Thursday, August 15, 2002


Spinsanity’s criticism of the tactics and rhetoric used by Media Whores Online has inspired a healthy debate on Atrios’s blog.

Frankly, I’m on MWO’s side here. Spinsanity seems to imply that liberals should counter the wild misrepresentations, gross distortions and outright lies of the GOP Smear Machine™ and its lackeys in the so-called “liberal media” by being nice little boys and girls. Here’s a snippet of Brendan Nyhan’s argument from Spinsanity:

As they openly admit, MWO uses the worst tactics of its opponents: crude ad hominem attacks on the media, all-encompassing good guy/bad guy ideological dichotomies and inflammatory rhetorical attacks linking conservatives to dictatorship, Nazis, radical Islam and al Qaeda terrorists. This is simply not acceptable and the site's high-profile backers are wrong to indulge it; if MWO continues to gain strength, it will pull us further into the abyss of abusive and irrational rhetoric.

Sorry, Mr. Nyhan. The Repugs declared all-out propaganda war on liberals two decades ago, and you want us to be pacifists.

What Spinsanity proposes is that liberals use the Michael Dukakis approach to dealing with the GOP Smear Machine™ and their media lackeys: just stand there and rationally talk about the issues as the ReTHUGs smear you, and smear you, and smear you, and smear you, and smear you some more, and all the while you’re telling yourself that the American people will never buy the smears.

Been there, done that, lost 40 states.

Rationally talking about the issues doesn’t work if both sides don’t do it. The ReTHUGs have repeatedly demonstrated that they will sink to any level, slither through any gutter, repeatedly scream out any Big Lie on talk radio and cable TV, and most of all, smear and smear and smear and smear some more. And when the Dems put on their pink tutus and play nicey-nice, it only encourages the GOP Smear Machine™, because no one’s fighting back.

Yes, MWO does go over the top, but they apparently have standards as well, as Mr. Nyhan acknowledges:

In all fairness, MWO does get some things right, such as helping to debunk apparently incorrect stories claiming President Clinton was in talks to do a daytime talk show or the myth that Ken Lay slept in the Lincoln Bedroom during the Clinton administration (we wrote about the latter extensively). They also make a relatively small number of outright factual errors relative to many of the pundits we write about, though I caught them in one recently.

Now, compare this record to that of the media whores, who were repeatedly caught during the 2000 election doing things like wildly misrepresenting and lying about things President Gore had said, in order to smear him as a liar. (And all the while, they ignored a multitude of lies from the Shrub, particularly on economic issues related to his proposed tax cut.) Or compare it to typical right-wing propagandists like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. Based on my listening to Rush, I’d guess that Rush gets more facts wrong in a typical 15-minute segment than MWO has gotten wrong during the year and a half or so it’s been on the net.

That said, I hold liberal sites like MWO to a much higher standard than the GOP Smear Machine™ and its wholly owned subsidiaries in the mainstream media and talk radio. I expect Limbaugh and Hannity to lie and misrepresent anything and everything about liberals. I expect Katherine Seelye of the New York Times and Ceci Connolly of the Washington Post to misrepresent anything President Gore says. I expect Newsweek’s Howard Fineman and the New York Times’ Frank Bruni to shill unashamedly and dishonestly for The Squatter in President Gore’s House. Limbaugh and Hannity are GOP propagandists and Seelye, Connolly, Fineman, and Bruni are personal presstitutes for the GOP.

I expect more from MWO. I expect accuracy and I expect fairness – and I expect honesty. For example, I do not want to find out later on that MWO hid or misrepresented exculpatory facts. Personally, I was disappointed by MWO’s Ohio State story, which was cited by Spinsanity and turned out to be wrong. They obviously jumped at the bit much too quickly. Overall, however, MWO’s accuracy, fairness and honesty far outshine the mainstream media and, even more so, right-wing talk shows or web sites.

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