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 ‘lies’

Straight Talk Express derailed, falls off “bridge” to become mired in mud

Posted by James McPherson on September 13, 2008

It’s an old story, of course: Politicians lie. But usually in presidential campaigns the candidates let their surrogates take on the most egregious fabrications, staying somewhat above the fray themselves. John McCain and Sarah Palin seem to be the exception, cheerily tramping through the mud on their way to a lead in national polls.

The lies range from tales of the infamous “bridge to nowhere” (see video below) to taxes to health care to immigration (bilingual lying!) to sexism to Alaskan oil production to pig lipstick to kindergarten sex education to Cindy McCain’s drug theft problems to even the findings of  FactCheck.org. In the words of the Associated Press’ Charles Babington, “The “Straight Talk Express” has detoured into doublespeak.”

Considering how much admiration I once had for McCain, I am troubled that he has become not just a typical campaigner but even worse than most. The campaign he has chosen to run is costing him other one-time fans, as well, while supporting the latest Obama camp claim that McCain “would rather lose his integrity than lose an election.”

The lying has become so bad that even the women of “The View,” a morning show watched mostly by stay-at-home wives, feel compelled to question McCain about it. His response: Lying, of course. Unfortunately Barbara Walters, long one of the most overrated journalists in America, helped McCain out by following up his lie with a trivial lipstick diversion rather than confronting him with the truth.

I don’t think McCain and Palin can lie their way to the White House. But a part of me fears that too many voters don’t care about the lying even if they recognize it. If those voters happen to help McCain win, they deserve what they get–four more years of Bush Administration nonsensical tough talk and bumbling policy. Unfortunately all of us may get an even more conservative and out-of-touch Supreme Court that will last for a generation.

Same-day update: Apparently the McCain/Palin camp also misrepresented her “world travels,” falsely claiming she has visited Iraq. And in a lengthy story about Palin today, the New York Times reports: “Interviews show that Ms. Palin runs an administration that puts a premium on loyalty and secrecy. The governor and her top officials sometimes use personal e-mail accounts for state business; dozens of e-mail messages obtained by The New York Times show that her staff members studied whether that could allow them to circumvent subpoenas seeking public records. ” She appears, as one of my colleagues noted recently, “Dick Cheney in a dress.”

Next day update: To John McCain–When you’re on the same side as Karl Rove and even he calls you a liar, maybe it’s time to dial it back.

Palin’s bridge to falsehood:

Posted in History, Journalism, Personal, Politics, Video, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Ignorance and the electorate

Posted by James McPherson on July 7, 2008

My conservative buddy and I share one thing in common–both of us are consistently surprised by the ignorance of many people on both sides of many political arguments, and even more surprised at how willing many of those folks are to prove how little they know. One example, a variation of which shows up repeatedly on conservative blogs, is this one, which I came across today on a Fox New blog (I changed nothing, including spelling):

“Why isn’t anything being mentioned about Obama raised as a musilum achooled with terriorists and the FACT that during a democrate ralley he ‘REFUSED’ to salute the flag or say our anthem??????????? Please advise me. And the people want him as a President!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Versions of that comment continue to circulate via email. Aside from the fact that you “say” the Pledge of Allegiance and “sing” or perform the Anthem, if people keep spewing the same ignorance (admittedly, Fox News anchors did the same before being forced to “clarify” the false report)–despite the fact that credible sources on both sides (including even the less-credible Bill O’Reilly)–have repeatedly disputed these lies, what hope do we have that they’ll understand the intricacies of policy debate? It’s no wonder there are so many folks who consider anyone with an education (even a high school education, judging from the comment above) to be elites.

Four recommendations I’d humbly offer for would-be political pundits:

  1. Read at least ten times as much as you publicly write (even if you have to move your lips and trace along with your finger while you read, it will pay off in the long run).
  2. Get your information from a variety of sources, conservative and liberal.
  3. Not every thought need be quickly shared (to paraphrase a quote attributed to many: “Better to keep one’s mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt”).
  4. Exclamation marks do not enhance an argument, even if you add an extra dozen.

Obama leads the Pledge of Allegiance

Posted in Media literacy, Politics, Religion, Video, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , | 7 Comments »