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No, both sides don't do what Breitbart does: Part II

Now that today's New York Times has weighed in on this topic, I'm going to hit this one more time, because I'm telling ya, it's important.

As I've been noting here, the real takeaway from the Shirley Sherrod mess is this: Not all partisan media are created equal. Right wing media are willing to engage in tactics that simply have no equivalent on the left -- even if mainstream news orgs and commentators keep taking refuge behind the notion that "both sides do it."

Now The Times's Brian Stelter has weighed in with a stand-alone piece that raises questions about what the Sherrod tale has done to the credibility of Breitbart and others on the right.

Some will think that Stelter's story doesn't go far enough. It asserts, for instance, that it is an "open question" whether conservative media have suffered a hit to their credibility. But I'll take it. It's a stand-alone story in the Paper of Record that's focused squarely on what this tale tells us about right wing media, with no nonsense about how "both sides" do it.

What's notable about this story is how few other outlets have done the same. And as a result, one of the most important aspects of the Sherrod mess is going almost entirely ignored: The vast difference it highlighted between media on both sides.

To make this point one more time, it's true that "both sides," to one degree or another, let their ideological and political preferences dictate some editorial decisions, such as what stories to pursue, how to approach them, who to interview, etc. But what's underappreciated is the degree to which the Breitbart-Fox axis goes far beyond this, openly employing techniques of political opposition researchers and operatives to drive the media narrative.

This simply has no equivalent on the left. The leading lefty media organizations have teams of reporters who -- even if they are to some degree ideologically motivated -- work to determine whether their material is accurate, fair, and generally based in reality before sharing it with readers and viewers. They just don't push info -- with no regard to whether it's true or not -- for the sole purpose of having maximum political impact. Period.

This is an important difference that's critical to understanding the rapidly shifting landscape in the new-media age. If I ran the universe more media figures would come right out and say what the Times hinted at today: No, both sides don't do it.

By Greg Sargent  |  July 26, 2010; 12:11 PM ET
Categories:  Political media  
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The media MUST know that this Republican Southern Strategy is afoot.

The reason why the media hasn't been more outspoken?

They are COMPLICIT. That's why.

The media does NOT want to get into a war with Republicans even though NOTHING that comes out of the Republican Party bears any resemblance to the truth. And again, it all comes back to money and access, money and power.

The Republican/Corporate Machine has NO INTEREST in having the corporate media expose a CLEARLY RACIST REPUBLICAN STRATEGY.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | July 26, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse

Heck, even the "clinging to guns and religion" story was broken by a HuffPo reporter.

Posted by: DDAWD | July 26, 2010 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Both sides don't--that is clear to anyone who actually watches, for example, Rachel Maddow or any of the other folks on MSNBC besides Morning Joe. Keith Olbermann is over the top some of the time, but that is his schtick, and was when he was with ESPN. And he is over the top in a way that is clearly making fun of something, not making something up. There is a big difference.

The plain fact is that whether you are comparing cable to cable or websites to websites or even the NY Times to the Washington Times, liberal-leaning media are pitched at a much higher intellectual level than right-wing media, and it is reflected in the comments as well.

I really think that a great many of these "everyone does it" types don't really ever read blogs on either side or watch Fox & Friends or Glenn Beck vs Ed-Rachel-Keith or even Dylan Ratigan. They just mouth the platitude.

Posted by: Mimikatz | July 26, 2010 12:29 PM | Report abuse

"Not all partisan media are created equal."

Yes. Let's all say it together:

MONKEY. With a gun PHOTOSHOPPED into his hand.

You can see it here:

The Weekly World News never really went away; now it's on TV. You can look forward to breaking Fox exclusives on Bat Boy and the alien endorsing Sarah Palin for president in 2012.

Posted by: JennOfArk | July 26, 2010 12:33 PM | Report abuse

And another thing: the next time they start pushing one of these phony New Black Panther non-stories and whining about how serious media outlets don't cover it, the pushback should be, "when is Fox going to cover that story about how Elvis, Marilyn Monroe and JFK are still alive and living on a secluded South Pacific island?"

Posted by: JennOfArk | July 26, 2010 12:36 PM | Report abuse


You buried the lead, in order to focus on the: He Said, She Said Trivial aspect of the Debate:

Reality Check:

From TPM

"Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele has a party fundraising event coming up in August that is scheduled to feature a very special guest: Conservative media activist Andrew Breitbart, according to a copy of the invitation exclusively obtained by TPM.

The fundraising event, billed as an "Election Countdown," will take place from August 12-14 in Beverly Hills, California, and will also feature other politicians such as California Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, and Nevada Republican gubernatorial nominee Brian Sandoval. Steele and Breitbart are scheduled to co-headline a welcome reception on the first evening, August 12."

Truth In Advertising.

Republicans should now move to change their identity tag from GOP to:

GORP: Gathering Of Racist Propagandists.

Posted by: Liam-still | July 26, 2010 12:40 PM | Report abuse

(From Steve Benen) Here's some evidence that Teabagger candidates are playing the Teabaggers as chumps:

* In case recent developments involving Colorado Republicans weren't quite nutty enough, U.S. Senate hopeful Ken Buck -- the Tea Party favorite -- has been caught lashing out at his Birther supporters. Buck was filmed telling a voter, "Will you tell those dumbasses at the Tea Party to stop asking questions about birth certificates while I'm on the camera?"

Posted by: suekzoo1 | July 26, 2010 12:42 PM | Report abuse

I'm not sure how many times David Gregory on MTP said 'but the left does it too.'

Who is Gregory trying to protect? Does he get paid to say outlandish things? Or, is really just that thick that he can't see what's going on around him in the right wing?

Fox, with the help of other right wing media sources are trying to redefine journalism into something filled with half truths, subtle race baiting and blatant propaganda with the intended purposes of promoting a world view of the few (Ailes) that determine what goes and what doesn't on the network.

Posted by: mikefromArlington | July 26, 2010 12:42 PM | Report abuse

David Gregory..."we don't need no stinkin' fact checkers. Our audience can do that for themselves." Moron.

Posted by: suekzoo1 | July 26, 2010 12:46 PM | Report abuse

Obvious, politically motivated fraud out of Sargent. As just one small example, look at the Post's own website, where Capehart is pretending that Beck is somehow the villain in the Sherrod affair, when in reality Beck resisted rushing to judgment far better than the Post. Capehart is pushing a lie, and Sargent's nonsensical apologetics are abetting him.

Posted by: tomtildrum | July 26, 2010 12:54 PM | Report abuse

Greg, I just stumbled onto a fantastic peice about the failure of media and their fall into trivia and gossip as news since OJ Simpson. I suspect it became rather addicting for the media.
It was in Time Magazine and written by, of all people, Mark Halprin.
Say what you will but, it took our media culture to task and called out the habit of 'he said - she said' nonsense.
He calls out Fox and Breitbart but, mostly, goes after his own cohorts.
good stuff

Posted by: vwcat | July 26, 2010 12:55 PM | Report abuse

I just stumbled onto a great article taking the msm to task for their failure in real news, dwelling on fluff and essentially staying on the 'grotesque ground hog day' since the OJ trial.
Every nonsense gets blown in an attempt to relive those heady days for the media.
I think they are addicted.
and the stupid 'he said-she said' nonsense was addressed as well.
Surprisingly it was in Time magazine and mark Halprin was the author.
Say what you will but, he went there - including calling out Brietbart for the sleazy operative he is.
good stuff

Posted by: vwcat | July 26, 2010 12:58 PM | Report abuse

tomtildrum, give it a rest.

Beck is a fraud. You think he really has some great ability to link unrelated things on a board and make sense of some 'super sekrit conspiritorial' theories that nobody else can see?

The guy is a phony. He picks and chooses what fraud he's going to peddle to the public on a daily basis. If he chose to cast Sharrod as a false charge its hardly because he felt it in his heart (all that crying having been proven fake) it was truly a bad charge. The guy is looking out for himself and trying to become the prominent voice of the far right and cast himself as some sort of fanatical messiah. He could give a damn about Sherrod. He could have gone either way on the Sherrod story. It just so happens he chose this path and it bode well for her. Next time, it might not.

Posted by: mikefromArlington | July 26, 2010 1:03 PM | Report abuse

As important as this story is of highlighting the right wing's coordination with Fox and the rest of the hate mongers, this OT that Balloon Juice highlighted really stinks...these stats are horrible.

Posted by: mikefromArlington | July 26, 2010 1:05 PM | Report abuse

would that the washpost's own howard kurtz, who's had no problem with hoisting many buckets of water for the rabble masquerading as right-wing media down through the years, rouse himself to take up this important subject. i'm not holding my breath. today's big takeout on tmz vs. radar -- oh puleeze, howie! it's a crying shame that kurtz seems to write and program his cnn 'show' almost to amuse himself these days. some media columnist.

Posted by: MMinMd | July 26, 2010 1:05 PM | Report abuse

thanks, vwcat.

Anybody have linke to Halperin piece?

Posted by: Greg Sargent | July 26, 2010 1:07 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: JkR- | July 26, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

At least now y'all are admitting that there is such a thing as left wing media that lets "their ideological and political preferences dictate some editorial decisions, such as what stories to pursue, how to approach them, who to interview."

Conservatives have been trying to get this simple admission for years now.

Posted by: sbj3 | July 26, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse


Here's the link:

Posted by: larrybellinger | July 26, 2010 1:19 PM | Report abuse


Here it is:

The Media Spiral: From O.J. to Sherrod,8599,2006410,00.html

Posted by: Ethan2010 | July 26, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Great job, Greg, and it's pretty clear to me that the Daily Caller is pulling a similar stunt as Breitbart -- trying to manufacture a story about liberal media collusion in an effort to distract from the heat that the Fox/Breitbart axis is taking from a few enlightened members of the legitimate media.

Keep pouring on the heat, Greg. There are more of us out here than you know who are cheering you on.

In the immortal words of Stephen Colbert -

"Reality has a well-known liberal bias"...

....and that fact just gnaws away at the Fox News crowd. That's why they keep peddling their garbage non-stop.

Posted by: elscott | July 26, 2010 1:24 PM | Report abuse

Thank you for this. The media is so careful trying to be "balanced" with their "the Left does it too."

Anderson Cooper was infuriating the other night with this constant "the Left does it too" refrain. I was hoping he'd prove it by saying "it's like the time the Left released an edited video of (fill in the blank)."

The big question for me is how the media will treat another revelation by Brietbart. In his infamous record we have the highly edited ACORN tapes and now this. Surely the media will shun Breitbart.

Posted by: FauxReal | July 26, 2010 1:24 PM | Report abuse

"At least now y'all are admitting that there is such a thing as left wing media"

OMFG. So stupid it hurts.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | July 26, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse

From the link that mike posted back to Balloon Juice, left or right doesn't matter folks, when this is reality. (Shirley Sherrod is correct, it's not black v. white, it's rich v. everyone else)

• 83 percent of all U.S. stocks are in the hands of 1 percent of the people.
• 61 percent of Americans “always or usually” live paycheck to paycheck, which was up from 49 percent in 2008 and 43 percent in 2007.
• 66 percent of the income growth between 2001 and 2007 went to the top 1% of all Americans.
• 36 percent of Americans say that they don’t contribute anything to retirement savings.
• A staggering 43 percent of Americans have less than $10,000 saved up for retirement.
• 24 percent of American workers say that they have postponed their planned retirement age in the past year.
• Over 1.4 million Americans filed for personal bankruptcy in 2009, which represented a 32 percent increase over 2008.
• Only the top 5 percent of U.S. households have earned enough additional income to match the rise in housing costs since 1975.
• For the first time in U.S. history, banks own a greater share of residential housing net worth in the United States than all individual Americans put together.
• In 1950, the ratio of the average executive’s paycheck to the average worker’s paycheck was about 30 to 1. Since the year 2000, that ratio has exploded to between 300 to 500 to one.
• As of 2007, the bottom 80 percent of American households held about 7% of the liquid financial assets.
• The bottom 50 percent of income earners in the United States now collectively own less than 1 percent of the nation’s wealth.
• Average Wall Street bonuses for 2009 were up 17 percent when compared with 2008.
• In the United States, the average federal worker now earns 60% MORE than the average worker in the private sector.
• The top 1 percent of U.S. households own nearly twice as much of America’s corporate wealth as they did just 15 years ago.
• In America today, the average time needed to find a job has risen to a record 35.2 weeks.
• More than 40 percent of Americans who actually are employed are now working in service jobs, which are often very low paying.
• or the first time in U.S. history, more than 40 million Americans are on food stamps, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture projects that number will go up to 43 million Americans in 2011.
• This is what American workers now must compete against: in China a garment worker makes approximately 86 cents an hour and in Cambodia a garment worker makes approximately 22 cents an hour.
• Approximately 21 percent of all children in the United States are living below the poverty line in 2010 – the highest rate in 20 years.
• Despite the financial crisis, the number of millionaires in the United States rose a whopping 16 percent to 7.8 million in 2009.
• The top 10 percent of Americans now earn around 50 percent of our national income.

Posted by: suekzoo1 | July 26, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse

"Surely the media will shun Breitbart."

'cept Fox overall. Sure, Shepard Smith might have acknowledged Breitbart's material isn't worth the 1's and 0's its made of, but his refusal doesn't reflect the rest of that organization run by Ailes who is slowly trying to discredit all other news orgs by constantly going after them for not helping to support right wing fantasy.

Posted by: mikefromArlington | July 26, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse

To JennOfArk

Why don't you do everyone here a favor and quit using these comment areas as a chat session? Make your point with one comment and then move on to some other topic somewhere. It is aggravating as hell when there are 100 comments and 75 of them belong to a few commenters like you. Try to control yourself if that is possible. Better yet get back to work if you have a job. There, that is my first and last comment for this piece.

Posted by: fastaire | July 26, 2010 1:32 PM | Report abuse

Not to butt in fastaire but, 2 out of the 25+ comments doesn't = 75%.

This is my fifth comment so far. That must mean I'm somewhere around eleventyseventh% or something which means I'm a big blabber mouth.

Posted by: mikefromArlington | July 26, 2010 1:37 PM | Report abuse

fastaire, she posted exactly TWICE on this thread. Good comments too. Go back to your hole, idiot.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | July 26, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse

I don't know why fastaire seems to have such a h***on for me. I've no idea who he is, and the only time I've ever seen him post ANYTHING here is to b**** and moan about the fact that I've posted a comment. Now here he is complaining about 2 measly comments posted over an hour ago. I don't know what's stuck in your craw buddy, but I didn't put it there.

What Ethan said - crawl back in your hole.

Posted by: JennOfArk | July 26, 2010 1:47 PM | Report abuse

fastaire, Jenn is a regular here. Back to your hole, troll.

Posted by: suekzoo1 | July 26, 2010 1:55 PM | Report abuse

I recently saw a “cartoon” that showed a planting field. Being planted was “race bait seeds” and it showed a tractor in the field with the bubble saying “…and here comes the fertilizer” and the fertilizer truck was “Fox news”.

It's on one side (right) and it's time MSM and the public stood up and told the truth. I wrote CNN, NBC-Today & ABC-GMA and complained because Anderson Cooper, Matt Lauer and George Stephanopoulos all claimed the same lie (both sides) - in fact Matt and George actually interrupted guest to make that lying claim.

Posted by: rlj1 | July 26, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

So, Josh at TMP just highlighted a Hill article showing the Republicans on the judiciary committee are wanting hearings on claims of racial bias at the DOJ.

Yes, it looks as though they are going there.

Posted by: mikefromArlington | July 26, 2010 2:13 PM | Report abuse

For the record:


Left wing journalists and bloggers coordinate stories in the mainstream media.


Right wing activists coordinate stories with Fox News, which propels these stories into the mainstream media, even though they are always proven false.

The Journolist debacle is just more in a long long line of evidence that Right Wingers honestly cannot tell the difference between fact and conspiracy.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | July 26, 2010 2:14 PM | Report abuse

All, here's the real Republican game plan in the standoff over unemployment:

Posted by: Greg Sargent | July 26, 2010 2:28 PM | Report abuse

Just for the record, all those lefty sites are lying when they report that Sherrod was fired because FNC kept playing the edited video. Sherrod resigned BEFORE FNC aired the tape.

So, to answer Greg - YES, both sides DO lie.

Posted by: sbj3 | July 26, 2010 3:26 PM | Report abuse

This was a set up from the start. Breitbart had cross hairs on his forehead for doing the paid-off media's job with Acorn, so first an "informant" gives him the video, the government fires Sherrod, then "realizes" it was "only" because of the malevolence of the baby-eating Breitbart that it misconstrued the words of the honorable Sherrod and made such a horrible decision. Just how often has the government fired a CIVIL SERVANT like this, and made a public show of it? Everybody has been playing their part. Water carriers like Sargent are simply following orders to keep this on the front page, as a preclude to shutting down opposition press. Review Soviet techniques for press manipulation if you want to know how this government and the press work.

Posted by: wfxt | July 26, 2010 4:10 PM | Report abuse

@Jenn: "Now here he is complaining about 2 measly comments posted over an hour ago."

He must be the Fox News producer who is responsible for the monkeys with guns story.

Posted by: schrodingerscat | July 26, 2010 4:25 PM | Report abuse

I sometimes wonder if some professional journalists (Howard Kurtz, cough, cough) actually spend time watching Fox for an extended period of time during the day before making the "both sides do it" claim.

In ways big and small the channel really pushes an agenda in a way that has nothing to do with news (e.g. even with the Fox segue announcer, he states claims that are at best highly debatable (and in some cases blatantly false) as if they were a matter of fact: e.g. I remember preview voice-over saying pretty bluntly that "saving the Bush tax cuts was the only way to create jobs" which ran last week in the evening).

Basically the channel has two hours of news, and the rest is agenda pushing. Shep Smith his staff and Chris Wallace frequently practice journalism, but they only account for a smidgen of the overall programming on the channel.

I agree with the distinction too -- ideology or partisan bent may color the kind of subjects that a person examines -- but at the end of the day there are still professional standards of conduct that should be in play regarding getting facts straight, reporting facts in context, and offering the accused a chance for rebuttal.

The fact that a Breitbart video even ran on any channel is a statement about just how low the standards are at a place like Fox (e.g. especially after the run in with the police that his "reporters" had with Mary Landrieu's office; the discrediting of his ACORN videos, or his equally bogus claim on his part to have found definitive evidence that John Lewis lied about being spit on by a Tea-Bagger protester).

A reporter doesn't just take a 3 minute video from a source and then try to pass off responsibility for the accuracy and vetting of the video to the source. Breitbart even mentioned that he had had the Sherrod video for some time, so in terms of professional standards, there was really no excuse for not trying to get the full video tape; there was no excuse for not attempting to talk to Sherrod, or to try to find out who the affected farmer was, etc. It's conceivable that Breitbart is simply happy to be part of the conversation, and he realizes that producing crappy, partisan hackwork may generate more attention than a consequential, thoroughly researched story in the current media environment -- especially if the hack-work pushes an easy to digest lie, rather than a more complex truth.

Posted by: JPRS | July 26, 2010 6:10 PM | Report abuse

Another interesting point in the Times today:

"Mr. Breitbart suggested that beginning with the success of left-leaning coverage in The Huffington Post, which he helped build, American journalism was moving toward a British model where agendas are in plain view. So what label suits him — journalist, provocateur, advocate? 'I’d say all three apply, but I’m not really into labels,' he said."

I am into labels (and can think of several more specific ones for him, but this is a family newspaper website) -- insofar as labels are words, and 'empiricism,' 'opinion' and 'analysis' still have distinct dictionary entries.

Look, I'm not going to argue with anyone for criticizing Fox. But I'd object to either side of these catfights trying to offer themselves as a replacement model.

Partisan media have coexisted with objective reporting in this country for a long time. (My broadband-deprived grandma isn't missing anything on the Internet she doesn't already get from the Nation.) And that's fine. I find most of them insufferable, so I don't read them.

What I've yet to see partisan advocates really grapple with are arguments like the ones Carr raises in that column. Or points like these:

"Work formerly done by reporters and producers is now routinely performed by political operatives and amateur ideologues of one stripe or another, whose goal is not to educate the public but to win."

"I would describe their approach as post-journalistic. It sees democracy, by definition, as perpetual political battle. The blogger’s role is to help his side. Distortions and inaccuracies, lapses of judgment, the absence of context, all of these things matter only a little... The truth is something that emerges from the cauldron of debate. No, not the truth: victory, because winning is way more important than being right. Power is the highest achievement. There is nothing new about this. But we never used to mistake it for journalism."

Posted by: jes7 | July 26, 2010 9:48 PM | Report abuse

Fox News represents the views of RIGHT thinking FAIR minded GOD fearing Christian Americans. As Such, it is attacked constantly by the administration of Barak HUSSIEN Obama, a Kenyan born Muslim Communist. It is time to take back our WHITE House America, support Fox News and defend America. Lets get the military to remove HUSSIEN, or the Republicans can impeach him once they get control of Congress, then the Supreme Court can appoint Jeb Bush President circa 2000, and Mary Cheney his VP, where she can fight to keep gays out of the military. And don't forget to call your congress man and get those Bush Tax Cuts for the Wealthy extended NOW! It's that important!

Posted by: Bush2 | July 27, 2010 4:21 PM | Report abuse

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