Stop Playing Nice With GOP Noise Machine
Start Using the "P" Word: Propaganda
Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT
Talk about lowering the bar to can't-miss depths.
In its Sunday, page-one profile of partisan "provocateur" and Free Beacon founder Michael Goldfarb, the New York Times pointed to a report the right-wing site published this month, which raised questions about a speech Chuck Hagel gave in 2007. Free Beacon claimed Hagel had called the State Department "an adjunct to the Israeli foreign minister's office."
The report represented yet another missile fired by the sprawling, well-funded, far-right smear campaign to obstruct Hagel's nomination as Secretary of Defense. (A campaign that seems destined to fail, by the way.)
Writing up Goldfarb's supposed successes, the Times treated the Hagel report as a singular Free Beacon victory. (Sen. Lindsey Graham mentioned it on the floor of the Senate!) Even though, as the Times itself point out, Hagel denied the quote and no video was ever found to confirm it. Additionally, one professor who was present at the speech adamantly denied Hagel ever made the State Department comment.
But hey, other than that Free Beacon totally nailed the anti-Hagel story.
Also, note that Goldfarb has a long history of making stuff up, calling it news, and then refusing to admit to his published fabrications. The Times, in its puffy profile about how Goldfarb deftly outwits liberals, failed to mention that troubling career trait.
Coming in the wake of last week's Friend of Hamas debacle at Breitbart.com, the Times' toast to the factually challenged Goldfarb raises questions as to how the mainstream media treat disingenuous players inside the GOP Noise Machine. (Historically, the press has played nice with them.)
The good news about Ben Shapiro's colossal Breitbart failure with regards to his bogus claims about the (fictitious) Friends of Hamas group that allegedly had nefarious ties with Hagel? It helped shine a spotlight on the type of dishonest skullduggery that goes on within the conservative blogosphere on a nearly daily basis. The bad news is too many publications analyzed the Breitbart debacle against the backdrop of journalism and fact finding.
It's time for journalists to give up the ghost and stop pretending that lots of players on the far right media spectrum even try to engage in journalism as it's commonly defined. (Thankfully, some exceptions exist.)
It's not journalism. It's not even partisan opinion journalism. It's proud propaganda. More and more, it's the intentional spreading of rumor and misinformation for political gain. (And often done in conjunction with the Republican Party.) For too long, the press has allowed right-wing players to hide behind the shield of journalism, and then acted surprised when they cut egregious ethical corners.
Increasingly, "propaganda" is the most accurate description. But it's one that the Beltway press seems reluctant to use, possibly out of fear for the right-wing backlash it would trigger. It certainly wasn't used when dissecting the Friends of Hamas charade.
From Slate [emphasis added]
Most news organizations, upon being caught out like this, would issue corrections. Breitbart.com hasn't done that.
At some point, if they want to be taken more seriously, members of the conservative media will have to take their own declarations about the commitment to journalism more seriously. More importantly, they'll have to realize that reporting isn't just the means to a desired political end; done right, it's the end in itself, no matter what it digs up.
I'm forgiving of occasional mistakes -- we all make them -- but doubling down on content that causes even ideologically friendly competitors to issue corrections? That's harder to forgive or understand.
All three pieces were dead-on in terms of diagnosing the deep shortcomings that the Friends of Hamas calamity highlighted. Where I'd differ is the premise that Breitbart editors were likely embarrassed about the fiasco, or privately wished they had fact-checked the story first and gotten it right, or that they care about getting any story right.
There's simply no proof to back up those assumptions. None. And note that post-Friends of Hamas, the Noise Machine continues to embrace Shapiro, as his appearance on Fox News Monday made clear.
There's no reason for journalists to continue to view the likes of Breitbart.com through the overly generous prism of attempted-journalism. When seen through the proper lens, when viewed as a propaganda outlet, the product begins to make sense. Then, there is at least a logic to publishing a patently false story, pushing it out to like-minded propagandists within the GOP Noise Machine, and then refusing to acknowledge that it's a fabrication when called out by legitimate sources.
It's true that not long ago Breitbart sites at least attempted journalism, in the form of dishonest ACORN and Shirley Sherrod stings, and its never-ending Pigford coverage. Those were examples of far-right practitioners going through the motions of collecting original information and then publishing it, albeit in wildly dishonest forms.
Today, those deceitful stings seem like paragons of virtue compared to what too often passes for right-wing reporting.
Remember when The Daily Caller's "investigative reporter" Matthew Boyle claimed that Environmental Protection Agency would be hiring 230,000 new employees to implement climate rules. (A Daily Caller report that was pushed by the GOP.) Not true. Not even close. Yet in response, the Daily Caller refused to retract the absurd claim and instead "tied itself in knots of illogic," as the Washington Post's Erik Wemple described it. (Punchline: "Investigative reporter" Boyle now works for Breitbart.)
And remember when Breitbart and The Weekly Standard recently claimed that 11 armed security guards protect the prestigious Washington, D.C. school where Obama's daughters attend? The report was supposed to highlight Obama's hypocrisy regarding gun control. The claim though, was entirely bogus. Yet neither Breitbart nor The Weekly Standard ever acknowledged or corrected their obvious falsehoods. (A Quaker school crawling with armed guards?)
As those quick examples suggest, right wing sites both consistently employ startlingly incompetent writers and refuse to correct their falsehoods.
The larger point is to practice GOP propaganda. It's time that press reports reflect that.