Commentary Magazine


Topic: media bias

How to Answer the Question of the Week

I am mystified as to why Republicans are always so polite to journalists who are, obviously, allied to the liberal side of American politics and are willing to carry water for it.

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I am mystified as to why Republicans are always so polite to journalists who are, obviously, allied to the liberal side of American politics and are willing to carry water for it.

For instance, for the last week, journalists have been asking Republican presidential hopefuls a question. “Knowing what you know now, would you have invaded Iraq in 2003?” All the candidates have answered the question, some better than others. Jeb Bush did the worst job and had to amend his answer not once but twice.

But why answer it at all? The question is a pointless hypothetical, utterly irrelevant to the politics of 2015. Its transparent purpose is to avoid talking about the fast gathering disaster of Iraq today.

So, if I were running for president (alright, no snickering in the back of the room, please), I’d answer in one of two ways. First way, ask the journalist a question. In response to “Knowing what you know now, would you have invaded Iraq in 2003,” ask “Knowing what you know now, would you have abandoned Iraq in 2011?” and then talk about how the new president in 2017 will have to deal with the results of the most shockingly inept American foreign policy since Woodrow Wilson sailed for Paris a century ago.

The second way to answer would be to ask, “Excuse me, is this a history show or a news show? Are you a historian or a journalist? If the latter why aren’t you asking about what I would do in the future, not what I would have done in the past? Are you trying to protect the Obama Administration from the criticism it so richly deserves for its disastrous foreign policy?” When the journalist, inevitably, says no to that, say, “Well, you could have fooled me. How about asking me an honest question?”

As Glenn Reynolds likes to say, punch back twice as hard.

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ISIS and the Stalingradization of Yarmouk

In 2009, Jeffrey Goldberg recounted a conversation he had with a Kurdish leader who told him that his fellow Kurds had been cursed. Goldberg asked him to be more specific. Goldberg relates the response: “He said the Kurds were cursed because they didn’t have Jewish enemies. Only with Jewish enemies would the world pay attention to their plight.” It’s a principle proved over and over again, and the plight of the Palestinian residents of the Yarmouk refugee camp is yet our latest example.

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In 2009, Jeffrey Goldberg recounted a conversation he had with a Kurdish leader who told him that his fellow Kurds had been cursed. Goldberg asked him to be more specific. Goldberg relates the response: “He said the Kurds were cursed because they didn’t have Jewish enemies. Only with Jewish enemies would the world pay attention to their plight.” It’s a principle proved over and over again, and the plight of the Palestinian residents of the Yarmouk refugee camp is yet our latest example.

Yarmouk is the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Syria, not far from Damascus. The refugees, already struggling through Syria’s civil war, found themselves in an almost Stalingrad-like state this month when ISIS laid siege to the camp. CNN describes what happened next:

Besieged and bombed by Syrian forces for more than two years, the desperate residents of this Palestinian refugee camp near Damascus awoke in early April to a new, even more terrifying reality — ISIS militants seizing Yarmouk after defeating several militia groups operating in the area.

“They slaughtered them in the streets,” one Yarmouk resident, who asked not to be named, told CNN. “They (caught) three people and killed them in the street, in front of people. The Islamic State is now in control of almost all the camp.”

An estimated 18,000 refugees are now trapped inside Yarmouk, stuck between ISIS and Syrian regime forces in “the deepest circle of hell,” in the words of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. …

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says ISIS and the al Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front control about 90% of the camp. The organization also claims that the Syrian government has dropped barrel bombs on the camp in an effort to drive out armed groups.

The plight of the Yarmouk camp isn’t exactly capturing the world’s attention. And a big reason for that, as even Israel’s critics are now acknowledging, mirrors the Kurdish complaint to Goldberg. The Palestinians of Yarmouk are cursed with three barbaric enemies, none of them Jews. And so the world yawns.

Mehdi Hasan, who would never be mistaken for a Zionist shill, takes to the pages of the Guardian, which would never be mistaken for a pro-Israel bullhorn, to call out the hypocrisy. He explains the terrible condition of the camp and the horrors endured by its residents throughout the civil war. Then he (of course) engages in the requisite throat-clearing about Israel’s “crimes” and the “occupation of Palestine.”

But he finally gets around to his point:

Can we afford to stay in our deep slumber, occasionally awakening to lavishly condemn only Israel? Let’s be honest: how different, how vocal and passionate, would our reaction be if the people besieging Yarmouk were wearing the uniforms of the IDF?

Our selective outrage is morally unsustainable.

That is the first of three lessons of the story of Yarmouk: that the world cares about Palestinian suffering when it can be blamed on the Jews. For the sake of posterity, Hasan even runs down a list of atrocities perpetrated on the Palestinians by other Arabs. It’s not a new phenomenon, nor would anybody in his right mind try to deny it. At least Hasan wants to change it.

The second lesson is that the Palestinians and their advocates often have unexpected allies, and rather than embrace even a temporary alliance they live in denial. Hasan illustrates this as well when he writes:

So what, if anything, can be done? The usual coalition of neoconservative hawks and so-called liberal interventionists in the west want to bomb first and ask questions later, while the rest of us resort to a collective shrug: a mixture of indifference and despair. Few are willing to make the tough and unpopular case for a negotiated solution to the Syrian conflict or, at least, a truce and a ceasefire, a temporary cessation of hostilities.

That is an Obama-level false choice hand in hand with a straw man. And it shows just how unwilling Hasan is to make common cause with people he dislikes politically. Neoconservatives are not nearly so pro-intervention in Syria as Hasan suggests (this is a common mistake that virtually every non-neoconservative who talks about the Syria conflict makes). But notice how quickly Hasan seems to change key: it’s a crisis, and has been a burgeoning disaster for years, and yet those who want to intervene are slammed as wanting to “ask questions later.”

Meanwhile, the negotiated track has failed. This is the reality: Assad has the upper hand, and ISIS has had success with their brutality, and neither one is ready to sit down at the table with representatives of Palestinian refugees to shake hands and end the war.

And that brings us to the third lesson, related to the second. Just as the Palestinians’ opponents are sometimes their best allies, the Palestinians’ friends often turn out to be anything but. There is no negotiated solution for the Palestinians of Yarmouk on the horizon because President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry have already thrown them to the wolves.

The Obama administration, which happily hammers Israel for every perceived violation of Palestinian rights, has struck a bargain to reorder the Middle East by elevating Iran and its proxies, such as Assad. The plight of the Palestinians in Yarmouk does not interest this president and his team in the least. After all, it can’t be blamed on Israel.

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Did the Revolutionary Guards Really Endorse the Nuclear Deal?

One of the problems with American journalists who feel themselves vested in a topic is that they become prone to cherry pick. Hence, the New York Times reported Iranian celebrations in the streets, but failed to report the “Death to America” chants at the state-sanctioned, supreme leader-directed weekly prayers in Tehran and every provincial capital.

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One of the problems with American journalists who feel themselves vested in a topic is that they become prone to cherry pick. Hence, the New York Times reported Iranian celebrations in the streets, but failed to report the “Death to America” chants at the state-sanctioned, supreme leader-directed weekly prayers in Tehran and every provincial capital.

Now, both Agence France Presse and the Associated Press are reporting that Mohammad Ali Jafari, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), has endorsed the nuclear deal. From the Associated Press:

Iranian state television is reporting that the chief of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard has offered his support to Iranian nuclear negotiators. The reported comments by Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari come as some 200 hard-liners protested Tuesday against the framework deal struck last week between Iran and six world powers. State TV’s website quoted Jafari as saying: “With God’s grace, the revolutionary children of Islamic Iran have succeeded in defending the rights of the Iranian nation and the Iranian nation and the Guard appreciate their honest political efforts.” He also said Iran as a nation supported the diplomatic efforts.

Make no mistake, IRGC endorsement would be a positive sign; the lack of IRGC buy-in has been a consistent worry. Alas, the wire services are a bit selective is shaping Jafari’s statement. Here, for example, is Jafari in the Iranian press outlet Tasnim:

“The resistance of the Iranian nation against the United States rendered ineffective the US attempt to impose [its] political will against the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Jafari said on the sidelines of a conference. “Thank God, the revolutionary children of Islamic Iran have managed to decently uphold the rights of the Iranian nation in their diplomatic campaign. The Iranian nation and the IRGC appreciate these dear [officials] for their honest efforts, political endeavors, and their resistance [defense] of the specified red lines,” the commander said.

Jafari warned that Washington’s “dishonesty” will create a challenging path ahead of “this diplomatic jihad,” but expressed confidence that Iran’s red lines, including the recognition of its nuclear rights and the removal of all sanctions, will remain “the focal point of the Iranian nation’s demands.” The Iranian nation will support “its nuclear diplomatic front and will not allow misleading tricks from the enemy, particularly the US, in the recent talks, [such as] the fake translation of the joint statement, to tarnish the trust between the nation and government,” the commander added.

Hence, Jafari is not agreeing to the parameters announced by President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, but the significantly more permissive interpretation announced by Iranian leaders to their own people. Jafari simply reiterates the idea that Iran’s redlines are restrictions on uranium enrichment and continued sanctions.

The BBC, much like the Open Source Center, also maintains a translation service which has surveyed IRGC-linked websites:

  • The Ammariyon website, close to the IRGC, published an article by hardliner MP Hamid Rasa’i titled “Red lines violated by Lausanne Treaty of Turkmenchay.” (The Treaty of Turkmenchay was the agreement imposed by the Russian Tsar on Iran following its defeat in 1828 which permanently separated what now is Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia.)
  • The 598.ir website, also close to the IRGC, likewise criticized the discrepancies between the U.S. version and Iranian versions of the framework. The U.S. factsheet is a non-starter, it suggested.
  • Farhang News, another IRGC outlet, demanded the Iranian government publish its own factsheet.

It’s all well and good for journalists to engage in political spin in order to support a process with which they agree. But, simply repeating mantras of success or cherry picking what news to report does not further understanding; rather, it makes the crash seem all the more sudden.

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New York Times Whitewashes Iran’s Religious Oppression

My oh my. The New York Times published an interview with Thomas Erdbrink, its man in Tehran, about life in Iran. Here’s what he had to say about religious minorities:

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My oh my. The New York Times published an interview with Thomas Erdbrink, its man in Tehran, about life in Iran. Here’s what he had to say about religious minorities:

Is there a Sunni population there or other minorities? How are they treated? – Phelps Shepard; Monmouth, Ore.

My mother-in-law, who taught me to speak Persian, is an Iranian Kurd. She is a proud and strong woman, loves Iranian Kurdistan just as much as she loves Iran. Kurds are Sunni, but not like Arab Sunnis. Her husband is Shia. They have been happily married for almost 38 years.

Now while there are issues for religious minorities, such as Christians, Zoroastrians and Jews, they are in much better positions compared with minorities in other countries in the region.

In Iran, those minorities have their own members of Parliament and are granted their places of worship. There are dozens of synagogues in Tehran, and thousands of Jews here — the most in the region after Israel.

The minority that has serious problems in Iran are the Baha’i, who are not allowed to attend universities or have houses of worship. Iran’s Shiite clerics do not accept the Baha’i belief that their prophet came after Mohammad, who the Muslims say is the final prophet. — T.E.

Where to begin? Firstly, Iran boasted a Jewish community of more than 100,000 before the Islamic Revolution. Today, it has just one-fifth that. When a community loses 80 percent of its population in a generation or two, that’s hardly evidence of religious and sectarian tolerance. The numbers Erdbrink cites have been cited as conventional wisdom for almost two decades. How sad it is that the paper for which Erdbrink works hasn’t seen fit to actually check the facts it takes at face value.

Nor for that matter are there dozens of synagogues in Tehran: There are a dozen, perhaps 13, many of which stand nearly empty. Does Iran boast more Jews than any other country in the region besides Israel? Hard to say any longer: Turkey may have more. But in a race to the bottom, second place isn’t necessarily a good sign.

Is there a seat in parliament reserved for a Jew? Yes. When I would attend synagogue in Isfahan and Tehran, however, congregants treated that parliamentarian with disdain. Nor did Jews feel free to speak openly inside synagogue; instead, they would hold certain conversations only outside walking along busy streets or against the backdrop of overwhelming noise to defeat the regime’s invisible ears.

Are the Baha’is the only minority to suffer serious problems? No. Sunnis constitute perhaps ten percent of Iran’s population, and are discriminated against hugely. There may be synagogues and churches in Tehran and, indeed, there is an Armenian cathedral in the center of town, but a Sunni mosque in a city of 14 million even though Sunnis number perhaps nine million in Iran? Good luck. Likewise, while Armenians might be tolerated, Protestant churches frequently run into trouble. Christians have disappeared and been murdered, as the State Department human-rights reports have chronicled over the years. How sad it is that Erdbrink doesn’t see fit to mention Saeed Abedini, an Iranian American imprisoned because of his Christian faith.

When it comes to religious freedom, there is no whitewashing Iranian repression. Unless, of course, one works for the New York Times. All the news that’s fit to print, indeed.

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AP Editor Flunks Middle East 101

Those of us who write about Middle East politics sometimes joke that the mainstream press is desperately in need of an introductory course on the subject. And now, thanks to the latest effort by the Associated Press, we’re forced to ask: What happens when reporters take Middle East 101–and fail? The AP’s Middle East editor this week tackled the burning question: “Is Israel democratic?” If you know anything at all about the country, you know that this question requires a one-word answer: Yes. The AP, however, thought it was an essay test. And what a disaster it was.

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Those of us who write about Middle East politics sometimes joke that the mainstream press is desperately in need of an introductory course on the subject. And now, thanks to the latest effort by the Associated Press, we’re forced to ask: What happens when reporters take Middle East 101–and fail? The AP’s Middle East editor this week tackled the burning question: “Is Israel democratic?” If you know anything at all about the country, you know that this question requires a one-word answer: Yes. The AP, however, thought it was an essay test. And what a disaster it was.

The full headline to AP editor Dan Perry’s piece is “AP Analysis: Is Israel democratic? Not so clear.” Such baldly false smears are part and parcel of the debate, of course. For some reason it’s considered acceptable practice to merely make up stuff about Israel and pass lies off as truth. It comes with the territory of being the world’s one Jewish state. But the timing here is interesting. All that’s really changed regarding Israel is President Obama’s public attitude toward it, in which his hostility toward the country and its people are being broadcast instead of denied.

The Associated Press seems to be taking its cue from the president, “reassessing” its public posture toward Israel, and facilitating team Obama in their efforts to change the narrative. But it also does consumers of news on the Middle East a favor: anyone who doesn’t know Israel is clearly a democracy is obviously not a reliable source on the subject.

The AP also shows how much hedging and spinning needs to be done to even try to paint Israel as less than a democracy. Perry begins by calling Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a “hardliner”–a common term employed by anti-Israel activists but one which has no basis in reality. Painting Netanyahu as a “hardliner” is especially useful if you’re trying to undercut his democratic credentials, however.

As Perry builds his argument, he is first forced to acknowledge that he has no case:

The displeasure felt in some quarters over his win has placed front and center the world community’s unwritten obligation to accept the results of a truly democratic vote. It is a basic tenet of the modern order which has survived the occasional awkward election result — as well as recent decades’ emergence of some less-than-pristine democracies around the globe.

For Israel, the argument is especially piquant, because its claim to be the only true democracy in the Middle East has been key to its branding and its vitally important claim on U.S. military, diplomatic and financial support. Israel’s elections, from campaign rules to vote counts, are indeed not suspect.

He then follows, of course, with “But.” It’s the “occupation,” as would be expected, but even here the AP can only build its case by making flatly false statements–and again we come back to Perry failing Middle East 101. He includes all of the West Bank and Gaza in his “analysis,” and stacks the deck thus:

Of the Arabs, only a third have voting rights. These are the “Israeli Arabs” who live in the areas that became Israel in the 1948-49 war, which established the country’s borders.

Does Perry believe Israel exists? It’s hard to tell, thanks to the scare quotes around “Israeli Arabs.” In fact, they are Israeli Arabs by definition–they are Arab citizens of Israel. Additionally, the Israeli war of independence did not establish “the country’s borders.” As the agreements and communiqués and subsequent negotiations made clear, no one considered the 1949 armistice lines to be permanent borders. This was not, by the way, an invention of Israelis who wanted to expand their territory at will; it was the position of the Arab states who wanted to regroup and then try again to eradicate the entire Jewish state.

And that’s the key fact that people who choose to fabricate Israel’s supposed nondemocratic nature must get around. Perry does so by calling the lines “borders,” which they manifestly are not and aren’t considered to be. But it’s important that they’re not borders, because once you acknowledge that fact you are describing not occupied territory but disputed territory, at least as far as international law is concerned. And it becomes even more difficult to tell Jews they can’t live there simply because they are Jews.

Such inconvenient facts appear throughout the piece. Perry paints Israel as the obstacle to peace; “The supposedly temporary arrangement shows no sign of a change — at least not one initiated by Israel,” we’re told. And yet a few paragraphs later we read:

Israel annexed East Jerusalem, and its approximately 200,000 Arabs can have voting rights if they choose. Most have rejected it–whether out of solidarity with the idea of Palestine or for fear of future retribution.

Retribution from whom? Not the Jewish state that offered those Arabs full voting rights. Retribution, instead, from the Palestinian government that continues to be opposed to peace and coexistence with the Jews. Perry then criticizes the security arrangement that currently prevails in the Palestinian territories, but also tells us that “The arrangement is a relic of the 1990s interim accords, which were meant to be succeeded by a final agreement by 1999.” In other words, they were agreed to by the Palestinians, and are being upheld by Israel.

No such article would be complete without some misleading scaremongering about settlements, such as: “Another four years of a Netanyahu government can be expected to add many thousands more settlers, complicating the prospects of a future pullout even more.”

As Evelyn Gordon explained two weeks ago, construction in the settlements has seen a steep drop. Additionally, she wrote, according to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics “settlement construction throughout Benjamin Netanyahu’s six years as prime minister has been significantly lower than it was under his predecessors.” More importantly, the construction has tended to be “up, not out”–it’s in towns Israel would keep as part of any final-status agreement and not expanding the borders of those towns, and therefore would not “complicat[e] the prospects of a future pullout even more.”

In sum, Israel’s democracy is so strong that even attempts to challenge that status can’t avoid confirming it. The only thing we ended up learning was that Middle East 101 is far too advanced for the AP.

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How Hugh Hewitt Could Shape All the GOP Primary Debates

There were several reasons that Republican primary debates have had such an impact in the last couple of election cycles for those seeking the GOP nomination, including that neither year had a Republican incumbent, the growth in influence of the grassroots, and the participation of non-politicians as candidates. But an additional reason the debates had such an effect was that the mainstream media moderators insisted on asking migraine-inducingly stupid questions. And so the increasing role of conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt is, as Jim Geraghty notes this morning at NRO, an encouraging development. But I wonder: with an adult in the room like Hewitt, will liberal moderators get serious too?

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There were several reasons that Republican primary debates have had such an impact in the last couple of election cycles for those seeking the GOP nomination, including that neither year had a Republican incumbent, the growth in influence of the grassroots, and the participation of non-politicians as candidates. But an additional reason the debates had such an effect was that the mainstream media moderators insisted on asking migraine-inducingly stupid questions. And so the increasing role of conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt is, as Jim Geraghty notes this morning at NRO, an encouraging development. But I wonder: with an adult in the room like Hewitt, will liberal moderators get serious too?

Geraghty points out that Hewitt will not only moderate a debate but he has already stepped into that role by subjecting Republican politicians to tough interviews on his radio show, just as he does to those on the opposite end of the ideological spectrum. If you go in to an interview with Hewitt unprepared, you’ll be left licking your wounds. Geraghty writes:

An obvious observation: Hillary Clinton will never subject herself to questioning from Hugh Hewitt.

And I contend there is no equivalent to Hugh on the Left. (I’d put Jake Tapper and Chuck Todd somewhere in the center region.) There is not a single liberal media personality who enjoys interviewing prominent Democratic officials, offering them tough, challenging questions, tough follow-ups, and making his interview subjects sweat the details.

Members of the progressive aristocracy don’t treat each other that way.

In truth, conservatives are so naturally suspicious of those seeking power, especially establishment figures, that it’s not easy for aspiring Republican nominees to avoid tough questioning along the way from any number of figures on the right, to say nothing of the questioning they get from the left. To state the obvious: this is not good for Hillary, nor is it particularly healthy for the republic to have power-obsessed pols treated like royalty.

But it’ll be interesting to see the effect of what Geraghty calls “The Hewitt Primary” on two other groups involved in the GOP nominating contest: liberal journalists and conservative firebrands. They might seem to be at odds, but they have in fact had a symbiotic relationship in recent years.

Take the 2012 debates. Mitt Romney may have been the best debater of the bunch—polished, wonky, photogenic, and even-tempered. But the most entertaining man on the stage was usually Newt Gingrich, who has a ready command of history, a combative posture, and an unwillingness to play by the media’s rules. (It inspired the great tumblr, “Newt Judges You.”) And Newt was helped tremendously by the fact that his liberal questioners were so willing to set him up, allowing Gingrich to turn the debates into a bonfire of the inanities.

When Juan Williams suggested that Gingrich’s critique of welfare-state dependency was racist, Newt made mincemeat of the question and the questioner. When John King decided to lead off one debate by invoking tabloid coverage of an ex-wife of Gingrich’s comments, Newt similarly shamed King about the sorry state of the media as evidenced by what moderators considered worthy of debate.

There were others, of course, and it wasn’t only Gingrich. Geraghty quotes Hewitt as saying viewers of debates moderated by him would be “much more likely to hear about the Ohio-class submarine than contraceptives.” It’s a reference to what has become the flagship model of inane questioning of Republican candidates: George Stephanopoulos asking Mitt Romney if states could ban birth control. It was the very definition of a nonsense question, an example of Democratic officials-turned-media personalities steering debates miles away from anything relevant to American voters and into an attempt to partake in the culture wars as an operative and not a journalist.

Republican candidates are also often asked about their views on evolution, though it’s usually clear the journalists asking the question don’t actually understand the topic of evolution in the slightest. Probably the best response to such questions was in 2007 when the candidates were asked to raise their hands if they believed in man-caused global warming. Fred Thompson appropriately said he wasn’t doing hand shows today.

And that gets at something that has been frustrating to Republicans for years: media ignorance of the issues translates into moderators’ total and utter lack of seriousness in questioning those who would be president. The presence of someone like Hugh Hewitt, who has a strong grasp of the issues and wants an intelligent debate, could encourage his liberal co-moderators to behave like adults and study up on the issues. It could also hurt candidates who are relying on “gotcha” questions and moderator nonsense to build their grassroots credibility as a straight-talking truth teller. But overall, it would be better for everyone involved, and the country at large, if everyone followed Hewitt’s example.

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The End of “Economic Terrorism”: Dems and the Obstruction Double Standard

The Washington Post has an interesting story on how Democrats, now in the minority in both houses of Congress, have so far fulfilled their intent to clog the legislative pipeline. There are many words in the story, about 1,200 or so. But you understand why the story needed that many words once you complete it and notice the one word the author had to get creative to avoid using, thus necessitating the prolixity of the piece. Never mentioned once is any form of the word “obstruction.”

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The Washington Post has an interesting story on how Democrats, now in the minority in both houses of Congress, have so far fulfilled their intent to clog the legislative pipeline. There are many words in the story, about 1,200 or so. But you understand why the story needed that many words once you complete it and notice the one word the author had to get creative to avoid using, thus necessitating the prolixity of the piece. Never mentioned once is any form of the word “obstruction.”

Now, ordinarily that would be just fine. After all, what the Democrats are doing by using the filibuster and other procedures to prevent even popular legislation from getting through is entirely within their constitutional rights. But of course, we don’t live in ordinary times; we live in the Dark Age of Republican Obstructionist Terror, and therefore the Post should be appalled at what they would normally consider a blatant attempt to burn American democracy to the ground. If, that is, Republicans were doing it.

Last month, Democrats attempted to shut down the Department of Homeland Security unless and until Republicans removed part of the funding bill that Democrats opposed. Republicans blinked, and rather than allow the shutdown that Democrats threatened, pulled the contested part of the bill. Were the two sides reversed, Republicans would be accused of rank economic terrorism. Instead, here’s how the Post describes Democrats’ actions:

Nancy Pelosi had a plan. Democrats were outnumbered, obviously, and she no longer had the power to impose her will the way she did when she was Speaker of the House. But neither did the current speaker, John A. Boehner (R-Ohio.).

With a partial Department of Homeland Security shutdown looming, Pelosi saw a way to torpedo Boehner, and get exactly what she and other Democrats wanted for President Obama. The plan was simple: when Boehner needed her the most, she would not be there for him.

She encouraged her caucus to reject the Speaker’s proposal on a stopgap DHS funding bill, knowing that Boehner could not sufficiently rally his own caucus to pass the bill without Democratic help.

Five days later, Pelosi and Obama got exactly what they wanted: DHS was fully funded without any rollback of President Obama’s executive actions on immigration.

The Post goes on to explain how Democrats did something similar–though no shutdown was involved–with regard to a bill approving the Keystone pipeline. The pipeline is popular, but opposed by Democratic money man Tom Steyer and fringe environmental extremists (of whom the president is one, thus explaining the White House’s opposition to an energy and jobs bill).

But more importantly, the bill had the votes to pass, which it eventually did on a later re-vote. At the time though, Democratic leadership wanted to take a shot at the GOP leadership to make a point, and Democrats fell in line, even on a bill that had enough of their support to pass. So they blocked that too.

Again: fully within their rights as the minority party. And yet, the Post seems to agree–when conducted by Democrats. When it came to the GOP in the minority, not only did the Post throw the term “obstructionism” around, but the paper’s reporters used it without any qualifiers.

Of course the Post’s opinion writers are going to be hypocrites about this; that’s not of interest here. No one’s expecting intellectual honesty from liberal columnists. In October 2013, a supposedly straight news story carried this headline: “Obama says he feels ‘enormous frustration’ with GOP obstruction.” Not only was “obstruction” the word provided by the Post, not the president, but the whole article was merely reporting on Obama’s complaints. It was a press release disguised as a news story.

For opinion pieces, the Post reveled in hysteria; see this Jonathan Capehart piece titled–seriously–“The GOP is out to destroy the country.” But reporters on the news side of the office shouldn’t also lose their minds. The word “obstruction” shows up in other places it shouldn’t.

I don’t mean to pick on the Post. It’s not as though they invented this obsession over Republican “obstruction” or created the bias in which they participate. But their reporting is in desperate need of a tune-up. Instead of angry accusations of gumming up the works of democracy, the Post tells us Pelosi and Harry Reid are “deftly navigating the big legislative debates to maximum advantage, thwarting the new majorities early ambitions and protecting Obama from the GOP assaults on his agenda.”

The metaphorical violence is always been committed by the GOP, as far as the media is concerned.

The problem with the piece on Pelosi isn’t only that the word “obstruction” doesn’t get thrown around. It’s that the whole structure of the piece is borderline admiration. “Democrats say they are optimistic about holding members together in the next big legislative debates,” we learn. “But they could encounter difficulties in areas where they do not have a rallying cry that resonates as powerfully as immigration and a shutdown.”

This is how a shutdown goes from economic terrorism to powerful rallying cry for a plucky minority party. And it’s also one more reminder to Republicans: the left may make GOP tactics the issue, but they aren’t. It’s never about the means, but the ends. When the left approves of the ends, anything goes.

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The “Flood Libel” Propagandists of 2015

The proliferation of online news outlets has democratized newsgathering, but it’s also updated the famous adage that “there’s a sucker born every minute” for the Internet age. And no circus attracts the suckers quite like the Arab-Israeli conflict. Not only will people believe anything about Israel; their editors will let them write it. And as we learned yesterday, pretty much every year someone will fall for the impossibly preposterous accusation known as the “flood libel.”

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The proliferation of online news outlets has democratized newsgathering, but it’s also updated the famous adage that “there’s a sucker born every minute” for the Internet age. And no circus attracts the suckers quite like the Arab-Israeli conflict. Not only will people believe anything about Israel; their editors will let them write it. And as we learned yesterday, pretty much every year someone will fall for the impossibly preposterous accusation known as the “flood libel.”

There are moments when biased coverage of Israel goes beyond mere opinion. Last year, the good folks at Vox, a notoriously error-ridden site, declared the existence of a bridge connecting the West Bank and Gaza. It was not a maddening mistake; it was, rather, kind of endearing. It was adorable, in its own way. But that such a bridge does not exist is an easily verifiable fact.

Same goes for New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren’s claim in 2012 that prospective Jewish construction in the West Bank would bisect the West Bank and make physical contiguity impossible. As was subsequently pointed out (and corrected accordingly), this was not even close to being true and Rudoren would have known as much had she glanced at a map.

And this week we were treated to another version of this story, though it’s one we hear often enough. It’s a bit of a hazing ritual: the Palestinians find someone they haven’t yet sold this particular lie to and watch the magic unfold. The lie is this: that flooding in Gaza was caused by Israel opening dams in the South. Easily the most important part of this story is the fact that there are no such dams. They are the Gaza-West Bank bridge of this story. And yet, the story just keeps appearing because the Palestinians never run out of Western suckers.

One of the suckers this year was Vice News. To try to hide its ignorance, Vice offered up several paragraphs of false accusations from the Palestinians followed by this attempt at “balance”: “Israeli officials categorically denied they were to blame while speaking to VICE News on Monday.”

Other outlets were more honest and ethical in the aftermath of publishing the flood libel. As HonestReporting notes, the Daily Mail went with a bit of false balance but also, crucially, added a straight correction and admission of error: “An earlier version of this article stated that Israel had opened river dams in the south of the country, causing flooding in the Gaza strip. In fact, there are no dams in southern Israel and the flooding was caused by rain and drainage issues. We are happy to clarify this.”

According to HonestReporting, the Daily Mail piece also contained the following amazing sentence: “The flooding was today compounded after an Israeli power company cut electricity to two of Gaza’s major West Bank cities.”

And according to CAMERA, both Agence France Presse and Al Jazeera (shocking, I know) passed along the flood libel. AFP pulled its video, and Al Jazeera went the Vice route by pretending the existence of magical dams is somehow in dispute.

The flood libel is proof that sometimes people refuse to learn from others’ mistakes. See this post from Jonathan Tobin in December 2013 for a reminder that the flood libel is neither new nor surprising. IDF spokeswoman Libby Weiss understandably would rather news organizations first locate their unicorns before blaming those unicorns for goring the neighbor’s ox:

So why does this keep happening? Part of the frustration with reporters stems from their absolute laziness. The Internet has put so much information within arm’s reach, and yet reporters are taught that when it comes to Israel, the facts are optional. And that’s because the facts favor Israel.

If you were to draw a map of Israel, using Western news organizations’ reporting, you’d have one that showed Israel bisecting the West Bank while connecting it to Gaza via a bridge and holding parliamentary meetings in its capital of Tel Aviv. None of that is true, but that’s the picture that emerges from the media’s “reporting.”

There also appears to be a kind of modified Stockholm Syndrome at work. These reporters and the outlets they represent are constantly made to look like fools by Palestinian propaganda. But they also seem not to mind, because they sympathize so strongly with what the propagandists and terrorists are telling them.

If what I’m describing to you sounds an awful lot like an activist, not a journalist, well–that’s about right. And such activists play a key role in disseminating grist for the anti-Semitic mill. The first headline is the one that makes waves, especially in the Arab world and in Europe. If the follow-up is not a full retraction or correction, but rather a “balanced” piece in which Israel is permitted to deny the existence of things that plainly don’t exist, then it casts the Israeli government as a powerful entity engaged in a cover-up.

It would be bad enough if we were forced to admit that our media just can’t get the story right. But that’s naïve. The truth is, much of the time our media just won’t get it right. And that’s why the flood libel returns, year after year.

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Why Liberals Want Brian Williams Fired

When the Brian Williams scandal first broke, and as it became clear the NBC host’s alleged fabrications constituted a pattern, there was some instinctive sentiment among conservatives that NBC ought to leave Williams in the anchor chair anyway. After all, what better way to demonstrate the media’s bias and unreliability? But now we’re seeing the other side of that coin: the proposal that credibility will be restored by making Williams’s suspension permanent.

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When the Brian Williams scandal first broke, and as it became clear the NBC host’s alleged fabrications constituted a pattern, there was some instinctive sentiment among conservatives that NBC ought to leave Williams in the anchor chair anyway. After all, what better way to demonstrate the media’s bias and unreliability? But now we’re seeing the other side of that coin: the proposal that credibility will be restored by making Williams’s suspension permanent.

Yesterday on CNN’s Reliable Sources, host Brian Stelter brought in Deborah Norville to try to predict the future of NBC with–or without–Williams. Norville is a former co-host of NBC’s Today and even occasionally sat in for Tom Brokaw on NBC Nightly News years ago; she currently hosts Inside Edition. Brokaw reportedly sides against Williams’s return to the host chair (though he did offer a denial that should not bring Williams much comfort). Stelter asked Norville right off the bat if she thought Williams would return to NBC Nightly News. Here’s her response:

I don’t think so. I don’t think so.

First of all, I think Lester Holt is doing a very good job. And, secondly, I think if Brian were to be back on the set, there would be this thought bubble over his head that says, is it real, is it real? Did he make this one up? Is this an exaggeration?

And I just think that that’s too much for the network news division to have to work to overcome. They have a very important brand. There’s a lot of money attached to it. And to put that at risk would be a foolish business decision. At the end of the day, this is a business.

It’s a similar argument used by San Francisco Chronicle editor John Diaz a couple of weeks ago. Diaz dismissed some of the early speculation that tried to excuse Williams’s fabrications. He also criticized Williams’s “bizarre” first attempt at an apology. That apology later looked even worse once it became clear Williams was facing judgment for more than a one-time ethical lapse.

Then he made the credibility argument: “Williams’ credibility is shot, and his presence will taint NBC News as long as he remains in its anchor chair.” But Diaz followed that with an interesting, and highly defensive, aside. Punishing Williams, Diaz seemed to think, was about more than the credibility of NBC; it was about American journalism itself:

Regrettably, the damage does not end at NBC. All journalists suffer to a degree when a high-profile member of the profession transgresses, just as public perceptions of police officers are tarnished by the exposure of an ugly brutality case, or as views of politicians are shaped by the actions of a corrupt few. Those looking for a validation of their low regard for journalists see the Williams fiasco, but they never see the everyday diligence and determination of my colleagues to get a story right. Yes, we make mistakes, but each one is painful — even the smallest typo. When stories are off-base or incomplete, it’s almost always a matter of deadline pressure, limited sources or naivete — not intention, and never fabrication.

It’s easy to sympathize with Diaz. And in fact, I’m inclined to agree. But that’s the problem: fabrication should be viewed as worse than all those other sins, but it shouldn’t be seen as the only journalistic sin. Yet that’s the way the American media behaves.

“Limited sources or naïveté,” in Diaz’s example, are usually not a series of individual, unrelated errors but often the result of more structural biases in the press. As the Washington Post reported last year, self-identified Republican journalists constitute, according to the recent version of a recurring survey, about seven percent of all journalists. Self-identified Democrats made up 28 percent.

But that wasn’t the most important part of the survey. In 1971, a quarter considered themselves Republicans. The survey, then, didn’t show a field implicitly hostile to conservatives. Rather, the media’s partisan gap has been increasing, as has that hostility:

Over the last several decades, three things have happened: 1) The number of Democratic-identifying reporters increased steadily prior to a significant drop in the latest survey 2) The number of Republicans has steadily shrunk with that number dipping into single digits for the first time ever in the new survey c) more and more reporters are identifying as independents.  What seems to be happening — at least in the last decade – -is that journalists are leaving both parties, finding themselves more comfortable as unaffiliateds.

So what’s easier: reforming the liberal bubble that the national press has become, or firing Brian Williams? It’s true that bringing Williams back will probably lead many to question his stories. But what’s clear from the Brian Williams saga thus far is that the mainstream media has no idea how often its accuracy is called into question by the general public.

That “thought bubble” to which Norville referred, in which viewers will wonder if Williams is making up whatever story he’s reporting, already exists. Gallup’s poll last year found trust in media falling back to its historic low of 40 percent. That trust, Gallup explained, tends to fall during election years. In other words, when there is something tangible on the line, trusting the media is a leap of faith most Americans can’t quite make.

So the left can go on believing that firing Williams will go a long way toward restoring the credibility they believe he cost the media during this fiasco. The problem for them, however, is that you can’t lose something you never had to begin with.

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Watch As the Media Creates A False Race Narrative in Real Time

The Obama administration’s recent losing streak has been a problem not only for the president but also for the bearers of bad news. As I wrote yesterday, the political media get noticeably uncomfortable when the White House’s failings can’t be easily spun away. What they needed was a distraction. And that’s exactly what they got when Politico reported Rudy Giuliani’s off-the-record remarks at a fundraiser casting doubt on whether Barack Obama “loves America.” In the media’s completely predictable and utterly embarrassing overreaction, you could watch two narratives develop in real time.

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The Obama administration’s recent losing streak has been a problem not only for the president but also for the bearers of bad news. As I wrote yesterday, the political media get noticeably uncomfortable when the White House’s failings can’t be easily spun away. What they needed was a distraction. And that’s exactly what they got when Politico reported Rudy Giuliani’s off-the-record remarks at a fundraiser casting doubt on whether Barack Obama “loves America.” In the media’s completely predictable and utterly embarrassing overreaction, you could watch two narratives develop in real time.

An overarching rule of the mainstream media’s in-kind contribution to the Obama political machine is to avoid anything that can be construed as actual debate. So while Giuliani’s comments were following in Obama’s own footsteps, as the president has not hesitated to question the patriotism of those who disagree with him, the outrage was immediate. In an indication of just how bad things have been for the Obama White House lately, the press has now made “Giuliani was mean to Dear Leader” a two-day story. And they’ve also telegraphed how they hope to take it further.

The first way is to make it part of the 2016 conversation. This is generally how the press responds to any controversial statements by a Republican: try to get the other Republicans on the record about it. Thus while Democrats are never held responsible as a party for the extreme statements made by fellow liberals, Republicans are to be hounded by the president’s attack dogs for the perceived thought crime of any other Republican.

Scott Walker was asked about it, and gave the proper reply: he’s not Giuliani’s keeper. So the press went to annoy other Republicans. Talking Points Memo posted a piece describing the leftist media’s battle plan: “5 Points On How Obama’s Love For America Became The GOP’s Next 2016 Test”:

“I’m not questioning his patriotism. He’s a patriot, I’m sure,” Giuliani said. “What I’m saying is that in his rhetoric, I very rarely hear him say the things that I used to hear Ronald Reagan say, the things I used to hear Bill Clinton say, about how much he loves America.”

In a Thursday morning interview on CNBC, Walker was asked about Giuliani’s remarks but declined to comment on whether he believed Obama “loves America.”

Later in the day, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) stood apart from his GOP counterparts by openly saying he has “no doubt” Obama loves the country, although he disagrees with the President’s policies.

And before long, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) issued a statement declaring his refusal to condemn Giuliani’s comments because the gist of them was “true.”

With that, it was official: Whether the President of the United States actually loves the United States had become the debate du jour among potential 2016 Republican presidential candidates.

Notice Republicans did not actually set out to make this silly debate a litmus test. But as TPM points out, the media did. And so it shall be.

And while this may seem haphazard, as if the media’s just throwing whatever it can against the wall to change the conversation from Team Obama’s serial incompetence, there’s a point here. Why does the left want Republicans to talk about Giuliani’s criticism of Obama? Because they—of course—have deemed it racist.

Although—or perhaps, because—this particular accusation is obviously untrue, political reporters chased it feverishly. The New York Times’s Maggie Haberman and Nicholas Confessore got Rudy on the record in response:

“Some people thought it was racist — I thought that was a joke, since he was brought up by a white mother, a white grandfather, went to white schools, and most of this he learned from white people,” Mr. Giuliani said in the interview. “This isn’t racism. This is socialism or possibly anti-colonialism.”

In other words: Giuliani thinks the racism angle is silly, because the aspect of Obama’s worldview he’s criticizing comes from Obama’s immersion in white environments. The president’s “blackness” has nothing to do with it; if anything, it’s the opposite.

So naturally the Times manipulated Giuliani’s statement and slapped a patently false headline on the story that seems almost designed to destroy the credibility of the reporters who got the quote: “Giuliani: Obama Had a White Mother, So I’m Not a Racist.” I don’t know if Haberman and Confessore objected, but I would hope so. They’re far more honest than their editors want you to think they are.

But the Times report did get one more good quote out of Giuliani. This one was also prefaced with concern it would be controversial, but at least this time Giuliani helped himself by saying something indisputably true:

Mr. Giuliani said he also objected to the president’s comments about the Crusades at the National Prayer Breakfast this month, in which Mr. Obama said that during the Inquisition, people had “committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.”

“Now we know there’s something wrong with the guy,” Mr. Giuliani said of the president. “I thought that one sort of went off the cliff.’’

He added: “What I don’t find with Obama — this will get me in more trouble again — is a really deep knowledge of history. I think it’s a dilettante’s knowledge of history.”

As I wrote last week, Obama’s historical ignorance has come to be the defining feature of his public remarks. What was more troubling was the fact that no one around Obama seems to know much history either. But no matter: whenever the president’s own behavior is indefensible, they can always find someone to call a racist.

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Republicans Should Declare War on the Mainstream Media

On February 27, funding for the Department of Homeland Security will run out unless Congress authorizes a new appropriation. The House passed such a bill some time ago, funding the department but denying funding for the immigration policies that President Obama instituted by executive order, despite the opinion of nearly everyone, including President Obama—22 times no less—that the president lacks the authority to issue such executive orders.
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On February 27, funding for the Department of Homeland Security will run out unless Congress authorizes a new appropriation. The House passed such a bill some time ago, funding the department but denying funding for the immigration policies that President Obama instituted by executive order, despite the opinion of nearly everyone, including President Obama—22 times no less—that the president lacks the authority to issue such executive orders.
The Republican majority in the Senate has been trying to begin debate on this appropriations bill ever since. Unlike Harry Reid when he was majority leader, Mitch McConnell is willing to entertain amendments proposed by the minority and vote them up or down. The Democrats will have none of it. Three times the measure has been brought up and three times the Democratic minority has used the filibuster to prevent debate from even beginning. John Boehner, being interviewed by Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday, said that “… the House has done its job under the Constitution. It’s time for the Senate to do their job.”

But Wallace said:

I understand there’s two sides to the argument. Here’s the bottom line: the deadline is less than two weeks from now. And the fact is that you and Congress are going to be out on recess for the next week. Can you promise the American people with the terror threat only growing that you’re not going to allow funding for the Department of Homeland Security to run out?

Why is it up to Boehner to bend instead of the Democrats doing so? The answer is simple. As Jonah Goldberg tweeted, “So when GOP holds up things in Dem-run Senate, GOP is to blame. When Dems hold things up in GOP-run Senate, GOP is to blame. I see a trend.” Even Chris Wallace—the fairest and best of the Sunday morning talk show hosts—thinks that when push comes to shove on Capitol Hill, it is the Republicans who must yield, even when they hold majorities in both houses as they do now. Why? Because that is the way the mainstream media will always play the story.

What should Boehner do? I think he, and every Republican, should do what George H.W. Bush did to Dan Rather as the 1988 presidential race was heating up: eat the mainstream media alive. They are the enemies of the Republican Party and should be treated as such. Stop trying to curry favor because you won’t get it. Bush laid a trap for Rather, insisting on the interview being live so it couldn’t end up on the cutting room floor. It totally flustered Rather, greatly energized Bush’s campaign, put the kibosh on his too-much-a-nice-guy image, and helped mightily to propel him to the White House. Make mainstream media bias the issue. Throw loaded questions and those premised on liberal assumptions back in their faces. Accuse them of bias when they are biased. Don’t be Mr. Nice Guy.

Why have the Republicans been such wimps when dealing with the media? The reason, I think, is that the Republicans were the minority party in this country from 1932 to 1994. The Democrats held the House for all but four of those 62 years and the Senate for all but ten of those years. In far too many ways, the Republicans still act as the minority party, begging for crumbs from the media. But they now hold more political offices, at both the federal and state levels, than at any time since the glory days of Calvin Coolidge. Instead they should, in dealing with the media, emulate Joan Crawford, at least as depicted by Faye Dunaway in Mommy Dearest, dealing with the board of Pepsi Cola (warning, she doesn’t use ladylike language).

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Scott Walker’s Dropout Advantage

It is a measure how much the Scott Walker boomlet is worrying the left that there is suddenly a plethora of attacks on him, each and every one, of course, tendentious.
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It is a measure how much the Scott Walker boomlet is worrying the left that there is suddenly a plethora of attacks on him, each and every one, of course, tendentious.
Gail Collins of the New York Times wrote a column on Friday, entitled “Scott Walker Needs an Eraser,” denouncing Walker for cutting Wisconsin school funding in 2010, causing teacher layoffs. Despite the prodigious depth of her research, she failed to notice that he took office in 2011. Finally, on Sunday, the Times applied an eraser to Collins’s column and ran a correction. As Hot Air points out, the rest of the column doesn’t make much sense without the sentence that was deleted.

The Times itself ran an editorial on February 6 denouncing Walker for proposing a cut in the budget of the University of Wisconsin, implicitly arguing that a university with 180,000 students and 26 campuses could not possibly run a tighter ship. It claims he came to prominence in 2011 “with his attacks on collective bargaining rights and attempts to curtail the benefits of state workers,” as though it is impossible for state workers to have excessive benefits or too many collective bargaining rights.

It’s at it again this morning. Expect this to become a regular drum beat; the higher Walker gets in the polls the more the drum will be beaten.

But I think what really annoys both the “Paper of Record” and the intellectual snobs who think its editorial page is actually worth reading is that Walker is not an Ivy League intellectual. Indeed he didn’t go to an Ivy League school and he didn’t even graduate from Marquette, where he did go. To Howard Dean, that makes him unqualified to be president. Of course, Howard Dean, who went to Yale and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine on his father’s money, thinks it has been “generations” since a president lacked a college degree. In fact it has been only two generations since Harry Truman did a great job as president in the dangerous years after World War II despite a post-high-school education consisting of only one semester at Spalding’s Commercial College, a Kansas City business school. Woodrow Wilson, in contrast, had a Ph.D. from Princeton in political science and made a total dog’s breakfast of guiding the nation through the dangerous years after World War I.

Scott Walker dropped out of Marquette, lacking only one semester. So Howard Dean is implicitly arguing that had he stayed around Marquette four months longer and taken courses on American antebellum literature, astronomy, symbolic logic, and the French Revolution, he’d be qualified to be president. As George Orwell wrote, that is an idea so stupid only an intellectual could believe it.

Glenn Reynolds, of Instapundit fame, thinks Walker’s lack of B.A. after his name would be a breath of fresh air in “an Ivy-League suffocated government.” I suspect that the 68 percent of the population who also lack college degrees may well feel the same. And then, the day after the election in 2016, Gail Collins, Howard Dean, etc., will be sitting around wondering how Scott Walker could possibly have won the election. After all, they won’t have known anyone who voted for him.

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Brian Williams, His Fall from Grace, and the Need for Grace

I understand why NBC News suspended its anchor Brian Williams for six months without pay. His offense was serious, the news division’s credibility is hemorrhaging, and the story was growing rather than receding. It was dominating our conversation, to the point that even local and national sports radio programs were devoting time to it. Something clearly needed to be done. All things taken together, the penalty seems reasonable–tough, but reasonable–to me.

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I understand why NBC News suspended its anchor Brian Williams for six months without pay. His offense was serious, the news division’s credibility is hemorrhaging, and the story was growing rather than receding. It was dominating our conversation, to the point that even local and national sports radio programs were devoting time to it. Something clearly needed to be done. All things taken together, the penalty seems reasonable–tough, but reasonable–to me.

I’ve never met Mr. Williams and I don’t watch NBC Nightly News. But from what I can piece together, it appears as if his vanity and thirst for celebrity got the better of him. Stories that were at first embellished became, over time, fictionalized. He seems to have wanted his life to appear more interesting and more heroic than it was. Once the soldiers he flew with exposed his my-helicopter-was-shot-by-an-RPG-in-Iraq account as false, his career imploded. Within days the man who was seemingly on top of the journalist world has seen his life “shattered,” in the words of a close friend.

I can see why. Mr. Williams has become the object of unremitting ridicule, especially on social media. Like many others, I saw tweets mocking him–the pictures of Brian Williams at the Last Supper, next to Lincoln, on the moon, at the Battle of Thermopyle–and sent them to people I know. They seemed clever to me. But now, days later, I have a somewhat different view.

The reason is that responsible criticism of Brian Williams is one thing; non-stop derision and ridicule is something else. We’ve seen plenty of both. But the overall effect of the commentary about him–when you combine it all together–isn’t to hold him accountable; it’s to crush him. To shatter him. To make him a national joke. That would be painful for anyone–and I suspect it’s particularly painful for a man like Williams, who obviously cares very much what people, particularly people in the political class, think of him.

I don’t have any brilliant insights into when one crosses the line from legitimate criticism to unbecoming snideness to casual cruelty. All I can tell you is that for most of us, our failures, including our character failures, are not on full public display. They’re not focused on, dissected, talked about on national television and made the punch line of endless jokes. If they were, it would be a rather searing experience.

I get that Brian Williams is a public figure and he has benefited enormously from his fame. But he’s also a human being. And his sin–pride, vanity, the insatiable desire to be thought of as cooler and better and more impressive than we actually are–is fairly widespread, especially in the world he inhabits. That doesn’t lead everyone to embellish and mislead like Williams did, of course; but most of us have, in recounting our achievements and experiences, made them appear in a better light than they deserve.

I believe in accountability, and I hope I’m not downplaying the seriousness of what Mr. Williams has done. And obviously if it turns out that he’s misled us on more occasions than we know, the consequences will increase. But there is such a thing as piling on; and schadenfreude, while in some circumstances an understandable response, is never an admirable one. Much of the delight people seem to be taking in the fall of Brian Williams doesn’t have anything to do with him (he seems to be a pleasant enough individual); it seems to have to do with his position in life and success.

So I for one hope that the Brian Williams story begins to ebb, that no other transgressions are found, and that he’s given a second chance and makes the most of it. Often the best stories have to do with repair and redemption.

The writer Philip Yancey once said that the church’s mission was to be a haven of grace in this world of ungrace. We’ve seen plenty of the latter in our political culture. We all might be better served if we saw just a bit more of the former. Because one day you and I may need grace extended to us, just as Brian Williams needs it extended to him.

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Western Media Have Forgotten that Only the Truth Shall Set Us Free

One of the most insightful commentaries I’ve read about last week’s terror attacks in France was Ben-Dror Yemini’s column in Ynet yesterday. Yemini pointed out that someone who gets all his news from mainstream Western media would have no reason to believe Islamic extremism was a problem–not because the words “Islamist terror” aren’t used, but because the vast majority of the attacks themselves aren’t reported.

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One of the most insightful commentaries I’ve read about last week’s terror attacks in France was Ben-Dror Yemini’s column in Ynet yesterday. Yemini pointed out that someone who gets all his news from mainstream Western media would have no reason to believe Islamic extremism was a problem–not because the words “Islamist terror” aren’t used, but because the vast majority of the attacks themselves aren’t reported.

The handful of attacks on Western targets get extensive coverage, alongside a few particularly egregious attacks in non-Western countries, like last month’s assault on a Pakistani school. But the “routine” attacks that occur almost daily in the Muslim world, which have killed hundreds of thousands of people in recent years, go largely unreported.

Thus, for instance, the New York Times did report an exceptionally bloody Boko Haram attack last week that may have killed up to 2,000 Nigerians. But buried in the 12th paragraph is the shocking fact that Boko Haram killed around 10,000 people last year alone. How many of the thousands of attacks that produced those 10,000 victims did the Times report? Almost none.

Similarly, Al-Arabiya’s Hisham Melham noted last week that 74,000 people were killed in Syria last year, while in Iraq, the death toll averaged about 1,000 a month. But how many of the thousands of attacks that produced those grim totals did the mainstream Western media report? Again, almost none.

Yet the problem doesn’t end there, Yemini argued–because alongside its failure to report on Islamic terror, the mainstream media obsesses over Israel. And this has consequences not just for how people view Israel, but for how Muslims view the West.

To understand why, a brief illustration might help. On the Times’s website, the article about Boko Haram killing up to 2,000 people merited 540 words. By comparison, an article last month about a Palestinian who died at an anti-Israel demonstration (whether due to ill-treatment or a heart attack remains disputed) merited 1,040 words. Thus one Palestinian allegedly killed by Israel merited 4,000 times as many words as each Boko Haram victim–and the ratio would be much higher if you included all of the latter who never get reported at all. And every Palestinian killed or allegedly killed by Israel gets similarly extensive coverage.

Thus a Muslim who relies for information solely on the mainstream Western media would rationally conclude that Israel, not Islamic extremism, is the greatest source of death and destruction in the world today, Yemini argued. And in fact, though he didn’t mention it, listening to any Western leader would produce the same conclusion: All spend far more time condemning Israel than they do, say, Boko Haram or Syria’s Iranian-supported regime.

Yet when that same Western Muslim looks at his government’s policy, Yemini said, he sees that its actions contradict the rational conclusion he drew from the media. After all, Western countries are currently bombing ISIS, not Israel. And they imposed economic sanctions on Syria, not Israel. Thus the rational Muslim news consumer would conclude that Western governments are not only hypocrites, but anti-Muslim hypocrites: They engage in military and economic cooperation with Israel while employing military and economic force against Muslims, even though Israel, judging by Western media, would seem to be a far worse offender. And such anti-Muslim hypocrisy rightly makes this rational Muslim angry, Yemini wrote.

Of course, Western governments’ policies are actually far more closely aligned to reality than the distorted impression our hypothetical Muslim gets from the media. But he really has no way of knowing that, because the people he depends on for information–the media–consistently tell him the opposite.

Once upon a time, Western liberals understood the critical importance of truthful information. They genuinely believed, as the New Testament proclaims, that “the truth shall set you free.” That’s precisely why the West invested so heavily in media outlets like Voice of America and Radio Free Europe during the Cold War: Many Westerners genuinely believed that letting Eastern Europeans and Soviet citizens hear the truth, rather than the propaganda published in Soviet media, would help bring the Iron Curtain down. And history proved them right.

But today, it seems, Western liberals no longer believe in the power of truth. If they did, they would realize that the road to defeating Islamic extremism starts with reporting faithfully on all its victims, day in and day out. For only when people know the truth about the carnage this extremism has wrought might they begin to turn against it.

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BBC Reporter Blames Jews for European Anti-Semitism

With those murdered during Friday’s hostage taking at a Parisian kosher supermarket not yet buried, you might have thought that the media would allow the Jewish community a short grace period. Not if you’re the BBC. In the middle of yesterday’s “Unity March” in Paris, a BBC anchor began lecturing the daughter of Holocaust survivors on what Jews had done to provoke the anti-Semitism they are now experiencing in France. And quite apart from the fact that the BBC’s Tim Wilcox seemed to want to drag in the Palestinians and the Middle East at a completely inappropriate time, Wilcox’s conflation of “Israel” and “Jewish” certainly blows out of the water media claims that being anti-Israel has nothing to do with attitudes toward Jews.

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With those murdered during Friday’s hostage taking at a Parisian kosher supermarket not yet buried, you might have thought that the media would allow the Jewish community a short grace period. Not if you’re the BBC. In the middle of yesterday’s “Unity March” in Paris, a BBC anchor began lecturing the daughter of Holocaust survivors on what Jews had done to provoke the anti-Semitism they are now experiencing in France. And quite apart from the fact that the BBC’s Tim Wilcox seemed to want to drag in the Palestinians and the Middle East at a completely inappropriate time, Wilcox’s conflation of “Israel” and “Jewish” certainly blows out of the water media claims that being anti-Israel has nothing to do with attitudes toward Jews.

During yesterday’s rally in Paris—which reporters were eager to stress had a “carnival” atmosphere, with the coming together of many religions, ethnicities, and nations—the BBC interviewed a number of people from the crowd. Among those put on camera was a Jewish woman who was asked about her experience of anti-Semitism in France. When asked whether she felt secure in France the woman, referred to simply as Chava, expressed her fear that Europe was returning to the mood of the 1930s. However, when she began to insist that Jews must not be afraid to come out and say that they are the ones who are being targeted now, Tim Wilcox quickly shut her down. Interrupting, Wilcox put it to her: “Many critics, though, of Israel’s policy would suggest that the Palestinians suffer hugely at Jewish hands as well.”

It was clear that at the very moment that someone was attempting say that Jews must not be afraid to say they are being targeted, the BBC correspondent attempted to shame the speaker into silence. Clearly taken aback, Chava attempts to respond by explaining that these two issues can’t be so easily amalgamated, but once again Wilcox interjects to shut her up. This time he tells her: “But you understand everything is seen from different perspectives?” Whose different perspective is he referring to? The people who carry out attacks on French Jews? The people who think Jews deserve to be attacked because of the things that Israel is alleged to be doing?

The fact is, no BBC correspondent would have told the friends or family of the murdered cartoonists or policemen, “but you understand that everything is seen from different perspectives?” Indeed, if Muslims were being attacked–taken hostage and murdered–even if in a reprisal for last week’s atrocities, no BBC reporter would be lecturing a member of the Muslim community on how others had suffered at “Islamic hands.” Yet for Jews it is different. Apparently, just forty-eight hours after the murder of Jews in a supermarket, it is thought appropriate to lecture Jews on how they are responsible for causing people to hate them.

Even if Wilcox was not attempting to directly justify the attacks, it sounded a lot like he was telling a Jewish woman not to complain about anti-Semitism; doesn’t she know what “Jewish hands” are doing to Palestinians? Whatever Wilcox’s actual agenda here, it reveals an unpleasant undertone present throughout much of the European and liberal media’s attitude to Jews and Jew-hatred.

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The Return of Rudy Giuliani

Rudy Giuliani never fully left the national political scene after his brief run for the Republican presidential nomination ahead of the 2008 election. New York is too newsworthy a place, and Giuliani too newsworthy a figure, for him to fade just yet. But it’s clear now that with the issue of policing minority communities in the news and with the NYPD at the center of it, Giuliani has become a prominent spokesman for the police once again. Hizzoner never shies away from a fight, and the media has gone looking for one. (Which may help explain why Rudy, and not the current mayor’s immediate predecessor Michael Bloomberg, has been the go-to pol on the issue.) And yet again, the press has gone looking for a fight it hasn’t figured out how to win.

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Rudy Giuliani never fully left the national political scene after his brief run for the Republican presidential nomination ahead of the 2008 election. New York is too newsworthy a place, and Giuliani too newsworthy a figure, for him to fade just yet. But it’s clear now that with the issue of policing minority communities in the news and with the NYPD at the center of it, Giuliani has become a prominent spokesman for the police once again. Hizzoner never shies away from a fight, and the media has gone looking for one. (Which may help explain why Rudy, and not the current mayor’s immediate predecessor Michael Bloomberg, has been the go-to pol on the issue.) And yet again, the press has gone looking for a fight it hasn’t figured out how to win.

The media’s beclowning at the hands of the man who played a major role in saving New York City from the left began, unsurprisingly, with the new breed of liberal columnists calling themselves “fact checkers.” The moniker is usually the columnists’ way of cutting corners on reporting and research and appealing to authority instead of to facts. The Washington Post’s Michelle Ye Hee Lee picked a fight with Rudy in late November and thoroughly embarrassed herself.

The background was that after the Ferguson, Missouri death of Michael Brown after a struggle with a police officer, Giuliani appeared on Meet the Press to talk about the often fraught relationship between the police and the communities they serve and protect. Giuliani doesn’t mince words, so when he made a comment about black-on-black crime, liberal grievance mongers perked up and went to work trying (unsuccessfully) to slime him. One of those was Michelle Ye Hee Lee.

The “fact-checked” comment was Giuliani’s claim that “93 percent of blacks are killed by other blacks.” The Post checked the numbers and found that Giuliani was correct. Case closed, right? Of course not. Citing a lack of “context” (more on that in a moment), the Post gave Giuliani’s 100-percent correct statement two Pinocchios. The explanation: “Ultimately, it is misleading for Giuliani to simplify this topic to the 93 percent statistic and then omit the corresponding statistic for intraracial white murders.”

This is exactly wrong. Giuliani was asked by Chuck Todd (as the Post noted in passing) about the racial makeup of police forces and the corresponding racial makeup of the communities they serve. The question was about whether a place like Ferguson was a powder keg because it has a police force much whiter than the town. In other words, would racial homogeneity be a solution? Giuliani’s response was perfectly on point: No, racial homogeneity does not reduce violence according to the government’s own statistics. Giuliani didn’t mention white-on-white crime because he wasn’t asked about it, but it also proves his point.

Giuliani would become something of a ubiquitous presence on cable news and political talk shows when the controversy made its way to New York, after an unarmed black man was killed by a police officer during an arrest and the officer was not indicted by the grand jury. Mass protests ensued, the relationship between Mayor Bill de Blasio—a former admirer of Marxist revolutionaries and an acidic critic of the police—deteriorated, and two police officers were executed on the job by a man claiming revenge for both recent police incidents.

Giuliani criticized de Blasio, whose handling of the situation (he lost influence among the leftist protesters as well, making him almost irrelevant to solving the escalating tensions) could hardly have been worse. He also criticized President Obama, who had been elevating the anti-Semitic extremist Al Sharpton in profile as an advisor on race. Giuliani was right, of course, but he actually defended de Blasio at times as well.

He refused to blame the political leadership for the murder of the two cops, rebutting the claim by some on the right that de Blasio had “blood on his hands.” He also criticized the police for turning their backs on de Blasio in public. But that didn’t stop the left from simply pretending Giuliani said things he didn’t.

Haaretz columnist Peter Beinart wrote a mildly delusional piece criticizing those who criticize incitement. This was Beinart’s way of furthering the deeply unintelligent meme that Benjamin Netanyahu belongs not in his own country but in America so he can join the Republican Party. But smearing Giuliani was also part of the argument. Early in the column, Beinart wrote:

Earlier this week, after a deranged African American man murdered two New York policemen, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani blamed “four months of propaganda,” led by U.S. President Barack Obama, which convinced the killer “that everybody should hate the police.”

In fact, the opposite is true. If you follow Beinart’s link (which shows that he must have known what he was writing was completely untrue), you come to a Politico story that debunks the accusation. The line just before saying who Giuliani blamed says that when Giuliani was specifically asked “if he had ever seen the city he once governed so divided, Giuliani shook his head and said, ‘I don’t think so.’”

Giuliani was pointing fingers at the political leadership over the divided atmosphere in the city, not the murders. When people started assigning blame to de Blasio, Giuliani fired back at his own side, telling them to dial down their rhetoric:

“Stop this stuff with ‘the blood is on his hands.’ The blood is not on his hands,” the former mayor told 1010 WINS. “I don’t think the mayor is responsible for this. I think that’s an incorrect and incendiary charge…I do think he should change some of his policies.”

So why are people spreading easily disproved fabrications about Giuliani? The answer might lie in his latest date with the Washington Post’s fact checkers. Just before the year was out, Michelle Ye Hee Lee took one more swing at Hizzoner, and missed badly. The statement being fact checked was Giuliani’s claim that Obama “has had Al Sharpton to the White House 80, 85 times. … You make Al Sharpton a close adviser, you are going to turn the police in America against you.”

The Post again checked Rudy’s stats, and again found them to be correct. But he still received one Pinocchio for the part about Sharpton being a close advisor. Giuliani was referencing reporting that Obama had made Sharpton just such an advisor on race issues. He was right again. But the Post disagreed because … well, because they didn’t want him to be right.

Giuliani has a habit of saying the truth in the least-equivocating way possible. It sounds inflammatory, and he is forever offering uncomfortable truths. If you accurately report what he says, you undercut, if not demolish completely, the left’s argument. And so those with an agenda appear incapable of telling the truth when it means they agree with Rudy Giuliani.

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GOP ‘House of Cards’ Problem, Part Two

Some right-wing bloggers are jumping on a new interview with a former David Duke aide as proof that the allegations that House Majority Whip Steve Scalise spoke to a racist group affiliated with the former Ku Klux Klan leader were misleading if not downright inaccurate. If so, all those (including me) who have called for Scalise’s resignation as the number three person in the House GOP leadership were wrong. But while the story may not be quite as clear cut as we originally thought, those claiming that this is just another liberal media hit job on a conservative are off base. Scalise’s judgment is still very much in question, as is his continued utility to a Republican Party that doesn’t need any additional burdens in its efforts to restrain Barack Obama’s imperial presidency.

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Some right-wing bloggers are jumping on a new interview with a former David Duke aide as proof that the allegations that House Majority Whip Steve Scalise spoke to a racist group affiliated with the former Ku Klux Klan leader were misleading if not downright inaccurate. If so, all those (including me) who have called for Scalise’s resignation as the number three person in the House GOP leadership were wrong. But while the story may not be quite as clear cut as we originally thought, those claiming that this is just another liberal media hit job on a conservative are off base. Scalise’s judgment is still very much in question, as is his continued utility to a Republican Party that doesn’t need any additional burdens in its efforts to restrain Barack Obama’s imperial presidency.

As I noted earlier in the week, Scalise’s problem arose from the revelation that he spoke at a conference of a white supremacist group in 2002 connected to the odious Duke before he entered Congress. While Scalise said he couldn’t recall the event and opposed the group’s beliefs, he nevertheless apologized for speaking to the European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO). Scalise claimed he wasn’t aware of the connection to hate but was merely addressing what he thought was a constituency group. One of Duke’s associates, Kenny Knight, told the Washington Post’s Robert Costa on Tuesday that he had arranged the appearance with Scalise, whom he described as a neighbor and a friend.

“He was my neighbor,” Knight said of Scalise, who was serving as a state representative at the time of the conference. “I asked him to be the first speaker before the meeting kicked off.”…

“This all came about because I organized the EURO meeting for David Duke as a courtesy after he had moved to Russia. I’ve known David for 40 years so I did him a favor. As part of that, I decided to ask Steve, our local representative, to come by and say a few words before the conference started,” Knight said. “He agreed, believing it was going to be neighbors, friends, and family. He saw me not as David Duke’s guy, but as the president of our civic association.” …

“Steve came in early on the first day of EURO, spoke for about 15 minutes, and he left,” Knight recalled. “He didn’t hear David speak remotely to the crowd.”

While this was not evidence of Scalise’s support for the hate group’s ideology, it was nonetheless a damning indictment of his judgment in choosing to associate with it and enough to justify calls for his resignation. Though, as I also noted, he was probably being judged by a different standard than President Obama has been for his 20-year membership in a church run by a hatemonger like Rev. Jeremiah Wright or for treating Al Sharpton as his chief advisor on race, Scalise was nonetheless guilty of making a critical error that could handicap his party’s efforts to govern effectively. Fair or not, he had to go.

But now Knight, the same person who dropped the dime on Scalise, is trying to undo the damage done to the majority whip. Knight told the New Orleans Times-Picayune that Scalise actually spoke at a meeting of the Jefferson Heights Civic Association, not Duke’s EURO. In this version of the story, Scalise spoke to the Civic Association two and a half hours before the racist conference although it was at the same hotel and apparently involved some of the same people.

Is this enough to get Scalise off the hook? At least as far as many on the right are concerned it is, and some right-wing bloggers are treating the whole thing as the moral equivalent of Rolling Stone’s University of Virginia rape hoax. But the problem with this assertion is that it rests on the word of an entirely unsavory character that is now claiming that Costa got the story wrong when he interviewed him. But this strains credibility. Costa is a good reporter and, far from a product of the liberal media bias establishment, is a veteran of National Review. It’s more than likely that Knight’s second version of the story is merely an attempt to walk back quotes that got a conservative into trouble rather than the truth. At best, Scalise still compromised himself by his involvement with some not-so-attractive customers.

Yet with most of his GOP colleagues, including House Speaker John Boehner, already standing by Scalise, this muddying of the waters may be sufficient to allow him to weather the storm and to hope that eventually the media will tire of the story and leave him alone. If he were a liberal Democrat, that might happen. But since Scalise has already apologized for the mistake that some of his defenders are now lamely claiming never happened, you can bet that Democrats will be beating the House GOP up for this as long as Scalise remains in the leadership. Indeed, irrespective of the doubts that have been raised about Scalise’s level of culpability, liberal organs like the New York Times are already running specious features about David Duke’s influence on the Republican Party in the South, in spite of the fact that the GOP and its grass roots wants nothing to do with the rabid extremist hater.

It may be that Steve Scalise will hang on to his post as majority whip, a job that most Americans only know about from the fact that it was the starting point for the villainous protagonist of Netflix’s House of Cards series. But the last thing Republicans intent on showing that they can use their control of both houses of Congress to govern effectively is a plot line that will allow liberals to smear them as racists. Scalise committed no crime but he probably knew he was skirting the line of respectability when he spoke to what may or may not have been a hate group in 2002. No one said politics is fair. Like it or not, Scalise is going to be a liability to the GOP for as long as he remains in office. It’s up to Boehner to decide if he wants to spend 2015 going toe-to-toe with Obama and the media with this kind of a handicap.

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Public Trust in Media at an All-Time Low

According to the most recent Gallup survey:

Americans’ confidence in the media’s ability to report “the news fully, accurately, and fairly” has returned to its previous all-time low of 40%. Americans’ trust in mass media has generally been edging downward from higher levels in the late 1990s and the early 2000s.

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According to the most recent Gallup survey:

Americans’ confidence in the media’s ability to report “the news fully, accurately, and fairly” has returned to its previous all-time low of 40%. Americans’ trust in mass media has generally been edging downward from higher levels in the late 1990s and the early 2000s.

A few data points worth noting:

  • In the last 15 years, the percentage of Americans expressing a great deal or a fair amount of trust in the media was 55 percent. The drop in trust in the media has been trending downward since then — and is now 15 points below what it was in 1999.
  • Trust among Democrats, who have traditionally expressed much higher levels of confidence in the media than Republicans have, dropped to a 14-year low of 54 percent in 2014.
  • Republicans’ trust in the media is at 27 percent, one percentage point above their all-time low, while independents held steady at 38 percent — up one point from 37 percent in 2013.
  • Democrats — with a majority of 52 percent — are most likely to think the media are just about right, while a mere 18 percent of Republicans feel this way about the news. More than seven in 10 Republicans say the media are too liberal.
  • Americans are most likely to feel the news media are “too liberal” (44 percent) rather than “too conservative,” though this perceived liberal bias is now on the lower side of the trend. One in three (34 percent) say the media are “just about right” in terms of their coverage — down slightly from 37 percent last year.
  • Nearly one in five Americans (19 percent) say the media are too conservative, which is still relatively low, but the highest such percentage since 2006. This is up six points from 2013 — the sharpest increase in the percentage of Americans who feel the news skews too far right since Gallup began asking the question in 2001.

Gallup’s bottom line:

Though a sizable percentage of Americans continue to have a great deal or fair amount of trust in the media, Americans’ overall trust in the Fourth Estate continues to be significantly lower now than it was 10 to 15 years ago.

As the media expand into new domains of news reporting via social media networks and new mobile technology, Americans may be growing disenchanted with what they consider “mainstream” news as they seek out their own personal veins of getting information… the overarching pattern of the past decade has shown few signs of slowing the decline of faith in mass media as a whole.

The declining trust in mass media is part of a broader trend in which confidence is down among many institutions, but most especially among our political institutions — media, Congress, the Democratic and Republican parties, and the presidency.

Much of the loss of trust is well earned, and so the task of leaders in these institutions is to take steps that restores credibility in them. There’s no quick or easy way to do this; if it happens it will be the product of responsible conduct and moments of real excellence, done consistently and over an extended period of time. Here’s to hoping that 2015 will mark the beginning of this vital project. Because I’m one of those conservatives who believes that the corrosive skepticism and cynicism we’re witnessing is harmful to us, to our trust in one another and to our confidence in America and the future.

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After Cops Die, de Blasio Can’t Blame Media for False Racist Narrative

Backed into a corner by the backlash against those who have fed a campaign of hate against police after the murders of two cops over the weekend, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio resorted to the last ditch of all failing politicians: blame the media. But like all such attempts, this one won’t divert public attention away from the hateful atmosphere toward police created by his statements as well as those of other politicians, media figures, and racial hucksters who turned the Ferguson, Missouri incident and the death of Eric Garner into an excuse for cop-bashing.

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Backed into a corner by the backlash against those who have fed a campaign of hate against police after the murders of two cops over the weekend, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio resorted to the last ditch of all failing politicians: blame the media. But like all such attempts, this one won’t divert public attention away from the hateful atmosphere toward police created by his statements as well as those of other politicians, media figures, and racial hucksters who turned the Ferguson, Missouri incident and the death of Eric Garner into an excuse for cop-bashing.

During a press conference with Police Commissioner William Bratton, de Blasio was asked by reporter Tony Aiello of CBS New York about the torrent of abuse directed at police by protesters at rallies he and other liberal politicians supported. His response was not only to minimize the problem but to blame journalists for highlighting the chants and threats aimed at cops. Here’s what the mayor said when asked about the hateful chants and whether he would be comfortable with members of his household—whom he had featured in comments highly critical of the police—using such language:

Of course not. We’ve talked about this so many times and I’m not going to talk about it again. And now the question now is, what are you guys going to do? What are you guys going to do? Are you going to keep dividing us? I am telling you over again again, that’s how you want to portray the world but we know a different reality. There are people who do that. It’s wrong. It’s wrong. They shouldn’t do that. It’s immoral, it’s wrong, it’s nasty, it’s negative. They should not do that but they, my friend, are not the majority. Stop portraying them as the majority.

It’s possible to argue that the people in the streets calling for the deaths of policemen are not the majority of those who have protested the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. But for de Blasio to claim that it is the media who have divided Americans is worse than a joke. It’s a big lie intended to divert attention away from what the mayor, the president, the attorney general, and media figures like Al Sharpton who have been dividing us, have done.

Having spent the last four months doing their best to establish a narrative that seemed to claim that all white police personnel were a threat to the safety of African-Americans, these left-wingers are in no position to be complaining about divisive statements. Nor can they credibly gripe about taking incidents out of context and call for us to focus on the big picture of the protests they helped spark.

Though the mayor deserves credit for calling for an end to demonstrations in the wake of the anti-police violence, an honest assessment of his own role in fomenting resentment of New York’s Finest should take into account that he was elected to his office in no small measure because of his attacks on the cops. Since taking office he has clashed repeatedly with the police and then joined in the gang tackle on them after Ferguson and the Garner death.

The whole point of his critique was to create division and anger in which the police were not only the objects of angry protest but also blamed for perpetuating a Jim Crow-style racism of the past that died long before most of today’s policemen were born.

Even more to the point, the mayor’s complaints about taking things out of context could better be applied to his attempts, along with those of others on the left, to take two very different and unusual incidents with tragic outcomes and then weave them together into a narrative in which police were seen as racists bent on shooting and strangling innocent blacks.

Though the mayor may think anti-police threats are bad, by stoking those unreasonable fears with incendiary comments about teaching his son to fear the police, he bears a degree of responsibility for an atmosphere in which it seems possible to say just about anything about cops.

It’s true that some elements of the media do deserve blame. But it’s not those who rightly covered the “pigs in a blanket” and “dead cops” chants and brought them to public attention. Rather, it’s the racial hucksters who speak from their bully pulpits on MSNBC, CNN, and the broadcast networks who have incited hatred against the brave men and women who put their lives on the line to protect minority populations and neighborhoods as well as everyone else.

For decades, liberals have mocked conservatives who complain about media bias in favor of the left. So perhaps it’s understandable that de Blasio is angry with some in the press corps who think they shouldn’t be the bodyguards of the left. If de Blasio thinks he can get away with such a transparent ploy, he’s not quite as ready for prime time as he thinks. Those in law enforcement deserved de Blasio’s support when the mob was baying for the blood. Instead, de Blasio, Obama, and Holder were egging on the protesters. It’s too late for the mayor to evade responsibility for that failure by blaming those journalists who are doing their jobs.

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Don’t Like Anti-Semitism? Then Don’t Encourage It.

In Britain, prominent Jewish figures are expressing concern about the rising tide of anti-Semitism in that country. Most recently the director of the BBC Danny Cohen has stated that he has never felt so uncomfortable being Jewish in Britain. He even went so far as to cast doubt on the long-term future of Anglo-Jewry. Similarly, Labor Party leader Ed Miliband—also Jewish—has called for a “zero tolerance” approach to anti-Semitism. The great irony here, however, is that both men are Jews heading organizations which, through their portrayal and policy on Israel, are laying the groundwork for yet more Jew-hatred.

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In Britain, prominent Jewish figures are expressing concern about the rising tide of anti-Semitism in that country. Most recently the director of the BBC Danny Cohen has stated that he has never felt so uncomfortable being Jewish in Britain. He even went so far as to cast doubt on the long-term future of Anglo-Jewry. Similarly, Labor Party leader Ed Miliband—also Jewish—has called for a “zero tolerance” approach to anti-Semitism. The great irony here, however, is that both men are Jews heading organizations which, through their portrayal and policy on Israel, are laying the groundwork for yet more Jew-hatred.

The correlation between the demonization of Israel and attacks on Jews worldwide is hardly in doubt. The dramatic spike in anti-Semitic attacks throughout the diaspora that coincided with this summer’s Gaza war speaks for itself. That is not to suggest that Israeli policy is the underlying cause of anti-Semitism, but rather just as Church doctrine or Social Darwinism were ideologies used as a conduit for anti-Semitism, today anti-Zionism, with its depiction of events in Israel, takes the position as the primary outlet for anti-Semitism. And while both Danny Cohen and Ed Miliband are quite right to be concerned by the rising tide of Jew-hatred in Britain today, there is no escaping the fact that both the BBC and the Labor Party have played a role in stoking the kind of contempt for the Jewish state that leads directly to the increasingly common verbal and physical attacks on British Jews.

Danny Cohen only took over as head of BBC television in May 2013, and so can hardly be held responsible for the BBC’s long legacy of slanted reporting on Israel. And in fairness, Cohen has pledged to give prominence to programming about the Holocaust to mark the upcoming memorial day. Still, during the recent Gaza conflict there were several troubling moments at the BBC. One particularly memorable incident was news anchor Emily Maitlis’s grilling of Israeli spokesman Mark Regev. Maitlis—who is herself Jewish—hounded Regev on the point of a UN shelter that had been hit, possibly by Israel, possibly by Hamas. The implicit suggestion in Maitlis’s questioning was that Israel had the exact coordinates of the shelter, that Israel knew that it was full of women and children, that Israel had refused to permit an evacuation of those in the shelter, and that Israel had intentionally gone ahead and hit it anyway. Her accusatory questions became fiercest when she asserted: “But you said you were going to hit it, you hit it, you killed them! You knew there were children in that building!”

Meanwhile, under Ed Miliband Labor has veered toward being far more overtly hostile to the Jewish state. While it is true that this process has been taking place on the left of that party for some time, under the stewardship of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown Labor policy remained resolutely supportive of the Jewish state. Yet under Miliband, the son of Holocaust refugees, this has begun to change. Not only did Miliband condemn Israel’s war against Hamas this summer, but he publicly attacked Prime Minister Cameron’s refusal to join in with the chorus of condemnation, calling Cameron’s stance “unacceptable and unjustifiable.” Miliband further outraged Israel supporters when he recently attended the gala dinner for Labor Friends of Palestine—a group which reportedly backs anti-Israel boycotts.

More than anything else, what stood out was Miliband’s decision to whip the vote on Palestinian statehood, obliging all Labor parliamentarians to support unilateral recognition of Palestinian statehood regardless of the security implications for Israel. During the debate for that vote, some of the most aggressively anti-Israel speeches came from the Labor benches. The Jewish Labor MP Gerald Kaufman, who has previously compared Israeli actions in Gaza to those of the Nazis in the Warsaw Ghetto, denounced Israel for provoking the anti-Semitism that he claimed he wished to see an end of. Indeed, Kaufman quite preposterously claimed that Israel is damaging the image of Judaism. It seems not to occur to Mr. Kaufman that it might be his own very public misrepresentation of the Jewish state that could be contributing to anti-Semitism.

So many of the accusations thrown at Israel today echo far older incarnations of Jew-hatred. Once it was accusations of Jews murdering and kidnapping Christian children, and now the accusation is of Israelis imprisoning minors and bombing Palestinian children. Once it was said that the Jews poisoned wells and caused the crops to fail, now that waste water from settlements pollutes Palestinian fields and drinking water. Similarly, the prominent depiction of blood and Palestinian children in contemporary political cartoons about Israel mirrors so precisely the imagery found in medieval anti-Semitism. What was particularly remarkable about medieval anti-Semitism was that whether it was the show trials of the Talmud, the Spanish Inquisition, or the numerous blood libel cases, time and again the names of Jewish converts who had risen high in the Church establishment are found littering the history books on account of the unique role they played in putting anti-Jewish ideas into non-Jewish heads. Perhaps there really is nothing new under the sun.

To be clear: when Miliband and Cohen decry the rise of anti-Semitism it is not in doubt that they are being sincere. But they are also being woefully naive if they fail to see the role the organizations they head have in stoking that same anti-Semitism.

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