The first set of amicus briefs for Whole Woman's Health v. Cole, a Supreme Court case that will determine the constitutionality of a Texas anti-choice law that severely limits women's access to abortion and broader medical care, has recently been filed. Many of these briefs respond to Justice Anthony Kennedy's past invocation of "post-abortion regret" and the "severe depression" that supposedly follows, an "antiabortion shibboleth" repeated in right-wing media's long-standing effort to stigmatize women who have had abortions.
From the January 11 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered:
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Fox News devoted numerous segments to reports of mass sexual assaults committed in Cologne, Germany on New Year's Eve by men "having a 'North African or Arabic' appearance," using the story to fearmonger about the "direct threat" posed by "how fast you allow ... Syrian refugees into this country." This reporting stands in contrast to Fox's history of downplaying sexual assaults when it doesn't fit their anti-refugee agenda.
From the January 8 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered:
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From the January 6 edition of Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Trevor Noah:
The Nation's National Affairs Correspondent Joan Walsh explained that Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump has "mainstream[ed] the ugliest right-wing conspiracy theories about both Clintons" and his newest attempt to blame Hillary Clinton for the past actions of her husband "takes a special kind of misogyny."
Since launching his presidential campaign, Donald Trump has attacked nearly every Republican and Democratic presidential candidate, but his attacks on Hillary Clinton have drawn special praise from right-wing media. After Trump attacked Clinton for returning late to a December 19 debate, Fox News' Andrea Tantaros called him "masterful" for supposedly "baiting" the Democratic frontrunner in a way that made her look like "a whiny, weak female." The hosts of Fox News' Fox & Friends neglected to question Trump about his anti-Clinton tirade, even though mainstream media lambasted him for his "vulgar" and "astonishingly sexist" lines of attack. More recently, several conservative outlets and personalities -- including Brietbart News, RedState, Rush Limbaugh, and Jeffrey Lord -- were quick to defend Trump, and scapegoat Hillary Clinton, after Trump's anti-Muslim rhetoric was featured in a recruitment video produced by an Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group.
In the January 5 article, Joan Walsh explained that Trump, who has a long history of injecting fringe news and conspiracy theories into mainstream news coverage, is simply "doing what he's so good at doing: dragging ugly mutant ideas from the dark, dank swamps of right-wing paranoia and setting them free" to "whip up the GOP base." In response to mounting accusations of sexism, Walsh explained how "with typical Trump logic, he's retaliating with one of the most sexist insults to Clinton so far in this campaign." From The Nation:
Donald Trump, the man of the bottomless bottom, is making headlines for slurring Hillary Clinton as an "enabler" of her husband's sexual misbehavior. Chris Matthews of MSNBC's Hardball, who doesn't shock easily, seemed staggered by it Monday night, insisting he'd never heard such a claim about Clinton before. "It's beyond indecent," he said.
It may be beyond indecent, and I accept that Matthews never heard it said before. But calling Clinton an "enabler," and making similar nasty charges about her supposed responsibility for Bill Clinton's sexual conduct, have long been staples of Hillary-hate on the right--and some mainstream pundits have dipped a toe in the hate swamp on occasion, too.
With a five-minute Google search I found Roger Stone, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Pat Buchanan, Joe Walsh, and Laura Ingraham making that claim. And back in 2003, Hillary-hater-in-chief Maureen Dowd of The New York Times defended Arnold Schwarzenegger by blaming Clinton for encouraging feminists to ignore her husband's bad behavior.
"Feminism died," Dowd raved, "in 1998 when Hillary allowed henchlings and Democrats to demonize Monica as an unbalanced stalker, and when Gloria Steinem defended Mr. Clinton against Kathleen Willey and Paula Jones by saying he had merely made clumsy passes, then accepted rejection, so there was no sexual harassment involved." But Dowd is alone among mainstream journalists in what she's willing to fling at Hillary Clinton; for the most part, the Clinton-as-enabler slur is confined to the right.
Trump is doing what he's so good at doing: dragging ugly mutant ideas from the dark, dank swamps of right-wing paranoia and setting them free in the mainstream, where they shock some journalists, disgust most Americans and whip up the GOP base. The GOP front-runner got angry when Clinton accused him of sexism (after he said she'd been "schlonged" by Barack Obama in 2008 and called her mid-debate bathroom break "disgusting.") Of course, with typical Trump logic, he's retaliating with one of the most sexist insults to Clinton so far in this campaign. Blaming a woman for her husband's infidelity takes a special kind of misogyny. It will only worsen his already sizable gender gap at the polls.
From the January 5 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered:
From the January 5 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered:
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Fleeing from terror and indiscriminate violence in parts of the Middle East, millions of people have packed up and left their homes to start safer lives for themselves and their families elsewhere. But if you tuned into Fox News anytime in the last year, you'd think the refugees themselves -- many of them Muslim -- were responsible for the violence. In fact, painting Muslims as terrorists, radicals, and tacit supporters of ISIS, baseless demonization of Islam was the channel's modus operandi in 2015. And it wasn't just right-wing media. CNN also joined the smears, asking a Muslim human rights lawyer if he supports ISIS, questioning a Michigan mayor if she's afraid of her majority Muslim-American city council, and forcing responsibility for the recent attacks in Paris onto an innocent French Muslim.
From berating a teenager for his interest in technology to inventing so-called "no-go zones," watch how the media fearmongered about Muslims in 2015:
As Columbia Journalism Review explains in their annual list of the worst journalism in 2015, the media has a special responsibility to get these stories right and not perpetuate Islamophobia, as inaccurate and "reactionary coverage" can "influence policy makers to take drastic measures under the guise of popular fears."
2015 was an important year in education policy, with the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the beginning of the 2016 election campaigns, and local fights for teachers and public schools making national headlines. In an important year for students and teachers across the education spectrum, however, some media outlets used their platforms to push falsehoods. Here are five of the worst media failures on public education this year.
This summer, teachers union opponent and former journalist Campbell Brown launched a "non-profit, non-partisan news site about education," called The Seventy Four. In spite of the site's stated mission to combat "misinformation and political spin" with "investigation, expertise, and experience," Brown hired Eric Owens, who has a long history of attacks on students and teachers, to write for the site. Owens has a long history of attacking and mocking teachers and students with transphobic, sexist, victim-blaming, and racially insensitive rhetoric as the education editor at the Daily Caller.
This year, The Wall Street Journal continued its campaign of misinformation on teachers unions, pushing harmful, union-opposed policies such as a Louisiana voucher program that was found to violate desegregation requirements and a Washington, D.C. voucher program reported to waste federal dollars on "unsuitable learning environments." The WSJ editorial board often explicitly attributed its support of these unsuccessful policies to combating teachers unions. In an October editorial, for example, the board wrote that being "unpopular with unions... ought to be a requirement for any education leadership position," ignoring the troubling realities of the programs they attempted to defend in spite of well-founded union concerns.
As ESSA moved through Congress in late November, the editorial board doubled down on its teacher-blaming rhetoric, claiming that the new legislation was favored by "teachers unions who want less accountability," and advocating for the continuation of unpopular high-stakes testing and voucher policies in the states.
The Washington Post editorial board similarly advocated for continuing the extensive testing requirements of the No Child Left Behind legislation, lending support to a high-stakes testing policy with questionable public or research support, and villainized teachers unions in the process. In its February editorial on the issue, the Post claimed that teachers unions "give lip service to accountability as long as their members aren't the ones held to account," and cited this self-interest as the source of unions' opposition to flawed teacher evaluation models that utilize students' standardized test scores to punish teachers.
Fox News featured offensive and often inaccurate commentary on public education and the teaching profession throughout the year -- in some cases doubling down on the anti-teacher rhetoric many Fox figures pushed in 2014.
In February, Outnumbered co-host Kennedy kicked off the teacher-bashing by arguing that "there really shouldn't be public schools," before the hosts agreed that the federal Department of Education ought to be abolished. In April, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy slurred prospective bilingual educators, referring to immigrants with legal permission to work in the United States as "illegals" during a segment highlighting an initiative to boost language learning in schools.
In August, Fox & Friends included a segment where Fox News regular Frank Luntz conducted a live focus group segment about public education. Questions for the focus group included "Who here has issue with teachers unions?" and "Doesn't it make you angry that you're putting all this money into public schools?" Luntz followed up his leading question about teachers unions by singling out a teacher from the group and asking him to "defend" himself.
In an October discussion about New York City schools on Fox's The Five, the co-hosts implored the city's public school teachers to "become a better teacher" and "don't suck at your job." That same month, co-host Juan Williams attacked unions' endorsement of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race, asserting that an "unholy alliance between education unions and Democrats" would be "dangerous for our kids" and would "hurt" "minority communities" and "poor people."
This year also marked the launch of the 2016 presidential campaign season, with five Republican and three Democratic debates held this fall. While candidates outlined their positions time and again on national security issues, women's health care, and taxes, the debates barely mentioned education issues. A Media Matters search of all eight full debate transcripts found only nine mentions of any variation of the term "teach." In fact, according to this review, no candidate or moderator uttered the phrases "No Child Left Behind," "Race To The Top," or "Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)" throughout the 2015 debate season, despite the recent passage of the landmark ESSA legislation replacing No Child Left Behind.
Moderators did discuss schools and teachers a handful of times throughout the debate season, mostly in relation to national security. In the August 6 Republican debate on Fox News, moderator Bret Baier questioned former Governor Jeb Bush (R-FL) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) on their disagreement on the Common Core state standards and asked former Governor Mike Huckabee (R-AR) whether he would abolish the Department of Education, among other federal agencies. The moderators of the October 28 CNBC Republican debate also mentioned teachers once, when moderator Carlos Quintanilla asked Donald Trump about his comments that educators ought to be armed. And on CNN's December 15 Republican debate, moderator Wolf Blitzer asked candidates about the closure of the Los Angeles Unified school district following an email threat.
The other five debates did not feature questions regarding K-12 education policy.
Public school educators and their unions in major cities made national headlines in 2015 following strikes, contentious contract negotiations, school board elections, and school funding battles. While research shows that teachers unions not only protect the rights of educators but also benefit students and their communities, state newspapers editorializing on union activities framed unions and educators as selfishly seeking higher pay at the expense of others.
Amidst a victory year for teachers unions on several fronts, Media Matters found that state newspapers in New York, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, California, and Washington published editorials distorting the facts to question the motives of teachers and attack their right to organize.
In Buffalo, New York, The Buffalo News repeatedly claimed that teachers unions supporting a parent-led movement against standardized testing want to maintain "the wretched, costly, dysfunctional status quo" and require children to "pay the price." In Scranton, Pennsylvania, The Scranton Times-Tribune lamented that teachers unions had the ability to strike and dismissed teachers' calls to be treated with respect and dignity. In Albuquerque, New Mexico, The Albuquerque Journal mocked teachers' concerns over an unfair evaluation method that was subsequently struck down by a district court that agreed with the unions. In Los Angeles, California, the Los Angeles Times dismissed unions' worries that a charter expansion plan created by one of the paper's education reporting funders would financially jeopardize local public schools, telling those who opposed the plan to "quit whining." And in Seattle, Washington, The Seattle Times repeatedly attacked the local union for "using their students as pawns," as they advocated for fair pay, guaranteed recess time, more funding for schools, and greater equity in school discipline policies.
These editorial board attacks on educators -- because of the readers they serve and the prominence of local priorities on education policy -- have the dangerous potential to shift public conversation away from the facts and to pit communities against the teachers who advocate for them. After a year where the importance of education policy has become more critical than ever, hopefully this disturbing trend will not continue in 2016.
Image by Ian MacKenzie under a Creative Commons license.
"Moderate Muslims don't speak out enough against the hijacking of their religion" Fox News primetime host Sean Hannity claimed in his first radio appearance after the November 13 terrorist attacks in Paris.
In a year bookended by three major terror attacks against the West, blaming "moderate Muslims" for failing to condemn acts of terrorism has become a hallmark of conservative media coverage. The constant demand for penance -- from Muslims who have nothing to do with the acts of violence -- is a rigged game, aimed at convincing audiences that Islam is dominated by violent extremists.
January's Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris set the stage for a year of anti-Muslim coverage. Rupert Murdoch, the chairman of Fox News' parent company, tweeted that Muslims "must be held responsible" for terrorist attacks "until they recognize and destroy their growing jihadist cancer." Fox contributor Monica Crowley echoed his statements, claiming "I haven't heard any condemnation" of the attack from Muslim groups, while right-wing radio host Laura Ingraham claimed that similar attacks wouldn't occur if "most Muslims were against what was happening." When Paris was struck by terror again in November, Fox primetime figurehead Bill O'Reilly called for a "Million Muslim March," adding that people want to "see a mobilization of the good Muslims." Capping off the year of Islamophobic coverage, Fox daytime host Andrea Tantaros used December's terrorist attack by a Muslim couple in San Bernardino, California as an opportunity to peddle the myth that Muslims "don't come out and denounce [terrorism]."
But conservative media's calls for "moderate Muslims" to condemn terrorism are disingenuous. Muslim groups and leaders have repeatedly and roundly condemned terrorism. After November's attacks in Paris, leaders from numerous Arab states and Muslim-majority countries called them "heinous crimes" that are "repugnant," and "against all human and moral values." Eleven months earlier, in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks, religious scholar Reza Aslan said "anyone who keeps saying that we need to hear the moderate voice of Islam, why aren't Muslims denouncing these violent attacks, doesn't own Google." Nevertheless right-wing media routinely ignored these condemnations, choosing instead to criticize Muslims for supposedly not speaking up. After the Charlie Hebdo massacre, the spokesman from Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA condemned the attack on FoxNews.com, yet on the same day Fox News personalities claimed Muslims had not. Sean Hannity doubled down in his attacks against "silent" Muslims days after leaders of predominately Muslim countries, some of the largest Islamic groups in America, and Muslims across the world denounced the November Paris attacks.
And when conservative commentators do acknowledge statements from mainstream Muslim groups, it's often only to ridicule those groups for speaking out. After the December 2 terrorist attack in San Bernardino, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), one of the largest Islamic organizations in America, quickly denounced the attack in a press conference after the shooters were revealed to be Muslim. Executive Director Hussam Ayloush reassured the country on CNN that "all American Muslims share with the rest of the country our sorrow today, our shock, and our agony for what happened."
But rather than silencing criticisms, CAIR's response only drew outrage from conservative commentators who labeled the group a "terrorist organization" and "that Muslim group that ain't the best in the world." One Fox guest even went so far as to compare the press conference to "a pedophile sending NAMBLA out to speak for them," while others dismissed the statements as "damage control" and a "media crisis management plan." Frequent Fox guest Dr. Zuhdi Jasser somehow gathered from CAIR's statements that they "inculcate those first steps of radicalization" and see it as "sort of normal behavior."
CAIR's condemnations also did little to curb conservative media claims that Muslims weren't speaking out against terrorism. Even while acknowledging CAIR's press conference, a segment on Fox's Outnumbered still claimed that Muslims weren't sending the message that terrorists "are much different than the rest of us."
Many of the same conservative media figures who demanded penance from "moderate Muslims" for acts of terror also repeatedly suggested that Islam and Western society are fundamentally incompatible. Monica Crowley reasoned that Muslims weren't denouncing terror because "in Islam, the good Muslims are the jihadis, so the ones not carrying out violence are looked at as sort of crummy Muslims." Laura Ingraham stoked anti-Muslim fears by citing a faulty poll to falsely claim that Muslims "have a 5,000 percent greater chance of being connected with some type of jihadi group in the United States." Sean Hannity asked if "we have a clash of cultures we've got to consider?" in reference to resettling Syrian civil war refugees in the U.S., adding, "How do we know if they want to assimilate?" Bill O'Reilly called the European refugee crisis "the dramatic Muslim invasion." Fox News figures capitalized on the crisis to stoke fears that Muslim refugees may be terrorists, from Andrea Tantaros claiming "taking Islamic refugees would be suicide" to The Five co-host Eric Bolling saying male Muslim refugees are "going to be easily radicalized by ISIS."
This tactic -- assigning collective guilt and then falsely accusing "moderate Muslims" of being complicit with violent terrorism -- has become a powerful weapon in conservative media's campaign to fearmonger about Islam.
After the Charlie Hebdo attack, Caner Dagli, a professor of religious studies at the College of the Holy Cross, pointed out that these demands are "really about political statements and maintaining a certain social hierarchy" and "an act by the powerful assigning collective guilt against the powerless":
This is really about political statements and maintaining a certain social hierarchy. Demanding that innocent Muslims always make new statements about crimes they could not have stopped, from which they do not benefit, and have always condemned anyway, is an act by the powerful assigning collective guilt against the powerless. The critics who want Muslims to "speak out" only grow more demanding when Muslims actually do speak out, because by doing so Muslims have publicly affirmed the right of others to blame them collectively, regardless of whether they are accountable or not.
Such political maneuvers -- and that is what they really are -- increase the leverage that can be exerted over Muslims in public life. Muslim voices are thus uniquely kept out of view unless they are apologizing for some atrocity they had nothing to do with.
Endlessly accusing Muslims of being insufficiently outraged by terrorism helps prime conservative media audiences for a wildly distorted view of Islam. Vox's Max Fisher shed light on the mindset that these tactics breed: "the implication is that every Muslim is under suspicion of being sympathetic to terrorism unless he or she explicitly says otherwise."
That implication has consequences. While right-wing media figures heightened suspicions of the Muslim community, anti-Muslim backlash in America has been on the rise. The FBI reported that in 2014, hate crimes across the board decreased -- that is, except for anti-Muslim crimes, which rose about 14 percent. And according to a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, that trend may be "destined to accelerate."
Just days after the attacks in Paris, a Muslim engineer attended a community forum to present an application for a zoning permit to replace his city's aging Islamic center. A crowd poured into the meeting to harass him. "Nobody wants your evil cult in this town," someone in the hall shouted, "because you are terrorists. Every one of you are terrorists ... Every Muslim is a terrorist, period. Shut your mouth." Vandalism at mosques reached a record high this year with anecdotal evidence suggesting that 2015 "has been one of the most intensely anti-Muslim periods in American history," as nearly twenty anti-Muslim incidents took place over the course of just one week in December.
When conservative media commentators demand that Muslims condemn acts of terrorism and subsequently ignore their voices when they do, they are insidiously suggesting that Muslims condone terrorism. These demands are meant to make audiences suspicious of the idea of "moderate Muslims" and inflate the perception of extremists within the religion. Muslims are then left with seemingly no way to win, no matter how loud or how hard they try.
Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush echoed one of right-wing media's favorite anti-Clinton talking points claiming that Hillary Clinton is "great at being the victim," in response to fellow GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump's vulgar attacks against the Democratic frontrunner.
From the December 22 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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From the December 22 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered:
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From the December 22 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered:
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