Last year, the right-wing Media Research Center launched an attack on an art exhibit on gay self-portraiture at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery, with particular focus on one item: a video by artist David Wojnarowicz that includes a few seconds of an image of ants crawling over a crucifix. The Catholic League, for which MRC chief Brent Bozell serves as an adviser, soon joined the pile-on. The Smithsonian ultimately succumbed to the right-wing pressure and removed the video from the exhibit.
Now, the "Hide/Seek" exhibit has moved to a new venue, the Brooklyn Museum. And the manufactured outrage has begun anew.
Catholic League president Bill Donohue initially said he wouldn't he wouldn't fight the exhibit and the Wojnarowicz video, telling the New York Daily News, "We can't be like in a dog and pony show every time they show the stupid video." Donohue apparently changed his mind, issuing a press release on the exhibit the same day the Daily News published his remarks. In the release, Donohue attacked the museum for hosting the exhibit and declared that Wojnarowicz, who died of AIDS in 1992, "died of self-inflicted wounds":
The fact is that the artist who made the vile video died of self-inflicted wounds: he died of AIDS. The homosexual, David Wojnarowicz, hated the Catholic Church (had he lived by its teachings, he would not have self-destructed). He once referred to Cardinal John O'Connor as a "fat cannibal," and labeled the Catholic Church a "house of walking swastikas." Sounds like the words of a bigot.
Meanwhile, the MRC's Penny Starr, reporter for its "news" division, CNSNews.com, was back on the case as well. In a November 15 CNS article, Starr highlighted Catholic criticism of the Wojnarowicz video "depicting Jesus Christ on a cross with ants crawling over him," described the "Hide/Seek" exhibition as "gay erotic" without attribution, and put "art" in scare quotes when describing previous Brooklyn Museum exhibitions.
Missing from Starr's report was any mention of the artist's intent regarding the 11-second shot of the ants on the crucifix. As The Washington Post reported in December:
Ants, for Wojnarowicz, were a mysterious stand-in for humanity and part of a lifelong fascination with the natural world that his friend, artist Kiki Smith, recalls was part of a charmingly boyish rapture with creepy, crawling things. When asked what he thought of God, he responded by wondering rhetorically "why ants aren't the things that destroy the world instead of people." There is a host of theological possibility in that thought: Is God as indifferent to humans as humans are to ants? Should we love the small things of the planet as we hope to be loved by God?
But who needs nuance or comprehensive reporting when there's anti-gay outrage to manufacture?
A study published in the prestigious journal American Economic Review estimates that the costs imposed on society by air pollution from coal-fired power plants are greater than the value added to the economy by the industry. The study concluded that coal may be "underregulated" since the price we pay for coal-fired power doesn't account for its costs.
According to a Nexis search, not a single major newspaper or television network has covered the study. By contrast, an industry-funded report on the cost of EPA regulations of these air pollutants has received considerable media attention.
The authors of the American Economic Review paper -- Nicholas Muller of Middlebury College and Yale's William Nordhaus and Robert Mendelsohn -- are considered centrists. Mendelsohn opposed the Kyoto climate treaty and spoke this year at the right-wing Heartland Institute's conference on climate change.
Economist Paul Krugman wrote that the study should "be a major factor in how we discuss economic ideology," adding "It won't, of course." From Krugman's post:
It's important to be clear about what this means. It does not necessarily say that we should end the use of coal-generated electricity. What it says, instead, is that consumers are paying much too low a price for coal-generated electricity, because the price they pay does not take account of the very large external costs associated with generation. If consumers did have to pay the full cost, they would use much less electricity from coal -- maybe none, but that would depend on the alternatives.
At one level, this is all textbook economics. Externalities like pollution are one of the classic forms of market failure, and Econ 101 says that this failure should be remedied through pollution taxes or tradable emissions permits that get the price right. What Muller et al are doing is putting numbers to this basic proposition -- and the numbers turn out to be big. So if you really believed in the logic of free markets, you'd be all in favor of pollution taxes, right?
In his September 28 column, CNSNews.com editor-in-chief Terry Jeffrey declared that President Obama has "established himself as an aspiring tyrant in the model of Henry VIII" by "attempting to use the power of government to compel faithful Catholic men and women to act against their consciences."
How? Jeffrey explains one way Obama is doing so:
Obamacare regulations proposed by the Department of Health and Services on Aug. 1 would require every private health plan in America to cover sterilizations as well as all Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptives, including "emergency contraceptives." These include drugs such as ulipristal, which can cause abortions both before and after an embryo implants in a mother's womb.
If this regulation is finalized -- and the Obamacare mandate that every American must buy health insurance is not repealed -- every American Catholic with a conscience formed in keeping with the teachings of his church would be forced to choose between disobeying Obama's law or disobeying his conscience.
In fact, ulipristal (sold under the brand name ellaOne), like the Plan B pill, works by preventing a fertilized egg from implanting into the uterus. Thus, according to health experts, it does not "cause abortions." As Christianity Today further explains:
President Obama gave a speech last night at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute's Awards Gala, and the Associated Press write-up of the event led with Obama saying his jobs package "would put more money in the pockets of Latino workers and business owners and increase opportunities for Hispanics." It carried the headline "Obama pushes jobs plan as help for Hispanics."
From the story as it appeared on the AP website:
That headline apparently wasn't exciting enough -- or sufficiently disparaging of Obama -- for the Media Research Center's "news" website, CNSNews.com. Its version of the AP article carries the headline "Obama Renews Call for Amnesty for Illegal Aliens," with the original headline relegated to a subhead:
Conservative media have attacked Alan Krueger, President Obama's nominee to head the President's Council of Economic Advisers, for purportedly advocating a "value added tax." But the 2-year-old blog post they cite stated that he did so "only as a suggestion for serious discussion," adding that he was "not sure it is the best way to go."
You might remember Penny Starr as the CNSNews.com reporter who tried to manufacture outrage over a gay-themed art exhibition at the Smithsonian last year. Now, she's upset by something she found on the Internet:
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is offering advice to parents and teens about sex education, including assurances that teens may "experiment" with homosexuality as part of "exploring their own sexuality," and that masturbation should be of concern only "if a child seems preoccupied with it to the exclusion of other activities."
The information, located on a "Questions and Answers About Sex" link on the "Quick Guide to Healthy Living" portion of the HHS Web site, also describes children and infants as "sexual beings."
Under the question "When Do Kids Start Becoming Curious About Sex?" the answer notes that infants have curiosity about their bodies.
"Children are human beings and therefore sexual beings," the Q&A Web page says. "It's hard for parents to acknowledge this, just as it's hard for kids to think of their parents as sexually active. But even infants have curiosity about their own bodies, which is healthy and normal."
This sort of thing, of course, is catnip for the right-wing media, which have used Starr's article as a way to attack the Obama administration. The headline at Fox Nation blamed "Obama's HHS" for publishing this information; a LifeNews headline stated that "Obama Admin Pushes Sex on Kids." Even the version of Starr's article posted at NewsBusters -- like CNS, a division of the conservative Media Research Center -- carried the headline "Obama's HHS: 'Children Are Sexual Beings.'" The Blaze and Weasel Zippers are among the other right-wing websites that picked up on the story.
Media conservatives attempted to discredit President Obama's speech on immigration before it even happened, launching a nonsensical attack on the location of Obama's speech -- El Paso, Texas -- to push the myth of immigrant violence. In fact, the location underscores how preposterous that myth is.
Criticizing Obama for holding the speech in El Paso, CNSNews wrote:
El Paso is across the border from Juarez, Mexico, a city where 3,111 civilians were murdered last year--more than in all of Afghanistan.
El Paso is one of nine Border Patrol sectors along the almost 2,000-mile-long U.S.-Mexico border, running from the Gulf Coast to the Pacific Ocean. Located directly across from the Mexican city of Juarez, it has been among the more dangerous border areas in recent years.
Fox Nation trumpeted the CNS piece, calling El Paso the "wrong town" for an immigration speech:
But what about the crime rate in El Paso, where the speech was actually held? It turns out that El Paso is one of the safest large cities in the nation. In fact, CQ Press rated El Paso the city with the lowest crime rate in the United States with a population of over 500,000 residents in 2010.
Indeed, El Paso actually illustrates the success of federal agents and local law enforcement in keeping violence from spilling over to the United States.
The federal money Planned Parenthood receives does not go for abortion -- by law, it cannot -- but that doesn't keep the right-wing media from falsely suggesting that it does. CNSNews.com editor in chief Terry Jeffrey, meanwhile, has been taking this dishonesty to new levels.
Jeffrey wrote in an April 8 CNS article that Planned Parenthood performed 332,278 abortions in 2009 and received $326.88 million in federal funding, then added:
Although the money from federal programs that went to Planned Parenthood in 2009 theoretically paid for things other than the 332,278 abortions the organization performed that year, the fact remains that Planned Parenthood -- an abortion provider -- received subsidies from federal programs that equaled about $932 per abortion it performed.
First, that federal money to Planned Parenthood does not pay for abortions is more than "theoretical" -- it's a documented fact. Second, it is utterly dishonest for Jeffrey to divide that federal money by the number of abortions performed because, again, not a cent of that money goes toward abortion.
Jeffrey doubled down on his dishonesty by repeating it in an article the next day.
Remember, this isn't some random right-wing blogger doing this -- it's the editor of a well-funded right-wing website (CNS is a division of the Media Research Center). Shouldn't the head of a news organization be more concerned with telling the truth than how to fudge it in order to push false partisan talking points?
Right-wing media have repeated the discredited claim that former Justice Department official Jamie Gorelick created a "wall" that blocked sharing of information between intelligence and law enforcement officials and used it to smear her as being "tied to 9-11." In fact, Gorelick did not create the "wall"; it existed before her Justice Department tenure.
Right-wing media are shocked by a recent interview in which Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) says he supports single-payer health care and are claiming Conyers's statement "confirms" that the health care bill is "a Trojan horse for an eventual government takeover of health care." But Conyers' support for single-payer health care is not new, and his statement does not change the fact that the Affordable Care Act is still not a "government takeover" of health care.
A CNSNews.com article today screams: "Expert Warns of Health Risks Associated With New Light Bulb Technology." The report forwards claims made by "lighting expert" Howard Brandston, who testified before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources yesterday in favor of a bill that would repeal light bulb efficiency standards set by Congress and President Bush in 2007. Brandston asserts that "this 2007 light bulb standard brings a deadly poison into every residence in our nation."
To begin with, Brandston is a lighting designer, not a health professional or a scientist. So the headline saying "Expert Warns of Health Risks" is a tad misleading. The article reports:
In his testimony, Branston claimed that parts of the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act serve as a "de-facto ban on traditional incandescent light bulbs" and that compact florescent light bulbs, or CFLs -- the most popular alternative to incandescent bulbs (ordinary light bulbs) -- pose a risk to public health and safety.
"The compact fluorescent lamp contains mercury," said Branston. "One gram of mercury will pollute a two acre pond. This 2007 light bulb standard brings a deadly poison into every residence in our nation.
"Why don't we know that when you throw one of those CFLs in the trash the mercury changes to methyl mercury, which is a deadly poison -- which if it gets into our water supply will be a danger?"
One thing to keep in mind is that these efficiency standards do not require that anyone purchase CFLs. As we've noted, the legislation enacted in 2007 has spurred manufacturers to develop numerous alternatives to the century old technology used by the incandescent lamp.
But here are the facts on mercury in CFLs that media outlets should keep in mind:
Last week, Townhall columnist Chuck Norris compared teachers unions to the mafia. Now he's expanding his attacks on public education, complaining about "scientific paradigms" and calling public schools "indoctrination camps":
On Dec. 27, 1820, Thomas Jefferson wrote about his vision for the University of Virginia (chartered in 1819): "This institution will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind. For here we are not afraid to follow the truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it."
But what should happen 200 years later when our public schools and universities avoid the testing of truths? Or suppress alternative opinions because they are unpopular or politically incorrect? Or no longer tolerate opinions now considered errors or obsolete by the elite? What happens when socio-political agendas or scientific paradigms dominate academic views to the exclusion of a minority's even being mentioned?
What happens when the political and public educational pendulum swings from concern for the tyranny of sectarianism in Jefferson's day to secularism in ours? What happens when U.S. public schools become progressive indoctrination camps?
Terry Jeffrey, editor-in-chief of Media Research Center subsidiary CNSNews, takes the right's war on public school teachers a few steps further:
What Wisconsin ought to be debating is whether these public school teachers should keep their jobs at all.
Then every state ought to follow Wisconsin in the same debate.
It is time to drive public schools out of business by driving them into an open marketplace where they must directly compete with schools not run by the government or staffed by members of parasitic public employees' unions.
In addition to being less expensive and better than public schools at teaching math and reading, Catholic schools -- like any private schools -- can also teach students that there is a God, that the Ten Commandments are true and must be followed, that the Founding Fathers believed in both and that, ultimately, American freedom depends on fidelity to our Judeo-Christian heritage even more than it depends on proficiency in reading and math.
That's what at least some conservatives want to get out of their attacks on unions: The complete elimination of public schools. And Jeffrey is adamant that private schools not be regulated by states in any way: "the state shall not regulate the private schools, period." That means no oversight to make sure private schools are successfully educating children. Or to make sure they're providing safe conditions and sanitary facilities. Nothing. What could possibly go wrong?
This gotcha headline has made the rounds on the right-wing blogosphere and Drudge today, as conservatives point to it as proof that Wisconsin teachers are not only causing union trouble in that state, but they're awful at their jobs:
Two-Thirds of Wisconsin Public-School 8th Graders Can't Read Proficiently--Despite Highest Per Pupil Spending in Midwest
From the far-right CNSnews.com [emphasis added]:
In the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests administered by the U.S. Department of Education in 2009--the latest year available--only 32 percent of Wisconsin public-school eighth graders earned a "proficient" rating while another 2 percent earned an "advanced" rating. The other 66 percent of Wisconsin public-school eighth graders earned ratings below "proficient," including 44 percent who earned a rating of "basic" and 22 percent who earned a rating of "below basic."
Right. And here's where the hit piece promptly falls apart:
Nationwide, only 30 percent of public school eighth graders earned a rating of "proficient" or better in reading, and the average reading score on the NAEP test was 262 out of 500.
That's right, the reading proficiency rate for Wisconsin eighth graders is slightly higher than the national average. But other than that the article is hugely embarrassing to teachers in that state. Or something.
UPDATED: More CNSnews.com brilliance:
Only 39 Percent of Wisconsin Public-School Eighth Graders Proficient in Math, Says Department of Education
The national average for eighth grade math students? It's 25 percent.
In a CNSNews.com column, NewsBusters' Brent Bozell complains that Entertainment Weekly, Glee's Chris Colfer, Hollywood press awards (Colfer just won a Golden Globe for playing a bullied gay teen on Glee), and the entertainment industry in general are "evangelists for a revolution of sexual immorality." Bozell also criticized Colfer for his acceptance speech, in which he dedicated his award to kids who face bullying because of who they are:
If anyone doubts that our entertainment industry and our entertainment media are evangelists for a revolution of sexual immorality (or in their lingo, "progress"), he needs only to read the latest cover story in Entertainment Weekly magazine, a "special report" on gay teen characters on TV, and "How a bold new class of young gay characters on shows like 'Glee' is changing hearts, minds, and Hollywood."
Gay "Glee" actor Chris Colfer and his boyfriend on the show, Darren Criss, lovingly put their heads together on the cover. Colfer just won a Golden Globe for his part, which is another way the Hollywood press rewards propagandizing the youth of America. In his acceptance speech, he lamented anyone who would say a discouraging word about teen homosexuality, somehow putting all of those words in mouths of bullies: "Screw that, kids!"
As you might suspect, Entertainment Weekly didn't plan to debate gay teen propaganda, but to encourage it, energetically. Not a single soul had anything critical to say. Not even a question. If this magazine weren't so earnestly in the tank, the story could come with a disclaimer: "This issue is an advertisement bought and paid for by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.
They are not celebrating diversity. They are intimidating dissidents.
In their Gay Teen Timeline, we hear the gay actors proclaiming the lack of opposition. "We never received a negative word," says the gay actor on ABC's 1994 bomb "My So-Called Life." The gay teen on ABC's "Ugly Betty" insisted "99 percent of the public response was positive." Translation: get in line.
Bozell has a history of anti-gay rhetoric. He previously argued Hollywood demonstrated "liberal bias" by failing to portray gays as "morally wrong." He's also warned that the gay lifestyle and agenda "endorses the right of gays to marry and teach children, and that's in utter opposition to mainstream America." Bozell's Media Research Council is also boycotting the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), becuase GOProud, a group for conservative gays and their allies, is participating.