Blog

  • Limbaugh, the WSJ and the Fairness Doctrine

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Has anyone belatedly slammed the barn door shut quite as aggressively as Rush Limbaugh does today in the pages of the WSJ? Days after the Obama White House made it clear it had no interest in reinstating the Fairness Doctrine, an FCC statute that hasn't been on the books in two decades, Limbaugh breathlessly arrived on the scene to beseech the president not to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine.

    Oh brother.

    But this is what happens when the leader-less GOP anoints a radio talk show host to be the voice of the conservative movement; non-existent legislative initiatives like the Fairness Doctrine are treated as wildly important because they might concern Rush.

    Note that the top headline in the Journal's news pages today reads, "Market Hits New Crisis Low: Dow Is Now 47% Below Its Peaks; Analysts Warn They See Few Signs of a Bottom." Yet there on the pages of the Journal's Op-Ed section is Limbaugh going on and on about some obscure AM talk radio regulation. I'm sure that agenda is bound to appeal to a large cross-section of struggling Americans these days.

    Of course, Limbaugh's column is filled with all kinds of casual falsehoods that are his trademark. Like when he claimed Obama admonished "members of Congress not to listen to my show." False. Obama suggested, in private, to Republican members of Congress they shouldn't legislate by taking their cues from a radio talk show host. (A radical notion, I know.)

    Elsewhere, Limbaugh claimed the AM spectrum is just a rainbow of content diversity [emphasis added]:

    Today the number of radio stations programming talk is well over 2,000. In fact, there are thousands of stations that air tens of thousands of programs covering virtually every conceivable topic and in various languages.

    Actually, according to the most recent statistical analysis, 91 percent of talk programming in America is conservative. (And yes, I chuckled when Limbaugh referred to the broadcasters' "public interest" as a "contrivance.")

    But mostly, I was struck by the run-away egomania the column so effectively captured. Remember a couple weeks ago when Limbaugh appeared in the Journal to announce--aside from the fact that the current recession would simply fix itself in a matter of months--he was proposing his own stimulus bill. (Suddenly Limbaugh has the power to appropriate money?)

    Well today, Limbaugh demands that the new president set aside all other pressing concerns and respond directly to the talker's demands and spell out White House communication policy, again. Because apparently Limbaugh needs things explained to him more than once.

  • Brent Bozell, Free Speech Hypocrite

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    So, Media Research Center has a new "Free Speech Alliance" through which it is urging President Obama to "Oppose All Govt. Radio Censorship." MRC President Brent Bozell released a statement saying Obama "should state his opposition to the use of any FCC regulation with the intent of censoring talk radio. He should also guarantee a veto of any bill that will silence free speech on the airwaves."

    That would be the same Brent Bozell who brought you the Parents Television Council, a group best known for urging the FCC to crack down on the broadcast of words Brent Bozell doesn't like.

    So when Brent Bozell and MRC talk about opposing "censorship" and ensuring "free speech on the airwaves," keep in mind that what they really mean is that they want to protect speech they like, and censor speech they don't like.

    Here's Stephen Colbert's take on the Parents Television Council. Brent, you may want to leave the room -- Colbert gets a little free-speechy.

  • How does the Klan view New York Post's stimulus monkey cartoon?

    Blog ››› ››› KARL FRISCH

    Tina Dupuy over Mediabistro.com's FishbowlLA has a new poll out of their readers on the controversial New York Post cartoon that depicts a dead monkey (some have said this represents President Obama) with two bullet holes in its chest while the cop holding the gun says, "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill."

    Check out the results of their poll for yourself here.

    I thought it worth sharing some of what FishbowlLA has to say in their post:

    Here's the thing with comedy: poking fun at power is funny. Kicking the weak is not funny. Monkeys - very funny. Cops shooting monkey dead - not funny. Cops being stupid - funny. Cops assassinating man-like mammals - not funny.

    Equating our new first black president to an assassinated (shot twice in the chest) monkey - NOT FUNNY.

    And even saying, "No, no - he didn't mean Obama - he meant Congress."

    We say that true racists - true ones - not the ones you have to read between the lines to see they are kind of biased - but the real ones. The ones on the mailing lists for neo-Nazi groups. The ones that complain that their local dry cleaner won't starch their white hood properly. When those people look at this cartoon - do THEY see Congress?

    A poignant question indeed, though I'm afraid the answer is rather obvious. What do you think?

  • CNBC reporter thinks traders represent "the silent majority"

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Drudge is making a big deal about this because I guess we're supposed to care when CNBC's Rick Santelli starts yelling and whining about Obama's recovery effort. Because, y'know, traders and bankers did such a great job stewarding the economy for the last few years, why should the government step in, right?

    Anyway, the hilarious part comes at the end of the rant when Santelli, reporting from the floor of Chicago Mercantile Exchange, announces indignantly that the all-white, all-male traders nearby represent "a pretty good statistical cross-section of America. The silent majority."

    At one point, Santelli turned to the trading floor, extended his arms outward and announced, "This is America!"

    Ah, life inside the CNBC bubble.

  • Gawker makes fun of dumb Politico article so we don't have to

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Brilliant Politico premise? Some academics joining the Obama administration were paid very well by universities.

    From Gawker:

    It's true! If, after years spent at a good university, you reach the top rung in your academic field, you can expect to pull in crazy six-figure incomes! The crack reporters at Politico dug through the financial disclosures of some professors Obama appointed to his administration and found, shockingly, that they were not broke-ass schoolteachers at all, and they even had benefits!

    We officially endorse Gawker's conclusion: "Seriously, there is no journalistic justification for this article."

  • Here we go again ...

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Politico's Glenn Thrush, seeing a news report that Hillary Clinton said she likes the Rolling Stones and the Beatles, "decided to fact-check."

    What would make him decide to fact-check the unremarkable statement by a baby boomer that she likes the two most popular band in the history of the world -- bands that took the world by storm during her teen years?

    Thrush explains:

    We decided to fact-check, remembering the ambiguities that swirled around Yankees vs. Cubs, Dubai Ports World and Bosnian snipers.

    Look at that first example: "Yankees vs. Cubs." Let's be clear here: The only "ambiguities" that swirled around Hillary Clinton's comments about the Yankees and the Cubs came in the form of reporters and political opponents lying about Hillary Clinton.

    Anyway, because a bunch of people lied about Hillary Clinton, Glenn Thrush -- who doesn't indicate that the Yankees/Cubs flap was a made-up smear perpetrated by his colleagues -- decided to "fact-check" Clinton's claim to like the Stones and the Beatles.

    Thrush's fact-checking is an absurd waste of time, premised on previous lies about Hillary Clinton. And it isn't even an original absurd waste of time. We've been down this road before. And it doesn't go anywhere good. As I explained in 2006:

    Slate's Jacob Weisberg this week denounced Hillary Clinton for her answer to a question about what is on her iPod, claiming that her answer was "calculated" and "suggests premeditation, if not actual poll-testing." Clinton's sin, according to Weisberg? Telling the New York Post that her iPod contains music by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin, the Eagles, and U2.

    No, Weisberg's complaint wasn't that the continued popularity of the Eagles is a clear sign of the nation's cultural decay. That would have at least been defensible, if completely subjective. Nor was it a silly attempt to psychoanalyze Clinton based on her music collection, determining her to be risk-averse and dull. That would have been silly and baseless, but (sadly) typical of political commentary. Instead, Weisberg came through with what may be the single most absurd column written about Hillary Clinton in years -- and that's saying a great deal.

    Weisberg:

    You could see the other Clinton making the same sort of calculations this week, when the New York Post put to Hillary the key culturally identifying question of our era: What's on your iPod? Musical taste is eternally revealing, and thanks to the growing ubiquity of MP3 players, many people now wear this signifying data on their belts. The senator from New York responded that she has the Beatles and the Rolling Stones on the white iPod that her husband gave her for a birthday present, along with Motown and classical music. She then rattled off a list of songs: the Beatles "Hey Jude," Aretha Franklin's, "Respect," the Eagles "Take It to the Limit," and U2's "Beautiful Day."

    Hillary Clinton is the least spontaneous of politicians, and this playlist suggests premeditation, if not actual poll-testing. She first indicates that she basically likes everything before coming to roost on classic rock and soul, which any baby boomer must identify with, lest she or he be branded terminally uncool. Hillary avoids, however, anything too racy, druggie, or aggressive, while naming tunes that are empowering and inspirational. On the world-is-divided-into-two-kinds-of-people question "the Beatles or the Stones," she, like her husband, finds a middle path: both. She names no Stones songs and chooses a consensus, universally liked, neither-early-nor-late Beatles tune, "Hey Jude." Hillary also manages a shout-out to racial diversity and feminism via Aretha Franklin, and she strikes a younger, socially conscious chord with U2. "Take It to the Limit," on the other hand, is such a lame, black-hole-of-the-1970s choice that it can't be taken for anything other than an expression of actual taste.

    Think through this for a moment: According to Weisberg, Clinton's explanation of what music is on her iPod was "premeditated" and the result of political "calculations." For Weisberg to be right, Clinton's answer must be dishonest. Now: Does anybody really believe that Clinton doesn't like Aretha Franklin's "Respect"? How many professional baby-boomer women don't like "Respect"? Does anybody really believe Clinton doesn't like the Beatles? They're the Beatles! It's hard to believe any rational person could assume that Clinton doesn't actually like and listen to the music she listed. And if she does, Weisberg's entire premise can be tossed out the window: There's nothing calculated or insincere in answering a question about what music you like by listing the music you like.

    But give Weisberg credit for trying: He describes Clinton's stated fondness for both the Beatles and the Rolling Stones as some sort of trying-to-have-it-both-ways Clintonian dishonesty. There's a word for arguments like this: Stupid. How many Beatles fans actually dislike the Rolling Stones? How many Stones fans dislike the Beatles? It's like suggesting someone is dishonest for saying they like both ice cream and cake: Who doesn't like ice cream and cake? Allmusic.com even lists the Beatles among 20 "similar artists" to the Rolling Stones.

  • NRO's The Corner finally broke its silence over NY Post chimp controversy

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Well it only took ten hours, but NRO editor Kathryn Kathryn Jean Lopez finally decided somebody at the high-profile conservative site should at least mention Wednesday's most talked-about media story of the day, the wildly offensive NY Post cartoon. (Memeorandum posted at least 60 separate links to the raging debate yesterday.)

    And what was Lopez's take? Here it was, in its entirety:

    What's most ridiculous about this Sharpton-New York Post-cartoon story is that anyone takes Al Sharpton seriously.

    That's it. Eighteen words. Was the New York Post wrong to print the cartoon which seemed, to many, to associate Obama with a crazed, dead chimp; a dead chimp shown dying on a city sidewalk? Was that a smart, funny, prudent, courageous thing to do? Or was it idiotic, insensitive and hurtful? Apparently nobody at The Corner has an opinion. The crew posted more than four dozen items about a wide range of issues on Wednesday. And in the last 24 hours has posted nearly 80 opinion nuggets. But when it came to addressing the simmering controversy at the conservative media anchor, Rupert Murdoch's New York Post, nobody at the NRO had much of anything to say.

    It's quite extraordinary when you think about it. The writers pontificate, at the drop of the hat, on virtually every current events topic. But they are essentially mum about the Post story, except to take a shot at Al Sharpton. Why the silence? Why the refusal to even spell out the facts of the controversy to Corner readers, and why the refusal to reprint the cartoon for everyone to see? If NRO writers thought the story surrounding the cartoon was trumped-up nonsense, and that the Post showed great editorial judgment printing the cartoon, why aren't NRO's writers out front, adamantly defending Murdoch?

    Conversely, if some NRO writers thought the stunt was idiotic, why won't they say so? And are they afraid they won't get published in the Post if they step out and criticize the paper?

    The reason I'm focusing on NRO and its deafening silence over the Post story, is that, as I mentioned here, it's becoming increasingly clear that the Republican Noise Machine now lacks any adult supervision and has, in response to the Obama presidency, become unhinged in record time. (i.e. Malkin poses with swastika guy, the Post prints jaw-dropping monkey cartoons.)

    If NRO writers think the trend is great, than they ought to support the Post. Loudly and without reservation. If they think there's something amiss, this might be a good time to raise a voice.

  • Lambro calls Corsi -- who wrote Kerry & Obama smear books -- a liberal blogger

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Washington Times columnist Don Lambro's latest whopper:

    As the bill worked its way through a House-Senate conference, the liberal blogosphere was burning with indignation. "President Obama submitted to globalist demands as the administration quietly watered down the 'Buy American' provisions," wrote Jerome Corsi, author of 'The Late Great USA,'" on the World Net Daily.

    Look, it isn't hard to understand why conservatives don't want to claim Corsi as one of their own; he's a nut and a liar and a bigot. But he's their nutty lying bigot.

  • So what's the WSJ going to do with Limbaugh's Fairness Doctrine column?

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Yesterday on his radio show, Limbaugh announced the WSJ had asked for a piece about the Fairness Doctrine. (Don't bring back the Fairness Doctrine!) The talker explained he wrote an open letter to Obama--he couldn't just write a column likely everybody else--about the Fairness Doctrine and censorship in media; the column was expected to run Friday.

    But yesterday, the White House made clear that Obama remains opposed to reinstating the Fairness Doctrine.

    Faced with that conundrum, here's what Limbaugh said on his show yesterday:

    At the next break, I'm going to fire off a note to the people at the Journal, because there is an expiration date on every Obama statement. He can say today he doesn't believe in it but then something of an emergency will come up in another day or two, in a week, and force him to change his mind.

    So basically, Limbaugh's telling the Journal editors that his Fairness Doctrine column is still pertinent because Obama's a liar.

    That, and the way the White House preempted Limbaugh's Fairness Doctrine critique, puts the Journal in a rather awkward position. Are editors there going to print Limbaugh's column--oops, I mean open letter--about why Obama should not reinstate the Fairness Doctrine just days after Obama's White House made clear it has no interest in reinstating the Fairness Doctrine? (What's next, is Rush going to write a column beseeching Obama to drop his idea for a car czar?)

    Journal editors, like Republican members of Congress, have to decide how loyal they're going to be to the mighty Rush Limbaugh. Because I can tell you, 99 times out of a 100, if a writer submitted an opinion column that was quickly made irrelevant by breaking news, there's no way Journal editors would still run the column.

    It will be interesting to see if the Journal editors are loyal to Rush, or loyal to journalism.

  • Quote of the day

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Matthew Yglesias on Mike Allen's prediction that the bogus Washington Times flag story would dominate cable news today:

    Allen's response is, I think, the most infuriating. Everyone knows that Mike Allen is an important political reporter. His morning "Playbook," in particular, helps set the agenda for the whole next day of moronic political buzz. When he writes up a stupid story, he's not passively predicting that people will be buzzing about it, he's helping to make it happen. In this case, it didn't work. Today's cable news has, overwhelmingly, been about an actual policy question—Obama's housing plan. And good for cable. But no thanks to Mike Allen.