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Marion On July - 21 - 2010

Did everybody miss it, or am I imagining things?

In the wake of the historic 2008 election, a debate arose over the role of the internet in influencing the ultimate result, as well as the roll of internet news agregates and blog sites as being the natural successors – indeed, the usurpers, of traditional print journalism. Over the past two years, it’s almost become de rigueur for various commentators within the blogosphere to make pretty disparaging remarks about the mainstream media, recently re-dubbed the lamestream media by one who simultaneously suffers and benefits from its attention.

The 24/7 cable news talking heads, from both sides of the political spectrum, and their soulmates riding the waves of internet news reporting rule supreme and unduly influence both the critical thinking processes and opinions of a lot of folk who would do just as well as to open a book entitled Civics 101 before they open their mouths.

This is no longer a world of hard, substantiated fact, or even a world of opinion backed by undisputable fact. It has become, however, a world of opinion, presented as fact and lightly laced with the unsubstantiated variety.

We live for the sound bite of the moment, for the slightest change in a politco’s body language, in order to have this mercilessly parsed and reinterpreted again and again by an unrelenting and irresponsible media.  The trivial and mundane have been so far elevated into the world of the sublime that major news stories regarding legislation which may affect us all as a whole are lost in a welter of the confused and often conflicting banter of people who love to speak only to hear the sound of their own voices and whose first allegiance is to their own self-promotion.

That countless testimonies to these icons’ veracity is documented daily on a plethora  of internet sites in homage to the services rendered by these dubious souls is frightening.

The internet has offered an opportunity for people who, for some reason, otherwise have been unable to succeed in the world of bona fide print journalism, the chance to shine – never mind, the sort of tactics employed by said “journalist” would be held up to close scrutiny and then discarded as highly irregular by more traditional professionals.

Just as we shouldn’t trust the stewardess to land an Airbus with the pilot passed out drunk, or Al Qaeda’s intentions if it happens upon the Pakastani nuclear arsenal, so we should always view the “citizen journalist” with a jaundiced eye.

Until recently, internet journalism’s apogee was reached during the Obama campaign, when Mayhill Fowler, a retired schoolteacher and failed writer attended a private fund-raising event, closed to the press. In simple parlance, “closed” meant “closed.” No reporters. A chance for the candidate to unwind and charm. The fact that a private citizen attended, armed with a small recording device and reported off-the-record remarks made by a political candidate was considered unscrupulous to the nth degree. That sort of thing would have cost a seasoned reporter his job and his reputation.

But this is the new era of “face-in-the-crowd” reporting, and quite often, these sort of eye-witness accounts wouldn’t be admissable in a court of law, because they – like the talking-heads, who subsequently parrot and publicize them – are skewed and coloured to fit the agenda of whatever internet aggregate is pushing the issue at hand.

The order of the day is cherry-picking, and not outside in the fresh air and the orchard. It’s cut-and-paste and hope for the best. Band-aid journalism that spins like a top.

Yesterday, Rightwing blogger Andrew Breitbart, writing in Tucker Carlson’s DailyCaller, highlighted a video clip of USDA official, Shirley Sherrod, addressing a meeting of a local branch of the NAACP, wherein she appeared to admit having shown racism toward an individual case regarding a white farmer and his wife, in Georgia. Ms Sherrod is African American.

Immediately, the meme was picked up and pushed by Fox News, as well as the other media suspects, resulting in a severe condemnation of Ms Sherrod’s remarks by NAACP President, Benjamin Jealous, and Ms Sherrod literally being sacked on the spot from her position within the USDA.

All on the evidence of a couple of minutes gleaned from a speech which lasted much longer. No one bothered to listen to what was said before the fated line was spoken; no one bothered to listen to any dialogue spoken afterward. In fact, as Ms Sherrod said later, no one was interested in listening to her explanation at all.

They just reacted.

Twenty-four hours later, and the video of Ms Sherrod’s entire speech has surfaced, and in the context of that discourse, it’s been found that her remarks were anything but racist, that she helped the supplicants mentioned and that she and the white couple became firm friends. At this moment, Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, is contemplating reinstating Ms Sherrod.

And so he should. With a big apology, a promotion and a raise in pay.

Last Friday, a “reporter” for the Huffington Post, Shahien Nasiripour, posted an article, which stated categorically that Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner, had effectively blocked the appoinment of Elizabeth Warren to head the new consumer protection agency to be established under the new financial regulation laws. Nasiripour cited some suitably ghostly anonymous source, said to be “familiar with Geithner’s mind, ” although he didn’t offer any direct quotations from said Mr Anonymous.

Familiar with Geithner’s mind? Granted, on Monday, after the media had picked up on this story and ran it like the favourite at the Preakness, it behooved Talking Points Memo to do some actual investigating. And so, they contacted some viable sources – people with names and faces and voices … like David Axelrod.

Ax reported that no decision had yet been made as regards the person heading this new agency, that the decision was a Presidential one and, really, nothing to do with Secretary Geithner, and that, yes, Mrs Warren was a firm candidate. This, I might add, came after a weekend where Warren was put in the singularly embarrassing position of having to disclaim any knowledge of any of her supporters actively promoting her as a candidate to the White House.

In other words, Talking Points Memo proved the Huffington Post article to be a tissue of lies.

By yesterday, Nasiripour followed up his article, again quoting Mr Anonymous – or maybe it was another Mr Anonymous, because this one claimed to be familiar, only with Geithner’s opinions. This article, in no way, distanced itself from the original one. It sure as hell didn’t apologise for any error or lax reporting. Instead, it accompanied a couple of other blogs, one purporting to know why Obama “feared” Elizabeth Warren. The other was simply a veiled threat of the direst of circumstances that would befall this Administration, if Warren were not appointed.

And so it goes.

The entire purpose of this fabricated article, presented as fact, but not substantiated, yet still reported in the media as a whole, is twofold: first, it means to thoroughly discredit Tim Geithner, a Cabinet official for whom Arianna Huffington has an almost pathological dislike. Second, it’s meant to box the President into a lose-lose situation.

If he appoints Warren, after all the publicity the media have been giving this, the Republicans in Congress will simply batten down the hatches and fight to the death to eliminate her from the proceedings. All well and good; he could just then wait until the next lengthy recess and appoint her there and then. But it would be an appointment with a stench attached. And if he appoints someone else, he risks being pilloried mercilessly by Huffington, who revels, at the moment, in referring to him as a Nowhere Man.

I think he should appoint Warren. She’s the best candidate for the position by a mile. But he should also announce at the time of this appointment, that he made the decision based on the candidate’s impeccable qualifications and not on any pressure from the media or otherwise … and, oh by the way, the White House Press Association will be revoking the credentials of The Huffington Post, forthwith, effective immediately.

We used to have a  media that was the envy of the world. Our media exposed Joe McCarthy, laid open Watergate and Irangate. now it bends over to propagate the whims and agendae of a failed Republican operative and a neocon neophyte failed journalist, a parvenue and an intellectual lightweight, both of whom are feted as serious political journalists.

I only hope, that in the one-eyed, purist world which purports to be internet journalism, that this shark has been jumped, and some professional regulations applied to future ventures. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be averse to seeing that shark take a chunk out of someone’s feta cheesed ass.

Categories: News & Politics

16 Responses so far.

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  1. dildenusa says:

    This just appeared in Politico.com this morning.

    Here

    • bitohistory says:

      Watched Chuck Todd on Hardball last night and his program this morning. Not once did I hear him bring up the role of media in this gambit. Even when the guests brought it up he seemed to feel a need to ignore it.
      Diane Rehem (NPR) was the opposite. She thought that the media did a complete disservice.

      The question: Did the media do a bad job or did they just not DO their job

  2. bitohistory says:

    Huffington, Drudge, Brietbart, How many degrees of separation exist?

    Wired’s Noah Shachtman wrote in a prescient March profile, “One thing Breitbart will say about [Matt] Drudge, though, is that his mentor introduced him to Arianna Huffington, then a right-wing pundit and Drudge confidant. Breitbart became her researcher and Web guru. By her side, he learned that the media could be more than scooped

    • dildenusa says:

      Hey, we need to give credit where credit is due. Arianna Huffington might be a shameless self promoter but at least she is willing to deal with her own chickens when they come home to roost. Or at least have one of her bloggers deal with her chickens for her.

      None of this is a particularly big shocker, of course. This is what Breitbart does. He’s another Karl Rove type in that his entire modus operandi is to tangle the debate — to be an instigator. To kerfuffle everyone he engages until the discourse has become so confused, skewed and tangential that he’s able to walk away more or less unscathed while the targets of his regularly scheduled crusades are often damaged beyond repair. ACORN is a national pariah. And this week, a decent woman is out of a job.

      By the way, also not shocking here is the fact that, once again, the far-right is targeting someone who is more or less a noncombatant. This isn’t the first time far-right operatives, bloggers or Fox News hosts have targeted people who aren’t participants in bigtime political discourse and who certainly don’t have the wherewithal to defend themselves against, in the case of Fox News, one of the largest media organizations in the world.

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bob-cesca/fooled-again-by-breitbart_b_654594.html

      • bitohistory says:

        And here is the “win.” Brietbart has succeeded in changing the focus of the story. According to Ariana’s teachings he “hacked the press” and made the story not racism in the teaparty but in the NAACP and their incompetent reaction. Where is the story on the teaparty?

      • Marion says:

        Bob Cesca’s an exception to the rule at HuffPo, and F*ckington lets him go his own way.

        They have been doing a fine character assassination of Tim Geithner since Friday with Nasiripour’s work of fiction, at the same time trying to box Obama in on the appointment of Elizabeth Warren, with GREAT embarrassment to the lady.

        I am sorry, but F*ckington’s association and STILL close friendship with Breitbart needs to be highlighted. Because I see her doing in EVERY television appearance, exactly what she taught Breitbart to do.

  3. KQ says:

    You pointed out two problems with progressive media. The first is they thrive on controversy just as much as all the other media sources, so much so that they create controversy. The other is they set up what I call progressive saints as idols and if the holy ones are not chosen it’s some kind of betrayal. Now I’m sure Warren is qualified but so are a bunch of other people. There is no such thing as one person that can do the job.

    As far as the facts few of those exist anymore in the blog world it’s all opinion.

    • Marion says:

      This is lose-lose. When the Huffington HACK who fabricated his article published it and the assholes in the MSM picked up the meme, they descended in earnest on Warren. Why? Because -- and it’s a logical assumption -- they thought her supporters amongst her staff had been pushing this story, in a cackhanded PR attempt. She was forced to deny this. They’ve created a situation where, if the President appoints her, she just might decline, in an effort to convince people that she wasn’t actively seeking this appointment. Somehow the Huffbots will blame the President for this. If he doesn’t appoint her, he’s still toast.

      ALL of this is ALL about bringing Obama down. Newt Gingrich is running for President in 2012. NOW, sit back and watch Whoreanna take a sharp RIGHT turn.

  4. Khirad says:

    By the way, Breitbart is doubling down on it. And it is totally weak. I’m sure you’ll see more of it.

    Vilsack did apologize, but I have yet to see her promoted. We’ll have to wait on that.

    In any case, this may be a sort of blessing in disguise. While the RightBlogosphere/FOX tagteam should have never cowed the admin in the first place, the next time they try to start up another phony controversy, the Obama people can just say they’re trying to “Sherrod” that person or thing.

    I know this was larger than just FOX, but FOX is really jumping the shark here. I know I’ve probably said that a hundred times through the years, but I swear -- they are really pushing it.

    Oh, and Shahien Nasiripour? Yeah, I totally called that one. That’s his “

    • whatsthatsound says:

      I noticed you there, calling him out, as did I. When he released his second article, he had the gall to write, “As the Huffington Post reported yesterday”, or something like that. No mention that he himself had done the “reporting”.

      This is Ouroboros Journalism at its worst, and what he does best, apparently.

  5. boomer1949 says:

    And Fox will “refudiate” everything tomorrow. :roll:

  6. Questinia says:

    It seems much of the blog world journalism is re-hash telephone game, cut and paste.

    Investigative reporting went out the window when after Watergate, the White House shrewdly invited them in for cigars and brandy.

  7. AdLib says:

    Very incisive, a real bulls eye Marion.

    Certainly, in the last several political cycles, as print journalism has declined for market reasons and the internet’s more attractive immediacy has gained, we have witnessed the morphing of “news” from reporting that is sourced and corroborated to opinion presented as equivalent to news.

    There are no ethical guidelines or procedures for “citizen journalism”, no dividing line between those who present lies as truth and those who endeavor to present the truth, no price to be paid for promoting falsehood as fact.

    It is a different playing field with few if any rules, where the game is all about influencing people’s perceptions and there are some out there who play to win at any cost, seeing truth as an archaic tool for suckers.

    Mayhill Fowler struck me very much as you described her, a wannabe hack who saw her opportunity for her 15 minutes by being exploitative instead of journalistic and greedily leaped at it without any conscience. The damage that her dishonest “guns and bibles” story did still reverberates today in the minds of hateful, racist people in this nation. What a legacy for one to take pride in. Her glaring lack of skill and talent and her desperation for attention stripped critical context from that situation that any skilled journalist would have provided. I was very active at HP at that time and like many others, took Fowler on for her self-serving, unprofessional and harmful actions.

    As for Breitbart, I expect Fox to trumpet every lie and fraud he perpetrates but WTF is wrong with the rest of the MSM and especially the Obama Admin? He was proven to have participated in a fraud that stampeded even Demsto destroy ACORN, he was in league with the same POSs to try and wiretap Mary Landrieu and yet when he comes out with another campaign, it’s taken as if he’s legit? Have the Obama Admin and the MSM (minus Fox) FINALLY recognized that whatever oozes from this slime is not delicious truth? Can we finally put a nail in the coffin of any legitimacy of what this weasel says or shows from this point forward?

    There is no moral choice at this point but to reinstate Shirley Sherrod and issue an official apology to her. For the Obama Admin to do anything less, now fully aware that she was forced to resign due to fraudulent propaganda from the RW, would be inconceivable. They have folded in the past with Van Jones, ACORN and others, this timidity by the WH in confronting racism and deceit by the GOP has to end.

    As for Elizabeth Warren being used as fuel for HP’s fire to “burn the witch” named Geithner, this is proof, plain and simple, that Fox News doesn’t have a monopoly on propaganda being packaged as news to advance a political agenda. Personally, I am not a fan of Geithner, that’s the irony, but I am a fan of responsible journalism and truth. It’s coming up on a year when HP was at the height of its anti-Obama fervor, articles were coming fast and furious attacking Obama and his admin, many of which were not legitimately backed up, often using the unprofessional and unverifiable claim of “an unnamed source”.

    What does need to be accepted is that the label of journalism may continue seemingly unaltered but the content has been corrupted and been made less reliable.

    On the upside, thanks to blogs and the internet, lies and hypocrisies are uncovered far quicker than before (imagine how the Swift Boat BS could have been better blunted if blogs were as big back then), there are citizen bloggers and journalists who offer many direct paths now to the truth, people are participating more in dialogs about our nation and democracy, there are many benefits that this change has brought.

    On the other hand, New Journalism is as prone to deception as anything on the internet. It can be the honest revelation of an eyewitness to an event or as reliable as the promises of a Nigerian “Prince” who emails you that he’ll pay you $50 million to lend him $5,000.

    “News” is not the realm of verified truth and professionalism anymore, it is a grab bag from which you may or may not get truth. One does have to learn to become more discerning and not accept “news” even if it is repeated on every MSM outlet (WMDs anyone?), always considering the source and weighing waht they say based on if they have proven in the past to be trustworthy or not.

    • dildenusa says:

      We don’t burn witches at the stake anymore but as a society we still relish the public spectacle of the auto-de-fe’ (act of faith). In modern society it would be an act of contrition. In this case Huff Post is eager to put President Obama in a bad light saying that instead of appointing someone vigilant to guard the chicken coop, he would insteasd appoint the fox (no pun intended).

  8. kesmarn says:

    Marion, wonderful observations as always.

    Every now and then I tune in to FOX “News” on cable just to see how sharky-jumpy they’ve managed to get on any given day.

    Today, they outdid themselves…which — for them — is really saying something. After having cooked up and circulated the phony Sherrod story, which resulted in ruining her career, they have now further spun the story into an attack on none other than — guess who? — Barack Obama. They’re putting out the word that it was Obama himself who ordered Sherrod’s dismissal. Is there something stronger than the word “chutzpah”? What word would describe blaming the President for the consequences of the character assassination that they themselves have perpetrated?

    In a saner time FOX might have been expected to apologize to Sherrod. Now — far from it — they’re exploiting her battered image even further to score points against the left.

    We don’t even have to ask the famous question. We already know — they have no decency.

  9. dildenusa says:

    Wood and ceramic block printing was invented by the Chinese about 2 thousand years ago. No big deal until……. 1450 when Gutenberg

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johannes_Gutenberg
    invented movable metal type

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Movable_type

    What else was happenning around 1450? The Spanish Inquisition of course. By the mid 1500’s the Roman Catholic Church took over.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inquisition

    One of the first acts of the Roman Inquisition was to publish a list of banned books. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Index_Librorum_Prohibitorum

    So is history repeating itself as a new publishing medium (the internet) spreads world wide. Of course. The Roman Catholic Church hoping to discredit the Protestant Reformation decided it would regulate speech and the punishment for “heresy” was to be boiled in oil. So today we don’t boil people in oil we just spread it all over our oceans, lands, air, and homes. So in the interest of discrediting someone who doesn’t think like us, we spread disinformation. With a book it might take a few weeks or months but now it’s instantaneous. It only takes a half normal person to see through the lies and disinformation. The problem is that a large part of the population in not even half normal (tea bag partiers?). So do we regulate the internet like the Roman Inquisition regulated the printing press?


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