Saturday, February 13, 2010

Say, Mo Dowd, can you think of anyone in gov't or media who's fibbed publicly more recently than Donald Rumsfeld?


"Rummy's memoir, 'Known and Unknown,' is an unnerving reminder of how the Iraq hawks took crazy conditionals and turned them into urgent imperatives to justify what the defense chief termed 'anticipatory self-defense.' . . . You go to war with the army you have, but the facts you want."

"[T]he story here isn't that Fox News leans right. Everyone knows the channel pushes a conservative-friendly version of the news. Everyone who's been paying attention has known that since the channel's inception more than a decade ago. The real story, and the real danger posed by the cable outlet, is that over time Fox News stopped simply leaning to the right and instead became an open and active political player, sort of one-part character assassin and one-part propagandist, depending on which party was in power. And that the operation thrives on fabrications and falsehoods."

by Ken

Now I don't necessarily mind that Maureen Dowd is calling Donald Rumsfeld to account for his serial lies. "At," she writes in her column today, "Simply the Worst" (see link above), "the author has put up an archive of records and memos," and she proceeds to tick off a bunch of Rummywhoppers. I certainly don't want Rummy getting a free pass just 'cause folks have forgotten how he lied us into a war for which he had made sure we were unprepared in every way except the initial fighting, all via lies -- or maybe lies-plus-delusions. (Remember how the war was going to pay for itself with all those oil revenues, which we were presumably going to steal?)

The problem is the usual one with our Mo: She waits to pile on until it's totally safe. The time to be waxing indignant about the Rummywhoppers was the time when he was dropping them on a little-suspecting American public. Although of course the gullible and craven have hidden behind the eternal "Who could have guessed?," the fact is that lots of people who'd done their homework were anywhere from deeply suspicious to thoroughly persuaded that Rummy and Chimpy and Big Dick and the whole gang were just making it up as they went. By and large, as we've noted frequently, those people were punished for being right, while the media automatons who nodded like bobblehead dolls paid no price or were actually rewarded for being wrong.

That would have been a good time to ridicule Rummy for going to war with the facts he wanted. And now would be a good time to be blowing the whistle on the gaggle of compulsive liars who have more or less taken over our political and media discourse.

I don't kid myself that a piece like Eric Boehlert's latest effort ("'We Were a Stalin-esque Mouthpiece for Bush' -- Fox News Insider"; again, see link above) is going to reach the mass of Americans who swallow down all the sludge dumped on them by the Fox Noisemakers. As I keep pointing out, they believe only partly because they're gullible; more importantly, I think, the Foxies give them the lies they want. Ever since Ronald Reagan made Americans understand that they have no obligation to reality, that what really matters whatever ignorant, delusional nonsense fills their heads, the faithful have known their rights: above all, the right to the lies that make them feel better, more manly, more indignant (when indignation is what they want to feel), more trigger-happy, whatever will provide them with some release for all that stored-up unhappiness. Short of addressing the sources of that unhappiness, of course, which would be unthinkable.
[A] former Fox News employee who recently agreed to talk with Media Matters confirmed what critics have been saying for years about Murdoch's cable channel. Namely, that Fox News is run as apurely partisan operation, virtually every news story is actively spun by the staff, its primary goal is to prop up Republicans and knock down Democrats, and that staffers at Fox News routinely operate without the slightest regard for fairness or fact checking.

"It is their M.O. to undermine the administration and to undermine Democrats," says the source. "They're a propaganda outfit but they call themselves news."

So how, according to Eric's source, does the process work?
"They say one thing and do another. They insist on maintaining this charade, this fa├žade, that they're balanced or that they're not right-wing extreme propagandist," says the source. But it's all a well-orchestrated lie, according this former insider. It's a lie that permeates the entire Fox News culture and one that staffers and producers have to learn quickly in order to survive professionally.

"You have to work there for a while to understand the nods and the winks," says the source. "And God help you if you don't because sooner or later you're going to get burned."

The source explains:

"Like any news channel there's lot of room for non-news content. The content that wasn't 'news,' they didn't care what we did with as long as it was amusing or quirky or entertaining; as along as it brought in eyeballs. But anything -- anything -- that was a news story you had to understand what the spin should be on it. If it was a big enough story it was explained to you in the morning [editorial] meeting. If it wasn't explained, it was up to you to know the conservative take on it. There's a conservative take on every story no matter what it is. So you either get told what it is or you better intuitively know what it is."

What if Fox News staffers aren't instinctively conservative or don't have an intuitive feeling for what the spin on a story should be? "My internal compass was to think like an intolerant meathead," the source explains. "You could never error on the side of not being intolerant enough."

Eric's source talks about the changes he witnessed in his time on the inside.

"When I first got there back in the day, and I don't know how they indoctrinate people now, but back in the day when they were 'training' you, as it were, they would say, 'Here's how we're different.' They'd say if there is an execution of a condemned man at midnight and there are all the live truck outside the prison and all the lives shots. CNN would go, 'Yes, tonight John Jackson, 25 of Mississippi, is going to die by lethal injection for the murder of two girls.' MSNBC would say the same thing.

"We would come out and say, 'Tonight, John Jackson who kidnapped an innocent two year old, raped her, sawed her head off and threw it in the schoolyard, is going to get the punishment that a jury of his peers thought he should get.' And they say that's the way we do it here. And you're going, all right, it's a bit of an extreme example, but it's something to think about. It's not unreasonable."

The Ailesmen know how to play on their people's native sympathies, or rather antipathies.
"When you first get in they tell you we're a bit of a counterpart to the screaming left wing lib media. So automatically you have to buy into the idea that the other media is howling left-wing. Don't even start arguing that or you won't even last your first day.

"For the first few years it was let's take the conservative take on things. And then after a few years it evolved into, well it's not just the conservative take on things, we're going to take the Republican take on things, which is not necessarily in lockstep with the conservative point of view.

"And then two, three, five years into that it was, we're taking the Bush line on things, which was different than the GOP. We were a Stalin-esque mouthpiece. It was just what Bush says goes on our channel. And by that point it was just totally dangerous. Hopefully most people understand how dangerous it is for a media outfit to be a straight, unfiltered mouthpiece for an unchecked president."

Eric points out how rare it is for Fox Noisers past or present to talk about what they do there, and gives generous credit to the extreme "us vs. them" mentality Fox Noisemaster Roger Ailes has carefully cultivated in the organization. " His source explains, "Ailes is obsessed with presenting a unified Fox News front to the outside world; an obsession that may explain Ailes; refusal to publicly criticize or even critique his own team regardless of how outlandish their on-air behavior." Again, the source stresses that the issue isn't partisanship per se but that, in Eric's words, "Fox News is designed to mislead its viewers and designed to engage in a purely political enterprise."
So, Fox News as a legitimate news outlet? The source laughs at the suggestion, and thinks much of the public, along with the Beltway press corps, has been duped by Murdoch's marketing campaign over the years. "People assume you need a license to call yourself a news channel. You don't. So because they call themselves Fox News, people probably give them a pass on a lot of things," says the source.

The source continues: "I don't think people understand that it's an organization that's built and functions by intimidation and bullying, and its goal is to prop up and support Republicans and the GOP and to knock down Democrats. People tend think that stuff that's on TV is real, especially under the guise of news. You'd think that people would wise up, but they don't."

As for the press, the former Fox News employee gives reporters and pundits low grades for refusing, over the years, to call out Fox News for being the propaganda outlet that it so clearly is. The source suggests there are a variety of reasons for the newsroom timidity.

"They don't have enough staff or enough balls or don't have enough money or don't have enough interest to spend the time it takes to expose Fox News. Or it's not worth the trouble. If you take on Fox, they'll kick you in the ass," says the source. "I'm sure most [journalists] know that. It's not worth being Swift Boated for your effort," a reference to how Fox News traditionally attacks journalists who write, or are perceived to have written, anything negative things about the channel.

The former insider admits to being perplexed in late 2009 when the Obama White House called out Murdoch's operation as not being a legitimate new source, only to have major Beltway media players rush to the aid of Fox News and admonish the White House for daring to criticize the cable channel.

"That blew me away," says the source, who stresses the White House's critique of Fox News "happens to be true."

As I said, I understand that no amount of reporting by Eric Boehlert and other media-watchers on the reality-based side is likely to penetrate the swamp of delusion the Right has worked so hard to perpetuate and exploit. Still, people with media pulpits need to be on the case, constantly. Waiting for the "All clear!" signal to show that it's safe for the pilers-on to pile on merely guarantees that it will be too little, too late.

The lies that need to be called out are the ones being told now -- by all the "lying liars," to coin a phrase.

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