In a column equating those concerned about climate change with members of a "doomsday cult," the Wall Street Journal's James Taranto quoted the following two headlines in an apparent effort to bolster his claim that global warming is not "real science":
Taranto suggests that this year's record snowpacks in western states undermine previous research indicating that global warming is pushing down snowpack levels. But, as is often the case with conservative media seeking to downplay the threat of climate change, Taranto relies on the misconception that short-term data can invalidate a long-term trend.
The first article he references, from the Washington Post in February 2008, reports on a study which concluded that a significant portion of the decline in snowpack in the western U.S. between 1950 and 1999 was a result of human-induced climate changes. According to the authors of that study, Taranto is making a fundamental mistake in suggesting that this year's snowpack levels contradict their findings.
Tim Barnett, research marine physicist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography said Taranto is comparing "apples and oranges" and that "the difference between year to year changes in the weather and long term changes in climate are not really comparable." Barnett's co-author David Pierce similarly explained that "confusing the year-to-year up and downs with the long-term decline is a fairly common mistake that people make" and "shows a sad ignorance of climate science." He added:
In his May 23 Wall Street Journal column, James Taranto called Harold Camping -- who predicted the Biblical day of rapture would occur on May 21 -- the "Christian Al Gore." Taranto further compared global warming activism to a "doomsday cult."
From Taranto's column:
Something else bothers us about the media mockery of Harold Camping, as justifiable as it may be. Why are only religious doomsday cultists subjected to such ridicule? Reuters notes that "Camping previously made a failed prediction Jesus Christ would return to Earth in 1994." Ha ha, you can't believe anything this guy says! But who jeered at the U.N.'s false prediction that there would be 50 million "climate refugees" by 2010? We did, but not Reuters.
Doomsday superstitions seem to fulfill a basic psychological need. On the surface, the thought that God or global warming will destroy the world within our lifetimes is horrifying. But all of us are doomed; within a matter of decades, every person alive will experience the end of his own world. A belief in the hereafter makes the thought of death less terrifying. But so does a disbelief in the here, after. If the world is to end with us--if there is no life for anyone after our death--we are not so insignificant after all.
To reject traditional religion is not, as the American Atheists might have it, to transform oneself into a perfectly rational being. Nonbelievers are no less susceptible to doomsday cults than believers are; Harold Camping is merely the Christian Al Gore. But because secular doomsday cultism has a scientific gloss, journalists like our friends at Reuters treat it as if it were real science. So, too, do some scientists. It may be that the decline of religion made this corruption of science inevitable.
In his May 2 Wall Street Journal column, James Taranto wrote that President Obama "assembled a small death panel, which went to the compound in Pakistan and shot" Osama bin Laden.
From Taranto's column:
Finally, last August, they found the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. ABC News's Jake Tapper reports that in March, President Obama authorized "the development of a plan" to bomb the compound with 2,000-pound Joint Direct Attack Munitions carried by B2 "stealth" bombers. "But when the president heard the compound would be reduced to rubble he chose not to pursue that option. . . . The president wanted proof" that bin Laden was dead. So he assembled a small death panel, which went to the compound in Pakistan and shot him.
Right-wing media have recently revived the falsehood that the Independent Payment Advisory Board created by the health care law will lead to health care rationing. In fact, the law specifically prohibits the Advisory Board from making "any recommendations to ration health care ... or otherwise restrict benefits."
In a his April 20 Wall Street Journal column, James Taranto again pushed the "death panels" lie, writing that the "Independent Payment Advisory Board, the ObamaCare creation" is "colloquially known as death panels."
From Taranto's column:
ObamaCare not only will force people to buy insurance and to subsidize the insurance of others, it ends "Medicare as we know it." In his speech last week, Obama promised: "We will slow the growth of Medicare costs by strengthening an independent commission of doctors, nurses, medical experts and consumers who will look at all the evidence and recommend the best ways to reduce unnecessary spending while protecting access to the services that seniors need." He was referring to the Independent Payment Advisory Board, the ObamaCare creation colloquially known as death panels.
The right-wing media have repeatedly mischaracterized Attorney General Eric Holder's recent reference to "my people" to claim that he is a "black nationalist" or that the Obama Justice Department is motivated by "racial bias." In his statement, Holder actually took issue with the suggestion that a 2008 incident involving the New Black Panther Party was a more "blatant form of voter intimidation" than what occurred in the 1960s; Holder said the suggestion "does a great disservice to people who put their lives on the line, who risked all."
In his February 2 Wall Street Journal column, James Taranto celebrated a Florida judge's recent ruling against the health care reform law and credited his fellow News Corp. employee Sarah Palin with helping undermine support for reform efforts by coining the phrase "death panel."
Taranto then launched a weak defense of Palin's "death panel" lie and attacked PolitiFact for naming "death panels" its 2009 Lie of the Year.
You see, according to Taranto, Palin was "not lying" because she put "death panel" in quotes, which "indicate[s] that she was using it figuratively." In fact, Taranto argues, PolitiFact "was more vulnerable to the charge of lying than Palin was, for its highly literal, out-of-context interpretation of her words was at best extremely tendentious." Here's Taranto's defense:
In truth, PolitiFact was more vulnerable to the charge of lying than Palin was, for its highly literal, out-of-context interpretation of her words was at best extremely tendentious.
Palin put the term "death panel" in quotes to indicate that she was using it figuratively. She was not lying but doing just the opposite: conveying a fundamental truth about ObamaCare. Proponents were describing it as a sort of fiscal perpetual-motion machine: We're going to give free insurance to tens of millions of people and reduce the deficit! As a matter of simple arithmetic, the only way to do that is by drastically curtailing medical benefits.
"Health care by definition involves life and death decisions," Palin wrote. ObamaCare necessarily expands the power of federal bureaucrats to make such decisions, and it creates enormous fiscal pressures to err on the side of death. Whether it establishes literal panels for that purpose is a hair-splitting quibble. By naming this "lie of the year," PolitiFact showed itself to be less seeker of truth than servant of power.
But Taranto's argument that Palin merely used the "death panel" phrase figuratively to make a point about cost issues regarding Democrats' health reform plans is simply not true.
From the January 27 edition edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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Former Bush speechwriter and current Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson plays fast and loose with the facts:
The primary economic debate between now and the election will concern the tax reductions of 2001 and 2003 -- President Bush's economic stimulus -- which are due to expire on Dec. 31 unless Congress acts. Obama has proposed to eliminate the portion of that stimulus that goes to wealthier taxpayers.
Set aside Gerson's description of tax cuts for people making more than $200,000 a year as "stimulus"; that's garden-variety spin. Focus instead on the shell game Gerson plays. First Gerson rightly notes that Bush's tax cuts are "due to expire" under current law. Then he claims Obama has "proposed to eliminate" a portion of them. Well, no. Obama has talked about not extending them. One needn't propose their elimination; that's set to occur under the current law -- the one signed by Bush himself.
Democrats might break a Senate filibuster by persuading some Republicans to support an extension of Bush's tax cuts for the middle class but not the wealthy. Momentum, however, runs in the other direction. Republicans are unlikely to give the president a legislative victory immediately before the midterms, particularly one that increases taxes.
Again: That isn't honest. Such a package would not "increase taxes" on the wealthy. It would allow them to increase in accordance with current policy, as signed into law by President Bush.
Obama's tax increase on the rich would be used to reduce the deficit, resulting in a net contraction of economic activity. Tax increases to pay for past spending do not stimulate the economy.
There's no such thing as "Obama's tax increase on the rich." You can give Gerson credit for persistence if you like, but regardless of how often he blames Barack Obama for policy signed into law by George W. Bush, it simply isn't true. The Washington Post is allowing Gerson to lie to its readers. That's sad, but not surprising.
Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal's James Taranto tells the truth about the Bush tax cuts:
Don't call it "extending the Bush tax cuts." Call it "repealing the Bush tax increase." This would be entirely accurate: Taxes are going up pursuant to legislation enacted by a Republican Congress and signed by Bush.
You know things have gotten bad when a conservative columnist for a Rupert Murdoch-owned newspaper is more likely to tell the truth about the Bush tax cuts than a Washington Post columnist.
I don't really understand James Taranto, and his response to my blog post on his claim that Democrats invent Republican racism to trick African-Americans into voting for them hasn't done much to ameliorate that situation.
To recap -- Taranto postulated the following theory on racial politics: "To keep blacks voting Democratic, it is necessary for the party and its supporters to keep alive the idea that racism is prevalent in America and to portray the Republican Party ... as racist." I argued that this theory is actually quite insulting to black voters, since it implies that they are not capable of recognizing real racism and presupposes that black voters are motivated primarily by racial sentiments. Here's what I wrote, word for word:
First and foremost, it's remarkably insulting. The implication of Taranto's theory is that African-Americans aren't sophisticated or observant or intelligent enough to know real racism when they see it, and are thus continuously duped en masse into voting for Democrats. It couldn't be the case that black voters actually care about issues and have real reasons for voting Democratic, they're just puppets who are motivated by racial sentiments that Democrats prey upon. Taranto and his pals at Fox & Friends might think they're attacking the Democrats, but they're actually demeaning black voters.
Taranto, in his response, seized on this paragraph -- actually, one sentence in this paragraph -- to call me a "racist":
This morning the hosts of Fox & Friends took some time to investigate whether "Democrats have used as a tool, racism," taking off on Wall Street Journal editorialist James Taranto's argument from yesterday that to "keep blacks voting Democratic, it is necessary for the party and its supporters to keep alive the idea that racism is prevalent in America and to portray the Republican Party ... as racist."
They were impressed with Taranto's "provocative presentation" on The O'Reilly Factor last night, during which he argued that Democrats use accusations of racism to, in Bill O'Reilly's words, "keep African Americans in the fold," and that the urgency with which they do so has only increased with the election of President Obama because "it's much harder to say that America is a racist country now that we've elected a black man president." As Taranto put it, it makes it "all the more necessary to keep alive this idea that the Republican Party is a racist party." Steve Doocy felt Taranto made a "great case" on this: "The fact that we have elected a black, African-American guy as president of the United States proves that we are not a racist nation."
So this is what constitutes a discussion of race on Fox News? There are several problems here, so let's unpack them, one at a time.
From the April 20 edition of Fox News Channel's The O'Reilly Factor:
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In the January 17 Wall Street Journal, James Taranto -- a member of the paper's conservative editorial board and fellow News Corp. employee with a history of advancing conservative misinformation -- penned a profile of Glenn Beck, which, among other things, completely ignored Beck's history of misinformation and inflammatory rhetoric. Additionally, Taranto wrote that Beck "reported on major news stories" like Van Jones without noting that Beck smeared Jones with the false claim that he was a convicted felon and repeated Beck's denial that he is a "crazy showman that's doing anything for money," while ignoring Beck's frequent promotion of gold to his viewers, without disclosing his financial interest in gold investment firms.
From the December 16 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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University of Chicago political science professor Charles Lipson and The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto, each of whom has previously pushed conservative talking points, have recently suggested that Attorney General Eric Holder should appoint an independent special prosecutor to investigate ACORN in the wake of the recently released videos exposing improper behavior at several ACORN offices. Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, meanwhile, have suggested that an investigation of ACORN by the Justice Department will not be valid because of the group's ties to Democrats and the Obama administration.