Thursday, August 14, 2008

What's really at stake in Swiftboat-style propaganda assaults like the Obama hatchet-job books? Oh, it's just the health of our democracy


Liar Jerome Corsi and lie-debunker Paul Waldman last night
on Larry King Live (thanks to Media Matters)

"This book and books like it destroy our political culture, undermine fair elections, inhabit the slippery space between politics and slander. . . .

"These books destroy civic debate on purpose -- and are fundamentally at odds with democracy. The goal of Corsi's project is not to discuss facts -- it is to destroy the very possibility of discussion by implying that a Presidential candidate is a sleeper-cell terrorist -- and doing so in the context of a huge broadcast media effort to convince the country of the same thing.

"That is not just factually wrong. It is wildly immoral. Whether or not Corsi published lies is not even half the discussion we should be having."

-- Jeffrey Feldman, in a Frameshop post today,
"What America Needs to Hear About Jerome Corsi"

by Ken

Every now and then a writer articulates a point that makes a whole bunch of swirling phenomena come into focus for me. Today our Frameshop colleague Jeffrey Feldman (most recently author of Outright Barbarous: How the Violent Language of the Right Poisons American Democracy) did it with some comments on the debate on last night's Larry King Live between noted liar Jerome Corsi (of the Swiftboat liars) and noted lie-debunker Paul Waldman (of Media Matters, most recently co-author with John Dean of Free Ride: John McCain and the Media).

If you don't immediately recognize Corsi's name, it first came to our attention when he helped orchestrate the Swiftboaters' lies to demolish John Kerry's 2004 presidential bid. Now he has dipped into his grab bag of snares and delusions to produce an alleged book (well, it's got covers, and pages with type on them between the covers, and it comes from a company formerly known as a publisher of actual books) that sets out to assassinate the character of the 2008 Democratic presidential nominee, Barack Obama.


I really didn't pay much attention when I heard that there were two book-form hatchet jobs on Senator Obama coming out. Well, of course there are, I thought. Why wouldn't there be? That's one of the things the Right-Wing Noise Machine does: publish book-form piles of crap to stroke the prejudices of the wingnut faithful and, with any luck, hoodwink a few lazy or gullible readers outside the tent. They've got their own little publishing industry, and their own publishers, like Regnery. Then I gave it as little further thought as possible.

So I was kind of stunned to hear that Jerome Corsi's Obama hatchet job is published, not by Regnery or one of those other make-believe publishers, but by Simon & Schuster! Well, not Simon & Schuster exactly, but an imprint crated by S&S for celebrated right-wing propagandist Mary Matalin.

I don't know what was in the S&S folks' minds. Oh wait, I do. I'm sure some genius reading Publishers Weekly noticed one day that make-believe publishers like Regnery sell a shitload of books to their gullible and brain-challenged readers. And I guess that turned into a mandate: How can we get us some of that boodle? And somebody thought of Mary Matalin, and nobody thought to wonder whether her business plan would be to bring shame upon a publishing house with a long and honorable tradition. Or maybe nobody at S&S cared about that possibility. Heck, there's probably nobody affiliated with the company with any awareness of its history.

I would suggest a vigorous campaign to heap shame upon the current custodians of S&S, except that I doubt there's anybody on the job there who's capable of shame.

From the people I know who watched the Larry King extravaganza, while liar Corsi bombarded viewers with gobs of his made-up "facts," and kept challenging his adversary to answer his "facts," lie-debunker Waldman avoided the trap of debating phony facts and went after the kind of work Corsi does. My sources were all aglow over the job Paul did showing the phony up.

All my sources except Jeffrey Feldman, that is. Oh, he was filled with admiration for the job Paul did standing up to the liar. However --
It saddens me to have to acknowledge that, even though Paul did a great job on Larry King, I think Corsi won the debate -- unfortunately.


From the very start of the broadcast, Corsi made the debate about 'the facts' and kept returning back to that idea. 'I'm getting out the facts,' 'MM makes ad hominem attacks, but cannot refute the facts,' etc., etc. Paul did a great job pulling back the curtain (amazing job). But King never let the conversation come up to the real issue: this book and books like it destroy our political culture, undermine fair elections, inhabit the slippery space between politics and slander.

Left unsaid here is that it would have been futile, even fatal, for Paul to try to debunk Corsi's fake facts, and if he had tried, he would have ceded the ground to the liar. This is, of course, exactly what the professional liars of the Right-Wing Noise Machine count on.

I don't know that there's anything to be done about it, but I think it's desperately important that those of us who are able and willing to understand what Jeffrey is saying here at least become aware of the nature of the assault on democracy represented by the Swiftboating school of right-wing demagoguing.

At this point I should yield the floor to Jeffrey, who -- it turns out -- has a vision of how last night's debate might have gone differently:
Americans from all over the country have talked about this problem before--the problem of shady right-wing groups that assemble huge private backing and then wade into elections with the purpose of bullying a candidate off the national stage--so this is nothing new. But the media ignores us. Saps like Larry King choose instead to debase the hard work of researchers like Paul Waldman, and to willfully ignore the larger issue here: the wholesale undermining of our civic culture by deep-pocketed right-wing groups with a history of breaking election laws.

What America needs to hear from Larry King about Jerome Corsi is something like,"This book is filth. It goes against everything we believe in about honest, healthy civic debate. Don't buy it. Jerome, you are obviously part of a shady organization that uses money to sell lies with the goal of undermining serious debate in the 2008 Presidential election. The only reason your book is atop the best-seller list is because you have a giant political marketing machine working behind the scenes. Caveat emptor -- buyer beware."

Yeah, yeah. I know. It is hard to imagine someone like Larry King saying that on his show -- hard to even conceive of an America in which journalists use their broadcast power to protect our civic culture rather than promote shadowy figures who seek to destroy it. But imagining it is the first step.

Demanding it is what comes next.

Now this is a fantasy, but it's a pretty fantasy, and I'm afraid -- as Jeffrey suggests -- a necessary one. There's a line in there that's so potent, I think we all need to hear it again, so I'm going to pull it out, with just a tad of elision:

"It is hard to conceive of an America in which journalists use their broadcast power to protect our civic culture rather than promote shadowy figures who seek to destroy it. But imagining it is the first step."


One important weapon we have now against the Right-Wing Noise Machine which we didn't have in 2004 is Robert Greenwald's truth-telling team at Brave New Films. They've issued a new appeal:

The FOX smears are continuing and we need to stop them from spreading to the rest of the media. Watch FOX's laughably inaccurate distortions, as they smear Barack Obama on everything from the economy to race to patriotism to flag pins.

In the coming weeks, FOX will escalate its gross misrepresentations of Obama, and we know from painful past experience that some in the corporate media will spread FOX's canards by presenting them as fact. We must stop the spread.

At the link, along with the video there's a petition to sign, declaring:

"Fox is a Republican mouthpiece, not a legitimate news organization. Real news organizations must reject Fox's smears of Barack Obama and get the real facts out."

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At 1:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Corsi is a 9/11 Truther!! Seriously.

At 4:06 AM, Blogger KenInNY said...

Yes indeed, and as the revelations pile up as to just what our Jerome has in his preposterous intellectual history, I'm waiting for a comprehensive list of those stunning "credentials." It'll be an eyeful.

And that's without even reckoning on the comprehensive list of lies in this new pile of crapola itself!

Ms. Matalin, I see, regards this literary masterpiece she's brought forth as a work of "scholarship." It will be interesting to see whether anyone in a position of authority at Simon & Schuster proves capable of embarrassment.


At 8:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

you say Walman avoided falling into the trap of debating the "facts" which he (you) call lies.
What joke. if it's a lie, then provide the fact to prove him wrong. Facts cannot be debated you idiot!
2+2=4 unless your a leftwing nut!

At 9:20 AM, Blogger KenInNY said...

The problem, Anon, is that Corsi has no facts. He has only the delusions that brain-addled people like, apparently, eat up.

Don't worry, Media Matters is already at work debunking Corsi's tissue of fabrications. That's the whole problem: When you dump out a book that consists of nothing but lies, there are pathetically misguided people who imagine that there must be SOMETHING there, but when there isn't, as Jeffrey Feldman points out, there is nothing to discuss.

What's so interesting about modern day "conservatism" is that it has become totally engulfed in lies and delusions -- genuinely a form of mental illness. And with people who have lost all regard for truth and reality, there isn't any possibility of discussion. This, as Jeffrey Feldman, argues, is what is imperiling our democracy.

Do you have any clue about the history of scams and delusions Corsi has spent his entire professional life trying to peddle to people who ar either severely brain-twisted or else pathetically gullilble? And, incidentally, almost always larded with vile expressions of his storehouse of ethnic hatreds, for which he then routinely apologizes before doing it again.

The guy is just a mass of prejudice, ideological psychosis, and ignorance. He wouldn't know a fact if it kicked him in the groin.

Of course ther are people who not like lies, but live their lives cloaked in them -- and even DEMAND to be lied to. That's why God gave us Dick Cheney.


At 1:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"destroy our political culture, undermine fair elections, inhabit the slippery space between politics and slander."
That is a very moving statement but does he ever visit the Huffington Post or the DailyKos? What about

A bunch of wimps that ditch it but can't take it.

Instead of saying that Corsi's book is full of lies make an effort too present the truth. If one can present the truth then anything opposed to that is a lie but until then it is the truth.


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