Mar
01
2010

Playing the Nazi Card

Comparing Obama to Hitler becomes a standard right-wing trope

Comparing anyone to Hitler is egregious. During the 1980 presidential campaign, Walter Mondale released a letter that Ronald Reagan had written to Richard Nixon 20 years earlier, in which Reagan compared John F. Kennedy to Hitler and Karl Marx—though Reagan contended he was only speaking of Kennedy’s economic proposals (UPI, 10/23/84). In 2004, the Bush camp created a video juxtaposing “Wild-Eyed” Democrats like John Kerry and Al Gore with Hitler (Slate, 6/28/04). The frequency of such thoughtless comparisons popping up online prompted author and attorney Mike Godwin to coin Godwin’s Law (Wired, 10/94): “As an online discussion grows longer, the […]

Jun
01
2009

Glenn Beck Is No Howard Beale

He’s mad like a Fox, and wants to take us in

Fox News’ latest sensation Glenn Beck has invited comparisons of himself to Howard Beale, the barking-mad TV host in 1976’s black comedy Network, who urged viewers to throw open their windows and shout, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore.” Beck recently told the New York Times (3/30/09): “I think that’s the way people feel. That’s the way I feel.” Beck has even played clips of Beale’s scenes on his show (Beck, 3/23/09). Declaring one’s kinship with a fictional TV host famous for undergoing an on-air emotional disintegration would not normally recommend one to […]

May
08
2009

Bart Laws on swine flu, Kristin Thomson on radio diversity study

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Download MP3 This week on CounterSpin: If you didn't panic over the swine flu, then maybe you weren't watching much TV, where scary charts and maps documented the spread of a worldwide pandemic. At least that's what we were hearing last week. With the media hysteria subsiding, the question isn't so much did the press overreact, but how much. But how do we assess the role of public health officials, who perhaps by nature are supposed to worry about these kinds of things? And is there a different conversation about global public health that we should be having? We'll speak […]

Mar
01
2009

The Online Predator Scare

Profiting from the panic

There is money to be made from fear—and business has been good for those hawking the online child predator threat. Exploiters of the scare range from the Internet-policing groups who ferret out suspects and share information with authorities (and sometimes, for a fee, with journalists) to vendors of software intended to help parents monitor and restrict web use. Some of the biggest beneficiaries are TV companies that feature salacious segments on how predators stalk the web in hopes of arranging live liaisons with their young prey. Of course, it’s all in the spirit of public service and protecting the children, […]

Sep
01
2008

Media's 'Girls Gone Wild' Fantasies

Pregnant girls ignored in story on ‘pregnancy pact’

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/MestreechCity

When Time magazine (6/30/08; online edition, 6/19/08) reported that “nearly half” of 17 pregnant teenagers at Gloucester High School in Massachusetts had made a pact to have children simultaneously, corporate journalists latched onto the story and scurried to express their dismay on newspaper pages, blogs and 24-hour cable news. Time’s article, which reporter Kathleen Kingsbury largely sourced to school principal Joseph Sullivan, told of a group of girls who repeatedly visited the school clinic for pregnancy tests. The girls, according to the principal, “reacted to the news that they were expecting with high fives.” And “the story got worse,” Kingsbury […]

Jul
11
2008

Robert Dreyfuss on Obama's foreign policy, Amanda Marcotte on 'pregnancy pact' story

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Download MP3 This week on CounterSpin: Barack Obama's image as a harbinger of change has many hoping his election will bring change in foreign policy. He certainly differs from George Bush on the need for diplomacy. But what about issues such as the projection of American power and so-called humanitarian intervention? Does Obama's thinking really represent a departure from, say, Bill Clinton's views, or from the bipartisan thinking of the Cold War period? We'll talk to journalist Robert Dreyfuss about his Nation magazine report, "Obama's Evolving Foreign Policy." Also on CounterSpin today, a story that proved too good to be […]

May
02
2008

Justin Levitt on Supreme Court and voter ID, Sara Robinson on Texas Mormons case

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Download MP3 This week on CounterSpin: The Supreme Court rejected a challenge to Indiana's voter ID law; while the decision was difficult to parse, the debate around the law centers on the baseless fears of voter fraud often stoked by right-wing pundits. We'll talk about the issue with Justin Levitt of NYU's Brennan Center for Justice. Also on the show: The state of Texas' raid on the Yearning for Zion Ranch, resulting in the removal of more than 500 women and children, has made for weeks of sensational news coverage. But beyond the "curiosity" factor of the Mormon sect lie […]

Nov
09
2007

Shahid Buttar on Pakistan, Jonathan Tasini on the writers strike

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Download MP3 This week on CounterSpin: Martial law in Pakistan made headlines on November 4. Some in the media were calling it a second coup by dictator Pervez Musharraf, not to mention a move that muddies up the Bush White House's alleged democracy promotion project in the Muslim world. What's missing from that media formulation? We'll hear from writer and activist Shahid Buttar. Also on CounterSpin today, the Writers Guild of America strike has generated a lot of coverage of which celebrities are walking the picket lines and which shows will go into reruns, but reporting about what the writers […]