Media Matters for America

Sean Hannity (Poor Donny)

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump (left) with campaign surrogate, FOX News host Sean Hannity.  (FOX News, 2016)

“I have had it. Thirteen freaking days. Wake up. This can be won. But it’s very, very hard. And I’m telling all of you who is important here. And basically every red state’s important. If you think, ‘well, my state doesn’t matter, it’s Texas,’ no, you better vote. ‘My state’s Georgia,’ well we’ve seen polls that are close in Georgia. ‘My state’s Utah.’ Who’s this idiot that’s running third party that’s killing Trump out in Utah. Who put him up? What was it? The Bush people? The Romney people? Seriously? Really? You’re going to elect Hillary because we lose Utah? What a disaster that would be for the country.”

Sean Hannity

This is just a distraction. Media Matters offers a glimpse into Sean Hannity’s not quite struggle to wear both FOX News and Trump surrogate caps. Two hats, one tongue, half a brain? Right. Seriously: What joke goes here? Are not the words, “Sean Hannity”, enough?

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Image note: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump (left) with campaign surrogate, FOX News host Sean Hannity. (Credit: FOX News, 2016)

Media Matters Staff. “Listen To Sean Hannity’s Unhinged Rant Over ‘Idiot’ Evan McMullin Beating Trump In Utah”. Media Matters for America. 26 October 2016.

A Challenging Existence

Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh talks with guests in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., 13 January 2009. (Photo: Ron Edmonds/AP)“OK so there’s flowing water on Mars. Yip yip yip yahoo. You know me, I’m science 101, big time guy, tech advance it, you know it, I’m all in. But, NASA has been corrupted by the current regime. I want to find out what they’re going to tell us. OK, flowing water on Mars. If we’re even to believe that, what are they going to tell us that means? That’s what I’m going to wait for. Because I guarantee, let’s just wait and see, this is September 28, let’s just wait and see. Don’t know how long it’s going to take, but this news that there is flowing water on Mars is somehow going to find its way into a technique to advance the leftist agenda. I don’t know what it is, I would assume it would be something to do with global warming and you can―maybe there was once an advanced civilization. If they say they found flowing water, next they’re going to find a graveyard.”

Rush Limbaugh

What stands out is this is not, really, so unexpected. Neither is the part where the man who mouths a golden mike described the “challenging existence” of always being right.

Every once in a while, these inflammatory media stars not so much let down their guard but find themselves actually hiding behind their falsehoods. One or another of the FOX News hosts once admitted he knew he wasn’t describing real facts; Rush Limbaugh once tried to duck controversy by posturing himself as a comedian, even comparing himself to Bill Maher, who rightly and roundly rejected the sleight. Still, though, the point persists, as does the concomitant question: Mr. Limbaugh and his fellows are entertainers. Why do their audiences receive them as purveyors of fact?

The thing is that we probably would not look at any one NASA event and predict Mr. Limbaugh would respond as he has, but now that he’s gone and said it, well, you know, is anybody really surprised?

Just keep this one in mind; you will hear it in the murmur and buzz around you. You know, the dude at the pub; that one guy at work; your proverbial crazy uncle.

And when you do encounter this bit of tinfoil, remember that even Mr. Limbaugh knows he’s full of shit. And ask yourself why these people you encounter might believe it. Or, hell, ask them; that ought to be interesting; you know, proverbially.

Because if Mr. Limbaugh is a comedian, how is the joke not on the Dittoheads?

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Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh talks with guests in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., 13 January 2009. (Photo: Ron Edmonds/AP)

Media Matters Staff. “After NASA Announces It Found Water On Mars, Rush Limbaugh Says It’s Part Of A Climate Change Conspiracy”. Media Matters for America. 28 September 2015.

Another O’Reilly Scandal, Can You Imagine?

Bill O'Reilly appeared on 'CBS This Morning' in 2012 to promote his book, 'Killing Kennedy'.  The infamous FOX News host received much criticism in the wake of accusations that he lied about his coverage of the Falkland Islands war.  Now, former colleagues accuse that O'Reilly fabricated an account of his witness to the suicide of Kennedy assassination witness George de Mohrenschildt.  (Image credit: CBS/Media Matters for America)

“Bill O’Reilly’s a phony, there’s no other way to put it.”

Tracy Rowlett

So, you know, like, if I told you Bill O’Reilly has been called out for another famous falsehood in his reportage, would you be all, like, “O … M … G … I mean, really?” or would you be all, like, you know, like, “And?”

Bill O’Reilly has repeatedly claimed he personally “heard” a shotgun blast that killed a figure in the investigation into President John F. Kennedy’s assassination while reporting for a Dallas television station in 1977. O’Reilly’s claim is implausible and contradicted by his former newsroom colleagues who denied the tale in interviews with Media Matters. A police report, contemporaneous reporting, and a congressional investigator who was probing Kennedy’s death further undermine O’Reilly’s story.

(Dimiero, Hananoki and Strupp)

‘Cause, you know, like, what, are we supposed to be freakin’ surprised or something?

Totally.

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Dimiero, Ben, Eric Hananoki and Joe Strupp. “O’Reilly Lied About Suicide Of JFK Assassination Figure, Former Colleagues Say”. Media Matters for America. 24 February 2015.

A Bushwhacking

Detail: Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks at the Economic Club of Detroit meeting in Detroit Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015. The Detroit event is the first in a series of stops that Bush's team is calling his "Right to Rise" tour. That's also the name of the political action committee he formed in December 2014 to allow him to explore a presidential run. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

“It’s almost enough to make you feel sorry for Jeb. All he did was participate in a time-honored tradition among political elites – giving each other awards as a celebration of shared power and influence. It probably didn’t even occur to him that by putting a medal around Hillary Clinton’s neck he was implicating himself in the most significant and far-reaching political scandal of our age.”

Simon Maloy

One might be tempted to wonder what chance Jeb Bush has if the hard right not only isn’t behind him but, actually, stands in specific opposition. And, certes, we have the example of Mitt Romney to consider. But then arises the question of just how far a hardline conservative candidate can make it in the general election; while a Clinton-Bush showdown is often spoken of as a tiresome prospect, who here really thinks enough people in enough states will be able to rationalize, even to themselves, the idea of being an “independent” or “centrist”, and give their vote to a Rubio or Paul? True, most people who call themselves “independent” are actually Republicans afraid to admit their real party identification, but the way in which they push back against that argument is to reject the hardliners.

As Simon Maloy explains:

The explanation ForAmerica offers for why this video disqualifies Jeb is that Hillary will use it to defang any attacks he might direct at her record as secretary of state. “Jeb has absolutely no credibility to criticize her because he has already anointed her as a great public servant.” Eh, perhaps? If you go and watch Hillary’s full remarks, she celebrates Jeb and the whole Bush family for sharing her love of America and the wisdom of the Founding Fathers. Treating praise for the enemy as an unforgiveable political sin is problematic since part of being a politician is showing magnanimity by mechanically lauding your opponents’ patriotism and shared love of public service.

But this is Benghazi we’re talking about, and there’s nothing more important in the minds of conservative activists when it comes to Hillary Clinton and 2016. Jeb hasn’t really said a whole lot about Benghazi (at least not compared to some of his 2016 rivals) but when he has remarked on it, he’s said what conservatives want to hear – that it showed weakness, emboldened enemies, etc. If there’s danger for Jeb, it’s that he’ll come off as a squish compared to other would-be candidates like Ted Cruz or Rand Paul, who declares every few months or so that Benghazi disqualifies Hillary from ever holding public office again.

The reality television market sector has nothing to compare to the 2012 GOP presidential primary, and the upcoming electoral season―the Ames Straw Poll is all of six months away―would appear to be promisimg an even bigger spectacle. GOP 2016 is going to be a show of shows, and Americans who plan to travel abroad between then and the presidential election should probably spend some time rehearsing their sheepish shrugs and noncommittal answers for when our international neighbors ask them just what the hell is going on in the U.S.

Such as it is, one fun exercise in smacking our heads against desks will come in trying to comprehend how the Republican clown car steers its way back toward the political center; leading prognostications suggest the press will help by moving the center in relation to wherever the GOP troupe crashes.

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Puti-Toots on a Roll

Vladimir Putin's closet eyes.

The New York Times characterized this as a “rare diplomatic defeat” for Putin, though I’m not sure why. Indeed, diplomatic defeats appear to be the only thing the Russian president has accomplished lately.

Steve Benen

Sometimes I think the problem is that news organizations have stripped down the news so much that reporters are often left not calculating which words they can strike in order to fit within the column allocation without wrecking the writing, but, rather, how to fill electronic column space with words that nobody pays that much attention to.

The thing is that generations of writers are now raised to believe that every sentence must be vivid and dynamic and active. Then again, the thing would also seem to be some sort of disconnection between words and their meanings. We might borrow from Lemony Snicket and, saying nothing of watermelons, suggest that “The New York Times called the defeat ‘rare’, a word which here means ‘frequently occurring’.” Or maybe we should just run with Andrew Roth of the New York Times:

President Vladimir V. Putin said Monday that he would scrap Russia’s South Stream gas pipeline, a grandiose project that was once intended to establish the country’s dominance in southeastern Europe but instead fell victim to Russia’s increasingly toxic relationship with the West.

It was a rare diplomatic defeat for Mr. Putin, who said Russia would redirect the pipeline to Turkey. He painted the failure to build the pipeline as a loss for Europe and blamed Brussels for its intransigence.

The decision also seemed to be a rare victory for the European Union and the Obama administration, which have appeared largely impotent this year as Mr. Putin annexed Crimea and stirred rebellion in eastern Ukraine.

Russia had long presented the $22 billion South Stream project as a sound business move. But Washington and Brussels had dismissed it as a thinly veiled attempt by the Kremlin to cement its position as the dominant supplier in Europe while sidestepping Ukraine, where price disputes with Moscow twice interrupted supplies in recent years.

There was a time, not so long ago, when American conservatives fell in love with Puti-Toots. This was not so hard to understand, given their memory problems. (No, seriously, have you checked in on the Republicans who wax macho about how President Bush wouldn’t have taken shit from Putin, but also forget how the Administration stood by and allowed Russia to invade Georgia?) After all, here we have a closet homosexual running a pogrom against gays in Russia, clodhopping his way through the Ukraine, and absolutely burying the state he leads under its own economic detritus while chasing down the Manichaean hole of glory days gone by when the KGB had free rein in a useless dualistic struggle.

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A String of Obvious Questions

Detail of framegrab from FLCL episode 2, 'Firestarter'.

File under Stupid:

Green River Community College went into lockdown Monday morning after a threat was made against the school, Auburn police said.

Cmdr. Steve Stocker of the Auburn police said an unknown person made the threat to a faculty member at about 10:15 a.m., saying something to the effect that there was going to be a shooting.

(KOMO News)

Perhaps a number of factors are coincidental. We do, in our society, have a problem with misogyny that reached a dramatic height at GeekGirlCon earlier this month, when someone issued a bomb threat against the convention; apparently the mixing of females and technology is a mortal offense? And the deadly violence at Marysville-Pilchuck High School seems, ostensibly, to have been about a girl.

But we don’t really know what pushed the GRCC terror threat, and that is important to note.

Yes, we need to address misogyny, but there are also a number of other factors to consider.

The thing is that each part of the issue has a way of spilling over its banks and soaking the others. This sort of overlap causes confusion for many people; indeed, we at This Is have a good friend who is bright and rational and all of those nice things we appreciate about people, but he is by nature incapable of comprehending what guns have to do with anything.

Not that we need to campaign against guns, specifically, but it does make some sort of point to acknowledge that there are people in this world who wonder what guns have to do with mass murder by firearm. It happens. To wit, he says, “Don’t make new laws, enforce the ones we have!” But there are some laws he believes exist everywhere despite observable reality.

And, you know, it might be kind of a low blow, but he also wonders why anyone would ever prosecute someone who negligently shot his own son to death with a handgun he was prohibited by law from carrying. And while that tragedy out of Pennsylvania has seemingly little to do with what has been going on around the Seattle area of late, there is also more there than it seems.

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Is Jennifer Rubin Sinister or Merely Stupid?

Jennifer Rubin, right-wing blogger for The Washington Post.

Even the simplest of differences can create false appearances. For instance: Is Jennifer Rubin sinister or stupid?

In the end, though, the difference is one of valences. Sinister forgives stupidity in some cases for the fact of reasonable execution, but even the sinister is cultivated around a germ of ignorance.

In the first place, there is Rubin’s arrival at The Washington Post. Eric Alterman of The Nation noted last year—

It is no secret to anyone that conservatives have conducted a remarkably successful, decades-long campaign to undermine the practice of honest, aggressive journalism with trumped-up accusations of liberal bias. They have made massive investments of time and money in groups and individuals devoted to “working the refs,” and these have yielded significant ideological dividends—which, as might be predicted, have only encouraged them to keep it up.

—as a preface to his discussion of Jennifer Rubin as “The Washington Post’s Problem”. She was the third in a string of quota hires made as part of an attempt to deliberately throw their political coverage rightward in order to fend off attacks of being too liberal. Ben Domenech, their first hire for the position, turned out to be a sharp-tongued plagiarist, which was kind of embarrassing for the Post, as you might imagine. Next they plucked Dave Weigel from Reason.com, and one can reasonably say the Reason franchise has never been the same. Yet for all the quality of this pick, Post editors deemed him unsuitable for the task after realizing that he just wasn’t conservative enough. So the newspaper turned to rabid right-winer Jennifer Rubin, and the disaster of her term as a staff blogger really is hard to describe. Alterman’s review for The Nation is an excellent read, but it is also something of a headache insofar as truth is stranger than fiction and the twists and turns of Jennifer Rubin’s greatest contribution to our political discourse would seem to have something to do with mainstreaming hardline rightist tinfoil in major news media. After the 2012 election, Rubin’s ability to change her story without the slightest hint of shame, or even decency, was pretty much on display for anyone to see. Simon Maloy tried to sketch the degree of self-contradiction in her coverage of the Romney loss; it isn’t pretty.

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Your (sigh) 2016 GOP Presidential Prognistication, v.1

There is, of course, the idea of epistemic closure, what others might refer to as the Bubble, or the Right Wing Echo Chamber. After all, one might wonder at the idea that presidential-caliber political operatives were shellshocked on election night. To the other, the effect is easy enough to see, but in truth it really was hard to believe. And yet amid the right-wing media circus that included arbitrarily adjusted statistics to tell us all the real, “unskewed” poll results, Jennifer Rubin stood alone amid the wrong-minded noise, head and shoulders above her deluded colleagues, and managed the sort of electoral season that the Washington Post really ought to be embarrassed about, except that she’s not as bad as the two people who held the job of WaPo right-wing blogger before her.

But the newspaper’s cruel joke against conservatives remains unbowed. In recent days the Maven of Mistakes has announced her field of candidates for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination. No, really.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie

Former GOP vice presidential nominee, and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush

Former Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton

Texas Gov. Rick Perry

Bonus coverage of the field that just shouldn’t bother, namely Sens. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, as well as former Sen. Rick Santorum.

Sounds kind of fun, doesn’t it?

No?

Well … er … right.

One Marianne Doherty lamented, as Romney supporters countenanced defeat, “It makes me wonder who my fellow citizens are. I’ve got to be honest, I feel like I’ve lost touch with what the identity of America is right now. I really do.”

And, well, yeah. If Republicans want to keep feeling that way, they should keep their heads firmly sealed inside the Bubble.

I mean, really. Look at that list. The only real question is how much of his soul Gov. Christie is going to have to sell in order to seal up the nomination.

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Apparently, Romney’s campaign, from top to bottom, had no idea what was about to happen. How does one get to the premiere league of American politics, yet be so blind?

Your Right Wing

Perhaps feeling threatened by rising competition for the tinfoil crown, or perhaps just feeling lonely in the lull following his infamous CNN tantrum, bombastic wingnut radio host Alex Jones upped his ante today:

Alex JonesOn the May 21 edition of The Alex Jones Show, a caller asked Jones whether he was planning to cover how government technology may be behind a recent spate of sinkholes. After laying out how insurance companies use weather modification to avoid having to pay ski resorts for lack of snow, Jones said that “of course there’s weather weapon stuff going on—we had floods in Texas like fifteen years ago, killed thirty-something people in one night. Turned out it was the Air Force” ….

…. According to Jones, this possibility hinges on whether people spotted helicopters and small aircraft “in and around the clouds, spraying and doing things.” He added, “if you saw that, you better bet your bottom dollar they did this, but who knows if they did. You know, that’s the thing, we don’t know.”

Yes, really.

Steve Benen makes the obvious point:

Now, I realize that fringe figures are going to share nutty ideas all the time, and it was probably inevitable that some nonsensical allegations about the Oklahoma tornado would pop up. I didn’t realize “weather weapons” would be part of the story, but there’s probably no reason to be surprised.

This caught my eye, however, because of recent developments—we’ve seen Republican officeholders in state legislatures, the U.S. House, and even the U.S. Senate take Alex Jones’ ideas seriously. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) intends to run for president—of the United States—and he’s been a guest on Alex Jones’ show.

In other words, the guy raising the specter of Obama using “weather weapons” to kill Oklahomans is the same guy helping influence several Republican policymakers in 2013.

And it’s a fair point, to be certain. Of course, it will be hard to top Pete Santilli’s sexual violence fantasy, but Jones is already syndicated, so he can take comfort in getting actual U.S. senators like Rand Paul, instead of whack-job nobodies like Ted Nugent and Larry Pratt.

Or something.

Seriously, the weather machine is up and running?