Critical voices in the media are increasingly encouraging news outlets to not give a "free pass" to the fact that presidential candidate Donald Trump "is without question making himself into the racist's candidate for president."
Slate columnist Michelle Goldberg explained how an unfounded accusation spread throughout conservative media, claiming that Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign team tried to force Laugh Factory to take down a video about her.
According to the right-wing organization Judicial Watch, "Hillary Clinton's campaign is going after five comedians who made fun of the former Secretary of State in standup skits at a popular Hollywood comedy club." Judicial Watch claimed that a Clinton staffer called Jamie Masada, the comedy club's founder, asking for the names of the actors and for the video to be taken down.
In her November 19 Slate post, Goldberg explained that the threat to Masada came from an anonymous call that was not confirmed to be from Clinton's campaign and detailed how the unfounded accusation spread through right-wing media, despite the fact that Masada could not verify that anyone from Clinton's campaign had actually contacted him:
In short order, right-leaning sites including NewsBusters, NewsMax, Mediaite, the Daily Caller, and the Daily Mail aggregated the accusation.
This seemed bizarre. Even if you buy the most grotesque right-wing caricatures about Clinton's humorlessness and authoritarianism, it's hard to believe that the campaign would be so clumsy, especially at a time when it's going out of its way to make the candidate seem fun. Such a demand would only reinforce the worst stereotypes about Clinton while ensuring that the offending video went viral. Besides, there's nothing in the video itself to attract the campaign's notice: It's less than three minutes long and is mostly stale cracks about Hillary's clothes and age, along with familiar insinuations that she's a lesbian. One of those insinuations is even admiring: "I would love if you become president, divorce Bill, and then you marry a bitch," says Tiffany Haddish.
Yet there was Masada--a man who has won awards from the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP, and has no discernable right-wing agenda--quoted as saying, "They threatened me. I have received complains before but never a call like this, threatening to put me out of business if I don't cut the video."
Masada doesn't actually know that the call came from the Clinton camp.
How does Masada know that John was actually from the Clinton camp? He doesn't. "I'm glad I'm not in politics or any of that stuff; you might know more than I do," he says. "Maybe it was a prank, I have no idea. Was it real? Not real? I have no idea. He didn't call back, that's all I can say." Nor is Masada sure how Judicial Watch even heard about the call. "The way I understand it, it's because one of the [Laugh Factory] employees told a couple of people," he says.
What we have here is a small-scale demonstration of how the Hillary smear sausage gets made. It starts with a claim that's ambiguous at best, fabricated at worst, and then interpreted in the most invidious possible light. The claim is reported in one outlet and amplified on Twitter. Other outlets then report on the report, repeating the claim over and over again. Talk radio picks it up. Maybe Fox News follows. Eventually the story achieves a sort of ubiquity in the right-wing media ecosystem, which makes it seem like it's been confirmed. Soon it becomes received truth among conservatives, and sometimes it even crosses into the mainstream media. If you watched the way the Clintons were covered in the 1990s, you know the basics of this process. If you didn't, you're going to spend the next year--and maybe the next nine years--learning all about it.
Media outlets slammed Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump for invoking President Dwight Eisenhower's "inhumane" and "unabashedly racist" deportation program as a blueprint for his own immigration plans, explaining that the program -- derogatorily called "Operation Wetback" -- resulted in dozens of immigrant deaths and used methods described as "indescribable scenes of human misery and tragedy."
A new NASA study found that there has been a net increase in land ice in Antarctica in recent years, despite a decline in some parts of the continent. The study's lead author astutely predicted that climate science deniers would distort the study, even though it does nothing to contradict the scientific consensus on climate change or the fact that sea levels will continue to rise.
Media figures are highlighting the "dire consequences" of the Republican National Committee's (RNC) decision to suspend its partnership with NBC and it's allied Spanish-language network Telemundo for a presidential debate in February 2016. They point out that the move to eliminate the only debate airing on a Spanish-speaking network could hurt the Republican Party's Latino outreach, and would contradict the 2013 GOP autopsy report's recommendations to invest resources in Hispanic media.
During the October 28 CNBC Republican presidential debate, several candidates proposed tax and economic policies that were later described as "fantasy," "oddly imaginary," and even "insane" by media outlets because their implementation would inflate existing budget deficits and add trillions of dollars to the national debt.
Media outlets condemned the House Select Committee on Benghazi's October 22 hearing that featured testimony by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, calling it "counterproductive," "unfortunate," and saying the panel fell "flat on its face."
Media figures and editorial boards are calling out the "political fakery" of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, criticizing it as a "laughable crusade" against Clinton rather than a legitimate investigation into the Benghazi attacks, after two congressmen and an ex-committee staffer admitted to the partisan nature of the committee.
Maureen Dowd wants to feel young again.
Already looking ahead to the 2016 presidential campaign, the New York Times columnist wrote on Sunday that elections are supposed to make you feel "young and excited." But Dowd fretted that that's just not possible if Hillary Clinton is one of the nominees.
Dowd insisted it was the prospect of a Hillary Clinton vs. Jeb Bush battle that drove her to distraction: "The looming prospect of another Clinton-Bush race makes us feel fatigued," she wrote. But as the column made clear, it was Hillary who caused the pundit the most grief, especially the prospect of "dredging up memories of a presidency that was eight years of turbulence."
It's a familiar press refrain. The Los Angeles Times recently wondered if "lingering fatigue from the serial melodramas of Bill Clinton's administration" would hurt Hillary's possible presidential chances. And The New Yorker's 's Jill Lepore suggested documents recently released by the Clinton presidential library would reignite old "concerns" about Hillary's "unethical" behavior.
Please note the pundit-voter disconnect.
"Democrats appear overwhelmingly eager for a Clinton candidacy," as the New York Times noted last week in an piece analyzing the results of a new poll. But D.C. pundits and Beltway media insiders are another story. Unconcerned with the desires of voters who traditionally pick leaders based on who they think will make America a safe and prosperous place to live, pundits fret more about "fatigue," as if would-be candidates are stars on a long-running television series.
The irony is that if anyone's creating Clinton fatigue this year, it's the same journalists who claim she's already played out. For the week of February 10-16, the three all-news cable channels aired more than 400 minutes of Hillary coverage, according to Mediaite. And here's a sampling of the Times' recent Clinton coverage from just a recent three-day window:
So yes, I can see why some journalists are complaining about fatigue. The odd part? They're the ones firmly committed to relentlessly covering someone who hasn't announced whether she'll run for president, and for an election that won't be held for more than 900 days. Journalists are complaining about a Beltway ailment that they alone can cure: Stop acting like there's a presidential election in three months.
Clinton Fatigue, heal thyself.
Although all of President Obama's qualified nominees for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit are currently at risk of being refused an up-or-down vote by unprecedented Republican obstructionism, right-wing media have targeted Georgetown law professor Cornelia "Nina" Pillard in particular with misguided smears.
On October 8, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, a challenge to campaign contribution limits that court-watchers call "the next Citizens United." Although opponents of campaign finance regulation characterize aggregate contribution limits as a violation of the First Amendment, media should be aware that such limits guard against institutional corruption in the democratic process, a foremost concern of the Constitution's framers.
On November 8, Slate published an article asking, "Are a small number of immigrant wives faking domestic abuse to stay in the country?" It alleges that immigrant women are pretending to be abused by their spouses in order to exploit a provision of the Violence Against Women Act, which in certain cases allows abused non-citizens married to citizens or permanent residents to avoid deportation and/or petition for a green card rather than relying on their spouse to do so on their behalf.
That's a pretty inflammatory allegation. I sure hope the author has some real evidence to substantiate this supposed trend and isn't just casually fueling anti-immigrant extremists by casting doubt on the claims made by battered immigrant women.
The article claims that "hundreds of American men say" their wives exploited VAWA to stay in the country, but provides no source for this already ambiguous figure, "hundreds." Should we assume the author spoke to all of these men? Did she also verify their claims?
The author recounts the story of a Virginia man who says he was wrongly accused of abuse by his Russian immigrant spouse, who he met on an online dating service. Was the woman permitted to stay in the U.S. through the VAWA provision? Who knows? The author doesn't say.
The article goes on to claim that "the intimations of fraud aren't just coming from angry ex-husbands (and a few wives). Immigration agents, lawyers, and the brokers who facilitate marriages between Americans and foreigners say that VAWA is sometimes exploited." Again no source for the claim that agents, lawyers and brokers say this is happening, and no details on what "sometimes" means. From what we're given in the article, the author appears to be basing this assertion on the opinion of John Sampson, a former ICE investigator, who "says immigration authorities make no effort to validate documents submitted by a wife claiming abuse, do not interview her, and discount evidence from the American husband that contradicts the abuse claim."
What the article doesn't tell you: Sampson runs a "Consulting and Investigations" firm whose clientele consists of people who say they were "victimized not only by cold and calculating foreign national brides, but by the 'system' itself." In other words, he makes money by helping men prove that their spouses are faking domestic abuse. Sampson has also signed affidavits used by Orly Taitz in her birther lawsuits seeking to prove that Barack Obama is not eligible to be president.
What is it about reporters that makes them so obsessed with politicians' iPods, and whether they're telling the truth about liking more than one musician? First, Slate's Jacob Weisberg made the improbable suggestion that Hillary Clinton was insincere in saying she liked the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and Aretha Franklin. Then, Politico's Glenn Thrush followed up on this line of reporting a few years later by purporting to fact-check Clinton's professed fondness for the Beatles and the Stones.
Now comes the Los Angeles Times' Mark Milian:
So if Obama doesn't know how to use Apple's portable music player -- a product hailed for its ease-of-use, even for a Harvard Law graduate -- was the preelection Rolling Stone magazine article about what's on his iPod a farce?
Come to think of it, his picks did seem a little too varied, uncontroversial and universally respectable to be the real deal. Bob Dylan, Miles Davis, Sheryl Crow and Ludacris? Give me a break.
What, exactly, is so hard to believe about having Bob Dylan, Miles Davis, Sheryl Crow and Ludacris on an iPod? Songs by all four artists can be found on my iPod.
The assumption by Weisberg, Thrush and Milian that everyone has narrow musical tastes is obnoxious -- and suggests that the three of them don't really like music. In my experience, people who do really like music tend to have diverse tastes -- and don't tend to see an iPod containing Dylan, Davis & Crow as a particularly eclectic collection. It also reveals a fundamental lack of understanding of one of the key the benefits of MP3 players like iPods -- they make it easy to own and access a "varied" music library.
But most of all it's a nasty little effort to portray Obama, like Clinton before him, as a phony, no matter how thin the evidence.
If there's one thing journalists love, it's pretending that every flaw evident among conservatives is mirrored exactly among liberals.
Sure, Ann Coulter may fantasize about killing journalists, and Lou Dobbs may help spread nutty ideas about Barack Obama's birthplace, and the conservative movement may have accused Bill Clinton of being complicit in dozens of murders, but reporters will rush to assure you that there are extremists on both the Left and the Right -- and they enjoy similar positions of prominence on both sides.
Enter Slate's William Saletan, whose recent feature about the "food police" contains this whopper of a false equivalence:
To justify taxes on unhealthy food, the lifestyle regulators are stretching the evidence about obesity and addiction ... Liberals like to talk about a Republican war on science, but it turns out that they're just as willing to bend facts. In wars of piety, science has no friends.
Oh, really? Many conservatives want to stop teaching evolution in schools, to pick but one obvious example. They deny global warming, even as the polar ice caps melt away before our eyes. But liberals are just as willing to bend facts, according to Will Saletan, because ... Well, because their estimates of the budgetary impact of increased obesity may be too high.
Yeah. That's the same.
(It's telling, by the way, that Saletan doesn't feel the need to list any actual conservative falsehoods by way of comparison -- he assumes it is self-evident that both sides are "just as willing to bend facts." No need to actually compare the ways in which they do so before making that assertion.)
Slate gives us an idea of what coverage of such an event would be like today. The resulting video is funny because it's depressing. I think the fact that Slate uses such little actual footage of the landing is pretty spot on. Why show the footage when you can read what people are saying in 140 characters or less on Twitter?
What do you think?
Also, be sure to check out these great photos from The Boston Globe remembering Apollo 11. Good stuff.