My new “Think Again” column is called “Wall Street Wins (and Whines)” and is dedicated to the proposition that these insanely wealthy bankers should stop complaining about their hurt feelings, and instead marvel at their good fortune. You can find it here.
The Daily Beast piece I wrote in Paris about gay marriage victory and the (unhappy) transformation of liberalism has received a great deal of comment. You can find it here. I did another piece for them on the resurgence of the liberal Barack Obama, if only for the course of a press conference. You can find it here.
Most crucially, no doubt, Bruce’s eulogy for Clarence is here.
Now here’s Reed:
Fox News: “We…Decide”
Lately, I’ve had little interest in wading into the Fox News media swamp to point out how the whole enterprise is mired in bias and illegitimacy, especially since others have been doing yeoman’s work on the subject. (And with regard to that last example, perhaps it’s time the Washington Post find someone else to write their TV column if the current occupant can’t avoid using horrid clichés like “deafening silence” while simultaneously failing to grasp that Jon Stewart’s audience is not expected to laugh when he’s making a serious, insightful point about the conservative media’s victimization two-step.) Nevertheless, this week we witnessed, yet again, Fox News pushing the ridiculous boundaries of journalistic irresponsibility to new heights (or depths, as it were).
It all started last fall when Alec Baldwin sent a mock angry message along with a fruit basket to fellow actor Jim Parsons after the latter beat out the former at the Emmy Awards. Baldwin’s accompanying note read, tongue clearly in cheek: “Congratulations you talented, charming bastard.” (A joke that Parsons clearly got, by the way.)
But a story about this kind of clever, classy move wasn’t going to generate much media heat. So, Oliver Miller, a freelancer on AOL’s TV beat, decided to intentionally gin up controversy and clicks by eliding everything except the last word from Baldwin’s note. The result was one of the most egregious abuses of quote chopping in recent memory—not counting movie review blurbs, of course—and Miller’s story ended up reading: “Alec called Jim … ‘a bastard.’” (I would also point out that besides being willfully deceiving, this horrendously out-of-context quote is still factually incorrect.) Although Miller did somewhat disingenuously wonder if Baldwin was “kidding” later in his piece, he still slapped his own distorted headline on the piece, one that highlighted what he termed was a “rude message.” (The story’s gone from AOL, but archived here.)
Baldwin, clearly blindsided by this obviously unethical media behavior, rightly complained about the story online and the dishonest story was soon taken down and Miller subsequently fired. OK, AOL clearly has, or at the very least had, some editorial quality issues of their own thanks, in part, to pushing high story quotas and an obsession with buzz-worthy articles. Still, justice was eventually served, so to speak. But then, two weeks ago, this Miller fellow pops up again with a self-serving magazine article that revisits the incident and blames, of all people, Baldwin for his firing. (Though he doesn’t mention Baldwin specifically, plugging the included quote into Google turns up his and Baldwin’s name in seconds.)
And that’s where, right on cue, Fox News steps in, willing to repackage the smear and feed it into a tired old stereotype about the supposedly thin skin of petulant liberal elites. This past Tuesday, FoxNews.com picked up this angry-Hollywood-celebrity-gets-poor-journalist-fired thread and rolled it into a new story by one Meaghan Murphy that doubles down on Miller’s dishonest hackery. Murphy’s lede alone twists the truth of what really happened until it’s an almost unrecognizable ball of aggrieved right-wing bitterness: “Beware the wrath of Alec Baldwin, as insulting him, even by accident, may cost you your job.”
Of all the distortions offered up in this one sentence, the topper has to be introducing this notion that the lowly, hard-working Miller merely had the misfortune of running afoul of a powerful liberal like Baldwin. Particularly since nothing Miller did was “by accident,” as he himself admits later in that very same Fox News article when he acknowledges: “The title I wrote was sort of purposely misleading.”
In a just world, getting that kind of incriminating quote would have been the point where Murphy decides to tell her editor she has to shut down her story and move on to the next topic. But, alas, that world is not the one inhabited by Fox News. Still, there’s an understandably attractive upside-down logic at work here, one that clearly appeals to Fox News’ conservative audience. After all, it must be much more comfortable to say something like “Bush led us into invading Iraq by accident,” than to have to confront the ugly reality that their much admired president had been purposely misleading the country.
Murphy’s awful piece wraps up with Miller continuing to intentionally miss the point, then sympathetically gives him the last word: “I’m really sorry—I was just doing my job.” Of course, when a journalist at a reputable media organization flagrantly distorts a quote and slants a headline to manufacture controversy that is the very opposite of doing one’s job, which is precisely why Miller lost his. Murphy, on the other hand, probably knows her employer well enough to realize that her story, wracked though it may be with inconsistencies and inaccuracies, represents no threat to her own job security.
And in the end, that is the larger, more important point of this thoroughly unimportant kerfuffle. If the pathological need to “balance” the so-called liberal media drives Fox News to warp and contort even the most insignificant of stories to suit a right-wing worldview, there’s really no telling how far they’ll go to push their agenda when they decide the “news” they’re “reporting” actually matters.
Hi, Mr. Alterman:
Long-time fan of your work, before the first days of Air America. You comment on a number of musical artists, makes me wonder if you’re familiar with Anais Mitchell? Brilliant young singer/songwriter from Vermont. Wonderfully melodic and literate songs, she studied Middle Eastern languages abroad. Her father is a novelist and professor of English, she grew up with no TV, just a library of books and albums. Lots of folk artists, and the Beatles and their contemporaries. Her first CD, "Hymns For The Exiled", was released in 2004 when she was only 23 years old. Very lovely and brave piece of work, took on the whole GWB terror war meme, right at the height of that administration’s lying and public manipulation. One great song "two kids" has a verse sung in Arabic, written by a Turkish acquaintance of hers. Beautifully done, she delivers heavy political/cultural stuff in a very accessible and musical way. Signed with Ani DiFranco’s label for her next CD, "The Brightness". I think it exceeds "Hymns", much as "Sgt Pepper" exceeded it’s brilliant predecessor, "Revolver". Less overtly political, but very provocative and engaging. Includes an amazing song from her subsequent project "Hadestown", a folk opera telling of the myth of Orpheus and Persephone, set in a post-apocalyptic world. I hope you check her out, you’ll thank me. A small repayment for your fine work over the years.
PS: How about Richard Julian?
Editor’s Note: To contact Eric Alterman, use this form.