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Brian Powell

Author ››› Brian Powell
  • Fainting Truthers: From Alex Jones To Fox News

    Blog ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL

    The latest strange and ugly conspiracy theory to make its way from Alex Jones' Infowars.com to Fox News contended that the pregnant, diabetic woman who nearly fainted during a White House Rose Garden speech was faking her poor health at the behest of President Obama in order to improve his image.

    On October 21, Obama took to the Rose Garden to address the status of a glitch-ridden HealthCare.gov. During the speech, a woman standing behind the president, Karmel Allison, nearly fainted. The president and others turned to help Allison, who was later revealed to be a Type 1 diabetic and pregnant -- conditions that may have contributed to her unsteadiness.

    Shortly thereafter, Alex Jones and his website Infowars.com pounced on the incident, baselessly claiming that Allison faked her fainting spell. Not only that, the website claimed that Allison is just the latest in a long line of Obama's fake fainters. In an article titled, "Was Fainting Woman at Obamacare Speech Staged?," Infowars.com reporter Steve Watson wrote that the "President has used the fainting woman spiel many times before to play crowds":

    [T]his is not the first time this has happened... or the second time... or the third time... or the fourth time... It happens ALL THE TIME. He pretty much has a prepared speech that he repeats.

    Commentators have previously claimed that this could also be part an effort to appear like a kind of quasi-religious or Messianic figure.

    At the very least, if these incidents are not staged, they serve to highlight how Obama routinely seizes on them to uphold his public image as a "great guy".

    Other fringe outlets amplified the conspiracy theory. The following day, Lady-Patriots.com published a piece by founder Dr. Sharon Scheutz, in which Scheutz claimed the fainting was "phony":

    I couldn't believe how phony it was. As soon as I watched it I went to youtube to check it out from different directions. It was just as fake from any of them.

    For some strange reason, Obama has to have props around him when he does one of his con-jobs in the Rose Garden, or wherever he chooses to receive his worshipers. This was no different, except that he had animated props this time. Although it was well staged there were enough holes in this little scene to drive the proverbial truck through.

    Scheutz, it should be noted, is not a credible source of information. In addition to being a fainting truther, Scheutz has compared the Obama administration to Nazi Germany and just weeks ago wrote that the president was a Muslim:

    If America survives Barack Obama's presidency and if history tells the truth, one word used to describe him will be LIAR. Yes, he's a Muslim. Yes, he's a Socialist/Communist. Yes, he's even a moron, and he's evil. But everything associated with him since he has been in office can best be described by one word: LIAR.

  • Fox's Voter Fraud Falsehoods Are Warping America's Minds

    Blog ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL

    A new study of public opinion regarding voter ID laws found that viewers of Fox News are much more likely to support those measures than other media consumers, and that individuals who wrongly believe voter fraud is common are more likely to support voter ID laws. These two groups have one thing in common -- exposure to right-wing misinformation about voter fraud.

    In recent years, GOP-controlled state legislatures have been passing a series of measures ostensibly designed to protect the integrity of elections -- laws that, for example, require voters to present a government-issued photo id when attempting to cast a ballot. Given the absence of any significant voter fraud crisis in America and the fact that such laws negatively and disproportionately affect the ability of traditionally Democratic-voting demographics to cast a ballot, many have argued that these laws are meant only to stifle political opposition to the Republican party by making it harder for Democrats to get elected -- even Republicans have admitted as much.

    On October 4, Public Opinion Quarterly published a study conducted by two professors at the University of Delaware titled, "The Foundations of Public Opinion on Voter ID Laws." The study found that "perceptions of voting fraud as 'common' are associated with support for voter ID laws." The study also found that Fox News viewers "are particularly likely to support voter ID laws, though no other forms of media use are significantly related to support."

    Voter fraud is not common. As the study noted, a state-by-state analysis of voting fraud conducted by the Carnegie Corporation of New York found "there were 2,068 cases of reported fraud among the millions of votes cast from 2000 to 2011. Over half of these cases of fraud involved problems with absentee ballots, which require no identification." A study by NYU's Brennan Center for Justice found in-person voter fraud to be "more rare than death by lightning," and a New York Times investigation found "virtually no evidence of any organized effort to skew federal elections."

    Additionally, voter ID laws can disenfranchise voters -- particularly minorities, students, and the elderly. The Brennan Center conducted a poll which found that 11 percent of Americans say they do not possess government-issued photo identification, and this number includes "25 percent of African Americans, 16 percent of Hispanics, and 18 percent of persons aged 65 and older."

    Although the study does not determine a causal relationship between exposure to Fox News and the false belief that voter fraud is common, this effect would not be surprising. Fox News frequently misinforms viewers about voter ID laws and the threat of voter fraud. Below is just a sample of the kind of slanted coverage Fox presents.

    The University of Delaware study notes that so far, many Americans remain relatively unfamiliar with voter ID laws. According to the authors, this suggests that "support for voter ID laws is susceptible to political communication effects." Fox News, which often functions as the communications arm of the Republican Party, has not been shy about exploiting this vulnerability.

  • Fox Fights Imaginary Media Bias With Actual Media Bias

    Blog ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL

    Sean Hannity hosted the Media Research Center's (MRC) Brent Bozell on his Fox program Hannity, and together the pair weaved a distorted caricature of the ongoing government shutdown and the media coverage surrounding it. From their seats on one of the nation's largest news networks, Hannity and Bozell complained that liberal media bias was to blame for the public's low opinion of congressional Republicans' role in the shutdown, supporting their façade with a series of lies, omissions, and a dose of their own bias.

    On October 1, the federal government shut down when congressional Republicans refused to pass legislation funding operations unless the funding was tied to the delay or defunding of the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare). 

    On the October 3 edition of his Fox News show, Hannity and Bozell discussed media coverage of the shutdown, reflecting on "all the ways the mainstream media puts their liberal spin on the news," as Hannity put it. He proceeded to open the segment with his own conservative spin on the news, accusing President Obama of refusing to talk to Republicans about the shutdown and absolving Republicans of responsibility. But in fact, the president has called and met with Republican leadership, who are holding fast to their ACA demands.

    Bozell stepped in to agree that media's focus on Republicans is inappropriate, complaining that, "In the media coverage -- 21 stories blaming Republicans, not one story blaming Democrats." Bozell's MRC study focused on network evening news stories, ignoring the multitude of Fox News segments blaming Democrats for the shutdown.

    Bozell's study in fact confirms that network news is providing reality-based coverage of the shutdown, which persists because of a Republican refusal to extricate its opposition to the ACA from the nation's budget. Bozell fails to acknowledge this fact, and his complaints amount to little more than an argument in favor of journalistic "false equivalency." 

  • Fox Accuses Obama Of Hurting Elderly WWII Vets With Shutdown Fox Hosts Praised

    Blog ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL

    Fox News is accusing President Obama of intentionally inflicting pain upon World War II veterans who were initially unable to visit the memorial to their legacy after it was closed in the wake of a government shutdown. Fox figures, many of whom have been advocating for this very shutdown, compared the memorial's closing to the cancellation of White House tours during sequester -- a move conservatives originally claimed was made for no reason other than to inflict pain upon the American people for political purposes.

    On October 1, the federal government shut down when Congressional Republicans refused to pass legislation funding operations unless the funding was tied to the delay or defunding of the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare). As a result of this shutdown, national parks and museums -- including the nation's monuments -- were forced to close.

    One of the shuttered monuments was the World War II Memorial on the National Mall. The closing initially prevented busloads of veterans from accessing the site. As media attention focused on their plight, members of Congress --  many of whom are vocal advocates of the shutdown in the first place -- aided the visiting vets in removing barriers in order to "storm" the monument. National Park officials eventually opened the site to veterans, who are now considered as participating in a First Amendment protest.

    Right-wing media, particularly the pundits at Fox News, rushed to accuse President Obama of unnecessarily closing the monument in order to cause "some sort of pain" against the American people. On the October 2 edition of Fox News' The Five, co-host Dana Perino said the administration "wanted to insert some sort of pain, so that as they screw down the nut, and then you'll start to feel like 'oh, my gosh, we have to compromise.'"

    Perino went on to characterize the closing as "the Washington Monument strategy" -- a political strategy that, according to The Washington Post, "involves fighting against budget cuts by focusing...cuts to the most popular and visible services an agency provides." Co-host Eric Bolling concurred, likening the closing of the World War II memorial to the cancellation of White House tours in the aftermath of sequestration.

    On Fox Business Network, host Lou Dobbs said that in March, the president was "trying to make the sequester as painful as possible ... and that's what they're doing now." He followed up, saying, "There's just one conclusion as to why they did block the wide open space in the first place -- the administration wanted to."

    The war memorial, as well as the other parks and museums under the purview of the National Park Service (NPS), are deemed non-essential services under a shutdown of the federal government, and NPS employees, including park personnel, face a requisite furlough. The NPS shutdown contingency plan requires the suspension of "all activities except those that are essential to respond to emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property."

  • Sean Hannity Wonders If New Obamacare Website Tech Glitches Will Delay Ambulances

    Blog ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL

    Conservative radio host and Fox News pundit Sean Hannity appears to be under the impression that Healthcare.gov -- a government website that facilitates health insurance enrollment that recently went live -- is actually a "life or death" prerequisite for 9-1-1 and whose opening day glitches could be preventing people from accessing emergency care.

    The Affordable Care Act's (ACA) insurance exchanges rolled out on October 1 providing an option for millions of uninsured Americans to obtain health care.

    On the October 1 edition of his radio show, Hannity compared the ACA to the Ford Edsel -- a hightly-anticipated automobile that suffered poor sales and was ranked by Time magazine as one of the 50 worst cars of all time and "synonymous with failure."  Hannity then segued into reports of glitches hindering the ACA's new website, saying, "Think of how you'd feel today if you actually had a medical emergency -- had to go through this mess before they send an ambulance. At least the Ford Edsel wasn't a matter of life and death."

    Hannity appears to be implying that accessing healthcare.gov is somehow required before receiving emergency care. In fact, under a law enacted in 1986, virtually all emergency departments are required to render emergency medical assistance, regardless of insurance status -- that requirement also applies to most ambulances -- according to the National Institute of Health.

  • Rove Comes Clean: Delay Obamacare Until GOP Wins Presidency

    Rove: "We Are Going To Be Fighting" Until We Have A President Who Will Repeal Obamacare

    Blog ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL

    Fox News contributor and GOP strategist Karl Rove revealed the real motive behind calls to delay implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA): To buy time until the election of a Republican president who would be willing to repeal the law in its entirety.

    On the September 23 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, Rove discussed his previous criticism of Republicans and conservative media figures who have threatened to force a government shutdown if President Obama doesn't acquiesce to right-wing demands to completely defund the ACA, also known among conservatives as Obamacare. Congress must pass a continuing resolution by October 1 in order to fund the federal government. If not, the government will partially shut down. Republicans in Congress have insisted that they will only pass the resolution if it excludes funding for the ACA, one of Obama's signature accomplishments.

    Rove opposed the idea of forcing a government shutdown, largely for fear of the political consequences. Instead, he pushed the idea that Republicans should attempt to delay implementation of the law -- currently scheduled to be fully implemented on October 1, 2013 -- until a Republican president is elected. "We need to have a President who will sign a measure defunding, repealing, getting rid of, and replacing Obamacare, and until we have a president who is going to do that we are going to be fighting."

    When Fox host Bill O'Reilly pointed out that the next presidential election is three years away, Rove shrugged it off, responding, "That's why I favor a delay strategy."

  • Fact-Free Fox Assault: Labor Unions Are "Parasites" That Are "Not Doing Anything" For Workers

    Blog ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL

    Fox News continued its assault on the labor movement during a Cashin' In panel discussion that characterized unions as parasitic "vestigial" lobbying organizations that do nothing for their members and harm the economy. As evidence of their claims, the panel referenced a decades-long decline in union membership, but ignored the sustained political assault behind the drop as well as the empirically established economic benefits of a robust labor movement.

    On the September 14 edition of Fox News' Cashin' In, host Eric Bolling introduced a segment about union membership drives and protests taking place this month, asking whether the effort was "bad for workers."

    Fox regular Jonathan Hoenig explained that the membership drive was necessary, because unions are "parasites" that "need new blood."

    Guest Sabrina Schaeffer complained that unions are "no longer representing workers. They're representing political views." She added that labor unions provide "very, very little" to their members.

    Fox guest Wayne Rogers argued that unions are "vestigial," saying, "They're not doing anything for the worker."

    The panel blamed unionized workers for the demise of Hostess, the textile industry, and the health of the overall economy while gloating that union membership has reached a 40 year low.

    Bolling's panel was content to dedicate their airtime to glib metaphors and baseless attacks, ignoring a more substantive discussion on the reasons for declining union membership and the benefits that organized labor provide to union worker, non-union workers, and the economy as a whole.

  • Limbaugh Can't Think Of Anyone Who Might Be Offended By 'Redskins' Team Name

    Rush: "Who's Offended? ... This Is A Manufactured Controversy."

    Blog ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL

    Rush Limbaugh characterized the debate over the racially charged name of the National Football League's Washington Redskins as a "manufactured controversy," wondering whether anyone is truly offended by the name. Limbaugh is apparently unaware that American Indian tribes, members of Congress, the U.S. judicial system, and others have all raised concerns that the team name is racially disparaging.

    On the September 12 edition of his radio show, Limbaugh complained that the Redskins name was under attack and questioned whether anyone was actually offended by the team name. Rush asked, "Who is bothered by this?" He then argued that the franchise's consistent ability to sell out games was evidence that objections to the name are a "manufactured controversy, manufactured by the left."

    To answer Limbaugh's question, a whole lot of people are offended -- and have been for a long time. Native Americans have been protesting the team name for at least the past twenty years. Native American activist Suzan Shown Harjo told NPR, "The name is one of the last vestiges of racism that is held right out in the open in America." The Oneida Indian Nation -- an American Indian tribe in upstate New York -- has launched a radio ad campaign against the name, decrying it as a "racial slur."

    Ten members of Congress have publicly requested that the team's owner, Dan Snyder, change the name. In a letter to Snyder this year, the legislators wrote, "Native Americans throughout the country consider the 'R-word' a racial, derogatory slur akin to the 'N-word' among African Americans or the 'W-word' among Latinos."

    The name has even been recognized as derogatory by administrative bodies of the U.S. government. The Washington Post reported on a decision by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board which found the name to be "disparaging" to Native Americans:

    It is also a team with the most patently offensive name in pro sports. A 1999 ruling by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board even found as much, revoking the Redskins' trademark because it "may disparage Native Americans and bring them into contempt or disrepute." The decision was overturned on the grounds that the lawsuit had not been pursued in a timely enough manner.

    One prominent sports writer, Sports Illustrated's Peter King, will no longer repeat the name of the team because it "offends too many people," and he noted that, among many others, the American Indian Movement considers the name a slur.

    The list goes on. But those who expect Limbaugh to acknowledge the sincerity of their concerns shouldn't hold their breath. The radio host isn't known for his grasp of racial controversy.

  • Alex Jones Links Syrian Weapons Proposal To Human Extinction Plot

    Jones' Globalist Theory Connects Weapons Inspectors To Plans For Replacing Humans With "New Species" Of Human-Machine Hybrids

    Blog ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL

    Days after appearing on Fox News to discuss a potential military strike against Syria, right-wing radio host Alex Jones elucidated an updated Syria conspiracy theory, arguing that a tentatively agreed upon effort to place that nation's chemical weapons under international control is the latest step in a broader globalist conspiracy to orchestrate the extinction of the human race and replace it with a new species of human-machine hybrids. Despite his regularly outlandish rhetoric, outlets like Fox News continue to mainstream the Texas conspiracist.

    Earlier this month, President Obama began making his case to Congress for military strikes against Syria in response to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's alleged use of chemical weapons on reportedly more than 1,400 of his own citizens, including hundreds of children, according to a U.S. intelligence assessment. On September 9, administration officials signaled a willingness to avoid using force against Syria if that country agrees to turn over control of its remaining chemical weapons reserves to the international community.

    In the ensuing public debate, Fox News escalated its habit of merely echoing Alex Jones' conspiracies by actually hosting the theorist himself to discuss the chemical weapons attack in Syria. At the time of the interview, which took place prior to talks about Syria relinquishing its weapons, Jones believed that Syrian rebels -- whom Jones has subsequently referred to as "Obama's psychopathic Syrian rebels" -- were to blame for chemical weapon attacks against civilians. Jones appeared on the September 7 edition of Fox News' Geraldo At Large, where he claimed the Assad regime was not behind the attacks, saying, "[A]ll the evidence leans towards the rebels having the motive to do it. And the Russians have put out a new report saying they have proof the rebels did it back in March of this year."

    Jones has since raised the bar. On the September 10 edition of his radio show, Jones expressed concerns about plans to take international control of the weapons, claiming it was part of an effort to dismantle and deindustrialize Syria (and eventually the world):

    JONES: [W]hat the United Nations really wants to do here, is set the precedent that they can come into any country they want, that has any type of weapons systems -- and call them WMDs, and then dismantle that country's infrastructure.

    Weapons inspections, Jones argued, are essentially a Trojan horse -- a premise globalist leaders use to infiltrate nations for the purpose of dismantling not only weapons, but its entire infrastructure. According to Jones, such 'deindustrialization' has taken place in Iraq and Libya already, and eventually it will take place in Western nations as well. Once this has been achieved, "Obama and the globalists" will maintain control of advanced tools like "jetcopters" and "life extension technologies" that will be denied to most of humankind:

    JONES: Everyone is going to be deindustrialized. Everyone is going to be put back in the stone age to be controlled, and then Obama, and the globalists, and the robber barons, they're gonna fly around in their jetcopters, and their Air Force Ones, and their red carpets like gods above us, and they're gonna get the life extension technologies.

    Jones sees the globalist plan extending further than merely relegating humanity to a primitive, jetcopter-less state of subservience. The globalists, represented in part by Obama, France, Saudi Arabia, the military-industrial complex and large financial institutions, are using conflict in Syria as a distraction to further a more insidious plan: "The extinction of almost everybody," to be replaced by "a new species ... of humans merged with machines."

  • A Warning To Politicians From The Global Murdoch Media Empire

    Blog ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL

    Photograph: Tim Wimborne/Reuters

    Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal is using the victory of conservative Tony Abbott in Australia's recent race for prime minister as a cautionary tale, warning American politicians to "beware the faddish politics of climate change." The warning, issued by an editorial board with a long history of misinforming the public on climate policy, comes on the heels of accusations that Abbott's victory was influenced by severe attacks on his opponent lobbed in the pages of Murdoch's Australian press empire.

    Over the weekend, Australians elected Liberal Party leader Tony Abbott -- a man who has been compared to former American President George W. Bush -- to serve as the nation's 28th prime minister. Among other initiatives, Abbott intends to dismantle the country's fight against climate change, arguing that the science behind the phenomenon is "absolute crap."

    In an editorial September 9, The Wall Street Journal attributed former PM Kevin Rudd's loss, and the overall defeat of the center-left Labor Party, to the party's push for a tax on carbon emissions and other "anticarbon policies." The Journal argued that Abbott successfully made the carbon tax a "political liability," and the editorial board used the opportunity to warn Republicans in the United States against going along with attempts to curb carbon emissions:

    A carbon tax is one of those ideas that economists love to propose but that turn out to be lousy politics. If Republicans want to toy with the idea, they had better be prepared to eliminate the income or payroll tax along with it. Otherwise voters will figure out that the politicians are merely looking for one more way to tap into their incomes, in this case by raising their electricity and other energy bills.

    Despite The Wall Street Journal's claim, voters were probably not sending a message about carbon policy. Only 37 percent of Australians support eliminating the carbon tax and replacing it with the policies of Abbott and the Coalition. The tax didn't even break voters' top three concerns, with those spots going to concerns about the economy, asylum seekers, and health care. In fact, most Australians think the country's climate policies should remain the same or stronger.

    Instead, voter antipathy toward the center-left government may be rooted in an aversion to political hypocrisy and broken promises. Leaders of the Labor Party, including former PM Julia Gillard, previously promised there would be no carbon tax, then flipped on the issue and instated one any way. A reporter for The Guardian's Australian edition noted that the Labor Party was thrown out of power because for voters, it "became an issue of her [former PM's] credibility really rather than carbon pricing." The Journal did not see fit to include this important context in its editorial.