While traveling with the president to California on Wednesday, White House correspondents quizzed Obama spokesman Jay Carney about the issues of the day, and this exchange took place [emphasis added]:
Q: Can I ask you about the California fundraisers, in particular? The President is getting a lot of heat over cavorting with showbiz types. Rush Limbaugh is referring to him as Barack Kardashian, can you believe. What is your response to that?
The claim that Obama spends too much time with celebrities is one that the president's critics have been making for years. And the White House reporter who quizzed Carney about the rather dubious topic could have referenced Republican leaders who have made the claim in the past. Instead, the reporter quoted Rush Limbaugh and wanted to know what the White House reaction was to a talker from the right-wing media world who compared president to a reality TV personality.
That was on Wednesday. Over the weekend, writing in the New York Times Magazine, Steve Almond, a self-described liberal, announced the problem with liberals today is they spend too much time obsessing over, and monitoring, the right-wing media:
Media outlets like MSNBC and The Huffington Post often justify their coverage of these voices by claiming to serve as watchdogs. It would be more accurate to think of them as de facto loudspeakers for conservative agitprop. The demagogues of the world, after all, derive power solely from their ability to provoke reaction. Those liberals (like me) who take the bait, are to blame for their outsize influence.
Instead, Almond instructed, liberals and Democrats should simply ignore the likes of Limbaugh and Fox News and the far-right blogosphere. If liberals do, he says conservative media players would be rendered powerless because if liberals stop paying attention to them, the Beltway press is sure to follow.
Almond's advice strikes me as being singularly misguided. Indeed, the let's-ignore-right-wing-media guidance represents a truly naïve argument that reflects very little about what's going in American politics and media today.
Assigning a Rush Limbaugh fan and biographer to profile right-wing activist James O'Keefe wasn't exactly a daring choice by editors at The New York Times Magazine. The fact that the resulting puff piece is a predictably soft retread of O'Keefe's often-told tale should surprise no one.
What is odd is that the Times would publish such comically inaccurate characterizations of O'Keefe's adventures in undercover video stings; stings that have proven time and again he's incapable of telling the truth.
Those are the facts. They are not in dispute. But in the loving hands of Times writer Zev Chafets, O'Keefe is portrayed as an enterprising, muckraking journalist. And in the loving hands of Zev Chafets, O'Keefe is portrayed exactly the way O'Keefe wants to be portrayed.
I realize that's Chafets' niche at the Times, to bring his partisan, conservative perspective when writing profiles of partisan conservative media figures, and to do his best to paper over anything unflattering about the subject at hand. That's what he did with his New York Times Magazine cover story on Limbaugh in 2008. (The super-soft profile helped Chafets land a Ditto-ography book deal.)
And I understand why Chafets likes the very easy gig. It makes little sense, though, why the Times would be interested in publishing this kind of predictable feature about O'Keefe. Regardless of the motivation, what about the facts? What about O'Keefe's ACORN and NPR stings for instance, and the controversy that soon engulfed him over allegations he had edited his clips in order to concocts sinister stories? How does the Times deal with those issues?
This is a rather remarkable observation, from Joshua Green's Atlantic dispatch, on the first official day of Jon Huntsman's presidential campaign [emphasis added];
A few weeks ago, I was up in New Hampshire for Jon Huntsman's maiden swing through the state as a possible -- it's now official -- presidential candidate. The rest of the national press corps seemed to be there, too. At many of the events, we reporters outnumbered actual voters, sometimes vastly.
I wasn't at Huntsman's announcement speech in New Jersey this morning, but word on the ground is that, as in New Hampshire, there were still more members of the media present than actual voters.
This makes no sense, of course, because reporters are supposed to cover the news, not make it. (Right?) But this unfolding phenomenon of lopsided, out-of-context coverage of Republican candidates is indicative of how the Beltway press seems to be throwing itself at the feet of truly marginal candidates, such as Huntsman (who recently finished dead last in an NBC/WSJ poll of possible Republican candidates), and at the feet of would-be candidates, such as Republican governors Rick Perry in Texas and Chris Christie in New Jersey. (Not to mention Sarah Palin.)
In each of these cases, the candidates, or maybe-candidates, have enjoyed the glow of habitual coverage even though they have done absolutely nothing to earn it. Instead, the buzz has been mostly manufactured by the eager pundit class.
Traditionally, candidates had to earn the attention of the press, and did that in many ways, such as straw poll victories, fundraising prowess, impressive debate performances, or attracting huge crowds on the campaign trail. In others words, candidates first needed to build am actual buzz before the press would shower them with attention.
With today's Republican field however, candidates don't even have to become candidates and the press showers them with campaign attention. Think I'm exaggerating? Last week, CNN aired a mostly softball, 60-minute, primetime interview with Gov. Christie, who claims he isn't even running for president.
Or in the case of Huntsman, a Republican can become a candidate, have virtually nothing to show for their efforts (i.e. crowds, polling, fundraising, debate victories), and the press still showers them with attention. Exaggeration? This Sunday's New York Times Magazine will feature an eight-page, 6,200-word piece on Huntsman; a candidate who today remains virtually an unknown among voters.
I really do think we've entered uncharted waters here. And no, I don't think it's a coincidence Republicans are benefiting from the new (non-existent?) guidelines that the press have adopted for the 2012 race, where candidates like Huntsman don't have to accomplish a thing before being rewarded with a growing media spotlight.
Per THE NYTPICKER:
"The Times does not allow writers to replicate language without attribution."
Those words appear in a NYT Editor's Note this morning, holding a freelance writer accountable for an "unwitting" lift from another writer's email in last Sunday's NYT Magazine cover story on whales.
But those words apply equally to NYT columnist Maureen Dowd, who replicated language from a friend's email -- which turned out to be plagiarized -- without attribution in her May 13 column. Yet her clear violation of that NYT policy has continued to go unaddressed by the NYT.
The NYT's double-standard in protecting Dowd on recent charges of plagiarism were never clearer than in this morning's Editor's Note -- putting freelance writer Charles Siebert out to dry for appropriating a handful of descriptive words from a source's email in his 7,498-word account of the way whales may be communicating with humans.
Siebert -- a successful author who has written several cover stories for the NYT Magazine, with particular emphasis on animals -- claims his mistake was "unwitting." Dowd called hers "inadvertent." Why does Dowd's explanation take her off the hook, while Siebert gets punished with an extensive editor's note?
Two months after lifting the contents on an entire email from a friend and putting it in her May 17 column -- learning later that the passage had been plagiarized from blogger Josh Marshall -- Dowd has never explained those events to readers, or had them addressed in any form other than a brief, benign next-day correction. Since then, Dowd and NYT officials have repeatedly ignored requests from The NYTPicker for comment on whether the paper conducted any internal investigation into Dowd's actions, to determine the truth of her flimsy account.
The New York Times Magazine is slated to publish a story on March 29 -- promoting the controversial global warming views of physicist Freeman Dyson -- that was written, not by a scientist or science writer, but by Nicholas Dawidoff, whose previous work for the Times has focused largely on sports and music.
A New York Times Magazine profile of global warming skeptic Freeman Dyson quotes without challenge his false suggestion that there was a scientific consensus in the 1970s that the earth was cooling. Unlike the current consensus that global warming exists, there was no consensus in the 1970s that the earth was cooling.