Jan
01
2011

SoundBites

Bush’s Choice of an Interviewer Was a Slam Dunk

Interviewing George W. Bush about his new book, NBC’s Matt Lauer (11/8/10) remarked: “He says he eventually decided to go to war based on Saddam Hussein’s defiance and what seemed to be rock-solid intelligence. On the subject of WMD, George Tenet famously said, ‘It’s a slam dunk.’” Defiance of what, Lauer didn’t say—U.N. weapons inspections were underway and were finding little support for U.S. claims about hidden WMDs, though Bush repeatedly misrepresents this bit of history (FAIR Action Alert, 12/2/08).

Lauer went on to say that “not everybody thought you should go to war, though. There were dissenters”—to which Bush replied: “I was a dissenting voice. I didn’t wanna use force.” A memo leaked from the British prime minister’s office revealed that “Bush had made up his mind to take military action” by July 2002, eight months before the war started (Extra!, 7-8/05), yet Bush’s absurd claim received no response from Lauer.

When Is a Flip-Flop Not a Flip-Flop?

Here’s how the Los Angeles Times (11/16/10) reported that Barack Obama might give a tax break to the wealthy after all:

Obama has loosened his longstanding view that tax cuts should be extended permanently only for households earning less than $250,000 a year ($200,000 for singles).

When media outlets don’t like a politician’s new position, it’s a “flip-flop” (Extra! Update, 12/04); when they approve, it’s “loosening a longstanding view.”

Opposing Real Wars or Imaginary Socialism

New York Times political reporter Matt Bai (10/31/10) argued that far-right Tea Partiers are really the right-wing version of Bush-era MoveOn activists and “netroots” bloggers. Bai pointed to “the larger forces that unify many self-styled activists on both the left and right,” suggesting that “the recent uprisings on both ends of the ideological spectrum shouldn’t be viewed as opposing trends, but rather as points on the same cultural continuum.” Thus activists who coalesced around opposing the war in Iraq are no different than Tea Party activists who believe Barack Obama is a socialist. (As the Tea Party activist Bai profiles put it: “He’s a socialist.... There’s no question. He’s a statist.”)

A more rational media would point out that one group was motivated by an actual policy decision—one that killed hundreds of thousands of people and cost hundreds of billions of dollars. The other group is opposed to a political philosophy that Barack Obama most certainly does not adhere to. But reporters like Matt Bai have the ability to see these two political movements as being roughly comparable. At one point he wrote: “Ideology, of course, presents an unbridgeable chasm between the progressives and Tea Partiers.” Well, yeah. And so does reality.

Democracy and Other Irritations

A New York Times piece (11/29/10) on the re-election of Okinawa’s governor, who opposes the U.S. military base there, treated the views of the island’s residents as an annoyance—describing their resistance variously as a “wrench,” a “thorn” and a “headache.” The paper seemed to share the stance of the Japanese national government, which described the re-election as “one manifestation of public opinion”—and perhaps elections are not so important a manifestation, if they give the wrong results.

Glenn Beck’s Jewish Problem

Glenn Beck charged on his November 10 radio show that liberal philanthropist George Soros, a Jewish Holocaust survivor, helped “send the Jews to the death camps.” Beck’s crusade against Soros has portrayed him as the “puppet master” of a global conspiracy to impose a new world order, classic stereotypes that drew charges the radio host and Fox News star is anti-Semitic (Daily Beast, 11/10/10).

Beck’s list of recommended reading includes titles by vicious anti-Semites like Elizabeth Dilling, known for blaming Jews for Hitler’s rise and referring to U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower as “Ike the Kike” (Media Matters, 6/4/10). Moreover, while attacking liberation theology, Beck (7/13/10) repeated a standard anti-Semitic trope: “If he was a victim, and this theology was true, then Jesus would’ve come back from the dead and made the Jews pay for what they did.”

No. 1 Name in Murder Fantasies

An unflattering piece about Fox News’ election coverage by Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank (11/3/10) led Fox’s Bill O’Reilly (11/4/10) to “joke” about Milbank being decapitated. Such fantasies are not so unusual on the right-wing news channel: Fox host Glenn Beck (6/4/09; Huffington Post, 6/8/09) performed a skit about poisoning Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Fox News contributor Liz Trotta (5/25/08) joked about assassinating Barack Obama; months after making a similar joke (5/16/08), GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee was given his own Fox show. Fox Nation, a fansite owned by Fox, frequently features calls for Obama’s killing—in posts calling for him to “get what Kennedy got,” for the CIA to “take this pres down,” and warning Obama that the Quran “ain’t thick enough to stop a .308 round” (News Hounds, 11/8/10).

The acceptability of violent threats may be signaled from the top. Fox owner Rupert Murdoch described his negotiating tactics to the Australian Financial Review (11/5/10): “People love Fox News.... We said to the cable operators when we put the price up, we said do you want a monument to yourself.... Cancel us, you might get your house burnt down.”

For Fox News, ‘Hispanics’ = ‘Illegals’

Fox News anchor Trace Gallagher (Media Matters, 11/15/10) took a study that said were 100,000 fewer Latinos in Arizona since passage of the state’s disputed anti-immigrant law, and reported that it said there were 100,000 fewer “illegals”—inadvertently illustrating the case made by critics of the law that Latino citizens and unauthorized immigrants would inevitably be conflated.