High on the list of annoying media tics is their tendency to call murderous totalitarian dictators "presidents." That ought to be an honorific reserved for elected leaders. But here's the AP dispatch that ran in Tuesday's Washington Post:
Fidel Castro temporarily relinquished his presidential powers to his brother Raul on Monday night and told Cubans he underwent surgery...
Castro said he was temporarily relinquishing the presidency to his younger brother and successor Raul, the defense minister, but said the move was of "a provisional character."
Not only is this inaccurate, but if one can imagine someone who does not know who Fidel Castro is (I once had a brother-in-law who thought he ruled Jamaica), they might actually think he's a democratic leader from the tone of AP's report.
Al Franken's thinly disguised campaign for the U.S. Senate came through in a Greg Gordon piece I saw in the Minneapolis Star Tribune on vacation: his Midwest Values PAC is already plunking some impressive bucks for Democratic House challengers in the Gopher State, starting with the opponent of conservative Congressman Gil Gutknecht in the state's southeast corner:
Democrat Tim Walz's biggest donor has been Franken, a likely 2008 Minnesota Senate candidate who is distributing money to Midwestern Democrats through his own PAC. Besides a $10,000 PAC check, Franken and his wife each gave Walz the maximum $4,200.
Franken's PAC also gave 10 grand to former Time magazine Person of the Year /retired FBI agent Colleen Rowley, who's running against GOP Rep. John Kline. But the PAC isn't all Franken's money. AP noted a number of celebs gave money to FrankenPAC. Franken's not even alone among famous Minnesota liberals.
When the Washington Post tries to condemn other newspapers as tabloid journalists, there’s always today’s paper for rebuttal. Reporter Anthony Shadid’s front-page story on the deaths of women and children at Qana carried this emotionally manipulative headline, quoting Khalil Burji, a man watching recovery efforts, after the jump on page A8, all across the page:
‘The Child Who Choked to Death, What Was His Sin?’
Washington Post reporter Paul Farhi noticed with the new Woody Allen flick "Scoop" the obvious trend in movies featuring journalists: the print specialists get all the plum roles, and the TV journalists get the pits:
As a general rule, when a story calls for a journalist to do something serious or important -- solve a murder, expose wrongdoing, spring an innocent man, etc. -- you can count on seeing a print reporter at the center of the story, not a TV journalist, says Joe Saltzman, a professor at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication.
Saltzman, himself a former TV journalist, has done enough reporting to say this with authority. He's director of the Image of the Journalist in Popular Culture project at USC, which maintains a database of some 46,000 items (films, TV shows, books, etc.) about fictional journalists.
On the CBS News "Public Eye" site, CBS Evening News producer Ward Sloane was interviewed in the "Ten Plus One" feature. The Public Eye team asked ten questions, and then added one from an outsider, who asked about media watchdog groups: "There is always a lot of criticism, particularly in the realm of political reporting, about journalists being biased against liberals or conservatives. There are organizations that exist primarily to highlight instances of such bias. How do you think that climate affects political coverage, if at all?" Sloane said all the media-bias talk was just fundraising hucksterism:
I do not believe that honest journalists worry about what such organizations say about their stories and pieces. Of course, political stories I’ve worked on have been picked up by both conservative and liberal organizations as being “unfair.” But for these folks, “unfair” is anything that doesn’t promote their agenda. And it is my belief, though I don’t have any evidence of this, that a lot of the howling about media bias is primarily a vehicle to raise money.
Do I think these organizations can be helpful? Not really; I think they just want to use journalists and their media outlets for their own purposes. People who read or subscribe to those organizations are going to think the media is biased anyway. Once in a blue moon, it may be that they do serve the purpose of poking a stick in my eye and asking, hey, did I slant that item?
Sunday's Book World section in the Washington Post features a review by Brookings Institution fellow Daniel Byman of the new book by Post reporter Thomas Ricks, titled Fiasco: The American Military Adventure In Iraq. The review is headlined "The March of Folly: A damning new book by a Post Pentagon reporter shows how Iraq fell into chaos." Byman seemed to be writing to get himself into the dust-cover hoorah blurbs:
In his compelling and well-researched book, Thomas E. Ricks, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for The Washington Post, painfully but clearly reveals an important truth about the Iraq debacle: It has a thousand fathers.
Social liberalism goes on parade in several articles in the Sunday WashPost. In Metro, religion reporter Michelle Boorstein focuses on plans to "ordain" Catholic "womenpriests" in Pittsburgh, including local woman Bridget Mary Meehan. The headline is "Reclaiming the Female Spirit in the Priesthood." Boorstein's article does offer some balancing comments from conservative Catholic bloggers, but it's sad that Boorstein stoops to publishing Nazi comparisons to end the piece. Patricia Fresen, who will preside over the fake ordinations, said she grew up in apartheid-era South Africa, and "If you think of Nazi times, people said they just did what they were told. If you can't get it changed, you must break it."
Another friend sent a giggle with the HBO press release on Spike Lee's forthcoming Katrina documentary. Is Spike Lee seeking a "wide range of opinions"? Bayou Buzz has details, including this piece of the press release:
Lee and his team selected nearly 100 people from diverse backgrounds, representing a wide range of opinions, to be featured in the film, including Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, Harry Belafonte, Wynton Marsalis, CNN´s Soledad O´Brien, Terence Blanchard, Rev. Al Sharpton, Wendell Pierce, Sean Penn, Kanye West, local media and other New Orleans residents.
It might be a pretty big event: It "will have a world premiere August 16 in New Orleans before a potential 10,000 people. The premiere in New Orleans will be one year after the Hurricane Katrina disaster. On Wednesday, Aug. 16, Acts I and II will be presented free of charge before a potential audience of 10,000 people at the New Orleans Arena."
A colleague forwarded a press release from MTV titled "MTV News Presents: IraqUploaded To Air Friday, July 21st at 8PM (ET/PT)." The special will show how soldiers "document war" in Iraq and share it on the Web, but watch out for that "mujahideen" perspective:
In this half hour special report, MTV News’ Gideon Yago delves into this technological and social phenomenon [of soldier-made video] emerging from the front lines in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). Through short videos on user generated content websites, OIF troops provide an unvarnished and unrefined perspective of the violence of combat, the relationships of men in uniform and the reality of war. “MTV News Presents: Iraq Uploaded” will air on Friday, July 21st at 8PM (ET/PT).
The latest e-mail from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is signed by Rep. John Murtha, in which he repeats the Karl-Rove-air-conditioned-fat-backside line he used on the Olbermann hootenanny on MSNBC. (Maybe that works with liberals, but ahem, isn't Murtha's backside fatter than Rove's?) Rest assured, this lame appeal to put the Democrats back in the majority won't have Rove in a murderous dither:
To all the Republicans who sit in their air-conditioned offices and talk of the courage it takes for them to keep young kids in harm's way - I say enough. Karl Rove talking about "cutting and running" while he sits on his big, fat backside-saying "stay the course." I say enough! That's not a plan! We've got to have a new direction, and it's clear we need more Democrats in Congress to get that done.
The Washington Post puts Hillary Clinton on the front page today, a story by Lois Romano headlined "Beyond the Poll Numbers, Voter Doubts About Clinton." This could be read as a bad-news story for Hillary. But it's mostly just a forgettable speculative bubble about 2008. Here's what sticks out to me in the Post poll:
A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll highlighted the paradox. Fifty-four percent of those responding view her favorably, and a significant majority give her high marks for leadership (68 percent), strong family values (65 percent), and being open and friendly (58 percent). At the same time, only 37 percent of Democrats in the poll say they would definitely vote for her for president.
On Friday's edition of "Bill Moyers on Faith & Reason," the PBS omnipresence hosted a discussion more on Greek mythology than religion. The guest in his first half-hour was lesbian novelist Jeanette Winterson, who bitterly mocked her fundamentalist parents and suggested the Christian Bible showed a God and scriptures full of contradictions. Yawn. Standard "transgressive" PBS.
But it took a political turn about 20 minutes in, when Winterson elaborated on how Prometheus stealing fire from the gods for mankind led to suffering and punishment, his liver being ripped out daily by an eagle. To which Moyers responded: "Why do you think we're so fascinated with the stories of heroes and gods brought down by sex? I mean, do you think Bill Clinton wished he had known his mythology when he got into the White House?" It continued:
The "Conservatives Without Conscience" tour continued last night on "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart last night. Like Keith Olbermann, Stewart honored Bush-hating author John Dean and his thesis, with softball questions like this: "This book though is almost a scientific approach to where, in some respects, where conservatism is going. Talk about that aspect of it." Stewart spun his thesis that conservatives are ignorant, not evil:
"Do you believe it's a conscious effort on their part? When you say without conscience, that almost suggests that they are willfully ignoring the humanity of people. I sense with this government it's not that. It's more 'we have convinced ourselves of this certainty and rightness of this position and we will not deviate from that even if everything within our five senses tells us that everything we've done is wrong.' [Whoops, applause.] My point is that it's not evil in the sense of without conscience. It's ignorant in the sense of [in sort of a hillbilly voice] 'I did that?' You know, that kind of thing."
Washington Post TV reporter Lisa DeMoraes reported Wednesday on Dan Rather's appearance before TV critics to promote his obscure new venture on HDNet -- how far the mighty have fallen! -- boasting he would not bow to right-wing pressure groups:
Rather acknowledged he comes to HDNet with "baggage."
"Yes, I have baggage -- I have the baggage of being a graduate of the journalism school of South Vietnam," he said.
He also acknowledged he was "biased -- I have a very strong bias toward independent journalism."
"Some of what you describe as 'baggage,' " he told one critic, "comes from people who have the following view: Their view is, 'You report the news the way I want it reported or I'm going to make you pay a price and hang a sign around your neck saying you're a bomb-toting Bolshevik or something.' "
Near the top of the New York Times "Most E-Mailed List" for weeks now is Amy Sutherland's article about how she learned to train her husband by studying the training of exotic animals. The illustration is especially insulting (watch hubby jump through a hoop for a pretzel!) But I'm guessing that at least half the e-mailers are husbands. Sutherland recommends that you praise husbands for even the mildest good behavior, and avoid nagging about all the little bad things. That sounds good. I still don't think the New York Times would run a story with a whimsical illustration of a wife jumping through hoops for a pretzel....
The top of the New York Times website was odd on Tuesday morning, as its top story on the architect of butchery in Beslan was "Caucusus Renegade Dies, And His Cause May Die, Too." Renegade? The copy underneath was almost value-neutral: "Shamil Basayev's death was the latest of almost two years of setbacks for his separatist faction in Chechnya." The actual story by C. J. Chivers has everything the home page did not, at least. Wow, this is not a typical New York Times first paragraph:
In a long and notorious career, Shamil Basayev, the elusive terrorist leader of the most vicious separatist faction in Chechnya, was an airplane hijacker, a hostage taker, a guerrilla commander and a war-scarred spokesman for terror who tried to justify mass killings of civilians, even school children, for political ends and revenge.
New York Times columnist Frank Rich assembled for his Sunday column all the standard cliches of the liberal narrative of Bush vs. Heroic Liberal Press, including the old cartoon that Ari Fleischer was somehow telling the press to shut up when he suggested late in a news briefing in 2001 that Bill Maher might have watched his mouth before praising the courage of al-Qaeda. See here for context.
Rod Nordland, the chief foreign correspondent for Newsweek magazine and their Baghdad bureau chief from 2003 to 2005, gave an interview to Foreign Policy magazine in which he declared that "It's a lot worse over here [in Iraq] than is reported. The administration does a great job of managing the news." He claimed individual reporters have been "blacklisted" because the military wasn't happy with their stories while they were embedded. He also suggested many in the military don't want to see how awful it is in Iraq because they're wishful thinkers, they don't want to see a "doomed enterprise," and are "victims of their own propaganda."
(If you guessed that the Left was thrilled by Nordland's remarks, you'd be right. I found it as the top headline at Buzzflash.com, a seriously Bush-hating left-wing site.)
Jonah Goldberg at The Corner tipped us off to this story: The Boston Globe doesn't just favor "gay marriage," it's demanding it from gay employees who want "domestic partner" benefits. Jesse Noyes at the Boston Herald reported:
Memo to Boston Globe gay and lesbian Guild employees: Get married or lose your domestic partner benefits.
Globe staffers have been told that health and dental benefits for gay employees’ domestic partners are being discontinued. Gay couples who want to keep their benefits must marry by Jan. 1.
A memo sent to the Globe’s Boston Newspaper Guild members, and obtained by the Herald, states that Massachusetts gay Guild employees can extend their benefits to their partners only if they marry.
This weekend's print ads for the Al Gore global-warming-slide-show documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" explicitly appeals to liberals to vote for environmental extremism at the box office. Is this a movie ad, or a Greenpeace direct-mail letter? Judge for yourself. This prose appears on the image of a piece of paper tacked to a bulletin board (emphasis theirs):
An Inconvenient Truth' is already one of the top ten documentaries of all time.
It has a chance to become a phenomenon.
There are people in Washington hoping that never happens, so they can dismiss it as a fringe issue.
If you care... you can't let them.
You need to take your friends and family, and make them see it.
What is it about the liberal media that regularly confuses mass protests with public opinion? In Mexico, the vote has been certified, and conservative Felipe Calderon is the president-elect. But yesterday, leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador held a massive protest in Mexico City insisting he's the winner. The top of The Washington Post's front page Sunday carries a large photo of "Tens of thousands" of AMLO supporters, under the headline "Contender Alleges Mexico's Vote Was Rigged." Reporter Manuel Roig-Franzia began the story as if he was waving a leftist flag in the square:
Downtown Mexico City swelled Saturday with the accumulated frustration and rage of the poor, who were stoked into a sign-waving, fist-pumping frenzy by new fraud allegations that failed populist candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador hopes will overturn the results of Mexico's presidential election.
Friday's Washington Post put the feisty intra-party Democratic debate on Thursday night between Sen. Joe Lieberman and his ultraliberal opponent, Ned Lamont, on the front page. That's odd, considering the nearby New York Times put the story on A-19. But reporter Shailagh Murray never described Lamont (or his fervent supporters on the hard-left blogs like Daily Kos) as "liberal." In the story's last paragraph, she acknowledged it only as an opponent's questionable charge: "Lieberman has tried to depict him as a pawn of the left."
The Times story accurately pegged the current trend: "anti-war activists and liberal bloggers from across the nation have flocked to Mr. Lamont's aid in hopes of punishing Mr. Lieberman for his centrist politics." Well, accurate at least, until the centrist part: in the latest American Conservative Union voting scores for Congress, Lieberman has compiled scores of eight percent (2005) and zero percent (2004). His lifetime ACU is 17 -- not that "centrist." Murray's story began by merely linking Lamont to the "anti-war movement":
MRC intern Chadd Clark found that CNN had the same old pattern of centering the day's big state court decisions on "gay marriage" as a ruling for "proponents" first. This report aired Thursday in the 4 pm hour of "The Situation Room." Perhaps the newspapers were merely copying from the CNN stylebook. Or maybe it's the GLAAD stylebook.
John King: "Moving on, though. Proponents of gay marriage are reeling today from a one-two legal punch. Courts in Georgia and in New York State issued new rulings now having an impact on the culture wars. CNN's Allan Chernoff has more from New York. Hi, Allan."
Just as the New York Times firmly centered its coverage of so-called "gay marriage" decisions from state courts on the gay left's horror, The Washington Post report from Amy Goldstein also presented the issue first and foremost as a question of how "gay rights advocates" felt:
The highest courts of New York and Georgia ruled yesterday that same-sex couples are not entitled to marry, delivering a twin blow to gay rights advocates that leaves Massachusetts as the only state in which such unions are legal.
As usual, the story is illustrated by a photo of gay activists, as it almost always is. Gay media theorists used to protest that their problem was "invisibility," but now, it's the social conservative activists that almost never get their picture in the paper when the story is gay "civil rights." Perhaps the most classic Goldstein paragraph is the one where she describes the great ideological battle on this issue, between conservatives and liberals -- oops, make that advocates of "civil rights."
New York Times TV writer Alessandra Stanley reviewed George and Laura Bush's Thursday night interview on CNN's "Larry King Live" as a desperately needed chance for a softball interview. "The standoff with North Korea over its missile tests, the war in Iraq and ever-sliding ratings in the polls have given the president little reason to celebrate. Mr. King gave the president a chance to defend his policies without risk of interruption or follow-up."
This adjective, "ever-sliding," may be what Miss Stanley wishes and hopes for, but it could not be described as accurate. Bush fans would look silly to describe Bush's poll ratings as good. But they have been creeping upward since the killing of Iraqi al-Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The PollingReport.com summary shows that several polls have him up a bit since a low point in early May:
Disgraced former CBS anchorman Dan Rather resurfaced Wednesday night on CNN, where he was a guest on "Anderson Cooper 360." Cooper didn't apologize for calling dibs on some of Rather's "60 Minutes" real estate, but maybe the air time was a bit of a thank-you card. The first thing a viewer might notice is that Cooper let Rather speak for large chunks of time, more hesitant to jump in than....a horned frog crossing the highway, to speak in Ratherisms. Michelle Humphrey said it seemed like he was being indulgent because it was Grandpa's story time. Notice how long Rather is allowed for his answers about how North Korea's tight control can "eat on your mind."
There isn't really any outrageous liberal bias here in the exchange, unless you count any attempt to rehabilitate the man who ruined his career to make the less than earth-shattering charge that President Bush missed a National Guard flight physical in Alabama. A look at the transcript:
CBS "Early Show" host Harry Smith performed two interview segments on North Korea's failed missile test. While he showed noticeable restraint from the usual isn't-Bush-bumbling line of questioning, even showing concern at America's adversary here -- asking Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns "Is Kim Jong Il just nuts?" -- he didn't press former Clinton diplomat Bill Richardson on the Clinton administration's policy of appeasement and arms-control agreements that the North Koreans egregiously violated.
The Burns interview came first. In addition to the "just nuts" question (Burns demurred diplomatically, "let's just say he's unpredictable"), Smith asked: "The Chinese as recently as last week were reaching out to the North Koreans, saying please don't do this. They seem to do whatever they want. How do you deal with a country that is so willful and disregards the pleas of even its friends in the neighborhood?"
Ken Lay deserves outrage for his corrupt tenure at Enron, but it's fair to say there is more outrage on the left, as liberals tried desperately to connect Enron to Bush in the 2002 election cycle. In the Washington Post today, in a piece titled "Ken Lay's Last Evasion," Style section essayist Henry Allen channeled the rage that Lay cheated the world by dying with an overwrought revenge fantasy:
But now that he's died of a heart attack in the luxury of his Colorado getaway while awaiting sentencing for his crimes, none of his victims will be able to contemplate that he's locked away in a place that makes the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel look like Hawaii; that he might be spending long nights locked in a cell with a panting tattooed monster named Sumo, a man of strange and constant demands; and long days in the prison laundry or jute mill or license plate factory, gibbering with anguish as fire-eyed psychopaths stare at him for unblinking hours while they sharpen spoons into jailhouse stilettos.
Via Romenesko, we learn that syndicated sports columnist/humorist Norman Chad was decrying the unbearable whiteness of sports section editors, but he encapsulated it with a political wisecrack: "We're whiter than Newt Gingrich's Fourth of July barbecue." (The column ran in the Washington Post on Monday.)
Since this is an attempt at humor, it's doubtful that Chad is trying to be factual, as if he has actually witnessed a Gingrich barbecue. But this is an odd joke, considering Gingrich has long been very Jack-Kempian in his reaching out to black audiences, supporting a Martin Luther King holiday and sanctions against apartheid-era South Africa in the 1980s, for example. Then there's his endorsements of black Republican candidate Dylan Glenn for Congress in his home state of Georgia. Are the liberals running out of easy GOP "bigot" targets?
Someone at the Washington Post must be leaning their head out of an office door, shouting "We need more Milbank!" Sort of like the old "Saturday Night Live" skit about Blue Oyster Cult needing "more cowbell." So the Post's Sunday "Outlook" section had a new feature called the "Zeitgeist Checklist," which is pretty much a complete ripoff of Jon Alter's dopey "Conventional Wisdom Watch" feature in Newsweek. Most noticeable was the usual drama-queen readings about press criticism:
Homeland Security: It's open season (again) on the press, with Dick Cheney leading the firing squad and Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.)accusing the New York Times of treason for publishing information about how the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication(SWIFT) is helping to track terrorist finances. Never mind that much of the information had already been public; it's good politics to blame the media.