BALCONY FAILURE: Who lost the press!

MONDAY, APRIL 2, 2012

Part 1—Is the press corps minimally competent: As a general matter, we agree with David Carr’s assessment of the press corps’ work in the matter of Trayvon Martin.

In this morning’s New York Times, Carr devotes his “Media Equation” column to the coverage of this important event. As a general matter, we agree with this assessment, which is found near the start of his piece:
CARR (4/2/12): That the public is rendering its verdict immediately and firmly may be routine, but choosing sides takes on a deeper, more dangerous meaning when race is at the heart of the story. Race as an explosive issue is nothing new, but it’s been staggering to see it simmer and boil over in our hyperdivided media environment where nonstop coverage on the Web and cable television creates a rush to judgment every day.

Partisan politics and far-flung conflicts fit nicely into that world—who’s ahead, who’s behind, should we stay or go?—but racial conflict? Not so much.

That hasn’t stopped many in the media from displaying the same reflexive vigilantism that some are attributing to George Zimmerman, the man who shot Trayvon. All over the Internet and on cable TV, posses are forming, positions are hardening and misinformation is flourishing. Instead of debating how we as a culture are going to proceed, an increasingly partisan system of news and social media has factionalized and curdled.
As a general matter, we agree with those assessments. There have been “rushes to judgment” in this matter in many parts of the media. especially so on cable TV. Evocative language to the side, many major media figures have engaged in the same sorts of rushes to judgment “that some are attributing [rightly or wrongly] to George Zimmerman.”

Elementary facts have been misstated. Facts not in evidence have been widely assumed. In some instances, the better evidence has been discarded in favor of the murkier evidence—murkier “evidence” which can be used to advance a pre-approved judgment.

As a general matter, we agree with Carr’s assessment. In our view, this has been one of the most unvarnished media breakdowns of the modern era. For us, the problem with Carr’s analysis begins when he starts to name names—when he starts naming the names of those in the media have behaved in these unfortunate ways.

In our view, a funny thing happens when Carr names names. He starts by quoting a media figure who has, as far as we know, done nothing wrong in his own coverage of this topic:
CARR (continuing directly): “It has been depressing to watch something as important as this get run through the American polarization machine,” said Chris Hayes, the host of “Up With Chris Hayes,” a weekend political talk show on MSNBC. “The first week after it became national news, Act 1, seemed to be built on a shared agreement that what happened was outrageous and upsetting no matter what the facts ended up showing. But then came the backlash and now you’ve got people picking sides.”
To us, that passage is slightly odd. Few news orgs have been “picking sides” as aggressively as MSNBC, where Hayes has his own weekend show. But Carr lets Hayes define the problem—and Carr never says a word at any point about this channel’s work.

Has MSNBC done bad work? If so, that isn’t Hayes’ fault, of course. As far as we know, he himself has done nothing “wrong” in his treatment of this story. On the other hand, we haven’t heard that Hayes has ever challenged the conduct at MSNBC, his own cable channel. In the modern media landscape, “professionals” simply don’t do that!

Crackers, please! It was odd to see Carr pick someone from MSNBC when it came time to voice the complaint against the press corps’ conduct. And uh-oh! Here’s what happened when Carr started naming the names of the major news orgs who have done wrong in this case:
CARR: As if the overheated cable news debate weren’t enough, social media are fueling the story with misinformation, along with incendiary calls to action. There is a Twitter account called “@killzimmerman” that suggested George Zimmerman needed to be “shot dead in the street.” On Twitter, the movie director Spike Lee passed on what he thought was Mr. Zimmerman’s address, but it was wrong and an elderly couple was forced to flee from their home. And what if Mr. Lee had gotten it right? (Mr. Lee has since apologized and reached a settlement with the couple.)

Early last week, thanks to Fox News and Geraldo Rivera, coverage pivoted around the preponderance of hoodies rather than the ubiquity of handguns. By the end of last week, the Drudge Report was in lurid, link-driven dudgeon, suggesting that the real victim was George Zimmerman. On Thursday afternoon, there were more than 10 links at the top of the site to articles casting doubt on just how much of a victim Trayvon was, including an interview with Mr. Zimmerman’s father accusing President Obama of spreading hate. It’s ugly out there and getting uglier.

The victim is being subjected to the full media pat-down. The Daily Caller, a conservative Web site, published 152 pages of what it plausibly represented as Trayvon’s Twitter feed. His handle on Twitter was built on a racial epithet, and his penchant for objectifying his female peers in profane ways was on lurid display. The facile implication was that the young man was obviously well-acquainted with thug life.

[...]

Business Insider, which would seem to have no ideological skin in the game save clickability, blithely published one of the photos that later turned out to be misidentified that they had cadged from a neo-Nazi Web site. Nice work, guys.
Carr refers to “the overheated cable news debate” at various points in his column. But when he starts to name names, he cites only one cable channel, Fox, citing an absurdly overstated, but rather limited, comment by Rivera. In fact, all four news orgs cited by Carr are news orgs which come from the right. (We’re including Drudge as a news site.) Concerning that overheated cable debate, Carr’s readers are never told about anything which may have occurred on CNN or MSNBC.

Everyone named is from the right. MSNBC’s conduct gets disappeared—actually glossed, due to the inclusion of Hayes. This is a remarkable decision, since Al Sharpton’s dual role in this case as both journalist and activist is very unusual by American norms, whatever one might think of the work he has done on his nightly MSNBC program. (On a journalistic basis, we think his work has been awful—and we've long been fans of Sharpton.)

In the course of his column, Carr compliments two major news orgs, People magazine and ABC News. He extends a blanket of implied approbation to MSNBC and the Atlantic by dint of the people he quotes from those orgs. When he goes in search of the press corps’ bad actors, he names four conservative orgs—but fails to criticize any liberal or mainstream news org for its role in this giant breakdown.

And not only that! Carr even excuses his own New York Times, a newspaper which has made major mistakes in its basic reporting, while making little attempt to help the public sort out the mess he describes.

Is David Carr minimally competent? Even as he laments an ideology-fueled rush to judgment, he seems to be picking and choosing his villains based on ideology. In general terms, he correctly describes a remarkable mess—a remarkable breakdown in journalistic procedure.

But when he starts to get specific, he seems to join the breakdown himself.

Some thoughts about basic competence:

On Saturday night, we entertained a group of medical specialists who were conducting their annual national conference. These people have saved and extended many lives through their remarkable competence in a highly specialized form of medical practice.

Another thought about competence:

Some years ago, we entertained an industry group from the building trade. They too were holding their annual conference. Their conference had an unusual theme that year: “Balcony failure.”

We’ve never forgotten that term.

Reading through the group’s conference schedule, we recall being struck by the very large number of ways a balcony can fall off a building. But in truth, this sort of thing rarely occurs. To all appearances, the people who build our hotels and apartment buildings possess a high degree of basic competence too.

That said, does the American “press corps” possess even minimal competence? All week long, we’ll ask that question in the context of Trayvon Martin’s death.

We’ll review the work of CNN’s Soledad O’Brien—and the work of Carr’s New York Times. We’ll look at what Kathleen Parker wrote in the Washington post. We’ll compare MSNBC to Fox. We’ll talk about broken noses.

We'll discuss this pathetic performance by someone at NBC News. They've been like this for a long time.

Does your “press corps” possess even minimal competence? We’ve been asking that question at this site since the spring of 1998. During that time, very few cases have defined this problem quite as starkly as this case has.

Does your “press corps” possess even minimal competence? Many other major groups do.

Who lost the American “press corps?” Can this guild be saved?

Tomorrow: Is the New York Times minimally competent?

72 comments:

  1. Bob, may I politely point out that rushes to judgment and even incendiary calls for action are nothing new in either American or human history?

    May I also point out a sentence in Carr's column that the old Bob Somerby used to boldface? "There is a Twitter account called '@killzimmerman' that suggested George Zimmerman needed to be 'shot dead in the street.'”

    So one unnamed yahoo somewhere in the world sets up a Twitter account. Which proves what?

    Once again, Bob, look up "lynch mobs" and see how far they go back. The only difference now is that there are a gazillion ways to express these urgings publically. Which could be a very good thing, as well as a bad one.

    Maybe the guy sitting in his mom's basement gets to sound tough of the Internet instead of joining an actual mob.

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    1. So, because these things happen, even every day somewhere, that justifies bad behavior? Wow!

      Horace Feathers

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    2. Not what I said. What I did say, in case you care to continue the discussion, is that this stuff isn't the invention of this particular press corps at this particular moment in human history, like Somerby wants you to believe it is.

      In other words, the "press" is certainly no worse today than it has ever been, and somehow the republic has managed to survive.

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    3. '...the "press" is certainly no worse today than it has ever been...'

      I would heartily disagree with that statement. Perhaps you hadn't noticed, Anonymous, but newspapers have been closing down, reducing staff, cutting budgets for the past decade. An entire branch of news gathering is fast disappearing as a result - investigative journalism.

      Bloggers simply don't have the budget or inclination to follow complex stories over long months. TV doesn't have the attention span.

      And nothing fills the gap. Serious investigative journalists were once the cream of the crop, the best of the best. They've been retired, fired, and left behind.

      The "press" is steady state only if you utterly ignore the rapidly approaching end of print journalism.

      As for the survival of the republic, that's still up in the air.

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    4. If you mean the impending end of the thing that lands on your front lawn every morning, then perhaps, just perhaps, you are right.

      If, however, you mean the end of serious journalism because the media is moving into new forms of communication, then you are dead wrong.

      Just because it looks like a Tower of Babel to you doesn't make it so.

      There is more good, solid journalism going on today, investigative and otherwise, than ever before, and never in the history of humankind has it been easier to get a story out to the public.

      For example, try googling "Paul Ryan budget plan" and see what comes up on the screen you are now reading this with.

      You'll find it being dissected every way until Sunday, in ways that range from the near peer-reviewed academic, to a loudmouth shouting on his own blog from his mother's basement.

      Of course, it does take a functioning brain to hit the "delete" button and decide what is worthwhile and what is spin and propaganda. But it's always been that way. You've always had to consider the source.

      But I have faith that people, by and large, are both curious enough and intelligent enough to do that.

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    5. It sounds like you're running for office.

      Two questions.

      What you've just stated runs counter to most data I've encountered. First, those folks whom you trust to hit the "delete" button have already divided into camps. Given the enormous amount of information available to them when they google "Paul Ryan budget plan", why shouldn't they read only the stuff that feeds their biases (which by most measures is exactly what we humans, curious intelligent, tend to do)?

      Please identify actual investigative journalism taken place today. And by investigative journalism, I mean exactly what I began to outline above. Reportage that is the culmination of many months of legwork resulting in revelations that shake up the structures of power. Which floor on the Tower of Babel?

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    6. I have no idea how many people have "divided into camps" but I certainly know that you could not possibly have any idea at all.

      The statement that apparently set you off was when I said the "press" is better today than ever.

      You of course want to argue that newspapers are dying, which makes up an increasingly small part of what I call the "press" which is a word I often use synonymously with "news media" in case that is too confusing for you.

      So you expect "reportage that is the culmination of many months of legwork resulting in that shake up the structures of power" today? And tomorrow? And the day after that?

      And how am I supposed to answer that? That may be ONE definition of "investigative journalism" but it is not the only definition.

      Sometimes, investigative journalism takes months to develop before it is written. Sometimes, it falls in a reporter's lap, a la the Pentagon Papers. Sometimes, it is ongoing reporting, such as Watergate.

      My point remains: The press has never been better than it is today, and since you want to argue everything BUT that simple statement and turn it into an argument you think you can win, I"ll consider that your concession speech.

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    7. Francis Bacon had a name for this: "the idol of the marketplace". I suggest you revisit this remarkable philosopher so prescient about the bullshit we are all trading in to this day.

      You have expanded the definition of "press" to include the information age and declared victory (I've seen this used thrice as a debate tool in the last couple of days - damn, is it a new meme? Declare victory and leave the field?).

      And by your definition, there's surely more information of all sorts available to a greater number than ever before. But the sheer volume of information, which you call "journalism", quite simply prevents dissemination.

      You have a somewhat rosy-hued belief in the curiosity and intelligence of human beings; that if we have "a functioning brain" we can sift through and cull this flood of what is erroneous, meretricious, and paranoid. Personally, I don't have the time. Why am I here today, you might ask? Because I'm home sick in bed grieving over the work I've lost.

      Let's keep it simple. I have seen little evidence of those abilities on either right or left or center. We are all creatures of bias; absent acknowledgement of our biases, there can be no honest evaluation of this flood of information you call "the press". (Of course, Cass Sunstein wrote about the dangers of this selective bias in Republic.com)

      I'll rephrase my original question. *Where* have you found these nonpareil sources you call "the press"? Who are they exactly? Do they morph in and out of existence from day to day?

      Let me get you started: Bill Moyers. Amy Goodman.

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  2. "This is a remarkable decision, since Al Sharpton’s dual role in this case as both journalist and activist is very unusual by American norms, whatever one might think of the work he has done on his nightly MSNBC program."

    Very unusual by American norms? Bob, try googling up "Thomas Paine."

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    1. If only it were the case, Anonymous, that Thomas Paine represented "norms" in America. But it is not so.

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  3. Nice job, Bob. I had read this column over the weekend and was also struck at the way Carr gave a pass to the blameworthy MSNBC.

    Note that Carr might have shown Fox News as one of the good guys. Thanks to Sean Hannity, NBC is now conducting an internal investigation of how they came to Dowdify a Zimmerman quote to make it sound racist. I don't think much of Hannity, but he got this one right.

    I wonder whether media like the New York Times and Rush Limbaugh intentionally slant their criticism, or are they truly ignorant of their own tribe's misdeeds?

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  4. Life will go easier if we simply accept that professions lacking narrowly defined standards of competence, with regular peer review or regulatory enforcement, harbor large numbers of charlatans, and always have. So while we may see, among the gainfully employed, relatively few butcher surgeons, incompetent molecular biologists, thumping concert pianists or hapless software engineers, there will be hoards of lousy abstract painters, Times reporters and (as we see lately) economists and investment bankers.

    And we haven't yet even considered the difficulty of understanding anything which might injure personal advancement prospects or incur employer displeasure.

    Was it ever any better? This would seem doubtful.

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  5. You know, even Joe Scarborough is thorougly repulsed by the backlash that has put a dead kid on trial, completely unable to answer for himself.

    And Scarborough is hardly a flaming, bomb-throwing radical "liberal."

    Oops, I forgot. He also works for MSNBC. With the broad brush that Somerby is flailing around, I guess that means everything he says is suspect, too. I mean it is absolutely impossible, in Somerby's view, for anyone at MSNBC to hold and express an honest opinion.

    I mean, how DARE Carr ask Chris Hayes about this? Didn't he know who Hayes works for?

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  6. Anyone who doesn't have mixed feelings about Al Sharpton is either too young to remember just what a righteous d-wad he can be or is repressing a huge chunk of decidedly unfortunate reality.

    I was back in college when the Tawana Brawley rape hoax hit. Sharpton, aptly describe for his role in the scandal as a "racial arsonist," ignored vast amounts of contrary evidence to insist that there was a conspiracy among the white powers-that-be to put a lid on the "crime," even going so far as to compare Governor Mario Cuomo, of all people, to Hitler(!). For months he insisted that the white power structure was trying to silence Tawana while at the same time reneging on countless promised occasions to have her talk to reporters. In all my years as a resident of New York I cannot recall racial animosity being at such a months-long dangerously high fever pitch. The fact that we didn't have another Freddy's Fashion Mart seems miraculous.

    In the end a grand jury declared Tawana's story a hoax and Sharpton was successfully sued for slander over his role in the fiasco. He should be the last person we look to for leadership.

    And yet, he's one hell of an eloquent S.O.B. He often states the situation better than anyone. If it wasn't for his past he'd be a near-ideal spokesperson.

    And that, children, is why I hate his guts.

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    1. I read an article a few years ago about Sharpton. It's important to remember about him that he has a radio following and despite the Tawana Brawley incident, a lot of credibility among a certain segment of the black community. It might look to whites like he pops up out of nowhere when these racial issues hit the mainstream, but actually he's operating consistently in the black community in between the times he's in the national spotlight. That's why he can't just be dismissed out of hand.

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    2. The fact that Sharpton has been able to sustain an audience proves that the races really are equal--but tragically not in a consistently laudable way.

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    3. In 1995 eight people died in a race riot provoked by Sharpton at a store called Freddie's Fashion Mart. One of the victims was black. Six of the victims were Hispanic and Guyanese. In a sane world, Sharpton would be a pariah.

      http://www.jewishpost.com/archives/news/massacre-at-freddys-in-harlem-fire-fueled-by-anti-semitism-kills-8.html

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    4. @David in Cal

      "Provoked", is it, David?

      On that basis, could we say that talk radio "provoked" Timothy McVeigh? And that the NRA and Fox "provoked" George Zimmerman? And that the anti-abortion lobby "provoked" clinic bombings?

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    5. If right wingers had demonized the Federal Building in Oklahoma City as a fulcrum of one-world-government evil the way Sharpton demonized the owners of Freddy's as a "white interloper," then I'd say yes. The fact that anti-abortion sites have published the home addresses of doctors who perform abortions is no different than Spike Lee trying to publish Zimmerman's correct address.

      As for Zimmerman, the reality of that situation is still being determined. It is entirely possible that Zimmerman is the sole aggressor and it is entirely possible that Martin confronted him, perhaps physically.

      Equality cuts both ways, folks.

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    6. @Hieronymous

      What "equality" did you have in mind, H.B.? Actual equality, or just equality of ideology, without respect to power? Last time I checked,

      1) the top 1% still owned over 35% of the national wealth, and growing daily

      2) corporate American controlled the airwaves and print media

      2)discussions of taxation and budgetary are dominated by the presumptions of the supply-siders and the Chicago school, no matter who's president or who control Congress

      3) ordinary people have been earning less, and own less, virtually every year, since Ronald Reagan took office

      4) every year, America falls more and more behind other industrial democracies with respect to health stats, quality of life and equality of income and opporunity.

      It's amusing that some people seem to find equality in all this. Both sides do it, don't you know! Which is another reason why Somerby's emphasis is downright absurd. It might be more appropriate to ask, which side has won?

      Of course, it's nice that the winners still allow the rest of us to talk, but beyond that(?) Then again, Barack Obama is the most conservative Democratic president in anybody's lifetime, but he's a socialist, so we're even!

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    7. I pretty much agree with everything you said in that last post, Anonymous. You may find this hard to believe, but I'm actually a liberal. I just don't see how any of it relates to the discussion at hand.

      Don't let this get out, but I think you have great potential as an abusive drunk. Look at how fine you're doing sober.

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    8. Oh, and since I apparently wasn't clear enough for you, I was referring to the capacity for people of all stripes to be prejudicial jerks.

      In that we are all the 100%.

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    9. Careful there, Hieronymous, next, the resident believers will accuse you of false equivalency.

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    10. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    11. @Hieronymous

      I think I get it now: yet another "life-long Democrat", who can't seem to have anything kind to say about "liberals", and could easily be mistaken for ... well, never mind.

      Since you don't see how "any of it" relates to the discussion at hand, let me explain: there *aren't* two sides. One side talks a lot, and has power. The other side has talk, but no power. That fact they both talk doesn't make them equivalent or confer equal obligations.

      It's certainly true that both "sides" have the capacity for self-serving behavior, though one might plausibly argue that there's far less of it on the "liberal" end -- I mean, after all, to be a Democrat in America is to be right or center-right anywhere else.

      But even assuming absolute equality of prejudice, who cares? Do liberals run the discourse in the U.S.? Only if you're one of those "life-long Democrats" who thinks Obama, who was elected with the very material assistance of Wall Street, is a socialist.

      Beyond all that, I fine your tone delightful -- so very cordial.

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    12. Seems you also find it ironic when someone says, "I am a liberal . . ." then proceeds to prove by his very words that he is anything but.

      As I have noted a couple of times, when any post begins with "As a lifelong liberal . . ." you pretty much know you're going to get the Sean Hannity worldview next.

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    13. I've seen this type of tactical response several times over the past few days in the DH comments section. It is intended to shut down debate over substantive issues via ad hominem attack and is as reprehensible on the left as on the right.

      Is this just your personal bankruptcy of ideas, Anon 2:47, or have others descended to this abysmal here as well.

      I say, nip it in the bud. If you wish to debate, please go ahead with impunity. But this pusillanimous little barb is designed to discredit those you may not agree with and it stinks.

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    14. "abysmal tactic" - it bears repeating.

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    15. Bob G. From Jersey CityApril 2, 2012 at 11:24 PM

      David, as usual, you're lying,mining right wing turds to buttress your very reasonable racism… If you'd really like to seem fairminded howabout we start a conversation on how these ridiculous conceal/carry laws have been shoved down Americas colletive throat with nary a peep from the gray lady or the mainstream media.

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    16. Braintree here from a public computer.

      You know, I keep hearing that there's no such thing as political correctness and then I run into people like anonymous who seem intent on living their lives as self-parodying stereotypes.

      I voted for Obama. I want socialized medicine. I think women should have a right to abortion. I think women and minorities are just as good as white guys. I'm for fair taxation. I think the Republicans are ignorant jerks. But unless I throw my critical thinking skills completely out the window and refuse to notice when our side are behaving like a bunch of jerks I get told by righteous twits like Anonymous that I can't really be a liberal. I must be a conservative pretending to be a liberal, thus unwittingly completely proving my point about what a bunch of hellacious bigots liberals can be--especially when they perceive themselves to be in the throes of fighting bigotry.

      If liberals like Anonymous didn't exist, conservatives would have to invent them.

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    17. Except "thinking for yourself" is hardly what you are doing.

      You are mimicking Somerby's standard line that if a few "liberal" talk show hosts behave like jerks (and even that is arguable), then ALL liberals are behaving like jerks. Which is exactly what you are saying: "our side are (sic) behaving like a bunch of jerks."

      That's not thinking for yourself. That's letting Somerby do your thinking for you.

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    18. Sherlock and Braintree have it exactly right, liberals are intolerant, far more so than conservatives, who only demand that their primary candidates reject science, embrace voodoo economics, repeal all regulations, endorse torture and pledge to start a few more more wars.

      I should know -- as a liberal and life-long Democrat who believes that we ought to refuse to give medical treatment to anyone who can't pay for it, that Darwin was the anti-christ, and that lower taxes for billionaires means greater happiness for all, I can't get any respect from the liberal community at all. I can't tell you how disappointing and hurtful that is.

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    19. Perhaps this is the moment to go meta. Pull back just a bit and explore motivations.

      I read the DH to check my own biases. As a liberal/progressive who's easily angered by the inequities seemingly inherent and inescapable in the U.S., I find myself, quite ready to scream and shout - having spent a fair amount of my time last fall supporting and participating in Occupy Seattle, those impulses came to the fore quite often.

      Where I find Somerby immensely helpful, is not in his recounting the sins of the right, which infuriate me and which I know all too well, but the trespasses of the left, which I'm fairly easily hoodwinked by, given my predisposition.

      In short, I'm pretty credulous. Which makes me all the more furious when I'm deceived and manipulated from "the left" (whether it's Collins, MSNBC, or Michael Moore). Voices that I should be able to trust deceive me and I can't help but feel outrage.

      Now, I've been reading Bob for years, and just started commenting here recently, but I've been repeatedly amazed at the level of vituperation in the discourse.

      The fury expressed here when Bob does exactly what he set out to do, regardless of whose feathers are ruffled (and again, I don't need to be reminded of the calumnies and atrocities of the right - I KNOW them all too well), is beyond belief.

      What's more, the bitterness of the invective, which all too often ends in one of two ways - either questioning the liberal cred/intelligence of your correspondent; or declaring victory and hightailing it - is really quite demoralizing.

      In short, if you "liberals" here are so insecure that sharp critiques OF the left BY the left are seen as betrayal, I'm quite sincerely lost for words.

      Perhaps you should begin by ignoring Bob, whose critiques you've come to detest, and go where you can join the lefty chorus.

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    20. Sherlock,

      There's a lot of truth to what you say -- it probably *is* time for self-described progressives to give up on this blog. Bob has had his manias -- who else could regret the loss of a Gore presidency, on a daily basis for 12 years and counting? -- but the latest mania is probably the most unattractive one.

      But if there's a compelling reason to vacant the building, it's posters like you -- the tone you take, the contempt you have for others, and the low intelligence with which you credit others. One can come here with the hope of "getting off" on a spirited debate, but any engagement with you or Swan, or any number of others, leaves the other party disgusted rather than spirited.

      Of course, we're all guilty to some extent of dismissing our antaongists, but the troll-element here, of which you and a few others are Exhibits As, really is getting pretty distasteful. So you're right: it's best to leave Bob to your small circle.

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    21. I'm really surprised by your response, Anon.

      Please back up your claims. Where have I demonstrated contempt? And where have I shown anything but regard for other posters?

      On the contrary, I've been nothing but polite to a fault. Virtually every exchange I've had here has culminated in another poster - almost always anonymous - accusing me of ignorance and/or being a right wing plant. A pretty long string of ad hominem attacks. And I can cite a number of occasions when Hieronymous was subject to the same kind of vitriol.

      And now you suggest I'm a troll?

      Please show me exactly where I've lowered the tone and I will apologize for each one. Of course, I would expect nothing less of those that have called me ignorant and foolish and/or a right winger to boot.

      Seriously, if you think I'm here for anything but a civil conversation and real debate about issues I care about deeply, then I apologize in advance. But please show me where I crossed the line.

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    22. Sherrlock, it's more a matter of "matter", than tone, but I picked up these from the last two days:
      =============
      "Is this just your personal bankruptcy of ideas, Anon 2:47, or have others descended to this abysmal [tactic] here as well.

      I say, nip it in the bud. If you wish to debate, please go ahead with impunity. But this pusillanimous little barb is designed to discredit those you may not agree with and it stinks."
      ===============

      "In short, if you "liberals" here are so insecure that sharp critiques OF the left BY the left are seen as betrayal, I'm quite sincerely lost for words.

      Perhaps you should begin by ignoring Bob, whose critiques you've come to detest, and go where you can join the lefty chorus."

      =========

      "In short, I'm pretty credulous. Which makes me all the more furious when I'm deceived and manipulated from "the left" (whether it's Collins, MSNBC, or Michael Moore)."

      EDITOR'S NOTE: the notion that Collins and MSNBC represent the "left" is mindboggling -- that, or the speaker is doing a very bad job concealing his right-wing bona fides.

      ==========
      "I just googled you, Fritz.

      Like Michael Moore, you are an occasionally liar."

      ===============
      "You may notice in every one of my posts that I refuse to engage in ad hominem attacks. You, "Fritz" are a liar, even if in jest. And if you continue to attack without attribution, you are also a coward."
      ======

      By the way, are you the liar "Fritz", still engaged in anonymous drive-by shooting, or is this yet another anonyme."

      ============
      "For all you anonymi, post away of course. I'm only asking for minimum civility - the kind of civility you would extend if your identity was known. If you find that request objectionable, go to hell."

      ==============
      "Wow. You hit the trifecta, anonymous.

      The usual vitriol, accompanied by willful misrepresentation."

      =============

      "I think the problem with you, Fritz, is that you live in a left-wing echo box."

      =========
      "Pathetic."

      ================================

      Now, opinions could differ on the gravity of this language, but if one finds the views of the speaker to be less than persuasive, it can be pretty offensive.

      Again, we're all given to excesses and strong language. But I think it's fair to say that Sherrlock has an inaccurate assessment of his own charms as a debater.

      Delete
    23. Do you realize that you were quoting counter-attacks?

      Delete
    24. Huh? These are all things that Sherrlock said, of other posters here -- and in more than one case, his characterization of the the post in question ("vitriol", etc.) is more than a little questionable.

      In any case, this is his behavior, when he's opposed here. One wouldn't expect to see much in the way of bad temper, when nobody challenged him. But that's hardly a good taste of temperament. We're all sweet beings when the rest of the world tells us we're right right right.

      Delete
    25. PART ONE:
      Very well. Point by point. To begin with, I apologize for my lack of charm. I mean to be nothing but charming.

      Occasionally, I lose my temper. You've seen it demonstrated here mostly when others attempt to end arguments with the claim that I am either ignorant and uninformed, Somerby's manipulated dupe, or a right wing plant, regardless of my protestations otherwise. In other words, ad hominem personal attacks that have nothing to do with the debate.

      "Is this just your personal bankruptcy of ideas, Anon 2:47, or have others descended to this abysmal [tactic] here as well.

      I say, nip it in the bud. If you wish to debate, please go ahead with impunity. But this pusillanimous little barb is designed to discredit those you may not agree with and it stinks."
      ===============

      This was in response to yet another calumny claiming that I must be a right winger. Was I nasty in response? You bet. I think it's a cheap tactic and not worthy in debate. Note I never responded in kind - only to the tactic itself.

      "In short, if you "liberals" here are so insecure that sharp critiques OF the left BY the left are seen as betrayal, I'm quite sincerely lost for words.

      Perhaps you should begin by ignoring Bob, whose critiques you've come to detest, and go where you can join the lefty chorus."

      Sharp tone, I agree. But vitriolic? I'm merely responding to attacks on Somerby which I find unwarranted. You are free to disagree.

      =========

      "In short, I'm pretty credulous. Which makes me all the more furious when I'm deceived and manipulated from "the left" (whether it's Collins, MSNBC, or Michael Moore)."

      EDITOR'S NOTE: the notion that Collins and MSNBC represent the "left" is mindboggling -- that, or the speaker is doing a very bad job concealing his right-wing bona fides.

      ==========

      This I'll give you. I don't have a television and so my only exposure to MSNBC is through clips on line. Collins I've read in the Times, and here Bob's got it right. Her incessant riffs on Romney's dog provide the meme for everyone from Jon Stewart and Colbert to Bill Maher. I frankly don't know what litmus test she'd have to pass to be considered liberal, but peddling this endless fiction doesn't make her a conservative, does it? On Moore, you've probably read my reasons for unhappiness.

      Delete
    26. I may have reached my limit. I cannot post Part Two of my response to anonymous. Perhaps like the Real Anonymous, I've been cut off ;-}

      Delete
    27. PART THREE

      "I think the problem with you, Fritz, is that you live in a left-wing echo box."

      =========
      "Pathetic."

      And that pathetic comes after a repeated request for evidence of Obama's shift on gay marriage. And the repeated response: search the internet. Google it. And, Its not my responsibility to educate you, you ignoramus. I'm leaving you now to your ignorance. (I'm paraphrasing, but those were pretty close to the words as written)

      That ended any possibility of debate. And I found it pathetic.

      How would you have me respond, anon? Ignore the personal attacks. No can do. Refuse to attack anyone personally myself - Done, or at least attempted. Change my tone so that you can all rage on about your deep disappointment in "the new Bob." Sorry. That's part of this debate.

      Contrary to what you assert above, I DO NOT question anyone's intelligence, the truth of their political beliefs, or their honesty (unless they tell an outright lie such as "fritz").

      When attacked however I will respond vigorously, but without personal animosity. Can you do the same?

      Delete
    28. Sherrlock,

      I think I better understand now what's going on. There should nothing prejudicial to either of us in pointing out that, based on your own admission, you have no idea what "the left" actually is. Consequently, the attacks on Somerby from the left here will make little or no sense to you.

      We, the Leftie Disgruntled, don't object to media criticism of "liberal" sources (more accurately, "non-Republican" media). What we (or I, anyway) find peculiar is Somerby's classification of corporate media and the New York Times Corp as the "tribe", and his concentration on triviality, at a time when left-wing views are completely absent (indeed, banned) from mainstream media.

      Also note that Somerby himself has little notion of what the left actually is -- his heroes, after all, are Bill Clinton and Al Gore, who were and are moderate Republicans. Obama is even further to the right -- not even much of a "moderate" Republican, one who was prepared to make social program cuts even Republicans would never have considered until very recently, with the Tea Party emergence.

      And in this climate, which shuts out left-wing views entirely, all Somerby can think to do is examine the coverage of George Zimmerman's weight by corporate media, as a profound evidence that the tribes all the same and we're all tribal.

      But corporate media isn't my tribe, and wasting breath on MSBNC and Gail Collins, day after day, can begin to seem a bit perverse -- particularly when the analyst sees only what he cares to see.

      Dig?

      Delete
    29. I hear you, anon.

      And while I will freely admit to a lack of intimate familiarity with MSNBC, I think I'm pretty aware of those who *are* on the left, and trading in the very distortions that Bob obsesses about.

      Perhaps you read my exchange with anonymous about Michael Moore. I'm appalled at Moore's handful of exaggerations, sprinkled throughout his work. I'm appalled as "a leftie". As I said, these pointless fabrications provide the right with ammunition. It seems like madness to me - and when I pointed it out, at least one here sprang to Moore's defense, suggesting it was only five minutes of exaggeration, while the rest of the film was the unvarnished truth.

      Can *you* understand why that might make me furious? As a liberal?

      Incidentally, I agree with you whole-heartedly about Clinton, Gore, and Obama. At best, moderate conservatives. Obama's assassination of an American citizen without trial is an abomination rivaling any single action of Bush's. I'm thoroughly disgusted.

      But let's continue:

      Bill Maher. I don't know exactly where I'd place him, but his remarks echo and amplify many left wing talking points. He never misses an opportunity to slander and play the Dowd game. Mostly in concert with his liberal guests. I'll never forget his ill-preparedness for an interview with the creator of the Swift Boat lies - Maher was tromped on disgracefully.

      Rachel Maddow - here I agree with Bob. All too often she resorts to the same tactics that characterize the rabid right. As do the Ed Show, the ridiculous Lawrence O'Donnell, and a number of other "leftie" hosts.

      To put it again simply, where else on the left are these characters critiqued?

      I've been told here repeatedly that I must learn to use my dormant brain. That I should be detecting bullshit on my own. I don't have that kind of time. So should I just become a believer?

      (one last note about Gail Collins - whether she's a member of the corporatist media or not, I constantly hear leftie friends chortle about Romney's dog. Regardless of whether you consider her left or not, she's infected the left with her nonsense, which is much the same thing)

      Delete
    30. Sherrlock,

      You again demonstrate, this time conclusively, that you don't know what the left is. In that you're not alone: it's true of the vast majority of Americans, and for a simple reason. With very rare exceptions, the left is not represented in major media.

      If you're interested, the most visible leftist on the web at this point is Glenn Greenwald, over at Salon.com, and nobody, but nobody, is harder on mainstream media, and Democrats, than Greenwald. But, unlike Bob, Greenwald does original research, concerns himself with actual matters of importance and is truly non-partisan. Like Noam Chomsky, he has no more interest in defending Democrats than Republicans.

      Delete
    31. Fascinating.

      I'd agree with you as to Greenwald's superb qualities and, in fact, have repeatedly referred to him as one of my favorite sources. Along with Amy Goodman.

      Problem is, your statement is just a bit silly. *You* and a handful of others of like-mind have evidently decided that Michael Moore is not a leftist. Neither is Maddow (Joan Walsh of course we agree is hardly a leftist). But like them or not, do you exclude Alex Pareene and David Sirota, also at Salon. Robert Reich? Al Sharpton? Jesse Jackson? Michael Kazin? EJ Dionne? Eric Altermann? Denis Kucinich? Ralph Nader? No lefties here? Do a few of these names pass muster?

      Let me get this straight.

      Essentially what you're suggesting is that all those who self-define as leftists are not actual leftists. Please enlighten us, Anonymous. Who IS the true left? What pledge do they have to sign to join?

      Do YOU know the actual meaning of leftist, aside from your own?

      If you include only those like Chomsky and Greenwald, yours is truly the smallest of tribes.

      Really? Even Michael Moore can't apply. WTF?

      Or are we in the land of hogwash now?

      Delete
    32. So, Sherrlock, let's review our progress here. I take the trouble to supply any number of examples of your foolishness and incivility, exactly as you asked. You in turn reply with 3 long irrelevant posts, making excuses for yourself. And now you're back to old tricks -- the kind of thing which leaves an correspondent disgusted with you, as exactly as charged:

      "Or are we in the land of hogwash now?"

      You'll remember that we began this particular discussion when you remarked that Gail Collins and MSNBC were of "the left", a truly remarkable assertion.

      And now, because I gave only two examples of "leftists" -- not including the entire possible universe of "leftists" -- I'm somehow or other in the "land of hogwash", according to you.

      So what I suggest you do, is gear up another the next set of insults, to which somebody else can respond, because I'm through with you, life is too short.

      Delete
    33. Condescending tripe (ooh, did that hurt?).

      In my initial response to you, I offered up Ed Shultz, Maddow, Michael Moore, and Lawrence McDonnell as examples of leftists.

      You reply next that the left is not represented in major media. The major figures you cite are Greenwald and Chomsky.

      Were you intentionally being misleading?

      Are Maddow, Shultz, Michael Moore and Lawrence McDonnell not in the major media? If so, it's news to me. So that can only mean that they are not, in your eyes, true leftists.

      Really, what other conclusion can be drawn from *your* words?

      I would add that Gail Collins, supporter of single payer healthcare, strict gun laws, strong anti-poverty programs, women's and minority rights, is by her own and many others' definition a leftist.

      I'll ask again the question you avoided above - after posting your fascinating detailed collection of my wounding insults, including that classic "you hit the trifecta, anonymous" - how do YOU, anonymous, define a leftist?

      Delete
    34. Of course, I expect no reply, having been summarily dismissed as unworthy of your singular attention.

      Let me add that tactic to the list.

      1) Like Somerby, you're an ignoramus.
      2) You're a right wing sympathizer.
      3) You hurt my feelings with your mean words.

      Delete
  7. "Is David Carr minimally competent? Even as he laments an ideology-fueled rush to judgment, he seems to be picking and choosing his villains based on ideology."

    Wow! Talk about a classic example of projection!

    ReplyDelete
  8. "A journalism-free news media" - the title of a just-posted piece at Salon.com by David Sirota. Not bad as far as non-Greenwald material at Salon goes.

    ReplyDelete
  9. If the terms "Maddow", "O'Donnell", "Matthews" and "Sharpton" were replaced in all of Somerby's critques with the phrase "Comcast 49%/General Electric 51%", his critiques would make somewhat more sense. Al Gore wouldn't looks so good -- MSNBC is "Comcast/GE" in large part thanks to the 1996 Communications Bill, touted by, well, Al -- but at least it would make some sense.

    Then again, it's so much more fun to pretend that Chris, Rachel and Al hired themselves!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I guess that since the sale to Comcast, Bob doesn't have Jack Welch to kick around any more.

      Delete
  10. I support affirmative action. I also believe the NAACP is at best counterproductive and mostly racist. I believe Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are disgraceful race hustlers, and racist.

    This set of views would be tolerated and respected more by Fox personalities and viewers than MSNBC personalities and viewers. There are more crazies on the liberal side of the fence right now than conservative.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Do you have any idea how American Republicans are regarded in the rest of the world?

      "Crazies" is putting it too kindly.

      Delete
    2. I'm confused. A particular set of crazy views would be more tolerated at Fox than MSNBC, but there are more liberal "crazies" than conservative "crazies"?

      And speaking of the way the rest of the world regards what the American Republican party has begun, you remember the collective international sigh of relief when Dubya left office?

      Delete
    3. "become" not "begun."

      Delete
    4. I'm not sure we should put so much confidence in how things are handled in the rest of the world. Youth unemployment is over 50% in Spain and in Greece. That's not something I want to emulate.

      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financialcrisis/9181776/Youth-unemployment-passes-50pc-in-Spain-and-Greece.html

      Delete
    5. CousinFromAnotherPlanetApril 3, 2012 at 7:56 AM

      Dear David, it's hard to know where to start with such a vacuous post but in honor of your tactic...Brazil and Sweden have general unemployment rates below 6%, let's import there whole economic teams immediately.

      Delete
  11. "The fault I find with most American newspapers is not the absence of dissent. It is the absence of news."

    --I. F. Stone, The Best of I. F. Stone

    (Thanks to Brad deLong today for this.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And when did Stone (1907-89) say this?

      Delete
  12. Here's a rather thorough debunking of audio expert Tom Owen, who has been reported as concluding that it is not George Zimmerman heard screaming for help on a 911 call.

    http://justoneminute.typepad.com/main/2012/04/this-is-the-expert-witness-the-orlando-sentinel-is-touting.html

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tom Owen debunks himself on CNN today. The other day he said the test showed "to a scientific certainty" that it was not Zimmerman's voice and that he would "expect to see a score of over 90%."

      Now he tells CNN something completely different. That 60% offers "confidence" of a match. (Only an idiot would conclude that 48% therefore means "no match.") From David in Cal CNN article below

      He cited software frequently used to analyze voices in legal cases, by investigating characteristics such as pitch and the space between spoken words, that found a 48% likelihood the voice is Zimmerman's. At least 60% is necessary to feel confident two samples are from the same source, he told CNN on Monday -- meaning it's unlikely it was Zimmerman who can be heard yelling.

      Race baiting clowns.

      Delete
    2. Amazing how many "voice analysis" experts there are on the Internet.

      Once again, had Owen arrived at the conclusion you wanted, he'd be the world's leading expert, and "voice analysis" would be evidence beyond reproach.

      Delete
    3. By the way, that's not Owen said. Owen said that 60 percent is the standard. With the clarity of samples he had, he expected a 90 percent match. When the samples didn't even reach 50 percent, he could say with scientific certainty that the voice screaming for help was not Zimmerman.

      Now let's put Owen on trial, as well as Martin, Martin's family, O'Donnell, Maddow, Schultz, Matthews, Sharpton and everyone else who disagrees with you.

      And while you are complaining about "race baiting clowns" don't forget the wild-eyed liberal Joe Scarborough who said yesterday that if a 28-year-old black man got out of his truck with a gun and shot a 17-year-old white kid walking down the street, there would be charges.

      Not arguing whether that hypothetical is true or not, but it would certainly put Scarborough in your "race baiting clown" camp.

      Delete
    4. Let's put the percentages 90, 60, and 48 into a pot, mix thoroughly, and what do we come up with? "Scientific certainty."

      If this was legitimate, every score that test could achieve would have a real-world confidence level of a match, culled from a test base of known matches and mismatches. 100% or 0% confidence on any score would only show that the test base was not big enough.

      Delete
  13. Another supposed event, which I believe has been reported, seems to be incorrect.

    (CNN) -- An "outraged" Florida prosecutor fired back on Monday at the family of Trayvon Martin, describing as "outright lies" their account that he and a local police chief met and decided not to follow a detective's advice and arrest the teenager's killer.

    Earlier in the day, the Martin family delivered a letter to the U.S. Justice Department through attorney Benjamin Crump's office requesting a federal investigation of the decision not to arrest George Zimmerman after the fatal February 26 shooting.


    http://www.cnn.com/2012/04/02/justice/florida-teen-shooting/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ummm, David? You curiously failed to mention that this "outraged" prosecutor is Wolfzinger. Now why would he have any motive at all to try to pull his bee-hind out of the fire?

      And, of course, against Wolfzinger's story that no "meeting" took place with him, the chief, and the lead investigator, we've got the fact that Zimmerman STILL hasn't been charged. Not then, and not now.

      And, of course, the fact that Wolfzinger was told to step aside so another prosecutor could be brought in.

      That's a very, very unusual step to take, David,

      Delete
  14. Henry Louis GatesApril 3, 2012 at 7:55 AM

    Fox should create a show called Useful Tools starring Bob, his analysts, and Kirsten Powers. It is what the world needs!

    ReplyDelete
  15. One thing I would like to hear from the news. Was it legal for Trayvon to kill George, is it possible in Florida for either man in this situation to have killed the other without criminal penalty? If George faces no charges, then clearly Trayvon would have had an equal right to kill George (Trayvon's life was apparently more in danger). Gives new meaning to "shoot first."

    ReplyDelete
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