Jul 1 2006


They’re All We’ve Got

“The only check-and-balance we have left is the media. That is, we didn’t find out about the N.S.A. domestic surveillance program, which is a federal crime, we didn’t find that out from members of Congress, we found it out from the media. . . . That doesn’t mean that the media doesn’t make mistakes. It does. But pound for pound, the media has done more to improve government than any other institution. But more importantly, they’re all we’ve got right now. There’s a reason why the administration has been threatening prosecution of journalists. Because they’re the only ones left. They’ve got Congress totally in a comatose state. They have—most of the judges today are so conservative that they won’t even consider challenges to national security arguments. And it leaves basically the media and the public.”

—Law professor Jonathan Turley (Democracy Now!, 6/27/06)

“Economically Clueless”

ABC’s John Stossel declared (6/25/06) that the media are “by and large, economically and scientifically clueless” because they don’t adjust for inflation when reporting that gas prices are at record highs. “When you do, gas prices today are lower than they were in 1980 and 1920.” He does have at least a partial point there, and he gave some good advice as well in his very next sentence: “You should listen to the media skeptically and correct me if you find anything I’ve said that is a myth or a lie or downright stupid myself, and I’ll apologize.” Well, how about the time (2/3/98) when Stossel claimed that “factory wages were up . . . 70 percent” in the preceding 15 years? You can only get close to that number if you don’t adjust for inflation; if you do adjust, factory workers’ real wages fell more than 6 percent between 1983 and 1998. Stossel didn’t apologize when we pointed this out before (Extra! Update, 4/98), but perhaps he’ll do the right thing now.

Not So Easy, Apparently

Guantánamo controversy is easy to define,” Bill O’Reilly claimed on the June 12 edition of his O’Reilly Factor. “The Bush administration sees the 460 detainees as prisoners of war. The liberal press and some human rights groups believe they are criminals entitled to due process.” Actually, that’s completely wrong: The Bush administration had been insisting they are not prisoners of war and therefore not entitled to the protections of the Geneva Conven-tions. It’s the Bush administration’s critics who argued that the prisoners should have POW status—or, if they were accused of having committed crimes, be tried under the rules of due process. On the next day’s show (6/13/06), O’Reilly responded to a letter-writer who complained that the TV personality had dismissed allegations of torture at
Guantánamo: “I’m from the ‘innocent until proven guilty’ school,” O’Reilly explained. “Allegations are just that. If you have proof torture has occurred at Gitmo, please provide it.” An odd stance for someone who approves of the indefinite detention of people he refers to as “alleged terrorists” (O’Reilly Factor, 6/14/06).

White Power I

On his May 16 show, Bill O’Reilly warned of an anti-white, anti-Christian conspiracy led by the New York Times: “The newspaper and many far-left thinkers believe the white power structure that controls America is bad, so a drastic change is needed. According to the lefty zealots, the white Christians who hold power must be swept out by a new multicultural tide.” According to O’Reilly, the Times and many others on the left want “the legalization of millions of Hispanic illegal aliens” in order to accomplish this. Just for the record, the “lefty zealots” at the New York Times (10/23/05) endorsed white Republican Michael Bloomberg over Latino Democrat Fernando Ferrer—a pretty odd way to go about bringing down the “white power structure.”

White Power II

Bill O’Reilly isn’t the only one at Fox pushing the “white people under threat” idea: On May 11, Fox’s John Gibson told his viewers to “do your duty: make more babies.” The occasion was a new report indicating that half of the children under five in the United States are minorities. Said Gibson: “By far, the greatest number are Hispanic. You know what that means? Twenty-five years and the majority of the population is Hispanic.” Actually, Latinos are projected to be 20 percent of the U.S. population in 2030—but then facts don’t have much to do with the sort of fears O’Reilly and Gibson are selling

The Voice of the People

Attempting to defend the New York Times’ disclosure (6/23/06) of a secret Bush administration financial monitoring program, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius (MSNBC’s Hardball, 6/26/06) pointed out the benefits to the White House of such exposés. Referring to an earlier Times report on the NSA’s warrantless domestic spying, Ignatius said, “The consequence of that reporting, informing the public about something the public didn’t know, was that the public decided we want this program, basically.” In fact, as FAIR has pointed out (Extra! Update, 4/06), polls show the public divided on whether they approve of the warrantless wiretaps, with the majority shifting depending on how the question is asked. But Ignatius didn’t cite polling, but the behavior of the Republican Congress, as his evidence: “I mean, you saw from the congressional disinterest in passing major new legislation that the opinion thinks it’s OK.”