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.

Sunday, August 11, 2002

Looks Like President Gore Is Scaring the Presstitutes

In Saturday's New York Times, Bill Keller penned a really nasty piece of work, managing to squeeze practically every tired Gore-bashing cliché into a 1500-word column. Here's a sample:

This isn't about Al Gore's inner peace. And it isn't a grudge match. The last thing we need now is a wallow in the past — which a Gore campaign is almost certain to entail, dragging around as he does the whole sorry afterbirth of Florida, the Clinton mischief, his own self-reinventions. This is about whom we want to lead the country through a perilous period. Mr. Gore disqualified himself by not having the confidence of his own convictions — to the point where we wondered if he had any convictions. Surely two prerequisites for a president are a confident sense of direction and the ability to inspire people to go there.

I got kinda ticked off at this, maybe partly because it follows by two days Faux News's attempt to smear President Gore and First Lady Tipper Gore with a phony story about Bruce Springsteen tickets. So I wrote Mr. Keller a letter:

Mr. Keller,

Either you're ignorant of Florida election law or you're just another dishonest, unethical Gore-bashing "journalist."

You state:

"Mr. Gore never bothered to demand that statewide recount, because he preferred the cynical alternative of recounting only the Democratic counties. Kind of hoist by his own petard, wouldn't you say?"

There is no real mechanism in Florida law to demand a statewide recount -- and only 2 ways to get one:

1. A laborious process involving asking for 67 separate county recounts. After the requests, which must be made within 72 hours of Election Day, each county election board has to vote on whether to do a test recount of selected precincts. If they agree to the test recount, then once it's finished, the county election board must vote on whether the results of the test justify doing a full recount of the county. Obviously, such a process would involve an incredible amount of money and manpower for the requesting candidate, and because of the special deadlines involving the Electoral College, time was an important factor as well. The Gore campaign chose the four counties based on things like the percentage of undervotes and overvotes, not because they were Democratic counties. In fact, the Gore campaign would've surely requested a recount in Republican Duval County -- and they are on record as saying they would've done so -- had they not been lied to by a Republican election official about the percentage of spoiled ballots there.

2. If both candidates agreed to a statewide recount, the Florida courts could've rubber-stamped the idea. I believe this is what happened in a very close 1988 Senate race. Of course, there was no way the Bush family would've ever agreed to a statewide recount.

Secondly, you state:

"The last thing we need now is a wallow in the past — which a Gore campaign is almost certain to entail, dragging around as he does the whole sorry afterbirth of Florida, the Clinton mischief, his own self-reinventions. This is about whom we want to lead the country through a perilous period."

Did your masters at the ReTHUGlican National Committee and the Bush Crime Family dictate that piece of lying propaganda to you, or did you think it up all by yourself? It's BS like that that has forced me to the conclusion that the honest journalists in this country can be counted on two hands -- and the overwhelming majority of them don't work for the mainstream media.

During the 2000 election, I watched as "journalists" like the NY Times' own Katherine Seelye repeatedly got caught misrepresenting, distorting, and outright lying -- by high school kids, in one instance -- about things President Gore said, in order to smear him as a liar. Meanwhile, the Shrub got away with lie, after lie, after lie, after bald-faced lie, and the only person in the mainstream media who called that pathological liar on his lies was your colleague, Paul Krugman. Maybe the fact that Mr. Krugman isn't a journalist, but rather an economist, has something to do with the fact that he's practically the only honest person left in the mainstream media.

And many of us are very well aware that President Gore isn't the real problem. The real problem is a media that is a fully owned subsidiary of the GOP Smear Machine. I have no doubt, for example, that if Bill Bradley had actually gotten the Democratic nomination, his former champions in the media would've viciously turned on him in a New York minute. Just as they would surely turn on and smear John Kerry, John Edwards, Howard Dean or whoever else the Democrats might nominate, all the while giving a free pass on everything and anything to The Squatter Illegitimately Residing in President Gore's House.

No matter who the Democrats nominate for President, the Beltway Blowhards in the media will regurgitate the blast faxes they receive from the ReTHUGlicans and put their own bylines on them. If Jesus Christ became the Democratic nominee, we'd see screaming headlines like "JESUS ENGAGED IN KINKY FOOT AFFAIR WITH PROSTITUTE, SOURCES SAY!" or "JESUS TURNED CANA WEDDING INTO BOOZEFEST, SAY WITNESSES!" And we'd hear talking heads and self-righteous pundits bloviating about how Jesus keeps reinventing himself: "One minute Jesus says he's a man of peace, and then the next minute he's throwing money-changers out of the temple!!! Which Jesus is the real Jesus? Sounds to me like Jesus himself doesn't know who he is."

Thank you for reinforcing my belief that "journalists" are lower than lawyers, lower than used car salesmen.

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