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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Posts Tagged ‘Fast and Furious’

The daft and the spurious — another conservative conspiracy theory

Posted by James McPherson on June 21, 2012

One could spend all day trying to debunk just the conspiracy theories promoted on Fox News, and typically it’s not worth the trouble. Most people aren’t crazy enough to buy into the theories (and are too apathetic to pursue them, anyway). But one of the latest goofy theories on Fox News and elsewhere is apparently being promoted by an organization more powerful with legislators than Fox News — the National Rifle Association.

The claim comes from the current controversy over the truly stupid “Fast and Furious” program, which this week prompted House Republicans to recommend holding Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress (which means something different here than the “contempt of Congress” that most of us have). For its part, the Obama administration is maintaining that it has executive privilege to withhold some documents that House Republicans want. And frankly, I don’t care much about that — George W. Bush and Bill Clinton each successfully asserted executive privilege repeatedly (this is Obama’s first time), and this politically motivated attempt likely will go nowhere, and likely will hurt Republicans more than it hurts Obama.

But the NRA has latched onto a way to make the squabble into yet another way to bleed money from suckers while pressuring Congress to toe its any-gun-any-time line. In a letter to Congress, the organization supported the contempt citation — which, with the number of gutless folks eager to kiss the NRA’s brass, may actually prolong the inane process. It will still go nowhere, but will keep the issue alive for an extended period of time when Congress might instead be focusing on more important issues. And as a result, Obama gets to keep running against a partisan do-nothing Congress.

“Heightening the NRA’s concern — and requiring our involvement — is the White House’s use of this program to advance its gun control agenda,” the NRA letter states. Say what? What “gun control agenda”? It’s now easier to buy a gun in this country, and you can carry one in more places, causing destruction in more ways, than before Obama took office. In fact, Obama has been considerably weaker on the issue of gun control than Republicans Richard Nixon, George H.W. Bush, phony cowboy George W. Bush, or movie cowboy Ronald Reagan.

But Obama’s failure to try to take away our guns is simply a secret plot, say the NRA, Mitt Romney, and other loonies. He plans to start taking them after he’s re-elected. And while Obama’s re-election is likely, a thinking person might actually wonder … huh? Why would he wait? But if you actually followed that line of thought you’d foolishly be trying to apply reason.

For some of these folks, Obama’s lack of action — the fact that he’s done less to control guns than any president of our lifetimes — actually seems to be the evidence that he’s waiting to spring. They will not be deterred by something so basic as observable fact. The view of conspiracy theorists of all stripes might be well summarized by this paragraph (which is actually about media manipulation):

This manipulation is like one of those optical illusion pictures that you have to stare at until you suddenly see the image. Then, once you see it, you can see it every time you look for it, yet the person standing right next to you will insist there is no image in the picture – just like you did before you learned to see it. That’s what you need to do here: you need to start reading history – real history – until you start seeing how this works. Once you do and you start to see what they are doing to manipulate people and how their methods work, you will feel as though you have just been liberated. You will see it everywhere, and you’ll be right nearly every time. But I warn you, that sense of liberation will soon give way to a state of deep concern as you suddenly realize just how many of your friends are still denying the image in the picture. That’s when you come to understand just how much troublke [sic] we’re actually in.

Posted in History, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

War on Drugs: 40 years of futility

Posted by James McPherson on June 17, 2011

Forty years ago today, President Richard Nixon officially declared  a “war on drugs.” Though Nixon probably wasn’t seeking a war that would last even longer, cost even more and perhaps produce even more violent deaths than the Vietnam conflict still going on at the time, that’s what we ended up with.

This month an international commission concluded what many have known for years, that the “war on drugs” is a “massive failure” that has brought “devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world”–and that it’s time to try something else.

Despite the pleas of even former cops who fought the drug war, Nobel Peace Prize-winner Barack Obama–who seems to like wars as much as his presidential predecessors (with the same respect for Congressional approval and the War Powers Act)–naturally said, “Nah.”

Obama apparently will stop using the exact words, “war on drugs,” just as he gave up the “war on terror” term, but for all practical purposes the war will go on. With even more firepower on the front lines, thanks to a “catastrophic” weapons-tracking plan and American gun laws (which despite what your local gun dealer would have you believe have actually eased, not stiffened, since Obama took office).

In fact, as demonstrated by Lyndon Johnson’s 1964 declaration of a “war on poverty,” perhaps the best way to guarantee that something will last forever is to declare war on it. You can imagine my dismay when when a decade ago George W. Bush declared a “war on terrror.” (Speaking of terror, perhaps someone once made the mistake of declaring war on vampires–and on insipid vampire movies–also guaranteeing them eternal life.)

By the way, speaking of the Vietnam War, Nixon declared war on drugs came just four days after the New York Times began publishing the Pentagon Papers and two days after Nixon attempted to legally stop their publication. The Times and other publications proceeded to publish lengthy excerpts from the papers, which were finally officially released in their entirety–all 7,000 pages–this week, on the 40th anniversary of the date the Times began publishing them.

By the way, if you didn’t notice the anniversaries of the war on drugs or the  Pentagon Papers, don’t feel bad. Other than a bit of coverage of the Seven GOP dwarves, most of this weeks cable news coverage was about Anthony Weiner and Caylee Anthony, a case involving another dead white girl.

The Pentagon Papers case demonstrates why we still need newspapers such as the New York Times. As Times media writer David Carr notes in this excellent interview by Aaron Sorkin: “There’s a system and a rigor to what we do, and you can laugh at it as archaic and silly in the 24-7 news cycle, but I do think that it has significant value to have a pretty big organization that is a lot of times saying, ‘Hey, wait a minute . . . ‘ on the really big stories of the day.”

Posted in History, Legal issues, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »