I had the pleasure to appear on San Francisco public radio's "Friday Media Roundtable" on their Your Call program today (heard on KALW in San Francisco and KUSP in Santa Cruz).
Along with the NYT's massive ACORN "Pimp" Hoax fail, we also discussed and critiqued media coverage of healthcare insurance reform, the latest in the U.S./Israel diplomacy theatrics, and even a bit on the guilty verdict for Kentucky election officials yesterday. Joining me on today's panel, along with host Sandip Roy, were Alex Wayne of Congressional Quarterly and Sherine Tadros of Al Jazeera English.
The audio is posted below, and I believe it's well-worth giving a listen to --- particularly in regard the direct disagreement that Wayne and I got into over the media's failure (as I see it, though he didn't), to have covered the substance of healthcare insurance legislation, while devoting an inordinate amount of coverage to the politics of that debate instead.
(Continue reading below for more on that, more on how the NYT's Public Editor Clark Hoyt illustrated the very crux of the media's failure on so many stories of importance to the public, and for the audio of the show itself)...
I recently attended the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in D.C., with video camera in hand, to report on the attendees. I was particularly interested in interviewing James O'Keefe, the miscreant (and accused felon) responsible for the ACORN video media hoax that The BRAD BLOG has been meticulously detailing for several weeks, including the important focus on how the mainstream corporate media (the old-media) have been had by the scam.
O'Keefe's phony "pimp" story has been debunked, but, as Brad Friedman has shown, the old-media remain remarkably reticent to admit their errors, and the publisher of the videos, O'Keefe's employer and promoter Andrew Breitbart, has been unwilling to help them off the hook. Witness the outrageous email responses from the NYTimes' Senior Editor for Standards Greg Brock and then from their Public Editor Clark Hoyt, when it was shown to them that "the paper of record" had been had --- that O'Keefe had never "visited Acorn offices...dressed so outlandishly" in the now-infamous "pimp" costume as the paper had reported, as O'Keefe had represented, and as Breitbart himself had claimed in his own column, to the public.
While I didn't get the chance to speak with O'Keefe, I did catch up with his partner in fraud, Hannah Giles. Alas, she was surrounded by a protective coterie and fled without answering any questions when one of her entourage recognized me.
But then my luck turned. I trekked to the basement to cover the "XPAC" party and found myself standing shoulder to shoulder with Breitbart, O'Keefe's promoter, publisher, and employer, and owner of the website which launched the infamously damaging, misleading, deceptive, and highly doctored video tapes. I had previously questioned Breitbart at a press conference at the National Press Club press last October. He's had a pretty easy ride of it since then, facing questioning only from a largely adulatory press.
Though old-media, as Brad has shown, have been remarkably reluctant to demand answers to hard questions from Breitbart --- or any of the players involved in the ACORN secret video scheme --- I felt it important to do so for a number of reasons. The results were revealing, both in Breitbart's insanely manic demeanor, and in the substantive content of his answers to my questions.
Ultimately, as I believe you'll find in the video, he reveals a lot about his own editorial judgment, professionalism, and reliability --- none of it is good...
* * *
The Breitbart/O'Keefe media fraud has been wildly successful for the pair, helping to launch Breitbart's BigGovernment.com site late last year. But, unfortunately, it's hurt a great number of innocents.
Lost in the outrage against the New York Times for having fallen for the scam without bothering to fact-check, as The BRAD BLOG has been detailing for the past several weeks, is the fact that Breitbart and his ward O'Keefe have accomplished a despicable goal: They've all but destroyed an organization committed to helping those Americans most in need. Real people --- thousands of children amongst them --- will suffer hardship as a direct consequence of Breitbart's and O'Keefe's mendacious and malicious hoax, and singularly partisan political agenda. When will the media get around to telling that story?
And what of the damage that disreputable propagandists like Breitbart and O'Keefe bring to the real citizen journalists in the new media --- those of us striving not to sell a political agenda under false pretenses, but, rather, hoping to document facts, truth, and on-the-record positions of those who would corrupt our system through disingenuousness, self-enrichment, and lies?...
Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), in the video at right, describes on the floor of the U.S. House this week what anyone paying attention already knows: how the "Rightwing Echo Chamber" works. He describes a completely false charge by Wall Street Journal's professional liar and GOP operative, John Fund, last November alleging --- with no basis whatsoever --- that Rep. Barney Frank (D-VT) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) would soon be introducing legislation for "universal voter registration."
Frank says, "It's a lie, it's a myth." But, he says, the "totally fictional allegation by John Fund with no basis whatsoever" was then picked up and reported as fact by the Washington Times, and naturally then repeated over the public's airwaves by Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and on and on throughout the wingnut echosphere, as hoped. When Frank called Fund on it, he says, in a letter [PDF] and then by phone, Fund admitted he was in error, said he "told a few people" that he was wrong, but hadn't published any actual retraction.
"He's not only a liar, he's a coward," Frank accurately noted in his comments this week on the House floor. And here we had recently thought Fund was out of fresh lies.
But what Frank doesn't note in his comments above, is that the tactic described, as oft used by Fund and so many others on the Right, actually works very, very well...
I always love the commenters on columns I do at the Guardian. My favorite exchange there so far this morning begins with commenter "Zounds" objecting to my points with: "Active discourse also requires a wider range of intellectual influences than all the American news channels offer."
To which "jcpenny", apparently an American, replied: "I've never seen British Tellie to provide the variety the American Tellie does. Perhaps our forebarers had a reason for leaving?"
To which "Zounds" replied hilariously in turn: "I believe the lack of variety on British TV was indeed the primary reason the Pilgrim Fathers gave."
President Obama is getting criticism for going after Fox News. I fault the White House too: for not going far enough. The real issue is not Fox's right wing "bias." The real issue is that Fox News seems to be trawling for assassins. Here's the letter White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs should write. Or maybe it should come from the head of the United States Secret Service...
Dear Rupert Murdoch, since you are responsible for what is on Fox News I have a question for you: Do you ever wonder how you'll be remembered by Americans and the world (not to mention your children) if someone takes a shot at President Obama, and when asked why they did it, quotes the misinformation spouted by Fox News as their "reason?"...
Alternet has just published my most recent op-ed article written for the Commonweal Institute (where I am a Fellow). The subject is the desperate need for media reform, particularly reform of our publicly-owned airwaves. The piece calls on Progressives to begin this most important conversation, while calling out Democrats for running away from it with their collective tails between their legs.
The article starts this way...
Our Media Need a Fair and Balanced Doctrine Without freedom of the airwaves, there is no freedom of the press.
Just minutes after noon, on January 20, 2009, "hope" arrived for Constitutionalists and supporters of its First Amendment. A slight, little-noticed, but exceedingly noteworthy paragraph appeared on the new Administration's White House website "Technology" page.
"Encourage diversity in the ownership of broadcast media," the paragraph began, "promote the development of new media outlets for expression of diverse viewpoints, and clarify the public interest obligations of broadcasters who occupy the nation's spectrum."
After more than a decade of private corporatization of virtually every inch of bandwidth across the public airwaves, a new day seemed to be dawning with a new Administration's indication that they might reverse years of cynical, self-serving mismanagement of the people's airwaves by a few, very large, very far-right leaning corporations who had been granted priceless government largesse in the form of broadcast licenses without the responsibility of serving the public interest in exchange.
"Hope" would be short lived. By summer, the paragraph had been quietly excised from the White House website without a trace, apology or even an explanation.
The rightwing-dominated media's War Against Restoration of the Fairness Doctrine had been won before those who might have joined the battle were even aware there had been a first skirmish...
Just a quick note to formally announce my honor in being named a Fellow at the Commonweal Institute. CI is a terrific, fearless, forward-thinking Progressive organization/think-tank, and I couldn't be prouder to have been invited to join their ranks and hopefully augment their already outstanding efforts.
The rightwing has had their Wingnut Welfare Program in place for some time, so it's nice to see organizations like CI --- even if they're not funded on anywhere near the scale of the rightwing "think-tanks" --- expanding and maturing to take on so much of the disinformative nonsense coming from the extremist Right. Perhaps reality-based discourse and forward-thinking Progressivism can return someday to find it's voice welcomed again in the public square. See their recent announcement on their new Fellows Op-Ed program.
Where I can help, I'm happy and honored to do so under the auspices of CI, in good company with a number of my fine fellow Fellows. Be sure to check out Commonweal's website. Lots of good stuff to be found there, with more coming soon! And again, I'm delighted to be onboard!
[Ed Note: CI Executive Director Barry Kendall will be joining me as a guest tonight on the final night of my week-long stint guest hosting the Mike Malloy Show. Update: Interview now here, choose HOUR 3, interview with Kendall begins just after the 11 min. mark.]
In light of mainstream newspapers beginning to collapse around the country --- yes, the rise of the Internet is a substantial reason for the troubles they face, but their own failures, for so many long years, to meet their Constitutionally protected role as Fourth Estate watchdogs for the American people is also key to their downfall --- we're faced with a dilemma.
While they are, in many ways, responsible for their own potential/pending demise --- evidence for that critique littered throughout thousands of our very own pages here --- we also recognize the critical importance of a robust, well-funded, mainstream free press.
So what to do? In an op-ed in today's New York Times, David Swensen and Michael Schmidt (both financial analysts) suggest the nation's mainstream newspapers should go non-profit and be turned into endowed institutions "like colleges and universities" to "enhance newspapers’ autonomy while shielding them from the economic forces that are now tearing them down."
We don't yet have an opinion on this new idea, so we share it here in hopes of your thoughts on it. One point, however, in Swensen and Schimdt's argument is particularly tantalizing: the "journalistic independence" they contend we might see in such an overhaul of our nation's old media...
Promises on the campaign trail are one thing, as are position statements posted on one's campaign website. But positions posted at Whitehouse.gov by a President are quite another and raise the bar, as far as I'm concerned, in regard to holding feet to the fire for any particular promise, statement, or posted position.
Thus, while perusing President Barack Obama's new White House website last night, there was much I found of interest. There was a bit, here and there, on issues of Election Reform --- particularly of note to this site, of course --- which I'm sure I'll get to in a bit. But, for the moment, this comment from the "Technology" page caught my eye, as posted in the section titled "Ensure the Full and Free Exchange of Ideas through an Open Internet and Diverse Media Outlets" [italics mine]...
Encourage Diversity in Media Ownership: Encourage diversity in the ownership of broadcast media, promote the development of new media outlets for expression of diverse viewpoints, and clarify the public interest obligations of broadcasters who occupy the nation's spectrum.
This article in Milwaukee Magazine was published last week, but I only had the chance to read it today. It was written by Dan Shelley, the former news director/program manager at one of Milwaukee's largest and most powerful radio stations, WTMJ. The article offers a lot of inside skinny on how Rightwing Radio chooses its slanted topics, marches in lockstep with GOP talking points, sets up its "conservative" listeners as victims, and shuts out all but the most artfully selected opposing viewpoints.
Shelley points to the popular Charlie Sykes, who hosts one of the shows he'd produced for years at WTMJ, and some others by way of examples of how the scam works.
"There is no way to win a disagreement with Charlie Sykes," writes Shelley. "Calls from listeners who disagree with him don’t get on the air if the show’s producer, who generally does the screening, fears they might make Charlie look bad. I witnessed several occasions when Sen. Russ Feingold, former Mayor John Norquist, Mayor Tom Barrett or others would call in, but wouldn’t be allowed on the air."
I'll take this moment to mention, yet again, that this is all being done on the publicly owned airwaves, which we grant license to out of the kindness of our public hearts, and which the wingnuts enjoy as public welfare queens to bludgeon Americans into voting against their own self-interest.
There's a reason guys like Hannity, Limbaugh and O'Reilly are so frightened of some form of restoration of the Fairness Doctrine. It's not because it would remove them from the air, as they like to lie about to their listeners, but because it would actually require them to be fair by carrying opposing viewpoints. Ya know, that balance thing you've heard so much about on Fox "News" where they're just kidding about it. If they weren't kidding about it, why would they be so terrified about restoring what Reagan did away with in 1987, which then allowed for the Hannitys, Limbaughs and O'Reillys to go on air, on virtually every single station, in every single market, to freely lie to the public via its own airwaves?...
The short video of my opening remarks, naming names and doing what I do, along with my comments on the panel --- naming still more names and still doing what I do --- during the Q&A section, follows below. Text transcript (courtesy of VelvetRevolution's Emily Levy), follows below that...
In the wake of my participation over the weekend, on a panel speaking to the question: "Have the media undermined our democracy?" at a Common Cause-sponsored conference on Media Reform in Pasadena (video from my remarks there now posted here), it seems that now would be as good a time as any to pop this killer video here. Enjoy...
It's official. Just in from the folks at Conyer's office...Fighting on every front...God bless him...In the DC area next week? Go help 'em make some noise!
Better yet, write to C-SPAN today and ask them to cover this event!!! We spoke with Conyers' office earlier this morning, and they made it clear they would appreciate any help that "6 or 7" of you might be able to provide in encouraging C-SPAN to be there!
FROM THE NEWSWEEK CONTROVERSY TO THE DOWNING STREET MEMO, CONYERS HOSTS FORUM: "MEDIA BIAS AND THE FUTURE OF FREEDOM OF THE PRESS"
WASHINGTON, D.C. - On Tuesday, May 24, at 1 p.m., Rep. John Conyers, Jr. and other Members will host a forum concerning the state of the freedom of the press in this country.
There are few liberties which are more precious to our citizenry or important to our democracy than a free and independent press. Unfortunately, in the present environment, the fourth estate appears reticent to cover numerous issues of genuine public import, and has frequently retreated in the face of criticism and threats from government officials.
For example, the mainstream media has largely ignored the implications of the "Downing Street Memo," which points to a secret agreement between the Bush and Blair Administration to not only go to war, but create the conditions necessary for the war. Similarly, in the wake of the Newsweek "retraction" of the Koran story, the Administration has sought to mandate that the magazine alter its coverage of our involvement in the Middle East.
Tuesday's Forum will provide a timely opportunity to assess the nature of media bias and the extent that press freedoms are at risk in the post-9/11 world.
WHAT: Forum: "Media Bias and the Future of Freedom of the Press"
Al Franken, the Al Franken Show on Air America Radio, author of Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right
David Brock, founder of Media Matters
Randi Rhodes, the Randi Rhodes Show on Air America Radio
Joe Madison, The Black Eagle Radio Show
Justin Webb, Senior Washington Correspondent of BBC News
Eric Alterman, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress
Steve Rendall, media watchdog group FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting)
John Aravosis, America Blog
Mark Lloyd, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress
Well, that was fun. Just finished up the interview on the Pacifica Network's LA/Santa Barbara affilliate KPFK with host Jerry Quickley about blogging the whole story of the Election 2004/Voting Irregularity, Fraud, Mistabulation mess.
A fairly wide ranging conversation about how the blogs have played a key part in the story, the nap the mainstream media is largely taking, and how important it is that bloggers (aka CITIZENS!) are willing to examine what the corporate media, by and large, is apparently afraid to touch until the actual smoking gun shows up in their lap for them.
Quickley, by the way, is a madman. He also rocks. I look forward to doing it again soon.
I was able to nab the live stream from KPFK's site, so listen if ya like. About 17 minutes in your choice of 3 deliciously flavored formats: