James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Archive for September 1st, 2008

Lies left and right: Kos, Drudge and Little Green Footballs

Posted by James McPherson on September 1, 2008

While I try to give people a variety of perspectives through my links at right, the Drudge Report and Little Green Footballs–two of the most popular conservative sites–have never been among them. That’s because I consider those two sites, while sometimes insightful, to be overly hateful and to have too little regard for truth. In short, they have carried blatant lies, either through intent or through a reckless disregard for fact. Both have unveiled big stories, but if you’re willing to print anything you’re more likely to occasionally stumble on a titillating bit of truth.

As of today, the Daily Kos–perhaps the most popular liberal blog on the Web–is gone for the same reason. A Kos writer with the name ArcXIX (another gutless wonder of the kind common to cyberspace, hiding behind a fake name) claimed that Sarah Palin’s youngest child is, in fact, her grandson, and the child of her daughter. The original link and yesterday’s followup from the same writer seem to be disappearing from many places (perhaps indicating how faulty the claims were), but the writer states unequivocally: “I’ve known liars in my life. … Well, Sarah, I’m calling you a liar. And not even a good one. Trig Paxson Van Palin is not your son. He is your grandson. The sooner you come forward with this revelation to the public, the better.” [bold type in original]

The writer goes on to offer a combination of highly questionable logic and photographic “evidence” that is obviously faulty to almost reasonable person who has had either a teenage daughter or a pregnant wife, or anyone who has worked in or around politicians (I once was a political reporter, and had two teenage daughters). Even granting the remote chance that the writer’s claim is true, there is absolutely no strong (let alone conclusive) evidence to support it.

As a result, even though I’ve never met ArxXIX or Palin (despite the fact that she and I were born less than a hundred miles apart), I have no trouble saying this: “I’ve known liars in my life. Well, ArcXIX, I’m calling you a liar. Or an idiot. Or probably both, since you’re not even a good liar. Based on the best “evidence” you’ve offered, you do not ‘know’ that Palin is a liar. You may suspect it, and you certainly hope so, but you don’t ‘know.’ The sooner you come forward with this revelation to the public, the better.”

That hasn’t kept the rumor from whirling around the world, of course, picked up by other liberal bloggers too stupid to realize that such garbage–like the rumors that claim Barack Obama is a Muslim–harm the credibility of those who spread it, while detracting from the multitude of meaningful reasons that a progressive should vote against McCain/Palin.

Unfortunately, the fact that the girl is now pregnant may add even more fuel to the rumor. But I would still argue that the girl’s unfortunate pregancy, despite what her status as an unwed mother-to-be might say about conservatives and birth control, is largely irrelevant to her mother’s somewhat limited qualifications to be vice president. And totally irrelevant to the Kos report.

I do not blame bloggers for heated rhetoric, literary exaggeration, or unintentionally getting things wrong on occasion. I certainly have made mistakes (and tried to correct them as soon as they were pointed out). Nor do I blame bloggers for the assortment of nutcases both liberal and conservative who contribute comments in response to posts. But operations with the scope and reputation of the three mentioned above should be able to do better than most with their posts, rather than seemingly seeking ways to be worse.

There are other sites that I read from time to time but avoid linking to because I am turned off by their constant whining or exaggeration. And of course I have deleted other sites in the past. Some bloggers stop writing after a while. Others just become monotonous. For example, one site that started out with the expressed interest of bringing people together, and which once offered meaningful commentary on a variety of political issues, became a tedious and often irrational all-PUMA-all-the-time site.

Worse, that site and some others engage in the practice of commonly deleting comments from those who disagree with them, regardless of how politely or logically those comments are offered. One bragged yesterday: “The Confluence is a refuge and a haven. And any comment that threatens our identity will be modified or deleted.” As I’ve noted repeatedly, I’m a believer in open discussion, not in paranoid conspiracy theories.

None of the sites mentioned here will miss having me offer direct connections to them; all have far larger readerships than this blog, in large part because they have chosen to appeal so strongly to their perceived political bases. Still, I will continue to add or delete links as they seem to meet the primary goal of this blog–to serve the needs of my students. And I hope you enjoy the variety.

Afternoon note: Today Kos himself starts out a post about the pregnancy with the words, “I don’t think the evidence is there to claim Trig is Bristol’s son, as some have speculated…” So I’d ask why, Kos, has your site done more than any other to promote the claim? After all, the most quoted of the “some” you refer to is in your own stable of writers.

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