Wednesday :: Apr 13, 2005

How the Liberal Media Myth is Created - Part 14


by eriposte

This is a continuation of a series on how the "liberal media" myth is created. Previous installments covered myth-creation using "tone" of media coverage (Part 1), "catch-phrases" like 'right-wing extremist' v. 'left-wing extremist' (Part 2), "newspaper headlines" (Part 3), "topics" covered (Part 4), "think-tank" citations (Part 5), journalist ideology or voting preferences (Part 6), public opinion polls on media bias (Part 7), obvious, unintentional errors in news reports (Part 8), [the critic's] ignorance (Part 9), opinions to distort straight news (Part 10), superficial fact checking (Part 11), no fact checking (Part 12), and rank hypocrisy (Part 13). This part covers attempts to hint at or invent liberal media bias using outright fabrications, lies or misleading statements.

Considering that numerous conservative media icons have had their wealthy, mainstream-media(MSM)-enabled careers made for them despite (or is it "because of") their pathological lying or fraud (not just about the "liberal media"), the very fact that the most prominent of them continue(d) to get positive coverage from the MSM is indicative not of a "liberal media" environment but the opposite.

Let's start with Bernard Goldberg once again, thanks to Mr. Somerby:

Who is the corps’ biggest Hillary suck-up? In Arrogance, Goldberg devotes a chapter to the topic, and he makes an odd choice: Margaret Carlson. Here is the passage where he makes his award. By the way, note the rancid tone Goldberg brings to his book—a book in which he weeps and moans about the lack of polite discourse by liberals:

GOLDBERG (page 148): Still, Nina Burleigh, Carole Simpson and even my ex-colleague Leslie Stahl all take a backseat when it comes to painting Hillary’s toenails. They are all runners-up in the “How May I Serve You, My Queen?” Sweepstakes. Because none of them—not even Newsweek contributing editor Eleanor “Rodham” Clift—can rival Margaret Carlson, who does commentary for TIME magazine (and is a regular on CNN’s Capital Gang) for sheer devotion to Ms. Hillary. If they gave out Nobel Prizes for Hillary-gushing, Margaret Carlson would be on her way to Stockholm.
Like many other Angry Male Pundits, Bernie Goldberg has a hard time being polite to liberal or mainstream female journalists. The name-calling is quite frequent, as are the lightly sexist remarks. But then, feminists are truly the source of all evil. “It is no coincidence that the beginning of the collapse of the old [New York] Times standards coincided almost exactly with the rise of the liberation movements of the last sixties and early seventies, particularly feminism,” Goldberg writes. So don’t be surprised when he invents mocking names for Clift—and when he invents silly tales about Carlson. At any rate, Goldberg says that Margaret Carlson is the Mother of All Hillary-Gushers. Here at THE HOWLER, we found this odd, because we had recently noted Carlson’s exuberant bashing of Clinton. Carlson’s autobiography, Anyone Can Grow Up, appeared in your bookstores just last spring. In it, Carlson trashes the Clintons up and down, and yes, that includes her Queen Hillary. In her book, Carlson makes it sound as if Hillary’s friend, Vincent Foster, blamed the Clintons in his suicide note. And she offers mocking, foolish accounts of Hillary Clinton’s conduct and character (links below). Soon after we reviewed Carlson’s book, we also noted the mocking comments aimed at the Clintons when Carlson appeared on Charlie Rose (link below). If you want to retain an ounce of respect for Rose, we suggest you avoid our report.

We certainly can't hurt the feelings of anti-American, fraudster Ann Coulter by leaving her out in this post - so I'll defer to Mr. Somerby again for an example:

CAR WRECK: Some of you think we’re carefully picking our topics when we write about Slander. Sorry. We fact-checked pages one and two because that’s where a book begins (TDH, 7/11). We checked the Katie Couric flap because it became a big flap. We fact-checked Coulter’s section on Schlafly due to Maslin’s review in the Times. But frankly, we haven’t checked any part of this book without encountering instant problems. We’d be surprised if there’s any part of this book where basic “facts” haven’t just been made up.

So yesterday, we got a grand idea. We fact-checked Coulter’s final page—and you can, of course, guess what happened.

Coulter closes with a screed against the New York Times. “[L]iberals have absolutely no contact with the society they decry from their Park Avenue redoubts,” she stupidly fumes. Then, her penultimate paragraph:

COULTER (page 205): The day after seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt died in a race at the Daytona 500, almost every newspaper in America carried the story on the front page. Stock-car racing had been the nation’s fastest-growing sport for a decade, and NASCAR the second-most-watched sport behind the NFL. More Americans recognize the name Dale Earnhardt than, say, Maureen Dowd. (Manhattan liberals are dumbly blinking at that last sentence.) It took the New York Times two days to deem Earnhardt’s name sufficiently important to mention it on the first page. Demonstrating the left’s renowned populist touch, the article began, “His death brought a silence to the Wal-Mart.” The Times went on to report that in vast swaths of the country people watch stock-car racing. Tacky people were mourning Dale Earnhardt all over the South!
Typical, nasty, ugly, mean stuff. For the record, Earnhardt died on Sunday, February 18, 2001. And Coulter is right about one thing. The next day, February 19, “almost every newspaper in America carried the story on the front page.”

...Everyone else treated Earnhardt’s death as a page one story the day it occurred. Coulter’s question: Why, oh why, did the great New York Times wait two more days to put Dale on its cover?

We suspect you know the answer to that; Coulter was inventing. (Again!) In fact, the Times did run the story of Earnhardt’s death on its front page on Monday, February 19. (NEXIS makes this perfectly clear. Which part of “Page 1” doesn’t Coulter understand?) The headline might have provided a clue: “Stock Car Star Killed on Last Lap of Daytona 500.” The piece was written by Robert Lipsyte. Here’s how the Timesman began:

LIPSYTE (page one, 2/19/01): Stock car racing’s greatest current star and one of its most popular and celebrated figures, Dale Earnhardt, crashed and was killed today after he made a characteristically bold lunge for better position on the last turn of the last lap of the sport’s premier event, the Daytona 500.

Lipsyte discussed the crash itself; recent deaths to other drivers; safety devices that had been proposed; and Earnhardt’s role as king of the track. Like Bragg, the Timesman captured the awe in which Earnhardt was held:
...
Of course, Coulter didn’t demean the tone of Lipsyte’s work. Instead, she simply lied about it, saying it didn’t exist. Coulter wanted to close with a bang. She wished Lipsyte out of existence.

What, oh what, are we to do with someone who dissembles like Coulter? Again, we’re quoting the next-to-last paragraph in her whole book. As usual, she builds a screed around an invented fact—one designed to demean those she hates. And just how nasty is Coulter’s conclusion? She draws an ugly conclusion indeed. “Except for occasional forays to the Wal-Mart,” she says, “liberals do not know any conservatives.” But conservatives “already know” liberals, she says. Conservatives know liberals as “savagely cruel bigots who hate America and lie for sport.”

Incredibly, that is Coulter’s final phrase. It closes her strange, disturbed book.

Next, let's move on to the egregious and mendacious Ann Coulter wannabe - Michelle Malkin. Sadly No! has an example:

According to Michelle Malkin:

Skutnik jumped out of his car near the Fourteenth Street Bridge, where a crowd watched helplessly as a female passenger screamed for help in the icy waters. A helicopter rescue team had tossed her a line, but she was unable to hold on. Skutnik instinctively ripped off his overcoat, kicked off his shoes, dove into the river, and pulled 22-year-old flight attendant Priscilla Tirado to safety.

After Reagan's speech, a cynical press referred sneeringly to the "Lenny Skutnik moment." This elitist disdain for recognizing everyday heroes persists. [Emphasis added]

To the LexisNexis, hurry!
The entire audience joined in a standing ovation for Lenny Skutnik, who dived into the frigid Potomac River to rescue a victim of the Jan. 13 airplane crash here. Mr. Skutnik sat with Mrs. Reagan during the address and was hailed by the President as epitomizing the heroic spirit in the United States. --Howell Raines [!] in the New York Times, 01/27/1982.Reagan ended his address by praising America's heroes. He singled out two men listening to him in the House chamber--Sen. Jeremiah Denton (R-Ala.), a former prisoner of war in Vietnam, and Lenny Skutnik, the young federal worker who dove into the Potomac to rescue a woman after the Air Florida crash two weeks ago.

Skutnik and his wife were guests of the Reagans, seated next to Nancy Reagan, during the speech. When the president mentioned his name, the audience rose for a standing ovation and Reagan waved up to him in the gallery. --The Washington Post, 01/27/1982.

Two weeks before the State of the Union, the Washington Post published a front page story on Mr. Skutnik:
Lenny Skutnik, who dove into the ice-choked Potomac River Wednesday to save the life of a drowning woman following the jetliner crash in the Potomac, has had little experience in the hero business. 01/15/1982

We could find no newspaper article with coverage of the SOTU that included the expression "Lenny Skutnik moment." Google produces 6 hits, including this Slate piece:

Ronald Reagan is credited with creating what is now known as the "Lenny Skutnik moment" in State of the Union addresses. In his 1982 address, Reagan pointed to Skutnik, a government worker who leapt into the icy Potomac to rescue a woman after a plane crash, and extolled his heroism. Since then, pointing to heroes in the gallery has become an obligatory SOTU flourish. And what in 1982 was a stirring moment has become a tedious gimmick. [Emphasis added]

Maybe Michelle doesn't remember her bedtime stories extremely well.

Media Matters covered fabrications by numerous conservatives on the Al Qaqaa explosives issue:

Conservatives derided reports of "so-called" missing explosives as "false"

Leading up to the presidential election, conservatives in the media attempted to downplay and undermine an October 25 New York Times report that hundreds of tons of high-powered explosives went missing from the Al Qaqaa military installation in Iraq after the U.S. invasion in 2003. But following President George W. Bush's November 2 reelection, right-wing pundit Ann Coulter, Wall Street Journal contributing editor Peggy Noonan, and author and FOX News Channel political analyst Dick Morris went even further, denying the truth of the Al Qaqaa news reports altogether.

Media Matters for America has previously documented numerous reports setting out clear evidence that large quantities of the high-grade explosives HMX and RDX were present at Al Qaqaa when American forces arrived at the site in early April 2003 and were looted by Iraqis soon after. And a November 4 Los Angeles Times article, titled "Soldiers Describe Looting of Explosives," provides further evidence that Al Qaqaa was looted after American forces arrived at the site. Four soldiers from the 317th Support Center and the 258th Rear Area Operations Center told the Times that they witnessed the looting of explosives from Al Qaqaa by Iraqis over a period of several weeks from late April and early May and said that they were unable to prevent much of the looting because the Iraqis outnumbered the American forces at the site.

From Coulter's November 3 nationally syndicated column:

The media campaigned heavily for Kerry with endless Abu Ghraib coverage, phony National Guard documents and, days before the election, false news reports that hundreds of tons of munitions had been looted in Iraq.

From Noonan's November 4 Wall Street Journal op-ed column:

But I do think the biggest loser [in the November 2 election] was the mainstream media, the famous MSM, the initials that became popular in this election cycle. Every time the big networks and big broadsheet national newspapers tried to pull off a bit of pro-liberal mischief -- CBS and the fabricated Bush National Guard documents, the New York Times and bombgate, CBS's "60 Minutes" attempting to coordinate the breaking of bombgate on the Sunday before the election -- the yeomen of the blogosphere and AM radio and the Internet took them down.

From the November 4 edition of Morris's weekly "The Political Life" column for The Hill:

Next to the forged documents that sent CBS on a jihad against Bush's National Guard service and the planned "60 Minutes" ambush over the so-called missing explosives two days before the polls opened, the possibility of biased exit polling, deliberately manipulated to try to chill the Bush turnout, must be seriously considered.

Another example - about Fox News' John Gibson, from Media Matters:

In his "My Word" segment on the July 12 edition of FOX News Channel's The Big Story with John Gibson, host John Gibson responded to charges of conservative bias at FOX -- showcased in the new documentary Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism -- by falsely claiming, "You have America's major media dominated by the left; 80-some percent of reporters are self-described liberals." He repeated this falsehood in his July 13 "My Word" column, "Liberals Bashing FOX News ... Again," published on the FOX News Channel's website.

Gibson was off by about 46 percent. A report released on May 23 by The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that 34 percent of national journalists identified themselves as liberal; 54 percent identified themselves as moderate; and 7 percent identified themselves as conservative. Twenty-three percent of local journalists identified themselves as liberal; 61 percent identified themselves as moderate; and 12 percent identified themselves as conservative.

Even if Gibson had correctly stated the Pew report's numbers and said that 34 -- not "80-some" -- percent of national reporters are "self-described liberals," he would still have been disregarding commentary by Bill Kovach, Tom Rosenstiel and Amy Mitchell (Kovach is chairman of the Committee of Concerned Journalists; Tom Rosenstiel and Amy Mitchell are director and associate director, respectively, of the Project for Excellence in Journalism), which was included in the Pew report and specifically warned against drawing such conclusions:

Journalists' own politics are also harder to analyze than people might think. The fact that journalists -- especially national journalists -- are more likely than in the past to describe themselves as liberal reinforces the findings of the major academic study on this question... But what does liberal mean to journalists? We would be reluctant to infer too much here. The survey includes just four questions probing journalists' political attitudes, yet the answers to these questions suggest journalists have in mind something other than a classic big government liberalism and something more along the lines of libertarianism. More journalists said they think it is more important for people to be free to pursue their goals without government interference than it is for government to ensure that no one is in need.

This post would be incomplete if there is no mention of at least one of the reliable fakers at the Wall Street Journal's editorial/op-ed page. So, here's Media Matters on James Taranto:

WSJ's Taranto's "hilariously strained effort" to expose liberal bias at Time falls flat

Wall Street Journal OpinionJournal.com editor James Taranto claimed that Time magazine omitted the January 30 Iraqi elections from a "list of possible turning points" in recent Middle East politics as part of the magazine's "hilariously strained effort to deny credit to President Bush" for positive trends in the region. In fact, the article Taranto quoted, from the March 14 issue of Time, explicitly addressed political events in the region from the prior week alone. The article introduced its "list of turning possible points" as follows: "Across the Middle East last week, a tide of good news suggested that another corner might be near" [emphasis added].

Considering that entire books have been written about the constant fabrications and fraud from the Right's spokespersons and media personalities, you may consider this post the tip of the tip of the tip of the iceberg.

P.S. This is the last-but-one part of this series.

eriposte :: 8:03 AM :: Comments (6) :: Digg It!