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Right-wing propaganda revisited: A reply to readers

Well, I thought my Monday column on Shirley Sherrod, President Obama and the right-wing media might stir some interest, but I did not expect it to draw quite the response it did. Because it attracted many comments, I’d like to thank everyone who got involved in this discussion, to reply to some who took the time to argue with me, and to express appreciation to those who wrote in support of my view. This post is longer than usual because readers raised a lot of issues, only some of which I can deal with here.

The outpouring from progressives reflects the depth of their frustration over the long-term success of the right-wing in pushing not only its arguments but also its false claims into the mainstream media. There are two issues here. One has to do with the mainstream media’s willingness to accept conservative frames on ongoing controversies. The other has to do with the right’s ability to push entirely untrue allegations into the mainstream discussion, on the infinitely elastic theory that “if people are talking about it, we have to cover it.”

The second should, in principle, be the easier issue to deal with. It is astonishing how many completely fake and false allegations became part of the mainstream discussion: the popular understanding that Al Gore said he “invented the internet” when he actually never said it; the pack of lies thrown at John Kerry in 2004 about his Vietnam service; and astounding assertions that President Obama is (1.) a Muslim who (2.) was educated at a madrassa and (3.) was not born in the United States and who (4.) despite the fact that he is half white and despite a life of extraordinarily close friendships with white people, somehow favors blacks over whites. The distortions of Shirley Sherrod’s powerful speech against racism into evidence that she is a “racist” should, as I said in the column, create a much higher barrier in the future. But will it?

I do want to acknowledge, as several readers pointed out, that the Sherrod case is in some important ways good news: partly because of her own promptness in facing down her accusers and partly because of some old fashioned fact-checking and reporting by the mainstream media -- with, as far as I can tell, CNN honorably leading the pack -- the false story was discredited pretty quickly. I thus share the view of one commenter on The Post website who issued these marching orders to the MSM: “Report! Return to hard reporting. Research that story and don't turn it in until your editor has approved that its solid. This goes for print, blogs, and broadcast.” All I can say is: Amen.

The framing issue is a bit more complicated. Having been in the media for a long time, I am absolutely certain that editors and producers worry far more about being fair to the right than being fair to the left. That’s the case, I think, because many editors responded rather defensively to all the studies showing that reporters are, indeed, more likely to be Democrats or independents than Republicans. The automatic suspicion is that if there is going to be bias, it would probably be against the right. That might be the case on social issues such as abortion. But on economic issues, particularly those connected to trade and labor unions, the media’s automatic bias is often against the left. Editors also suspect, correctly, that they are in more danger of being attacked by the right, which has been in the media criticism business for four decades, than by the left, which has only gained traction for its media criticism with the rise of the blogosphere.

Obviously (or at least it should be obvious), I have no problem with the idea that journalism should be fair to the right. I think journalists should be fair to everybody. I have tried to do that over the years, and my book Why Americans Hate Politics paid extensive and respectful attention to conservative and libertarian ideas. Even though I now am free as a columnist to offer my opinions -- which are, indeed, often critical of conservative approaches -- I still feel bound by journalistic rules about accuracy. I may polemicize, but I don’t invent facts, and I try not to distort the views of those I argue against.

The objection I offered in the column was to members of the mainstream media bending over so far backward for fear of being attacked as “liberal” that they allowed conservative assumptions to become embedded in news stories and in conventional analysis. For example: No matter how often supposedly centrist commentators claim that the Obama Administration went way to the “left” on the stimulus or health care, it is just not true. Obama is a very moderate sort of progressive. The health bill is similar to old moderate Republican proposals. It is a long way from full-throated liberalism, let alone socialism.

For me, the signal tip-off to the mainstream media’s capitulation to a conservative framing of large questions was the coverage of the 2000 recount. For weeks, the assumption than ran through so much of the reporting and analysis was that George W. Bush had “won” the election and that Al Gore was being unpatriotic and selfish by prolonging matters just because he wanted to recount ballots in Florida -- a state he lost by a few hundred votes -- and even though he had won the popular vote. It was, as I wrote at the time, a situation of “Heads Bush Wins, Tails Gore Loses.”

Now, to a few of my critics. One wrote: “In a free world with a free press Fox news has every right to skew their reportage however they wish... you do not have to watch it... if you do, you do not have to believe it.”

That is absolutely true. Fox News has every right to exist in a free society. But I have the freedom to call them out. My specific beef is with the idea that the mainstream media have to cover something just because Fox News makes a big deal of it. And Fox has that word “News” in its title, but does not live up to the standards the word demands. In the Sherrod case, Fox was ready to jump on the distorted excerpt of her speech -- without asking any questions about it -- because doing so served the political purposes of the right.

Here is an excerpt from Sean Hannity’s conversation with Newt Gingrich as posted by Fox – and to make clear I’m not taking this out of context, here is a link to the entire transcript.

HANNITY All right. A lot — a lot obviously going on here. The — this woman on tape saying these racially charged things that she didn't want to help farmers, in particular white farmer. That she said she wanted him to go out and deal with one of his own and she put him in touch with a white lawyer. Just the latest in a series of racial incidents. What do you think of this?

GINGRICH: Well, let me say, first of all, Secretary Vilsack did exactly the right thing. I mean I often disagree with this administration. But firing her after that kind of viciously racist attitude was exactly the right thing to do. And the fact that we have to be genuinely colorblind.

You know you can't be a black racist any more than you can be a white racist. And I just think it'd be good for those of us who are often critical of the administration to recognize that here's a case where Secretary Vilsack did exactly the right thing, moved very promptly, and fired somebody who frankly shouldn't be serving the American people because they clearly had a set of attitudes inappropriate for a federal official.

HANNITY: All right, my only thing is they weren't the ones that caught it. It was on Breitbart.com and it happened some time ago. So it's interesting that it took the new media to expose this.

Read that, and you decide. It took the new media to “expose” this? No, it took right-wing media to distort this.

There were a number of comments that suggested I have a double standard for left-wing and right-wing propaganda. My favorite on this score was from a reader who adopted a friendly, long-suffering tone: “E.J., EJ., E.J. --- Your column is not left-wing propaganda, because, uh... because... because... it's only propaganda if it comes from a conservative source. Did I get that right?”

There was also this: “Oh, I get it. The sludge the far left is pumping into the political waters is okay but the right's sludge is not. Now that's the kind of balance that a liberal can get behind.”

No, I think “sludge” is wrong wherever it comes from. But there is a fair point embedded in the criticism: that the word “propaganda” covers a lot of ground, so let’s make a distinction. It’s perfectly legitimate for conservatives to argue that the Obama health plan will cost the government too much money. This is an idea they might well want to propagate, which is where the word “propaganda” comes from. I disagree with that view, but it’s something we can argue about by mustering facts and speaking openly about the values we bring to those facts.

But it was not legitimate to say the health plan should be killed because it included “death panels,” since there was nothing even remotely resembling “death panels” in the bill. My core point was that the mainstream media should not be subtly or unsubtly pushed into accepting untrue or misleading right-wing propaganda to frame news stories. (It should not accept left-wing propaganda to do that, either.)

It took mainstream journalism far too long to make clear that the death panels were a pure invention. Some news stories treated a factual matter as a matter of opinion, thereby legitimating a falsehood. Consider this sentence -- not atypical of how the matter was treated in other outlets -- from the ABC News website in August, 2009: “The House bill, H.R. 3200, also includes controversial ‘end of life care’ consultations, which would reimburse doctors for discussing end-of-life arrangements with patients, but which some critics have characterized as ‘death panels’.” That’s simply wrong. There were no death panels, period, no matter how anyone “characterized” anything. As Trudy Lieberman wrote in the Columbia Journalism Review:

Traditional journalism tends to be reactive, and the ill-effects of this were never more evident than with the “death-panel” debacle. Instead of bringing audiences around to a serious discussion of end-of-life care, the press let right-wing ideologues set the agenda with misinformation before eventually doing the stories that refuted the outrageous claims of Sarah Palin and others. But it was too little, too late.

A few commenters raised the issue of whether the right-wing was responsible for the pain Shirley Sherrod was put though, or whether it was really the Obama administration’s fault for accepting the video at face value and asking her to quit. One reader wrote: “I believe the Democrats did this to themselves and now are trying to blame the Republicans. Typical of the left -- won't take responsibility for their own actions.”

As it happens, the third, fourth and fifth paragraphs of my column were devoted to criticizing what I called the “shameful” response of the administration. But the simple fact is that Obama’s lieutenants were not responsible for publicizing a distorted video. Conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart was.

There is much more to be said on this subject, and I hope we can keep the conversation going. I expressed hope that this episode would be a turning point, and it’s nice to know that a lot of other people hope so, too.

By E.J. Dionne  | July 29, 2010; 6:42 PM ET
Categories:  Dionne  | Tags:  E.J. Dionne  
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Comments

Thank you, Nancy Giles. I watched Shirley Sherrod’s speech. It was positive and redeeming.
The ethical failure by Andrew Breitbart is larger than journalistic ethics. It should apply to every public expression. The attitude which created this mess reminds me of a statement by Herbert Spencer, "There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments, and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance; that principle is contempt prior to investigation."

Posted by: lynnlm | July 29, 2010 7:47 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, Nancy Giles. I watched Shirley Sherrod’s speech. It was positive and redeeming.
The ethical failure by Andrew Breitbart is larger than journalistic ethics. It should apply to every public expression. The attitude which created this mess reminds me of a statement by Herbert Spencer, "There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments, and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance; that principle is contempt prior to investigation."

Posted by: lynnlm | July 29, 2010 7:49 PM | Report abuse

A bit of a nick on the thin skin. Ouch!

Hannity is an argue-tainment talk show host. It's not a news program. You're giving him too much credit. I say that as a conservative.

The two biggest issues are Breitbart and Vilsac. Both acted on impulse, one with indignation and one with fear. It led to two stupid decisions, neither of them checking what they needed to.

E.J. you are very articulate but you're a polemicist. In so doing, many conservatives read your columns with skepticism about spin. Ex. The Al Gore/internet controversy. "During my tenure in Congress I took the initiative in creating the internet." That can be nuanced, but it's not a stretch to preserve the criticism and mockery.

E.J. some of us are very serious about the posts, and some use it as a drive-by hit. Personally, I do both depending on my mood. But to take this issue as an affront to your credibility is going to far. As a reader who disagrees with you 99% of the time, I say take the posts for what they're worth.

Posted by: slatt321 | July 29, 2010 8:01 PM | Report abuse

Forget Sherrod - she's just a minor symptom of the real problem.

The current crop of conservatives see literally everything in partisan terms. Even nonpartisan things like the environment. So while everybody else is trying to discuss the merits of a position, conservatives are having an entirely different conversation. The media just keeps playing along.

Posted by: simpleton1 | July 29, 2010 8:06 PM | Report abuse

simpleton, the left does it just as much. Credibility requires admitting that.

Posted by: slatt321 | July 29, 2010 8:10 PM | Report abuse

slatt321,

If you can identify a Democratic Senator equivalent to James Inhofe, who takes a scientifically baseless attitude towards a fundamentally important issue, I'm all ears. Until then, we'll have to agree to disagree.

I'm not talking about different points of view, or different ideological approaches to a problem. I'm talking about creating your own alternate reality where the real world doesn't apply, simply because you think that helps you in your short term quest for power. That's something new.

Posted by: simpleton1 | July 29, 2010 8:51 PM | Report abuse

E.J. is a self-admitted polemicist; and that's not a bad thing if everyone reading him knows it upfront (if they don't, that's their fault). As he writes, the issue is not whether or not he is a polemicist, but whether or not he is responsible in presenting his facts. Like John Adams said, facts are stubborn things.

So when I read one of E.J.'s or Charles Krauthammer's columns, I often do what I've suggested on a number of occasions on these pages: I go to PolitiFact.org and read the pertinent articles there as a way of checking facts. BTW, PolitiFact.org is a Pulitzer Prize-winning NON-partisan organization. They'll call ANYBODY a liar who deserves it.

And here's what I've found: a large majority of their "Pants On Fire" ratings have gone to right-leaning persons or organizations. To be sure, they've caught Obama in a few "Pants On Fire" lies. To be fair by comparison, however, they've caught Limbaugh in far more.

Sooooo, adopting PolitiFact.org's style, I'll rate Dionne's article as "mostly true."

OK, I know my method isn't scientific, but as an independent-minded centrist who hears nonsense from BOTH sides of the political divide, my take is that within these last two years, the right is guilty of far more distortion than the left in terms of shear volume (numbers of instances), and is far more hysterical in tone and impervious to reason as well. Obviously, I'm talking about characteristics of a population which has many individuals who DON'T fit this profile. And OF COURSE there are rational and articulate conservatives out there--I wish THEY were the ones getting attention! Folks should read Jon Avlon's recent book about how the extremists (from both sides) are hijacking politics in America.

Posted by: post_reader_in_wv | July 29, 2010 8:56 PM | Report abuse

simpleton1, I'll give you a partisan example. It's not a senator; former governor, DNC chair, and presidential candidate Howard Dean. Stating on Meet the Press that Republicans don't care if poor children go to bed hungry was as absurd and illuminating as Inhofe's silly comment. But Inhofe was making an unfunny joke, and Dean meant it as a partisan slur. Both sides have fools who go to extremes in their own defense and that was my point to you.

Posted by: slatt321 | July 29, 2010 9:27 PM | Report abuse

If American voters were, as a group, better educated, demagoguery (now most virulently practised by Republicans) would not have the impact it now has.

I think it is no coincidence that the US political environment has become more polarized as US educational achievement has slid down the OECD rankings. The policy response is obvious: educate all Americans to give them a sufficiently sophisticated world-view to enable them (at least) to engage in sensible political debate.

It might also give us a greater chance of electing Members of Congress who are not themselves ignoramuses.

Posted by: Iceman3 | July 29, 2010 9:44 PM | Report abuse

Now wait a minute. While Palin was out-of-line in pushing the death panel meme, Obama and other liberals told an even bigger whopper that the mainstream press never challenged.

This was the claim that the health-care reform legislation would not increase the federal deficit, but would actually decrease it. Now, this defied common sense, but the press let Democrats get away with pushing this argument. And it may well have been the deciding factor -- as it provided moderate Democrats cover to vote for the legislation. I live in Montana, and that was one of the primary justifications our two Democratic senators gave for supporting the legislation. A lot of us suspected they had their fingers crossed behind their backs as they said it.

Anyway, this may go down as one of the biggest lies in American political history -- and the press not only didn't challenge it, they kept repeating it as though it was true. This will prove to be one of the darkest chapters in the history of American journalism, as well.

Of course, EJ may still believe the legislation will reduce the deficit, although the CBO has said otherwise.

Posted by: dakotadoug83 | July 29, 2010 10:22 PM | Report abuse

Dionne wrote: "I may polemicize, but I don’t invent facts" Unfortunately, facts have become tricky things in political arguments.

Dionne accepts as fact that anthropogenic global warming is real. Unproven - it is a result of computer modelling that may not account for all variables.

Dionne accepts as fact that the Health Care Reform legislation is the most economical way to provide good health care. Arguable, and cannot be proven because it drives out other possible actions.

Dionne accepts as factual that no matter the size of the deficits and borrowing by government, the U.S. economy can grow the U.S. back to prosperity. A highly dangerous risk, based on little more than wishful thinking and blind adherence to a big-government philosophy.

For at least 10 years, Dionne has liked almost nothing that Republicans & Conservatives do, while cheerleading for almost everything that Democrats do. Unless, he is actually willing to look at facts and results objectively, he is just a partisan pundit for the Democratic Party

Posted by: pilsener | July 29, 2010 10:36 PM | Report abuse

If you quote from a book, are you obligated to quote the whole book? We've been quoting excerpts for a very long time, and it is an established process. When properly noted it is a powerful and quite acceptable journalistic tool; when credit isn't given, it is called plagiarism. So how do you govern how much to excerpt, and this was an excerpt - a snippet - words were not rearranged; there was no editing to remove words or phrases. Somebody simply used enough to make his point; she said the words. The real intent was to show audience response anyway. If you argue he was obligated to show the rest, that will turn journalism on its ear because, then, how much is enough, and who decides, what if the person being quoted is dead? How many times do reporters excerpt statements - or use excerpts back to back - neatly snipping out what doesn't make the story. Once burned, most people simply refuse to comment, but reporters do get away with a lot, so why not this one?

Think about politics. Remember how Republicans voted against unemployment benefits, and how Democrats said it was malicious, that they objected to helping the unemployed? The Republican argument was they objected to the attachments that had nothing to do with unemployment benefits, and they disagreed with the funding; they had a valid argument that Democrat sponsors ignored PAYGO. Remember all the times in campaigns "so and so voted against...," "so and so supported the war...," "so and so voted to give billions to bankers?" Ever hear of anyone being prosecuted for outrageous claims such as those. They are generally taken out of context, too; someone voted against a well intentioned bill that included a poison pill, for example. Can you argue that one class of people has rights that others don't?

Posted by: tnvret | July 29, 2010 11:08 PM | Report abuse

@dakotadoug83: "Of course, EJ may still believe the legislation will reduce the deficit, although the CBO has said otherwise."

Yeah, uhm, no. The opposite is true. According to a pdf from the CBO website:

"CBO and JCT estimate that enacting both pieces of legislation—H.R. 3590
and the reconciliation proposal—would produce a net reduction in federal
deficits of $143 billion over the 2010–2019 period as result of changes in
direct spending and revenues"

True, they adjusted this estimate later to add $115 billion in costs, so EJ is still technically correct by $28B. I'd call it a wash, but "darkest chapters in [American journalism]," or "biggest lies in American political history," that seems extreme. Where am I, CBO, and EJ wrong? Clarify your statement, please.

Mike

Posted by: mwmaceyka | July 29, 2010 11:16 PM | Report abuse

When I realize that Andrew Sullivan still continues to lie about Sarah Palin giving birth to Trig, that the MSM looked the other way when Dan Rather used obviously forged documents to falsely accuse Pres. Bush of avoiding military service, when I realize that allegations against Al Gore sexually harassing a woman were ignored, and that it took a tabloid to expose John Edwards' lies about his affair with Rielle Hunter, I realize that Dionne is all wet. The MSM is deeply biased against the right, and the fact that Fox News and Andrew Breitbart routinely call the MSM on its left-wing bias is great news for Americans who actually care about the truth, rather than being spoon-fed the same liberal pablum by Beltway insiders.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | July 29, 2010 11:17 PM | Report abuse

E.J.,

It's worth remembering that there are people who cannot see beyond their very narrow biases of race, religion, government action, etc. to address substantial problems, and there are people who will say or do anything to acquire riches and celebrity, regardless of how it affects individual people or the country as a whole. It's not your fault if you become despondent; there never was much hope to begin with.

-A Democrat

Posted by: AloysiusJenkins | July 29, 2010 11:45 PM | Report abuse

Again you look for the easy hit with hannity and ignore it was the white house that was wrong and glenn beck that was right if one progresive could admit that id be amazed

Posted by: wech0201 | July 29, 2010 11:51 PM | Report abuse

Mr Dionne; ALL,

i MIGHT take your LEFTIST, FALSE, PARTISAN, ranting about "Conservative Propaganda" more seriously IF & WHEN you are as quick to point out the KNOWING, PREMEDITATED LIES told by:
1. the "mainstream media talking heads" of network/cable TV,
2. BHO (our very own LIAR-IN-CHIEF),
3. Princess Pelosi, Prince Harry Reid and the many other LIARS, LOUD-mouths, BIGOTS & common criminals of the DIMocRATS party
AND
4. the "news-people" of "The Washington COMpost" and the other "newspapers" like "The NY SLIMES" & "Chicago SPUN".

face it, Mr Dionne, you & the other LEFTISTS of "the main-SLIME media" are NOT believed AND/OR trusted (any more) by MOST Americans on any subject, ABSENT "independent proof", as you ALL are believed to "lie like rugs", if the "leaders" of & "core policies & desires" of the DIMocRAT Party are at risk.
(FYI, ALL the DIMocRAT programs ARE "at risk" starting in JAN 2011, when BOTH houses of Congress are back in GOP hands.)

it may well take us until FEB 2013 to DUMP "obamacare" & the other LEFTIST/stupid/wasteful programs that the DIMocRATS, unelected bureaucrats & BHO have inflicted upon the USA. - trust me on this, BOTH Obama & "his programs" are TOAST come 20JAN2013.
(as of 29JUL10, i probably have as good a chance of being POTUS in 2013 as BHO does. - i'm NOT running for any office.)

we members of the TEA PARTY want ALL of the LEFTIST, ELITIST, DIMocRATS gone forever from every position of power, as well as ALL of the RINOs & every SELF-important/SELF-serving, ARROGANT, bureaucrat.

at our current rate of growth (about 10% per month), the TEA PARTY will be LARGER than BOTH parties COMBINED by 2012 & we will REMOVE the SELF-important, ARROGANT, "big wheels" from power by our votes.

given my personal choice, we would:
1. prohibit ANYONE from holding any federal office, other than POTUS/VPOTUS, for more than a TOTAL of 6 years,
2. would allow the VOTERS to set salaries/expenses/staff levels for EVERY federal office-holder,
3. would prohibit any of "the trappings of power" for any politician/official, which are not freely available to the the rest of us "ordinary citizens",
4. allow the RECALL of every elected/appointed office-holder
AND
5.we would immediately CUT every federal department/agency budget by 10-20%.
(there's enough fraud, waste & abuses in EVERY federal department/agency to CUT the budgets by, probably, a THIRD with little or no loss of "critical functions".)

it's really NO more complicated than this: we "regular people out in fly-over country" want our country back from the "SELF-important powerful", "the special interest groups" of the LEFT/RIGHT & from "the ruling class".
(fyi, that's "the QUIET revolution" that we TEA PARTY folk talk about AND that's WHY "the ruling classes" HATE the TEA PARTY!)

just my opinions.
(full disclosure: i do NOT speak for our county's TEA PARTY group, absent a vote/concensus of our membership.)

yours, TN46
coordinator, CCTPP

Posted by: texasnative46 | July 30, 2010 1:09 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Dionne is much too polite in this response. The harsh tone he took in the original piece should have been increased in this one. Instead he has practically pushed himself into the proverbial corner, to wit: no, 'they' don't have a point, and no, it is not appropriate to introduce false equivalence for the sake of fairness. Mr. Dionne, conservatives are at war with liberals. By no means does this suggest we resort to their tactics. But neither do you accomplish anything with your conciliatory tone. My suggestion is to keep reading the blogs you obviously picked up on this issue from. Not only did they see this working the refs business long before you caught on, they also know how to fight back without lowering themselves into the mud.

Posted by: daphne5 | July 30, 2010 1:13 AM | Report abuse

Mike, if you are familiar with the CBO's estimates, you are aware that even they are based on the sort of sleight-of-hand bookkeeping that the Obama administration used to make it seem that Obamacare would reduce federal deficits.

Some of the things left out of the CBO's estimates are uncounted expenditures that will reduce the health care bill's ability to cut the deficit.

Most of the savings that are supposed to come from Obamacare are to come from cuts in Medicare reimbursements to doctors and hospitals. Do you really believe that future Congresses will follow through and cut hospitals, cut doctors and cut various providers in terms of their Medicare payment rates? They haven't done so in the past, despite some tough talk. Will they be able to stand up to seniors who complain about loss of benefits/service?

It ain't going to happen.

Also, the CBO estimates don't include the costs necessary to get the bill's provisions off the ground, such as paying to set up nationwide insurance exchanges -- something that some estimate will cost between $120 billion and $130 billion, wiping out any potential savings achieved through Medicare cuts.

This whole scheme, like a lot of government programs, will cost a lot more than promised. Only it will be many times worse than most government programs.

Palin's death panels were a small fantasy compared to the fantastical numbers that numbers we're seeing with Obamacare.

Posted by: dakotadoug83 | July 30, 2010 1:20 AM | Report abuse

One can not muddle an issue with facts to a fanatic. It’s like
teaching Saudis Democracy. Fanatics, whether religious or political, same thing, will distort or ignore facts. So why bother?

Posted by: alf1052 | July 30, 2010 1:21 AM | Report abuse

I find it somewhat ironic that in a story chiding the right and the media for distorting the truth that you repeat the false claim that Al Gore wanted the ballots recounted in Florida. Mr. Gore wanted the ballots recounted only in the three most heavily democrat counties in the state only - the three counties where the institutional democrat party would have the most control over how the ballots were counted. I would also note that "fiction" is not confined to the right. Let's not forget the forged letter concerning George W. Bush's National Guard service. You can believe what you want about Bush's service itself, but the letter was a bad forgery that numerous people were able to diagnose without even having access to the actual document. CBS ran with the story based on a single anti-Bush source with no verification. The villan is the news cycle in an internet world, not the reports.

You are also, as is typical on the left, being unfair to Fox by treating a show that is very clearly an opinion program, Hannity, as news. If you are going to be critical of Fox News at least use examples from its news programing and not its talk shows. The news programing on Fox slants no further to the right than CBS or ABC do to the left. You cannot do that here, of course, because Fox news programing did not consider the story significant before Vilsek fired Sherrod.

Posted by: wendingo | July 30, 2010 2:31 AM | Report abuse

I suppose you can take Al Bore's part for his role in prolonging the agony of the 2000 election, but you omitted the fact he cherry picked the counties he wanted recounted. Had he asked for a recount of the entire state's vote, I would have supported him. As it turns out, recounts of the entire state, done by news media, showed Bush the winner in that state. Also, Al Bore tried to deny American servicemen's votes to be counted: was that part of his "every vote should count" mantra? Or should read "only Gore votes should count." And what about ballot chads and dimples that only Democratic observers coujld interpret properly? The manure count for the Gore campaign's post-election follies is quite high.

Posted by: sailhardy | July 30, 2010 7:09 AM | Report abuse

OK EJ I agree - most of the conservative propaganda is difficult to see as being rational or even true.

But you can do a lot better. Ask more questions. Say "If this is true, then what does it mean?"

Many times you fall very short of the conclusions we need.

Posted by: gary4books | July 30, 2010 7:11 AM | Report abuse

me thinks dost protest too much...

Posted by: flyover22 | July 30, 2010 7:31 AM | Report abuse

tnvret @ July 29, 2010 11:08 PM wrote "If you quote from a book, are you obligated to quote the whole book?"

No, it is not necessary to quote the entire book. But you must distort what the book says and present it as the position of the book.

So, if I write "It is not true that all Republicans are ", you can correctly say that according to me not "all Republicans are ". However it is dishonest, to say the least, for you to claim that I said "all Republicans are ". I did say those words, but the 'excerpt' is simply wrong.

Posted by: AMviennaVA | July 30, 2010 7:57 AM | Report abuse

Well done EJ. And in the upside down world of republican propaganda - breitbart is hailed as a hero - scheduled to appear at a republican fundraiser. In a normal world, he would be scorned as a hack and discredited. The right doesn't care if the info is factual - they just want to keep up the fear factor, scare those people into believing any type of hooey they push. Notice, most of their narrative is preceded by "some people are saying" - which is the glaring red light indicator that a load of bull crap is soon to follow.

Professional journalists that still take pride in their craft shouldn't remain silent - fox and their cohorts should be called out on their bull crap.

Posted by: JilliB | July 30, 2010 8:04 AM | Report abuse

"Simpleton" is right there is a qualitative difference between propaganda eminating from the "right" and that of the "left". Inhofe is not just representing a point of view but deliberately distorting an argument about climate change. The building of an igloo in the winter is completely different from the polemic statement from Howard Dean.

When Dean said that Republicans don't care whether poor children go to bed hungry, he was exagerrating to make a point. (By the way, most of us don't lose sleep at the thought of hungry children otherwise we'd become insomniacs.) When Imhofe built his igloo he knew very well that a snowstorm in winter is a seasonal matter but chose to use his symbol to promote an untruth: denying that temperatures are afffected by what we humans do. He did this as a cynical calculation rather than as an argument. Nothing indicates that Inhofe is fool enough to believe that deforestation and land use cannot cause widespread climatic changes. Inhofe comes from Oklahoma, the center of the dustbowl, he cannot not know what land-use changes can bring about.

Republicans include some fools but many more knaves.

CB in Hamburg

Posted by: chrisbrown12 | July 30, 2010 8:06 AM | Report abuse

EJ, you should distinguish between Fox commentary (Hannity, Beck) and their news shows. I'm a conservative, but these shows are unwatchable for me.

I applaud your stance against misleading or false propaganda to advance political agendas. Sarah Palin lost what little credibility she had with me on the death panel discussion and Briebart will certainly suffer from his edited video of Sharrod (although I find her "growth" from racism to class warfare to be disturbing).

The left is also promoting false themes at the moment including that opposition to illegal immigration is based on racist xenophobia and that Islamic facists are really not so different than Christians who oppose abortion.

On the same grounds you criticize Fox, I wonder when will you do the same with the daily vitriol from MSNBC or the Huffington post?

Posted by: scott80 | July 30, 2010 8:31 AM | Report abuse

Wow...An MSM journalist with stones....

Posted by: tsorren | July 30, 2010 8:33 AM | Report abuse

I notice that the story of Bush being AWOL from the Air National Guard, promoted by liberal left leaning newspapers and based on faked documents does not make this mans list!

Only stories about liberals do. Stories about republicans are still considered true even after the evidence is proven to be forged.

And is this writter suggesting that Sherrod never said that she did not offer her full effort to the white farmer? Or that she gets foregiveness because she later decided that was wrong to do?

I does not seem that a white person is allowed this same forgiveness! Was it offered to Don Imus?

Posted by: heathergreeneyes | July 30, 2010 8:43 AM | Report abuse

Today's GOP pols and pundits are pandering fascists who play the angry masses like a fiddle. Look at frauds like Bill O'Reilly, who ON HIS OWN SHOW said it's ok for the government to disarm the populace during times of emergency, like Katrina, thereby leaving families defenseless from robbers and looters.

That's a republican in a nutshell. They blather on about liberties, but as soon as they get in power, they start taking them. Free speech, due process, freedom from search and seizure, abusing the Tonkin Gulf resolution...And when the sh|t REALLY hits the fan, they'll confiscate your guns and relocate you to some "safe-zone" where you can be robbed and murdered.

No thanks, GOP.

Posted by: Please_Fix_VAs_Roads | July 30, 2010 8:45 AM | Report abuse

Frame is important. But so is where the frame is set. Your frame and its set point, Mr. Dionne, are skewed.

So too are your fact 'cherry picking' and slanting. You see, even facts can be stated ith a point of view. And many of yours are. This is not different across the conservative/liberal, Democrat/Republican, left/right divides.

I think that the citizens, voters and taxpayers of this nation are far smarter than we are given credit. The 'other side' just beleives that if we don't agree with them that we are stupid.

When your frame parameters set away from the topics you discuss, you excuse yourself as smarter than your skeptical readers. Its the same when your facts slant.

"Facts are simple and facts are straight,
Facts are lazy and facts are late.
Facts all come with a point of view,
Facts won't do what I want them to.

David Byrne

Robert Fuller
Hopewell, NJ

Posted by: fuller1 | July 30, 2010 8:47 AM | Report abuse

just my opinions.
(full disclosure: i do NOT speak for our county's TEA PARTY group, absent a vote/concensus of our membership.)

yours, TN46
coordinator, CCTPP
___________________________________________
This is a good example of the alternate reality completely disconnected from facts. I am a native Texan and I am ashamed of the level of ignorance and hate coming from the Lone Star State. Rick Perry caught in some crooked land deals? IOKIYAR. Education suffering from the lack of funding will soon bring Texas' fine institutions down a notch or two. However, I DO support the Tea Baggers! The more the public gets to see them the more revolted they are by their displays of bigotry and hatred. Here's a reality check for you tea baggers: Mayberry was just a fictional town in an America that never existed. You can't have back what you never had to start with. Your rejection of science in favor of faith which you seem to possess little of will harm this country as a whole. Free thinking leads to scientific breakthrough and advancement. Faith based control of everything leads to people leaving for a better opportunity elsewhere. THAT story sounds familiar doesn't it? Oh yeah, you reject history in addition to science...

Posted by: md83 | July 30, 2010 8:50 AM | Report abuse

I think the problem isn't right wing slant to the news. I can appreciate others disagreeing with me. I can appreciate an argument. What I am depressed about is the out and out lies. The Mainstream media doesn't not expose these lies they repeat them. If that's not bad enough these lies actually cause real damage to our democracy.

The Swift Boat story against John Kerry was an out and out lie. It was a travesty to disparage a remarkable military service. The media should have said that anyone who supports our people in uniform should reject this blatant lie, but the media was silent and I'm sure people believe them.

When the Tony Blair memos came out proving that the case for war against Iraq was contrived, nothing happened. I don't understand how any decent person conservative or liberal is not outraged by this. But they are not.

Finally, the lie about Acorn signing up phony voters. I am an election judge and I have told people over and over again, that you can register voters, but they have to be verified in order to be added to the voter rolls. After some has filled out an application, even if it is blatantly false, it is ILLEGAL for the organization to destroy this application. They must flag it and present it for verification. People still believe that ACORN somehow registered millions of illegal voters who voted for Obama. How can anyone smart enough to read a newspaper believe this? And now they are firing teachers and dumbing down our population even more. It is more than sad, it is criminal.

Posted by: rlritt | July 30, 2010 9:28 AM | Report abuse

EJ...THANK YOU. My fiance will verify that my hair has been on fire over a lot of this on the one hand/on the other hand crap the MSM has been peddling. One of those hands is holding crap & lies. The "death panel" debacle was shameful. It took about 3 weeks before the msm started to very weakly refute this mess.
Keep up the excellent work.

Posted by: foyelady | July 30, 2010 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Equating Fox "News" with Sean Hannity is misleading. Sean Hannity has a show on Fox News, and makes no pretense about being a journalist, he is very straight forward with the fact that he is a conservative offering his opinion, not a news reporter. Using that standard would mean that the WP is not a "news"paper because it publishes your opinion piece. EJ, are you willing to admit that you are a proud liberal and that you are voicing your opinion, or are you just reporting the news? Consider this from your column above:

"...that Al Gore was being unpatriotic and selfish by prolonging matters just because he wanted to recount ballots in Florida"

EJ this is the type of distortion you are deploring in this very column. Al Gore did not want to count all the votes in Florida, he only wanted to re-count the votes in a few predominately Democrat counties. That is a fact and that is what the entire dispute was about. Did you leave out that important fact on purpose, or has that become part of the "mainstream" discussion?

"...fake and false allegations became part of the mainstream discussion"

Posted by: scrumps03 | July 30, 2010 9:39 AM | Report abuse

Whining liberal clown. Shill for the Democrat Party. Need I say more?

Posted by: tpettyjohn | July 30, 2010 9:40 AM | Report abuse

With this article WaPo has finally achieved greatness.......as a National Tabloid.

Posted by: wxyz6200 | July 30, 2010 9:42 AM | Report abuse

I hope it is a turning point as well EJ. But, I am dubious. Whenever I go out in public, I see a great many public business outlets like McDonalds, and prominent motel/hotel exchanges blaring away Fox News propaganda--and make no mistake about it, it is partisan propaganda.

It used to be that the American voting electorate was sufficiently enlightened to put this sort of tawdry reporting just where it belonged. But, there has been a discernible change in the electorate. American voters do not seem to possess the same enlightened attitudes and abilities to discern what is a fact and what is nothing more than partisan flimflam.

It is almost as if thre has been a return to that "old time religion" thinking exhibited in INHERIT THE WIND. The American people seem to have come from being an enlightened people to a people who want to have their most base prejudices pandered to and rationalized.

Posted by: jaxas70 | July 30, 2010 10:06 AM | Report abuse

Look. I honestly don't believe we have a responsible mainstream media anymore. The media panders to the same unintelligent masses that Fox News panders to. In the 21008 election, the mainstream media regurgitated every single piece of slander against Obama. Indeed, George Stephanopoulos was caught on tape taking dictation from Sean Hannity on questions to ask candidate Obama concerning his nonexistent relationship with 60 radical Bill Ayers.

The ACORN and Sherrod stories in addition to the Swift Boat charges made by those crooked, corrupt brothers in Texas--who BTW are now under federal investigation for SEC fraud--are all examples of a corrupt bargain between these extremist right wing propaganda outlets and the mainstream media. That bargain involves partisan gain for the right wing and ratings and profit or the mainstream media.

I'm telling you straight, this rotten corupt bunch is destroying our institutions and turning the people against their own government.

Posted by: jaxas70 | July 30, 2010 10:18 AM | Report abuse

Before I can evaluate the content of Mr. Dionne's arguments I need to know what a "progressive" is, or what "progressives" are. I gather that, at least, they are not "conservative," and I would like also to know Mr. Dionne's definition of this term as it applies to any person. There seems no doubt that, in Mr. Dionne's world, "progressives" are good and "conservatives" are bad. Should we make separate countries for each set of folks so the good people don't have to mix with the bad people. Or should laws be passed to stop the bad people from uttering their bad ideas?

Posted by: rpavellas | July 30, 2010 10:51 AM | Report abuse

...but not enough stones to cross the White House.

Posted by: flyover22 | July 30, 2010 10:59 AM | Report abuse

md83; Mr Dionne,All,

to md83: TELL US all in which recognized academic discipline that you hold an earned doctorate? - you know "those letters behind the name", that you do NOT have.
(mine happens to be in Public Admin. from Auburn Univ.- full disclosure, since my retirement from the Army, i happen to be a "policy wonk" for a local NGO.)

you might be taken a bit more seriously on WP/PP if you:
1. learned to SPELL,
2. learned some simple rules of basic GRAMMAR,
3. learned to properly punctuate your IGNORANT, SELF-important, RANTING
AND
4. showed at least a BIT of LOGIC, FACTS & the political ISSUES of the day in your posts, rather than making fact-FREE, hate-FILLED, IGNORANT, personal attacks.

UNTIL you do, we all will simply LAUGH AT you & your SILLY, fact-FREE, IGNORANT, comments.


to ALL: md83's DRIVEL is a CLASSIC illustration of the LEFTIST's lack of ability to do anything except make DUMB "ad hominem" attacks
AND
parrot the LIES/SPIN/FOOLISHNESS of other equally/generally semi-literate members of the leftist LUNATIC fringe of the DIMocRATS Party.

to Mr Dionne: WHEN are you going to start ATTACKING the members of "the obama MIS-administration" & other members of "the fourth estate" for their:
1. KNOWING LIES,
2. race-BAITING,
3. Antisemitic comments
AND
4. baseless PERSONAL attacks upon everyone, who disagrees with their PREJUDICES?

NOTE: as long as it was in their political self-interest, The DIMocRATS Party was the party of:
1. the Ku Klux Klan,
2. lynching,
3. racial segregation,
4. Bull Connors,
5. "literacy tests" to vote,
6. Orville Faubus,
7. George Wallace
8. Bill Fullbright
AND
9. DENIAL of BASIC CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS for EVERY American, regardless of race, color, creed, religious preference, gender and other "non-merit" factors.

just my person opinions, as i may NOT speak for our county's TEA PARTY on any subject, absent a popular vote on those issues/policies/opinions.


yours, TN46
coordinator, CCTPP

Posted by: texasnative46 | July 30, 2010 11:05 AM | Report abuse

When E.J. says editors are more concerned about being fair to the right than the left, he is correct. But he's being deceptive and dishonest to not say why.

Top editors have to fight for fairness to the right in order to have any small measure of credibility. Their staffs are so overwhelmingly liberal, so blind to the possibility that there could be any other legitimate point of view, that their news stories would read like press releases from the Democratic National Committee if a grownup didn't say no once in a while or insist that "the other side" be represented in the story.

But the big liberal bias is usually not in any particular story, it's in the coverage. Most decisions on which events to cover, how they will be covered and which topics to take up are made by reporters and low-level editors, almost all liberals, who can in effect censor the newspaper through their decisions on which stories to cover and which points of view to represent.

Can anyone who has worked in a modern American newsroom imagine a reporter coming up to an editor and saying, "Hey, I'd like to do a story on partial-birth abortion and what happens there. Every once in a while there's a big fuss about it, but I don't think most readers really know that much about it."

Any reporter who did that would be ostracized and accused of being a frontman for Rush Limbaugh. If you want to be accepted, be respected, have friends, be above suspicion, you'd better stick to the party line.

Reporters or editors who think this is wrong, think journalism should be honest and impartial, think Democrats might not always be on the side of the angels, think news meetings should be more than cheerleading sessions, are afraid to speak up.

So E.J is just being greedy. His ideology already determines 95 percent of what happens in the Washington Post newsroom. He's just going for the full monty.

Posted by: Sundown2 | July 30, 2010 11:17 AM | Report abuse

The republicans like to emphasize that "President Obama is the most devisive president in history", when in fact it is their REACTION to him that devides. They own their reactions and the unfounded tags they assign to him such as socialist, muslin, not a citizen,a thug, a racist. The right is notorious for projecting and blaming others.

Posted by: questioner2 | July 30, 2010 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Most of the posts here, including the ones critical of Mr. Dionne, seem to be from thoughtful and respectful people. The there's the ridiculous, name-calling rant posted by texasnative46. What is it about Texas that seems to nurture craziness among its inhabitants(e.g. Rick Perry)?

For the most part, people who absorb the Fox News propaganda lack any critical thinking skills. If it's on TV, they believe it. Think infomercials. Another example of "see it, believe it" is currently on display in Florida. Two billionaires, one of whom is running as a Republican and the other as a Democrat, have spent millions on TV commercials. After weeks of this, they are polling better than their opponents, both of whom are current office holders and not zillionaires. Rick Scott is either a liar or the most incompetent CEO on earth due to his claim that he had no idea that the hospital company he founded and ran was committing serious Medicare fraud. Jeff Greene's history is chock full of questionable decisions both in his financial and personal life. Mike Tyson his best man, hanging out with Lindsay Lohan on New Year's Eve on his yacht, being pals with Heidi Fleisch, destroying an irreplaceable coral reef by dropping his yacht anchor on it, etc.- just the kind of guy we need in the U.S. Senate! Yet Floridians are being snookered by slick commercials with no substance.

Sadly, maybe we have the government we deserve because so many of us are too passive, lazy or dumb to do a little research or demand evidence for the claims politicians of media talkers make. "Dittoheads" are even PROUD of not thinking for themselves as are Palinites. It's a sad state of affairs and leaders of the right wing are giddy as they exploit it.

Posted by: colton | July 30, 2010 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Oh for Christ’s sake! Blah, blah, Algore, blah, right wing, yada, yada, Breitbart, yada, MSM, nuanced this that and the other damned thing!

Here’s some more ‘right wing propaganda’ for y’all:

WE’RE BROKE!

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2010/07/30/the_tipping_point_of_american_debt_tax_spending_gdp_106545.html

Nuance that ya’ freakin’ morons!

Posted by: sosueme1 | July 30, 2010 11:35 AM | Report abuse

Talk about hypocrisy, Dionne is a text book example. Why?

1. He only uses those most extreme quotes that represent the smallest and most right fringe, not anything that objectively represents the mainstream of the right.

2. He only uses those examples - out of context- that make his biased, intellectually dishonest and subjective point failing to provide complete context and followup. Exactly what he accuses others of.

3. He fails to consider, inform or admit that exact same behavior from a large but not entire section of the left.

Just more liberal hypocrisy, misdirection and lies. His and their usual modus operandi.

Posted by: 19481 | July 30, 2010 11:40 AM | Report abuse

The author feels compelled because of principle to criticize both sides when they fail and to consider and report both sides of any issue.

Dionne says:

As it happens, the third, fourth and fifth paragraphs of my column were devoted to criticizing what I called the “shameful” response of the administration

I still feel bound by journalistic rules about accuracy. I may polemicize, but I don’t invent facts, and I try not to distort the views of those I argue against.

The opposition seems to have no such compulsion, and feel no need to present both sides. This includes ignoring any facts which may undermine their cause. They seem to take the role of a defense attorney. It would be wrong to present true but damning facts about the client. Only exculpatory facts about the client are presented. In the absence of a true defense, the defense attorney must raise reasonable doubt by casting dispersions on the credibility of the opposition.

“In a free world with a free press Fox news has every right to skew their reportage however they wish... you do not have to watch it... if you do, you do not have to believe it.”

My problem with Fox is not they "skew their reportage" but that while doing it, they claim to be "fair and balanced". At least this is a backhanded way of acknowledging the obligation to seem fair and balanced.

Fox will continue to "skew" because they continue to keep their listeners and because those, who feel bound by principle, continue to air the Fox one sided news stories.

It is to me the greatest moral dilemma of them all.

Should we hold onto our principles even when we may suffer for it?

Torture is a good example.

Which is it?

Torture is wrong even if it has short term benefits.

Or:

Torture is right because it has short term benefits.


Intellectual honesty is another example.


Tell the truth as you see even if it results in your cause being lost.

Or:

Telling a lie is acceptable because it advances the cause.

(Failing to present facts which undermine your position is telling a lie.)


Should we jettison principles because we get better results?

Does the end justify the means?


Of course, as John Wayne proved, "The good guys always win".

The problem is, of course, not everybody agrees on is who is the good guy.

Today the political debate is not about telling the truth, it is about destroying the credibility of the opposition.

Posted by: bewildered1 | July 30, 2010 12:31 PM | Report abuse

"ya’ freakin’ morons!" posted by sosueme1 -

Is this person telling us something about himself/herself?

Posted by: colton | July 30, 2010 12:33 PM | Report abuse

We've had left leaning media (ABC, CBS, NBC, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The LA Times, etc.) since forever. Finally, there's a right leaning alternative for the rest of us and EJ can't get over it. Hey EJ, SUCK IT!

Posted by: leatherman1 | July 30, 2010 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Here’s some more ‘right wing propaganda’ for y’all:

WE’RE BROKE!

Nuance that ya’ freakin’ morons!

Posted by: sosueme1
==================================

Yes, and it was that right wing nut job, George W. Bush who broke us. As usual, the adults have to clean up after the kids.

Posted by: Trakker | July 30, 2010 12:43 PM | Report abuse

I continue to be amazed at the ignorance, narrow-mindedness, and stupidity of the righties/baggers. One commented here: "Again you look for the easy hit with hannity and ignore it was the white house that was wrong and glenn beck that was right if one progresive could admit that id be amazed." I stopped reading but I'm sure there are more egregious examples in this thread. I've deconstructed the idiocy before but its just a waste of time. They are not interested in facts and completely blind to any level of complexity. They are the soft underbelly of this great nation.

Posted by: rgray | July 30, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Colton; ALL,

to Colton: LAUGHING AT your DUMB-bunny, IGNORANT, fact-FREE, "ad hominum" attack on me.

the FACTS are that i simply responded (appropriately) to another DIMocRAT DUMB-bunny, who is evidently just as clue-LESS, ignorant & filled with HATE/PREJUDICE as you seem to be.

at least try learning some FACTS & using LOGIC, rather than simply posting BILGE & SILLINESS.

btw, did i hit you "where you live", when i pointed out what SCUM/FILTH/BIGOTS that the DIMocRATS Party has traditionally been?

FACT:it was ONLY the 1964 Civil Rights Act & the Voting Rights acts, which were MOSTLY supported by members of the GOP, that forced the DIMocRATS to abandon their RACIST/SEGREGATIONIST policies.
FACT: had the REPUBLICANS not "gotten behind" the proposals for Civil Rights of LBJ, another TEXAN (you seem to suggest that the decent citizens of our state are somehow LESS worthy than whichever state you are from) btw, we likely still wouldn't have BASIC EQUALITY for EVERY citizen.

NOTE to ALL: LIBs, DIMocRATS, FOOLS & ignorant BIGOTS only complain about "name-calling" when:
1. they are identified as on the WRONG SIDE of the argument,
2. it is pointed out to them that they are IGNORANT & have NO FACTS on their side
AND/OR
3. they are "getting their toucas handed to them" in a discussion with a conservative/moderate.

LIBs, DIMocRATS & LEFTIST LUNATICS are so PREDICTABLE!====> as their positions are mostly ERRANT NONSENSE, all those MONONS can do in response is to:
1. try to change the subject,
2. make FALSE accusations against others,
3. accuse their opponents of RACISM
AND/OR
4. whine, moan, carp, complain & whimper about "how unfair" they are being treated by their opponents.

that is why the DIMs/LIBs are LOSING almost every policy argument with the TEA PARTY/Conservatives/the GOP & why they will LOSE BOTH houses of Congress in November of this year & the WH & even more seats in Congress in 2012.

just my opinions.

yours, TN46
coordinator, CCTPP

Posted by: texasnative46 | July 30, 2010 12:55 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, E.J., for your point of view. It closely aligns with my experiences.

I was raised in a conservative home. My parents were John Birchers so I recognize today's right. Back then the right was scared to death of communists, today they are scared to death of non-whites taking over this country. In both eras most of the fear was manufactured to get votes.

The difference is that bck in the 60s the media treated the Birchers like the radical fringe that they were. Today the MSM has treated the tea parties as rational and somewhat respectable.

Posted by: Trakker | July 30, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Sundown2 wrote: When E.J. says editors are more concerned about being fair to the right than the left, he is correct. But he's being deceptive and dishonest to not say why.
DEAR SUNDOWN2...He did say why!!!!!!

EJ WROTE:
"Editors also suspect, correctly, that they are in more danger of being attacked by the right, which has been in the media criticism business for four decades, than by the left, which has only gained traction for its media criticism with the rise of the blogosphere."

I have thought for some time that this was the reason the editors tip toe gently around far-right nonsense. They do not want to be in Rush's or Glenn's crosshairs. Also, I would love to see some of the conservative commenters defend some of their positions on the merits. Please someone defend lying about "death panels" and rationing. Not just conduct an exercise in name calling & sloganeering. (i.e. "rammed down our throats, Chicago-style politics.)

Posted by: foyelady | July 30, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Basic human nature at work. 25% of people are hateful and fearful(Republicans). 25% are way too nice and naive(Democrats) The other 50% are in the middle and hate politics because the other 50% are irrational.

Posted by: cmsatown | July 30, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

cmsatown wrote: 25% are way too nice and naive(Democrats)

___________________________________________

Some of the most intolerant, hateful people I know are on the Left. Spend some time on Huffington Post and you'll know what I mean.

Posted by: sold2u | July 30, 2010 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Hannity has always used race to polarize, and has always preyed upon the weak minds of people who are willing to endure guilt by association. One of the best pieces on this I have ever read is a column that runs at McSweeneys about Sean Hannity written by Ben Greenman. Here is his column about Jeremiah Wright, and how Hannity made that an issue during the campaign:
http://www.mcsweeneys.net/links/earthball/9.html

Posted by: JPOswalt | July 30, 2010 2:36 PM | Report abuse

Trakker; ALL,

fwiw, your parents were WISE to be "scared of" the Communists, just as JFK, Truman, GEN Eisenhower & LBJ were. =it was a VERY dangerous time.

i very well (a half century later) remember (i was in Jr High School & watching the evening news with my father) the night that the Huntley-Brinkley News show said that President Kennedy, himself, was FEARFUL that the Cuban Missle Crisis would break out into a "nuclear exchange" from which CIVILIZATION might well NOT survive. =====> fyi, MOST experts in that historical period say that President Kennedy & RFK avoidance of a nuclear war was "a near thing", that could have easily gotten us ALL (Russians & Americans - maybe nearly EVERYONE on earth had it become an multi-national "nuclear exchange" = India, Pakistan, Israel, France & GB also had, or PROBABLY had, at least SOME "nukes", though they may have been "relatively primative" & "DIRTY" by 2010 standards.) killed.
(so you see that your parents were NOT "nuts", unless you think that President Kennedy & his top military/civilian advisors were "nuts", too!)

as for us TEA PARTY folks, we are also DECENT, MORAL, "regular people", who are UNJUSTLY vilifed & HATED by the very same sort of LEFTIST, naive, arrogant,HATE-filled, FOOLS, who vilified your family.

just thought you'd want to KNOW the TRUTH.

NOTE to ALL: IF they were alive today, JFK
& RFK would be TOO CONSERVATIVE for the DIMocRATS Party, as would Medgar Evers, Daisy Bates, Drs Martin Luther King, Jr/Sr AND most of the heroes/heroines of the American government & the Civil Rights Movement. ===> that alone should tell you how FAR to the left that the DIMocRATS have swerved from the center of politcal thought.
the DIMs are: "divorced from" the REALITY that NORMAL people perceive & that is why they are soon to be the BIG LOSERS in every politcal campaign, until/unless they move back to the center.

just my opinion.

yours, TN46
coordinator, CCTPP

Posted by: texasnative46 | July 30, 2010 5:22 PM | Report abuse

Slowly the real story comes out ...

Native American farmers and ranchers press USDA on bias complaints
By Kari Lydersen
Friday, July 30, 2010

Not only has the "Right Wing" fought "Liberal" causes for decades, but the "Left Wing" has stood by and let hard won gains be co-opted by financial opportunists. Enough.

Posted by: gannon_dick | July 30, 2010 6:06 PM | Report abuse

The notion that every story has another side is the problem when one side is made up of lies and distortions. That has been the problem with the rise of Fox and right wing talk radio. We are getting a little balance but we should not be balancing crazy on one side with crazy on the other. Crazy should have no place in the discussion.

Posted by: JRGris | July 30, 2010 8:28 PM | Report abuse

JRGris,

in point of FACT (NOT opinion), the main-stream media has LIED, for decades, to the American people for the good of the LEFTISTS/DIMocRATS.

what the rise of FOX has shown is that "fair & balanced" (and FOX is fairer & FAR more balanced than ABC/CBS/NBC, etc.)works. - FOX is MORE watched than ABC & CBS "news programs" COMBINED, as of the last "sweeps week".

the LIBERAL/LEFTIST fringe elements & DIMocRAT partisans, who attack FOX & "talk radio", do so for only ONE reason. = they want a monopoly on what VOTERS hear, believe, feel, think & what they ultimately for for/against.

SORRY, LIBs/LEFTISTS/DIMocRATS, you do NOT get to LIE forever to the voters without consequences, nor do you get to SILENCE people like me, who do NOT agree with your various inbred PREJUDICES.

fwiw, i find PBS & NPR news FAR better than the major networks, for despite the liberal bias of those outlets, at least they are GENERALLY truthful. - furthermore, the PBS/NPR "talking heads" are LESS hostile to "ordinary citizens", "hillbillies", "blue-collar workers" & the GENUINELY "less well off".

you will seldom hear NASTY, MEAN-spirited, obviously hate-FILLED comments by the public radio/TV commentators about "stupid people from flyover country", "trailer-park trash" OR "only rednecks & bigots support the Tea Party".
(they very well may not like "rural folks" & "the working poor", but at least they aren't open in whatever dislike that they may harbor for us "regular folks".)

NOTE: PBS/NPR also carry BBC & CBN world news, which are FAR better than that broadcast by the ABC/CBS/NBC cabel of LIBs.

just my opinion.

yours, TN46

Posted by: texasnative46 | July 30, 2010 10:15 PM | Report abuse

Dionne, you say that the conservatives have brow-beaten the old-line Left-Stream-Media (ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Washington Post, NY Times, et al) into leaning to the right?

If you really want to know how much the old-line media is biased to the left, go to Pew Research and look up their research on the '08 election -- 82% of the TV news coverage favored Obama!

Concerning the national media, Pew is the only non-partisan research firm one can trust. The rest seem to have some sort of ax to grind in their surveys.

It's a shame you cannot admit that you are a left-wing promoter of things Obama and the Dems.

I'm a right-leaning moderate and understand my bias toward conservatives. But then, recent surveys of the American people, asking how they describe their political beliefs -- about 40% say conservative and about 20% say liberal and about 40% say moderate, or independent.

So, Dionne, you are in the 20% liberal camp, whether you admit it or not. Your writings show your hand, like turning your playing cards face up on the table.

All of us should do a little soul-searching and accept ourselves as we are -- understanding that we all are biased in some way.

Then, we should try to accept others as they are, as long as they are honest and open.

Posted by: RonKH | July 31, 2010 5:53 AM | Report abuse

so Texasnative46, you are okay with the historically frightening images displayed at some TP rallies? one's that are completely disrespectful and insulting to the sitting president? That's freedom of speech, right? So where were you when conservative media led a hate campaign against three traditionally married women with kids, that resulted in death threats? I'm talking about the Dixie Chicks, who said they were ashamed the President--note they called him the President, not racist, ignorant slurs---was from their home state. They were professionally ostarsized and received threats on their lives. All thanks to southern conservative media outfits.
and that bastian of country music misogyny, TK,who pushed it to the limit.
Want some more examples of manipulative conservative media stunts?
How about the presser with live feed from Iraq and Bush43 which showed clearly staged questions, and that was admitted to later, and by the way, there are far more records missing from Bush's military records then are in there. How about FOX producers caught on tape ginning the numbers of a rally to make it seem much bigger, or showing footage from a different rally, and claiming it for another. Sad, pretty sad... I can tell you right now, no left wing media is going to be reporting the game results of that all white, all American men's basketball league started in Atlanta this past winter. Incredible in this day and age how truly blissful in their ignorance and arrogance most of the conservative media are. Who will ever forget Chip Saltzman's "Barack the Magic Negro"? I'm sure the minorities, who discovered the power of their vote and $20 donation, won't forget. and the msm doesnt even factor this in to their so-called conventional wisdom figurings, going by past numbers and meaningless polls. C'mon, aren't you all tired of "news" stories that are about the results of a poll of 1,009 people and that's supposed to accurately reflect the views of 130,000,000 voters? Even Howie Kurtz admitted to making a mistake when I pointed out to him that he and Matt Lauer had both misrepresented the Arizona poll- it was not 70% of Arizonians, it was 70% of the 1,254 respondents, a difference in numbers that's HUGE! In reading a book about FDR and the Supreme Court, I discovered that Gallup used the same amount of poll respondents in 1937 as are used now. And yet pundits and the media tout polls like they are written in stone, and infallible.
media driven controversies supported by media driven polls, a system that has worked well if the result wished for was the dumbing down of American voters.

Posted by: katem1 | July 31, 2010 8:36 AM | Report abuse

I'm always amused when left wingers like E.J. use Hannity, Beck and O'Reilley as their whipping boys to claim Fox News as biased. I suppose Olbermann, Maddow, Matthews and company show the left wing bias of MSNBC since they obviously represent the "News" for NBC. I will also point out that the Obama administration fired Sherrod long before Fox even reported on the issue.

Posted by: RobT1 | July 31, 2010 11:28 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Brietbart's snippet of the video of Shirley Sherrod's full speech did exactly what it was intended to do: inflame conservatives with the notion that there are black racists in the Obama administration. The message also applies to the President by proxy; since Shirley Sherrod works for the government and Barack Obama is technically her boss then Barack Obama must approve of her racism and must be a racist himself. Most people accept that there are prejudiced people in all walks of life. The target of the video was not the vast majority of people, the target was the conservative activists who are always looking for a new reason to attack the President. I will not critique Mr. Brietbart's character (although I have seen videos of him in action berating critics quite viciously) but I would like to point out a recent trend that has surfaced. As E.J. states so eloquently, lately when conservatives have been faced with criticism of their opinions, they accuse their critics of trying to silence them. I have always maintained that everyone is entitled to their opinion but that doesn't mean I lose my right to call them on it. And I will "refudiate" anyone who disagrees with that statement.

Posted by: CMAN27 | July 31, 2010 2:01 PM | Report abuse

E.J.: Fox News happens to be successful because a LOT of us Americans like making up our own minds, without the hidden slant, lack of coverage, yellow journalism and advocacy journalism so prevalent in the MSM, such as the Washington Post. Fox News and drudge have been consistently tested and shown to be more balanced than other so-called fair and balanced news rooms (see http://newsroom.ucla.edu/portal/ucla/Media-Bias-Is-Real-Finds-UCLA-6664.aspx for more information). How about a simple disclosure on your paper: "The Washington Post leans 62% liberal. You should know that as you read our newspaper. We do our best to eliminate bias, but we're human and this is shown both by how we report stories and which stores we choose to report (or not)."

Posted by: glewis104 | July 31, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

"WE’RE BROKE!

Nuance that ya’ freakin’ morons!"

-------------------

We went from a Budget Surplus to TRILLIONS in deficits (not counting what was hidden in the War for Iraq) under Bush.

If "We're Broke" it's because of Bush and his Republican Congress.

Posted by: vigor | July 31, 2010 4:48 PM | Report abuse

The overwhelming majority of americans DONT WATCH FOX NEWS! Fox gets about, what 2.5 million viewers at any given time in a nation of over 300 million. I am a left-wing, leaning Liberal. I dont watch Fox News because it is so obviously biased and partisan you cant help but laugh at not only the poor people who work there(and what is it with Fox News and the dingy blondes)but they dont even try to hide their contempt for:Obama, black people(of course), muslims, Mexicans, gays,gays in the military, immirgrants, liberals, democrats, the inner cities, rap artist, actors, hip hop..and so and and so. Oh, but they love country music and NASCAR, which pretty much tells me all I need to know about Fox News.

Posted by: ilg123 | July 31, 2010 5:14 PM | Report abuse

The far right was really off base.

They said we could win in Iraq.

Everyone knows that was crazy.

Posted by: gary4books | July 31, 2010 8:28 PM | Report abuse

All the GOP has is fear and lies for sell.

Posted by: hansenthered | July 31, 2010 11:26 PM | Report abuse

"Progressives." Laughable. They try to change the labels thinking it'll improve their image, as "liberals" is corrosive.

Posted by: crumppie | August 1, 2010 12:16 AM | Report abuse

I'm an upper income college graduate who watches Fox News, and reads the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and the NY Times every day. I detest Bill Maher and Rush Limbaugh, Keith Olbermann and Glenn Beck, baseball and NASCAR.

I think that makes me a moderate. After 40 years of observing politics, I am thoroughly convinced that the MSM is decidedly biased leftwards. The bias in the Times is more pronounced than in the Post - say 85% versus 75% - but it is there for all but the blind to see.

As has been noted elsewhere, Fox News never reported the Sherrod story until AFTER she was fired and condemned by the NAACP. To his credit, Bill O'Reilly apologized fully and at length the next day when the full tape was available.

But I have yet to see the Post or the Times contributors apologize for their flawed characterizations of the AZ immigration law, for example. The law is neither racially biased, nor anti-immigrant. It did not allow police to demand papers of people as they walked the streets, nor allow them to stop people based on the color of their skin. Yet these claims were made repeatedly, day after day, and made by people who are smart enough to understand the plain text of the law. The fact that the Post's and Times' writers chose to continue their lies - and there is no other way to describe the coverage - indicates a level of bias and dishonesty that the papers editors and publishers condone.

Posted by: atrepos1 | August 1, 2010 3:08 AM | Report abuse

I am not qualified to determine the accuracy of a number of current topics under discussion-- economic and tax policies, for example. I tend to read a wide variety of sources, and try to judge how persuasive the arguments on the various 'sides' of the issues are, and how much evidence they present.

Interestingly, when it's on topics that I do know a fair amount about (e.g., languages and dialects, language planning policies, etc.), it's pretty stunning how ill-informed and biased just about everyone in the media is. (The old "Ebonics" debate as well as the "English-only" movement are two classic cases, and I'd be glad to present specifics).

As a gay man, however, while I've observed for decades how little those in the media really seem to care to facts when it comes to sexual orientation, I have to say the it is the conservative "Right" that deserves the prize for classic gay-bating and out-and-out lying, period-- no contest. They win the prize.

I've been discussing and debating specifics on this topic pretty much since the Internet began, and frankly, it's the Right that employs standard propaganda techniques of demonization and framing issues just to mislead.

Just to cite a couple of examples: the question of "choice": no gay gene has been found and therefore being gay is a choice (or, the variant, no one "knows" whether being gay is a choice)? Sorry. I know. I am gay. Don't know WHY I am gay, but I know I didn't choose to be gay. I was "there" the entire time.)

Gay people hate heterosexuals and are out to destroy the family? Sorry. Not I. Virtually all of my friends are heterosexual, as is all the rest of my family. And I can't count the number of heterosexuals whom I cherish and consider my models of morality and values.

The "gay lifestyle" is inherently unhealthy, addictive, something that people must be ensnared in? Sorry. I am well into middle age, and I am in excellent health, as is my partner of many years. No one ensnared me into anything, and I don't smoke, do drugs or drink (other than an occasional glass of wine at dinner). I have also been monogamous for decades, and am risk-aversive (you won't even get me on a roller coaster. ;-)).

I could go on. But I am tired of having to go over the same basic set of facts with people who clearly aren't interested in facts. They are interested in demonizing an entire group of people, for a political end, and that is thoroughly immoral.

So here's an instance where I am in a position to observe how both sides present an issue that I know about intimately. And with all due respect to the "other side"-- they are all wet when it comes to this issue. And they need to be called out on it.

And if they are so wrong on an issue that I really know about, why would I trust them on issues where I am less savvy?

Posted by: ricklinguist | August 1, 2010 11:33 AM | Report abuse

Dionne does a good job of citing the worst abuses of some right-wing screamers, most of whom never held office and calibrate their 'rage' to the cameras for ratings.
He is tricky in that he tried to assign these off-the-wall rants with legitimate disagreement with Obama and the current admin.
Obama himself did this well during the campaign, and continues to hold the view that you agree with him or your are misinformed or a right-wing nutbag.
You can't have it both ways - you favor dialog or you don't. I for one am tired of being implied to be racist if I do not agree with Obama, and to be obstructionist if I want to at least l hear out opposing ideas.
FWIW, I am tired of hearing about Bush or the new target of blame, "the past ten years." Pointing backward over your shoulder is starting to look weak and flaccid, a poor excuse for a compelling vision. "He did it!" is better suited to the schoolyard than the Oval.

Posted by: FloridaChick | August 2, 2010 6:27 AM | Report abuse

katem1,

"So where were you when" the IGNORANT, hate-FILLED leftist SCUM & LIARS of the DIMocRAT Party in Congress & the national media were LYING about our HONORABLE troops in RVN, Desert Storm, the Iraq War & Afghanistan?

were you one of the people who was "just exercising his/her/their rights to free speech" when they spit upon & cursed soldiers/sailors/airmen/coasties/me, when we came back to CONUS from overseas?

tell me, assuming that your "Dixie Chicks" comment was anything but errant NONSENSE & a lame ATTEMPT to "change the subject" away from how PREJUDICED/HATE-FILLEED/DISHONEST/PREJUDICED the LUNATIC LEFT is, how does being "being inconvienced" & presumably "losing audience & royalties from music" compare with what happened to us vets of "unpopular overseas wars", when we came home to America?

also, while we're talking about the TEA PARTY, be sure to DEFEND "Princess Pelosi" & the other Congressional LIARS, who CLAIMED FALSELY that they were "bothered by" members of the TEA PARTY. ====> SHE LIED & her LIES were ECHOED by both the "sitting" POTUS (who was told the TRUTH by the US Park Police & CHOSE to LIE about the TP!) AND by the news media (who was PRESENT & KNEW that she LIED, but covered-up for her LIES.)

fwiw, i was PRESENT at EVERY single TEA PARTY RALLY in DC for the last 18 months & saw NO such "racist signs", except those carried by The International A.N.S.W.E.R Coalition, to TRY to defame our movement.
= sadly for those LEFTIST BIGOTS, they were EXPOSED by the US Capitol & Park Police officers as "infiltrators" & "asked them to remove themselves" from our "permitted rally area".
(every group MUST have a PERMIT to demonstrate in DC.)

fyi, THEN "the Answer people" went across the street & started chanting: "KILL THE JEWS, KILL THE JEWS, KILL THE JEWS" & other equally DISGUSTING slurs.

face it, "katem1", you've been LIED TO & PLAYED FOR A FOOL by haters/LEFTISTS/bigots/nitwits/LIARS of the DIMocRAT Party/LEFTIST groups/the "main-SLIME media" & nothing more than that.

i CHALLENGE you to attend a TP rally & SEE for yourself how "mild, decent & law abiding" we TP folks are.====> you'll see (to quote one NBC correspondent) "a lot of vulgar flag-waving", considerable praying/Scripture reading, applauding of our veterans AND of their HONORABLE "missions", "speechifying" (some of which is BORING but NOT "violence-provoking"!), chanting of patriotic slogans & even some singing, but LITTLE for "any normal person" to complain about.

just my personal opinons. - fyi, i do/can NOT speak for our County's TEA PARTY group, absent a vote on the/those issues.

yours, TN46
coordinator, CCTPP

Posted by: texasnative46 | August 2, 2010 11:01 PM | Report abuse

FloridaChick,

WELL SAID!

may i go a few steps further & point out THE UNVARVISHED TRUTH about BHO?

based on my personal observation of him during the '08 campaign (i saw him twice & was NOT impressed with his "gray matter", either time.)
AND
of close observation of his speeches, writings, etc i can say with little doubt of error that BHO is:
1. NOT overloaded with brains,
(we elected the WRONG Obama - Michelle has the brains; BHO has only the MOUTH - a BIG one.)
2. SELF-impressed & ARROGANT,
3. pride-FILLED,
4. a WEAKLING who couldn't lead 2 drunken sailors into a bawdy-house,
5. an Western European-style SOCIALIST/ELITIST, who doesn't seem to even like the nation of which he is President,
(much less LOVE America!)
6. a FOOL of the first rank, who cannot express himself clearly/concisely absent his teleprompter/scripted platitudes
7. a race-baiter
AND
8. a person who seems to actually DISLIKE/DESPISE "blue-collar folks", "rural people", "the lower classes" & "the working poor", as somehow "beneath people like us" (him).

i strongly suspect that he will LOSE the DIMocRATS Primary, SINK his own party in the elections of 2012
AND
(should he actually win the "donkey party" nomination) that he will lose at least 35 of the 50 states by a LANDSLIDE of epic proportions in NOV 2012.
(NO, BHO, the USA has only FIFTY states, not the 57 that you said TWICE, in two different cities.)

the bottom line is that due to the FACTS above, the DIMocRATS are "toast" in 2012 & for the decades beyond.

just my opinions.

yours, TN46
coordinator, CCTPP

Posted by: texasnative46 | August 3, 2010 10:33 PM | Report abuse

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