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“Bill O’Reilly Is Not Going Anywhere, You Far-Left Pinheads”: Making Money, And Advancing The Goals Of The Republican Party

Bill O’Reilly suffers from the same malady as Brian Williams: a tendency to embellish stories of the dangers and horrors he has faced as a journalist (though in O’Reilly’s case, his career as a journalist was brief, before he discovered his true calling). They may have had a slightly different motivation; my interpretation of Williams’ tall-tale-telling is that he wanted to portray himself as heroically journalistic, in the center of the action, bringing people the most important news of the moment. I suspect that for O’Reilly, on the other hand, it’s more of a macho thing—he’s as tough as anyone, and if you doubt it he’ll shout you down like the pinhead you are.

But while Williams was suspended for six months and may never make it back to the anchor chair, nothing of the sort is happening to O’Reilly; Fox News has stood behind him, which won’t change no matter how much evidence emerges showing that he has lied repeatedly about his “war” record. The simple explanation for the difference many believe is that NBC News cares about facts and Fox News doesn’t. Which is true up to a point, but it isn’t the whole story.

To catch you up, last week David Corn and Daniel Schulman of Mother Jones published this article documenting all the times O’Reilly has claimed that he has reported from “war zones” and “combat.” In fact, the closest O’Reilly ever got to combat back when he was a reporter was filing dispatches from Buenos Aires during the Falklands war—1,200 miles from the actual fighting. When confronted with this fact, O’Reilly has claimed that he was in the war zone because he covered a violent protest in Buenos Aires. That would be ridiculous on its own terms, but it turns out that even his account of that protest is likely bogus as well; while the protest was certainly chaotic and violent, no other news report from the time, from CBS News (for whom O’Reilly worked) or any other organization, substantiates his claim of Argentine soldiers “gunning these people down,” and in the days since a number of his former CBS colleagues have challenged his description of the events.

So it’s pretty clear what’s going on here. Desperate to paint himself as a macho globe-trotting journalist who’s seen danger and laughed in its face, O’Reilly has for years been saying that he saw “combat” and served in a “war zone,” when the closest he got was more than a thousand miles away. During the time of the Falklands War. The Falklands. And as Lloyd Grove noted, O’Reilly has been caught lying about his own awesomeness before, as when he claimed falsely to have won two Peabody awards for his work on that paragon of serious journalism, Inside Edition. That didn’t hurt his career, either.

So why not? Let’s look at Williams again. NBC didn’t suspend him because their profound integrity and commitment to the truth demanded it. They suspended him because they were afraid that he had been compromised among his viewers, and if they had left him on the air those viewers would desert the network’s news program. In other words, it was a financial decision. Williams’ success depends on a combination of personality and credibility; viewers want to know they can trust him, but mostly they tune in because they like him. Take away the credibility, and they won’t like him so much anymore.

You could say that O’Reilly depends on the same two factors, personality and credibility. But his credibility comes from an entirely different place, and it’s the reason he not only wouldn’t but couldn’t apologize, or even admit that he had exaggerated his combat derring-do. For O’Reilly, credibility means not that he’s a source of truthful information but that he’s a source of information and opinions his audience finds pleasing. Almost nothing is more important for him than to standing up to liberals, sticking it to ’em, fighting the secularists and the America-haters and the welfare coddlers with his usual brio. O’Reilly’s persona is all anger and defiance; he may be sitting behind a desk, but he wants viewers to believe that he’s ready at any moment to come out from there and punch somebody in the face if they need to be taught a lesson. He’s the person they want to be, channeling their rage and their resentments.

For O’Reilly, a loss of credibility wouldn’t come from being dishonest, it would come from showing weakness, from opposing liberals with anything less than maximal militance. As far as he and his angry old white viewers are concerned (the median age of O’Reilly’s viewers is 72), nothing shows weakness more than apologizing to your enemies. Which is why he has reacted to the charges with a stream of invective (calling David Corn a “far-left zealot” and a “guttersnipe”) and an insistence that he never made a single mistake. And the facts? Well, as Stephen Colbert said, the facts have a well-known liberal bias.

It isn’t just liberals who are O’Reilly’s enemies, it’s also the media—all of it. So when O’Reilly is being criticized, whether it’s from Mother Jones or The New York Times, it just proves how right he is about everything and how much of a threat he is to the craven comsymps of the liberal elite. So when a reporter from The New York Times contacted him about the story, he told her that if he didn’t like what she wrote, “I am coming after you with everything I have. You can take it as a threat.” Just try to imagine Brian Williams, or anyone who wants to maintain a reputation as a journalist of any sort, objective or opinionated, saying such a thing and not losing their job.

An episode like this plays right into the centerpiece of Fox’s ideology, its very raison d’être: the idea that Fox News is not just a brave outpost of truth-telling but the only place to get the real scoop uncontaminated by liberal bias. It tells its viewers that everything they hear from any allegedly non-partisan or objective source is nothing but a steaming pile of lies; the only thing you can trust on the TV dial is Fox. So when O’Reilly comes under fire, the viewers know two things: the substance of the criticism is bogus by definition; and the whole episode just proves what Fox has been saying all along. They are the righteous ones, which is why the forces of darkness are out to get them.

The bottom line for Brian Williams’ bosses at NBC News is money, and journalistic integrity is necessary to keep that money flowing. For Bill O’Reilly’s boss, Roger Ailes, things are just a bit more complicated. Ailes’s genius has always been his ability to make his network simultaneously serve two purposes: making money, and advancing the goals of the Republican Party. An on-air personality could lose his job if he threatened either of those goals, but O’Reilly hasn’t.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, February 24, 2015

February 25, 2015 Posted by | Bill O'Reilly, Fox News, Journalists | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Racially Charged And Ridiculous”: Ron Paul Connects War, Black Lawmakers, And Food Stamps

Right about now, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) probably wishes his father kept a much lower profile.

Former Republican Rep. Ron Paul, the father of potential presidential candidate Rand Paul and a former presidential candidate himself, said the Congressional Black Caucus does not support war because they want that money for food stamps.

“I was always annoyed with it in Congress because we had an anti-war unofficial group, a few libertarian Republicans and generally the Black Caucus and others did not – they are really against war because they want all of that money to go to food stamps for people here,” Ron Paul told Lew Rockwell in early February during a discussion on sanctions.

I saw some paraphrases of this online, and I assumed the former congressman’s comment couldn’t have been quite as ridiculous as the tweets suggested. My assumption was wrong – Paul really did argue Congressional Black Caucus members oppose war because they want money for food stamps.

As BuzzFeed report noted, Paul went on to complain that CBC members who were part of the unofficial “anti-war group” also disappointed him by supporting sanctions against countries like Iran. “They wanted to look tough,” he said.

Obviously, the notion that Congressional Black Caucus members were only skeptical of wars because of food stamps is racially charged and ridiculous. It’d be an offensive comment from anyone, but the fact that it’s coming from a longtime congressman and former presidential candidate only adds insult to injury.

And, of course, Ron Paul isn’t just some random former lawmaker running around the country saying dumb things and appearing at fringe events. He’s also Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) father.

In fact, Rand Paul spent much of his career in politics promoting his father’s message, agenda, and national ambitions. The fact that there’s been an ugly racial element to Ron Paul’s message may very well lead to some awkward questions as the Kentucky senator moves closer to the presidential trail.

As we talked about yesterday, one assumes the senator will argue that he shouldn’t be blamed for his father’s off-the-wall ideas, and that defense might even be compelling under normal circumstances. But given that Rand Paul had a leading role in Ron Paul’s operation, this isn’t quite so easy.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 24, 2015

February 25, 2015 Posted by | Congressional Black Caucus, Rand Paul, Ron Paul | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Blame Jerry Falwell For Walker’s Slip”: A Trap Devised Long Ago By The Moral Majority

Well, we’re getting a pretty quick narrative rethink on Scott Walker, aren’t we? Two weeks ago he was a conquering hero. Now he’s a nincompoop. The truth is undoubtedly somewhere in between—although exactly which of the two poles he ends up nearer is one of the coming campaign’s mysteries.

But whether you’re liberal or conservative—that is, whether you think his cutesy refusal to confirm Barack Obama’s religiosity to The Washington Post was an outrage or act of truth-telling—the bottom line here is what my colleague Matt Lewis said it is: The way Walker and his people handled it was plain old not-ready-for-prime-time-ism. A first-time presidential candidate doesn’t get many mulligans on that front before the media decide he’s a second-rater and start covering him that way.

The most interesting thing about this hubbub, though, is the nature of the defense of Walker, which reveals a breathtaking lack of self-awareness on the right, or maybe dishonesty, or maybe both.

The main defense has been: Why was this question relevant? Why does Scott Walker even have to be asked about whether the president is a Christian? Well, maybe because for the last 30 or 35 years, the political right has dragged the question of a candidate’s piety from the fringes of the political debate, where it belonged and belongs, to the white-hot center, where it is a malignant tumor on our politics.

It wasn’t always this way. Of course we’ve had moralizers from the beginning. Thomas Jefferson’s political foes called him an “infidel” and a “howling atheist” and warned that if he won the presidency, churches would be converted into whorehouses. But then America matured, a little, and became a world power, and began taking in large numbers of immigrants, and started thinking about the world not only in terms of spirituality but in terms of psychology, social science, and so on. By the time all those forces had coalesced—the 1930s, let’s call it; the thermidorean backwash of the Scopes Trial—we by and large stopped having religious litmus tests for the presidency.

Ah but 1960, you’re thinking; well, yes, but that was totally different. No one questioned John Kennedy’s lack of religious faith. Indeed the issue was the opposite—that his Catholic faith was so all-defining that he’d govern as a Vatican fifth-columnist. For many years after that, a candidate’s religious beliefs were part of the story, certainly, but what reigned was a quality of tolerant and easy-going religious neutrality that was a reflection of the regnant, and largely bipartisan, Protestantism of the day. Candidates didn’t run around dog-whistling to the pious and implying that the impious were somehow lesser Americans whose votes ought to count for less.

Oddly it was a Democrat who first wore his religion on his sleeve in the presidential arena. Still, Jimmy Carter, though an evangelical, was still enough of a liberal to not tie his religious beliefs to a particular ideological agenda.

This all changed—and give the man his due—with Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority, and the growing evangelization of the Republican primary electorate. Professions of faith from GOP candidates became more and more grandiose, like George W. Bush’s claim that Jesus Christ was his favorite philosopher. I’ve never known whether it was planned that he would say that or whether he just said it off the cuff, but whatever the case it was kind of brilliant of him, it must be admitted. When liberals made fun of him for not saying Locke or whatever, they managed to sound like snooty eggheads and Jesus-haters both at once.

At the same time that the religious right pushed Jesus into the presidential boxing ring, it did all it could to throw traditional religious neutrality out of it, such that positions that had been completely uncontroversial 20 years before grew to be toxic for Democrats. I think here of Al Gore being afraid to say in 2000 that he believed in evolution, one of the nadirs of recent presidential history.

In other words, it’s Republicans and conservatives who have made religious belief central to the conversation of presidential politics. And not just religious belief—a particular kind of (conservative) religious belief. Republicans made this a topic.

Now in fairness, Obama’s faith was a question in 2008, because of Jeremiah Wright, and that pot got a stirring not only from Republicans but from Hillary Clinton too. But the guy has now been the president for a long time, and voters twice elected him by reasonably comfortable margins. So these kinds of questions about Obama are still raised only in the fever swamps where Walker is trying to launch his dinghy. It’s only over there that these things matter.

So the question the Post put to Walker was completely logical and defensible within that tradition for which conservatism was responsible and to which Walker has recently been pandering, by weaseling around recently on the topic of evolution.

So it’s supposed to be unfair for Walker to have to answer a simple question like the one he was asked? Ridiculous. Liberals didn’t make faith a litmus test. If Walker and the others want to parade their own Christian credentials, any question along those lines is fair game. Besides, as Lewis said, there’s an easy answer: I don’t doubt that he is, it’s just his ideas and policies that are wrong. But of course that’s not enough for their base. If Walker got caught in any trap over the weekend, it’s one of conservatism’s devising, not the media’s.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, February 23, 2015

February 25, 2015 Posted by | Jerry Falwell, Religious Beliefs, Scott Walker | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Social Safety Net In Hands Of The States?”: The GOP’s State Budget Disaster Is The Best Case For Big Government

The Republican Party is cutting a swath of destruction through state budgets.

In Kansas, Gov. Sam Brownback’s experiment in income and business tax cuts has blown a $344 million hole in the budget for this fiscal year, and a projected $600 million hole for the next fiscal year. Part of his plan to close it is to cut $44.5 million from public schools and universities.

Illinois needs to cut over $6 billion to balance its books. So Gov. Bruce Rauner is calling for a $1.5 billion cut to the state’s Medicaid program, plus $600 million in cuts to local government finances and $387 million in cuts to higher education (though he may have trouble getting those ideas past the Democrats in the Illinois legislature).

Wisconsin’s state budget, meanwhile, faces a $238 million deficit, thanks in small part to tax cuts Gov. Scott Walker pushed through after taking office in 2011. That wiped out a $759 million budget surplus in 2013. Now Walker is looking to cut $300 million from higher education over the next two years, along with cuts to the state park system and its recycling programs, among other things, and to restructure about $100 million in debt payments the state already owes.

These three examples show the GOP’s “tax cuts now, tax cuts forever” ideology remains utterly unconcerned with economic reality. But more deeply, they’re a lesson in some bad choices America made in how to design its national social safety net, which set the stage for the current crises.

In not one of these three cases do the projected budget gaps rise above 1 percent of the income generated annually by the state’s economy. The idea that taxes couldn’t be raised, starting on high earners, to close these holes is risible.

On top of that, these tax cuts are often pitched as growth enhancers for state economies. That was the explicit case Brownback made for his tax cut package. But for such a policy gambit to have even a chance of working, spending must be held constant. If you start cutting spending on things like health care or education or transit or whatnot, you’re just pulling more dollars out of the state economy with one hand even as you leave more dollars in with the other.

In other words, you have to be able to deficit spend. But that can be hard for states. First off, most of them have balanced budget amendments in their constitutions, which means deficit spending is just a no-go. These restrictions generally don’t cover individual infrastructure projects and the like, which states can choose to borrow a set amount for from the bond markets. But covering shortfalls between general annual spending and revenue is much more difficult legislatively.

The other problem is that the bond markets might just not give you the money. Investors may consider a state a bad bet, which would drive its borrowing and interest payments up. That hasn’t been much of a problem in the aftermath of the recession, as investors have been desperate for safe places to park their money — which makes the refusal of state governments to borrow to cover their regular expenditures all the more absurd.

But the low rates won’t last forever, and the willingness of investors to take a bet on a state puts limits on state government borrowing.

What this all means is that state government spending is pretty pro-cyclical — i.e. it rises and falls with the economy. If the economy is doing well, state tax revenues go up. If the economy goes into recession, state tax revenues go down, forcing budget cuts in health, education, and elsewhere. And that’s before you factor in Republican governors and state legislators who are out to cut taxes willy-nilly.

But for spending on things like health care and education — two of the biggest drivers of any state’s budget — being pro-cyclical makes no sense. It’s not as if people just stop getting sick during recessions, or that children simply stop needing an education. These are public investments in the health and well-being of the American people themselves, and the need for them remains constant throughout all the ups and downs in the economy.

The only entity that can spend with impunity regardless of the state of the economy is the federal government. That’s because it can print money, which means it can always pay lenders back in a pinch. This does mean the federal government faces a different sort of threat — instead of being abandoned by investors, it could print so much money it drives up inflation. But that’s just really hard to do, historically speaking.

In short, these are programs that should be run through the federal government. But Medicaid is a joint state-and-federal program, meaning both the federal government and state government supply some of the money from their respective budgets. Meanwhile, education is funded by streams from the federal, state, and local levels at the same time.

That structure leaves these programs critically vulnerable to the whims of the economy — not to mention the whims of Walker, Brownback, Rauner, and their friends in the Republican Party.

 

By: Jeff Spross, The Week, February 24, 2015

February 25, 2015 Posted by | Social Safety Net, State and Local Governments, State Budgets | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Who Defines Islam In America?”: Muslims Must Learn To Define Themselves

You may have heard by now about the event over the weekend where more than 1,000 Muslims joined hands and formed a “peace ring” around a synagogue in Oslo, Norway in sub-zero temperatures. Why? Because the Muslims in that city wanted to make it clear they oppose anti-Semitism. As one of the Muslim organizers, Zeeshan Abdullah, explained: “There’s still hope for humanity, for peace and love, across religious differences and backgrounds.”

So with the Muslims standing side by side with Jews, Norway’s chief Rabbi Michael Melchior sang the traditional song marking the end of the Sabbath. The head of Norway’s Jewish community organization, Ervin Kohn, added, “It is unique that Muslims stand to this degree against anti-Semitism and that fills us with hope… particularly as it’s a grassroots movement of young Muslims.”

This was truly an inspirational event. One that helps define Islam accurately, as opposed to the way ISIS and al Qaeda are striving to define the faith.

This story, happily, did end up going viral. But another story about Muslims this weekend made bigger headlines and top-lined media websites across the country. That was the threat made by the Somali terrorist group Al Shabaab that it was targeting shopping malls in North America, including the Mall of America in Minneapolis. The Norway event got loads of play in social media, and to some extent the traditional media. But the mall threat was top-of-the-hour news everywhere.

And that is a perfect example to explain who defines Islam in America: The media. The adage, “If it bleeds, it leads,” can be updated to “If threatens to cause bleeding, it leads.” So a story about Muslims doing what Islam calls for doesn’t hold a candle to one where Muslims act in violation of the faith is glorified.

We constantly see wall-to-wall coverage of the tiny percent of bad Muslims. Keep in mind that if ISIS is truly 30,000 fighters that means it represents .02 percent of the 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide. We are talking less than a third of 1 percent of Muslims.

Yet our media barely covers the stories about the other 99.98 percent of Muslims. How often have you seen segments in the news about the interfaith work in the United States, such as the efforts of Rabbi Marc Schneier and Imam Shamsi Ali? Or Muslim groups denouncing terrorism, or even stories about the millions of other Muslims simply living their lives?

Here’s another example of the media defining Islam more than the faith does. Last week, The Atlantic ran a front-page story telling readers: “The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic.” The article’s conclusion was based on interviews with a handful of extremist Muslims, including Anjem Choudary, a person with no following of note and who has been continually denounced by mainstream Muslim leaders.

This would be the equivalent of relying on the Christian pastor in Arizona who in December called for the mass killing of all gays, which he claimed is mandated by the Bible, as revealing what Christianity is truly about.

Still the Atlantic story was extensively covered in media in the framework of being accurate. However, when over 120 Islamic scholars and clerics released a letter in September detailing in specificity how the actions of ISIS—such as beheading aid workers and forcing conversion to Islam—violated the principles of Islam, that received far less media attention.

Same goes for when Muslims are killed by terrorists. In the Charlie Hebdo attack, the police officer we saw shot and killed while lying wounded on the sidewalk was Ahmed Merabet, a Muslim who gave his life defending freedom of expression. While some media outlets covered that angle, it was a minor part of the story. The result is that the two terrorists defined Islam far more than Merabet.

And while our media rightly covered the recent despicable murder of 21 Egyptian Christians by ISIS, why don’t we see similar coverage of the literally daily slaughtering of Muslims by ISIS? The media’s failure to cover the Muslim men, women, and children killed by ISIS furthers the narrative that this is a war by Islam against the West, as opposed to what it truly is: ISIS versus everyone, Muslims included (and indeed on the front lines), who won’t submit to them.

While we hear other minority groups in the United States also bemoan the media’s obsession with covering their worst examples, the Muslim American community is unique. We are far more dependent upon the media in defining who we are since we are tiny, clocking in at about 1 to 2 percent of our nation’s population. And only 38 percent of Americans, per a Pew poll released last summer, actually know a Muslim.

So what can be done to change the media’s coverage? Well, complaining might have a slight impact, but I doubt it will change much.

But I did learn a valuable lesson this weekend. I tweeted out the article about the Muslims in Oslo, which ultimately made its way to Rush Limbaugh’s younger brother, David. (He’s also conservative.) He then tweeted out the link to the story with the words: “Bravo. Credit where credit is due” and included the link to the story. In turn, others shared the story.

The lesson is that to change media coverage, we, Muslims, need to strategically plan how to attract media coverage in a way that enables us to tell people what we are truly about. To date, we have focused on denouncing terrorism perpetrated by Muslims. But that isn’t working. First, not many people hear it because the media barely covers press events of Muslims condemning terrorism.

But more importantly, simply focusing on telling people what we are not does little to define who we are. Consequently, many of our fellow Americans don’t know what Islam is truly about and have no way of knowing that the terrorists are the exception, not the norm. We must change that.

True, it’s unlikely we can eclipse the coverage of the terrorists given the business model of the media. But perhaps we can at least create a counter narrative that chips away little by little at the inaccurate image created by the terrorists. I know that is a tall order, but it’s better than simply complaining and hoping things will change for the better.

 

By: Dean Obeidallah, The Daily Beast, February 24, 2015

February 25, 2015 Posted by | Islam, Media, Muslims | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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