On Newsbusters, Michelle Malkin, Big Journalism, Alan Colmes, and David Shuster

Regular readers of this blog probably know some of this, but here goes anyway.

On Newsbusters: I wrote two stories today based on Newsbusters stories, and it occurred to me that I ought to clear a few things up. First of all, I have no axe to grind against Newsbusters. In fact, quite the opposite. Along with Jason Linkins, they saved my career. They did really excellent reporting on my firing from Politics Daily, without which I’d be a former troublemaking blogger-turned-fry cook. Melinda Henneberger tried to ruin my career, and she would have gotten away with it if it hadn’t been for Newsbusters’ and Jason Linkins’ refusal to let her muddy the waters, and for Ed Morrissey’s extraction of a slanderous lie from her. Conservative radio host Media Lizzy also pitched in the smoking gun, and was also shitcanned by Henneberger for her trouble.

For this, I will always be grateful, as I am to Michelle Malkin, who was also very supportive at that time, despite our near-uniform disagreement on just about everything.

More than that, though, I think people tend to dismiss Newsbusters too easily. Certainly, they make no bones about their point of view, and it shows in everything they do. But that doesn’t mean that if you don’t agree with them, you should stay away. The two posts I wrote today were perfect examples. If you strip away all of the editorializing, there are useful facts in both Newsbusters pieces that I linked to that I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere else. Is TPM going to count how many Bob McDonnell pieces were in yesterday’s Washington Post? Does HuffPo have those CNN emails? Looking back a bit more, is Daily Kos going to put together a montage of Ed Schultz spitting fire?

They also watchdog liberal shows and websites for quotes and coverage they don’t like, which has several benefits. First, if Newsbusters hates it, it’ll probably be good content to promote to the left. Sometimes, they have a point, and digesting that can help you become sharper, perhaps avoiding the same mistake. I also have long believed that it is important to call out your own side, as well as the other, because it is the right thing to do. For me, being liberal isn’t about being on a team, it’s about having a set of beliefs and values, and applying them with integrity.

Having said all that, of course, I reserve the right to criticize Newsbusters, and they, me. The key is not to personalize it, not to be completely and personally negating. Any wiseass can string together insults, but it takes real talent to learn from, and teach, your adversary.

That brings me to Michelle. In probably the least helpful endorsement ever, it turns out I’m Michelle Malkin’s favorite liberal. I’m actually very proud of that fact, because it’s easy to gain the admiration of people who agree with you. I also reserve the right to criticize Michelle, but I’m not sure if I ever have, at least not directly. Her influence is such that, like Keyser Soze, I’ve probably fought with those she influences without even knowing it.

I met Michelle at CPAC, and I was very nervous, for a few reasons. One of the things I admire about her is her toughness. The attacks she endures are way out of proportion, yet she doesn’t just endure them, she seems to relish them. For all of her outrageousness, she will feed your outrage right back to you. She also doesn’t try to weasel out of the inflammatory things she says, like Rush Limbaugh does.

This is why I don’t understand the way some people treat her. Max Blumenthal, for example, who I’m decent friends with, went up to her at CPAC once and tried to get her to sign a photo of a Japanese-American internment camp. Keith Olbermann, who I also like, always flashes that awful picture of her, as if being caught in a grimace makes you wrong. If her rhetoric is so wrong, why resort to these kinds of tactics?

In person, she’s just a tiny thing, underscored by this sick video of some guy getting in her face and screaming, followed by a violent fantasy shot of her bleeding. I haven’t read her book, but if I did, I doubt I would have to physically intimidate her in order to get my point across, or use Japanese internment victims as props, or try to deny that she is a very attractive woman.

Anyway, I like my relationship with Michelle the way it is. Despite her toughness, I sense some very raw nerves, and I’m sure her positive feelings about me are fragile. Whatever she sees in me, perhaps she can see in other liberals, so I didn’t want to screw it up by getting in an argument with her, or being too suck-uppy. There are a million liberals for her to fight with. So, I said “Hi,” and I hope I thanked her, and went on my way.

Similarly, I would urge those on the right not to dismiss sites like Media Matters or Crooks and Liars, or personalities like Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow. Any dope can work up a froth, but it takes talent to put your opponent’s argument in context, concede the points that have merit, and argue those that don’t. The right could learn a lot from Maddow, whose charm and cultivated sense of fairness trump a truckload of snark. If Fox News had any brains, they’d give Mary Katherine Ham a show at 9 pm.

That brings me to David Shuster. I did a write-around on an interview I did with him a few weeks ago, and everybody flipped shit when I said “From what I know of Shuster, I don’t think that he’s ideologically driven.” I’m not going to re-argue the point here, I just want to point out that clinging to assumptions is never helpful, it’s not going to help you “win.” I was one of the people who assumed that Shuster was a lefty. Now, whether you think he’s good at it or not, I think Shuster’s passion for journalism is what drives him into a ditch now and then. His contempt for James O’Keefe is obviously about that. Ditto Breitbart. But also, think back to the Chelsea Clinton incident. The central issue there was the Clinton campaign’s use of Chelsea on the campaign trail, while insisting the press stay away.

His throwdown with John Ziegler was also mainly about the press’ treatment of Sarah Palin.

What surprised me most about our interview was Shuster’s acceptance of the roles of people like O’Keefe, Breitbart, and Drudge in journalism. I assumed it might have had to do with his network’s reprimand of his handling of O’Keefe. Now, I think I get what he was saying. I think he views them the same way I view Newsbusters. While I understand, I have to disagree on the particulars.

That brings me to Big Journalism. The key difference here is the fundamental dishonesty with which they operate. It all started at CPAC.

First, a little backstory. I was outside the hotel copping a smoke when I heard some CPAC attendees buzzing about a run-in between Andrew and liberal videographer/columnist Max Blumenthal, that had just occurred (this is an annual rite at CPAC). I learned later, from Max, that he was on his way out of the hotel when he was accosted by James O’Keefe’s ACORN-busting partner, Hannah Giles.

According to Max, she began asking him “bizarre questions,” and a crowd quickly formed. He engaged the crowd for about an hour, and while they started out hostile, by the end, it was much more civil. As the gathering broke up, Breitbart saw Max, and (according to Max) started an argument, part of which can be seen here. (Max’s own video may be available soon.) The crux of the argument was Max’s accusation that Breitbart’s…independent contractor… is a racist. I find it instructive, though, that in both this argument and in his interview with me, he says that the worst thing you can do in America is to accuse someone of racism. Andrew, if you’re reading this, here’s a follow-up: How many notches below that is actually being a racist?

Max also claimed that the DC police who were handling security for the conference advised him to leave for his own safety.

Upon hearing this, I rushed into the hotel to ask Andrew about it. Aside from his dissertation on mucus and weird personal cracks, there are several things worth noting.

First of all, I did not accuse anyone of racism, no matter how much Breitbart wishes I did. I simply asked a question. Breitbart and his crew might want to paint this as an indictment itself, like “when did you stop beating your wife,” but this is just not the case. There’s ample reason to ask it, and it’s a gift-wrapped opportunity for them to put this issue to rest.

In fact, this points up a neat contrast between O’Keefe and myself. I had a reason to ask the question. It’s an issue that’s been raised elsewhere, based on O’Keefe’s own behavior. In fact, after my interview with Breitbart, several CPAC attendees thanked me for “calling it out.”

O’Keefe, on the other hand, decided to set up a sting operation to see if ACORN would give tax help to a pimp and a prostitute. Why? Did O’Keefe have any reason to believe that this was an issue for ACORN? He’s never said so. So what is it about ACORN that made him want to engage in the pimp attack? Where was the probable cause?

If only James or Breitbart would answer that. For it appears that Breitbart’s influence over O’Keefe extends to only let him talk to friendly journalists, but, as our encounter shows, his influence isn’t large enough to include taking responsibility for O’Keefe’s actual product. Apparently, O’Keefe has no editor. This is a great deal for Breitbart, as he gets to exploit O’Keefe’s work, but assumes less responsibility in protecting him.

Also worth noting is that when Breitbart realized what my followup question would be, he grabbed my camera and tried to end the interview. I shouted, to be heard above the crowd, “Because I got him, I got you!” I challenged him to stay and answer the question. As you can see, he wanted to leave because he had no answer, because there’s only one answer.

Now, for some reason, it’s very imp0rtant to Big Journalism’s John Nolte to believe that, after the interview, I said “We got him. We got him.” I don’t understand the significance, but it’s so crucial to him that he even made the quote a nickname for me. The problem is, that’s not what I said.

What I did say is pretty similar, and I only object for the sake of accuracy. The point is, Nolte refuses to correct his reporting.

After Breitbart used the crowd of 100 or so to get away from me, several CPAC attendees urged me to go after him, and I say “Nah, that’s ok, I got him. That’s why he’s running away.”

Saying “We got him” would make no sense, since there was no one there with me. If there had been, I probably would have said that. The fact, though, is that I did not.

Later that night, I went out for karaoke with about 10 other conservative bloggers, mostly from Redstate.

Christian Hartsock, one of James O’Keefe’s friends resourcefully trailed me to the karaoke bar, and accosted me outside, at about 2 am.We had about a 15 minute exchange, during which I completely demolished him. I asked him the same thing I asked Breitbart, and after dodging me for as long as he could, he predictably accused me of racism for equating a pimp costume with black men.

“So you’re saying that pimp=black is racist?” I said.

He warily agreed. “Then why did James tell Fox News that he was surprised anyone believed he was a pimp, when he’s the whitest guy ever? White=not a pimp?”

Boom! He had no response. Looong pause. “C’mon, that was a joke.”

I predicted that he would chop up the video, if he posted it at all, and I was right. Here’s what Hartsock put out. Even in his cherry-picked version, I still crush him:

It should be noted that the Redstaters surrounding me all promised, at the time, to loudly call Hartsock out if he tried to post an edited version. They have all chickened out, and can GFT. Ask any of them, they’ll tell you what happened.

Anyway, Nolte seems to think he can help himself by crawling onto Twitter every now and then to insult me, then run away when I challenge him ass to post the whole Hartsock tape.

The irony is that Hartsock posted the clip in an article where he tries to defend the heavily edited ACORN tapes. Awesome, right?

Aside from correcting the record, the point of all this is that these guys are fundamentally dishonest, so you can’t even trust the facts they present. Other partisan blogs like Media Matters or Newsbusters might leave out facts that don’t support their stories, but by and large, they don’t alter them. There is no place for outright liars like O’Keefe, Nolte, and Henneberger in journalism. I cut Hartsock some slack because I don’t blame him for hiding the utter humiliation I dealt him. We’re all only human.

The irony is that these guys are picking a fight with the one guy who can give them a fair shake. The right is certainly not going to tell them what they tell me, the left has no interest in their side of things, and the mainstream media is just happy to point at them until they stop being entertaining.

Which brings me to Alan Colmes, a guy who is unappreciated by the people he can most help. I said my piece about Alan on Mediaite, and I was humbled to get a big “Thank you” from him. This is a guy who is a better liberal than a lot of the posers who snark it up around the internet, he’s sharp as a tack, and he’s the only liberal who’s in a position to do any good. Everyone else is preaching to the choir, but when Alan points out something that doesn’t make sense, he does it in front of people who actually need to hear it. He might not convince them to love health care reform, but maybe he can convince a few that it’s not going to kill them. And if you think you could have done better than him against Hannity, keep in mind that Keith Olbermann won’t have any guests on who disagree with him.

If this business has taught me anything, it’s that you should always challenge your own assumptions, and that it’s rarely a good idea to personalize that which is not personal. Since I’m only human, I’m sure I will continue to do a little of both, but that’s how we learn. I suppose it’s also important to remember that Andrew Breitbart, Michelle Malkin, Keith Olbermann, Markos Moulitsas, and even Tommy Christopher are all human beings, not bogeymen.

Surprise! Anti-Healthcare Reform Horror Story is a Lie

Update: So, that Canadian lady in the commercial, the one who wants to keep at least 20 million Americans without healthcare?  The one with the life-threatening brain tumor?  Yeah, not so much.

Still, I found Holmes tale both compelling and troubling. So I decided to check a little further. On the Mayo Clinic’s website, Shona Holmes is a success story. But it’s somewhat different story than all the headlines might have implied. Holmes’ “brain tumour” was actually a Rathke’s Cleft Cyst on her pituitary gland. To quote an American source, the John Wayne Cancer Center, “Rathke’s Cleft Cysts are not true tumors or neoplasms; instead they are benign cysts.”

Well, surely, a Rathke cleft cyst can be life-threatening, right?

Mortality associated with RCCs is extremely rare. In a study conducted by Shin and colleagues, the mortality rate was 0%, and the recurrence rate was 19%.2 In the literature, recurrence rates typically are lower, commonly 5-10%; however, Mukherjee co-authors reported a recurrence rate of 33%.

So, there you have it.  The Republicans want you to put the future of your healthcare in the hands of a Canadian hypochondriac.  I suppose that’s marginally better than letting the Republicans handle it, but I think we’ll stick with the public option.

Healthcare PWN-age Video of the Day

This clip is actually a few weeks old, but it was emailed to me by a conservative who was in an apoplectic lather over Jane Hamsher’s attempted PWNing of Townhall’s Jillian Bandes.

As it turns out, Jillian PWNed herself. Check it out.

Hamsher plays a little bit of dirty pool here, using her own cancer survivorship to try and taze Bandes into submission,but in doing so, misses a better opportunity. Everybody’s got a story, and when you rest your argument on one, you legitimize whatever sob story the right wants to dig up. Since all the right really has are anecdotes and speculative fiction, this is a bad strategy.

In fact, she’s responding to an ad in which another cancer survivor does the same thing. We could trade horror stories all day long, and it wouldn’t do a thing to illuminate this issue for people.

Hamsher misses the big kill here, as Jillian Bandes delivers the perfect setup. When Shuster asks her who represents the “50 million uninsured,” Bandes torturously haggles him down to 20 million people.

20 million people? Using the best math available to the right, generously granting all of Bandes’ assumptions, that is the best they can do? Why didn’t Hamsher zero in on that? Who is representing the at least twenty million people who cannot get health insurance?

That is the real shame in this.

She misses another chance, as well, to challenge the contradictory assumptions of the right. They say that the public plan will be a deadly morass, yet they are convinced that private insurance companies will be unable to compete with it. What sense does that make? That’s like saying that cheap cans of shit will drive beef stew out of the market. It’s nonsense. Bandes also gets away without answering to the overwhelming public support for a government option.

There may be some grassroots opposition to the public option, but it seems to be coming from insurance companies and their best customers. Take it with a grain of salt, then get your blood pressure checked, if you can.

Healthcare PWN-age Video of the Day

This clip is actually a few weeks old, but it was emailed to me by a conservative who was in an apoplectic lather over Jane Hamsher’s attempted PWNing of Townhall’s Jillian Bandes.

As it turns out, Jillian PWNed herself.  Check it out.

Hamsher plays a little bit of dirty pool here, using her own cancer survivorship to try and taze Bandes into submission,but in doing so, misses a better opportunity.  Everybody’s got a story, and when you rest your argument on one, you legitimize whatever sob story the right wants to dig up.  Since all the right really has are anecdotes and speculative fiction, this is a bad strategy.

In fact, she’s responding to an ad in which another cancer survivor does the same thing.  We could trade horror stories all day long, and it wouldn’t do a thing to illuminate this issue for people.

Hamsher misses the big kill here, as Jillian Bandes delivers the perfect setup.  When Shuster asks her who represents the “50 million uninsured,” Bandes torturously haggles him down to 20 million people.

20 million people?  Using the best math available to the right, generously granting all of Bandes’ assumptions, that is the best they can do?  Why didn’t Hamsher zero in on that?  Who is representing the at least twenty million people who cannot get health insurance?

That is the real shame in this.

She misses another chance, as well, to challenge the contradictory assumptions of the right.  They say that the public plan will be a deadly morass, yet they are convinced that private insurance companies will be unable to compete with it.  What sense does that make?  That’s like saying that cheap cans of shit will drive beef stew out of the market.  It’s nonsense.  Bandes also gets away without answering to the overwhelming public support for a government option.

There may be some grassroots opposition to the public option, but it seems to be coming from insurance companies and their best customers.  Take it with a grain of salt, then get your blood pressure checked, if you can.

So, 13 Minutes of Teabagging is OK, But 1 Blowjob…

This is the clip that everyone’s buzzing about.  Tee-frakkin’-hee, Marcy Wheeler said “blowjob” on cable.  Look, I get censoring language on the networks, but I pay for cable so I can hear the cursing!  And blowjob isn’t even cursing.

Yeah, Shuster feels faint about the blow-j after this cocky tour de force:

What I found more interesting was my old pal, Matt Lewis, conceding that Bush got away with politicizing the DOJ, in order to argue that correcting that was also politicizing the DOJ.  Nicely done, Matt.  They never saw it coming.  Get it? Coming?

Freeper Madness and Young Republicans: Racism Rears Ugly Rear End

malia-peace

Update 2: Michael Shaw at HuffPo thinks everyone except the racists should be ashamed of themselves, including us.  He says we escalated the story, and then tweets by Shuster, et al, took it to 11.  I’m not sure how that works, though, since we reported those tweets, and the attendant escalation.  In other words, we reported what Shaw reported, only sooner and more accurately.  Shame on us.

Update:  The plot thickens.  Gawker reports that Chris Parry, the Vancouver Sun reporter who broke this story, was also a blogger for Daily Kos, and has suggested, in the past, posting hate speech and blaming it on conservatives.  This does little to change the facts in this story, as Parry could hardly have pulled, then reinstated, the offensive thread.  It might mean a rough week for Parry, though.  Parry responds here. Two high-profile stories about the intersection of racism and the Republican Party are exploding all over the internet.  The flap over comments at Free Republic and the Young Republicans’ election of a new president make for a sour cocktail this weekend. Most of the heat is being generated by this Vancouver Sun story about the comments on a Free Republic article featuring 11 year-old Malia Obama:

“A typical street whore.” “A bunch of ghetto thugs.” “Ghetto street trash.” “Wonder when she will get her first abortion.” These are a small selection of some of the racially-charged comments posted to the conservative ‘Free Republic’ blog Thursday, aimed at U.S. President Barack Obama’s 11-year-old daughter Malia after she was photographed wearing a t-shirt with a peace sign on the front.

You might think that this is the same as the lame attacks that Bill O’Reilly levels at commenters on DailyKos and/or Hot Air.  There are key differences.  The Sun report says that the offensive comments overwhelmingly outnumbered those critical of the vitriol, but the real problem is this:

After attention from other blogs, the thread was suppressed and placed under review, but before long it was returned to the site intact, and attracted a new series of racial slurs when the original complaint email was posted publicly to the site, with the sender’s email address intact.

So, they knew about the comments, put them back up, and apparently made the complainer a target for harassment. Very ugly.  Eventually, they took it down again. As disgusting as this story is, it didn’t stand to hurt Republicans that much on its own.  Freepers are not exactly considered the bellwether of mainstream conservative thought. Then, even after an impassioned plea by very young Republican Meghan McCain, the Young Republicans elected a new president with serious racism problems

.

The Young Republicans faced a stark choice at their convention in Indianapolis yesterday as they chose their next leader: a center-right twentysomething interested in greater outreach, or a self-described “true conservative” who is almost 40 and spent last week dealing with Daily Beast reports about her beliefs, which are, at best, often hateful, and at worst, downright racist. The delegates, in a vote of 470 – 415, chose the latter.

Fair or not, the effect of these two stories is devastating.  Already on Twitter, I’ve seen comparisons of the Freeper story to the Letterman/Palin feud, with liberals asking where the conservative denunciation is.  The Young Republicans story serves to neutralize the “few bad apples” rationale on the freeper story. As a liberal with a lot of conservative friends, I hate to see conservatives get painted, en masse, with this brush.  While this makes them understandably defensive on the subject, that defensiveness can lead to tone-deaf handling of these situations.  While some liberals’ idea of the GOP as the Ivory Soap of racism is way off the mark, many conservatives are also in denial about their party’s race problems.  The truth, as they say, lies somewhere in the middle. On the issue of racism, the truth can be elusive.  I think there’s always more racism, in general, than white people think there is.  On the other hand, I think there’s a lot less of it in the Republican Party than most liberals think.  Part of the perception problem that  the GOP has today is that the Democrats have a black President.  Where else are the racists supposed to go?  Just because most of the racists belong to one party doesn’t mean that that party is mostly racists. Still, when your party stands in opposition to policies that are seen as benefitting minorities, this kind of thing can really be damaging. I’ll tell my liberal friends exactly what I told conservatives who asked me where the liberal outrage was on the Playboy story:  Give it a minute.  This story broke on a Saturday afternoon.  Two of my conservative friends who write for very influential blogs just heard about it this morning, from me. To my conservative friends, I hope their reactions, and those of the Republican leadership, veer away from the kind of persecution complex stuff that Newsbusters’ treatment portends, and closer to this.  This story is already drawing attention from media heavy-hitters like Jake Tapper, Major Garrett, and David Shuster.  The conservative response can be a big win. As for the Young Republicans, I think Meghan McCain’s got their number.