Feb
01
2012

SoundBites

February 2012

Why Can’t Ron Paul Look More Like Gingrich?

So why, with his long-held views and an enthusiastic base of support, does [Ron] Paul get so little attention? It’s not only his anti-establishment message. Part of his acceptance issue is the way he presents himself. As much as he is a refreshing departure from the mold, he also comes across as a gadfly.

Consider if Paul had the heftier, more serious bearing of a Romney or a Gingrich. Would he be so easy to dismiss? In the Darwinian world of public perception, it’s easy to discount what you hear from someone who looks a little smaller, and perhaps a little weaker. Especially when his voice tends to spiral into the upper registers.

—Sarah Kaufman, Washington Post (12/15/11)

Fox Tacks to the Right, as Always

There’s an idea the Fox News Channel is moving away from its hard-right roots in this election cycle. Newsweek’s Howard Kurtz (Daily Beast, 9/25/11) proposed that “grilling the Republican contenders, which pleases the White House but cuts sharply against the network’s conservative image—and risks alienating its most rabid right-wing fans” is part of Fox head Roger Ailes’ “quiet repositioning” of the network. New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman (12/4/11) likewise found evidence that the network “plans to tack toward the center for the general election” in Fox’s “willingness to make GOP candidates sweat in front of their base.”

As an example of the kind of “grilling” given candidates by Fox, Kurtz cited Chris Wallace’s proposed question to Texas Gov. Rick Perry: “How do you feel about being criticized by some of your rivals as being too soft on illegal immigration?” (Continued Wallace: “Then I go to Rick Santorum: Is Perry too soft?”) Sherman’s examples of Fox’s “tack toward the center” included a Fox debate (12/3/11) in which right-wing state attorneys general asked

questions like, “Why should limited-government conservatives like me trust that a President Gingrich will not advance these sorts of big-government approaches when you are president?”

Fraudulent Study of Imaginary Vote Fraud

Discussing the Republican drive for laws making it harder to vote, the Washington Post (12/13/11) reported: “Liberal and civil rights groups have been raising alarms about the remaining laws, calling them an ‘assault on democracy’ and an attempt to depress minority voter turnout. Supporters of the tighter laws say they are needed to combat voter fraud.” Such “he said, she said” coverage is typical on this issue, despite the fact that study after study has found the kind of fraud these laws would counter is virtually nonexistent.

The Post story went out of its way to suggest that there is a legitimate debate on the vote fraud question: “Studies of the issue have reached different conclusions on the extent of the problem,” Post reporter Jerry Markon wrote.

When FAIR asked Markon which studies he meant, he pointed us to a 2006 report by the federal U.S. Electoral Assistance Commission—a report notable for having been rewritten by the Bush administration to create a false impression that there was substantial debate over the extent of vote fraud. The Post, in fact, published an op-ed by one of the researchers (8/30/07) complaining that the published report “completely stood our own work on its head.”

Louis C.K. Explains Net Neutrality

OK, so NBC is this huge company and they have all these studios and these satellites to beam stuff out,

but on the Web, both NBC.com and LouisCK.com have the same amount of bandwidth. We are equals and there are things you can do with that. This has been a fun little experiment.

— Comedian Louis C.K. explaining why he made more money selling a comedy show through his own website than he would have doing a TV special (New York Times, 12/19/11)

(Don’t) Ban the Bomb

Here’s how the New York Times (11/26/11) reported on the breakdown of international efforts to ban cluster bombs: “Despite last-minute attempts to broker a compromise, American-led efforts to conclude an international treaty restricting use of cluster munitions collapsed on Friday in the face of opposition from countries that said it did not address their humanitarian concerns and would undermine existing international law.”

So who opposes banning cluster bombs? It takes work to discern this from the Times account, but it’s the U.S.—which favors new rules that would allow it to keep using the deadly munitions. Meanwhile, the UN, Red Cross and dozens of countries seek the outright ban outlined by a 2008 Oslo conference, saying the U.S.-proposed restrictions would make little difference.

Contrast the Times’ murk with Reuters’ straightforward report (11/24/11): “A U.S.-led push to regulate, rather than ban, cluster munitions failed Friday after 50 countries objected, following humanitarian campaigners’ claims that anything less than an outright ban would be an unprecedented reversal of human rights law.”

The Great Debate: Are Muslims People?

All-American Muslim, a TLC reality show about Muslim American families, has been attacked by the right-wing Florida Family Association for including Muslims who “appear to be ordinary folks” while excluding the “many Islamic believers whose agenda poses a clear and present danger to liberties and traditional values that the majority of Americans cherish.” The show, the FFA charged, was “propaganda clearly designed to counter legitimate and present-day concerns about many Muslims who are advancing Islamic fundamentalism and Sharia law.”

That convinced the Lowe’s hardware chain to stop advertising on the show. When this capitulation to Islamophobia provoked dismay, Lowe’s wrote on its Facebook page, “It appears that we managed to step into a hotly contested debate,” suggesting the company had pulled its ads to “respectfully defer to communities, individuals and groups to discuss and consider such issues of importance.”

Of course, the humanity of Muslims is not a contested debate, and boycotting a show because it depicts a group of people as “ordinary folks” is not a way to “respectfully defer”—it’s taking the side of bigots.

At PBS, Profit = Freedom

Profit is what lets you not only continue another day, but also gives you the freedom to determine your own mission.... The more profit your company makes, the more leeway it has to do its work, to remain independent of government or other interference, and the more freedom to do good work.

— Dorian Benkoil, MediaShift (12/7/21), the digital media website of PBS, which was somehow mistakenly incorporated as a nonprofit