Mar
01
2011

No Culture of Vitriol on the Right?

From metaphors to threats to actual bloodshed

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords--Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/Talk Radio News Service

During the 2010 campaign, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin published a map on her Facebook page (Associated Press, 3/24/10) with crosshairs targeting 20 Democratic congressional incumbents, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D.-Ariz.), who was later critically injured in the January mass shooting in Tucson. Palin rallied opponents of the healthcare bill with the tweeted slogan (L.A. Times, 3/26/10) “Don’t retreat, instead—RELOAD!” Barack Obama, on the other hand, revved up his base in the 2008 campaign by promising, “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun” (Politico, 6/14/08). So in the debate over political civility in the aftermath […]

Mar
01
2011

11th Annual Fear & Favor Report

How power shapes the news

U.S. media consumers are used to magazines where ads outnumber stories, to on-air hosts who contractually consume brand-name drinks, to “consideration provided by” this and “brought to you by” that. But when it comes to the news, many still maintain at least the kernel of expectation that reports in the paper or on TV have more to do with journalistic judgment than with anything else. The Fear & Favor report is about some of the things that come between that image and reality on a daily basis. From pushy advertisers to heavy-handed owners and local power players, there are a […]

Mar
01
2011

Fiscally Responsible Republicans Are Media Articles of Faith

Confusing cutting the deficit with cutting taxes for the rich

The GOP took control of Congress by positioning themselves, with the help of corporate media, as the party of fiscal responsibility. As the press corps chastised Democrats for failing to get serious about the deficit (Extra!, 1/11)—ignoring economists’ warnings that running a deficit is necessary to recover from a recession—Republican policies past and present that have played starring roles in generating federal red ink got a free pass. Following Obama’s State of the Union address, the Republican response issued by Rep. Paul Ryan (Wisc.) was unsurprisingly greeted by right-wing media as a “moral argument for why it is important for […]

Mar
01
2011

The Uses of September 11

To the right, terror attacks are theirs to exploit—or dismiss—as they like

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/911 photos

In August 2010 the story of the “Ground Zero Mosque,” as it was inaccurately labeled by big media, saturated the news. Driving the coverage were conservative pundits and politicians who denounced the proposal for an Islamic cultural center to be built on “hallowed ground”—within a few blocks of the former site of New York City’s World Trade Center (Extra!, 10/10). Treated on Fox News and talk radio as a harbinger of an American caliphate (Beck, 8/23/10) and the imposition of sharia law (Hannity, 8/17/10), the “Ground Zero Mosque” was 2010’s Swift Boat story—a dishonest, demagogic campaign to gin up GOP […]

Mar
01
2011

SoundBites

Biden Rules David Gregory: Mitch McConnell says [WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange]’s a high-tech terrorist, others say this is akin to the Pentagon Papers. Where do you come down? Vice President Joe Biden: I would argue that it’s closer to being a high-tech terrorist than the Pentagon Papers. —NBC’s Meet the Press (12/19/10) Jim Lehrer: Should [Egypt’s Hosni] Mubarak be seen as a dictator? Vice President Joe Biden: Look, Mubarak has been an ally of ours in a number of things and he’s been very responsible on, relative to geopolitical interests in the region.... I would not refer to him as a […]

Mar
01
2011

'Balancing Act' Comes Down on Side of Dictatorship

On Egypt, pundits not sure democracy is so great

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/FreedomHouseDC

The political context of the current Egyptian uprising is clear: The United States has steadfastly supported dictator Hosni Mubarak, whose rule has been marked by sham elections and the jailing and torture of dissidents, propping up his regime since 1981 with some $60 billion in aid, most of it military (Congressional Research Service, 2/1/11). But since U.S. corporate media are accustomed to viewing international affairs through the lens of U.S. elite interests, much of the early coverage elided the nature of Washington’s role, presenting the crisis as a “tightrope” balancing act for the Obama administration. As the New York Times […]

Mar
01
2011

Letters to the Editor

Keep Hitting on ‘Pulling a Clinton’ Just received the January issue. Very relevant. I hope you will keep hitting the media on their desire to have Obama “pull a Clinton.” After our “liberal” president knuckled under to the GOP on taxes, giving them almost all they wanted, the media is claiming that Obama won the victory! I suspect the establishment is afraid that Tea Partiers will upset the apple cart, and are now trying to engineer an Obama victory with both houses Republican for 2012. That would keep “triangulation” going. Also, practically no one in the media has pointed out […]

Mar
01
2011

Olbermann's Countdown Reaches Zero

MSNBC and the limits of corporate media liberalism

Keith Olbermann--Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/afagen

Whether the abrupt termination of MSNBC host Keith Olbermann’s contract on January 21 was connected to Olbermann’s left-of-center politics or the recent purchase of NBC by Comcast from General Electric, the host’s departure provides an opportunity to reflect on the bigger picture. MSNBC’s current ‘liberal’ identity is generally attributed to Olbermann, whose success offered compelling evidence that a left-of-center TV host could find a sizable audience. Olbermann’s willingness to criticize prominent Republican leaders and right-wing commentators like Fox’s Bill O’Reilly was virtually unknown in corporate television. And the show did more than that for progressive causes; for instance, as the […]