In response to criticism, CNN's Erick Erickson is claiming that liberals are "misconstruing" his remark about pulling out a shotgun if the government tries to arrest him for not filling out the American Community Survey. Erickson also lashed out at "people" who "linger on every word I say" by stating: "You people are nuts. Absolute nuts. Where do you get off misconstruing that I'm agitating for killing Census workers when you people are out there advocating for the killing of the unborn on a regular basis. You have no shame."
On April 1, Erickson said of the American Community Survey: "This is crazy. What gives the Commerce Department the right to ask me how often I flush my toilet? Or about going to work? I'm not filling out this form. I dare them to try and come throw me in jail. I dare them to. Pull out my wife's shotgun and see how that little ACS twerp likes being scared at the door. They're not going on my property. They can't do that. They don't have the legal right, and yet they're trying."
That same day, Media Matters posted a seven-minute audio clip of Erickson's remarks, in context, along with transcript. The headline on Media Matters' post was, "CNN's Erickson: I'll '[p]ull out my wife's shotgun' if they try to arrest me for not filling out the American Community Survey."
On his radio show today, Erickson accused Media Matters of running "a story on their website saying I'm advocating shooting Census workers":
Lots of online chatter today about two new polls that try to take a snapshot of the Tea Party movement in terms of what its membership looks like. (See Crooks and Liars for the background.)
I have to say though, that the wording Gallup used for its poll seems a odd (i.e. loosey-goosey) [emphasis added]:
Do you consider yourself to be a supporter of the Tea Party movement
Seems to me the use of "supporter" gives respondents all kinds of leeway in terms of how they answer that question, and that Gallup likely landed a lot more affirmative answers by using such a loose definition. And in turn, that larger pool of 'yes' responses had an impact on the overall snapshot of the Tea Party that Gallup claimed to have taken. (i.e. "Demographically, they are generally representative of the public at large.")
When Gallup asks about traditional party I.D., does it ask people if they're a "supporter" of the Democratic Party or the Republican Party? No, Gallup does not. So why the more vague use of "supporter" for the Tea Party poll? Why not simply ask, 'Are you a member of the Tea party movement?'
Note, for instance, the wording of another Tea Party poll out today, this one by the Winston Group, a GOP-leaning firm:
Do you consider yourself a part of the tea party movement?
To me that's a much more precise approach. And not surprisingly, the Winston poll found just 17 percent of respondents were part of the Tea Party movement, whereas Gallup found 28 percent of Americans "support" it.
During the 2007/2008 Democratic presidential primaries, the media periodically mocked Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for changing the way they talked in front of certain audiences -- Clinton's southern accent thickening a bit when she was speaking in the South, for example. Like much of the primary-season nit-picking, it didn't really make much sense, as what Clinton and Obama were doing is quite common. Maybe that's why the criticism seemed to have been short-lived -- I don't remember it continuing through the general election.
But now Newsbuster Tim Graham, director of media analysis at the Media Research Center (which is a bit like being director of respiratory health for Philip Morris) resurrects this nonsense in order to declare Obama a "Phony." Here's Graham, at his Caulfield-iest:
How phony is Barack Obama? PBS Washington Week host Gwen Ifill reviewed New Yorker editor David Remnick's new Obama book The Bridge in the Washington Post Outlook section Sunday, and she kept finding Obama is a Slick Barry, a "shape shifter." Obama even admitted to rhetoric what should be obvious -- how he changes "dialects" depending on the audience he's talking to:
Obama cops to this. "The fact that I conjugate my verbs and speak in a typical Midwestern newscaster's voice -- there's no doubt that this helps ease communication between myself and white audiences," he tells Remnick.
"And there's no doubt that when I'm with a black audience I slip into a slightly different dialect. But the point is, I don't feel the need to speak a certain way in front of a black audience. There's a level of self-consciousness about these issues the previous generation had to negotiate that I don't feel I have to."
Look: People often adapt their speaking style to their audience. It's totally natural. Anyone who has ever spent time in both the North and the South with someone who used to live in the South knows this. Anyone who changes the way they talk based on whether they are conversing with a 4 year old or an adult knows this. Anyone who talks differently in a courtroom than on a basketball court knows this. As Slate explained in 2007:
Does anyone naturally speak with more than one accent?
Yes, lots of people do. We're all guilty of changing the way we speak in subtle ways, depending on whom we're talking to. Linguists call this "code shifting"-you don't want to talk to your boss the same way you talk to your old college roommates. We often code shift subconsciously, by picking up other people's speech patterns (as anyone who has ever studied abroad probably knows). Politicians and actors, on the other hand, sometimes hire vocal coaches to help them with their speech. But it isn't too difficult to adopt a bit of a twang. It's easier to match an accent if you've heard quite a bit of it-as Clinton has from the mouth of her Arkansas-born husband. (American politicians aren't the only leaders who try to sound more down-home: Last year, England's Queen Elizabeth was accused of folksying up her speech.)
So, Barack Obama, who was president of the Harvard Law Review, "conjugate[s] his verbs." And Barack Obama, who lived much of his life in Illinois, speaks in a "typical Midwestern newscaster's voice." And Barack Obama, who is black, sometimes speaks in a dialect familiar to his black audiences. This is stunning, stunning stuff -- unless you realize that the vast majority of humans do not speak in precisely the same way at all times. It isn't like he's mimicking William H. Macy in Fargo every time he visits the upper midwest.
For a long time, this word was closely associated with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). And for a long time it served him well, helping the Arizona senator to establish a reputation among media types for independence in spite of his reliably Republican voting record and staunchly conservative worldview. During the 2008 election, it was seemingly impossible for a member of the political press to write/say/tweet anything about McCain or his candidacy without including the word "maverick" or some variation thereof: mavericky, maverickishness, maverickalicious, etc.
And McCain himself eagerly embraced the sobriquet, telling the Republican National Convention as he accepted their nomination for the presidency: "You well know I've been called a maverick, someone who marches to the beat of his own drum. Sometimes it's meant as a compliment; sometimes it's not. What it really means is I understand who I work for. I don't work for a party. I don't work for a special interest. I don't work for myself. I work for you."
Well, it turns out everyone was wrong. McCain is no "maverick" and he never was one. He said so himself in an interview with Newsweek:
Many of the GOP's most faithful, the kind who vote in primaries despite 115-degree heat, tired long ago of McCain the Maverick, the man who had crossed the aisle to work with Democrats on issues like immigration reform, global warming, and restricting campaign contributions. "Maverick" is a mantle McCain no longer claims; in fact, he now denies he ever was one. "I never considered myself a maverick," he told me. "I consider myself a person who serves the people of Arizona to the best of his abilities."
So... to all my friends in the media, the next time you feel that familiar urge to tack a superfluous "maverick" into your reports on John McCain, please remember that JOHN MCCAIN HIMSELF says he is not now, nor has he ever been, a "maverick."
And furthermore, wh--wait a minute... Ditching the political identity you've carefully cultivated over several decades as a politically expedient move to appeal to home-state conservatives who might be tempted to vote for your right-wing challenger in the upcoming Republican primary?
What a "maverick" thing to do...
An April 5 Washington Post article analyzing Rep. Betsy Markey's (D-CO) chances for reelection following her vote in favor of the health care reform legislation quoted one of Markey's constituents asking: "Are we going to get fined and put in jail" for failing to buy insurance?" In fact, while conservative media figures have repeatedly claimed that the government was going to put people who didn't buy insurance in jail, the Joint Committee on Taxation has stated that noncompliance with the mandate to buy insurance "is not subject to criminal or civil penalties" under the Internal Revenue Code, which the Post article did not note.
After citing Markey's vote to finalize health care reform legislation, the Post reported: "Samoa Brown, a stay-at-home mother, said she has big reservations. 'Government's not good at dealing with that much,' she said. She also wondered about the mandate to buy insurance. 'Are we going to get fined and put in jail?' she asked."
The Post did not provide an answer to the question, but in fact, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation, the answer to the question is definitely no. The Joint Committee on Taxation's states:
The penalty applies to any period the individual does not maintain minimum essential coverage and is determined monthly. The penalty is assessed through the Code and accounted for as an additional amount of Federal tax owed. However, it is not subject to the enforcement provisions of subtitle F of the Code. The use of liens and seizures otherwise authorized for collection of taxes does not apply to the collection of this penalty. Non-compliance with the personal responsibility requirement to have health coverage is not subject to criminal or civil penalties under the Code and interest does not accrue for failure to pay such assessments in a timely manner.
Failure to clear up this matter can lead to a frenzy of false conservative attacks on the issue. As we've noted, a reporter for a local Seattle television station asked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on November 9, 2009: "Do you think it's fair to send people to jail for not buying health insurance?" When Pelosi responded, in part, that "the legislation is very fair in this respect," Fox News and right-wing bloggers distorted Pelosi's comments to claim that Pelosi had said it would be fair to send people to jail if they did not purchase health insurance.
The Washington Post should set the record straight on this issue; leaving open the question of whether the government can throw you in jail for failing to buy insurance will result in conservatives rushing to fill the void with falsehoods.
It turns out the Tea Partiers are an overwhelmingly conservative bunch of "Republican-oriented conservative voters who are dismayed by the direction of the GOP and who don't want to identify with the party's brand." I know -- shocking, right?
So, maybe it's time for the media to stop pretending otherwise? Take, for example, this April 2 CNN.com article:
Introducing a series of comments by self-described Democrats, CNN reported:
Some Americans who say they have been sympathetic to Democratic causes in the past -- some even voted for Democratic candidates -- are angry with President Obama and his party. They say they are now supporting the Tea Party -- a movement that champions less government, lower taxes and the defeat of Democrats even though it's not formally aligned with the Republican Party.
To be sure, the number of Democrats in the Tea Party movement is small. A recent CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll shows that while 96 percent of Tea Party activists identify themselves as either Republican or Independent, only 4 percent say they are Democrats.
Four percent? Four? That's nothing; it's barely more than a rounding error. And yet CNN devotes an entire article to the negligible number of Tea Party activists who are Democrats unhappy with their party.
So why do news organizations pretend the Tea Partiers aren't just a bunch of Republicans? Maybe because if they acknowledged that truth, it would be harder to justify their obsessive coverage, which even includes CNN embedding a reporter with the Tea Partiers. After all, "Republicans don't like Democrats" isn't much of a story.
I'm not saying the media should ignore the Tea Party folks. But they should understand -- and their reports should make clear -- that these are, basically, Republicans. That there simply are not a significant number of disaffected Democrats. And that one of the things the Tea Party "movement" demonstrates is that some of the most energetic activists the GOP relies upon are unwilling to call themselves Republicans.
As we documented, last week marked the one year anniversary for the Fox Nation. In stark contrast to the advertised promise of a non-"biased" outlet, Fox Nation's year was marked by a deluge of misinformation, conspiracy theories, political activism, and irresponsible rhetoric.
It looks like Fox Nation is starting year two by picking up where they left off. Visitors to the Fox Nation today are greeted with this:
The headline and image link to a page with this YouTube video embedded:
First and foremost, the point of the video -- which is from 2008 -- is absurd. The suggestion seems to be that the First Lady accidentally let slip that her husband was born in Kenya by referring to it as his "home country." It's depressing to have to explain this, but the president's ancestors on his father's side hail from Kenya, so referring to it as his "home country" is not exactly a startling admission.
More importantly, Fox Nation includes no context whatsoever for the video. Typically, when they want to promote something disreputable like birtherism, they'll link to someone else making an incendiary accusation or throw an exculpatory question mark at the end of the headline. But in this instance, Fox Nation informs their readers that birthers are "up in arms" over this video, but includes no evidence to support that claim. Who are these "birthers" that are "up in arms?" People that are emailing Fox Nation? There's been some chatter about the video on Free Republic. Is that now the threshold for a news story on Fox Nation?
Perhaps Fox Nation meant the birther who posted the video in the first place. Here's an excerpts from that person's profile on YouTube:
Barack Hussein Obama is an un-documented illegal alien. Regardless of his birth location, admitted having a foreign national as his father, disqualifies him from being a 'Natural Born Citizen' as required by the United States Constitution.
Nice company you are keeping, Fox Nation.
Of course, this isn't the first time Fox Nation has pushed the debunked birther conspiracy. Last May, in one of their "we're just wondering" questions, Fox Nation posted a headline at the top of their website asking, "Should Obama Release Birth Certificate? Or Is This Old News?" It was old news.
In July, Fox Nation posted a birther story with the subtle-as-a-jackhammer image of Obama in Somali clothes...twice.
In pushing the new video, Fox Nation once again joins with the birthers, a group of people Glenn Beck and his radio crew have called "stupid" and "morons" that sound like "flat earthers."
Yesterday, NewsBusters' Noel Sheppard marveled that Time magazine printed a "scare piece about the melting Arctic seas" "on the SAME DAY" that Britain's Daily Mail reported that scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) found that Arctic sea ice cover "dramatically increased last month." Sheppard then commented on how the American media's coverage of global warming is "disgraceful" because it only reports what's convenient to the global warming agenda. Here's what Sheppard clipped from the Daily Mail article about the increased ice levels:
The amount of sea ice covering the Arctic dramatically increased last month, reaching levels not seen at this time of year for nearly a decade.
Returning ice - after years of declining cover - has astonished climate scientists who blamed unusually cold weather over the Bering Sea.
Researchers said they recorded the most ice in March since 2001 - and that the cover is approaching long-term average levels for the first time in ten years.
Guess what Sheppard didn't tell you? The VERY NEXT SENTENCE of the Daily Mail article says the "scientists who released the data stressed that last month's rise was part of yearly variations in ice cover and could not be taken as a sign that global warming is coming to an end." The article also quotes NSIDC scientist Mark Serreze as saying, "What this doesn't show is any indication that global warming is over. If you look at the Arctic as a whole we might get to average amounts of sea ice for the time of year. But the ice is thin and quite vulnerable and it can melt very quickly."
Last week I wrote about CNN's anemic ratings, the various "fixes" that outside observers are prescribing, and how the network, in its quest to find a reinvigorated audience, will have to deal with the tension that often arises between ratings and reportage. So I was interested to see Ross Douthat take up the topic in his New York Times op-ed this morning, but flummoxed by Douthat's suggested fix.
Douthat's prescription is to resurrect Crossfire, the long-since canceled CNN political debate program, but to do so in a way that ensures the program remains "respectful" and "riveting," two adjectives that could hardly be applied to the show in its previous form, dominated as it was by shouting matches and reflexive partisanship. The goal, according to Douthat, is to recreate the atmosphere of Jon Stewart's Daily Show interviews with conservative commentators, which he praises as being "more substantive than anything on Fox or MSNBC."
So far so good, but then Douthat goes on to lament the stale "left vs. right" format, and that's where things get confusing:
Even the thrust-and-parry sessions of "The Daily Show," though, are limited by the left-right binary that divides and dulls our politics. They're better than the competition, but they don't give free rein to eccentricity and unpredictability, or generate arguments that finish somewhere wildly different than where you'd expect them to end up. This is what you find in the riveting television debates of the past: William F. Buckley versus Gore Vidal, Vidal versus Norman Mailer, anything involving Ross Perot. And it's what you get from the mad, compulsively watchable Glenn Beck, who's an extremist without being a knee-jerk partisan: You know he's way out there on the right somewhere, but you don't know what he's going to say next.
Stewart, Buckley, Beck ... none of these are exactly the models that you'd expect "the most trusted name in news" to look to for inspiration. And some CNN suits have probably never even heard of Gore Vidal.
But television is a business. And when you're losing to re-runs, you've got nothing to lose.
This doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. In one paragraph Douthat is arguing for "respectful" debate a la The Daily Show, but just a few sentences later he's saying that CNN should look for a Glenn Beck-type "extremist" to inject some "eccentricity and unpredictability." Yes, Glenn Beck has proven himself to be "compulsively watchable," but, as I've written before, that comes with a price: Beck's malignant disregard for the truth. And it strikes me as implausible that an unpredictable extremist of the Beck mold can provide the intelligent and respectful debate Douthat says CNN must offer.
What's more, CNN already tried their hand with a Glenn Beck-like figure -- Glenn Beck. His CNN Headline News program, while nowhere near as madcap as the Fox News show he now hosts, was still noteworthy for its wild conspiracism and factual inaccuracy. And granted, Beck's style is ratings-rich, but adopting it for a revamped Crossfire would not solve the original show's crippling problems of tone and partisanship.
And once again we find ourselves dealing with the tension between ratings and reportage. Douthat's proposal seems to operate without regard to that dynamic, suggesting that CNN can harness a Beck-style ratings bonanza while simultaneously maintaining a dignified and informative stance. Unfortunately, CNN's past failures and Fox News' current ratings successes show that to be unlikely, at best.
The Fox News crew broke out the smelling salts when some anti-war protesters from Code Pink recently heckled Karl Rove at a California stop on his book tour. Appalled by Code Pink's actions, Fox News condemned the rude behavior.
"Who are you to silence his voice," Fox News' Megyn Kelly demanded to know, while interviewing Code Pink's Jodie Evans, who had confronted Rove at the California event, demanding answers about how the administration, in her words, lied the nation into war.
Here's the mind-bending hypocrisy, though. Last summer when right-wing activists formed mini-mobs and stormed public health care forums and shouted down Democratic politicians, how were the protesters treated by Fox News? They were treated as heroes. When anti-Obama nuts screamed at politicians and made public spectacles of themselves, they were invited on Fox News and toasted as patriots.
When conservatives trampled on traditional courtesies and made it, at times, impossible for Democrats to engage in public dialogue, when the mini-mobs members uncorked their factually-challenged rants and unleashed a tidal waves of hecklers vetoes last summer, the crew at Fox News stood in awe. As did Rove himself.
But fast forward to today, and suddenly Murdoch's crew can't sleep at night knowing poor Karl Rove had to encounter a Code Pink protest.
On Fox News last week, Michelle Malkin, who hated Americans who protested under Bush, but who loved the mini-mobs, cowered and whined that the Code Pink incident was inciting people to violence. (Rove couldn't sign copies of his books!) But again, what happened last summer when mini-mob members marched with Hitler and swastika signs, hung politicians in effigy and some even showed up with loaded weapons? For Malkin and friends, those were just concerned citizens speaking the unvarnished truth.
Gimme a break.
UPDATED: From a Politico article about how Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-N.H.) was recently subjected to hostile, anti-health care crowds over the spring recess [emphasis added]:
For her part, at back-to-back town hall meetings in Bedford and Merrimack, Shea-Porter faced consistent boos, heckles and catcalls after almost every point she rattled off in defense of her vote.
Can't wait for Fox News to have one of the New Hampshire hecklers on the air and demand to know why they don't respect the process.