Is Stewart a surrogate for the Obama administration?

Am I off-base? Are these NOT basic questions? What is going on here?

Welcome to the Surreal World.

UPDATE: unfortunately, add Howard Kurtz to the list of oblivious mainstreamers. The best he can do is say that online reaction tended to split along partisan lines and quote (but not link) Mark Hemmingway's excellent piece on NRO (linked here)--which everyone should read.
Recently we have expressed some problems with Rush Limbaugh and some of his views.

We regard him as irrationally wedded to the idea of the absolutely Free Market. I think most of us who blog here regard the Free Market as a good thing, so long as it is not absolutly free, that is, we see the need for some rational regulation. Similarly on the related ideas of free trade and Capitalism.

We regard him as over emphasizing "Rugged Individualism," taking insufficient note of the role of communities in the good life.

We regard him as too quick to see conspiracy at work among those he opposes.

I regard him as too cavelier regarding the environment.

Photognome and Martian Mariner also expressed problems with his ability to analyze a problem rationally and to present comment in rational form. I understand their complaint.

Having said all of this, I wish to speak a word in Rush's defense.

First, while I disagree with him on the items listed above, I think that for someone who makes a living talking live for 15 hours per week, he manages to get most things right. Sometimes he spots trends or issues before anyone else seems to notice.

Second, he understands that rationality is only a part of the human make-up. And, that many, many people are not dominated by their rational side. He makes great use of humor, and emotion, in his presentation.

Third, Rush is an ideologue. He has a philosophy, a variety of conservatism, and he views the world through this ideology. He knows what his beliefs are, can explain them coherently, and can persuade others of the truth of his world-view.

As a Christian, and a preacher, I understand what he does. I operate from an ideology also, try to persuade people to see things according to a Christian world-view, and use more than rationality in my rhetoric. I just wish Rush would take a sabbatical and immerse himself in The Institutes of the Christian Religion, or in Church Dogmatics. Since Rush is nominally Roman Catholic, I would settle gladly for Thomas Aquinas as Rush's bedtime reading.
Remember those CareerBuilder.com commercials featuring a hapless employee forced to work with monkeys?

Were those ads playing on deeply coded racial symbols? Were those spots designed to appeal to frustrated white employees forced to work with incompetent African American colleagues? Or was the "monkey business" of those commercials a symbol for working with a bunch of frivolous and mischievous "clowns"?

Pretty obvious answer--and, for the record, they were hilarious.

Just in case you do not know, the New York Post ran a cartoon last week in which two cops shot down a monkey (playing off an actual incident in the news earlier in the week), and the caption reads: “They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill.”

The most reasonable point to infer? The stimulus bill was so egregiously ridiculous, it could have only been written by a monkey (figuratively speaking).

A less reasonable inference? The Post advocates the assassination of Barack Obama.

I can only surmise that those who sincerely charged that the cartoon depicted President Obama as a chimpanzee were the ones who did not follow the news very carefully. Key word: write.

“They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill.”

Who wrote the stimulus bill? Not the President, unfortunately, or any of his braintrust. The most frustrating and disappointing element of the entire stimulus melodrama was the absence of the President and his economic council of wise men in the drafting of this abominable legislation. As I noted weeks ago, the great ironic travesty of this trillion-dollar bill was that it was farmed out to the lower branches of the Democratic Party's political tree.

If I had to pick one of two options, I would have to choose misogyny over racism--but that accusation rings equally hollow.

However, there are actually two things wrong with this cartoon.

1. It is not hilarious. The gag was not nearly obvious or powerful enough. If this thing had made somebody somewhere laugh (or even smirk), it would have gone down much smoother.

2. No matter how innocent (or plausibly deniable) the cartoon may be, a depiction of a monkey that can be placed any where near this first African American president definitely deserved more deliberation than the editorial board of the NY Post evidently saw fit to grant it.

Really Obvious Observation: this is the last monkey we will see in a political cartoon or any other media for the next eight years.

Having said that, even if the Post should have known better, this firestorm of misplaced indignation does not diminish the sadly obvious fact that we live in a world gone mad.