Dec 1 2005


O’Reilly to Al-Qaeda: ‘Go Ahead’

“If Al-Qaeda comes in here and blows you up, we’re not going to do anything about it. We’re going to say, ‘Look, every other place in America is off limits to you, except San Francisco. You want to blow up the Coit Tower? Go ahead.'”

–Bill O’Reilly’s response to San Francisco’s vote to restrict military recruiting in schools (Radio Factor, 11/9/05)

‘Analysts With Real Expertise’

A November 15 editorial in the New York Times criticized the White House for its bogus pre-war claims, such as the charge that Iraq was importing aluminum tubes to re-start its nuclear weapons program. “That was dismissed at the time by analysts with real expertise,” the Times correctly noted–though you wouldn’t have been aware of that if the Times was your only news source. The aluminum tubes first appeared on the front page of the New York Times (9/8/02), in a piece written by Michael Gordon and Judith Miller. Though the Times now admits that experts dismissed this tall tale, no such experts were mentioned in the original story. On September 13, 2002, after the story came under fire from other media outlets (e.g. Boston Globe, 9/11/02), the Times returned to the topic–to argue more forcefully for its “scoop’s” authenticity. Regarding skeptics, the Times reported that “other, more senior officials insisted last night that this was a minority view among intelligence experts and that the CIA had wide support, particularly among the government’s top technical experts and nuclear scientists.” When it mattered, the “analysts with real expertise” were dismissed by the Times.

‘Who’s Counting?’

In a New York Times business column (11/5/05), Joseph Nocera took to task the documentary Wal-Mart: The High Price of Low Cost for not including Wal-Mart’s point of view–even though, as Nocera noted, Wal-Mart refused to be interviewed for the film. When filmmaker Robert Greenwald suggested that “a corporation with $10 billion in profits” could probably speak for itself, Nocera quipped, “The actual 2004 profits were $9.1 billion, but who’s counting?” Not Nocera, apparently: The Times published a correction (11/8/05) noting that his column “included an outdated reference to the company’s profit. It was $10.3 billion for the 2005 fiscal year, which ended January 31; the $9.1 billion cited was for fiscal 2004.”

Consider the Source

In the New York Times Magazine (11/13/05), Matt Bai quoted director Rob Reiner saying that just months before the invasion of Iraq, “an Iraqi expatriate was explaining to [George W. Bush] the difference between Kurds and Sunnis and Shiites.” Bai added parenthetically: “Reiner said he recalled hearing this anecdote on cable news or talk radio, though I wasn’t able to find any reference to it subsequently.” No wonder Bai wasn’t able to find the source–it turns out that the story came from an obscure publication called the New York Times Magazine (3/2/03).

We Report, We Decide

“Iraq will not be a terrorist state, and the world will be better off and the public will, in the fullness of time, know that. You can’t expect the public to get it right every minute of every day at all times.”

–Brit Hume (Fox News Sunday, 11/27/05)

Don’t Ask if We Didn’t Tell

Investor’s Business Daily (11/11/05) criticized pollster John Zogby for his methodology in two surveys he conducted on whether George W. Bush should be impeached: “Instead of simply asking people if they supported impeachment or not, as was the case in the first poll, he tossed in a hypothetical.” In fact, as the After Downing Street website pointed out (11/11/05), both polls asked about the same statement: “If the president did not tell the truth about his reasons for going to war with Iraq, Congress should consider holding him accountable through impeachment.” (The first time Zogby asked this, in June 27-29, 2005, 42 percent supported this statement; an October 29-November 2 poll found 53 percent saying yes.) But Investor’s Business Daily‘s real problem was not the way the question was asked but that it had been asked at all: “Whatever it is, we’d say it’s inappropriate unless the subject of impeachment has been in the news.” In other words, the public’s opinion is meaningless unless the media have told them what to have an opinion about.

‘Beamed Into Your Brain’

“It’s difficult for people in this country to get any kind of factual information and to make intelligent decisions based on it. And it’s not difficult in the sense that the information’s hard to get, it’s difficult in that it’s hard to overcome what you’re getting beamed into your brain by the television every day. The worthlessness of journalism today is just making the country confused and bewildered and lost.”

The Boondocks‘ Aaron MacGruder (The Onion, 11/23/05)

Say Cheese

“This is an industry, it’s a business. We exist to make money. We exist to put commercials on the air. The programming that is put on between those commercials is simply the bait we put in the mousetrap.”

–The retiring Ted Koppel on television (Washington Post, 11/8/05)

Everyday People

“Yes, I once recommended to one of his staff people, I said, you know, the president would be a lot more popular up in the blue states if just one weekend he brought Laura up to New York, saw a play or two, stayed at some hotel, and just acted like a regular American.”

–Chris Matthews (Hardball, 10/30/05)