Thursday, October 22, 2009

Our Failed Media: Proving the Point Edition

DougJ: The sad heart of Ruth, again
In defending her and Jake Tapper’s freak-out over the Obama administration’s decision to begin describing Fox News accurately, Ruth Marcus lets something very telling slip:
One of my sentences provoked particular derision from the left. “Imagine the outcry if the Bush administration had pulled a similar hissy fit with MSNBC,” I wrote. I confess to having forgotten about the Bush administration’s public tangle last year with MSNBC. White House counselor Ed Gillespie wrote to NBC News president Steve Capus complaining about a “deceptively edited” quote from President Bush, but he used the opportunity to complain about other allegedly slanted coverage and “the increasing blurring of those lines” between the “news” as reported on NBC and the “opinion” as reported on MSNBC.
Hissy fit? Well, Dan Froomkin, then a liberal blogger for The Post, cited “the White House’s unprecedented attack on NBC News,” noting what he termed “the White House’s outsized reaction,” and he hypothesized that an infuriated Bush had ordered the attack: “So is it a stretch to suspect that Bush told his counselor to get a little revenge?”
So let’s get this straight, she asks us to imagine an outcry if the Bush administration had attacked MSNBC. Then she admits that Bush did this but she forgot. It must have been quite an outcry! And then she cannot find a single member of the mainstream media that complained about it. Not one! (I’m not sure Froomkin is really a “liberal blogger” but he’s not really part of the regular media, either.)
It would be hard to make my point better than Marcus already made it.
Steve Benen: EVEN NPR.... 
Ken Rudin is the political editor for NPR. To see him swallow the latest Republican attack meme whole is more than a little painful. Here's his commentary on "Talk of the Nation" yesterday, complaining about the White House's criticism of Fox News.
"Well, it's not only aggressive, it's almost Nixonesque. I mean, you think of what Nixon and Agnew did with their enemies list and their attacks on the media and certainly Vice President Agnew's constant denunciation of the media. Of course, then it was a conservative president denouncing a liberal media, and of course, a lot of good liberals said, 'Oh, that's ridiculous. That's an infringement on the freedom of press.' And now you see a lot of liberals almost kind of applauding what the White House is doing to Fox News, which I think is distressing."
I'd like to think Ken Rudin knows better. I expected too much.
Now would be an excellent time for a reality break. Has the Obama White House ordered the Justice Department to spy on Fox News employees? Has the administration ordered the IRS to start digging through Fox News' books, hunting for irregularities and auditing on-air personalities? Has the president directed thugs to break into Glenn Beck's psychiatrist's office?
Of course not, that would be insane. And so is this comparison.
Nixon used the power of the presidency to harass, intimidate, and investigate those who questioned him. It was as scandalous an abuse as the nation has ever seen -- the White House used the levers of government to attack independent news outlets.
And what as the Obama team done? They've dared to point out a simple reality: an obviously-partisan propaganda outlet in not a legitimate news organization. That's it. That's the totality of the White House's efforts -- criticizing a network that operates as an arm of a political party. There's no boycott, no punishment, no vendetta. All we have here are some White House aides who've criticized a network.
And Ken Rudin, Ruth Marcus, and others are comfortable comparing this to Nixon's illegal abuses and "enemies lists."
As manufactured outrages go, this is truly ridiculous, even for a shallow Washington media establishment.
For years, Republicans have been on the attack -- against the media in general, and a handful of outlets in specific. GOP leaders and officials have boycotted news outlets they don't like; they've attacked networks they believed to biased; and they've routinely snubbed those whose coverage they disapproved of. The last White House went after NBC News, even from the briefing room's podium. Republican disgust for the media has been a staple of American politics for what seems like forever. Ken Rudin, Ruth Marcus, and others never once compared this to Nixon-era abuses.
And yet, when the White House dares to offer mild and accurate criticism, the political establishment not only throws a fit to defend a sorry excuse for a journalistic enterprise, it embraces a nonsensical comparison to a former president/criminal.
It's incomprehensible. Ken Rudin ought to be embarrassed.
John Cole: I’d Also Like to Note
That while half of the beltway media have the vapors over Obama being too mean to Murdoch’s hacks, Chris Matthews is on my television debating with his guests whether or not Obama is “tough enough.”
I think DougJ said it best a while back:
I’m watching Monica Crowley and Pat Buchanan on the McLaughlin group and so help me God, I am praying for a dirty bomb in Georgetown. These people will destroy us all.
Was it always this bad?
John Cole: The Neocon Fainting Couch
When we last visited steely-eyed warrior Peter Wehner, he was leading the chairborne rangers in an epic battle against George Will, who Wehner decided had grown weak at heart over Afghanistan. That was but a few weeks ago, but since then our valiant warrior has left the fields of battle and taken to the fainting couch:
The term “sister organizations” is important because it shows solidarity with a news organization under fierce attack by the White House. This is the kind of question one would hope to see when a president and his top aides target a news organization and then, for good measure, try to dictate to other news organizations what they should do, how they should act, and which stories they should follow. But so far, stunningly, the media — including the White House press corps — have mostly been quiescent. One might have expected more in the face of these extraordinary efforts at media intimidation and media control. If the situation were reversed, and a Republican White House were targeting an entire network in a similar fashion, criticisms, condemnations, and thundering editorials would be pouring forth; terms like “abuse of power” and “chilling effect” would be on the lips of virtually every reporter in America.
A few quick things:
1.) Fox is not a news organization. Period.
2.) Fox news helped to organize and promote partisan political rallies, including situations in which their producers were caught rallying the crowds and their rabble was shouting down and ACTUALLY intimidating reporters from other networks.
3.) Fox is not a news organization. Period.
4.) Peter Wehner worked for the Bush administration. The Bush administration, in eight years, conducted more abuses to the field of journalism than anyone I can recall. A partial recollection of the Bush administration’s wrongdoings include:
    -Paying Armstrong Williams, Michael McManus, and Maggie Gallagher and others for favorable opinions about WH policies or to attack opponents of the WH. -Planting Jeff Gannon to lob softball questions. -Used reporters to out a CIA agent, then sat by and watched reporters go to jail to protect their sources. -Fed reporters misinformation about WMD in Iraq, then used those reporters stories as corroborating evidence of the existence of WMD in Iraq. -treated Helen Thomas like a leper. -waged a coordinated campaign against NBC. -kicked all the NY Times reporters off of their planes. -the Pentagon Pundit program, which sold the war by planting former military officers on networks. Uncovering this story earned a journalist the fucking Pulitzer. -Staged mock press conferences with FEMA employees pretending to be reporters. -allowed Ari Fleischer to tell everyone (but directed at journalists) they needed to “watch what they say and what they do.”
And that is simply off the top of my head, and god only knows what lies and abuses Peter Wehner was responsible for while working at the Bush era Office of Strategic Initiatives. By comparison, the Obama White House has merely stated the obvious, which is that the Fox news is not a news organization.
I’m thinking Peter Wehner can just stfu.

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