June 06, 2007

Fox "Apologizes"

Here is Fox News' "apology" for "mistakenly" running the "wrong footage" yesterday, showing John Conyers instead of Bill Jefferson.

Several things to note here. First, the statement is so brief and, as Conyers himself put it, lackluster, that it in itself is almost an insult for that reason. If you blinked, you could have missed this statement. In fact, fully half of the statement simply recaps the story about a Democrat being indicted. The "apology" part takes all of five seconds.

Second, such an apology requires a special note to any person who is shown and labeled as corrupt and up on charges, but who is actually innocent. Not mentioning Conyers by name or apologizing directly to him was a grievous insult in itself, as if to say that no one specific was wronged.

Third, such an apology usually focuses on what was wrong about the error, and at least tries to dispel the belief that there was any intention behind it. Fox's statement barely covered this, as one could infer from the word "mistakenly" that they did not intend to show what they did. But a proper apology would at least touch on the easily-inferred racial undertones and stated that such were not intended and no on should take offense. Not that such a statement would be believed, but at least it would be proper.

Fourth, the briefest possible "explanation," that the footage was shown "mistakenly," is hardly an explanation. Normal errors of this type are when footage of an upcoming story is queued up ready to go, and someone in the control room accidentally pushes the wrong button and the video is shown out of sequence with the commentary. However, this "error" was of a completely different order. The Conyers footage was not for any pending story. Instead, the Conyers footage had to be retrieved from archives where it by practice is carefully labeled and notated, and then reviewed and edited manually to select the appropriate small clip to be aired. Which means that either the clip was badly mislabeled and nobody in the review process caught the error (nor in the broadcast itself since it took a full day to note it) or it was not an error at all. And since, from Fox's history and its well-known bias, it is easy to believe that it was an intentional jab at Democrats and blacks, a more detailed explanation and disclaimer was at the very least appropriate.

Of course, the reason for the lack of a real apology here is pretty clear: Fox would have to admit to... well, to being Fox News. They would have to apologize directly to a Democrat, which would probably cause half the Fox News executive staff to suffer brain hemorrhages. They would have to publicly recognize that something they did was racially offensive, which would dredge up all sorts of equivalent behavior on their part. Or they would at least have had to touch peripherally on the matter that they were either intentionally racist and biased, or that they simply can't tell black people apart. You can bet that on another network, someone--perhaps even the newscaster--would have quickly recognized that it wasn't Jefferson, if not because Conyers is so well-known and recognizable, then because Jefferson would not have been anywhere near Alberto Gonzales. But, yet again, we have to remember: this is Fox News we're talking about.

Update:Fox apparently--and quite surprisingly--realized that their first apology was completely unacceptable, and does it again--this time a lot more properly. They still don't touch on the color issue, but they do make a big deal of the fact that they put Conyers in Jefferson's place.

As a side note, YouTube has just made it a lot easier to embed their videos when viewed on a non-YouTube site. They added some Javascript goodies that allow for choosing related videos in a very Mac-Dock-like fashion, and at the end, an easy-to-use copy-the-url-or-embedded-code feature. Very nice. In the past, I had to click the "share" button, then change the URL from "share" to "watch," and then grab the embedded code from there. This is much easier.

Posted by Luis at 11:50 AM | Comments (1)

May 15, 2007

Excuses, We Get Excuses

Think Progress has good coverage of the CBS firing of retired General Batiste, which I blogged on recently. CBS originally claimed that they fired him because they don't hire people who do advocacy--but then it was shown that several long-time CBS commentators have done quite a bit of advocacy for the war and the surge. Then CBS claimed that Batiste was fired because he was raising money for vets against the war--but it was clear that the ad was not intended to raise money. So now comes excuse number three:

Simply stated, it is the policy of CBS that it will not take any part in any partisan political process in any form.
That claim is so outrageous it makes the other two excuses seem halfway honest. It has already been established that CBS hires consultants and others who are involved in the partisan process, on the pro-war side. And then there is the fact that VoteVets, the group Batiste made the statement for, is a non-partisan group--Batiste himself being a strong conservative.

The CBS blog also states:

And the lesson seems to be that conflicts of interest – or merely the appearance of them – aren't too popular in 21st century journalism.
Are they serious? That statement can be blown to pieces with two words: Fox News. 21st century journalism has become all about partisan politics--which is why CBS fired Batiste in the first place.

But then, can you really blame CBS? Who would want to admit that they fired an honorable man expressing his First Amendment right just because they're spineless sops to the right wing?

Posted by Luis at 12:32 PM | Comments (0)

May 13, 2007

More Liberal Media

Imagine that Hillary Clinton was campaigning in Iowa, and she promised to visit a family farm. The family gets all excited, and starts making preparations. They clear their pasture of cattle and brush for parking, arrange bales of hay for people to sit on, and they arrange for portable toilets that the Clinton campaign assures them will be paid for. They get their hopes up and wait for the big day. But then the campaign asks them how much money they are worth, and when the answer comes back that they're poor, they get snubbed--the Clinton campaign cancels the event. John McCain's campaign jumps on it first, offering to campaign there instead.

Drudge would be all over this is a New York minute, Fox News would gleefully spring on the story, with every single reporter and pundit screaming about how elitist, snobby, and downright bad Hillary was, and the mainstream media would be right on their heels, eating the story up like nothing else was news. The story would last longer than the fake news that Pelosi had demanded a huge jet--it would be better, because this story would be real.

And it is real--except that it wasn't Clinton who snubbed the Iowa farmers--it was Rudy Giuliani.

Media reaction: silence.

Well, not complete silence--the Des Moines Register has a nice story on it, as does the Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier, and precisely two local Iowa TV stations. That's it. It's fully contained to Iowa. Despite the blogs being all over it, despite there even being an AP story out about it on the wires. Nobody outside Iowa is picking this up. More newspapers have picked up the story about how a Rush Limbaugh billboard in Baltimore got defaced.

And the reason Giuliani snubbed them? Because he wanted to campaign against the Estate Tax, and because the VonSpreckens were not rich enough to be hit by it. Not surprising, as there are only a handful of such farmers who exist; the idea that the Estate Tax affects family farms is a conservative myth. Something else the "liberal media" doesn't cover much.

Posted by Luis at 09:32 AM | Comments (1)

Imbalance

I have noted several times before the reason for conservatives to claim that there is a "liberal media" even when it is clear that the media is not liberal, and even leans notably to the right. But there is another benefit they enjoy from perpetuating this myth. For some time now, networks have gone out of their way to demonstrate that they are not liberal; they do so usually by purging liberal views while emphasizing conservative ones--apparently, while it's bad to for a news organization to be liberal, there's nothing wrong with leaning as far as you want the other way.

Recently we have seen an example of this, coming from CBS. One has to suppose that CBS has more reasons, from a PR perspective, to shake off an image of being a liberal news source; it is most often attacked as being liberal by the right, primarily because of Dan Rather and the National Guard story. No matter that it was one story by one soon-fired anchor and there was no evidence of liberalism beyond that (or even evidence that it was liberalism that motivated the story in the first place); no matter that such an image is more forged than justified. That's just the image that has been successfully plastered on the network.

So after retired General John Batiste appeared in a TV ad that advocated an end to the Iraq war and said that President Bush is putting our country in peril, CBS decided to fire him as a consultant to their news organization. A CBS spokesperson commented:

“When we hire someone as a consultant, we want them to share their expertise with our viewers,” she said. “By putting himself front and center in an anti-Bush ad, the viewer might have the feeling everything he says is anti-Bush. And that doesn’t seem like an analytical approach to the issues we want to discuss.”

She said that Batiste's appearance in the ad marked a violation of CBS News standards, in which “we ask that people not be involved in advocacy.”

The same person added later,
“General Batiste took part in a commercial that’s being shown on television to raise money for veterans against the war,” she said. “It isn’t just that he took an advocacy position.” She also said that the decision would have been the same had Batiste appeared in a similar ad in support of the president.
The irony here is that Batiste isn't even a liberal--he is, in fact, a hardcore conservative. But just the fact that he spoke out against the president, against what is currently the conservative line, that was enough. No matter that he did so because he felt the military and the country were in danger of great harm, nor that he had the facts behind him, nor that the ad was not a fundraising ad as CBS claimed was the key point.

But that's not all; TPM found ample evidence that CBS has had other consultants who have quite publicly advocated for President Bush--and CBS did not fire them. Like many other networks, they have no trouble hiring conservative voices in all manner of position, giving them all sorts of platforms. But if someone comes out as being too liberal, it more often means that they will lose their job. Witness Phil Donahue on MSNBC getting canceled in 2003 despite having some of the best ratings on the network. (Despite having lower ratings than Donahue's show, conservative-leaning shows like Hardball and Scarborough Country were not canceled and remain on the air today.) It is a sign of progress that someone like Keith Olbermann can keep his job, but it is of note that while Olbermann is growing fast and strong in the ratings, neither his network nor others are responding to that trend in audience preferences and opening up to more liberal-oriented talk shows, as they quickly did with conservative ones when they first showed popularity.

Yet again, the Liberal Media at work!

Posted by Luis at 09:12 AM | Comments (0)

April 12, 2007

The Ultimate Revisionists

Sean recently asked me if I had seen Conservapedia, and though I had, it reminded me of a theme I'd been kicking around but had not gotten around to writing extensively on yet: revisionism. One of the favorite charges of conservatives is that liberals are revisionists about everything, "rewriting" history on everything from Iraq to the Constitution, from WWII to the Reagan era and so on. No clearer a case of projection could be found; conservatives are in the midst of nothing less than a revolution of revisionism, with history being only one small but notable aspect. The framers were all Christians and the U.S. was set up as a Christian nation, with our legal system founded on the Ten Commandments; conservatives are the heroes of civil rights for minorities because Lincoln was a Republican; Reagan won the Cold War single-handedly; Iraq was all about freeing the Iraqi people; and so on and so forth.

Conservatives are the ultimate revisionists. One of the key elements of conservatism is, after all, the desire to return to a "better" past, and all the revisionism of past times that is required to make it all seem like a sepia-toned paradise.

But it's not just the past they want to revise, it's everything. Aside from the obvious point of political spinning to revise people's views on current political developments, conservatives have branched out into several other areas. Newt Gingrich spearheaded linguistic revisionism in the 1990's when he sent Republicans a memo titled "Language: A Key Mechanism of Control," on how to use language to spin reality. Republicans became "active, confident pioneers of reform," while Democrats were "corrupt, self-serving traitors espousing a destructive welfare state." This was nothing new; as you recall, Bush 41 spearheaded an attack on the very word "liberal"; Gingrich's effort was simply more methodical and far-reaching. But the end result was a culture in which language became a tool to do far more than give immediate spin.

This branched out into the conservative war to control the media itself, either by pressure and influence or by direct ownership. It had its roots in the successful punditry of people like Rush Limbaugh, but fully blossomed with two developments: the foundation of Fox News and the establishment of the perception of the media as being "liberal." These two elements work in lockstep.

I'll begin with the second of those two, the "liberal media" lie. As I laid out in this post, the whole "liberal media" myth began with an unscientific survey which found that 60% of news reporters had personal political affiliations to the left of center. Though the study could have simply proven that more liberal reporters answer surveys than conservatives, and though the survey gave no evidence whatsoever that any such personal affiliations had any effect whatsoever on actual reporting, the "study" was used as "proof" that liberals ruled the media--despite a different survey which showed that in fact, editors and publishers, the people who really do rule the mainstream media, are 66% conservative. But once the "liberal media" perception got started, it was simply repeated as fact so many times that now it is an accepted "truth," even in light of current media positions which are so blatantly conservative that a "liberal media" is unthinkably absurd.

The reason for the perception is yet another facet of revisionism and spin: if everyone can be convinced that the news media is liberal, then everyone will believe that the actual truth is more conservative than is being presented in the media.

Which leads us to the other piece of the conservative media play: Fox News. Conservatives are in a tizzy about how Democrats are "afraid of reporters" and are somehow "dangerously threatening a free press" by refusing to take part in debates hosted by Fox News. The reason why Democrats are shunning said debates is for a reason that should have been made more clear long ago: Fox "News" is nothing more than the propaganda arm of the Republican Party. In fact, it is so openly political that it is amazing that they can still make any claim to being an objective news organization at all.

But Fox has, from the beginning, made its biases perfectly clear. They followed the Limbaugh model on a large scale: they went for far more opinion and commentary than actual news, stacking the ranks of their broadcasters with some of the most brazenly partisan pundits that could be found. They eschewed formal news formats, and instead launched a new style of "journalism" featuring hard-edged and angry delivery of doctrine and dogma backed by riffs of rock music and flashes of high-tech computer graphics. They then called their unabashedly right-wing fare "fair and balanced," in contrast with the rest of the "liberal media." And when their ratings rose and challenged other news organizations like CNN, those organizations quickly rocked hard to the right in the hopes of regaining their faltering market share.

So as conservatives now saturating the airwaves consistently pushed the idea of a "liberal media," the media tilted noticeably to the right, delivering a one-two punch to perception: a right-wing media perceived as being so "liberal" that the public would believe that the actual truth was even further to the right.

But the trend of revisionism didn't stop there; it only accelerated with the election of George W. Bush, and gained a tractionless surface in the wake of 9/11. The Bush administration started revising everything it could get its hands on, most notably science itself. Global warming and Creationism became new foci of the revisionists. Scientists who depended upon public funding or worked for the government in any way found their reporting censored and edited at the highest levels, themselves sometimes even put under gag orders preventing them from telling people the truth, while the government spouted a revised form of science that upheld their political agendas. Even the public perception of science itself was attacked on the grounds of "fairness" and "opinion." Suddenly, if any "scientist" could be found to oppose an idea, then all views on the issue were represented as "opinion"; no matter how many scientists stated firm acceptance of an idea that offended conservatives, there was "no consensus," "the jury was still out," and "more study" would be necessary. Meanwhile, any conservative yahoo who came to the table with an idea, no matter how ludicrous and unsupported by evidence, would have to be taken seriously, else there would be no "fairness" and science would be suppressing opinions. Suddenly, science from the schoolroom to the government ceased being a forum where evidence or even reason would be required; conservative credentials are all that one would need to have one's theories presented side-by-side with arguments which had been steadily built over decades or even centuries by arduous, relentless study and piercing peer review.

Similar revisionism came to the legal establishment; this trend started in the 70's with right-wing backlash against the Roe v. Wade decision. In the conservative view, any judge who rules in a way unfavorable to the conservative worldview is "legislating from the bench." The political legal philosophy of strict constructionism, breaking into a myriad of branches in an attempt to rationalize the philosophy's negation by the Ninth Amendment, attempts to completely revise the Constitution itself by narrowly reinterpreting it out of relevancy, making way for broad new insertions of conservative philosophy to act as a new core of judiciary standards. By interpreting wordings in our highest statement of law, there is no right to habeas corpus, no right to privacy, no separation of church and state, no protection against unreasonable search and seizure--virtually no right to anything save for keeping and bearing arms, when it comes right down to it.

So the arrival of the Conservapedia comes as absolutely no surprise to me whatsoever. Whether it turns out to be a new phenomenon in the definition of all things in the light of political agendas, or if it winds up being nothing more than a sad, pathetic joke, it makes no difference. It is simply the most obvious and inevitable development imaginable in today's conservative revisionist movement to redefine anything and everything in a conservative light.

Posted by Luis at 11:50 AM | Comments (5)

April 04, 2007

It's Easier When You've Got Media Support

A left-wing blog has caught Bush in another hypocritical weaseling that the mainstream media isn't commenting on. Bush's current rant:

It has now been 57 days since I requested that Congress pass emergency funds for our troops. Instead of passing clean bills that fund our troops on the front lines, the House and Senate have spent this time debating bills that undercut the troops.
The "Liberal" media runs stories like "Bush Berates Dems Over Iraq War Funding," "Bush: Democrats irresponsible for approving war bills," and "Military readiness will suffer if Congress doesn't send clean war bill, Bush says." Most push Bush's message at the top, and some push it throughout the articles, giving short thrift to the Democratic response.

Note Bush's emphasis that it's been 57 days.

But none show what Think Progress found with a simple check into the records: Bush allowed much longer delays from Republican congresses without complaint--and even praised them. In 2005, the Republican congress waited 86 days to pass supplemental funding. Bush didn't complain. In 2005, it took Republicans in Congress 119 days--and when Bush got the funding then, he "applauded" them.

How is Bush's hypocrisy playing the in "Liberal" media? Aside from Think Progress, not a peep.

Meanwhile, the media continues to amplify Bush's attacks on Pelosi for making a congressional trip to Syria ("Sending delegations hasn’t worked. It’s just simply been counterproductive"), but it took Think Progress and Josh Marshall to point out that Bush at the same time helped a Republican congressional delegation make the same trip.

Posted by Luis at 09:27 AM | Comments (1)

The Liberal Media, Yet Again

HillarycapWhat the hell is it with the "Liberal Media" and unflattering photos of Hillary Clinton? Hillary is not my favorite candidate at this time, but the media's obsession with catching her in mid-reaction and making her look like a loon is reaching new lows. This photo was represented as "news" by the AP, with this caption:

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York reacts to seeing and old friend during a campaign stop at the National Education Association New Hampshire, in Concord, N.H., Friday, March 30, 2007. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
As if this image were somehow representative or legitimate as a news photo. The fact of the matter is, when you photograph people, you always get shots like this. Try it out on anyone who is having an animated conversation, especially on video, and then freeze-frame through it--you'll catch them in any number of bizarre-looking poses. It's not because they're ugly or because they're a loon--it's simply an effect of the camera.

The thing is, such photographic buffoonery is typical of ten-year-olds, not news organizations. Any serious photojournalist will as a matter of course edit out these shots when choosing something for serious consideration. To do otherwise is considered an editorial dig at the person in question. And yet, Hillary Clinton repeatedly gets shown by news organizations in shots just like this.

Usually, you'll find this kind of crap on biased blogs and humor sites, not news outlets--at least for Republican figures. It's not as if Bush could never be caught looking stupid; witness these shots from non-news sources:

Bush Stupid 1Stupid Bush

Bush Stupid 2

Bush Stupid 3

And yet, I guarantee you that you won't see these images of Bush on the major news services, especially above captions that would otherwise be deemed serious. Instead, we get views of Bush that look like this:

0407-Bush Speech

The thing is, this is not new. I wrote on this back in July 2004 when I noticed the exact same dichotomy between press images of Bush and Gore.

Doubt me? Then check for yourself. THumb through the Yahoo photo collections of Bush, and then of Clinton. Every fifth or so shot of Clinton has her looking stupid and goony-faced. At best, one of every thirty or so of Bush has him looking even slightly silly.

So why is it that leading Democrats get plastered in the news media with those freeze-frame effects looking like loons, while Bush and Republicans get the hero shots?

Gee, you don't think there could be a bias in the media that's not liberal, do you? Naaahhhh.

Posted by Luis at 08:23 AM | Comments (3)