For America’s celebrity-watching media, 2007 was the Year of Spears, about which we should breathe a sigh of relief that Western civilization survived. The year began with increasingly erratic Britney Spears popping in and out of rehab stints. Then she shaved her head in the spring, a move that screamed that the pop star’s moves were more crazy than calculated by publicists. The year ended with the news that Britney’s 16-year-old sister Jamie Lynn Spears, a star of the children’s channel Nickelodeon, was pregnant.
Had the youngest Spears sister been cast as a tawdry teenage tramp on “Desperate Housewives,” her real-world behavior would be seen as less scandalous. But Jamie Lynn Spears has been a fairly wholesome star on Nickelodeon since she joined the kiddie sketch-comedy show “All That” at the tender age of 11. She’s currently the cool title character of the show “Zoey 101,” set at a boarding school, a show watched by millions of grade-schoolers. So much for role models.
Hillary Clinton has no right to complain that her friends and flatterers in the media are rough on her. But when Clintons hit rough passages on the road to victory, this is what Clintons do: complain. That’s too meek. They whine.
But she obviously feels wronged by the news media when her polls begin to slip and she looks at her Barack Obama’s worshipful press clips. In fairy-tale terms, Obama is Snow White, and Hillary is the vain and wicked queen peering into the mirror and demanding to know "who is the fairest of them all?"
The end of 2007 doesn’t seem half as depressing to the conservative faithful as it was in the beginning. Democrats captured the Congress, sure. But now it’s their approval ratings that are in the toilet, and worst still, their rabid leftist base has turned on them for not being rabidly leftist enough. The presidential front-runners are no longer inevitable, not even Hillary Clinton’s buy one-get-one-free ticket. The economy is fairly strong, regardless of the pessimistic media coverage. We’ve had another year without America being successfully attacked by terrorists. The surge is working.
All this good news is driving the Left nuts, and nowhere is this more evident than in the national media, which is making no attempt to shake off their collective gloom-and-doom tone. As the good news began emanating from Iraq this fall, the McClatchy News Service, lauded by media leftists like Bill Moyers as having the smart reporters who always thought the Iraq War was a fight without a point, ran this headline:
"As Violence Falls in Iraq, Cemetery Workers Feel the Pinch."
At the summit of national power, politicians and bureaucrats are terrified at the idea of endorsing the religious views of the majority of Americans. Our First Amendment forbids the establishment of a state religion, but many of our governing elites are taking it a step further, outlawing its very existence from the public conversation.
Congress can turn this into an unintentional comedy of manners. On December 11, the House considered a rather meaningless resolution "recognizing the importance of Christmas" – and nine members of the House voted "nay." The roll call of Grinches are, surprise, largely from blue states: Gary Ackerman and Yvette Clarke of New York were on the list, as were California’s Barbara Lee, Pete Stark, and Lynn Woolsey. The Politico newspaper applauded with "God bless them!"
One of the Man from Hope’s consistently amazing lines is that the press doesn’t offer the Clintons enough credit for all their good works. The latest example came on the trail in Keene, New Hampshire, where the Associated Press found him whining about how the press hasn’t underlined the vast chasm in experience between his wife and Barack Obama. "Bill Clinton said Tuesday that if reporters covered the candidates' public records better, his wife's presidential bid would be far ahead of her rivals,” reported AP.
Clinton obviously believes his presidency was a Golden Era, a time when peace and prosperity graced America. The Clintons want the press to replay a sort of glowing Harry and Linda Thomason propaganda movie about The Way They Were, with a soundtrack by Barbra Streisand.
The Christmas season is upon us, which means it’s that special time of year for the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State to make sure no wayward city council will allow a whiff of frankincense on government property. They must send out direct-mail fundraising letters asking "Help Us Crush a Creche at Christmas!"
The Christmas season is also that time of year when the business world implores us to consider the material as more important than the spiritual, all in the spirit of “the holidays.” So we celebrate instead the arrival, on Christmas Day, of iPods and DVDs.
This year there’s a new twist. The Nativity scene has become commercialized – but in a way you would never imagine.
Is CNN capable and professional enough to host presidential debates? After last week’s CNN-YouTube debate fiasco, even Tim Rutten, a media writer for the left-leaning Los Angeles Times, was giving CNN a big fat F for failure: "In fact, this most recent debacle masquerading as a presidential debate raises serious questions about whether CNN is ethically or professionally suitable" to host debates. CNN had the opportunity to perform a journalistic swan dive. Instead it produced an enormous belly flop. It’s far worse when you realize this mess of a production was the highest-rated primary presidential debate in history.
Back in May, after the Democrats stiff-armed the Fox News Channel invitation to debate, many conservatives believed the Republicans should return the favor with CNN and its proposed CNN-YouTube debate. I disagreed. I suggested in this space that Republicans should accept debates on CNN, but be more forceful in setting the terms and selecting the hosts. It seemed correct to assume at the time that CNN would attempt to be more fair and balanced simply because so much was riding on the outcome, namely CNN’s very credibility as an impartial observer of the political process.
I was wrong. We can’t expect CNN to be an honest broker.
In the musty but hallowed halls of the Old Media, the first item for target practice is often the New Media, the ones formed and made popular by the atrocious biases of their predecessors. The Old Media continue watching their numbers bleed away; continue to paint themselves as fair and balanced, despite the preponderance of evidence to the contrary; and continue to smear the New Media, especially talk radio, as the divisive haters and fact-manglers ruining civil discourse in America.
Former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw is on the publicity tour for his new book "Boom!" about the 1960s. On the November 26 Laura Ingraham show, when he was challenged with his soundbite broadsiding talk radio as "instantly jingoistic and savagely critical" of war protesters, Brokaw quickly put his anti-radio rant back into rotation.
He suggested incivility was a "big cancer" on America, and talk radio is the number one tumor. Front and center in Brokaw’s pathology was Limbaugh: "My problem with the whole spectrum is there is not -- you know what Rush’s, what his whole drill is. He doesn’t want to hear another point of view. Except his."
For decades now, the national media have insisted in each presidential election cycle that voters should ignore the liberal wizards hiding behind the curtain of the Democratic Party. Each plausible Democratic presidential contender is a "moderate" or "centrist," be he Walter Mondale or Michael Dukakis or John Kerry. But now to describe Hillary Clinton as a "moral conservative" is so upside down and backwards it sounds like.... "This is your brain on drugs."
That’s what Time reporter Amy Sullivan announced on Tucker Carlson’s show on MSNBC. She suggested Hillary might be "fairly liberal" on economic issues, "but she’s a moral conservative." Sullivan was once an aide to Sen. Tom Daschle. In Hillary Clinton, Sullivan has allegedly found an authentic Christian conservative’s role model.
The Hillary Clinton juggernaut likes to try and run over every new threat, especially the ones they can call "old news." Every new book on her life, personal and political, is dismissed as "old news" – unless the person retelling and reshaping the "old news" is Hillary. Her recounting of her life is minty-fresh. Every other book smells like a reopened casket.
Whenever – if ever – authors of Hillary books are introduced by the national media, the tone of the interviews focuses in on Hillary’s talking point: "Why should anyone care?" From the start, the message is that these books belong in the garbage can, not in the library. The books that have come out this year have provided interesting new material that should in some way shape the media’s understanding of Hillary. Yet even liberals like Carl Bernstein or the New York Times duo of Jeff Gerth and Don van Natta have seen their books presented not as "news," but as a pernicious attempt to change Hillary’s narrative.
As the movie studios gear up for a big Christmas movie season, one trailer that looks like a blockbuster is “The Golden Compass,” which must be trying to cash in on the “Narnia” movies. It has flashy special-effect polar bears in armor and a young heroic damsel in distress facing off against evil forces. The casting is top-notch, led by Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, the current star spy in the James Bond movies.
But buyer beware: Narnia it’s not. It’s the anti-Narnia. Instead of a Christian allegory, it’s an anti-Christian allegory. The author of “The Golden Compass,” Philip Pullman, is an atheist who despises C. S. Lewis and his much-beloved Narnia series. “I thought they were loathsome,” he said of those books, “full of bullying and sneering, propaganda, basically, on behalf of a religion whose main creed seemed to be to despise and hate people unlike yourself.”
Let’s face it: the Clintons will say anything in their quests for the presidency. Just as Bill Clinton railed against Republican corruption in 1992, promising his would be “the most ethical administration in history,” Hillary Clinton now is presenting herself as the antidote of the Republican “culture of corruption,” and the antithesis of the Bush administration’s penchant for secrecy. What makes this argument all the more laughable is that secrecy has always been their modus operandi, and their key method of their scandal damage control.
It’s on display again. In the October 30 Democratic debate on MSNBC, Tim Russert asked if Senator Clinton would lift the 12-year ban on “confidential communications” between the president and his advisers that Bill Clinton requested from the National Archives. Russert was referencing a letter Clinton wrote to the Archives in 2002 loosening the restrictions on these documents – while suspiciously leaving in place his request to keep White House documents between Bill and Hillary Clinton secret.
There have been a number of stories in the press in recent months about Geographically Challenged America. None tops the report about Miami Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder confessing he hadn't known that people spoke English in London.
"I couldn't find London on a map if they didn't have the names of the countries," he explained. "I swear to God. I don't know what nothing is. I know Italy looks like a boot."
I suppose we'd all have another chuckle if Crowder were asked to find Estonia on a map, but in truth how many can? And for those of us who can, how many of us know anything of significance about this seemingly insignificant little country?
How many of us know that Estonia, one of the smallest countries on the face of this earth, is responsible for one of the most extraordinary, and certainly the most unique, revolutions in modern history? How many of us know that this tiny Baltic nation defeated the Soviet Union -- with a song? This is not meant as hyperbole. It is literal truth.
If the "peace" movement holds a protest and no one in the press covers it, does it still exist? If Americans are sick of the war, they’re also sick of the "anti-war." Even the media have grown anti-war-weary. Rallies on October 27 drew only perfunctory news mentions.
The peaceniks have now become a bipartisan political problem, now that the Democrats who control Congress haven’t dared to placate the radicals by cutting off money for the troops. Cindy Sheehan is threatening to run against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. But suddenly – surprise, surprise – the media aren’t interested in Sheehan’s new crusade. Crusades only have a point when it’s an anti-Republican point. Camping out against Bush during his Texas vacation was news, fun news, important news. But running against Speaker Pelosi is not news. It’s a sign your fifteen minutes of fame are all used up.
In a political act loaded with cultural symbolism, Senator Hillary Clinton endorsed an effort to earmark a million taxpayer dollars for a museum in Bethel, New York celebrating the circus of 1969, the Woodstock music festival. Other senators smelled the pork and successfully voted to remove it.
The tie-dyed, drug-soaked post-war babies that populated that muddy plain are now approaching Social Security age, and the aging hippies that made their way into the establishment want to imbue the notorious excesses of their youth with respectability. The New York Times said the Bethel complex would be "what Cooperstown is to baseball" – a hippie Hall of Fame.
I liked that music. I still do. Then as now, I simply ignored the cultural and political messages. Many others didn’t.
The bohemian worldview of Woodstock Nation is in some ways dominant, and in some ways passe in our popular culture. Hallucinogenic drugs are no longer the rage, but the "free love" spirit of "if it feels good, do it" still runs strong, especially in our entertainment world. And yet, burbling beneath a noisy culture of sexual excess and self-love, there’s a quiet undercurrent in our movies carrying subtle, and even obvious pro-life themes.
As much as liberals decry major corporations that act as if they’re above the law, there’s always quiet when the subject is Planned Parenthood, America’s number one corporate provider of abortions. During its 2005-2006 fiscal year, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America performed a record 264,943 abortions, reported a tidy profit of $55.8 million – and received a record high in taxpayer funding of $305.3 million.
This is one corporation the media hold in the highest regard. They’re not "merchants of death." That would be the tobacco companies, or gun manufacturers, or hamburger joints. These are the heroic "providers" of "a woman’s right to choose."
They’re also sleazy in their business practices. In Aurora, Illinois, Planned Parenthood planned to build the biggest abortion clinic in the country, but they lied by omission to the city. Throughout the construction process, the McDonald’s of the abortion industry applied for permits by listing the owner as "Gemini Office Development," not as Planned Parenthood.
Twenty or thirty years ago, the Nobel Peace Prize was considered to be among the most prestigious awards in the world. It helped make historical figures out of Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, and Lech Walesa. But in the last twenty years, its prestige has lessened as its political correctness has hardened.
It went from an award that championed human rights to an award that honored dictators and terrorists (Mikhail Gorbachev, 1990 or Yasser Arafat, 1994). It even honored frauds – Rigoberta Menchu, a Guatemalan Indian, was honored in 1992 upon the 500th anniversary of the historic voyage of that "oppressor" Christopher Columbus, based on an autobiography full of phony stories.
The ruckus over the Rush Limbaugh "phony soldiers" statement is dying down. It ought not to. There is a huge story here.
What did Rush say? In a September 26 conversation with a caller to his program who claimed the media never interview "real soldiers," but just people out of the blue, Rush added for emphasis, "the phony soldiers."
The left saw its opportunity and pounced with a vengeance. Led by the George Soros-funded and Hillary Clinton-inspired Media Matters outfit, it unleashed a scorched-earth attack on Limbaugh for insulting the military, stating that any servicemen or women who might oppose the war in Iraq had been defamed by the talk show host as "phony soldiers."
The television networks, newspapers, and leftist blog sites were ablaze with stories about Democratic outrage. There were calls for his show to be yanked from the Armed Forces Radio Network. There were demands that Clear Channel make Rush apologize, and that advertisers pull their sponsorship.
The other day, CNN’s "Reliable Sources" show sought to explore Hillary’s Sunday morning interview blitz of September 23. Why do the media pine for her so? Michelle Cottle of the New Republic gave the typical liberal answer: "She's a celebrity. She and Bill have passed some point where they're no longer just politicians. They're rock stars."
There is absolutely no doubt that liberals really do think of the Clintons in rock-star terms, and the "objective" media have not merely treated them that way with a long-running assembly line of dazzled profiles and shoe-polishing interviews. Their royal treatment of the Clintons sends a signal to the rest of the political world: you cannot hope to contain these deeply impressive world leaders.
When the news broke that Dan Rather was suing CBS News for $70 million for somehow destroying his reputation, the most noticeable reaction came from the media establishment itself. From the first story in the New York Times, it carried a different tone between the lines of the breaking news. Rather’s former colleagues think he’s lost his marbles.
The Times story by Jacques Steinberg said Rather’s career came to an “inglorious end” and now he’s taking “vehement issue” with CBS’s soft-scrub internal investigation. Rather claimed “to be reduced to little more than a patsy” in the story, and now works for an “obscure cable channel.” The implication between the lines? Gunga Dan’s picked one battle too many.
Rutgers University is known as the birthplace of college football, but in the last few weeks it’s seemed more like the deathplace of sportsmanship. On September 7, Rutgers hosted Navy’s football team. What respect was shown in the wake of the Midshipmen’s forthcoming service to the country and the approaching September 11 anniversary? The rowdy student fans of Rutgers hurled obscenities at Navy, thoroughly embarrassing their college and their town.
Rutgers won the game, but lost any sense of honor and decency. Navy was booed and peppered with "You suck!" chants when they stepped on the field to start both halves. When Navy kick returner Reggie Campbell came up limping after a tackle, students chanted, "You got f--ed up! You got f--ed up! You got f-ed-up!" Toward the end of the second half, Rutgers students in began to serenade an adjacent section of Navy fans and uniformed Midshipmen: "‘F-- you, Navy! F--you, Navy! F-- you, Navy!’"
Howard Kurtz, the longtime Washington Post media reporter and CNN media-show host, inadvertently defined exactly what’s wrong with our political culture when he was asked in an online chat about actress Sally Field blurting out in her Emmy victory speech that if women ruled the world, there’d be no [expletive deleted] wars. Kurtz said awards shows might not be the best slot for political analysis, "but she said it at a live news event, so in a way Fox was censoring the news."
This is "news"? Sally Field’s incoherent rant, delivered after a series of stammers, is somehow on par as newsworthy with what your average senior diplomat, military officer, professor, public policy expert or congressman has to say on the subject of war?
Nearly everyone with a television can make jokes about TV awards shows, especially the speech-making. How many times have people made the hoariest jokes about thanking the "little people," or mimicking Sally Field’s Oscar speech: "You like me! You really like me!" But Kathy Griffin, the comedienne with the self-satirizing "My Life on the D-List" show on that D-list network Bravo, took the ritual to a new low when she won an Emmy for Outstanding Reality Program.
She mocked Jesus Christ.
"A lot of people come up here and thank Jesus for this award," she declared. "I want you to know that no one had less to do with this award than Jesus. So, all I can say is, 'suck it, Jesus.' This award is my god now." The audience reaction? Reporters noted laughter in the crowd. Griffin certainly knew Hollywood die-hards would be pounding the tables over that one.
As America headed into the weekend before the sixth anniversary of the horrific September 11 terrorist attacks, the latest purported video from Osama bin Laden reminded the country that the war on terrorism is still a real and persistent battle. But some people despise the whole war-on-terror concept. They believe that commemorating 9-11 is getting tired and dated and even psychologically harmful to the country.
As hard (or as easy) as it may be to believe, The New York Times, situated just miles from Ground Zero in Manhattan, published a typically portentous Sunday article asking: "As 9/11 Draws Near, a Debate Rises: How Much Tribute Is Enough?" Times reporter N.R. Kleinfeld suggested the whole rigamarole was tedious, and perhaps distasteful: "Again there will be the public tributes, the tightly scripted memorial events, the reflex news coverage, the souvenir peddlers. Is all of it necessary, at the same decibel level -- still?" Amassing the usual anonymous mass of radicals who are allergic to expressions of national unity or love of country, Kleinfeld insisted "many people feel that the collective commemorations, publicly staged, are excessive and vacant, even annoying."
"Excessive and vacant, even annoying." Come to think of it, that's a pretty good motto for the masthead of The New York Times.
It was not exactly a plum assignment for a Republican to go on network television to discuss the alleged foot-tapping ways of the soon-to-be former GOP senator from Idaho. But Republicans also could easily see the delight in the eyes of the liberal media when word of Sen. Larry Craig’s Minneapolis airport arrest broke. The press went right back to last year’s smash-mouth Foleygate talking points about how this wasn’t just about the moral turpitude of one member of Congress, but it was about the impending end of the Republican Party, and potential doom for American conservatism.
On Tuesday, NBC’s "Today" show had opened with Matt Lauer asking: "Can the right wing withstand yet another scandal involving one of its own?" (Try imagining Matt Lauer, or any other network journalist out there, asking if "the left wing" could withstand yet another scandal after the breaking news of any one of the endless scandals revolving around Bill and Hillary Clinton.) Ann Curry chimed in, wondering "how does this specter of hypocrisy affect the Party?"
Watching network morning show anchors interview the Democratic presidential candidates often makes you wonder if you’ve seen tougher interviews on overnight acne-care infomercials. Their questions are often so simple and promotional that you wish they’d just go ahead and wear their "Hillary!" or "Obama ‘08" buttons on the set.
There is no pretense of political balance. They are actively rooting for a Democratic victory next year, and they have the power to make a real difference. Notwithstanding their overall loss of audience in the last decade, ABC, CBS, and NBC morning shows draw nine times the audience of their cable-news competitors and are geared toward the mostly apolitical mainstream, which makes them an important free-media showcase for presidential hopefuls. A new study shows that if this year’s campaign coverage on the TV morning shows were a primary election, the Democrats would win in a landslide of attention and hyperbole.
Rich Noyes of the Media Research Center assessed all morning-show coverage on the Big Three from January 1 through July 31.
After CNN and YouTube organized a fairly silly and yet seriously liberal presidential debate for the Democratic presidential candidates this summer, GOP contenders developed cold feet about placing their ambitions at the feet of these groups. When only two GOP candidates accepted invitations for a proposed CNN/YouTube debate in September, the event was called off. In response, a set of conservative bloggers started a website called Savethedebate.com, urging that “Republicans cannot afford to write off the Internet” and risk “denigrating” the youth vote and the way they communicate. Five GOP candidates have now agreed; the new date is November 28.
These bloggers are fine conservatives, but no one should be under the illusion that writing off one website is “writing off the Internet.” That said, GOP candidates do not have the Democrats’ luxury of ignoring hostile media outlets like FOX as if they did not exist.
Here’s one sign that Hillary Clinton is the Democratic presidential frontrunner. Reporters are tripping over themselves to convince us how likable and human she is, strong and yet nurturing. It’s the same playbook the media used for Al Gore and John Kerry, both just as stiff, robotic, and unlikeable then as Hillary is now. So they’re portraying Hillary not only as strong and invincible, but also as warm as a down comforter and as sweet as Mrs. Butterworth.
The New York Times stands out as a primary transmission belt for the Clinton campaign’s effort to melt the ice-queen image.
Senator Charles Schumer is a legendary pursuer of television cameras. But look at the way the national media are covering Schumer’s heavy-breathing pursuit to make Attorney General Alberto Gonzales cry uncle and resign. It makes you wonder just how hard Schumer has to work to get press attention. The media look Schumer-owned and operated.
One interview really captures how the press looks more like a Democratic goon squad than a nonpartisan observers of the national scene. On ABC’s “Good Morning America,” news anchor Christopher Cuomo, son of Mario Cuomo, asked this pushy question on July 27: “Is Alberto Gonzales out of a job at end of business today?” Cuomo wanted the Attorney General whacked, and he wanted it now.
Every four years, journalists present themselves as objective questioners in presidential debates only to be roundly, and correctly, denounced by conservatives for being anything but. When, oh when, we ask, will America be able to enjoy a candidate forum free from liberal reporters inserting their slanted worldviews into the discussion? When, oh when, we ask ourselves, will they get out of the way?
It looks like we should be very careful what we ask for.