ABC – State-Run Television

Sheldon Alberts has a good editorial on ABC’s decision to become a propaganda organ for the White House tonight:

At the president’s invitation, ABC News anchors Charlie Gibson and Diane Sawyer will host a prime time town hall-style meeting from the White House during which Obama – and Obama alone – will answer audience and viewers’ questions about efforts to cover 50 million Americans without health care insurance.

Talk about a bully pulpit for Obama to sell his proposal for the creation of a government-run public health insurance plan.
ABC News’ packaging of the health care special also includes a Good Morning America “exclusive” interview with the President on Wednesday morning, a live broadcast of ABC World News from the White House, a full edition of ABC’s Nightline devoted to the issue, an ABC News webcast and an ABC Radio special.

ABC is essentially become a journalistic whore—giving away their credibility in favor of access to their master’s house. Tonight’s programming will be little more than propaganda, despite ABC’s weak promises that they’ll be critical of Obama’s plans, they have not given any airtime for any dissenting voices to Obama’s attempts to “reform” health care.

In short, ABC has decided to become a political propaganda network for the White House. Not only is this blatantly against the “watchdog” role of the press, it also violates the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics. That Code requires journalists to “[a]void conflicts of interest, real or perceived.” Here, ABC is trading objectivity for access, but even if they are not, the fact that not a single voice will be given time is more than enough to “perceive” a conflict of interest. The Code demands that journalists “[r]efuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and shun secondary employment, political involvement, public office and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity.” Here, ABC is compromising their journalistic integrity in order to curry favor with the Obama White House and gain access to the administration. One could go one, but the point has been made: what ABC is doing is a violation of professional ethics.

It is ironic that a party that has called for a “fairness doctrine” to promote “balance” on the airwaves and criticizes other networks for being “biased” seems to be silent as ABC refuses to give equal time. It only exposes the hypocrisy of those who would censor talk radio to prevent dissenting voices from having a bully pulpit.

This sort of thing should not happen in a free society: and that this is not the product of government coercion is even more distressing. It is one thing to become a slavish propaganda organ for the ruling clique at the barrel of a gun—but that ABC will prostrate themselves of their own volition is even more disgusting.

ABC has no objectivity. They have allowed themselves to become an uncritical propaganda organ for the Obama Administration and should be treated with the same critical eye as one would treat any other state-run propaganda outlet.

The Decline of TV Political News

Stuart Rothenberg, one of the nation’s preeminent pollsters has a scathing indictment of the current state of TV political coverage. Rather than providing an opportunity for viewers to get a wide range of opinions, TV political coverage is now largely about attracting the most rabid partisans:

Chris Matthews is a smart, politically astute observer of politics, but my last appearance convinced me that “Hardball” has evolved from a straight political news program with quality guests to one that has more in common with its network’s prime-time slant. 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.

During the show on which I appeared, Matthews referred more than once to Republicans as “Luddites” and took every opportunity imaginable to portray them as crackpots. The show’s topics inevitably pander to the most liberal Democratic viewers and present Republicans and conservatives in the least flattering of terms.

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.”

The reality is that TV news is based around appealing to the lowest common denominator—and there are a dwindling number of worthwhile TV news programs available. For example, while FOX is famous for the blowhards Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity, they do have some very good straight political coverage and Brit Hume’s nightly show was one of the best in the industry. However, their bread-and-butter was in “opinion journalism” (an oxymoron if ever there was one). FOX had good political coverage, and for all their supposed conservative bias they did a good job of reporting on serious matters as well.

MSNBC, however, decided to become a cargo-cult version of FOX News with a leftward tilt. They managed to find an ego as big as Bill O’Reilly’s with an even bigger chip on his shoulder in the form of Keith Olbermann. Olbermann has all the tact and grace of a rabid pit-bull that just ate PCP-laced dog food. In his world, Republicans make Nazis look like Boy Scouts—making him unwatchable by anyone who doesn’t share a similarly rabid worldview. The execrable Ed Schultz and Rachel Maddow are in a similar vein.

Sadly, there just doesn’t seem to be an appetite for hard news on TV these days—if you want to be informed about the world, you use the Internet and get the facts for yourself. Right now, TV news is used in the same way a drunk uses a lamppost—for support rather than illumination.

Perhaps if Chris Matthews had declined to allow himself to be prostituted out to MSNBC’s brand of acid-drenched partisanship it would have saved Hardball from becoming a mockery of itself. If more journalists wanted to report the facts rather than spin them the state of TV journalism would be better. However, that would require some serious intellectual diversity, and journalism in general is a monoculture. FOX has done yeoman’s work in allowing a different perspective to have a voice, but it’s set a standard for valuing kneejerk “opinion” over strong journalism. The rest of the TV networks are copying the worst of that model.

TV news networks are hemorrhaging viewers, and given this race to the bottom, it’s not hard to understand why.

The Minnesota Poll Strikes Again

If you believe the latest Star-Tribune poll, Al Franken leads Norm Coleman by over 10%.

If you believe that, I also have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.

At PowerLine, Scott Johnson takes a sharp look at the poll and a contemporaneous SurveyUSA poll showing Coleman with a modest lead. The Minnesota Poll dramatically undersampled Republicans and oversampled Democrats. Given that Franken couldn’t beat 75% in a primary against an unknown opponent, not even Dean Barkley will be able to save him. Coleman’s negative ads are effective because they simply show the truth about Al Franken: that he’s a partisan bomb-thrower. The media is furious, but the voters deserve the truth about Franken’s propensity for violent outbursts.

Sen. Coleman has been a strong voice for Minnesota. He is not the unthinking partisan that the Minnesota left-wing tries to paint him as being. He is a thoughtful moderate running against an ideological extremist—and he will win. Al Franken is the antithesis of “Minnesota Nice,” and his intemperance and propensity to fly off the handle are character traits that are completely wrong for a deliberative body like the Senate.

The Media’s Manufactured Palin ‘Scandal’

Historian Daniel J. Boorstin coined the term “pseudo-event” for an event designed solely to attract the media and not for any other real value. The current brouhaha over Bristol Palin is an ideal example of just such a pseudo-event. Here in the Twin Cities, the Palin news is being met with little concern. Instead, the reaction has been one of support for Ms. Palin and her family.

Of course, if all one did is follow the media line, one would thing the exact opposite.

The Chicago Tribune breathlessly proclaims that the news has Republicans “off balance”. The New York Times proclaims that Gov. Palin must not have been properly vetted. Liberal bloggers are already gleefully calling for Palin to resign—apparently some think that a woman should know her place and that raising a family and having a career is impossible.

This pick has the Democratic Party scrambling. If they continue this line of attack it will backfire on them. Do they really want to make an issue out of a 17-year-old girl?

This whole affair is a pseudo-event. It was crafted by the liberal left to try to drive a wedge between evangelicals and McCain. It will fail precisely because the media is arrogant to think that evangelical and values voters are as intolerant as they parody them to be. It is without substance, and it is gutter politics. Even Sen. Obama, much to his credit, has said this should be off-limits.

Gov. Palin is being attacked because she is a principled conservative and a woman. It just burns the left that the first female Vice President—and someday perhaps the first female President—would be someone who doesn’t share their views. The rank sexism of the attacks against Gov. Palin and her family show just how far the media will go to discredit her.

This pseudo-event will fail. It will create a backlash, and here in the Twin Cities it already has. If the Democrats and their media organs think they can win by attacking a young girl at her most vulnerable, they could not be more wrong.

Why Is The Media So Scared Of Fred Thompson?

Fred Thompson comes out against another smear by another irresponsible reporter:

Today I had this story written about me regarding what I said at a Town Hall event in Burlington, Iowa by a reporter who wasn’t even at the event. Incidentally, I declined to be interviewed by this particular reporter yesterday for reasons which will soon be apparent.

In referring to me, she reported “he doesn’t like modern campaigning, isn’t interested in running for President, and will not be devastated” if he doesn’t win.

Below is a transcript of what I actually said in response to a question by a local Burlington resident which was the basis of the reporter’s story.

It is clear that there are those in the media who will exact a high price for candor and from those whom they consider to be insufficiently ambitious. But it is with increasing amazement that we see that those who are willing to slant or leave out important parts of a story to make their point.

I used to attribute the “lazy Thompson” narrative to nothing more than the media’s own lack of interest in real coverage—but with the number of times Sen. Thompson has been deliberately misquoted I’m starting to wonder if there’s something more at play here. I’m starting to wonder if the media isn’t afraid of Sen. Thompson. After all, the media leans heavily Democratic—and they have a vested interest in seeing the weakest possible Republican challenger to their heir apparent Hillary Clinton. That’s why the media has been playing hands-off with Mike Huckabee—they know that his pseudo-populism would fracture the economic and social wings of the Republican coalition and ensure a Clinton victory. Sen. Thompson is an authentic conservative on both fiscal and social issues. He’s strongly pro-life, he’s strong against earmarks, and when it comes to judges, Sen. Thompson is the one that President Bush chose to help Chief Justice Roberts through the Senate. Thompson would keep the Republican base together in a way that few—if any— of the other Republican hopefuls can.

No wonder they’re afraid.

What Sen. Thompson actually said in Iowa reminds me of precisely why I support Sen. Thompson’s bid for the Presidency. He isn’t a career politician, nor is he a member of the Beltway political class. From Sen. Thompson’s remarks:

If people really want in their president super type-a personality, someone who has gotten up every morning and gone to bed every night and been thinking about for years how they win the presidency of the United States, someone who can look you straight in the eye and say they enjoy every minute of campaigning, I ain’t that guy. So I hope I’ve discussed that and didn’t talk you out of anything. I honestly want – I can’t imagine a worse set of circumstances [than] achieving the Presidency of the United States under false pretenses. I go out of my way to be myself.

We’ve had enough of phony political hacks pandering to every possible group under the sun. The professional political class in this country is an affront to the values of citizen leadership that the Founders desired. Sen. Thompson has a career of civil service, but he’s hardly a member of the political class. His campaign is based strongly on ideas, not empty promises and not attempts to conceal the issues with gauzy personal narratives.

Thompson remains tied with the rest of the pack, but if substance were what mattered, he’d be winning by a large margin. The media keeps misquoting him because they have their narratives in play, and they’re scared that a solid conservative might get the Republican nomination and take the Republican Party to the White House for another four years. Republican primary voters need only concentrate on who the media wants them to vote for to know precisely who is the least fit to win. Thompson is the real thing—a conservative with solid policy prescriptions and the ability to get them enacted. That’s what the media fears, and that’s what the country most desperately needs.

They Report, You Deride

Dan Riehl catches The Politico‘s Roger Simon (not to be confused with the blogger of the same name) in some biased reporting on a recent Fred Thompson campaign stop in Iowa. Here’s how The Politico put it:

Inside, Thompson shook a few hands — there were only about 15 people there — and then Chief Dan McKenzie handed Thompson the chief’s fire hat so Thompson could put it on.

Thompson looked at it with a sour expression on his face.

“I’ve got a silly hat rule,” Thompson said.

In point of fact, the “silly” hat was the one Chief McKenzie wore to fires and I am guessing none of the firefighters in attendance considered it particularly silly, but Thompson was not going to put it on. He just stood there holding it and staring at it.

To save the moment, Jeri Thompson took the hat from her husband’s hands and put it on her head.

“You look cute,” Thompson said to her. She did.

Unfortunately for The Politico, a CBS News reporter happened to be there and captured the actual event:

Instead of the awkward moment that Simon portrayed, it was a good-natured exchange between Thompson, his wife, and the firemen. Besides, there’s a good reason why politicians should be careful about wearing inappropriate headgear. Indeed, Simon has a history of being down on Fred as a candidate.

This just goes to show how the media doesn’t always give you the straight story. With the advent of things like YouTube it’s harder for people to get away with these mischaracterizations. The media has a narrative, and sometimes that narrative and reality don’t occupy the same ZIP code.

There have been many criticisms of Thompson’s campaign style (or lack thereof). Given that Thompson is on a major bus tour of Iowa, visiting 54 of the state’s 99 countries in the days before Christmas, that narrative might end up haunting the media. Iowa’s voters tend not to do what the media thinks they’ll do, which makes for a much more interesting race. When you’re locked into one mode of looking at the world, it’s much more difficult to see the nuances that can quickly decide a race as close as this one.

Blinded By Bias

Ed Morrissey has an excellent piece on The New Republic coming clean on the Scott Thomas Beauchamp controversy. They’re now admitting that they got hoodwinked once again, and that they didn’t check their facts. When Beauchamp’s wife is assigned to ensuring the accuracy of his piece, there’s already a massive red flag. TNR let their ideological biases get in the way, and it blinded them to the fact that they were being had.

If this were an isolated incident, it would be one thing. However, the Beauchamp scandal is emblematic of a larger problem within the American media. As the figures show, the vast majority of American journalists are ideologically homogenous—they believe in left-wing ideals and view the world through that ideological prism. Which means that the stories the tell are stories that have been twisted by those ideological assumptions. The Beauchamp story didn’t get published because The New Republic wanted to smear the troops, it got published because the story fit their own preconceptions of American servicemembers as either political pawns or mindless kill-bots. So few journalists have military experience that stories like a Bradley driver swerving to kill a dog didn’t set off their BS-detectors because almost none of them know what a Bradley Armored Vehicle looks like. Without that knowledge, it becomes harder to distinguish what’s fact and what’s convenient fiction.

Despite Franklin Foer’s lengthy attempt at apologia, the reality is that they hoodwinked again. They got what they wanted, not what was true, and they didn’t have the foresight to check their facts. It may have been a mistake borne from ignorance rather than malice, but it was a mistake none the less. To have come from a magazine that had already been the victim of another scam journalist (Stephen Glass) makes this sort of error even less understandable.

TNR has, sadly, frittered away its credibility. At the very least Franklin Foer should take responsibility and step down, along with all those who handled this story. Instead, he spends a great deal of time blaming others for their mistake. So long as that attitude prevails, TNR is unlikely to regain the credibility lost in this affair.

Inmates Given Keys To Asylum

Apparently Markos “Screw ‘Em” Moulitsas has been hired as a columnist by Newsweek.


Is Newsweek really hurting for writers who hurl invective like a monkey flings feces? Who has the writing talent of a college freshman? Who is the very model of a partisan hack? Exactly what do they gain?

If Newsweek wanted an interesting, insightful and worthwhile liberal to contribute something meaningful to their publication, there are plenty of them out there. (Although, to be frank, they’re not hurting for left-wing voices.) At the very least, there are some thougtful liberals like Joshua Micah Marshall who would be more deserving.

They’re apparently going to “balance” Kos with a right-of-center blogger, yet to be announced. Then again, I doubt anyone would want the job of “balancing” Kos unless it’s by giving him medication. I’m not sure of a writer whose name doesn’t rhyme with Fan Molter that even comes close to the level of pure ideological spite and relentless cheerleader-ism that Kos spews on a daily basis.

Then again, it’s probably good news for the Republicans in the race—the more exposure people like Kos get, the more people see the true face of the Democratic Party. Given Kos’ ability to put his foot firmly in his mouth and then berate anyone pointing it out, giving him a larger voice in the media has got to have reasonable Democrats cringing.

The Post Behind The Times

The Washington Post ran yet another anti-war editorial from former Iraq servicemembers. Bob Herbert notices something rather telling about the 12 signatories to the article:

I value the writers’ service and their opinions as soldiers who have served in Iraq, but wouldn’t this editorial have meant more if the Washington Post had managed to find soldiers to write it who had actually been in in Iraq in the last year?

Only two of the 12 captains had been in Iraq as late as 2006, with the rest all departing in 2005 or before. None of them are currently on active duty.

While their opinions are valuable from a historical perspective based upon what they’ve seen while they served, they hardly seem to be best qualified to be able to comment upon the current situation on the ground in Iraq, as it has changed so radically since the last of them departed.

The media is desperate to preserve the narrative on Iraq. Despite the concerted effort of the media, left-wing groups like, and the Democratic Party to “end the war” the battle for Iraq has not been abandoned. Despite the attempts to argue that the situation in Iraq is not improving, even the Post is admitting that the numbers are improving. Despite the attempts to paint a picture of a losing war it appears that al-Qaeda is the one fighting a losing battle in Iraq.

With all due respect to the 12 American soldiers who sacrificed their time for this war, their information is out of date and contradicted by the current situation on the ground. For example, they argue that the “surge” is causing alienation between US troops and the Iraqis. If that is true, then why has the Anbar Awakening been such a success? Iraqi leaders like Sheikh Abu Sattar al-Risha have worked closely with American troops to rid al-Anbar of AQI terrorists. If there are “swayed allegiances” in Iraq those allegiances are swaying against al-Qaeda and towards a free Iraq.

The media narrative has always been one of defeat in Iraq. The truth is far more complex. It’s far too soon to declare victory in Iraq, but the signs of progress are unmistakable. The first step towards fixing Iraq has always been to restore security and allow for the Iraqis to develop their own political institutions from the ground up. We are making demonstrable progress on that front, and even the Post has been forced to admit that numbers paint a far different picture than their chosen narrative.

What They Didn’t Report

Jack Kelly has a charged piece noting the media’s self-serving coverage of a recent speech by retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez:

LtGen. Sanchez, who commanded U.S. troops in Iraq from June, 2003 to June, 2004, is the highest ranking Iraq war veteran to publicly criticize the war, so his comments were newsworthy, despite being long on adjectives and short on specifics. But this column is less about what LtGen. Sanchez had to say and more about what the journalists who covered his speech chose to report.

All the news organizations which covered his speech emphasized the caustic things he had to say about the Bush administration.

That wasn’t the sole target of Lt. Gen. Sanchez’s ire, however. The full text of his speech makes it quite clear that his position on the media is just as hostile:

Almost invariably, my perception is that the sensationalistic value of these assessments is what provided the edge that you seek for self aggrandizement or to advance your individual quest for getting on the front page with your stories! As I understand it, your measure of worth is how many front page stories you have written and unfortunately some of you will compromise your integrity and display questionable ethics as you seek to keep America informed. This is much like the intelligence analysts whose effectiveness was measured by the number of intelligence reports he produced. For some, it seems that as long as you get a front page story there is little or no regard for the “collateral damage” you will cause. Personal reputations have no value and you report with total impunity and are rarely held accountable for unethical conduct.

Given the near instantaneous ability to report actions on the ground, the responsibility to accurately and truthfully report takes on an unprecedented importance. The speculative and often uninformed initial reporting that characterizes our media appears to be rapidly becoming the standard of the industry. An Arab proverb states – “Four things come not back: the spoken word, the spent arrow, the past, the neglected opportunity.” Once reported, your assessments become conventional wisdom and nearly impossible to change. Other major challenges are your willingness to be manipulated by “high level officials” who leak stories and by lawyers who use hyperbole to strengthen their arguments. Your unwillingness to accurately and prominently correct your mistakes and your agenda driven biases contribute to this corrosive environment. All of these challenges combined create a media environment that does a tremendous disservice to America. Over the course of this war tactically insignificant events have become strategic defeats for America because of the tremendous power and impact of the media and by extension you the journalist. In many cases the media has unjustly destroyed the individual reputations and careers of those involved. We realize that because of the near real-time reporting environment that you face it is difficult to report accurately. In my business one of our fundamental truths is that “the first report is always wrong.” Unfortunately, in your business “the first report” gives Americans who rely on the snippets of CNN, if you will, their “truths” and perspectives on an issue. . . .

All are victims of the massive agenda driven competition for economic or political supremacy. The death knell of your ethics has been enabled by your parent organizations who have chosen to align themselves with political agendas. What is clear to me is that you are perpetuating the corrosive partisan politics that is destroying our country and killing our servicemembers who are at war.

My assessment is that your profession, to some extent, has strayed from these ethical standards and allowed external agendas to manipulate what the American public sees on TV, what they read in our newspapers and what they see on the web. For some of you, just like some of our politicians, the truth is of little to no value if it does not fit your own preconceived notions, biases and agendas. (Reformatting and spelling corrections mine.)

The news stories reporting on Lt. Gen. Sanchez’s speech unsurprisingly didn’t bother to mention those words. Neither did they bother to report on his equally harsh rebuke of Congress. Nor did they feel it was important to note that Lt. Gen. Sanchez does not believe that America can afford to engage in a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq. All they wanted to do is report on his criticisms of the President.

Kelly is correct: the media’s own coverage of Lt. Gen. Sanchez’s speech proved his argument about the agenda-driven reporting of the mainstream media. They only covered the portions of the speech that served their interests and ignored the rest. The political agenda of the mainstream media—an agenda which is unabashedly against the war and against the Bush Administration—has ensured that the political inconvenient portions of the General’s speech have been virtually suppressed.

For all the talk about how biased and agenda-driven Fox News is, the rest of the media is hardly immune to demonstrable bias in their reporting. The “so-called liberal media” is hard to deny when evidence like this comes to light.

Sanchez’s criticisms of the war are worth listening to, although ultimately the progress in places like al-Anbar, Diyala, and Salah-al-Din show that our current strategy is working. However, it’s his criticisms of the politicization of military policy and the media that are the most worth examining closely.

Yet the media evidently doesn’t want people asking those probing questions—which is further evidence of why the mainstream media is failing its fundamental duties to the American people.