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“Doomed”: Rupert Murdoch Stands By His Horribly Shameless And Irresponsible Tabloid

Last week was not a great week for the New York Post. But then again, not many weeks are. It’s front page last Thursday wrongly identified two innocent young men as the bombers of the Boston Marathon. (It did so without explicitly referring to them as suspects, just to ensure that they wouldn’t lose a lawsuit or have to apologize.)

Murdoch defended his paper on Twitter, because it is 2013 and stuff is weird:

All NYPost pics were those distributed by FBI.And instantly withdrawn when FBI changed directions.

— Rupert Murdoch(@rupertmurdoch) April 20, 2013

Hm. Here’s how Col Allan defended his story to Salon: “The image was emailed to law enforcement agencies yesterday afternoon seeking information about these men….” So “distributed by the FBI” might be technically accurate (not that we have any way of knowing) but it is not a great defense. The photos were not distributed to the press or to the public, as the photos of the Tsarnaev brothers would be the same day that Post cover ran. The photo was never intended to be put on the front of a newspaper with copy asserting that the people pictured were responsible. There’s also no way to “withdraw” a physical newspaper printed and distributed all over New York City. I saw copies of the paper at bodegas in Brooklyn well into the evening.

Murdoch (who has become shockingly respectable in his old age) loves his New York Post and he will always defend it.

As long as Richard Murdoch has owned it, the New York Post has been defined by its shamelessness and total lack of interest in taking responsibility for its worst errors and poor judgment. It is quite hard to get fired — or be forced to resign in disgrace — from the Post, for the crime of getting something disastrously wrong. No heads rolled when the paper reported in 2004, on the front page, that John Kerry had selected Dick Gephardt as his running mate. The paper even still prints the cartoons of Sean Delonas, a hateful,unfunny, repetitive cartoonist who invariably draws all gay people as mincing cross-dressers and who once plagiarized his own joke within two months of making it. In 2003 the Post published an editorial bemoaning a Yankees loss to the Red Sox the morning after the Yankees beat the Red Sox.

Murdoch’s Post cares so little what others think of it that it doesn’t even make editorial changes that would make it more successful — say, by being less racist and terrible in a diverse, liberal city. The Post is so awful that it has allowed the Daily News — a terminally boring rival tabloid published by a slightly less terrible but much less interesting rich person — to survive.

The thing all these incidents have in common is that no one was punished for them. Post editor Col Allan might be an irresponsible drunk pigfucker (we have no way of confirming or denying the charge!) but he is Rupert’s irresonsible drunk pigfucker. As long as the old man is around, Col’s job is safe.

There are reasons to be cheerful, though: The New York Post is assuredly going to die, and it may even do so fairly soon. This summer, News Corp will split into two companies. One will be made up of the money-making bits of News Corp.: TV stuff and the movie studio, basically. The other will be the newspapers and magazines and book publishing. Murdoch will be chairman of the new newspaper company. Its CEO will be Robert Thomson, former editor of the Wall Street Journal and Murdoch’s “closest confidant,” according to The Australian (a Murdoch paper). Murdoch loves the newspapers. No one else does, which is why that company’s CEO will be an editor, not a person with actual company-running experience. Once Murdoch goes, though, none of his children will care to subsidize their father’s bizarre newspaper-publishing habit. And Rupert Mudoch is 82 years old.

And the Post will probably be the first paper to fold or be sold. The New York Post loses millions of dollars a year. Unlike the Wall Street Journal, rich people who control vast amounts of other rich people’s money don’t read it, making it less interesting to advertisers. The paper, after the Murdoch and Allan regime, is worthless. The New York Post is doomed. Right now we’re just seeing how many people it can smear on its way out.

 

By: Alex Pareene, Salon, April 22, 2013

April 23, 2013 Posted by | Boston Marathon Bombings, Journalism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Nativist Vigilantism”: The Media And The “Dark-Skinned” Men From Chechnya

Jake Tapper had been up all night covering the manhunt in Boston for CNN, so maybe that explains why he seemed to rush to judgment when he said of the bombing suspects: “It certainly seems these two are Islamic terrorists.”

“Yes, but those are two separate words,” Juliette Kayyem, a CNN contributor and former homeland security official, reminded Tapper. Technically, literally, he’s not inaccurate: The two brothers, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, who died in a shootout with police last night, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, who is apparently cornered by police as I post this, are Muslim and allegedly are terrorists. But all morning long, Kayyem had been cautioning viewers and fellow journalists not to jump to conclusions (as CNN’s John King so infamously did two days ago when he wrongly reported that a “dark-skinned male” had been arrested in connection with the bombing.) “The fact that they’re from Chechnya,” Kayyem said, “is not a motivation.”

The big question, of course, is what was the motivation. But even before the FBI made the Tsarnaevs’ photos public yesterday, and well before we knew their names or background (they’re from a region in Russia next to Chechnya, actually, and have lived in Boston about 10 years), we all have been trying to answer why by placing the two men somewhere on a racial, ethnic, religious, and ideological spectrum.

Media coverage is fraught with that tension: Were they “self-radicalized” and acting on their own or were they part of a larger network? Were they praying to Allah or praising Jesus? Was their nefariousness domestic- or international-based? (The word international keeps popping up superfluously: Fox & Friends’ Gretchen Carlson remarked that “they saw their photos on international television.” Well, unless they were watching CNN International, they saw themselves on good ol’ American TV, like Fox News.)

In other words, were they the kind of white Christian Americans that society has a hard time calling terrorists, or were they the kind of foreign-looking, “dark-skinned” suspects that we have a hard time not calling terrorists?

Much of the media today have been careful not to assign motivations, at least not yet. As Savannah Guthrie said, “There are facts that cut both ways.”

She, Kayyem, and other reporters, including a few on Fox, have laid out reasons that the two suspects might not be big-time Islamic terrorists: No one claimed responsibility for the carnage, as jihadist groups tend to; if they were part of a politically radical network, they probably wouldn’t have been so stupid as to rob a 7/11; high-school friends describe the younger brother as a normal teenager who partied, drank, and smoked.

The estimable Richard Engle of NBC allowed that while they could have been acting alone, there’s a good chance they’re connected to a militant group, specifically, he said, the Islamic Jihadist Union, which is “an Al Qaeda faction for all the non-Arabic speakers.”

An uncle of the two, Raslan Tsarni, surrounded by a mob of reporters outside his Maryland home, fervently denied any political motivations. “What I think was behind it: Being losers, hatred to those who were able to settle themselves,” Tsarni said. “These are the only reasons I can imagine of. Anything else, anything else to do with religion, with Islam, is a fake.”

If he’d suspected anything, he’d be first to turn them in, he added. They brought shame on the family and “shame on the entire Chechen ethnicity.”

One reporter asked a question that, I thought, brought embarrassment to his profession. Reminiscent of how the political establishment demands that Obama say the magic word “terrorist” or else lose patriotism points, the reporter asked Tsarni point blank: What do you think of America?

“I respect this country. I love this country,” he said. “This country, which gives chance to everybody else to be treated as a human being. That’s what I feel about this country.”

Right after the marathon, the right tried to make it seem as if Muslims, preferably the Arab kind, had practically planned the attack on “Obamaphones.” When a Saudi man was mistakenly identified as a person of interest, Glenn Beck and some rightwing blogs spun a conspiracy story in which the U.S. swiftly deported the man because Obama wanted “to cover up Saudi Arabian and Al Qaeda ties to the attack.”

Then, the New York Post stooped to phone-hacking levels by publishing a cover photo of two young men, one of them a Moroccan-American high-school athlete, who were simply watching the marathon, under the headline “BAG MEN.”

It was in hopes of avoiding just this sort of nativist vigilantism that Salon’s David Sirota wrote a piece titled Let’s hope the Boston Marathon bomber is a white American.” It was still before we had any idea of who they were, when he added:

I hoped (though certainly never assumed) the Boston bomber ends up being a white non-Muslim American because in a country where white people are never collectively profiled, surveilled or targeted by law enforcement, that would best guarantee a measured — rather than a hysterical, civil-liberties-trampling — reaction to the atrocity. For this, I was lambasted by everyone from Rush Limbaugh to Bill O’Reilly to their thousands of followers for being “race obsessed” (O’Reilly, in fact, took a step into straight-up slander by subsequently claiming that I am hoping Americans kill other Americans in terrorist attacks).

I, too, hoped the bomber was a non-Muslim white American. Last night, after the shootout, a taped loop showed a young blond man lying on the street, with his arms splayed out, surrounded by police with drawn weapons. We don’t know who he was, and he may have been an innocent bystander. But for a moment, I actually hoped that the “white cap” guy in the FBI photos was wearing a dark wig and that underneath he was a blond “domestic terrorist” trying to frame Muslims.

Yesterday, after the FBI put out their photos but before we knew the suspects’ names or background, a lot of people didn’t know what to make of them: Were they white, Muslim, Italian, what? Erin Burnett sounded authentically perplexed, saying, “These two kids look like they’re very, very from here.” Most people figured them for college students, which in fact they were.

Now that they’ve been ID’ed, that relatively innocent moment is gone. We know they’re Chechen, and Chechen is not something we’ve processed racially. Or as The Onion put it: “Majority Of Americans Not Informed Enough To Stereotype Chechens.”

Unfortunately, in the end, what will matter most to our national political narrative is that they’re both Muslim and terrorists. “Islamic terrorists.”

 

By: Leslie Savan, The Nation, April 19, 2013

April 22, 2013 Posted by | Boston Marathon Bombings | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Paranoid And Ethically Challenged”: Boston And The Right-Wing Media’s Collapse

Prefacing his comments by insisting he knows “how foreign affairs work,” Glenn Beck on April 18 announced that his website, The Blaze, was breaking news about the Boston Marathon bombing: A Saudi national student on a student visa and was “absolutely involved” in the Patriot’s Day blast was being deported by the U.S. government for security reasons.

Beck went further, claiming the student, or “dirt bag,” as the host described him, was “possibly the ringleader” in the bombing that killed three people and injured more than one hundred, and the government was deliberately covering it up.

Beck urged listeners to spread the breaking news via Twitter and Facebook because, he warned, the mainstream media would ignore the revelation. But the right-wing media would pick up the slack. Fox News’ Sean Hannity helped launch the story on April 17 and continued to fan it yesterday, claiming the student had previously “been involved with a terrorist or terror activity,” while a swarm of right-wing sites pushed the paranoid tale.

By making his wild allegations, Beck was asking listeners to ignore the fact that law enforcement officials had previously, and repeatedly, denied earlier right-wing media claims that the Saudi student had been taken into “custody,” or was in any way responsible for the blast.

Indeed, officials at Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security both soundly denied the story, explaining that there were two different Saudi nationals: one recovering in a Boston hospital who had witnessed and been injured in the explosions but was not a suspect, and another in ICE custody who was unrelated to the bombing investigation. Beck responded by calling for President Obama to be impeached for what he considered the sprawling government cover-up that now surrounded the student, Saudi Arabia and Al Qaeda.

So yeah, it was that kind of week for the right-wing media. It was a debacle.

In the same week that Pulitzer prizes were announced honoring the finest in American journalism, many in the far-right media worked to set news standards in mindless, awful behavior in the wake of the Boston attack.

Faced with covering the most important American terror news story in a decade, too many players opted to just make stuff up. Prompting witch hunts, they cast innocents as would-be killers and then couldn’t be bothered with apologies.

It was a memorable week in which the conservative media’s highest profile newspaper, Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post, seemed committed to getting as many stories wrong about the Boston attack as possible.

The hapless Post somehow managed to completely botch the simplest Journalism 101 fact of how many people were killed in the Patriot’s Day attack. But hey, according to beleaguered Post editor Col Allan the Post tried its best and that’s all that really matters. (It would’ve taken a “crystal ball” to get the story right, Allan now complains.) So no, there doesn’t appear to be much introspection unfolding inside Murdoch’s daily; a big-city tabloid that managed to get wrong, for days, a breaking crime story.

Yes, CNN this week was forced to concede mistakes when it reported sources had informed the news channel that arrests had been made in the case. But CNN quickly, and publicly, corrected the errors. Those unfortunate miscues happen when reporters let a be-first mindset trump the more important be-right standard. What we saw from portions of the far-right press this week however, was completely different; they almost couldn’t have gotten more stories if they had tried.

Of course Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham used the terror attacks to push her partisan agenda about immigration reform. (This, before she knew anything about the suspects.) Of course chronic Obama critics like Fox News host Oliver North attacked the president for traveling to Boston to attend a prayer service for the terror victims; to try to help comfort the rattled city. And of course Fox News couldn’t wait more than five minutes after that prayer service concluded before inviting Stephen Hayes on to criticize Obama for how he’d handled the issue of gun legislation.

That’s what anti-Obama programming looks like and Fox News saw little reason to alter that chronically caustic approach this week.

What was truly stunning though, as highlighted by irresponsible rants about the Saudi student, was the aggressive push by key conservative media players to simply concoct stories about the breaking news event.

Back to Beck:

I believe this is possibly the ringleader, this guy is absolutely involved, and we are flying this dirt bag out of the country because he has connections and we are covering up.

Keep in mind, this was after unethical right-wing bloggers had already harassed the Saudi bombing victim online, publishing his name, home address, and what they claimed were Facebook pictures of the 20-year-old Saudi national student. The same student police had cleared of any implication in the blast. (His only crime this week appeared to be his Saudi origin.)

And who led the early crusade against the bomb victim? Murdoch’s New York Post, which erroneously reported he was a “suspect” who had been taken “into custody.”

The same Post, of course, which then made headlines by irresponsibly splashing on its front page a photo of two local men at the marathon finish line, one a high school runner, and putting them under the headline “Bag Men,” strongly suggesting they were involved with the terror attack. They were not. But that didn’t stop ethically-challenged blogger Jim Hoft from referring to them six times in one report as “suspects” in the deadly blast.

“Grossly irresponsible” and “egregious” were some of the descriptions media pro’s used to explain the Post’s shocking performance this week. As one journalism professor told Media Matters, “It does appear that the Post, there is something crazy going on there.”

Trust me, it’s not just the Post.

 

By: Eric Boehlert, Media Matters for America, April 19, 2013

April 22, 2013 Posted by | Right Wing | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Trouble With News Scoops”: If You’re Obsessed With Getting It First, You End Up Not Getting It Right

It seems that every time there’s a dramatic breaking story like yesterday’s bombing in Boston, media organizations end up passing on unconfirmed information that turns out to be false. This happens, of course, because in a chaotic situation where many people are involved in some way and the causes and results of some event are not initially clear, it can be hard to separate actual facts from what somebody thought or heard or believed. News organizations trying to cover it have an incredibly difficult job to do, and we should acknowledge the ones who do it well, even heroically, in the face of those challenges. For instance, The Boston Globe will deserve all the accolades and awards they get for their coverage of this event. And yet, the news media seem to get so much wrong when something like this happens. Why?

I’d argue that the reason is that in the frenzy of this kind of happening, they fail to realize something important: Scoops are beside the point. When Americans are looking to learn about and understand this kind of horrible event, they don’t care whether you got a scoop. They want to understand what happened. I don’t think the news organizations, particularly the TV networks, understand this at all.

Let’s take an example. The New York Post insisted for most of yesterday that 12 people had died in the explosions, for no apparent reason (they’re not claiming it anymore, but today their web site prominently features Mark Wahlberg’s reaction to the bombings, so they’ve still got the story covered). I don’t know what reporter came up with that information, but the fact that they disseminated it despite being wrong shows how useless the search for “scoops” becomes at a time like this. There were lots of other pieces of information circulating that turned out to be untrue (like the story repeated everywhere that the police had found more unexploded devices) as well.

There are two kinds of scoops, the real and the ephemeral. A real scoop is a story that would not have come to light, either at all or at least for a considerable amount of time, had it not been for your reporting. When a reporter exposes corruption, or details the unforeseen consequences of official policy, or even just offers a compelling portrait of people whose story wouldn’t have otherwise been told, she has gotten a genuine scoop. Then there’s the far more common kind, what many in the media consider a scoop but is no scoop at all. That’s when you discover and publish some piece of information that everyone is going to learn very soon, but you happen to be the one who got it out ten minutes or ten seconds before your competitors.

Media organizations, particularly television news operations, are obsessed with this second kind of scoop, despite the fact that not only does it offer nothing of value to their audience, it doesn’t even give them any advantage in the hyper-competitive arena in which they operate. Nobody ever said, “I used to watch MSNBC, but then I heard that CNN went on the air with the verdict in the Casey Anthony trial a full 30 seconds before any other network, so I’m watching CNN from now on.” When everybody is going to have a piece of news in seconds, getting it first doesn’t help you at all. Nobody remembers and nobody cares, nor should they.

But if you’re obsessed with getting it first, you end up not getting it right. That goes beyond reporting things that are false (which happens often enough) to offering second-rate coverage because your reporters are running around trying to find out something, anything, that none of their competitors know, instead of trying to assemble a complete and informative picture for the audience.

When something like the Boston bombing happens, the chaos pushes journalists toward those we-got-it-first scoops, when in fact there’s no time when those scoops are less important. Almost all the big critical facts are going to end up being given to journalists by the authorities, whether it’s about the casualties or the nature of the devices used or the suspects, once they have them. No reporter is going to catch the bomber before the FBI does. Given that, they’d do much better to slow down and worry less about what piece of information they can get a minute or two before their competitors do than about how they can give their audiences something closer to true understanding.

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, April, 16, 2013

April 17, 2013 Posted by | Media, Press | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Let’s Not Be Terrorized”: Let’s Honor Boston By Returning To Normal

Tragedies amplify the human tendencies toward both selflessness and assholishness. From a distance, watching horrible things happen (and happen, and happen) on TV, it can be much easier to see the assholishness. Yesterday an asshole planted bombs at the Boston Marathon — the Boston Marathon, for chrissakes — and today three people are confirmed dead with many, many more injured, in some cases horrifically.

That horrible situation, though, led to a great deal of examples of how Boston, and much of the U.S., is a pretty damn nice place full of impressive and great people. There was amazing journalism from Boston journalists, and a heroic response from Boston first responders, paramedics, doctors and surgeons. Boston blood banks filled up immediately and the Red Cross and Google both helped people find their loved ones. The Internet and the press even acquitted themselves reasonably well. It was amazing to see, within hours of the attack, eyewitness video from amateurs and professionals. The live stream of WBUR, Boston’s NPR news station, was compelling, restrained and informative. Fox News’ Shepard Smith was incredibly composed and also very careful not to speculate irresponsibly. The Boston Globe dropped its pay wall and put its heartbreaking and useful liveblog on the front page.

It wasn’t all good. There was no reason for Neil Cavuto to interview Joe Arpaio, at any point yesterday, and yet that happened. This was a particularly obnoxious reminder that Fox News can only turn off its shtick when a grown-up, like Shepard Smith, is running the show. (Smith returned to anchor coverage later, thankfully.) CNN’s political reporters were similarly unable to break out of their self-created shell of inanity and just react like human beings, with Wolf Blitzer and company fixated on the semantics of the president’s brief statement. The New York Post, always happy to out-ghoul the competition, was running poorly sourced bullshit all day.

That poorly sourced bullshit tends to stick around, too. The “Saudi national” “person of interest,” the New York Post’s “law enforcement source” and the “explosion” at the John F. Kennedy library. These are the random bits of information, usually false, that circulate during disasters and, inevitably, lead to conspiracy theories. This isn’t a brand-new, Internet-created problem. Morsels of misinformation broadcast on TV or the radio in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 and even the Kennedy assassination survive forever.

We still know next to nothing about what happened yesterday. The “ball bearings” that doctors are finding in victims might just be shrapnel. It seems now that there weren’t any additional unexploded devices in the area. People should probably be clearer, in the future, about the unreliability of information from emergency services scanners. Now we’ll see if the press jumps on every law enforcement lead and manages to convict innocent people in the court of public opinion, as has happened way too many times in the past following bombings and terroristic violence. Basically, be skeptical of what you see and read over the next few months.

Weirdly and probably inappropriately, I kept thinking yesterday of the 2007 incident in which Boston police closed the trains and the Charles River because a guerrilla marketing firm placed a series of LED ads for “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” around the city. It seemed at the time like the height of ridiculous post-9/11 paranoid hysterical overreaction. These were effectively LITE-BRITEs with cute cartoon aliens on them, but because they matched some idiotic police description of the characteristics of IEDs they were treated as a threat. I did not hold back in mocking them. Now, following an actual IED attack on Boston, it’s an embarrassing memory.

But here’s the thing: In terms of “sophistication,” the bombs that went off yesterday could hardly have been any more powerful than the bomb that exploded on Wall Street in 1920, which killed 38 people and injured 143. More people, many more, could die or be confirmed dead in this attack, but right now tornadoes in Mississippi and Missouri last week were just as deadly, and MBTA trains are deadlier. Whoever it turns out did this and whatever their motive, he or they sucked at being a terrorist. That is something that should be made clear, loudly and forcefully, this week. This guy was an embarrassment to terrorists and as a result we will not be terrorized.

Here is what I’m hoping happens, next: I hope Americans as a whole do nothing, besides find and punish the person responsible. As Bruce Schneier says, if we acknowledge that terrorism isn’t an existential threat to the American way of life, or to our freedom, or anything else, we can take reasonable steps to mitigate the threat without freaking out and, say, getting every flight with people who look Middle Eastern grounded, banning backpacks from public spaces or launching any wars. There is no way of stopping dedicated assholes from putting crappy little bombs in trash bins on street corners. Thankfully, it barely ever happens in the United States.

So while I feel a great deal of affection for the city of Boston and its residents today, and while I might be listening to the Modern Lovers and remembering how great the whole Mark Wahlberg arc in “The Departed” is, and while we all have every reason to be incredibly pissed off at the asshole that killed at least one child and hurt so many more innocent people, it is our responsibility to that fine American city to help it get back, as soon as possible, to normal.

Which is why as an American, and a resident of New York, I am most looking forward to when Boston returns to despising us and our stupid city and the goddamn overpaid, ancient Yankees, and we return the sentiment. That will be a return to normalcy and a message that this asshole didn’t accomplish a damn thing. In the first round of the NBA playoffs, beginning this weekend, the Boston Celtics will face the New York Knicks. There will be patriotism and solidarity on display, and certainly a tribute to the victims of yesterday’s attack. That’s understandable. Let’s also hope there is a healthy amount of booing, vulgar heckling and signs referencing Cheerios sneaked into the arena. Let the cops catch the asshole that did this; we have lives to live.

 

By: Alex Pareene, Salon, April 16, 2013

April 17, 2013 Posted by | Terrorism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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