“A lie can get halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes.”
That nugget of wisdom dates from the 1800s, i.e., decades before anyone ever heard of the Internet — much less Fox “News.”
If a lie traveled that fast in the 19th century, you can only imagine its speed in the 21st, when media and the World Wide Web have given it wings. Indeed, in 2016, the lie is so broadly and brazenly told as to cower truth itself and to render impotent and faintly ridiculous the little voice insisting, against all evidence, that facts matter.
It seems increasingly obvious that to many of us, they simply don’t. Not anymore. We find ourselves embarked upon a post-empirical era in which the very idea that facts are knowable and concrete has become quaint. These days, facts are whatever the politics of the moment needs them to be.
We’ve seen this over and over in recent years. We’ve seen it in the controversy over Barack Obama’s birthplace, in the accusations that Sept. 11 was an inside job, in the charge that weapons of mass destruction were in fact discovered in Iraq, and in the claims that there is no scientific consensus about global warming.
Lunatic assertions that fly in the face of the known are now the norm in American political discourse. So last week’s news out of Houston came as a welcome jolt.
It seems Planned Parenthood was exonerated by a grand jury after an investigation into spurious charges the reproductive healthcare provider was selling baby parts for profit. Simultaneously, two so-called “citizen journalists” who orchestrated the hoax — David Daleiden, 27, and Sandra Merritt, 62 — were indicted.
It was a moment of sweet vindication for Planned Parenthood, following months of vilification and investigation. This all sprang from a series of videos secretly recorded by Daleiden’s anti-abortion group, “The Center For Medical Progress” during conversations with officials of various Planned Parenthood affiliates.
Released last year, the videos purported to show the officials negotiating the sale of fetal tissue with people they believed to be medical researchers. As Planned Parenthood first protested, an investigation by FactCheck.org later indicated, and a grand jury now affirms, the videos were deceptively edited. Tissue from aborted fetuses has been used in biomedical research since the 1930s to study everything from polio to Parkinson’s, and while the law prohibits its sale, the patient is allowed to donate it, and Planned Parenthood is allowed to recoup reasonable costs for preparation and transportation to supply it to scientists.
This is what the Planned Parenthood representatives were talking about. This is what the videos were edited to hide.
One is reminded of how, back in 2010, another activist used another deceptively-edited video to suggest that a speech by a black federal employee named Shirley Sherrod was proof of anti-white hatred. It turned out Sherrod’s speech actually made precisely the opposite point; she spoke of the need to overcome such hatred.
That video, like these, suggests that what we’re dealing with here is not “citizen journalists” — whatever that idiotic term even means — but activist zealots out to advance their agenda and embarrass their opponents by any means necessary, without regard to simple decency or plain old truth. Increasingly, that is the way of things.
So it’s welcome news that the two CPM hoaxers find themselves facing felony charges for allegedly using falsified driver’s licenses to identify themselves to Planned Parenthood. We are told that that constitutes fraud. In other words, Daleiden and Merritt were ensnared by the trap they set. Justice seldom gets more poetic.
Yes, lies have always moved faster than truth. But it feels good to see truth pull even every now and then.
By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, January 31, 2016
The last time evangelist Franklin Graham tried to vote with his feet, it didn’t go very well. The story of Graham’s choice of banks gained national attention over the summer when he was so outraged by a Wells Fargo television commercial featuring a couple adopting a deaf child that he took action: Graham moved his ministry’s considerable assets out of Wells Fargo altogether, as part of Graham’s effort to fight “moral decay.”
The funny part came when we learned the evangelist moved his money to BB&T, overlooking its sponsorship of gay-pride events and its 80% score in the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index.
Six months later, Graham is voting with his feet again, this time he’s marching out of the Republican Party. Alabama Media Group reported today (thanks to my colleague Laura Conaway for the heads-up):
Evangelist Franklin Graham announced Monday that he left the Republican Party and is now an independent over the GOP’s failure to defund Planned Parenthood in last week’s omnibus spending bill.
Graham, the son of legendary preacher Billy Graham, compared the controversy over Planned Parenthood allegedly discussing selling fetal tissue to the Nazis in a Facebook post explaining why he quit the Republican Party.
“There’s no question – taxpayers should not be paying for abortions!” Graham said by way of an explanation. “Abortion is murder in God’s eyes. Seeing and hearing Planned Parenthood talk nonchalantly about selling baby parts from aborted fetuses with utter disregard for human life is reminiscent of Joseph Mengele and the Nazi concentration camps! That should’ve been all that was needed to turn off the faucet for their funding.”
For the record, whether Graham realizes this or not, taxpayer funding of abortion is already prohibited under federal law. What’s more, there is no evidence, video or otherwise, of Planned Parenthood ever “selling baby parts.”
Or put another way, the evangelist appears to have walked away from the Republican Party for reasons that don’t make a lot of sense – kind of like his decision to change banks.
Postscript: My wife works for Planned Parenthood, but she played no role in this piece.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, December 22, 2015
“The Terrorism We Tolerate”: Our Collective Denial Allows Anti-Government Domestic Extremists To Slip Under The Radar
As a nation, we’re loath to tackle uncomfortable conversations. It’s far easier to put our collective head in the sand and go-along to get along. So we didn’t see it coming when a perfect storm of extremism hit a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic the Friday after Thanksgiving.
A loner named Robert Dear Jr. is charged with the murder of three people after he allegedly opened fire on a Planned Parenthood facility. After a five-hour stand-off with police, his reported rampage left nine wounded and an Iraq War veteran, police officer and young mother dead. It’s both an outrage and a tragedy, and when you break it down, the story of this mass shooting reads like a field guide to Realities We’d Rather Not Talk About.
We’d rather paint Islam as the face of terrorism most imminently threatening the U.S. than talk about American-born, non-Muslim radicals.
Indeed, anti-government extremists pose a greater threat to the homeland than does the Islamic State group or al-Qaida, according to the Justice Department’s head of national security. The numbers are striking: Anti-government extremists caused the deaths of 254 people in the 10 years after 9/11; Islamic extremists were responsible for approximately 50 deaths. In other words, you’re seven times more likely to be killed by a homegrown, anti-government extremist than a Muslim terrorist.
Yet following the Islamic State group’s attack in Paris, the U.S. was awash with calls to block the entry of Syrian refugees in the name of national security – even though several of the Paris terrorists were French-born. In the wake of Friday’s mass shooting at Planned Parenthood, there’s been no similar national security outcry over European-born refugees who have already entered the U.S. nor fears of a threat from white, Christian men, despite the fact that Dear was Caucasian and reportedly professed to be a Christian.
Instead it’s considered offensive even to acknowledge the existence of domestic extremism: In 2009, then-DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano was forced to defend agency intelligence reports on the dangers posed by anti-government radicals after pundits and lawmakers from both parties blasted the report as an attack on Americans exercising free speech.
We’d rather not talk about how easy it is to acquire a gun in this country, either.
Dear allegedly used an AK-47 style, high-powered assault rifle to carry out the mass shooting and may have brought “duffel bags full of rifles and handguns” with him to the clinic – enough weaponry for the hours-long standoff with police.
All that firepower was in the hands of a man with a history of mental instability and run-ins with law enforcement. Dear was charged with rape in 1992. Years afterward, he was arrested for peeping tom accusations and later on animal cruelty charges. An ex-wife once made a domestic violence call to police after a fight with Dear. Stories from neighbors and online postings suggest he was a doomsday prepper who believed metal roofs would keep the government from spying on him.
Details are still emerging about Dear’s weapons and how he acquired them, and it’s unclear that a background check would have found him unfit to purchase a gun. But any attempt to discuss whether or not citizens should have the right to amass a military-grade weapons cache is shot down as an attack on the Second Amendment. It’s “politicizing” a mass shooting to bring up these questions, and even when 90 percent of Americans desire increased gun safety regulations or kindergarteners are slaughtered in their classroom, the National Rifle Association succeeds in silencing not only any legislation but national dialogue on guns as well. And meanwhile, we’ve had 351 mass shootings in the first 334 days of this year. That’s the latest count, anyway.
What’s more, we’d rather not correct the record on the fact that Planned Parenthood was not in the business of harvesting baby parts.
The investigation into Dear’s motives is still ongoing, but his reported declaration about “no more baby parts” to police is telling. It’s seemingly a reference to anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress’ videos on Planned Parenthood, heavily edited to concoct the impression that the organization is involved in the illegal sale of fetal tissue. The myth was repeated so often, and with so little pushback, that it’s now taken as a given in our national discussions about Planned Parenthood. Without batting an eye, Republicans cite it to rail against women’s health care in presidential debates, and governors use it to justify witch hunts into the organization and cuts to women’s health access. The videos have inspired their very own House select panel.
Imagine holding the sincere belief that a government-sanctioned organization was involved in the butchery and sale of baby parts. It’s an outrageous idea, and one Dear may have come to believe from hearing it so oft-repeated. He wouldn’t have been alone in this belief – threats against Planned Parenthood reportedly spiked after the videos were released.
It’s unfair, of course, to assume that a national dialogue on any of these issues would have stopped the Planned Parenthood shooter from carrying out his hideous plan. But ignoring them doesn’t help either. Our collective denial allows white, anti-government extremists to slip under the radar with their arms full of guns and their heads full of lies.
By: Emily Arrowood, Assistant Editor for Opinion, Thomas Jefferson Street Blog, U.S. News & World Report, December 1, 2015
“Not Outright Guilty, But Not Innocent Either”: Republicans Dance Close To Line In Regards To Planned Parenthood
Our question of the day: Who — or what — should take the blame?
The reference is to last week’s act of domestic terrorism at a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs. Authorities say three people were killed and nine wounded by Robert Dear, an eccentric, 57-year-old recluse.
After his arrest, he is reported to have muttered something about “No more baby parts,” an apparent reference to a controversial hidden-camera video purporting to prove Planned Parenthood harvests and sells the organs of aborted fetuses for a profit, a charge the organization has strenuously denied.
So who is responsible for this atrocity?
It’s a question asked with numbing frequency in a country where you can pretty much set your watch by the random shootings. Nor are answers ever in short supply. We frequently hear that someone’s rhetoric is at fault.
This happened four years ago when a mentally ill man killed six people and wounded 13 others, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, in Tucson. Jane Fonda blamed Sarah Palin.
It happened last year, when a deranged man ambushed and executed two police officers in Brooklyn. Erick Erickson, a Fox “News” contributor, blamed President Obama.
So one is hardly surprised, in the wake of this latest shooting, that Dawn Laguens, Planned Parenthood’s executive vice president, blamed the “toxic environment” created by Republican presidential candidates.
Truth is, if you want to blame someone for this shooting, start with the man who pulled the trigger. You might also investigate what roles were played by the mental health system and the legal system that allowed him access to a weapon of mass destruction.
Point being, in the rush to draw the larger moral lesson, one should be wary of absolving the guilty of their crimes, even if only by inference. That said, let us note that Laguens’ criticism is qualitatively different from that leveled by Fonda against Palin or Erickson against Obama. Meaning that it’s not absurd on its face.
After all, while one has a constitutionally guaranteed right to express one’s opinion, one has no such right to threaten or incite violence. There is, in other words, a fundamental difference between saying “Joe is a terrible person” and saying “Somebody should teach Joe a lesson” or “Joe needs to get what’s coming to him.”
Have Republicans crossed that line with regard to Planned Parenthood?
Probably not. But they have danced uncomfortably and undeniably close to it. When you habitually refer to abortion providers as criminals, butchers, Nazis, barbarians, and baby killers, you cannot be surprised if someone sees them as less than human — and acts accordingly. Carry lit matches through dry tinder and every now and again, you will start a fire.
One is reminded of how, years ago, before he himself became a TV cop, rapper and heavy metal singer Ice-T was asked if he thought his songs expressing hatred of police might cause acts of violence against them.
He said no. If somebody aspired to kill cops, he said, “All I did was make him a theme song.” He was right, except that he seemed to think himself morally exonerated by that reasoning.
But if you create an environment where violence against some person or group seems righteous — even if you don’t explicitly call for that violence — are your hands wholly clean when the violence comes? If you give hatred a theme song, what is your responsibility when a disaffected soul starts singing along?
You’ll find no pat answers here — only a question worth pondering for people of conscience in general and the Republican contenders in particular. No, they did not cause this shooting. They are not guilty.
Problem is, they’re not innocent, either.
By: Leonard Pitts., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, December 2, 2015
“An Ugly Troubling Trend”: The Planned Parenthood Attack And How Homegrown Terrorism Gets Downplayed By The Press
The deadly gun rampage that erupted inside a Planned Parenthood health care facility in Colorado Springs last week capped a disturbing week of political violence and intimidation from the far right:
*November 22: Armed vigilantes who gathered outside a Dallas area mosque announced they were going to publish the home addresses of local Muslim worshipers and label them “Muslim sympathizers.”
*November 23: A man was arrested for leaving a phony explosive device at a Falls Church, Virginia mosque. The suspect allegedly also threw two smoke bombs and a Molotov cocktail toward the building.
*November 23: A Black Lives Matter protester was kicked, punched and choked at a Donald Trump rally.
*November 24: Four men have been arrested in connection with a shooting at a Black Lives Matter protest in Minneapolis. Three of the suspects reportedly were fascinated “with guns, video games, the Confederacy and right-wing militia groups.”
If we scan back a few more weeks we see an equally troubling trend:
*November 11: “Two men described by authorities as white supremacists have been charged in Virginia with trying to illegally buy weapons and explosives to use in attacks on synagogues and black churches.”
*October 12: Georgia state prosecutors indicted 15 members of a Confederate flag-waving convoy on terroristic threats after they menaced a black family celebrating a birthday party.
Meanwhile, recent months have seen a plague of terror attacks targeting Planned Parenthood facilities, to the point where the FBI in September warned that “it is likely criminal or suspicious incidents will continue to be directed against reproductive health care providers, their staff and facilities.” (The current campaign of terror and harassment is not a new one.)
As CBS reported [emphasis added]:
At that time, there had already been nine criminal or suspicious incidents in seven states and the District of Columbia. In one incident, someone poured gasoline on a New Orleans Planned Parenthood security guard’s car and set the vehicle on fire.
According to the FBI, there was another incident in July in Aurora, Colorado, in which someone poured gasoline around the entrance of a Planned Parenthood facility there, causing a fire.
So, in just the last three months we’ve seen a car set on fire, Molotov cocktails allegedly thrown at a house of worship, terroristic threats leveled against a family, liberal protesters gunned down by radicals, and a medical facility stormed by an anti-abortion/anti-government gunman who killed civilians and a policeman.
What portrait do those events paint in your mind? And is that portrait of radical homegrown violence and terrorism the one you’ve seen conveyed in the press following the Colorado Springs terror attack?
It’s not the one I’ve been seeing.
Media Matters for years has documented how Fox News in particular has used a blinding double standard in terms of casting wide, cultural and religious aspersions when covering terror attacks involving Muslim attackers, versus how it deals with homegrown political violence from the right. (It was Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade who once confidently declared, “Not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims.”)
But the problem extends beyond Fox News. The larger conservative media echo chamber seems to have convinced the mainstream press that domestic terrorism, often carried out by white American men, somehow doesn’t pose the same threat and doesn’t need to be treated as a lurking menace the way ISIS terrorism does. (That heightened sense of panic also fanned the right-wing media hysteria about Syrian refugees.)
In other words, the endless dots of domestic terrorism in the U.S. simply are not connected to portray a larger danger to our safety.
The simple truth is that from neo-Nazi killers, to a rash of women’s health clinic bombings and attacks, as well as assaults on law enforcement from anti-government extremists, acts of right-wing extreme violence continue to unfold regularly in the United States.
It’s a well-established fact that since September 11, 2001, “nearly twice as many people have been killed by white supremacists, antigovernment fanatics and other non-Muslim extremists than by radical Muslims.” Yet those kind of deadly, homegrown attacks are often treated as isolated incidents that are mostly devoid of politics.
There were many telltale signs that differentiated the Planned Parenthood coverage of homegrown terrorism and how the press has covered previous Jihadist attacks.
Thinking back to around-the-clock coverage produced in the wake of the terrorist massacre in Paris this month, it was impossible to miss the differences in tone and content.
There appeared to be very little media hand wringing about why law enforcement has trouble tracking homegrown terrorists, how attackers are able to plan their assaults without detection, if their churches or houses of worship need to be more closely monitored, and whether Christian religious leaders are doing enough to speak out against radicals who may be in their midst.
Note that just hours after the Planned Parenthood gunman gave himself up, CNN dropped its shooting coverage in order to air The Sixties at 10 p.m, while the next day’s Wall Street Journal did not include any articles about the deadly assault on its front page. (The shooting was listed among World-Wide news on the front page, but the full article ran inside the paper.)
By contrast, imagine if a Muslim gunman had opened fire at an American shopping center on Black Friday, shot eleven people and killed three, including a police officer. Do you think CNN would have broken away from programming just hours after the shooter was apprehended in order to air a pop culture documentary? Or that the Wall Street Journal would have played that story on A3 the next day?
Also note that on the broadcast network Sunday morning talk shows two days after the Planned Parenthood attack, eleven current Republican elected officials or presidential candidates were hosted on the programs, compared to just one Democrat. That, despite the fact the Democratic Party has been outspoken in its defense of Planned Parenthood, while the GOP has worked hard to demonize it.
On CBS’ Face the Nation, where no Democratic politicians appeared, host John Dickerson asked just two questions about the Planned Parenthood terror attack during the 60-minute program. (By contrast, Dickerson devoted an entire segment to a panel discussion about presidential books.)
Following Colorado Springs, there was also a steady media focus on the shooter’s possibly unstable mental state, with the suggestion being that that held the key to understanding the killings. But I don’t remember rounds of discussion about the mental state of Islamic terrorists following the Paris massacre. From the media’s perspective, religious extremism provided the entire motivation. That’s certainly possible, but why the separate standard for American bouts of terror?
We’re long past the point where homegrown terrorism should be called what it is, and for the press to connect the dots that join together a large and menacing threat at home.
By: Eric Boehlert, Senior Fellow, Media Matters for America; The Blog, The Huffington Post, November 30, 2015