Classic Bill O’Reilly was on display Monday night for his Talking Points segment: Don’t Trust the Media! O’Reilly then proceeded to tell us several reasons why we should not trust the media. Now let’s think about this. A media personality looks square in the camera and, without noting a hint of irony, tells us not to trust the media. Doesn’t this sound like a Saturday Night Live skit?
Many of our founding fathers despised the press, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson among them says O’Reilly. As David McCullough notes in his best-selling book, John Adams, Mr. Adams was probably overly sensitive to criticism, of which he received a lot while president. The Alien and Sedition Acts were a group of four separate laws passed to quell opposition to John Adams specifically (while he was president) and the Federalists in general. I’m unable to find any evidence that Thomas Jefferson despised the press. (If you’re able to find any of this evidence, please let me know.) As a matter of fact, I would say that Thomas Jefferson wrote extensively on freedom of press. “No government ought to be without censors, and where the press is free, no one ever will.” Alexander Hamilton wrote about the necessity of a free press in Federalist paper number 84. Finally, I would add that John Adams loved to read and had an extensive library. I think, as usual, Bill O’Reilly is blowing smoke.
He does go on to say that the press is largely corrupt, but gives no evidence to support this.
Newspapers are dying. I must congratulate Bill O’Reilly, frankly, for getting a fact correct. The reasons that newspapers are dying are complex. I think the Internet does have a large part in this, but newspapers were dying long before the explosion of the Internet in the late 1990s. I think that the invention of 24-hour news also has had a lot to do with it. The morning paper is giving you information that you are ready know.
Now Bill O’Reilly is going to give us two excellent examples of why we should not trust the press.
Swine Flu. Bill O’Reilly states that he can’t find out what’s true and what’s hype. Why? He has a whole staff of investigative reporters. Why can he not find out what’s going on? Is he too lazy? He then goes on to say that reports this week state that the swine flu (we’ve been asked to call it Influenza A H1N1) is not as bad as first thought, says O’Reilly, but he can’t verify that either. Why not? The Centers for Disease Control has an extensive amount of information on their website. Bill O’Reilly and Fox can call several states. Every state has a department of epidemiology. I’m really confused about why he can’t verify the number of cases throughout the nation. The CDC has a number of confirmed cases. Why is this so difficult?
It really isn’t difficult. Instead, Bill O’Reilly is trying to paint himself as a thoughtful broadcaster who is not caught up in the hype. Instead, he has not covered a major story at all. In my opinion, I think the precautions that have been taken have helped curb the spread of this disease. Also, it may be that this disease is not as contagious as we first thought. O’Reilly has his agenda and he is sticking to it.
Tent City. Bill O’Reilly then tears into his most “damning” story. Stories about a tent city around Sacramento beginning to spring up in early to mid-March. In what is a particularly huge piece of irony, O’Reilly quotes a story out of The Economist (a periodical written in Great Britain). O’Reilly claims that the story is bogus, which it is not at all. The short article in the Economist states that, “There may have been a foreclosed homeowner or two among its denizens…” Please watch the following video (below). It’s the same video featured in Bill O’Reilly’s tirade. Although the reporter implies that many if not all of the people of this tent city are there because of the economic downturn they never really say that.
Moreover, if you read some of the articles that were written, they clearly point out that everyone in the tent city is not there because of the economic downturn. Instead, most of them were there before the economic downturn. Reading… what a concept! This concept is clearly wasted on Bill O’Reilly. From the Mercury News: “Although a sliver of the roughly 200 Tent City residents are recently middle class people who lost their homes, the overwhelming majority — 80 to 90 percent by several estimates — have been homeless for years, even decades.” From the opening paragraph of a LA Times story, “The capital’s tent city sprawls messily on a grassed-over landfill beneath power lines, home to some 200 men and women with nowhere else to go. It has been here for more than a year, but in the last three weeks it has transformed into a vivid symbol of a financial crisis otherwise invisible to most Americans.” Just as the Today Show probably reported only half the story, it appears that Bill O’Reilly is doing exactly the same thing.
Finally, Bill O’Reilly took the opportunity to bash MSNBC once again. First, let me state that it is clear that Fox news has led in the ratings and has done so for some time. As a matter of fact, both Fox news and MSNBC increased market share during the first quarter of this year. So, Bill O’Reilly is being disingenuous by stating the viewership for MSNBC has plummeted. That is simply false.
There are some things that really have been repulsive in this election season. Over the weekend Joe Biden did an interview with a Florida television station. The questions were simply the worst Republican talking points, ever. KFTV needs to apologize and fire Barbara West. There is a difference between a political operative and a news reporter.
It’s a tale of two interview subjects and one GOP-agenda-driven “journalist.” And what a tale it is. JedReport took a peek at KFTV’s Barbara West and interviews with Joe Biden and John McCain. The side by side comparison is astonishing.
Watch the clip and you’ll see exactly what I mean: bias, alla way, baby.
Matt Stoller’s done a series of posts recently about issues of bias in local media, and repeated use of hand-fed GOP talking points as “research” which is worth watching closely. With the advent of media consolidation, more and more local stations are in the hands of fewer and fewer large corporate conglomerates, and that’s not good for fact-checking or diversity of opinion.
BT asked this morning that folks sign a petition demanding an apology from WFTV for this hatchet job posing as an interview. I’m asking for your help on this as well.
You can sign the petition here.
Saturday Night Live. I can’t really believe that I’m typing Saturday Night Live. I think it can be argued that Saturday Night Live has not been funny since the early 1980s. Remember Eddie Murphy. So, I haven’t seen the show in a very long time. My mother, yes my mother, told me about this skit with Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin. She said it was hilarious. She was right. (I always listen to my mother :-))
If I’m not listening to my local liberal talk radio station, I typically keep MSNBC on in my home office during the work day, in part to support its decision to have actual liberals on during prime-time, and in part because it usually focuses on politics during the day more than CNN.
But after this morning I am boycotting MSNBC today, until Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow come back on.
MSNBC has put a manufactured outrage, a non-story, in a constant loop all morning. (I will not waste one letter of my time or your time explaining it.) As if that should be the lead story while the nation looks for answers on how to get our economy back on track, solve our energy crisis, rebuild our infrastructure, make education and health care affordable and accessible to all, and restore our global standing.
Then I flipped over to CNN. I can only assume this non-story got some attention there at some point today, but I didn’t see it for 40 minutes straight, so at least it’s not being treated as non-stop breaking news. So CNN is what’s staying on my TV today.
As a mere single news consumer, I am putting the media industry on notice. You will not get my business by trying to shove the trivial down my throat. You will not get my business with a parade of political hacks pontificating on non-stories. You do that, I grab the remote.
In the case of MSNBC, yes I will come back for Keith and Rachel. Not because they are liberal, but because I trust the focus will then return to important news.
And it is particularly critical to support The Rachel Maddow Show. If it continues to beat Larry King in the ratings (as it did for its premiere), it will send shockwaves throughout a media industry that has long believed liberal views should be marginalized, pandering to conservative audiences is profitable, and that a liberal anchor can deliver an informative program that elevates discourse and strengthens a news brand.
It doesn’t make sense to ignore traditional media and tune it out completely. To get a robust, aggressive, investigative and informative media that helps the public govern, we need to engage the media.
We need to let media executives know — with our words and actions — that they will make money by delivering a good product, and lose money by repeating misinformation and prioritizing non-news that fails to help us citizens run our democracy.
So MSNBC, know that you lost a customer today. If you want me to come back tomorrow, you know what to do.
Originally posted at OurFuture.org
Today, “Seder on Sundays” airs its final broadcast. After its pre-recorded interviews with notable authors, Sam will be live for the final half-hour at 6:30 PM ET. You can listen live at airamerica.com.
Sam posts on his blog today:
After 4 plus years, this Sunday’s Seder on Sundays very well may be my last regular appearance on the Air America Radio schedule. I’ve been told that I am one of those being considered for the 3-6pm slot but, frankly, particularly in this economy, I’d advise you not to place a bet on it.
Anyway, I will remain and am very appreciative to AAR for letting me continue as the online editor for AirAmerica.com. We are building an important online component to progressive talk. That said, I am confident this will not be the last opportunity for you to hear/watch me on political talk.
I’m reading Richard Wolffe’s article on Barack Obama and his team in Newsweek. Wolffe is doing a good job in saying that Senator John McCain and Senator Barack Obama are getting ready to face each other. Obama is getting ready for an onslaught from the right. The article was going along nicely, until I get to this paragraph.
“The McCain campaign is now poring over Obama’s record, looking for weaknesses that can be exposed without race-baiting or hitting below the belt. They want to brand Obama as a “superduper liberal who is out of the mainstream,” says one McCain adviser who did not wish to be identified discussing internal campaign strategy.”
It is at this point I fall out of my chair laughing. Let me get this straight, Republicans are going to try to paint a Democratic candidate as liberal and out of the mainstream? Oh, and this is so top secret that the McCain adviser didn’t want to named. I’m still laughing.
In every major campaign from Maine to Florida and from California to Alaska, Republicans have tried to paint Democrats as liberals who are elitist and out of the mainstream. Geoffrey Nunberg, a linguist, wrote a great book in 2006 called “Talking Right: How Conservatives Turned Liberalism into a Tax-Raising, Latte-Drinking, Sushi-Eating, Volvo-Driving, New York Times-Reading, Body-Piercing, Hollywood-Loving, Left-Wing Freak Show.” So, how is this a secret? Why would Richard Wolffe write about it as if it is a secret? This is standard operating procedure from Republicans. If a Democrat can’t fight off this now-lame and tired attack, he or she shouldn’t run for any office more important that dog catcher.
Today at 4 PM ET will be the final live “Seder of Sunday” broadcast. Sam posts that there is still a chance he will take over Air America’s 3 PM ET slot, and regardless, is still committed to remaining in liberal talk radio. To that end, there is still time to tell Air America to return Sam to its daily lineup.
So today will also be the final on-air installment of the Weekend Watchdog, but have no fear, because the Watchdog will remain on patrol at the Campaign for America’s Future blog.
Sam Seder and Marc Maron are sharing Air America hosting duties from 3-6 PM ET this week (Sam’s on right now). In addition to contacting Air America directly and signing the petition, strong streaming numbers will also help the effort to get Sam back on the daily Air America schedule. Click here to stream Air America.
David Brock and Paul Waldman from Media Matters Action Network wrote a new book entitled “Free Ride: John McCain and the Media.” Before I discuss the book, however, I need to make a confession: I used to like McCain.
I bought into the media persona of ‘McCain the Maverick.’ I’ve done a ton of reading on politics over the last four to five years. I’ve read, and re-read, the Constitution. I read the Washington Post and the New York Times most days. So, I’ve read a lot on McCain. You simply can’t help it if you read about national politics because McCain’s name pops up repeatedly. He is especially a favorite on the Sunday morning ‘yack-a-thons.’ That’s how I got sucked in.
The one thing that has recently become obvious, even to me, is that McCain has changed his position on a number of major issues over the last seven years. Specifically, his position on the religious right, tax cuts, torture and the Iraq War has changed over the years.
So, back to the book “Free Ride.” Free Ride is a well-written and extremely well-documented expose on John McCain. The foundation of McCain’s media personality is based on three issues: his Vietnam experience, campaign finance reform and the way he deals with reporters. The combination of these three things have given McCain an almost saint-like quality. Let’s be honest, most people groan in pain when Washington is mentioned. McCain has managed to paint himself as the most un-Washington of all of the politicians in Washington.
In Vietnam, McCain was shot down while flying a mission over Hanoi. He was tortured for five and a half years before being released. He is a true war hero. I don’t deny this, and neither does this book. But unlike other veterans who have run for office or are still in office, McCain’s service is special according to the press. McCain comes across as honest and incorruptible because of his service in the war. In addition, McCain seems modest and really doesn’t want to talk about his service. Although I will again point out that his service to our country was incredible, just because he served doesn’t mean that he is incorruptible. Despite this fact, the press continues to support the narrative of McCain’s ‘sainthood.’ The authors point out that any article mentioning McCain, whether it is about the Iraq War or nuclear waste or clean air, will also mention that McCain served in Vietnam. These same standards apparently do not apply to John Kerry or Max Cleland, who lost three limbs in Vietnam.
The most inaccurate part of the public McCain narrative, in my opinion, focuses on his supposed modesty. McCain frequently mentions his Vietnam service in his own speeches. And his campaign just launched a media campaign to introduce McCain to the public– starting with his war service. McCain will use his military experience as a punchline. He has used the line, “I haven’t had his much fun since I was in Hanoi” on a number of occasions. Even more, after watching the Arizona Diamondbacks lose a game to the New York Yankees in the World Series he said, “I hadn’t had so much fun since my last interrogation in Hanoi.” When McCain’s honesty was questioned over the Keating Five scandal, he shot back, “Even the Vietnamese didn’t question my ethics.” McCain, my opinion, wears his Vietnam service like a shield that he uses to deflect criticism and bolster his character flaws.
Campaign Finance Reform gave McCain his ‘maverick’ label. The media painted the picture that he was fighting against the powers-that-be in Washington. They focused on how he stuck by his guns and got a tough unpopular bill passed because he thought it was the right thing to do. That is a nice tale, but doesn’t quite tell the whole story. The majority of Americans supported campaign finance reform. The majority of Democrats also supported this measure. He did, however, face some opposition in his own party. The irony of McCain-Feingold is that it choked off democratic money from traditional sources like unions. Republican big donors moved seamlessly to 527 groups. The 527’s have infused more, not less, money into campaigns. So, it is hard to see how a label of a ‘maverick’ really applies.
The media gave favorable coverage, McCain learned early on, if he spent time with the them. So, of course, he gave the media quality time. He would invite them into his office or on his bus to talk “openly” for hours– a contrast to the “guarded” language that most politicians offer. He will have a drink with them. He will tell off-color jokes like, “Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly? Janet Reno is her father and Hillary is her mother.” He once referred to a senior citizens home named Leisure World as “Seizure World.” Now, if Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama had said anything even close to that, the media would put it in an endless loop and play it for a week straight. I had never heard these offensive jokes until I read, “Free Ride.” The media just doesn’t report McCain-isms (Is this a new term? Should I copyright it?).
I could go on and on about McCain, but I would like to relate one story about McCain’s temper that is described in “Free Ride.” McCain’s temper is famous and he has blown up at Republicans and Democrats alike. A volunteer for McCain was charged with setting up the podium for him to speak. McCain tore this poor volunteer a new orifice because the podium was too tall and it made him look short. In another incident, McCain was very aggressive in his questioning of Anita Hill (remember the Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill confrontation?). An elderly constituent, Diane Smith, took the time to write McCain and explain that she thought that he was overly aggressive. McCain called Ms. Smith and “rant[ed] on and on about what nerve I had to question his integrity,” she said. One could easily blow off Ms. Smith, but there are tons of Ms. Smith stories out there.
“Free Ride” is a must read. If you are going to read any political book this politician season, I would highly recommend “Free Ride: John McCain and the Media.”