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.

  • Archives

  • July 2010
    S M T W T F S
     123
    45678910
    11121314151617
    18192021222324
    25262728293031
  • Categories

  • Subscribe

Archive for July, 2010

Is the Tea Party racist?

Posted by James McPherson on July 23, 2010

“There is no racism in the Tea Party,” Rush Limbaugh says. “They don’t have racist signs.”

Just the fact that Rush says something would make most thinking people assume the opposite, and of course in this case he’s wrong again. I’ll paste a few of the obnoxious examples below.

But in one respect, it is wrong to say the Tea Party is racist, simply because there is no specific Tea Party (even if some of them now have their own lunatic queen in Congress). There are lots of different Tea Party groups, some loonier than others, who seem to be more offended by the actions of a black president than they were by the all-too-similar actions of the white president who proceeded him.

And there obviously are racists in the Tea Party movement, perhaps in bigger numbers than elsewhere in society. But racism won’t be the factor that makes the movement largely meaningless in the long run, other than affecting a few primaries (and thereby no doubt benefiting as man liberals as conservatives); their demise will result from a lack of cohesion or any significant goals beyond “waaah!” Take this example, from a USA Today story:

“I don’t really understand it, but I like what they stand for,” says Terry Rushing, 63, of Greensburg, La., who was among those surveyed. “They just support everything I’m looking for — lower taxes, less government. … All the good things, you know.”

No, we don’t know, any more than you do, Terry. But it probably doesn’t matter. Like the one-time media darlings of the pro-Hillary PUMAs, the tea partiers will fade away. Fox News will no doubt miss them, though five years from now probably most of us won’t remember them.

In the meantime, perhaps a few of them will go back to school and improve their spelling:


Posted in History, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 13 Comments »

McCain ‘border sheriff’ relying on wacky Webster?

Posted by James McPherson on July 22, 2010

Talk about the blind leading the blind. Or dumb and dumber. Paul Babeu, the Arizona sheriff most famous for posing as a “border sheriff” in John McCain’s goofy “complete the danged fence” ad, apparently gets his own information from… wait for it … Michael Webster.

Yes, that Michael Webster, the loony “investigative reporter” whom I’ve highlighted previously on this site. Tim Steller of the Arizona Daily Star, reports in a piece headlined that after Babeu claimed that a Mexican “drug cartel top officer” sat down with a reporter in an interview and threatened Babeu:

“We believe it was American vigilantes, and that the sheriff of Pinal County, where my two soldiers were killed, is covering this up, and we’re going to hold him, Sheriff Paul Babeu” — they said it right in the paper, this guy’s telling the reporter — “and we’re going to hold him personally responsible for this.”

Unlike the type of “journalist” played by Webster, Steller then decided to follow up:

That piqued my attention, of course, since the Arizona Daily Star is the only daily newspaper in Tucson, and I hadn’t noticed this interview. So I asked Tim Gaffney, Babeu’s spokesman, what Babeu was referring to. Gaffney pointed me to this piece by “investigative journalist” Michael Webster. Please read the piece, along with some of Webster’s other writings at U.S. Border Fire Report and Laguna Journal  and tell me if you would trust this source of information, especially if you were a sheriff.

A subhead on the search page for the article refers to Webster as “a self-described ‘investigative journalist’ with sympathies toward the militia movement.” That may make his articles ideal for regurgitation by various anti-immigration and conspiracy sites (a few examples here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here), but, as Steller suggests, hardly the kind of information you’d hope would be relied upon for any public officials with marginally more sense than Michele Bachmann.

And if he trusts Webster, I suppose this also means that Babeu, knowingly or unknowingly, is relying on outdated third-hand information from some secret “duck hunter.”

Incidentally, the reason I thought to check the Star (though I have family in Tucson and so read it on occasion, anyway), is because Steller has apparently come across one of my previous pieces on Webster and emailed me for contact info (not that it matters, because Webster apparently ignores attempts to reach him unless those attempts come from shadowy figures with drug war horror stories such as “duck hunter” or “HammerDown”  or “Juan” or “a self proclaimed Los Zetas drug cartel officer“).

In my response to Steller I pointed out Webster’s two websites and his some of his other writing, including three books–“one advertised with the line, ‘We, believe that fruit from the tree of life may be the lemon’ (the extra comma was already there), and one a ‘work of fiction’ promising, ‘The RedRoad is a journey through life learning to live in balance and harmony with Mother and if you walk soft and long you may teach others the walk of the RedRoad.'”

As I told Steller, I guess it’s when those red folks mixed with Spaniards that they became a problem. Of course the red men did an awful job with border security, which is why most of us are here with the likes of Babeu and Webster to protect us.

Posted in History, Journalism, Politics, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Right-wing lies lead to Vil-sacking

Posted by James McPherson on July 21, 2010

With the amazingly speedy news cycle we now have, it’s already old news that a right-wing blogger lied about an Obama administration official, that the lie was spread by Fox News, and that the official was wrongly forced to resign because her bosses were too lazy or cowardly or paranoid to check out the truth and stand up to the liars.

Fox then gained the added benefit of being able to then suggest that Shirley Sherrod had been railroaded by the administration, despite the fact that with this runaway train it was Fox News was among those pouring on the coal. (Sherrod apparently may have been fired even before the story appeared on Fox, though with the apparent knowledge that it would appear there.)

Today Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack accepted full responsibility for the mess, publicly apologized to Sherrod, and offered her another job.

“I didn’t take the time I should have,” said Vilsack, who was portrayed by himself and others as the villain in the case. And there’s no doubt that Vilsack blew it, though of course he had help. And others were equally quick to react badly, including the NAACP.

It’s no surprise that Fox would turn bad information from a questionable source into a biased story designed to make the administration look bad, of course–that’s what the network does. This is at least twice from the same Matt Drudge spinoff; the first was the much more widespread lying about ACORN. Sadly, also not surprising is that Bill O’Reilly thinks the false stories should get even more coverage from other media–perhaps so his employer won’t so often stand alone among major networks in its stupidity.

Nor should we be surprised that a multitude of kneejerk bloggers quickly relayed the bad info (sometimes adding their own obnoxious comments or misstatements); for examples, see here, here, here, herehere, herehere, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. At this writing, only the last two of those had offered a full correction or apology.

This case provides further evidence that you cannot fully trust video unless you shot it yourself. Another sad but probably true reminder comes from Bob Cesca at Huffington Post: “This will all happen again. Why? Because the traditional news media and, to a certain extent, the Democrats including the president, are too easily cowed by right-wing freakouts.”

Same-day update: Thanks to Poynter’s Jim Romenesko, I just came across this excellent summary of the case and some the media issues involved.

Posted in History, Journalism, Legal issues, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Graham right and wrong about Kagan

Posted by James McPherson on July 20, 2010

Not surprisingly in this political climate, the Senate Judiciary Committee vote today to approve the nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court split mostly along party lines.

Perhaps the one surprise is that Sen. Lindsey Graham (no, not that Lindsay, despite her disproportional share of the news this morning–some spoiled witless women apparently are far more “newsworthy” being sentenced in court than are those who would serve on the court) voted for Kagan.

Lindsey’s correct rationale, as when he voted for Justice Sonia Sotomayor last year, is that “elections have consequences, and senators should be deferential to presidential nominating decisions.” Perhaps he’ll remember that “consequences” thing with his next filibuster vote, though I doubt it.

Of course Graham is wrong in terming Kagan a liberal. Like every new appointee for decades, she will be more conservative than the justice she replaces, doing little or nothing to continue the court’s activist slide to the right.

Posted in History, Journalism, Legal issues, Politics, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

A book review, history, and media myths

Posted by James McPherson on July 18, 2010

This review of my latest book is positive over all, and I generally agree with the quibbles. I also sincerely appreciate the efforts of reviewer William Gillis. Reviewing books isn’t easy–I’ve done three or four, and I rely heavily on reviews to decide what to read and possibly use for classes. Faculty and students all over the country benefit from those who take the job as seriously as Gillis obviously does.

One funny note about one of his comments–the fact that I, like most everyone else for decades, called Spiro Agnew’s “nabobs of negativity” quote a shot at the media. Just after the book came out, I was asked to be a blind reviewer for the very good Norman Lewis article, cited by Gillis, that corrects that myth. And thanks to Lewis, I knew before most people–though  of course too late to make any difference–that I had it wrong in the book, though of course it was too late.

That’s one more example of why, despite the views of such “historians” as Lynne Cheney and Liz Cheney, we need to keep looking at even the history we think  we know. Another great example arrived at my house yesterday in the form of the latest book from myth debunker and media historian (and friend) W. Joseph Campbell.

Joe’s book, Getting it Wrong: Ten of the Greatest Misreported Stories in American Journalism, takes on myths that include Watergate, feminism, Hurricane Katrina, and at least three wars (more if you count alien attacks, the Cold War and the “war on drugs.”)

Posted in Education, History, Journalism, Personal | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Insurrection, conspiracy theories and truth snippets

Posted by James McPherson on July 7, 2010

Today offers more evidence of why media literacy is so important in this country–and, sadly, why many people who rely on one-sided blogs for information are so politically ignorant.

Some blogs that appeal to right-wingers and conspiracy theorists, such as this one (also here, here, here, here and here) now offer YouTube “evidence” that Barack Obama had admitting he was “born in Kenya.” Watch it quickly, the reader is warned, “before it’s pulled.” (By socialist/communist government agents who monitor the Internet from mosques and black helicopters, no doubt.)

But if you go to the original posted video–and are capable of reading–you see a description from the person who posted it that starts out: “The video starts out with some content from obamasnippets.com, which, of course is contrived. And yet, there seems to be a synthetic truth about what the president says.”

Aside from the question of what is “synthetic” (and therefore by definition, fake) “truth,” the words clearly state that Obama’s “admission” is a creation of whomever created the video. And who is that?  Someone who states that his/her site is “not ‘political,'” not anti- or pro-Obama, and  “just for fun.” One of those who has done most to promote the video, on the other hand, getting more than 200,000 hits on it, does have a clear agenda, listing his favorite “news sources” as “Hannity’s America, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity Radio Show, Roger Hedgecock, Michael Reagan, Gordon Liddy, Sec. Newt Gingrich, Karl Rove…”

Ironically, he also states on the same page, “May the Glory of God be revealed so Truth can prevail.” Perhaps God might have an easier time revealing truth if there weren’t so many supposed Christians working so hard to distort it.

Another conspiracy site unintentionally (I hope) further illustrates the silliness of the whole argument and the futility in trying to convince conspiracy theorists of anything when it states: “Was Obama born in Kenya or America? Kenya….But we will never know the truth!”

Go ahead, read that last quote again. Yep, that’s what it says: “We’ll never know the truth, but here’s the truth.”

One thing many of the conspiracy sites have in common is that they often warn against the “lies” of the mainstream media. One of those linked above also reminds us why there may be good reason to fear some of the Tea Party crowd–or at least there might be if they had the numbers, youth and courage to back up their inane words. One commenter writes:

Someday American’s will realize there are only two options left if the desire for a sane government is the objective.
Number one would be to de-legitimize DC and reform independent States, with State owned Banks, which negates the power of the federal Banksters, and provides a method of political segregation so we would not have people like [a previous commenter] for neighbors.
Number two is civil war! Take your pick.

Insurrection, anyone? Or instead, how about just doing a bit of reading from a history book, a copy of the Constitution, or Snopes.com?

Posted in History, Journalism, Media literacy, Politics, Religion, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , | 38 Comments »

Steele again suffers from inadvertent truth-telling

Posted by James McPherson on July 3, 2010

In a turnaround so quick that you’d think he had insulted Rush Limbaugh, Michael Steele is now trying to explain away his latest gaffe: calling U.S. involvement in Afghanistan “a war of Obama’s choosing… not something the United States actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in.”

Republicans are more up in arms over Steele’s comments than Democrats (who no doubt are enjoying the show), with neocon loony Bill Kristol and the GOP version of the Bride of Frankenstein among those calling for Steele’s resignation.

The interesting thing is, as when he made derogatory comments about Limbaugh, in this case Steele was somewhat accurate.  Under George W. Bush, the Afghanistan war “not something the United States actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in,” because the Bush administration was far more interested in figuring out how to falsely tie Iraq to the Sept. 11 attacks. Unfortunately for the Bushies, Afghanistan is where 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden chose to hide, providing a brief diversion from Iraq.

The end result was two stupid mismanaged wars for the price of … well the price, now over a trillion dollars, may end up being a hundred times the original estimated cost of one war. 

In addition, though it wasn’t his war to start with, Barack Obama has ramped up U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan(perhaps the only thing he’s done that neocons like), increasing troop numbers and the usage of killing-from-home drone attacks. Interestingly, though predator drone operators may sit in a room outside of Las Vegas, they wear flight suits as if they were fighter pilots in jets fighters, or perhaps George W. Bush action figures.

By the way, what is it about the GOP and it’s attempts to appeal to African Americans? It’s answer to Thurgood Marshall, one of the best Supreme Court justices of all time (and perhaps the least conservative, though the two don’t necessarily go together) was Clarence Thomas, perhaps the dumbest and most conservative. Then Republicans responded to the election of America’s first African American president by choosing Steele as their leader. At least, unlike Steele, Thomas is quietly stupid.

On an unrelated but timely matter: Have a great Fourth of July. Be patriotic by not wearing an American flag, though you may want to burn one.

Posted in History, Politics, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »