Tag Archives: political discourse

Facts Don’t Have A Political Slant – Journalists Need To Do More Fact Checking And Less Stenography

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screenshot of 'Journalist' Chuck Todd
‘Journalist’ Chuck Todd

Toledo Blade columnist Marilou Johanek wrote a post about journalists letting their opinion into the stories they do. While I agree with the general idea of her article, there is something missing: Facts don’t have a political slant. What I feel is worse for people today is the failure of journalists to give the facts and the context in a story. That should be their primary job.
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Fact Check – the @Weirdodo @joegallant and @m4zdaman tribute post

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It started with a tweet and brought out how some are misinformed about history. One has to wonder why people tell or repeat lies that can be refuted so easily.

I heard about the Tucson shooting victim who was arrested for making a death threat to a Tea Party person at a taping for the ABC News Sunday news show “This Week” and sent off a flippant tweet:

Violent words from Right 20 from Left 1 – Death threat at ABC-TV Town Hall event Saturday

I wrote it because I knew that the people on the right and by extension the corporate media would hold that event out as proof that “both sides do it” which is actually a false equivalence. The violent rhetoric from the right far outstrips any coming from the left – if any from the left even exists.

Later a few of tweets pop up in my mention file:

@cadfile Keith Olbermann praised a man for threatening the life of a Tea Party member here

@cadfile As far as violent words. The left seems to confuse political metaphor with reality calling it violent words

@cadfile I see violence as a left-wing thing. The guy that flew airplane into IRS building was a Communist & SEIU beating a man up

And that was from just one person @m4zdaman

The truth is that Olbermann praised the man on his Friday show – a day before the incident as the article and a check of the show’s website shows. That means that m4zdaman thinks that Olbermann is clairvoyant. Nice trick – then why didn’t he stop it before it happened?

The IRS plane crasher wasn’t from the left and the SEIU beating was found to be a hoax.

Of course my question has always been why does the right have to use violent “metaphors” in political discussions. All I know is some men use violent words to compensate for a small penis or a questioning of their sexuality. I wonder if that is true for those on the right that use those unnecessary words. It just seems that those on the right want to be dicks for the sake of being a dick – kind of like Biff Tannen was in the Back to the Future movies.

Next I get a few tweets from @Weirdodo and @joegallant who like @m4zdaman seem to think flooding people with tweets somehow “proves” your intelligence or correctness. Here are the more ridiculous ones:

@cadfile Violent actions from left, 1000 to 1, http://tinyurl.com/the-real-KKK Gee, looks almost like current events!

@cadfile Um… KKK was the paramilitary arm of the pre-war southern Democrat party

@cadfile “The Klan attacked black members of the Loyal Leagues and intimidated southern Republicans and Freedmen’s Bureau workers”

So the false equivalence they are drawing is that the Democratic Party of the 1950’s and 1960’s is the same party that elected President Obama in 2008 and the KKK from the 1950’s and 60’s would support a black President.

Yes the Democratic party was in general made up of a large number of southern people who supported Jim Crow laws and segregation. Although it was a southern Democratic President who supported and got the Civil Rights Act passed. The KKK was a domestic terrorist group that was anti-minority, anti-immigrant, pro-white, right wing nationalists. They also supported Jim Crow laws and segregation.

Leading Democrats of the time were racist such as Strom Thurman, Jesse Helms, and Robert Byrd. Back then many white Southern politicians championed racial segregation. Thurman switched to the GOP in 1964 to support Goldwater and oppose the Civil Rights Act. Helms switched to the GOP in the early 70’s while Byrd stayed in the party but moderated his views.

The main reason the GOP changed to more conservative and racist was the Southern strategy where Republicans like Richard Nixon scared white voters in the south and they voted for Republicans. The more liberal Democrats then took control of the party and evolved as the opposite of the GOP. However there are still some conservative members just as there use to be more liberal Republicans back in the day.

So if we were going to humor @Weirdodo and @joegallant we could say that if the KKK existed today like they did in 60’s it would be the paramilitary arm of the GOP since it seems the GOP has the worst problem with a black President and a liberal agenda for health and social programs.

I think it’s funny that someone on the right has to go back to the dark days of the Jim Crow south which makes the false equivalence so obvious and striking.

Again in the past two years, coinciding with the Obama administration, the amount of actual violence coming from the right is off the chart. He is just a brief summary:

July 2008: A gunman agitated at how “liberals” are “destroying America” kills two and wounds four at a Unitarian church.

October 2008: Two neo-Nazis are arrested in Tennessee for a plot to murder Barack Obama and dozens of other African-Americans.

December 2008: A father-son team involved in the “patriot” movement try to extort a bank with a homemade bomb; they end up killing two police officers.

January 2009: A white supremacist in Brockton, Mass., rapes a black woman, kills her sister and a homeless man, and is captured while en route to a Jewish community center.

April 2009: A white supremacist and gun nut kills three Pittsburgh cops because he believed conspiracy theories about President Obama taking away his guns. He had been posting Glenn Beck videos on a neo-Nazi website.

May 2009: Another right-wing crazy in Okaloosa County, Fla., also fearing his guns would be confiscated, kills two cops before being shot dead.

June 2009: A Holocaust denier and right-wing tax protester kills a security guard at the Holocaust Museum.

July 2009: A woman takes a break from posting Glenn Beck videos on her MySpace page to case an Air National Guard Base in Long Island. Upon her arrest, authorities find an assault rifle, a shotgun and 500 rounds of ammo in her car.

August 2009: A man in Collier Township, just south of Pittsburgh, walks into a women’s aerobics class and kills three women. His diary states, “Good luck to Obama! He will be successful. The liberal media LOVES him. Amerika has chosen The Black Man. Good!”

February 2010: An anti-government tax protester flies his plane into the IRS building in Austin, Texas, killing himself and one other.

March 2010: Seven militiamen in Michigan and Ohio are arrested for plotting to assassinate local police officers to spark a new civil war. This is also the month that an anti-government extremist walks into the Pentagon and opens fire, wounding two, before being shot dead.

May 2010: A mosque in Jacksonville, Fla., is firebombed.

July 2010: A Glenn Beck fanatic loads his car with weapons and drives to the Bay Area to attack the offices of the Tides Foundation and ACLU. He is wounded in a shootout along with the patrolmen after they intercept him on a routine traffic stop.

September 2010: A Concord, N.C., man who refers to himself as the “Christian counterpart to bin Laden” is arrested and charged with plotting to blow up an abortion clinic.

Violence from the right

The corporate media meanwhile is quick to downplay these events and other threats directed at Democrats or liberals.

I don’t really care if you are a Democrat or Republican but what does jerk my chain is if someone is obviously ignorant – especially about something so easy to check out.

Both sides DON’T Do it

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The US had one of those tragic moments on Saturday January 8th that causes deep sadness and reevaluation of ourselves. When Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 19 others were shot six of whom were killed including a 9 year old girl, we have to step back and naturally find out why this happened and can it be prevented from happening. A larger picture also has to be to examine if the air of our political debates was poisoned by violent imagery and rhetoric that came mostly from the right. I believe it’s poisoned and they need to tone it down.

Right now I don’t care if the Tucson shooter was a Glenn Beck/Sarah Palin fan or not. What I do know is those on the right like Beck and Palin who freely use violent imagery and rhetoric in their public speeches may not have pulled the trigger but they spilled a can of gasoline in an enclosed room just waiting for a spark.

You really have to examine yourself if you think violent talk is a good way to discuss politics especially with our history of political violence and assassinations.

How did that become okay?

The corporate media is complicit in creating and allowing that kind of talk to take root. They should have jumped on it and nipped in the bud but instead they stayed on the sideline counting their advertising dollars.

The right and the media have been quick to get defensive and claim “Both sides do it…” but that is a big lie meant to distract us from seeing the blood on their hands. Both sides DON’T do it. Right now the poison is coming from the right and their defensiveness – like a debutante getting the vapors – is telling.

And if Sarah Palin feels bad for being made a scapegoat for her stupid cross-hairs graphic and “lock and load” tweet when it was posted, then there are some Muslims who know exactly how she feels. She should find out how they coped with it after the Fort Hood shooting.

And no I am not calling for censorship – just think about how you say things. Most people don’t use curse words in every day speech and no one complains about censorship. Personally I think anyone who has to use violent imagery and rhetoric for political discussions come off as big douchebags.

As uber nerd Wil Wheaton says “Don’t be a dick”. You can still get your point across – about how much you hate Democrats and President Obama – without using violent words and images to do it. We will all understand.

In political discourse, cable maybe minuscule but broadcast news not helping

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Cable news punditry may reach a small hardcore section of voters but their broadcast news brethren seem to follow their lead which doesn’t contribute to accurate information for the average voter.

Cable news is like fantasy football leagues for the political wonks. The audience for the pundits on cable never rises above 3 million total viewers. But viewership is never close to the average number of voters in the US (in 2008 there were 133 million total votes cast). The broadcast news channels have more viewers (ABC, NBC, CBS) with an average of 14 million a day. Even radio has more of an audience than cable TV news channels.

Of all those shows, only O’Reilly gets significantly above two million total viewers. By contrast, NBC’s nightly news program doubles O’Reilly’s ratings in both total viewers and in the coveted 25-54 bracket. Even CBS, the lowest rated of the three, easily outdraws cable, and both broadcast and cable news face the same aging demographics: the median Fox News viewer is 65, two to three years older than the median broadcast news viewer, and CNN and MSNBC aren’t far behind.

But outpacing all of TV news is radio, and that’s where Koppel and other media observers should be focusing their attention. At first glance, radio may look like a conservative-dominated field. Rush Limbaugh’s weekly audience of 15 million dwarfs any television news program, and even Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck’s radio audiences are several times their TV audiences.

In fact, though, NPR provides a counterweight both to conservative talk radio, and to the charge that both sides have equally partisan media. Twenty-seven million people listen to NPR each week, and its morning and evening news programs get fourteen and thirteen million weekly listeners respectively, just behind Limbaugh.

The Tiny Cable News Universe

But the conclusion of the article quoted above – that the audience is small – is beside the point. It seems the drivers of broadcast news follow cable’s lead in deciding what is news and the coverage of the issues and often either give misleading information or don’t squash outright lies quickly enough.

* Polling data during and after last week’s midterm elections suggested that many Americans genuinely believe President Obama has raised their taxes — even though the reality is that our president actually lowered them for most of us. This means that people trust pundits like Rush Limbaugh, a major force behind spreading that lie, over the numbers on their own tax returns.
* Another recent phenomenon? Half of new Congressmen don’t believe in the reality of global warming. It’s not that they don’t just disagree on the source or the severity of the problem. They flat out don’t think the world is getting warmer–despite the evidence outside their windows.
* The new Congress will probably try to restore millions of dollars of funding for scientifically inaccurate, largely disastrous abstinence-only curriculum in schools, many of which have been shown to spread lies like “condoms don’t work” and “abortion causes cancer.”
* News outlets picked up a wildly inflated and completely outlandish claim from an Indian blog that Obama’s trip abroad cost $200 million a day–and listeners have swallowed it. (In this case, the White House flat-out denied it.)
The scary thing is, these kinds of rumors have a way of taking root in the popular consciousness. Just as the election season began heating up earlier this year, Newsweek published a list of “Dumb Things Americans Believe.” While some of them are garden-variety lunacy, a surprising number are lies that were fed to Americans by our leaders on the far-Right. This demonstrates that media-fed lies can easily become ingrained in the collective memory if they’re not countered quickly and surely.

16 of the Dumbest Things Americans Believe — And the Right-Wing Lies Behind Them

Another example is the media blow job NBC gave to former President Bush who is trying to sell a book. Matt Lauer, looking for his Frost-Nixon moment, never pushed Bush hard enough to actually answer questions about his presidential screw ups like Katrina and the Iraq war. I mean when the biggest nugget from the interview was Bush being hurt by the statement of a rapper just made me sad for journalism.

Broadcast media does a disservice to the citizens of this country by letting cable news pundits lead them by the nose and giving up their needed advocacy for the truth. Just ask a follow up question – please!