The dumbest report of all time: We’ve seen a lot of dumb cable “news” segments. Who hasn't?
On Monday evening, Tucker Carlson’s segment on the O’Reilly Factor may have been the dumbest of all time.
This was also Mr. O’s fault, but Tucker took the cake. He was discussing a hapless report at his web site, The Daily Caller, about the workings of Media Matters.
Mr. O established the fact that the whole report was done through unnamed sources. (They’re also unnumbered. Assuming these sources really exist, there may only be two.) At that point, Tucker began to complain about Media Matters. But what was his complaint?
O'REILLY (2/13/12): I just wanted to point out that they are unnamed sources. OK, let's get to the headlines. MSNBC, you say in your reporting, is pretty much taking what Media Matters puts out, and what Media Matters does is propaganda.So far, an obvious question hadn’t been asked: Has MSNBC been running reports from Media Matters which turn out to be inaccurate? Claims of “propaganda” to the side, it’s hard to see what the problem is if a news org runs material which is actually accurate.
O'REILLY: And they're taking it, and they're basically throwing it on NBC's air without any kind of fact-check on whether it's true or not. They just take it and throw it on the air.
CARLSON: The line that we had from someone who worked at Media Matters for a long time was, and I'm quoting now, "We basically write their prime time. Anything we write, particularly anything that pertains to Fox News." And a lot of what Media Matters writes does pertain to Fox News, they run it basically verbatim.
Why wouldn’t you use a report by Media Matters if the report was accurate? Isn’t this how news works?
So far, the complaint didn’t quite make sense. But uh-oh! As the segment went on and on, Tucker never cited a single report by Media Matters which turned out to be wrong! He named a lot of journalists who were said to be shills for Media Matters. But what had these journalists ever written that turned out to be wrong?
No examples were given. Good grief! Not even one!
Tucker Carlson went on and on with his naming of names. It never seemed to enter his head that he might want to claim that the people he named have been getting things wrong. We sense there’s plenty of room in that head—but this rather basic thought didn’t seem to intrude.
Incredible! Through the lengthy name-naming segment, Carlson never cited a single thing Media Matters ever got wrong! We were somehow supposed to be outraged that the organization exists. In the next segment, Bernie Goldberg's review of this matter made much more sense, though we didn’t even see the ultimate logic in what he said:
GOLDBERG (2/13/12): When mainstream journalists write things that—about you or me or anybody else on this network, if it comes from Media Matters, if it's totally true, then I have no problem. But what about when it's half-true or totally false?Bernie made several sensible points. He doesn’t care if it comes from Media Matters “if it’s totally true,” he said. He failed to note that Carlson had cited no errors by Media Matters—none at all.
GOLDBERG: You raise an interesting point about is there something on the other side. Look, on the right, there's the Media Research Center. They do God's work when it comes to exposing liberal media bias. Nobody is better. But they do go deaf, dumb and blind when it comes to exposing conservative bias.
Later, Bernie noted that the Media Research Center is ideologically one-sided, much like Media Matters. The MRC goes after the left; Media Matters goes after the right. As he continued, Bernie complained about this arrangement, saying he would like to have a single org which went after the right and the left.
We’d like to find gold coins out in the woods. But if the two different groups did accurate work, this would be a useful system.
So how about it? Does Media Matters do accurate work? (The MRC is often terrible.) In two segments on this topic, not one single error was cited. And no one seemed to notice the fact that this lapse had occurred.
We’ve seen a lot of dumb cable segments. On Monday night, Tucker Carlson may have set a new standard.