A follow-up on Howard Kurtz's profile of Keith Olbermann: in his weekly "Media Notes" online chat at washingtonpost.com, Kurtz tries to declare that he has no opinion on the question of Olbermann's ideological bias:
Washington, D.C. : Can you tell me what is the upside in Keith Olbermann denying he has an agenda? I mean, you didn't buy that line. Who would?
Howard Kurtz: I'm agnostic. It is true that he was on every night in 1998 dealing with the Clinton scandal. And even most opinionated anchors don't want to be seen as aligned with one party or another (although Sean Hannity talks openly about raising money for Republican candidates). The true test will come the next time there's a Democratic president.
I remember a conversation I had with a broadcast news executive many years ago.
"Doesn't the fact that 90 percent of your people are Democrats affect your work product?" I asked.
"Oh, no, no," he said. "Our people are professional. They have standards of objectivity and professionalism, so that their own views don't affect the news."
"So what you're saying," I said, "is that your work product would be identical if 90 percent of your people were Republicans."
He quickly replied, "No, then it would be biased."
I have been closely acquainted with newsroom cultures for more than 30 years, and I recognize the attitude. Only liberals can see the world clearly. Conservatives are prevented by their warped and ungenerous views from recognizing the world as it is.
Neela Banerjee’s Monday political memo, "The Abortion-Rights Side Invokes God, Too," certainly helps the pro-abortion lobby Planned Parenthood portray itself as just as religious as any pro-life organization.
"In any given week, if you walked into one of Washington's big corporate hotels early in the morning, you would find a community of the faithful, quite often conservative Christians, rallying the troops, offering solace and denouncing the opposition at a prayer breakfast.
"So you might be forgiven for thinking that such a group was in attendance on Friday in a ballroom of the Washington Hilton. People wearing clerical collars and small crucifixes were wedged at tables laden with muffins, bowing their heads in prayer. Seminarians were welcomed. Scripture was cited. But the name of the sponsor cast everything in a new light: the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. To its critics, Planned Parenthood is the godless super-merchant of abortion. To its supporters, it is the dependably secular defender of abortion rights. But at this breakfast, God was everywhere, easily invoked by believers of various stripes."
When a conservative book comes out, the author usually spends some time talking about the media. The NewsBusters Book Review will provide excerpts from these passages and/or interview authors to learn what they think of the media and explain what they wrote.
But today's is a liberal book, co-written by the founder of Daily Kos.
Although Daily Kos does not have much of a track record for electoral success, we are going to look at the book's media commentary.
It's surprising to learn that Ann Coulter admits conservatives now control the media and that Free Republic is a "web publication." It also should be news that "conservative talk radio stagnates" while Air America Radio flourishes.
After the 2004 election, liberals in blue Northeastern states talked secession and the possibility of joining Canada. Now Harpers Magazine is delving into innuendo with an article about the possibility of a coup d'etat on American soil.
Entitled "American Coup d'Etat: Military Thinkers Discuss the Unthinkable," military experts are asked about the plausibility of a coup carried out by the military. They all said a coup would not work because the American people could not be controlled merely by occupying Washington buildings.
But one wonders why Harpers is bringing up the issue in the first place. Underneath it is an article called "The Spirit of Disobedience: An Invitation to Resistance," which discusses the debate over whether America is a Christian nation or an Enlightenment nation.
This one wasn’t hard to predict: With the box office failure of newly released “erotic thriller” called “Basic Instinct 2,” Hollywood elites are blaming the slumping interest in such films on Conservatives and the recent return to Christian values rather than the poor quality of the movies. According to Reuters (hat tip to Drudge):
“Paul Verhoeven, director of the first ‘Basic Instinct’ (which scored $353 million worldwide) as well as the widely ridiculed ‘Showgirls’ (now regarded as something of a camp classic), attributes the genre's demise to the current American political climate.
"‘Anything that is erotic has been banned in the United States,’ said the Dutch native. ‘Look at the people at the top (of the government). We are living under a government that is constantly hammering out Christian values. And Christianity and sex have never been good friends.’"
Let me clue you in, Paul: People didn’t go to see “Showgirls” because it was a derivative piece of tripe with a bad script, bad acting, bad directing, and bad editing. Other than that, the film was absolutely fabulous. Regardless, another holier-than-though elitist that most readers have never heard of agreed with Verhoeven’s sentiments:
Robert Novak's column today focuses on NASA scientist James Hansen, and how the New York Times and CBS's "60 Minutes" have played up his charges of being "muzzled" -- as many political figures would love to be limited to speaking only in The New York Times and on "60 Minutes." For our purposes, the most interesting paragraph may be Novak's last one:
In concluding the Hansen segment on "60 Minutes," CBS correspondent Scott Pelley said: "For months, we've been trying to talk to the president's science adviser, but we were finally told he would never be available." White House communications director Nicolle Wallace told me: " '60 Minutes' never contacted the press office." Assuming that the network attempted to contact the science adviser and not the press office and that both statements are accurate, they resulted in a one-sided political presentation that ignored the real scientific debate.
Perhaps I was reading into things in light of the rampant speculation about Katie Couric's possibly imminent departure for the CBS Evening News anchor spot. But this veteran Today watcher sensed a distinct mood of nostalgia on the set this morning.
Katie Couric was back after a couple weeks vacation, and all the crew members went out of their way to remark on the reunion of the regular cast. Beyond that, there was something in the air as somber as Katie's black outfit, as if the cast sensed this might well be the last week they were together as a unit.
Lauer: "Haven't seen you for a couple of weeks. Good to have you back." The pair jokingly shook hands as if they were meeting for the first time.
Howard Kurtz profiled Keith Olbermann for his Monday "Media Notes" column in The Washington Post with the headline "A Gadfly With Buzz: MSNBC's Olbermann Exercising The Right." For his part, Keith showed his membership in the liberal media elite by beginning with the utterly fatuous claim of nonpartisanship: "The former sportscaster denies that he's pushing an ideological agenda, noting that he relentlessly covered the uproar over Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky in his first incarnation as an MSNBC anchor in 1998."
Kurtz isn't buying, either: "Of course, he was so sickened by the spectacle that he quit, complaining about the media's role in the tawdry process, though he now gives every indication of enjoying his anti-Bush program." (There's also the on-air content that displays an agenda, such as...comparing Ken Starr to Himmler.)
After NEWSWEEK ran a Periscope item claiming the U.S. military had flushed a Koran down a toilet, leading to rioting, Laura ordered: "I don't want NEWSWEEK around the house!"
Laura Bush became so disgusted with the media and their war against her husband that at one point, she told her public relations person Noelia Rodriguez she did not want to do any more media interviews. After about a month, she slowly resumed talking to the press.
A close friend of Laura's, Pamela Nelson, asks Laura how she's doing. Laura replies, "Well, it's the Kitty Kelly book and Dan Rather this week..."
“Real Time” host Bill Maher ended his show on Friday night attacking Christianity (hat tip to Crooks and Liars with video link to follow). He began by suggesting that Christianity has “taken over all three branches of government, country music, public schools, [and] the best sellers list.” He then suggested that Christians are “part of a dress-up cult that hates sex and worships magic.”
He continued: “The Christian right are now the party of paranoia.” His solution: “If you’re going to be that paranoid all the time, just get high.”
Chris Matthews welcomed conservative radio host Laura Ingraham – straight from her knockout victory over NBC’s David Gregory on the “Today” show a few weeks back – to his panel on the Sunday program bearing his name. Given how well Ingraham did against one liberal foe, NBC must have felt better about its chances with a panel of CBS’s Gloria Borger, TIME magazine’s Joe Klein, and the New Republic’s Andrew Sullivan. Unfortunately for NBC’s producers, they were wrong (partial video link to follow).
The conversation began with illegal immigration. After an introduction, with salient points made by Klein, Ingraham, and Sullivan, one could sense the coming imbroglio when Sullivan implied that the whole problem was caused by Republicans. Matthews asked: “Why is there such fear on the side of the people who really want action on illegal immigration?” Sullivan rather ineptly responded: “Because part of the real base, the Republican base, regard any attempt to integrate these 11 million illegals into a guest worker program or anything else as amnesty and therefore they go off the minute you even mention it, and that is Bush's problem.” Rather facile, don’t you think Andrew?
Borger entered the discussion: “I think Americans don’t want to reward people who break the law. But I think more and more Americans understand assimilation is part of what we are.”
Cliff May of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies explained that there's a media angle in the war on terrorism: fighting terrorist media channels.
Slowly and with difficulty, are we also learning to fight a modern war of ideas.
But a battle was won last week when the U.S. Treasury Department designated Hezbollah's al Manar satellite television operation as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist organization. By prohibiting transactions between U.S. entities and al Manar, and freezing any assets al Manar may have in the U.S., this designation gives the government the tools it needs to cripple al Manar's internationally broadcast incitements to terrorism.
Erica Jong, author of the books “Fear of Flying” and “Seducing the Demon,” was on HBO’s “Real Time” with Bill Maher Friday night. During the proceedings, Jong claimed that President Bush was aware of the pre-planning for 9/11, and intentionally did nothing to avert the attacks (hat tip to Ian Schwartz of Expose the Left with video link to follow). After Maher showed the famous picture of then White House chief of staff Andy Card telling the president that the nation had been attacked – a picture that Maher quipped “should be on the one dollar bill” – Jong said, “I account for the seven minutes by the fact that he wasn’t surprised, because he knew all about the planning for 9/11.”
Maher interjected incredulously, “Oh, come on. That’s ridiculous.” Now, this is an interesting moment on cable television – a Bush-hating guest on “Real Time” making an anti-Bush statement that Bill Maher doesn’t agree with. In fact, Maher was so opposed to this theory that he continued to admonish Jong: “That’s a scurrilous thing to say. I don’t like George Bush, but you’re telling me he knew the attack was going to happen?”
Powell's Books plans to carry the magazine in its West Burnside Street store as usual. Rich's Cigar Store downtown and some outlets of the national chain Barnes & Noble also plan to stock it.
"I never like giving any offense, but the truth is that many of the books I stock have material that will offend somebody with something," said Powell's owner Michael Powell, who said he disagrees with Borders' decision.
Middle Tennessee State University, more unknown than Final Four college George Mason University was two weeks ago (if you don't follow March Madness, they're still unknown), is going to host some famous journalists and one famous former vice president.
Several of America's most prominent journalists will address media ethics at a Middle Tennessee State University conference next week.
The conference, "Self-Inflicted Wounds — Fact and Fiction in Journalism: Fabrication, Plagiarism and Confidential Sources," runs Tuesday through Thursday. It will be hosted by the College of Mass Communication's John Seigenthaler Chair of Excellence in First Amendment Studies.
Washington Post reporter David Montgomery is firmly on the left. That's obvious today from his gushing profile of Harry Belafonte in the Sunday Style section. Some have told Harry to tone it down, but Montgomery writes: "But if anything, Belafonte is crazy like a fox, and his critics have forgotten that the radical calypso singer has always staked out political ground on the edge of what the mainstream was ready to handle. The edge keeps moving, and Belafonte keeps moving one step ahead of it, afflicting the comfortable..."
The headline is "Tally Mon Come, Name Belafonte: The Singer's Latest Hits Find an Enthusiastic Audience in Washington." He was in Washington Friday to receive an award from TransAfrica Forum (no label), which can be described easily as far left. Montgomery describes the far-left crowd gathered as "225 civil rights activists, foreign policy idealists, celebrities (Danny Glover) and ambassadors (Hugo Chavez's emissary from Venezuela) gives a hip-swaying ovation." They have come to hear "more of the stinging, controversial, jeremiad that Belafonte has been laying down this year, red hot like today's news." Montgomery adds:
In a week in which immigration has unquestionably been the big story, how did Newsweek choose to frame the issue? The national security implications of a porous border, perhaps? The impact on our economy of millions of illegals, some of whom work, some of whom are a drain on social services? Come on. We're talking the magazine whose most visible reporter is Eleanor Clift. Newsweek chose to focus on . . . the plight of illegal immigrants, with its cover blaring "Illegals Under Fire".
Consider that editors scrutinize every word on the cover of a national newsweekly for its implications and impact. They didn't choose "Under Fire" randomly. With its allusions to lethal force, and printed in red, Newsweek was sending a not-so-subliminal message.
Do you support rigorous measures to strengthen border security and tighten immigration controls? If so, you're probably a 'nativist' - read racist - or a rube, or very possibly both.
Don't believe me? Just ask Neal Gabler. Here's what he had to say on this evening's Fox News Watch:
"The conservative nativists, and maybe that's a redundancy, thought they had a winner here. What a great issue they have," he said sarcastically. "You can beat up on aliens and get all of those white folks for the 2006 election."
Conservative columnist Jim Pinkerton weighed in with two points of note:
"Bloggers like Mickey Kaus and Michelle Malkin have made the point that the MSM, especially the LA Times, hid the most inflammatory element of those pictures from their readers and viewers by not showing the profusion of Mexican flags and highlighting the relatively few American flags."
Edited out of the two-page opus of little ersatz Notable Quotables for April Fools Day were two entries satirizing Chris Matthews and his tendency to burp movie citations about every five minutes of "Hardball." Geoff Dickens, who is the official watcher of "Hardball," weaved real MSNBC sentences with imagined ones:
Matthews: "Howard, this President is trying to distract the public from the images they see every day in Iraq by faulting the media, the good guys! But, I mean, this reminds me of that old Groucho Marx gag: Who are you going to believe, me or your eyes? But, seriously, what does the President need to do to stop his slide in the polls before the elections?
Howard Fineman, Newsweek: "Chris, as the midterms approach, what Bush can't do is run as Tom Cruise any more, not run as Top Gun. That's not going to work any more, I think. He's trying to run as Jack Bauer on domestic security."
Rich Noyes suggested the other day that one reason Likud and the Israeli right wing was crushed at the polls was some old-fashioned liberal media bias. Perhaps. But my old friend Joel Rosenberg (best-selling fiction writer) blogs about his dinner table at the Radio and TV News Correspondents dinner, and how he explained the Israeli election returns. I thought: hmm, no wonder we haven't had a lot of reporting from Israel on American TV. Things are pretty good:
Ehud Olmert and his Kadima party did not win as big as they expected (29 seats when they were riding high in the mid-40s just two months ago). But they still won. Olmert will likely put together a left-wing coalition of somewhere around 65-70 seats. Every member will support his game-changing plan to give away the vast majority of the Biblical lands of Judea and Samaria to the terrorist government of Hamas. He has said he won't let them join if they don't.
The Israeli right got crushed. Likud dropped from 38 seats to just 12. Already efforts are underway to drive Bibi Netanyahu out of politics forever. Other nationalist and religious parties did better than expected. But together, the right has lost the initiative. Why?
Think two words: secure and exhausted.
Israelis feel more secure today than at any other time in their modern history. A former top official in Israeli military intelligence put it to me this way over breakfast at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem last June: Saddam is gone. Arafat is dead. They have peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan. The Syrian military has been driven out of Syria. The security fence and dramatically improved Israeli intelligence and police work have stopped 99% of the suicide bombings. The economy is surging. Tourism is surging. Life isn't perfect. But when has it ever been for the Jewish people. Right now, Israelis feel it's about as good as it gets.
Dan Gainor reports to me that the Norwegian paper Aftenposten noted that a "comedian" named Otto Jespersen took to his TV show to burn pages of the Old Testament, and riots did not ensue:
The burly, middle-aged Norwegian seems to have a thing for fires: He's perhaps best known for an American flag-burning stunt on national TV three years ago, to protest the US-led invasion of Iraq.
This week, with the help of the local fire brigade, Jespersen lit a bonfire in front of Ålesund's city hall. With cameras rolling for his TV show "Rikets Røst," Jespersen first started burning some Norwegian books. Then, with the willing cooperation of Ålesund Mayor Arve Tonning, he threw paper money on the flames.
Regular readers of this column know the delight that has been taken in skewering Ellen Ratner for her loopy liberalism, as here, here and here.
You can thus imagine my surprise when, on this morning's 'Long & the Short of It' segment on Fox & Friends Weekend, Ratner offered up some tough talk on immigration. Ratner's remarks were simpatico with the take of Jim Pinkerton, the Newsday and Tech Central columnist who represents the conservative side of the equation.
An aside: Pinkerton is one of the rare conservative commentators willing to roll up his sleeves on government reform. Have a look at his recent TCS column regarding a radical cabinet re-organization proposal by former GOP congressman Bob Walker that would shrink the number of cabinet departments from fifteen down to five.
Brian Stelter at TV Newser broke the story Friday that "Good Morning America Weekend executive producer John Green has been suspended for one month after his personal e-mails were leaked to the Drudge Report and Page Six, TVNewser has learned. Phyllis McGrady made the announcement at GMA's morning meeting today. A number of ABC News staffers are outraged that Green's personal messages have become a public embarrassment. Some have speculated that the messages were leaked by a disgruntled former employee."
Howard Kurtz picked up the story in Saturday's Washington Post:
ABC News suspended the executive producer of the weekend edition of "Good Morning America" yesterday over a pair of leaked e-mails in which he used inflammatory language to slam President Bush and Madeleine Albright.
A member of Democratic Underground sent Helen Thomas flowers, honoring her for "asking the President the questions all Americans want answered about Iraq!"
Thank you Ms. Thomas for bringing up the Project for a New American Century in the corporate media and for asking the President the questions all Americans want answered about Iraq! Thank you for always siding on the side of truth and asking for others to do the same! We've got your back! Thank you, Ms. Thomas.
A very tired and very cranky Al Franken appeared on the March 31 edition of the Today show. The segment, which aired at 7:12AM EST, saw Franken respond to a barb from fellow radio talk show host Michael Smerconish with this witty barb: "Screw you." Also, host Matt Lauer couldn’t find time to ask Franken about Air America’s dismal ratings or the "involuntary loan" that the radio network took from a children’s charity. He did, however, manage to note a happy event for the struggling state of liberal talk:
Lauer:"Al Franken is host of the Al Franken show on Air America radio, celebrating a second anniversary today, so congratulations."
A small-time member of Canada's parliament made headlines today by sending out and later retracting a column which called for jail time for reporters who "fabricate stories, or twist information and even falsely accuse citizens."
Colin Mayes, a Conservative from British Columbia, issued his remarks in a column sent out to newspapers in his district.
The Globe and Mail has a recap. Full text of the column is after the jump.
In a statement issued Friday, Mr. Mayes said he is retracting the comments "without reservation."
Mr. Mayes adds that he fully respects the freedom of the press and regrets making the earlier comments.
The column was e-mailed Thursday to nine small Okanagan papers, as well as the Vernon Daily Courier, by Wayne McGrath, Mr. Mayes's executive assistant.
"Maybe it is time that we hauled off in handcuffs reporters that fabricate stories, or twist information and even falsely accuse citizens," he writes.
The Courier recently decided not to publish the MP's regular columns.
On Wednesday, David Wylie, the paper's managing editor, published an editorial saying [Canada's new Conservative prime miniser J Harper's media policies were "mimicking the ploys of an authoritarian state ..."
In my latest article up at FreeMarketProject.org, I take a look at some movie reviews which praise Ice Age 2: The Meltdown for raising the concept of global warming to kids. You can find it here.
My colleague Geoff Dickens recorded Gene Shalit's similar take on NBC's Today show.
Doing some research for the story, I also found some far-left Canadian review which thought that the new cartoon feature was too conservative. For your amusement:
What could have been an interesting opportunity to educate kiddies about the sorry state of our planet and the dire need for all of us to preserve it is instead, incredibly, a fatalistic reaffirmation that, somehow, God will prevail.
On the March 27th edition of his Fox News syndicated program Geraldo At Large, Geraldo Rivera let loose on the Minutemen and other opponents of illegal immigration. During the final commentary portion of the show Rivera's slam included some violent imagery:
"And you can’t blame the illegals for worrying about what’s next. Will some politicians seeking the Minuteman vote order cops to shoot them wading across the Rio Grande River and for what? Wanting a job in a meat packing plant or an apple orchard?Do you know why those demonstrations over the weekend were so much larger than anyone including the organizers thought they’d be? It’s because many religious leaders feared that the various bills being considered today in Washington would make it a felony to feed, shelter or provide health care to illegals. They have an image of the migra busting at the churches and arresting the parish priest for running the free breakfast program. "