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Do "both sides" really do what Breitbart does?


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Do "both sides" really do what Breitbart does?

If I ran the universe, the Shirley Sherrod mess would prompt a real media conversation about these questions: Do both sides really engage in Breitbart-style tactics? Is all "ideological media" created equal?

The discussion of the Sherrod saga has been marked by an inability to distinguish between the media techniques employed by ideologically motivated media on the left, and those used by Breitbart's operation and sometimes Fox. What's not being acknowledged is that the latter camp is far more willing to use tactics that are pretty much indistinguishable from political opposition research.

Here, for instance, is an illuminating exchange between Matt Lauer and The Nation's Katrina Vanden Heuvel on this morning's Today Show:

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: Are we going to be a media system which is vetting and holding standards? Or are we going to be bullied as a country by right wing media, which peddles fear and slander to really destroy President Obama's presidency? Is this White House going to wake up?

MATT LAUER: In the past it's worked in both directions, by the way. Biased media is nothing new.

VANDEN HEUVEL: It's not about bias. It's about a mainstream media with a few exceptions in this case accepting Andrew Breitbart, a journalist who is known to have no crediblity.

Lauer tells us that there's "biased media" on both sides. But while Breitbart may indeed be "biased," that fact has nothing whatsoever to do with what Breitbart did, which is actively mislead his audience. You can be biased without actively misleading.

The conventions of media neutrality apparently require us to keep saying that "both sides do it." But let's drill down on what "it" really is. If by "it" we mean making editorial decisions -- what story to cover, what quotes to seek, who to interview, etc -- that are to some degree rooted in one's political preferences and beliefs, then yes, both sides do it.

But if by "it" we mean purveying information to readers or viewers that's designed only to achieve a political objective, with no effort whatsoever to ascertain its accuracy, true significance, or context, then the answer is: No, both sides don't do it.

Do some left wing commentators say crazy things? Sure. But high-profile commentators on the left, for instance at networks like MSNBC, inarguably hold themselves to a higher factual standard than Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly. (Yes, they apologized to Sherrod. So what?)

What's more, sites like HuffPo and TPM, while perhaps ideologically and politically motivated in some ways, have teams of reporters who are devoted to determining what's fair and accurate before sharing it with readers. These reporters would never run with a video like the one leaked to Breitbart without making a serious effort to contextualize it and determine its significance and accuracy. I challenge anyone to demonstrate that the Breitbart-Fox axis has any real equivalent on the left.

Do both sides do it? I say No, they don't. And if I ran the show more media folks would step up and take a stand on that question one way or the other.

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/plum-line/2010/07/do_both_sides_really_do_what_b.html

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I'm personally conflicted on this question. I think that over the past five years that absolutely it's come more from the right than the left. I can think of several stories that have literally been fabrications being pushed by FOX News as a result of rightwing blogs and talk radio shows. ACORN tapes, Sherrod, the birth certificate lie, Obama's supposed education at a "madrassa", so on and so forth. I can think of unfair interpretations and spin put out by the left that made it into stories on MSNBC and CNN, but nothing that proved an outright lie or fabrication.

However, the tactic of smearing someone by taking their quotes out of context is an old game. Few people remember Christina Jeffrey, the person selected by Newt Gingrich as House historian in 1994. She lost that job because Democrats took her suggestion to teach high school students more about the Nazi's perspective so they can understand how such evil could have occurred. They used it to claim that she was a Nazi sympathizer even though the full context of her writings made clear she was not. Substantively, I'm not sure how that's different than what was done to Sherrod. The only difference I see is that one smear used more technology than the other, and I'm not convinced that's a significant difference. Oh, and the Jeffrey story got lots of airtime by CNN and the networks, who did not do their own independent fact-checking.

I think it's fair to say "both sides have done it in the past, but right now we're increasingly seeing these frauds and slanders coming from the right". I don't think it's fair to say "both sides don't do it".

I will say that the liberal sites do tend to be much more fact-driven than the conservative sites. I pondered awhile ago about the noticeable lack of quantitative-driven analysis from the right. We can look at Nate Silver and The Monkey Cage and other top-notch political analysis being done, a lot of it from the liberal side, but not much similar analysis from conservatives. Part of that might be due to the the anti-intellectual strain running through conservative circles these days, but I don't think that's all of it. I think that the more prominent liberal sites just care more about being factually accurate than the conservative sites.

Edited by AcworthFalcFan
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Both sides are to blame for bias and distorting facts. But it absolutely has been more from the right than the left the last few years and I don't see how anyone can seriously disagree with that.

I think the major difference is while both sides have lying scum bags only one side seems to legitamize them and their opinion.. There is no left wing equivalent to Limbaugh as far as power and influence..Left wing politicians aren't afraid to repudiate Michael Moore or Bill Maher..

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It is relevant to the discussion.

But I won't discuss it -- it's been done to death.

I agree that it's relevant, but I also think it contrasts to the current situation nicely. That appeared to be an isolated incident. CNN was rightly criticized and had to explain what happened to their viewers. I don't remember anything similar happening during the following several years, however.

With these fabricated scandals, you literally have them coming one after another. By the time one gets debunked (the Sherrod story is unique in how quickly it was refuted), the same cast of characters have another one teed up already. We just learned the truth about the ACORN tapes and now we've got Breitbart (the same guy who pushed those) with another heavily edited smear tape. And instead of FOX News explaining what happened regarding ACORN and learning from their mistake, they start hyping yet another Andrew Breitbart deception. And instead of explaining to viewers how their opinion shows and news programming messed up, they're spinning this into an attack against Obama and denying any culpability in it.

That's what is really disturbing. There's no attempt to examine how they were fooled, let alone to prevent it from happening again. I'm willing to bet dollars to donuts that Andrew Breitbart continues being a frequently invited guest on FOX.

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Could someone post a link? I'd like to review it again.

This is Wayne LaPierre addressing the issue on CNN. You can see the story between clips of him talking -- if you watch, they fire off a machine gun in a story about so-called "assault weapons." The applause you hear is folks at the NRA meeting where they showed the clip, so I acknowledge a biased source, but this is the gist of it.

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Similarly, this is the Washington Times, so I acknowledge the biased source, but it's a news story about the piece CNN did in May 2003.

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2003/may/19/20030519-110144-7123r/

The unfortunate thing is most mainstream news sources just didn't carry it. They shared CNN's viewpoint at the time.

I remember watching this live on CNN when it happened, as well as Wayne Lapierre's appearance the next day, so I can vouch for the accuracy of the description about the story.

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I agree that it's relevant, but I also think it contrasts to the current situation nicely. That appeared to be an isolated incident. CNN was rightly criticized and had to explain what happened to their viewers. I don't remember anything similar happening during the following several years, however.

This was in 2009, and they essentially did the same thing:

http://edition.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/americas/03/26/gun.smuggling/index.html#cnnSTCVideo

Go to 2:34. They talk about gun show sales, etc., they show a couple of semi-auto AK variants. Then at 3:57 they pull a Romanian AK variant out of a box (semi-auto) followed by a clip of a machine gun.

So isolated, yes. Not during the following years? Not so much.

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That CNN story does seem to be "the one" though. On the other side you not only have the Breitbart fiascoes, you also have the Swift Boating, the madrassas, the socialist, the Climategates...it just keeps going.

The two -- see below.

It's apparently their pet issue. But it's lying just the same.

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The way I see it - both sides do it, but generally only when the opposition has power. Liberals did it when there was an "R" in the white house and majority republican congress - Conservatives have been doing it increasingly since 2006.

I think that's about right.

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The way I see it - both sides do it, but generally only when the opposition has power. Liberals did it when there was an "R" in the white house and majority republican congress - Conservatives have been doing it increasingly since 2006.

The bias part of your assumption is true. But there is a huge difference between running negative stories about the opposition and mischaracterizing the truth or outright lying.

Take for example Fox news during the presidential campaign in '08. They referred to Mrs Obama as 'Barack's baby's Momma' in one instance and called the common fist bump between the two as 'a terrorist fist jab'.

No matter how you try to raionalize those examples I'm sure you can understand how they can be derogatory and thus paint the individuals as someone that is less than trustworthy. That is not presenting facts that enable a viewer to decide based on those facts, this is manipulating facts to influence one's emotional response to foster distrust.

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The way I see it - both sides do it, but generally only when the opposition has power. Liberals did it when there was an "R" in the white house and majority republican congress - Conservatives have been doing it increasingly since 2006.

I don't remember this many crazy, fabricated stories getting airtime on CNN during Bush's term in office. Maybe I'm wrong and I'll be glad to concede that if someone can list them out for me, but I don't think we've seen anything as egregious as the ACORN tapes, the "madrassa" story, and the Sherrod story on CNN since the assault weapons ban story.

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The bias part of your assumption is true. But there is a huge difference between running negative stories about the opposition and mischaracterizing the truth or outright lying.

Take for example Fox news during the presidential campaign in '08. They referred to Mrs Obama as 'Barack's baby's Momma' in one instance and called the common fist bump between the two as 'a terrorist fist jab'.

No matter how you try to raionalize those examples I'm sure you can understand how they can be derogatory and thus paint the individuals as someone that is less than trustworthy. That is not presenting facts that enable a viewer to decide based on those facts, this is manipulating facts to influence one's emotional response to foster distrust.

Newt Gingrich wanted old people to eat dog food.

George Bush hates black people.

Etc.

Et al.

Ad nauseum.

This is not a one-sided issue. I agree it's getting worse, but it's BEEN getting worse. When GWB was President I often said "I've never seen it this bad before." Then Obama got elected, and it got worse still. And when the next Republican is elected, it will get worse still.

I've said it over and over but I'm going to say it again -- if all you partisans want civility ("you" plural, not you specifically deacon), try being civil when the other side is in office. Until someone decides to treat the Presidency (and not just their preferred President) with respect, this is only going to get worse and worse.

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The Killian documents about GWB's National Guard service was a complete fabrication reported on 60 Minutes and CBS news. Even worse, it was done just a few months prior to a Presidential election.

So the answer is unequivocally, both sides do it.

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The Killian documents about GWB's National Guard service was a complete fabrication reported on 60 Minutes and CBS news. Even worse, it was done just a few months prior to a Presidential election.

So the answer is unequivocally, both sides do it.

And notably, Dan Rather was fired in response. Who at FOX News has lost their job?

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The way I see it - both sides do it, but generally only when the opposition has power. Liberals did it when there was an "R" in the white house and majority republican congress - Conservatives have been doing it increasingly since 2006.

Bingo. I can think of a few other total fabrications from the democrats, but they all happened when there was a republican in power. Dan Rather for one...

But the conservative talking heads, the Breitbarts and Limbaughs, are largely responsible for the stuff lately. The GOP needs a leader that can separate them from those clowns.

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