And now, they're coming for your Social Security money - they want your fucking retirement money - they want it back - so they can give it to their criminal friends on Wall Street. And you know something? They'll get it. They'll get it all from you sooner or later. Because they own this fucking place. It's a Big Club: and you're not in it.
"Here’s how it works- Obama says something, Republicans completely lie about it, the media notes the lie is catching on without ever actually calling it a lie, the Democrats have to waste resources and respond to the lie, Republicans double down, this sucks the life out of everything else for a couple week, and in ten years this will be conventional wisdom that Obama called Americans lazy, just like Al Gore claimed to invent the internet and the rest of the bullshit that wingnuts have adopted as received truths (snow in November refutes climate change, the more you cut taxes the more government revenue you raise, if a bombing campaign does not make people like you it means you didn’t bomb hard enough or your targeting was off, liberals lost Viet Nam, waterboarding isn’t torture, etc).
We’re so fucked as a nation."
— John Cole, to whom I’d only add that, should Obama fail to win reelection in 2012, his decision to nationally televise the “Lazy Speech” from the Oval Office while wearing an overly earth-toned, almost certainly focus group chosen sweater will be held out as a prime reason American opinion crystallized against him.
That these are easily proven to be lies and utter fabrications does not matter. Recall Cokie’s Law: if it’s out there, it must be treated as fact, uncritically and forever. Anything else smacks of journalistic bias.
And yes, we are so fucked as a nation.
"It is as if the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination was about to fall into the hands of Paul Wolfowitz. What happened?"
— Jonathan Chaitcontemplates the seemingly quite favorable strategic position Mitt Romney (suddenly?) finds himself in despite being an occasionally outspoken pro-choice Mormon tightly associated with Taxachusetts and “Romneycare” and yet working to curry favor from an increasingly lunatic “base” that seems quite willing to start Civil War II over any and all of those issues.
Most important MSM/Serious Person fact about Romney: he once strapped a dog, inside its carrier, to the top of the family truckster. So you know.
… it was incredibly irresponsible for NPR to tell listeners in its top of the hour news segment that the market plunged because Standard and Poor’s downgrade of U.S. debt. NPR does not know this to be true and it certainly is not obviously the case.
The market that should have been most immediately affected by the S&P downgrade was the U.S. bond market. However bond prices soared in the trading immediately following the downgrade and continued to rise through Wednesday. If there was greater fear that the U.S. would default because of the downgrade, then bond prices should have plunged as investors demanded a higher risk premium. This did not happen.
The most obvious alternative explanation for the plunge in the market is the risk that the euro could break up as the debt crisis spread from relatively countries like Greece and Ireland, to the euro zone giants, Spain and Italy. The prospect of a euro zone break-up raises a real risk of a Lehman-type freeze up of the world financial system. It is far more plausible that this prospect led to the plunge in the stock market than the downgrade by one of three major credit rating agencies.
This point is important because many political actors, including National Public Radio, are trying to use the debt downgrade as an argument for cutting Social Security and Medicare. Their argument will be furthered if they can claim that the downgrade had enormous consequences for the stock market, since so many people involved in political debates (i.e. columnists, policy wonks, reporters, congressional staffers) have substantial amounts of money invested in the stock market.
This is exactly right. All this nonsense about S&P’s downgrade “causing” movement in the US stock market (which, as far as the MSM is concerned, is entirely comprised of the Dow Jones index) is wrong. Foolish, even. This has been reported occasionally, and NPR and other political actors are at least slightly tempering the “S&P caused it!” meme.
“S&P downgrade caused massive loss of wealth in DJI; therefore Social Security and Medicare must be cut; elimination is the GOP’s preferred outcome, therefore the “sensible center” is merely devastating cuts followed on every few years with more “sensible” cuts until we reach said elimination. This is the only Serious Position possible on the issue when one considers the facts of the S&P downgrade and its devastating impact on the Dow. Why, some say that as much as $1T in wealth evaporated. We simply must act to cut Social Security. Everyone knows it is the problem here.”
There will be nothing else. No other opinion will be allowed, and if directly challenged by the reality of the situation, reporters and pundits will characterize the truth as simply one other fringe “opinion” that the dirty fucking hippies are pushing again, and no better or worse than the obvious fallacy that was created by them simply because said fallacy has been widely reported. When (and if) directly challenged on the ontogeny of said MSM-created fallacy, they will elect to “leave it there,” declare it “complicated,” or, in the case of Cokie herself, sputter about it being “out there.” You heard it here first.
FOXnews VP Bill Sammon was caught on tape making a rather unfortunate admission on a conservative cruise:
At that time, I have to admit, that I went on TV on Fox News and publicly engaged in what I guess was some rather mischievous speculation about whether Barack Obama really advocated socialism, a premise that privately I found rather far-fetched.
Then, later, walking back this statement:
[Obama’s supposed “advocating” of socialism] was a main point of discussion on all the channels, in all the media [and by 2009 I was] astonished by how the needle had moved.
You (or your proxies) go on television, you knowingly lie repeatedly, your entire network repeats said lie knowingly and with malice aforethought, on all programs 24/7, then you proclaim yourself astonished that some number of people have picked up the lie and repeated it themselves (whether knowingly or unknowingly is now immaterial; congratulations, you have successfully propagated the meme).
Now, of course, because of the ironclad rules of Cokie’s Law, you simply continue to repeat and repeat and repeat the lie you know is a lie (because you were complicit in its genesis) now with the “it’s out there, we have to report it” fig leaf. And the rest of the MSM steadfastly defends you as an accurate, respectable news source despite all evidence to the contrary. I guess that concept is “out there” too.
George Packer made several excellent points last night, one of which seems to be this morning’s emerging “serious person” consensus on the Giffords shooting and the political motivations (and their sources) that all-too-clearly underlie it:
It would be a kind of relief if Loughner operated not out of any coherent political context but just his own fevered brain.
Emphasis on coherent. Because it’s plain there are a number of right-wing talking points in this guy’s spew. Gold standard, government takeover, and other usual suspects have already emerged from his internet wake without the official investigation even getting started. But because the spew was most definitely a spew, and one that somewhat rarely qualified as English, well, those were just coincidental ravings of a lunatic and not something he heard repeatedly and then acted on. Just a lone nut, and both sides do it anyway.
Well, Cokie, Packer is ready for you:
…even so, the tragedy wouldn’t change this basic fact: for the past two years, many conservative leaders, activists, and media figures have made a habit of trying to delegitimize their political opponents. Not just arguing against their opponents, but doing everything possible to turn them into enemies of the country and cast them out beyond the pale. Instead of “soft on defense,” one routinely hears the words “treason” and “traitor.” The President isn’t a big-government liberal—he’s a socialist who wants to impose tyranny. He’s also, according to a minority of Republicans, including elected officials, an impostor. Even the reading of the Constitution on the first day of the 112th Congress was conceived as an assault on the legitimacy of the Democratic Administration and Congress.
Absolutely right. Just absolutely goddamned right. It is no coincidence that the entire week’s House agenda was instantly sidelined. Boehner and the rest knew the whole purpose of it was to create a hateful political sideshow. Sound and fury signifying nothing, but most certainly working to gin up some more fury. What’s the point of continuing with it if you can’t go before the microphone to talk about the coming tyranny? So that will just have to wait till next week. Because the Beltway media culture steadfastly refuses to learn from anything, least of all repeated, targeted domestic terror attacks. Time and time again, whether it be against the IRS, a member of Congress, government buildings, what have you, these are each dismissed as lone nuts operating on some incoherent babble and most definitely not taking marching orders from other lunatics that are routinely given the microphone on the most popular media outlets in the country. Don’t worry your pretty little head over the fact that their manifesto contains extensive quotes from Beck, Limbaugh, Bachman, Palin, whomever. That’s just incoherent ramblings. Both sides are equally guilty, and here’s an anonymous DailyKos comment that proves it.
"Look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous."
— Juan Williams, getting himself fired from NPR. You’d think by now that anyone leading a sentence with “I’m not a bigot, but…” would have the sense to pause and reflect.
The sad part is that he’s said worse things than this on NPR. That they have enabled him, for years, to parrot right wing talking points in the guise of “analysis” on NPR, and then to turn around an paint a patina of “the reasonable liberal” on any bit of trash that FOXnews wants to peddle, more or less borders on an unforgivable act for what claims to be a serious news organization. All they did was make him quit identifying himself as an NPR analyst while on FOXnews; instead, they should have fired his ass years ago.
Never fear, though, we’ll always have Cokie “It’s out there” Roberts to fill in the void in our “this is bad for the Democrats” lives.
So, we’re entering week two of an event that, thanks to quick thinking, White House officials nipped in the bud and transformed into a one day story.
On the plus side: this OpEd from EJ Dionne is superlative. I don’t share his optimism, but he points out what strikes me as the key facet linking the Sherrod narrative to a much larger issue:
The Obama team did not question, let alone challenge, the video. Instead, it assumed that whatever narrative Fox News might create mattered more than anything else, including the possible innocence of a human being outside the president’s inner circle.
The Facts Do Not Matter. While still folding like a cheap suit, at least the administration seems to have internalized (and fumblingly tried to act upon) this basic tenet of today’s media complex. And that’s the thing that really differentiates the Sherrod dust-up: the fairly counter-intuitive notion that the true facts of the story not only emerged but were covered and became the ongoing core storyline employed by the MSM. This rarely happens.
I’d argue that this is because the truth was suitably damaging to the administration while the “lie” in the matter rather inconveniently put on display the deeply dysfunctional brand of “news” that FOXnews peddles and furthermore highlights a larger media establishment that not only ignores but frequently rushes to defend such behavior.
A truly agile administration would have used this rare opening. Indeed, they should be waiting for such an opportunity, with tightly produced packages ready to drop at the first sign of FOXnews’ exposed flank. Instead, they fired Sherrod. This is why they fail.
But, getting back to the novelty of having a truth emerge from the fiction and actually manage to become the narrative, for how long have we lived with other convenient lies like:
Al Gore says he invented the internet
Unlike Americans, Al Gore wears four-button suits
Al Gore said he discovered Love Canal
Al Gore says he was the basis of Love Story
Al Gore wore earth tones because a woman told him to
That the first of these is actually mentioned by Dionne is as shocking as it is unusual. Polite people never mention these facts.
Admittedly, these examples are merely a smattering from the Al Gore section of the Convenient Media Storybook. There are many more, and innumerable sections; Social Security is soon to be insolvent, tax cuts have always paid for themselves, and etc… Al Gore makes an interesting case because the man has been out of Presidential politics since he was elected President back in Campaign 2000. These and other lies about him still appear on a daily basis in the mainstream press. But, of course, these things cut both ways. The Church of the Savvy tells us that both houses are always equally flawed. False equivalency is the stock and trade of the business. So let’s give equal time and run down all the manifold lies that are repeated daily about disgraced former Speaker Newt Gingrich:
The typical evolution of stories like Sherrod’s goes something like this:
Wrong but convenient and story-making non-fact is put “out there.”
Serious people like Cokie Roberts and Juan Williams pick it up and uncritically repeat it
Truth of matter emerges on A19. Is ignored. Derided as too complicated, booooo-ring, or “old news.”
When directly challenged with (3), serious people like Cokie will haltingly agree with its ultimate veracity, but continue to treat (1) as fact because it’s “Out there.” And then proceed to recall (1). Forever.
The Sherrod case is playing out very differently. Not only did the reality emerge, it was accepted and propagated. Dionne continues:
The traditional media are so petrified of being called “liberal” that they are prepared to allow the Breitbarts of the world to become their assignment editors. Mainstream journalists regularly criticize themselves for not jumping fast enough or high enough when the Fox crowd demands coverage of one of their attack lines.
This is true to a point, however he’s either forgetting or just avoiding the key lie. The key myth that makes it all possible: that the MSM is, in and of itself, liberal. A false attribution, but one that is (surprise, surprise) frequently repeated. This is what movtivates the fear of being called liberal. It’s the frame that drives NPR to run stories worrying over three hours of clearly differentiated msnbc editorial programming alongside 21 hours of straight news (three of which are dominated by a former Conservative member of Congress) whilst merrily whistling past the fact that FOXnews runs a 24/7 propaganda mill, complete with “serious” stories like the entirely false notion that the Obama Justice Department categorically refuses to prosecute black men; it would be one thing if this nonsense was limited to FOXnews, but it is not. Dionne picks up this thread:
Thus did Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander ask this month why the [Washington Post] had been slow to report on “the Justice Department’s decision to scale down a voter-intimidation case against members of the New Black Panther Party.” Never mind that this is a story about a tiny group of crackpots who stopped no one from voting. It was aimed at doing what the doctored video Breitbart posted set out to do: convince Americans that the Obama administration favors blacks over whites.
Now, [Bush Justice Department official J. Christian] Adams is accusing the Obama Justice Department of being “motivated by a lawless hostility toward equal enforcement of the law.” This is racially inflammatory, politically motivated nonsense — and it’s nonsense even if Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh talk about it a thousand times a day. When an outlandish charge for which there is no evidence is treated as an on-the-one-hand-and-on-the-other-hand issue, the liars win.
Again, Dionne soft-pedals it. It’s not just Hannity saying this during “editorial” hour; it’s the entire “news” operation on FOXnews doing it. Presenting it as fact. Repeatedly. Which, for unclear reasons, positively compels the rest of the MSM to do likewise and ponder why they didn’t report on this falsity more aggressively and sooner without ever pausing to consider that the story is baseless and more often than not invented out of whole cloth. Thus do people like Drudge, Limbaugh, Beck, and O’Reilly become the assignment editors for the MSM. Many say the world is round. Others say it is flat. Opinions differ.
Thus does the nation die at the hands of invincible ignorance.
Cheney’s energy task force - the secretive one that he wouldn’t say much about publicly - that decided that the [acoustic] switches, which cost $500,000, were too much a burden on the industry
$500,000 was “too much of a burden” on an industry receiving $36.5 BILLION in government subsidies over and above any historic profits they just might be reaping. BILLION. With a “B”. Versus $500 THOUSAND. I’m willing to bet that Halliburton’s compensation committee gives bonuses in excess of the cost of said acoustic switch that wasn’t there to stop the oil spill that occured when they fucked up the bore cementing job they were down there doing. Poorly, in all likelihood.
In 2009, Halliburton’s CEO received $12.4M, a stunning reduction of 20%. One wonders how he gets by. The no-doubt struggling compensation committee awarded him, him, as in just him ALONE, a bonus of $8.1M. By my count, that’s 16.2 acoustic switches without even touching his regular pay. This, however, is an unsustainable burden on the oil industry, which Halliburton isn’t even directly involved with (in terms of directing exploration, drilling, and refining).
Worth noting that there are, as of April 2010 56 licensed and operating oil platforms that the US has purview over. FIFTY SIX. It would cost $2.8M to outfit THEM ALL. $36.5 BILLION in direct government subsidies to the oil industry before any profits are even estimated, but, according to Dick Cheney, $2.8M is too great a price to pay.
By all means, blame it on Obama. His fault all the way.
Andrew Sullivan is worried about Sarah Palin, perhaps most especially because:
She can electrify a crowd. She has the kind of charisma that appeals to the sub-rational. and she has crafted a Peronist identity - utterly fraudulent, of course - that is political dynamite in a recession with populism roiling everyone and everything.
and yet the payload of that charismatically delivered speech:
was and is pure sophistry - a string of crowd-pleasing slogans with no content whatever, except for an endorsement of a global war on Islam, tax-cuts, populist attacks on Wall Street, a subtle but scary attempt to politicize the military as belonging to one party, cooptation of one religion in America, and, with the exception of nuclear power […] a desire for more carbon energy, not less (as long as it’s developed in the US).
Now partly what this means is that all the things that make her so compelling are the things that will keep her marginal.
The problem with that is that she is not in any way marginal. The mainstream media reports on her comings and goings to a far greater degree than they do those of, say, Joe Biden or even their beloved St. John McCain. There were 200 credentialed media at this idiotic event, which boasted a total paid conference attendance of ~600. Does Obama pull 200 media credentials when he visits Elyria, OH or some other purely political stump?
And that gets us back to the key problem. The media will simply report her speech. It happened. Here’s what she said. Without context, it’s difficult for the low-information voter to grasp any useful information beyond “they’re reporting it, so they must think it’s important.” Likewise, when Palin appears on MSM shows, they refuse, categorically refuse to ask potentially illuminating questions. Witness this exchange:
WALLACE: Would you say that you’re more knowledgeable about domestic and foreign affairs now than you were two years ago?
PALIN: Well, I would hope so. Yes, I am.
which was followed by this incisive, hard-hitting prober:
WALLACE: I know that three years is an eternity in politics. But how hard do you think President Obama will be to defeat in 2012?
Keep in mind, Chris Wallace is FOXnews’ investigative arm. Howsabout asking what the Bush Doctrine is/was? Who were the primary “combatants” in the Cold War? Where is China located? Asking “are you improved at…” simply begs the follow-on of “then prove it.” But, of course, this never happens. She will never be stopped until it starts happening. And Chris Wallace, being home court as he is, would be precisely the person to do it. But he clearly doesn’t care to. And neither does anyone else. So much better to report whatever maunderings have turned up on Palin’s Facebook than to, you know, actually do some work and break what would be a cataclysmic, career-making story in the process. Dog-bites-man, to be sure, but Palin: as dangerously ignorant as ever would sell truckloads of paper.
Even more depressing, though, is Bob Somerby’s entirely accurate summation:
To defeat Palin and Palinism, we’ll actually have to do a hard thing: We’ll actually have to build and promote a winning progressive politics. […] In the place of developing actual politics, [Olberman and these other] well-trained ad salesmen invent inane claims—shriek, clatter, mislead and howl.
Rachel Maddow touches on something critically important while discussing the GOP’s latest complaint: that Obama simply doesn’t use the word “terrorism” enough:
[Republicans are] lying in a way that can be obviously, demonstrably, embarrassingly proven by anyone who has a spare 45 seconds and the Google. When the people in the Republican Party who have the highest profile on national security say things that are easily, provably, flagrantly false, that’s a mistake. That makes it look like the party doesn’t know what it’s talking about a national security issues…. You guys, when you say President Obama doesn’t use the word terrorism, try to remember that when you say that, people are laughing at you.
That’s wonderful. Except that it’s easily, provably, and flagrantly false. First: The Conservative Media (and their beloved right-wing noise machine) still, still hews to the notion that the GOP is automatically and always the National Security Party. Cokie Roberts said so just the other day on that “liberal” bastion NPR. Everyone on-air agreed with her. Her comments and those of several others are what led to the creation of this handy guide. Second: The fundamental constituent for this sort of unsupported-by-facts nonsense is not someone who knows what “a Google” is, may think “the internet” is that Explorer shortcut on their desktop, and frequently worries that this time they’ve really missed their chance at riches from a mysterious Nigerian businessman who wanted to send all his money their way, just for a few days.
People are not laughing at the GOP, Rachel. You and I are. Unfortunately, we don’t really matter. The GOPers peddling this nonsense never had our vote to begin with. Low information voters, hell, no informationvoters are bathed daily in information- and context-free nonsense from Rush, FOXnews, Glenn Beck, talk radio, and 50 other sources. To them, these claims sound not only supportable but utterly reasonable and serious-minded. Google, if they even know what it is, doesn’t enter into the equation. Until Democrats internalize this and message accordingly, nothing will change. Until the media at large internalizes this and begins to challenge, immediately and on the spot, and embarrass into silence these asshats the instant this sort of statement emits from their fetid pie-hole, nothing will change.
This is what Karl Rove fundamentally understood: in the modern media environment, the truth doesn’t matter. The initial lie, no matter how quickly or decisively defenestrated it may be, is out there. And, just like Cokie’s Law states: if it’s “out there” we have to treat it as fact and discuss it. Repeatedly and without recourse to anything approaching helpful context. That’s what we call good, hard-nosed journalism.