As any conservative PR expert knows, it ain’t all that difficult to manipulate the US media, primarily because the so-called liberal media ain’t all that liberal. Most of our media – print and electronic – is owned by a half dozen giant corporations not noted for left-wing or even centrist bias. In the news media, real reporters are rare birds. In their place conservative owners have installed a bevy of:
- a) Judith Miller-like hacks;
- b) career-oriented yes-men who will do or say anything to corral that promotion;
- and c) addle-brained moppet robots who only know what they read on the teleprompter and precious little of that.
Members in each of those categories share one outstanding trait: they say what they’re told to say by their usually-conservative bosses. They’re not professional journalists. They’re professional entertainers trying to get ahead, like all good corporate puppets, by smooching a lot of corporate butt.
Two good examples showed up recently, one of manipulation and the other of the media kowtowing to conservative concerns.
The first was an article in yesterday’s NY Times by John Broder on Newt Gingrich’s launch of a new committee with big ideas. Called, modestly enough, American Solutions for Winning the Future, its agenda is a mish-mash of tired right-wing cliches like the privatization of SocSec and – buried underneath those – a heightening of the conservative assault on secular schooling called “patriotic education” and a new initiative concentrated at getting theocratic judges elected or appointed who believe in making American law “Christian”. Ordinarily, the only news organizations likely to show up for the launch of yet another conservative committee, this one headed by a disgraced former Speaker chased from office by corruption charges, would be Faux News and WorldNetDaily, but Gingrich is no fool when it comes to manipulating the press. He simply hinted that he was considering a run at the presidency and the NYT – among others – came running.
There’s no chance in the world (hardly) that Gingrich has a shot at being nominated, even by the neoconservatives he handed the GOP to 12 years ago, and it’s impossible to believe he doesn’t know that. No, this was a simple ploy to get media attention and it worked. Broder spent most of the article ignoring the new Committee and what it wants to do, instead concentrating on handicapping a non-existent Gingrich presidential bid.
The same pretext got a speech he made covered which would otherwise have been ignored – a speech on Free Speech given in Manchester, NH at the Annual Loeb First Amendment Dinner. This was already irony squared. I grew up in New Hampshire while William Loab was still alive, and he would have made Rupert Murdoch look reasonable by comparison. Loeb’s Manchester Union-Leader was – and is – a far right-wing rag run by a man who was a founder and chief funder of the NH John Birch Society. For Bill Loeb, Kennedy was at best a Communist dupe and at worst a KGB mole, and he was the first to claim that flouridation was a Soviet plot to control the minds of American children. “Free Speech” in his mind meant that all conservatives had the right to spread anti-Communist propaganda and conspiracy theories from every street corner and all liberals had the right to shut up. In that sense, it was probably fitting that Gingrich came to an event supposedly lauding Free Speech to make an anti-Free Speech speech. Loeb would have loved it (although he would probably have written an editorial the next day complaining the Gingrich didn’t go far enough). After a ton of criticism, Gingrich this weekend defended his Nov 27 address.
Gingrich said the threat of biological or nuclear attack requires America to consider curbs to speech to fight terrorists, if it is to protect the society that makes the First Amendment possible.”Our friends at the ‘ACLU left,’ of course, were staggered at this concept,” Gingrich told an audience of Republicans at a Christmas banquet. “How could we talk about anything less than 100 percent free speech? How could we consider in any way thinking about this issue?”
Gingrich cited last month’s ejection of six Muslim scholars from a plane in Minneapolis for suspicious behavior, which included reports they prayed before the flight and had sat in the same seats as the Sept. 11 hijackers.
“Those six people should have been arrested and prosecuted for pretending to be terrorists,” Gingrich said. “And the crew of the U.S. airplane should have been invited to the White House and congratulated for being correct in the protection of citizens.”
At one stroke wiping out the Constitutional protections of both speech and religion without batting an eye, much less acknowledging the contradiction.
Newt’s PR pretense of running for president took in even the likes of Keith Olbermann, who fulminated against the supposed candidacy by the kind of man who would make a speech like that.
It’s depressing how easy it is to fool the news media but even more depressing is their knee-jerk reactions in covering stories of great concern to conservatives without even noticing that nobody else cares. A case in point is this article in today’s Washington Post, astounding for its assumption that the near-hysteria of conservatives that a hopelessly biased right-wing court might be lost to them must be of equal concern to everyone.
A growing list of vacancies on the federal appeals court in Richmond is heightening concern among Republicans that one of the nation’s most conservative and influential courts could soon come under moderate or even liberal control, Republicans and legal scholars say.A number of prominent Republican appointees have left or announced plans to leave the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, which has played a key role in terrorism cases and has long been known for forceful conservative rulings and judicial personalities.
Republican concerns also are fueled by the pending Democratic takeover of Congress, as several of President Bush’s 4th Circuit nominees were already bottled up in the Senate when Republicans ran it. From the GOP’s perspective, the situation now will worsen.
The 4th Circuit’s rulings affect everyone who lives, works or owns a business in the area, which encompasses Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and the Carolinas. The court’s influence also has been widely felt nationally, and the emerging battle over it is part of a broader struggle for control of the federal judiciary.
“I think everyone is concerned because the 4th Circuit literally hangs in the balance here,” said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the conservative American Center for Law and Justice, who has advised the White House on judicial nominees. “With the nature of the cases the court has been taking, especially on the terrorism issue, its direction is really critical.”
Here’s what conservatives are so afraid of losing:
Some of the 4th Circuit’s best-known rulings, upheld by the Supreme Court, include striking down a law allowing rape victims to sue their attackers in federal court and preventing the Food and Drug Administration from regulating tobacco.In 1999, the 4th Circuit overturned the requirement that police read suspects their rights before interrogating them. The Supreme Court later reaffirmed the Miranda rights.
During the Bush administration, the 4th Circuit has been the court of choice on national security, issuing key rulings that backed the government on the detention of enemy combatants and the prosecution of Sept. 11, 2001, conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui. The court’s conservative majority has included some of the nation’s most prominent judges, including J. Michael Luttig and J. Harvie Wilkinson III.
The tenor of the article is straight out of the GOP playbook: “It would be a victory for the terrorists if a court we counted on was forced to follow the law instead of Bush Administration policy.” It blames the Democrats for blocking Bush’s attempt to appoint right-wing whackos to the bench, and goes out of its way to quote a conservative law professor thusly:
“Imagine the people Hillary Clinton would appoint to the 4th Circuit,” said Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond.
Imagine. They might – *gasp* – think the Constitution was a more important legal foundation than the inside of W’s fevered brain or the latest American Enterprise Institute position paper. What a loss.
The article ends by throwing conservatives a “maybe it’s not as bad as it looks” relief-bone.
Yet predicting the court’s precise direction is difficult. University of Pittsburgh law professor Arthur Hellman, for example, said two Clinton appointees — judges William B. Traxler Jr. and Robert B. King — are “fairly conservative.”
Whew! Thanks. Maybe the Constitution won’t win after all.
In the whole piece there is only one quote from a non-hysterical, non-right-wing source, and here it is.
Nan Aron, president of the liberal Alliance for Justice, said the new political landscape will force Bush to work closely with Democrats “to pick fair and open-minded judges who don’t lean either to the right or the left” if he wants to get the administration’s nominees confirmed. “If there were any way to appoint judges to move the 4th Circuit in a more moderate direction, that would be beneficial to both the circuit and to the country,” she said.
That was just thrown in there for “balance”, I guess.
At no point in the article does the concept – much less the word – “over-reacting” raise its ugly head. The “reporters” (Jerry Markon and Michael D Shear) appear to think it perfectly appropriate to pass on this slice of Republican paranoia as if it were a legitimate concern. That alone should tell you how sad a condition our so-called “free press” is in.