In a rush to sensationalize growing violence in Iraq at the hands of religious extremists, media have circulated dubiously sourced maps which purport to illustrate plans for a future Islamic caliphate that extends from Spain to the southern and easternmost reaches of India.
A Sunni Islamist militant group calling itself the Islamic State of Iraq (ISIS) has torn through Iraq in recent weeks, violently capturing several cities and straining the Iraqi government's ability to respond. On June 29, according to the Wall Street Journal, ISIS "announced itself as a new Islamist 'caliphate' ... unilaterally declaring statehood and demanding allegiance from other Islamist groups."
In the wake of this news, media outlets from Fox News to ABC have issued reports on the militant group's future plans based on maps culled from Twitter to declare that ISIS is strategizing to take over swath of territory larger than the Roman Empire within the next five years -- a goal that would include, among other feats, conquering Spain, Portugal, Greece, and most or all of India. The maps resemble the geographic dominance of the historic caliphates that ended with the demise of the Ottoman Empire.
On June 3 ABC News published a map -- also cited by Breitbart.com -- which was "purportedly published" by ISIS and "widely shared on Twitter." According to ABC, the "terrifying" map was "published at the same time that ISIS announced the creation of a caliphate."
But ABC News didn't actually trace the image to ISIS, and instead relied on a tweet of the image from American Third Position (A3P). ABC didn't disclose that A3P is a white nationalist political party in the United States.
As iO9 pointed out, "This is one of those 'garbage in, garbage out' stories, since ABC News' source was Twitter." The outlet cited to analysis from Aaron Zelin, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who explained, "It's an old image put out by fans of the group ... There is nothing official about it nor is there some alleged 5-year plan."
Fox News reported the same day that a "chilling new map reveals the ISIS plan for world domination," displaying an expanded, translated map the network claimed was "released by ISIS" to lay out "its five-year plan." Several days ago the Daily Mail similarly highlighted the map as a "chilling five-year plan," as did The Blaze, the website of notorious caliphate fear monger Glenn Beck.
While Fox attributed the map to ISIS, the Daily Mail described it as having been "widely shared by ISIS supporters on social networks."
Despite the serious tone of their reports, neither the Daily Mail nor Fox News cited any experts to discuss how realistic it would be for ISIS to conquer a swath of land that envelops half of Africa and India and includes territory protected by NATO (Spain, Portugal).
Right-wing media have launched a campaign of mockery, victim-blaming, and denial to dismiss the sexual assault epidemic, particularly on college campuses, and the Obama administration's efforts to curtail the growing problem.
From the June 25 edition of The Blaze's The Glenn Beck Program:
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Notorious misinformer Glenn Beck appeared on Fox News to push various myths about the Common Core education standards while promoting his upcoming live movie We Will Not Conform.
On June 12, Fox's Sean Hannity hosted Beck, a former Fox host and founder of The Blaze network, to discuss the Common Core State Standards, which were adopted in 2010 by 45 states and the District of Columbia. "Political turbulence" surrounding the standards, however, has led a few states to opt out of Common Core, following months-long smear campaigns from right-wing media figures, including Beck and Fox. Beck even wrote an "angry and ignorant" book titled Conform, which spent 222 pages lobbing ridiculous attacks against the standards and public education in general.
On Hannity, Beck plugged his July 22 live movie, which will also feature fellow Common Core misinformer and conservative columnist Michelle Malkin. After Hannity explained that Beck was "going to show in this movie how to defeat Common Core," Beck claimed that Common Core opponents are "winning on this." He then propagated a series of myths about the standards, including that Common Core is about "control, manipulation, [and] propaganda" and that it takes away freedom from teachers, despite polls showing that teachers support it. Beck even likened Common Core to education in China because it "use[s] propaganda in the classroom" to "shape these minds to get them to be good little boys and girls for the state."
Given that he launched his campaign against Common Core by stating, "We will not save our country unless we save it first from this attack," Beck's live movie promises to be yet another absurd ruse in his constant, fact-free crusade again Common Core.
Right-wing media's latest "Benghazi bombshell," scandalizing claims about the attackers' cell phone usage during the assault, follows a now-familiar pattern: recasting history to accuse the Obama administration of inappropriately referencing an anti-Islam YouTube video in connection with the Benghazi terror attacks.
Glenn Beck decried "thought police" for making it difficult to say "fag the new nigger," the title of a poster he featured on his web show.
During the June 9 edition of Beck's The Blaze TV program, Beck invited anonymous street artist Sabo to discuss his work. In May, Sabo produced a widely-condemned "Abortion Barbie" poster to attack Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis, depicting "a mostly-naked Barbie doll with a plastic baby in her belly."
The segment spotlighted a number of Sabo's other controversial posters, including one that read "FAG THE NEW NIGGER":
Discussing the poster, Sabo and Beck lamented that they couldn't use homophobic and racist slurs because "we live in such a politically correct society":
SABO: You know, it bothers me you can't say the name.
BECK: It bothers me. It bothers me.
SABO: I mean, we are such a politically correct environment that you can't even say "fag the new nigger." Why is that? It's a word.
BECK: I know that. But you know what the reality is.
BECK: It astounds me that the people who, my whole life, have accused me and people like me of being a Nazi, of trying to stifle speech and everything else - I don't care what you're saying. It doesn't bother me. It's not going to make me cower in fear and run away crying. However, they have now stifled everyone's speech to the point to where we're now getting down to thought police.
Sabo went on to lament that "the whites in general have been beat down so much" and compare President Obama to Adolf Hitler.
From the May 29 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Glenn Beck Radio Program:
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Glenn Beck's The BlazeTV acted out sexual propositions and labeled each skit "RAPE!" in an attempt to mock the prevalence of reported sexual assault.
In response to reports that the 22-year-old who went on a deadly shooting spree in Santa Barbara was inspired by a hatred towards women who had refused his sexual advances, The Glenn Beck Program attempted to debunk the statistic that one in five women have reported experiencing a sexual assault. The May 27 edition of Beck's program dismissed the number -- cited by the Obama administration during the announcement of a new initiative to protect college students from sexual violence -- as a "completely untrue statistic."
As evidence, Beck presented a pre-recorded segment by The Blaze's Stu Burguiere, which featured skit performances of sexual assault scenarios in which network radio host Jeff Fisher propositioned another man in a blonde wig and skirt.
The skits purported to reenact questions from two studies on sexual assault -- the 2007 Campus Sexual Assault Report and 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey -- ostensibly to show how the number of sexual assault victims is "massively" inflated:
Conservative media are touting a video from the right-wing Media Research Center purporting to show that vendors at gun shows always refuse to sell firearms to felons and other disqualified persons and that legislation to expand the background check system is unnecessary. But according to prior undercover reports, when private sellers at gun shows were not aware they were on camera, a substantial portion agreed to sell guns to people they believed could not legally possess them.
Vendors who have a Federal Firearms License are required to perform background checks on their customers, but so-called private sellers who say they are not "engaged in the business" of selling firearms have no such requirement at gun shows in 33 states. This discrepancy has been termed the "gun show loophole" and is the reason narco-terrorists, illegal gun traffickers and other dangerous individuals seek out unregulated sales at gun shows. The most infamous use of the loophole is the 1999 Columbine High School massacre where all four guns involved were passed through a local gun show by private sellers.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has estimated between 25 and 50 percent of vendors at gun shows sell without a background check. Adding sales over the Internet and through newspaper classified adverts, a substantial proportion of firearms are transferred without a background check in the United States. Federal legislation to expand the background check system to cover private sales failed in the Senate last year.
New information from major health insurance companies shows that most Obamacare customers have paid their first month's premiums, evidence that undermines the right-wing media's attempts to discount the unexpectedly high number of Americans who have gained coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
On April 17, the President Obama announced that 8 million people had been enrolled for health care coverage through the ACA exchanges, exceeding previous White House predictions. Right-wing news outlets worked to downplay the health reform law's success by claiming that the numbers were inflated because some people had not yet paid their first premium.
As the enrollment period drew to a close, Fox's Chris Wallace had questioned the high enrollment numbers because he claimed "they still have no numbers for how many people have paid for coverage," while Fox News hosts and radio personalities like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh even went as far as to claim the administration was "cooking the books" in order to inflate the number of enrollees. Fox News, The Blaze, and The Hill later trumpeted GOP data that was eventually acknowledged to be "incredibly rigged" to claim that only 67 percent of the total enrollees had completed the application process by submitting their first premium payment and that the numbers contradicted to the administration's announcement.
Contrary to these myths, new evidence from Bloomberg confirms what the White House has argued since the enrollment period ended -- insurance companies estimate that between 80 and 90 percent of people have paid their first premium:
Three large health insurers including WellPoint Inc. (WLP) and Aetna Inc. (AET) say that a high percentage of their new Obamacare customers are paying their first premiums, undermining a Republican criticism of enrollment in the program.
As many as 90 percent of WellPoint customers have paid their first premium by its due date, according to testimony the company prepared for a congressional hearing today. For Aetna, the payment is in the "low to mid-80 percent range," the company said in its own testimony. Health Care Service Corp., which operates Blue Cross Blue Shield plans in five states including Texas, said that number is at least 83 percent.
As the president of Washington consulting firm Avalere Health told Bloomberg, "What you have here is very solid first year enrollment, no matter how you slice it."
The right-wing media has shifted its focus from Cliven Bundy to hyping false reports of a government "land grab" in Texas -- again finding itself denying court-established property rights.
On April 21, Breitbart Texas claimed that Bureau of Land management (BLM) is "reviewing the possible federal takeover and ownership of privately-held lands which have been deeded property for generations of Texas landowners." Breitbart argued that the BLM had attempted to "seize" property from Texan Tom Henderson in 1986, and baselessly speculated that because the BLM is "in the process of developing a Resource Management Plan," the office may be planning on "simply confiscating the land." Breitbart described the old case by claiming "Henderson sued the BLM and lost 140 acres that had been in his family for generations. Now the BLM is looking at using the prior case as a precedent to claim an additional 90,000 acres."
Other right-wing outlets picked up Breitbart's frame. The Daily Caller trumpeted the BLM's "intent to claim 90,000 acres along the Red River" in Texas, The Blaze hyped "new concerns that [the BLM] may be looking to claim thousands of acres of land in the northern part of the state," and Fox News host Steve Doocy claimed that the government "is reportedly trying to claim 90,000 acres along the Red River, the line that separates the states of Texas and Oklahoma," from local ranchers. Doocy highlighted the 1986 case and noted that "many fear the Bureau of Land Management may use that case as a precedent to do it again." Meanwhile, an on-air graphic stoked fears of a "government land grab":
These claims are entirely baseless. The 1986 case that the right-wing media's narrative relies on -- Currington v. Henderson -- did not pit a local Texas landowner against the federal government. Currington was a land dispute between two local property owners over a portion of land on the Texas-Oklahoma border. A federal district court ultimately found that, in fact, neither claimant had rights to the land, which was already owned by the United States government. From the court findings:
The lands north of the medial line adjacent to Sections 3 and 4, Township 5 South, Range 9 West of the Indian Meridian are part of those lands and are owned by the respective plaintiffs. The lands lying in the bed of the Red River south of the medial like adjacent thereto are owned by the United States.
Right-wing media are fanning the flames of a conflict between a federal agency and their new hero -- a scofflaw Nevada rancher who's threatening a violent range war against the federal government.
Cliven Bundy, a cattle rancher in Nevada, has been fighting the government over grazing rights on public land for nearly a quarter century. In 1993, Bundy began refusing to pay government fees required to allow his cattle to exploit public lands. In 1998, the government issued a court order telling Bundy to remove his cows from the land, as part of an effort to protect the endangered desert tortoise located there. And in July 2013, a federal court ordered Bundy to get his cattle off public land within 45 days or they would be confiscated. The confiscation began this month, and the cattle will be sold to pay off the $1 million in fees and trespassing fines Bundy owes.
Conservative media have held the confiscation out as a big government invasion of private property rights and have repeatedly hyped the rancher and his family as victims being intimidated by a heavily armed force of federal agents who are escalating the situation into the realm of notorious and deadly standoffs like Ruby Ridge and Waco.
Fox News hosted the rancher on the April 9 edition of Hannity, where Sean Hannity sympathized with Bundy's claims against the government and argued that allowing Bundy's cattle to graze on public lands "keeps the price of meat down for every American consumer."
Fox & Friends highlighted the situation and complained about the protections for the desert tortoise. Co-host Brian Kilmeade said, "We're not anti-turtle, but we are pro-logic and tradition."
Meanwhile, Glenn Beck's TheBlaze.com played up the fact that the federal agents confiscating Bundy's cattle were armed. Alex Jones' Infowars.com posited that the government was attempting to "enslave us in an [United Nations] Agenda 21 future where we have no property and no rights." During an April 9 edition of Jones' conspiracy theory radio show, Jones said of Bundy, "So your bottom line, like Paul Revere, you're making your stand, you're telling folks we're being overrun by an out of control tyranny."
National Review Online's Kevin Williamson called the presence of armed agents "inflammatory" and described the government's actions as a "siege." The conservative American Thinker accused Attorney Gen. Eric Holder of enforcing the law against Bundy for racial reasons.
But if anyone is waging a campaign of intimidation, it's Bundy and his family, who have repeatedly threatened violence, invoked revolutionary rhetoric, and issued public statements making known that they own firearms and appear willing to use them.
Conservative news outlets are hyping a minor website change to suggest that the FBI is distancing itself from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) - a group that monitors hate speech and violence - in response to criticism from anti-gay organizations. But the FBI has issued a statement debunking that narrative and continues to publicly touts its partnership with SPLC on its website.
On March 26, Washington Examiner reporter Paul Bedard asserted that the FBI was ending its relationship with SPLC, noting that a link to the group had been scrubbed from the FBI's Hate Crime "resources" page and calling it a "significant rejection of the influential legal group":
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which has labeled several Washington, D.C.-based family organizations as "hate groups" for favoring traditional marriage, has been dumped as a "resource" on the FBI's Hate Crime Web page, a significant rejection of the influential legal group.
The Web page scrubbing, which also included eliminating the Anti-Defamation League, was not announced and came in the last month after 15 family groups pressed Attorney General Eric Holder and FBI Director James Comey to stop endorsing a group -- SPLC -- that inspired a recent case of domestic terrorism at the Family Research Council.
The FBI had no comment and offered no explanation for its decision to end their website's relationship with the two groups, leaving just four federal links as hate crime "resources." The SPLC had no comment.
Conservative media's incessant campaign to demonize the Common Core State Standards, often confined to the right-wing bubble, is now playing out in local politics.
Over the past year, the Common Core State Standards have been at the center of a heated national education debate. Released in 2010 by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, with input from parents, school officials, teachers, and experts, Common Core is "a set of clear college- and career-ready standards for kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts/literacy and mathematics." Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have voluntarily adopted the Common Core standards, though news out of Indiana this week has reduced that number.
On Monday, Republican Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed legislation withdrawing the state from Common Core, even though the state had already started implementing the standards. A release from Pence's office stated, "I believe our students are best served when decisions about education are made at the state and local level."
Pence's statement buys into one of the many myths popularized by conservative media about Common Core -- that it's a federal takeover of education, guilty of "central planning." Other prevalent myths are that it creates a class curriculum, teaches wrong answers, injects partisan ideology, dumbs down standards, and data mines children's information.
These myths and more have made the Common Core debate so vitriolic that states are actually changing the name of their standards because the mere phrase "Common Core" has become "toxic." New York is negotiating to delay Common Core-based tests, and an Oklahoma Senate panel voted to repeal Common Core earlier this week. As the Associated Press reported on Monday, "the Common Core initiative has morphed into a political tempest fueling division among Republicans."
These state-level decisions come on the heels of a robust campaign from various misinformers in the right-wing media who consistently use inflammatory language and stoke fears to mislead about the standards.
Here are the five most incendiary media figures and outlets fueling the Common Core outrage machine.
Fox News' misinformation on Common Core has been well-documented. The network appears to have no idea how the standards actually work, accusing them of everything from "sneak[ing] in partisan lessons" to creating doctors who might "operate on the wrong knee." Fox & Friends co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck even falsely invoked Common Core to back an attempted book ban in North Carolina.
There is perhaps no louder voice against Common Core than conservative author and columnist Michelle Malkin. From her "Stop Common Core" Twitter list to her plethora of anti-Common Core columns at National Review Online, Malkin routinely uses inflammatory rhetoric to demonize the standards. She has given out "Biggest Common Core Jerk" awards and referred to "Common Core jerkitude" as a "bipartisan disease." She's referred to the standards as a "lab-rat testing experiment," called them a "Trojan horse for lowering [expectations]," and claimed they create "a Big Brother gold rush and an educational Faustian bargain." Her constant, erroneous insistence that Common Core is a "top-down" approach that the Obama administration is using to "corrupt education" leaves little doubt that Malkin will leave no stone unturned in her relentless and false attacks on the standards.
Roughly one year ago, conservative commentator and founder of The Blaze.com Glenn Beck turned his attention to Common Core on his BlazeTV show, claiming that "our kids are going to be indoctrinated with extreme leftist ideology" because progressives "jammed this through in the dead of night." Beck went so far as to declare that "We will not save our country unless we save it first from this attack."
Since then, TheBlaze.com has repeatedly distorted the conversation on Common Core often through hyperbolic headlines posted on the site:
NPR reported earlier this year that Beck "has often led the push" against Common Core:
The mainstream business wing of the Republican Party strongly backs Common Core, arguing that raising standards is vital to creating the next-generation American workforce. But in an echo of the rifts in the GOP nationally, the Tea Party branch has been critical of the new standards.
Conservative broadcaster Glenn Beck has often led the push. On his show The Blaze, he often charges that Common Core will undermine student individuality and teacher autonomy, and that it marks a dangerous takeover of local control by federal bureaucrats pushing a leftist agenda.
"This is a progressive bonanza, and if it's allowed to be in our schools in any form and become the Common Core of America's next generation, it will destroy America and the system of freedom as we know it," Beck told his audience last year.
Dr. Susan Berry at the conservative news site Breitbart.com writes frequently about the supposed perils of Common Core. She has pushed the myth that Common Core dumbs down "standards and curricula for all students in order to achieve a social justice agenda." She has also turned to conservative groups like The Heartland Institute and Heritage Foundation to propagate the false assertion that Common Core is a "national takeover of schooling" and that the "Obama administration is intent on controlling what is taught at each grade level in schools across the United States."
Berry has claimed that the standards are "part of a world-wide initiative that may ultimately serve to make American values and practices secondary to global sharing." After Bill Gates appeared on ABC to discuss his foundation's funding of Common Core, Berry went so far as to ask: "The question is, why is a college dropout non-mathematician being asked to defend the Common Core math standards?"
Right-wing news site the Daily Caller has posted dozens of articles about Common Core, often with photos of school assignments and incendiary headlines like, "Here's PROOF Common Core aims to make America's children cry," and, "How MORONICALLY HARD can Common Core math make subtraction?" Many are sourced from Michelle Malkin's Twitchy website. Various myths accompany its inflammatory rhetoric, including claims that the lessons derived from Common Core amount to "authoritarian propaganda" and that Common Core critics oppose "centralized" education. Like Breitbart's Susan Berry, the Daily Caller has also turned to the conservative Heartland Institute to push the falsehoods about Common Core, including that it is "a national monopoly on education."
In the continued battle over Common Core, even supporters have acknowledged that implementation has not been smooth, and that the process needs improvement. But these media figures and outlets doing their damndest to ensure that the national conversation on Common Core is steered in a distorted direction only make it harder to have a reasonable discussion.
For more on the lies and truths about Common Core, visit Media Matters' Mythopedia Project.
Right-wing media are citing the claims of a high-level Mexican drug cartel figure, who faces life in prison for narcotrafficking, to advance its latest conspiracy theory about a failed federal law enforcement operation to stop the flow of guns into Mexico.
According to Vicente Zambada-Niebla, a high-level Sinaloa Cartel figure known as "El Vicentillo" who will soon face trial in Chicago, the purpose of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' (ATF) Operation Fast and Furious was to arm the Sinaloa Cartel so that it would have the firepower to destroy rival drug cartels. Zambada-Niebla's testimony is not credible for a number of reasons, the most glaring being that he was arrested in March 2009, more than six months before the ATF even conceived of Fast and Furious.
Despite this red flag, Zambada-Niebla's claims have been repeatedly promoted on the National Rifle Association's radio and television shows, by Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich, and throughout the fringe conservative blogosphere.