Squaring the Culture




"...and I will make justice the plumb line, and righteousness the level;
then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
and the waters will overflow the secret place."
Isaiah 28:17

06/23/2011 (8:40 am)

Righteous Indignation

What follows is 33 minutes plus change of crucial cultural history. This is an interview of Andrew Breitbart, founder of Big Government, Big Hollywood, Big Journalism, Big Peace, Breitbart.com, Breitbart.tv, and (I didn’t know this) co-founder of Huffington Post. Conducted by Peter Robinson of the Hoover Institute, it features Breitbart’s new book, Righteous Indignation: Excuse Me While I Save the World!

Breitbart understands the times. More than anybody, his organizations constitute front-line battalions in the ongoing American civil war, a war for the soul of America being fought through public communications media. Breitbart is one who clearly recognizes that we are at war, and correspondingly confronts Progressivism with the truth at every opportunity.

I recommend this interview as a half-hour well spent. Enjoy.

Now, if only we can get somebody to construct Big Education, to take on the monopoly that Progressives hold over the education of America’s children…

Hat tip for this content goes to Power Line Blog, that long-tenured gem of thoughtful conservatism featuring Scott Johnson, John Hinderaker, and now Steven Hayward (Paul Mirengoff left in January of this year after his employer complained about a politically-incorrect post.) I hope you’re still reading them, they’re still among the best.

12/29/2010 (12:04 pm)

PIPA is At It Again

For the past 7 years or so, conservatives have had to tolerate liberals, Progressives, and assorted pseudo-intellectuals informing them superciliously that it had been “proved” by “research” that Fox News viewers were badly misinformed about current issues. They were usually referring to a horribly-constructed bit of research produced by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland that examined responses to three questions about the run-up to the Iraq war. Somehow, to the left, this proved that Fox was misinforming its viewers about all subjects — and that’s leaving aside glaring concerns about the construction of the questions, and about the utter absence of any attempt to correlate private, personal opinions to particular news reports (I mentioned the report and its flaws briefly here.)

Well, they’re at it again. PIPA, which in the interim has recast itself as World Public Opinion.org, recently produced another amusing bit of research purporting to prove, using more current policy questions, that Fox News viewers are the most misinformed of all news viewers. The actual study can be read here, if you want a lesson in how not to perform genuine research.

The title is a masterpiece of studied neutrality: Misinformation and the 2010 Election. So far, so good. A lot of us have noted the role played by the press in keeping voters ill-informed. It’s a worthwhile topic for research. Funny, though, that they didn’t run this after the 2008 election; I guess these Objective Scholars® considered voting for Obama a well-informed choice, and considered that misinformation is only evident when voters elect Republicans. Examining the minds of Obama voters was left to conservative partisans like John Ziegler, who, in fact, did a much better job of demonstrating that the voters were misinformed than PIPA does here (and Obama voters were the most misinformed of all — but nobody was particularly well-informed). Of course, Ziegler used genuine polling organizations like Zogby and Wilson Research, and there was no disputing the factual nature of his questions. He also did not attempt to blame any particular network, which is a fool’s errand. PIPA, take note.

Why the focus on Fox News? The study introduces itself with a concern about the impact of “corporate funding” on elections in the wake of the Citizens United case, which I wrote about last February. This is a particular concern of Progressives, who went insane predicting a flood of corporate money devastating politics in America (which in fact never materialized,) but not a concern of anybody else. So we know from the start that the researchers are Progressives, and we all know how Progressives feel about Fox. This explains why PIPA is interested in a question like “Are Fox News viewers misinformed” rather than a more neutral question like, say, “Which news reports are more accurate?” Of course, they shrouded their focus on Fox in objective-sounding phrases, but the focus was plainly on Fox.

Be that as it may, the study is a laugh riot of methodological blunders.

In the first place, the study defines “truth” as “agreement with the public statements of a particular government agency.” For example, if you disagree with the Congressional Budget Office in their assessment of the effect of the stimulus, then you are, by this definition, misinformed. That example is particularly egregious: the CBO assessed the effect of the stimulus, not by examining actual results, but by running an economic model using the number of stimulus dollars as input, and applying Keynesian multipliers. In short, if you think the CBO’s model is not a good model, you are misinformed — by definition.

This is genuinely funny. Liberals fancy themselves to be the reservoir of intellectual resistance to the government in America. But as of today, liberals claim that if you disagree with the government, you are wrong, by simple definition. Big Brother knows best. Who knew they’d changed sides?

Next, several questions asked people to opine about what “most economists” think. The study defines “most economists” as “the economists who happen to work for the government agency we chose as our source.” No polling of economists was performed, nor were any such polls consulted. So we know before we start that the study’s “correct” answers to questions involving opinions about what “most economists” think are completely unreliable. They really have not the slightest idea what “most economists” think.

And what is it that people are asked about what these gods of economics think? That’s pretty interesting, too: they’re asked, among other things, whether more economists think the health care reform law will increase the deficit, more think it will reduce the deficit, or whether their views are evenly divided. Or, whether more economists think the economy is getting better or getting worse.

My reaction to that is “What kind of idiot decides where they stand by polling economists to find out which view has 60% support? Who the &@#! cares what ‘most economists’ think?” Why aren’t we examining the actual effects of such laws in other countries, or in various states where they’ve been attempted? Why not examine the history of predictions made by politicians advocating various spending programs (which almost invariably understate costs and overstate revenues?)

But no, to PIPA what matters is whether people know which way the wind was blowing among economists — meaning, of course, which way the particular economists were leaning who were working for the particular branch of the Obama administration they chose by whatever means. And they chose objectively, of course.

How very revealing that these Progressives think truth is determined by agreeing with people they consider important! One scales the heights of intellectual mountains by following the academic herd? Really?

I’m reminded of a wry comment about experts made by John Meier in his analysis of the life of Jesus, A Marginal Jew:

Nothing ages faster than relevance. The “cutting edge” of scholarship at any given moment often turns out to be the sharp cliff of Gerasa, off of which academic lemmings keep hurling themselves.

Choosing sides by polling experts is not always such a good idea.

But here is what I consider the crowning deficiency: the study purports to examine whether a news agency misinforms its viewers — without examining a single news report.

How does that work? The questions about what news source respondents viewed don’t sum to 100%, because most people view multiple sources of news — Fox, CBS, newspapers, various Internet sites, etc. The study does not even include most news purveyors, and makes no attempt to identify which of the various sources it does include was the source of the “misinformation.” Using this method it’s not possible to determine which, or whether any, news organization misinformed anybody.

Ultimately, all the study demonstrates is which set of voters was more likely to agree with the current administration’s talking points. For some reason, I don’t consider that a useful test of accuracy, nor does the failure to swallow ObamaCrap® fill me with foreboding about the future of the republic. Call me picky.

Nobody who knows the first thing about social science research can take this “study” seriously. It’s not a study, it’s a paid, partisan hit piece. The fact that so many liberals accept it uncritically and repeat it as fact, constitutes proof that they’re either not capable of critical thinking, or not willing to engage in it when the target is conservative. The fact that PIPA and other progressive-leaning think tanks continue to produce such transparently nonsensical “research”, constitutes proof that the manipulators of the liberal herd know how to move the cows.

02/21/2010 (11:27 pm)

Breitbart on New Media (Updated)

Andrew Breitbart began Big Hollywood in January of 2009, and Big Government not long afterward. He’s one of the most forceful voices in what is being called today the New Media, the largely Internet-based reaction to the bias and corruption of the now-failing mainstream press. Here he is speaking at CPAC over the weekend, explaining the demise of the Old Media and the rise of the New Media.

These people create the firewall by which we cannot inform our fellow citizen to be able to make decisions on how we should govern ourselves. This is how they control us. And we have finally figured it out. And the new media is the means by which we can actually not just start to govern ourselves and start telling horrific truths about our political peril and our financial peril, because the press didn’t report on these things, but we can also now change the equation, and we can begin to start changing the narratives.

He discusses at length the Giles/O’Keefe exposé on ACORN and the old media’s reaction to it, and how the supports for the Left’s worldview are now crumbling.

His sincerity is evident, and the clarity of his thinking even more so. Listen and gain hope. Ten minutes for each video.


UPDATE: Glen Reynolds over at Instapundit made this observation about Breitbart’s talk, which I think is correct:

You know, I was telling the Insta-wife last night that I thought Breitbart’s “despicable person” call-out of Zernike marked a sea change in responses to bogus charges of racism. I believe I was right.

He’s talking about the point in the first video, starting at around 6:07, where Breitbart reads the New York Times headline claiming that a CPAC speaker “bashes Obama, in racial tones,” and the opening sentences that end “using racial stereotypes.” Breitbart calls out Kate Zernike, the author of the article, saying “You’re a despicable human being.”

Believe it or not, I hate confrontation in person. However, I think Breitbart’s got the right idea: we need to make a point of saying that baseless charges of racism are morally unacceptable, every time we hear one.

It’s long past due that that sort of talk gets put into the category where it belongs. Leftists who do it are not morally superior, and need to be reminded that they’re not. The left’s certainty that conservatives are really closet racists is itself a form of bigotry, and it arises from a truly pathetic need for the individual to think him- or herself better than others. Their talk about “codes” (e.g., that conservatives talk in “code words” to mask their racism) is their frank admission that there exists no evidence that conservatives are racist — that the entire meme is fabricated out of nothing but the leftist’s fevered hatred.

02/01/2010 (10:12 am)

Ailes Schools Arianna

Prominent on the web today is this instance of “gotcha” played by Arianna Huffington at the expense of Roger Ailes, in which Huffington gets caught in her own trap by a well-prepared Ailes. Huffington was pretending to be serious when reciting one of the left’s favorite slurs, the silly imagination that when a conservative offers analysis of the danger posed by a leftist policy, it’s “inciting the nation” and engaging in “the politics of paranoia.” Of course, far more vicious assaults from the left are completely reasonable. Ailes deftly posits the comparison, leaving Arianna scrambling for lost legitimacy. Listen:

It’s got enough punch that Huffington Post today is featuring attempts to prove that Ailes was mistaken, focusing on a bit of hyperbole in one of Beck’s diatribes. Absent from their analysis is any mention of similar hyperbole regularly enjoyed by Huffington’s readers but aimed in the other direction.

That such hyperbole is common has been established long ago, and is hardly debatable. Media Research Center gathered a few instances together back in 2007: guests at Huffpo, largely well-known actors and politicians, calling the Vice President a “terrorist” and a “lying, thieving whore,” calling the President “human scum” and his followers “flag-sucking half-wits,” accusing Americans of “loving hate” and failing the test of humanity for buying Ann Coulter’s books. Camera.org (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America) produced a report last year documenting widespread anti-Semitism among Huffpo’s commenters and authors. And then, there’s the instance Ailes quoted regarding himself: San Francisco Examiner columnist Bill Mann saying Ailes had “a face like a clenched fist,” that Ailes has “done more to spread fear and hatred in this country than anyone since Joe McCarthy,” and that Fox News “is a tumor on the body politic.” Huffington, who hosts what is arguably the least fervid of leftist talk sites, is nonetheless hurling stones from a glass house when she accuses another commentator of “inciting Americans” with “politics of paranoia.”

Arianna’s spur-of-the-moment defense for this was that HuffPo does not employ the people who are saying such things. As is invariably the case when leftists attempt to draw distinctions to defend their rampaging hypocrisies, it’s a distinction without substance: it’s all vicious paranoia, and she publishes it. Apparently Ms. Huffington thinks that “politics of paranoia” is perfectly acceptable so long as one’s business model includes invited guests rather than paid employees. Fine: I’ll gladly go onto Fox for free and tell the world what Glen Beck is getting paid so handsomely to tell it. I’m sure that would satisfy Arianna.

What Huffington is doing is simply extending the left’s ongoing war against conservative media. The end result of it will be laws outlawing conservative talk if the left ever gets its way. But it’s “paranoia” of me to say so, right? Only leftist warnings against the outcomes of conservative policies are permitted. We have to silence Glen Beck. For the children. To save the planet. To protect civil discourse. Because leftists are the very apex of civil discourse. Arianna says so.

bushguillotine

01/27/2010 (9:12 am)

Fox, the Most Trusted News Source?

FoxWinnerThis is actually not a surprise, but the press will treat it like it is. And the fact that Fox came out on top is not the most relevant result from the survey, but the press is already treating it like it is — which indicates the bias of the press, oddly enough.

Public Policy Polling, identified by Wikipedia as a Democratic-party-affiliated polling firm, published the results of a poll yesterday regarding which news network is most trusted by registered voters, under the headline “Fox the Most Trusted Name in News?” The blog associated with the PPP headed their column “Fox Leads for Trust.”

Far more significant in the data, however, is the evidence that news in America has become polarized, that fewer than 50% of viewers trust the most trusted TV news source, that women trust mainstream TV news sources more than do men, and that distrust of news sources increases as the voter gets older.

Fox News was the only news source in the survey with net positive trust figures — more respondents trust their news than distrust it — with 49% who claim they trust it as a news source, to 37% who do not. Next best was CNN News, with 39% who trust it to 41% who do not. The other three major news networks, ABC, NBC, and CBS, polled with net negatives of between 9 and 15 percentage points.

Although the research itself appears to be objective, the leftward slant of the pollsters themselves appears in their public announcements. At the end of the official press release, we have Dean Debham, the President of PPP, offering us this assessment:

A generation ago you would have expected Americans to place their trust in the most neutral and unbiased conveyors of news…But the media landscape has really changed and now they’re turning more toward the outlets that tell them what they want to hear.

Or perhaps they formerly put their trust in biased sources, but some have begun to find less biased sources. Just a thought.

Tom Jenson, on the PPP blog, steers even further into the specious assessment lane, with this:

A generation ago Walter Cronkite was the most trusted man in the country because of his neutrality. Now people trust Fox the most precisely because of its lack of neutrality. It says a lot about where journalism is headed.

Um… where are the questions establishing that the viewers are looking for a lack of neutrality? Isn’t it plausible to Mr. Jenson that more people trust Fox specifically because they find it more neutral? And why doesn’t he consider that perception of neutrality accurate?

Claiming that Walter Cronkite was neutral kinda gives away the game. Yes, in the 1960s people considered Cronkite neutral, because people trusted that journalists strove for neutrality. However, his blatantly dishonest reporting of the Tet Offensive in 1968 is just one data point supporting today’s common perception that he was anything but neutral. That Jenson does not know this says more about Jenson than about anybody else.

PIPAThe left’s perception that Fox is horribly biased is just that — their perception, but it explains why leftists regard it as a surprise and a disgrace that Fox is the most trusted news source. In my experience, political leftists lack the ability to assess their own position as biased in any way, and resist to an incredible degree any suggestion that they lack objectivity.

There is, however, a well-established meme among leftists that Fox has been proved to be more biased than other sources, and that Fox viewers have been proved to be less well informed. This stems from a single, remarkably narrow bit of research conducted a year after the start of the Iraq war by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA). This survey basically asked three questions of respondents in a series of polls regarding the Iraq war: whether Iraq “played a role” in the 9/11 attacks, whether weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq, and how “the world” feels about the Iraq war. It doesn’t take a degree in statistics to realize that what is meant by “played a role” will be all over the map, as will be what is meant by “how the world feels.” The research was horribly constructed, and the sum of it was that Fox News viewers were less likely to conform to leftist talking points on those questions. This, the researchers regarded as “obvious misconceptions.” The most telling misconception I can see here is that some people regard this survey as objective science, and think that three, debatable questions on one topic is sufficient basis on which to dismiss an entire news organization forever.

A few quick observations about what’s really important in the data:

  • Even the most trusted TV news source was trusted by fewer than half of respondents.
  • Women tend to trust old-line network TV news a lot more than men do.
  • Distrust of TV news generally increases as voters age.
  • There’s a deep, partisan split between the left and the right, with the left trusting the mainstream sources a lot more and the right trusting Fox a lot more. However, more leftists distrust ABC, CBS, NBC, and CNN than rightists distrust Fox.
  • Young people, inexplicably, seem to have a significant preference for NBC News.
  • They didn’t ask about MSNBC. Even worse, they didn’t ask about Comedy Central; I’ll just bet Jon Stewart would have achieved a net positive trust ranking.

08/18/2009 (4:38 pm)

What the Diversity Czar Thinks

I have spent far too little time documenting the new “Czar” structure of the Obama administration. Better late than never, I suppose.

Czarring is really just appointing an administrator to oversee and coordinate a particular executive function. Many Presidents have one, some two or three, and most recently, George W. Bush appointed more than anyone before him, with something like 19 different “czars,” many of them ad hoc appointments for temporary matters (he had a Katrina Czar, and a Bird Flu Czar.) But the Obama administration has outdone them all, with the President having already appointed some 35 individuals to head new administrative teams reporting to the White House.

As near as I can determine, the practice is Constitutionally iffy. Article II, section 2, clause 2 seems to assume that Congress retains power to confirm Presidential appointments of minor officers in the Executive branch, and can only refrain if it does so explicitly. The same clause seems to imply that executive departments can only be established by acts of Congress, although I doubt that that provision has ever been enforced.

At any rate, the real entertainment associated with all these Executive underlings has been reading the ideas these folks have expressed prior to being appointed to the government. It appears that President Obama has taken to appointing whoever has “progressive” ideas of note and wants a chance to try them out. Some of these ideas have been… interesting.

The latest in the string of “Czar” appointments was the appointment of the Chief Diversity Officer at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Diversity Officer, you ask? Well, apparently the position has never existed before, but now President Obama has created it, and installed in it an attorney named Mark Lloyd, formerly Senior Fellow at the ultra-liberal think tank, the Center for American Progress. Mr. Lloyd has some… ahem… novel ideas about how the government can solve for everybody the horrendous problem the citizenry has been railing about forever, the absence of “progressive” voices in media. Yes, you heard that right.

You see, the fact that leftists utterly control every newsroom of every major television network in America other than Fox, that leftists control perhaps 90% of major market newpaper newsrooms, that leftists dominate scriptwriting and production in television and film, that leftists completely dominate popular music, and that there is practically no such thing as an artist who is not a leftist of some stripe, progressives like Lloyd have expressed outrage that in most radio markets, nearly all the partisan talk shows are conservative. It’s just. Not. Fair.

In a June 2007 paper entitled “The Structural Imbalance of Political Talk Radio,” Lloyd (with 9 others) observed that 91% of talk radio programming is conservative, and only 9% is “progressive.” This does not include government subsidized, mostly leftward-leaning public radio stations, which don’t count because… well, golly, they just don’t. Pay no attention to those government-paid men behind the curtain. The reason for the disparity is as follows:

Our conclusion is that the gap between conservative and progressive talk radio is the result of multiple structural problems in the U.S. regulatory system, particularly the complete breakdown of the public trustee concept of broadcast, the elimination of clear public interest requirements for broadcasting, and the relaxation of ownership rules including the requirement of local participation in management.

If you have your LeftSpeak Jargon Translator turned off, the above translates to “conservatives are talking because we have not officially shut them up yet.” You’ll notice, of course, that consumer demand is missing from the list of the causes of the disparity; it cannot be that there is a lot more conservative talk radio because the public is willing to pay for and listen to a lot more of it. Oh, no. The report does consider the argument that demand causes the disparity, but it dismisses it. It can’t be that, you see, because conservatives are not even half of the total market, but more than 90% of the shows are conservative (not counting NPR and the like.) What’s worse, in the few markets where a leftist talk show is performing well, there is only one such talk show, but there are as many as four conservative talk shows. It’s. Not. Fair. And of course, there’s no reason to consider how nicely the left’s taste for hearing its own talking points gets satisfied by movies, music, TV, the arts, mainstream newspapers, and network “news” programs (“60 Minutes? Middle-of-the-road, of course,) which would explain why leftists feel no urge to listen to radio for information or support. We have to consider radio in a vacuum. It’s the only fair way.

So how can the government solve this awful disparity that the clearly expressed taste of the public has created? How can the government force radio stations to air programming that is truly fair and balanced? Why, by threatening to remove stations’ broadcast licenses every three years if they don’t “serve the public interest” as defined by… well, by Progressives (shouldn’t the public interest be defined by, I dunno, the public?) And by limiting the size of the company that is permitted to control the radio station — because everybody knows that Big Corporations cannot run local radio stations that meet local demand.

New Diversity Czar Lloyd also wrote some ideas in a book entitled Prologue to a Farce in 2006. I’ve not read the book (apparently, very few have), but blurbs suggest that it claims that the fact that communications are carried out by Evil Corporations® means that people cannot find out what they need to find out for a free society. Consequently, Good Progressives® have to correct the Evil produced by these Evil Corporations®, so people get to hear what they genuinely want to hear, instead of what they pay to hear by supporting advertisers. See how easy it is?

In order to tame these Evil Corporations®, apparently Lloyd suggests that the FCC levy a fine on corporate broadcasters equal to — wait for it — equal to their entire operating expenditures. The proceeds would go to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (ok, now public broadcasting counts. Because… um… well, it just does.) And of course, no Big Corporate Broadcaster is going to exit the radio business because they’re being forced to double their expenditures to support their competitors. Big Corporations have unlimited funds, and do not really need to earn a profit. It’s in the public interest. They’ll surely see their responsibility.

Land of the free. Home of the brave.

Listen to Glen Beck discussing the ideas from the book with Seton Motley from the Media Research Center, and brace yourself for American Liberty, Progressive Style. For darkhorse’s sake, though, let’s remember that Czar Lloyd has not actually proposed these ideas as FCC regulations yet, so it constitutes Obama Derangement to suggest that he might consider doing what he’s advocated at some future time. There is no cause to be concerned. All is well. All is well.

Everybody has written about this one: Michelle Malkin, Bobby Eberle, Newsbusters, CNS News. Hat tip goes to Eberle and GOPUSA for the Beck clip.

07/31/2009 (12:41 pm)

Entitlement Culture Gets Its 60 Minutes of Fame

In a passionate speech before the Aspen Institute, bastion of secular humanism and favorite target of Trilateral-Commission-conspiracy-hounds, former CBS anchorman Dan Rather evoked the heart and soul of the American entitlement culture by calling for a Presidential commission to “save the press.” At stake, warned Rather, is the very survival of American democracy.

“I personally encourage the president to establish a White House commission on public media,” the legendary newsman said.

Such a commission on media reform, Rather said, ought to make recommendations on saving journalism jobs and creating new business models to keep news organizations alive.

At stake, he argued, is the very survival of American democracy.

“A truly free and independent press is the red beating heart of democracy and freedom,” Rather said in an interview yesterday afternoon. “This is not something just for journalists to be concerned about, and the loss of jobs and the loss of newspapers, and the diminution of the American press’ traditional role of being the watchdog on power. This is something every citizen should be concerned about.”

Wall. Forehead. Pound.

It apparently did not occur to the venerable Mr. Rather that the market for news is already accomplishing exactly what he’s calling for, without the White House’s help. New sources, new business models, and new media are arising every year, apparently faster than anything with which the old fossil can keep up. It also, apparently, did not occur to him that he of the falsified National Guard memo personifies one of the reasons the traditional news media are faltering.

7_29_danrather_hrI recall watching an exposé of Oral Roberts on 60 Minutes back in the 1980s. At the end of the segment, they ran a video of Oral Roberts’ brother saying simply but emphatically, “Oral Roberts never healed anyone.” From the tone of the piece and the placement of the clip, it was clear that they were supporting the notion that Roberts was a fraud. I discovered in a Christian journal about 2 weeks later that what Roberts’ brother had actually told them in the interview was, “Oral Roberts never healed anybody; God healed all those people.” They ripped a theological distinction clear out of its context and used it to slander the man. It doesn’t matter whether you think Roberts was a legitimate minister or not; there’s no way they did not know they were distorting the meaning of that interview. It was not the first time I’d noted something that sounded wrong from the 60 Minutes gang, but it was the last I would experience personally; I never watched the show again, and I never trusted a word I heard from it.

There’s a lesson for you, Dan. Pay attention. It only takes one outright lie to lose an audience.

It’s a bit of a toss-up, whether traditional news is failing because of widespread perception of bias, or because of the proliferation of new, more accessible sources of information. Both are in the mix, clearly. All media outlets are feeling the pressure to expand into new avenues; who has time to read the paper while rushing out of the house, or wants to have to sit down at precisely 5:30 PM in order to find out what’s happening in the world? Anytime I like, “drudg…” on the keyboard gets me the Drudge Report headlines — and he’s never had to retract a story, not even once. On the other hand, the rise of conservative talk radio and the dominance of somewhat-right-of-center Fox News over traditional-but-clearly-left-of-center news sources like ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, and MSNBC indicate that a large part of the exodus is pent-up demand for news and commentary with a different slant from the one that has dominated news media at least since the advent of television.

I guess we just got tired of the sort of thing that Rather produced just before he was hastily bundled out the revolving door of the CBS building: a “news” report, timed precisely and deliberately to counteract the post-convention “bounce” of a Republican candidate for President, purporting to prove that 30 years ago, the candidate had deliberately avoided military service with the help of his commanding officer — based on a document that was uncorroborated and turns out to have been forged. Of course, Rather produced no comparably-timed report aimed at the Democratic candidate, despite a top-of-the-best-seller-list exposé delivering the ammunition on a platter. God, I miss all that protection of democracy.

exaspbobWhat struck me as truly pathetic was that Rather, in his desperation for something, anything, to rescue the vital but beleaguered traditional press from obscure ruin, calls on… President Obama? If anything illustrates the pervasiveness of infantile thinking in the American left, this has got to be it. “Oh, woe!” cries the crusty but respected newsman. “Our industry faces disaster! Help me, Obi-wan Obama. You’re my only hope.” My first reaction was one that every son needs to hear from his father at some point: if “somebody” ought to do something, maybe that somebody should be you. Dan, if you want somebody to figure out new business models for the news industry, could it be that you ought to sit down with some of your contacts and come up with a few ideas yourself? Why the hell are you, a grown man, running to Papa? And why is that your Papa, a guy who’s never earned a dime from a productive enterprise in his entire, narcissism-driven life?

Of course, we don’t have to get philosophical or esoteric to discover flaws in Rather’s reaction. Perhaps the most telling response came from the reader of the Aspen Times who observed,

He’s looking for the government to help the press watch the government? Does this sound crazy to anyone else?

The swan song of the traditional press was the repulsive fawning over candidate Obama. He’s the last person in the world who needs to be consulted on how to resurrect the deceased news industry.

On the other hand, few things will help the news industry recover its credibility faster than for certain, untrustworthy newsmen to vanish from the scene. I would rather it be sooner than later.

05/19/2009 (10:28 am)

News Flash: Times Spikes Story to Save Obama Campaign…

…and dog bites man.

I can’t imagine anybody on the right expressing the least bit of surprise over the story that came up again over the weekend, confirming that the New York Times deliberately spiked a story detailing possibly illegal connections between the Obama campaign and ACORN. It seems that an informant to the Times testified before a House Judiciary subcommittee that the Obama campaign printed a list of maxed-out donors and sent it to ACORN so they could ply them for donations for voter registration drives; it seems that the Times reporter knew about the lists but was told by her editors not to publish the story, allegedly remarking that “it was a game-changer.” After 30 years of watching newspapers routinely ply leftist talking points as though they were news and acting in all ways as the propaganda wing of the Democratic party, hearing that the Times would pocket a story that might harm their beloved Obama’s candidacy is about as exciting as a bowl of corn flakes.

I can imagine Democrats expressing nothing but disdain that anybody could possibly question the veracity of the Corporate-America-owned New York Times (I even think some of them might use a sentence like that one, which contains an obvious contradiction). That’s because they’re so used to pretending that the news is either neutral or slanted to the right that they can no longer detect their own dissembling. That the news is completely friendly to the Democrats (apart from Fox) is no longer seriously debatable.

The story is actually oldish, reaching print in Philadelphia back at the end of March. Gateway Pundit reported on it back then, along with some other blogs. This weekend, Clark Hoyt, the Times’ Public Editor wrote in a weekend editorial that upon investigation, the story had actually been killed because none of their leads had panned out. John Hinderaker at Power Line takes this editorial apart, correctly noting that the facts in the editorial grant all the accusations and do nothing to refute them. In short, says Hinderaker, the Times is guilty of what Hoyt himself calls “about the most damning allegation that can be made against a news organization.” The American Spectator piles on with shrewd analysis of Times reporter Stephanie Strom’s series of articles about ACORN based on this same informant’s testimony (the testimony that suddenly “didn’t pan out” when it promised to embarrass the Obama campaign,) and Gateway Pundit follows up its own reporting on the matter.

The take from the 2008 presidential campaign has been that calling the national press corps “the propaganda wing of the Democratic National Committee” is not hyperbole, but operative fact. Welcome to the Democrats’ Brave New World.

03/06/2009 (3:52 pm)

The Durbin Amendment: Smart Activism or Grim Hysteria? (Updated)

This morning I sipped my wake-up coffee to the sound of Brent Bozell’s frantic plea for activism after I found a link to the following video in my in box. Listen:

Bozell, along with Sen. Jim Inhofe (R, OK,) Bobby Eberle at GOPUSA, and a number of other Republican activists, is concerned about an amendment offered by Sen. Dick Durbin (D, IL) passed by the Senate a few days ago (it was an amendment to the DC Voting Rights Act, but that’s incidental) calling on the FCC to “encourage and promote diversity in communication media ownership and to ensure that broadcast station licenses are used in the public interest.” This was passed on a straight party-line vote, 57 – 41, about an hour after Sen Jim DeMint’s (R, SC) measure banning the Fairness Doctrine was passed by a huge margin.

Like them, I am concerned about the Durbin Amendment, and I encourage participation in their activism plans. However, I also think it’s important to understand the issues that are being raised.

The Democrats have been concerned about changes in FCC regulations during the Bush years that removed restrictions on station and bandwidth license ownership in local markets. For example, before 2003, a single company was not permitted to own more than 35% of the media in a given local market (in 1996 it was 25%). The Bush FCC raised that limit to 45%, and changed the way it was figured to include TV channels, magazines, newspapers, cable, and Internet services. Also beginning in 2003, the FCC permitted a single company to own a broadcast station (TV or radio) and a newspaper in the same market, which had never been permitted before. The new rules permitted cross-ownership at levels varying by the number of broadcast media stations in the local market, but retained controls to prevent any one company from completely dominating. Limits on ownership based on the FCC’s interpretation of what was “in the public interest” were also removed (see here and here for details.)

Clearly, the Democrats want these changes reversed. They want, instead, local companies to control each local market. Their thinking on the matter seems to be dominated by Herman and Chomsky’s Propaganda Model of media bias, which asserts that the fact that media companies are dominated by large conglomerates creates a bias in the news to favor the owners of the conglomerates, who are, naturally, all conservatives. exaspbobThe theory is too silly to warrant serious rebuttal; the claim that the 50,000 stockholders of General Electric (I’m just guessing at the number) could somehow collectively influence the content of a news program in a division that generates less than 10% of the company’s revenue, let alone the claim that they’d even want to, let alone the claim that they’re all conservatives by virtue of the fact that GE is a corporation, could only be taken seriously by somebody who has not the slightest clue how businesses really work. But Chomsky, ever the good Marxist, not only offers his predictably anti-corporation theory with a straight face, but offers with it the predictable announcement that there’s no debate about the thesis. The debate is over! (Does this sound familiar?) “I would hazard a guess that the Propaganda Model is one of the best-confirmed theses in the social sciences. There has been no serious counter-discussion of it at all, actually, that I’m aware of,” asserts Chomsky. (Snort.) And Democrats believe this crap.

In order not to sound equally silly, though, we should recall that what Sen. Durbin is talking about, when he defends his amendment, is limits that actually existed here in the US until 2003 (some of them until 1996,) and that reinstating those limits might not be the end of free speech as we know it. I’m sure the Obamatrons would like more stringent controls, but I’m not sure Durbin has that in mind, and in either case, it pays for us to make our case precisely.

Make no mistake: it’s a dangerous amendment, and needs to be defeated. As Sen. Inhofe points out in his press release, the real problem is that it’s so vague.

What, I ask, does “encourage and promote diversity in communication media ownership” even mean? I certainly can’t tell you what it means, and the legislation offers no words of clarification or specificity. If I were an FCC commissioner, I wouldn’t know what to do with this language, and in any other line of work I’d send it directly back with a little note attached asking to please be more specific. But federal agencies love this kind of language because it gives them greater leeway to interpret it however they like and impose their will upon the industry that they regulate. And my democratic colleagues who promoted this amendment like this type of language because it (1) means that they don’t have to spend the time drafting quality legislation aimed at solving a specific problem, and (2) means that they can disavow their true intention of having greater government regulation of the airwaves. This legislation is so incredibly vague and so potentially far-reaching that I can’t say with any certainty what the end result will be.

The Durbin Amendment, as it exists today, would establish at the FCC complete discretion to revoke broadcast licenses “in the public interest,” however the FCC panel decides to define that.

The Democrats’ concern over large media holding companies owning lots of radio stations is the usual Democratic Party shibboleth: it’s a contrived concern, manufactured as an issue specifically to permit them the appearance of intellectual probity while in fact they’re just complaining that Rush Limbaugh is too popular. Recent opinion suggests that it was the rise in broadcast syndication, and not the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine, that gave rise to Limbaugh’s success. They’d love to shut him up. So, they invent an issue that sounds like an issue of populism and fairness, but actually specifically targets the very thing — national syndication — that makes a Rush Limbaugh possible.

National syndication creates no threat to market diversity at all. The sort of concentration that would genuinely endanger diversity of news sources would be monopoly control of a single, local market, not a broad availability of a national presence. The mere fact that Clear Channel owns 1,200 radio stations nationwide only means that people interested in their products will get a consistent product wherever they are, instead of a different conservative talk show in every market. Of course, it also means that Rush Limbaugh has a lot of influence; and since that’s the target, that’s what the Democrats have concocted an argument to address.

It’s frankly ridiculous to claim a lack of media diversity in today’s market. Whereas diversity was a real problem in 1960, with three major television networks and only one or two major newspapers in most large, urban centers, today the Internet, wireless communication, and cable TV have created a whole new world of news dissemination. In today’s market, only about 10% get their news primarily from a newspaper, and consumers have so many choices that it makes the head swim. Sure, I can hear Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham, or Sean Hannity just about anywhere; then again, if I don’t like what they’re saying, I can browse Huffington Post, read Maureen Dowd, watch Keith Olbermann, or punch the channel over to All Things Considered. Concentration in today’s market cannot be segmented by media type, since we all have access to an astonishing variety of news sources.

Conservative pundits have fun claiming that Air American has failed to compete with Limbaugh because… um… Air America sucks, but that’s not really the reason. Air America faces market saturation; there’s no market for liberal talk radio because liberals entirely have their needs met already by ordinary news broadcasts, from NPR, the New York Times, ABC News, and so forth. Conservative talk radio gained traction because one could not hear a conservative point of view anywhere else at the time. The reason Democrats would like to shut up Mr. Limbaugh is not that Democrats lack an advocate, but because, at the base of things, liberals simply can’t brook any competing voices at all. That’s why we’re having this discussion. Remember this, from the campaign last October?

fairnessdoctrine

By all means, sign Bozell’s petition, and call your Senators. The Durbin Amendment is a turkey, and needs to get beheaded, stuffed, and cooked. However, make sure when you do that you’re discussing the matter intelligently, and not just sounding alarmist over the Stalinist intentions of the Obama Administration. Those intentions exist, but we’re only going to have a few opportunities to say so in public before the public tires of the warning. Save it for something where the claim can’t be dismissed easily by referring to rules that existed a mere 6 years ago.


UPDATE: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is now touting the Durbin Amendment through the House. This is the Democrat “Hush Rush” strategy, alright.

10/07/2008 (9:39 am)

Normalization is Nigh

This is useful background information, and 17 minutes well worth spending. This interview is more than 20 years old, but the Soviet defector in the interview describes tactics that appear still to be in play in American society. Understanding these tactics is especially vital in these days of Obama Joy and crises being used as a lever to nationalize huge portions of the economy.

I cannot vouch for the individual in the video, a defector named Yuri Bezmenov who claims to have a big-picture overview of KGB strategy, having been trained by them to work subversively as a journalist in the 1960s. He sounds authentically Russian by his attitudes, accent, and figures of speech, and he seems to be describing accurately a set of strategies that work, but I can find very little information about him online.

The interview was recorded in 1985, during the closing days of the Cold War. It was the product of a filmmaker named G. Edward Griffin, who is arguably a nut case, and came to us by way of the George Wallace campaign. I wouldn’t bother, except it’s not Griffin who’s talking most of the time; Griffin’s role was to find and feature Bezmenov, and I happen to agree that he’s worth hearing out.

If Bezmenov is to be believed, the level of infiltration into American media and education by active KGB operations is astonishing; indeed, Bezmenov says it was astonishing to him. Lots of people will not believe him, which creates a tricky circularity: if he’s telling the truth, the testimonials of guys like Bezmenov get reviled because of activism by guys like Bezmenov. I can provide independent verification only from two sources. First, you can read this review by Rob Hafernik at Roborant; skip over his unbelievably long analysis of one Look Magazine issue, the sum of it is that Bezmenov spoke truly about it. Also, Paul Weyrich noted a couple of years ago a comment by one of Boris Yeltsin’s officials that the KGB’s plants in American media were still there long after the Cold War ended, a comment which I featured in an early blog article in 2006. These make Bezmenov seem believable but don’t fully corroborate his story.

Toward the end, Bezmenov notes that the enemy is not the Soviet Union, but World Socialism. He was correct about this even at the time, and doubly so today. Anybody who thinks Socialism simply vanished when the Soviet Union folded has not thought things through. If you’re curious to know what did happen to all the socialists, the book to read is David Horowitz’s Unholy Alliance. The plan for the advance of World Socialism continues as before, lacking only the official Soviet state sponsorship it once enjoyed.

The role of the American Left is particularly worth noting here. I’ve been saying for years that most of them are dupes, and have no idea what they’re serving. Bezmenov notes that the historical record proves that they’ll mostly be taken out and shot once the government is under the sway of normalized socialism.

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