So much for the idea of right-wing media reform.
In the wake of the Mitt Romney's loss last week, conservative voices raised concerns about the state of right-wing press and how the "conservative entertainment complex," as writer David Frum dubbed it, had "fleeced" and "exploited" its followers by chronically, and purposefully, misinforming them about the issues of the day.
John McCain's former campaign manger, Steve Schmidt, lamented how much "power and the influence" the GOP Noise Machine has over Republican leadership. Today's commentators, he said, have given conservatism a "repellant" "snarl," said Schmidt.
Now, just ten days after Romney's drubbing, and just ten days after Republicans sounded alarms about chronic and paranoid misinformation on their side of the media aisle, Fox News is applying contorted pretzel logic as it desperately tries to turn the General David Petraeus extramarital affair story into a "Watergate"-like chapter in the supposed mega-scandal surrounding the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
Benghazi represents the would-be bonfire that Fox News has tried to light time and again in order to fan the ugly flames of Obama hatred. Fox has now formed an impenetrable wall of noise on the topic. Since Novemeber 1, "Benghazi" has been mentioned far more often on Fox News than it has on CNN and MSNBC combined, according to TVeyes.com
Keep in mind there's nothing about the Petraeus story that connects his extramarital affair to how the government responded to the Benghazi attack, or how it explained the attack.
Yet that now forms virtually the entire basis for Fox's coverage of the story. Fox has simply concocted a story it wants to cover (Petraeus + Benghazi = scandal) and focuses on it relentlessly.
So, Fox regular Jay Sekulow suggests impeachment may be on the table "if the president lied" about Benghazi. And in a question typical of the network's over-the-top tone, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy pondered whether Petraeus was "being blackmailed by the White House to toe the company line" regarding his previous testimony about Benghazi.
It's a bit hard to tell which is more troubling, the news that a constituent of Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) stood up at a town hall forum and asked who would be the one to "shoot Obama" and the Congressman didn't miss a beat, let alone condemn the outrageous comment; or the fact that a conservative blogger like Ann Althouse decided to go on the offense and foolishly argue the comment was never made.
Like the Congressman, when faced with an assassination comment, Althouse didn't move first to condemn that kind of dangerous rhetoric. Worse than the Congressman, Althouse lashed out the "leftosphere" for highlighting it [emphasis added]:
Now, as is widely known, it's a serious federal crime to threaten the life of the president, which makes it less likely that the words are as reported in the pseudo-quote. It also makes it less likely that a person of the left was trying to make trouble for Broun (a theory I see some righties are propounding).
Althouse later announced that she'd only believe the "shoot Obama" story if she saw a video of the encounter.
That's fine, except Broun's staff confirmed the "shoot Obama" question was asked. The Congressman has since sort-of apologized for his non-reaction to the "shoot Obama" question, and the Secret Service was alarmed enough by the question to interview the person who asked it. (The elderly man apologized for the what he said was a joke.)
Still waiting for the video Ann?
Conservative blogger Ann Althouse reacts to a report that "Members of the Congressional Black Caucus said that racial epithets were hurled at them Saturday... by angry protesters who had gathered at the Capitol to protest health-care legislation, and one congressman said he was spit upon":
It's also important to distinguish "angry protesters" from particular individuals who cross the line into the kind real ugliness or violence that should be condemned. There's nothing wrong with showing anger at the thing that motivates you to protest. That's what protests are for! The members of Congress have a lot of power, and they ought to have to hear the anger their exercise of that power is causing. It's outrageous for them to pose as victims without very good cause. So what if some idiot said a bad word? That's a trivial distraction compared to the power they are about to exercise in the face of such strong opposition to what they are about to do.
I expected some conservatives to deny that Congressman John Lewis, a hero of the civli rights movement was called [the N word] by opponents of health care reform, and to deny that another African American member of Congress, Emanuel Cleaver, was spat on. But I'll confess to some surprise that Althouse would stipulate to those actions, but dismiss them with a simple "so what?"
UPDATE: "Instapundit" Glenn Reynolds wants an apology from Rep. James Clyburn. Why? Because Clyburn said of yesterday's protests, "I have heard things today that I have not heard since March 15, 1960, when I was marching to get off the back of the bus." Unclear whether Reynolds thinks Clyburn should apologize to the people who hurled epithets at Lewis and Barney Frank, or to the person who spit on Cleaver.
Given the gleeful mocking of President Obama over Chicago's failed effort to host the 2016 Olympics, and shameless smears of his unexpected Nobel Peace Prize, let's pause and ask: Is there anything conservatives won't turn into a cudgel to bludgeon the president? Take, for example, the art hanging on the White House walls.
As AFP reported earlier this week, the president and first lady have borrowed 47 works of art from five galleries to decorate the White House. AFP went on to describe the art:
They include pieces by seven black artists, including one by Glenn Ligon, a conceptual artist who explores issues of politics and race in works made of text, photos and neon.
A vertical piece selected by the Obamas was "Black like me No. 2," a riff on a 1961 book by white journalist John Howard Griffin who darkened his skin and then wrote about his experience as a "black" man in the racially segregated US south.
"Harlem Renaissance" painter William Johnson is favoured with four pieces, while Alma Thomas, a top African-American woman artist, is represented on the abstract painting front.
In addition, many earthenware pieces and other works by Native Americans were chosen.
On the more classical side, there is a melancholic "Sunset" by Winslow Homer, and two bronze dancers by Degas. Abstract artists like Mark Rothko, and Josef Albers, and conceptual stars like Edward Corbett and Jasper Johns also made the White House grade.
From across the Atlantic, in addition to the Degas, there are a still life by Italian painter Giorgio Morandi and a depiction of Nice by Nicolas de Stael.
William Allman, the White House curator, told The Washington Post that the Obamas' picks express "probably more interest in truly modern art."
So Winslow Homer, Jasper Johns, Mark Rothko, William Johnson -- seems pretty eclectic. In fact, it seems pretty benign.
Alas, nothing is benign with the contemporary conservative smear machine, as right-wing blogger Michelle Malkin amply illustrates with her attack on Alma Thomas, and -- by extension -- Obama. Taking her cue from Free Republic, Malkin complains:
Alma Thomas's "Watusi" (1963) looks to be an almost exact reproduction of a 1953 piece by Henri Matisse titled "L'Escargot:"
Malkin even provides a helpful illustration -- "side by side, with 'Watusi' rotated and on the left" -- to make clear the similarities in the two works to drive home her point -- that Obama picked art created by a fraud to hang on the White House walls. But the real fun gets underway over at Ann Althouse's blog:
Anyway, it's really sad to see this sentimental stretching to identify African-American artists. There are plenty of real ones, and mistakes like this make it seem as though there are not and that patronizing -- which really ought to be called racism -- is necessary.
So the Obamas chose a fraudulent African-American artist to display at the White House -- "sentimental stretching to identify African-American artists," a "mistake" and "patronizing," since all Alma Thomas did was knock off Matisse. This does sound bad -- and, of course, it's wildly off the mark.
Art historian Ann Gibson discusses the political message inherent in Thomas' "mimicry and revision of Matisse" in her contribution to Alma W. Thomas: A Retrospective of the Paintings:
The close resemblance between Watusi and L'Escargot (especially evident when Thomas's painting is turned ninety degrees to the right) suggests an overlap between Thomas's determination to comprehend the lessons of modernism and her identification -- and perhaps her sense of rivalry -- with one of its principle figures. However, the title Watusi, which refers both to an African people and to a hit tune of the early 1960s (Chubby Checker's record "The Watusi" was released in 1961), suggests that she used elements of Matisse's art not only as models of abstraction but also to refer to African people and their representation in popular culture, just as elements of art made by Africans could reflect, in Western modernism, European desires and European high culture. Thomas's radical revisions of Matisse's colors (but not the values of his collaged shapes) to their near opposite on the color wheel, as well as her opening of the "frame" -- blues in her painting, oranges in his - are also noteworthy. By permitting the white shapes to penetrate the frame, Thomas animates and frees both the white areas and the colored forms: The frame no longer contains the central organization, and the framing shapes join in the "dance" of the shapes inside. When Thomas's mimicry and revision of Matisse is read in the context of her entitling her painting Watusi, one sees more than an implicit defiance of modernism's creed of originality. What does it mean for an ambitious but comparatively unknown artist to appropriate in paint an important recent work by an internationally recognized master? Especially when she changes the title from a word that suggests not only a sluggish mollusk whose movements are drastically curtailed by its shell but also an epicurean dish whose very name connotes elite privilege? And when the title she selects is the name of a people legendary for their height and strength and after whom, during the civil rights struggle, a popular song has been named? With the title Watusi, Thomas sets her critique (and homage) in the context of early-twentieth century borrowing from Africa by such revered modernists as Matisse, visually loosening his frame and conceptually replacing his upper-class European reference with one that connotes both African and popular American culture. The similarity of forms in Thomas's painting and Matisse's collage suggests the interchangeability, and thus the equality, of social, national, and economic values.
Wait. It's almost as if Alma Thomas intended to create a work of art that looked kind of like a Matisse. She even might have had a message in mind. Whoa. But, see, understanding Thomas' civil rights era message is not the point. The point is that Barack Obama did it, therefore it must be bad. You know, like the Olympics and the Nobel Peace Prize.