‘How Short Our Memory Is’
Looking back at the 10th anniversary of the Iraq invasion, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough (Morning Joe, 3/19/13) scorned media outlets and others who failed to acknowledge their responsibility for leading the country into war: “The very same people who spent years beating up George Bush were the very ones beating the drum for Iraq’s regime change and Saddam Hussein’s ouster,” he said. “The New York Times grimly warned of the threat posed by Iraq in the final years of the Clinton administration. And on the eve of President Bush’s first inauguration, the Washington Post called Iraq’s weapons program the greatest threat facing the new president.”
Ten years earlier, though, Scarborough had been criticizing media for not being pro-war enough. “I doubt that the journalists at the New York Times and NPR or at ABC or at CNN are going to ever admit just how wrong their negative pronouncements were over the past four weeks,” he declared (Scarborough Country, 4/9/03). The next day (4/10/03), he extended his rant:
I’m waiting to hear the words “I was wrong” from some of the world’s most elite journalists, politicians and Hollywood types…. Maybe disgraced commentators… will step forward tonight and show the content of their character by simply admitting what we know already: that their wartime predictions were arrogant, they were misguided and they were dead wrong. Maybe, just maybe, these self-anointed critics will learn from their mistakes.
“How short our memory is,” the Scarborough of 2013 observed. He’s an object lesson.
The Heartbreak of Raping
“I’ve never experienced anything like it, Candy. It was incredibly emotional—incredibly difficult even for an outsider like me to watch what happened as these two young men that had such promising futures, star football players, very good students, literally watched as they believe their life fell apart.”
—CNN’s Poppy Harlow (3/17/13) after convictions were announced in the Steubenville, Ohio, rape case
“What were the most hurtful things people were saying about you?”
—ABC News’ Elizabeth Vargas (World News, 3/17/13) to one of the then-accused rapists
Imaginative Media Criticism
ABC’s George Will (This Week, 3/17/13) tried to do some media criticism around a conservative conference, contrasting an actual media headline with one from his own imagination:
First, here’s the New York Times headline on the CPAC conference: “GOP Divisions Fester at Conservative Retreat.” Festering, an infected wound, it’s awful. I guarantee, if there were a liberal conclave comparable to this, and there were vigorous debates going on there, the New York Times headline would be, “Healthy Diversity Flourishes at Liberal Conclave.”
Now, progressive conferences don’t get as much media attention as CPAC, so perhaps Will couldn’t find any real coverage to compare. But here’s how the New York Times covered the 2006 Take Back America conference (6/14/06): “Clinton and Kerry Show Democratic Divide on Troop Withdrawal.” In 2010, the Times headline (6/8/10) was about activists’ frustration with the party: “Pushing a Liberal Agenda, With Democrats as Target.” Nothing about flourishing lefty diversity. But when you’re trying to prove liberal media bias, maybe you’re better off making up examples.
The New York Times’ Michael Shear (3/15/13) reported that some Republicans see Sen. Rand Paul’s semi-dovish critique of President Obama’s drone program as nothing out of the ordinary: “They view Mr. Paul’s crusade as nothing more than the usual attempt by members of the opposition party to undermine the assertive foreign policy of an incumbent president.” Shear offered as an example of this phenomenon, “In the 1980s, Democrats harshly criticized President Ronald Reagan’s attempts to arm Nicaraguan rebels.”
The thing about Reagan’s “attempts to arm Nicaraguan rebels,” though, was that he actually did that. The Contras, whose rebellion against the Sandinista government killed at least 30,000 people, were created by the Reagan administration. And Democrats didn’t just “harshly criticize” Reagan’s arming of the Contras, they passed a law known as the Boland Amendment, that made it illegal to do so; the Reagan administration continued to ship arms to them in violation of the law. They called it “Iran/Contra”; it was a big deal at the time.
Austerity Wins Again!
“In Europe’s grand battle over growth vs. austerity, has Ireland proved that austerity works?” asked a Washington Post piece (3/14/13) by Howard Schneider. Pretty much the only evidence he offered was the less-than-compelling fact that Ireland “successfully sold longer-term government bonds Wednesday.”
As economist Dean Baker (Beat the Press, 3/14/13) noted, Ireland’s major economic problem is massive unemployment, currently around 14.7 percent—or 10 full percentage points above the pre-recession level. The next day’s Irish Times (3/15/13) had the headline, “Irish Economy to Be Flat in 2013: Irish GDP Growth Downgraded From 1 to 0.1 Percent in Ernst & Young Euro Zone Forecast.”
You may remember Schneider as the reporter who suggested (Washington Post, 1/16/13) that France should look to Spain as an economic model—despite Spain having an unemployment rate 16 percent higher (Extra!, 3/13).
Bill Maher Meets His Own Definition
“You know what? Rich people–I’m sure you’d agree with this–actually do pay the freight in this country…. I just want to say liberals: You could actually lose me. It’s outrageous what we’re paying—over 50 percent. I’m willing to pay my share, but yeah, it’s ridiculous.”
—Bill Maher (Real Time, 3/15/13)
“New Rule: Rich People Who Complain About Being Vilified Should Be Vilified: I’ve done some math that indicates that, considering the hole this country is in, if you are earning more than a million dollars a year and are complaining about a 3.6 percent tax increase, then you are by definition a greedy asshole. And let’s be clear: That’s 3.6 percent only on income above 250 grand—your first 250, that’s still on the house.”
—Bill Maher (Huffington Post, 9/24/10)