Media Blog

NRO’s MSM watchdog.

Character Issues Weren’t “Tangential” When the Story Was Bush’s ANG Service


A bunch of liberal journalists have written an open letter to ABC to whine about its handling of Wednesday night’s debate. “We’re at a crucial moment in our country’s history,” they write. “Large majorities of our fellow Americans tell pollsters they’re deeply worried about the country’s direction… Tough, probing questions on these issues clearly serve the public interest… excessive emphasis on tangential ‘character’ issues do not.”

The signers include at least seven contributors to The Nation, whose editors never saw anything “tangential” about George W. Bush’s Air National Guard service and what that said about his character. A Google search of The Nation’s website for stories on that topic yields 72 stories — none of which called on the media to stop focusing on such a tangential character issue.

ABC’s critics also continue to insist that the American people don’t care about issues like Obama’s association with William Ayers or Clinton’s lying about her trip to Bosnia, but they undermine their own argument by getting furious with anyone who mentions these topics. They’re furious because they know that Americans do care about their president’s character, and they know that these stories — if they get too much attention — will hurt their candidate in the fall.

Score a PR Point for the Anti-Gun Crowd


From the New York Sun:

[Obama] announced the endorsement this week of the American Hunters and Shooters Association, a moderate gun rights organization…

The AHSA is not a “moderate gun rights organization”; it’s an anti-gun group camouflaged with a pro-gun-sounding name. The Brady Campaign’s president has endorsed it, and AHSA’s president once gave $5,000 to Handgun Control Inc., the Brady Campaign’s predecessor. The NRA has quite thoroughly documented the anti-gun credentials of the group’s main figures.

Given the organization’s name, one could forgive the Sun for being fooled, but seriously, what gun-rights organization, moderate or not, would endorse Obama?


Reporters in the News


Media Blog reader John sends this in with the subject line, “Do You Suppose He Worked for “Eyewitness News?”

A local TV reporter was cited Friday morning for allegedly peeping in an occupied premise.

Eric Ralph Watson, 34, of 201 Old Grove Lane in Apex, was charged with one count of secret peeping. He was arrested shortly after 6 a.m. in the Brittany Trace subdivision, about a mile from his home.

Apex Police Capt. Ann Stephens said a neighbor saw a man matching Watson’s description Thursday afternoon on top of an air-conditioning unit peeping into the bathroom of a female neighbor.

The witness called police and alerted the residents who live at the house.

Early Friday morning, Stephens said, the woman’s husband confronted a man believed to be Watson, who approached the house again. The husband called 911, and an Apex police officer arrested Watson nearby.

The Times Gets It Wrong on Food Prices


Chris Blattman has some interesting criticism of the New York Times’ reporting on food prices:

The New York Times continues to substitute hyperbole for information in its reporting on rising food prices:

Hunger bashed in the front gate of Haiti’s presidential palace. Hunger poured onto the streets, burning tires and taking on soldiers and the police. Hunger sent the country’s prime minister packing.

Haiti’s hunger, that burn in the belly that so many here feel, has become fiercer than ever in recent days as global food prices spiral out of reach, spiking as much as 45 percent since the end of 2006 and turning Haitian staples like beans, corn and rice into closely guarded treasures.

It’s a cute opening. If it were followed by substance, analysis, and insight, it might even work. Instead we get 3,000 words of “the children are dying”. Yes, children are dying. The problem is an urgent one. But there is a more nuanced story here, and I subscribe to the Times instead of watching Fox News so I can get it.

First, we need to be a little less Amero-centric. From John Quiggin:

prices for commodities, including oil as well as most ag commodities, are typically quoted in $US. In a situation where, for obvious reasons, the value of the $US is declining against all major currencies, this can be quite misleading. Measured against the euro, the currency of the world’s largest unified economy, the increase looks a lot less steep.

Short story: let’s not mix up the U.S. currency crisis–that is, mortgage meltdowns and overspending on overseas wars–with global food prices.

Second, I am flabbergasted that almost no newspaper has mentioned there are people in poor countries who actually sell commodities.

Bingo and amen on that final point. It’s the same old “George W. Bush walked on water, and the New York Times headlined the story: ‘President Can’t Swim’.” No matter what the story, the media will find a take that reads, roughly: “Oh sweet Lord, the world is ending, the Third World poor will be hit hardest,* and it’s all the fault of the United States of America and profit-making enterprises.” When wages go up, it’s “Inflation threatens economy” and when wages go down it’s “Oh, sweet Lord, Americans are going to be standing in soup lines.” When profits are down, the economy is collapsing and America has been eclipsed; when business is good, evil corporations are raking in record profits while lighting exotic cigars with $100 bills and using poor people for furniture.

A big chunk of the truly poor people on this planet are small-scale farmers. Higher crop prices are a very good thing for them. And a big reason that prices for food and energy are going up is that several hundred million people who were desperately poor in India and China have, thanks to microdoses of capitalism, become a bit less desperately poor and have added a few hundred calories a day to their diets and electricity to their homes. If the New York Times had any wit, they could keep up the barrage of negativity by headlining the story: “Overweight Americans now forced to compete with world’s poor for carbs.”

* The best version of the End of the World headline joke is Al Neuharth’s telling: “The world ends. How do the three big papers play the story? New York Times: World Ends, Third World Nations Hit Hardest. Wall Street Journal: World Ends, Dow Closes at Zero. USA Today: World Ends; Sports, Page 22!

Re: The Issues Americans Care About


The ABC debate was also the highest rated to date:

The prime-time debate from Philadelphia on Wednesday was seen by 10.7 million people, according to Nielsen Media Research. That’s the most of any debate this election cycle — topping the 9.3 million who watched the Democrats on ABC Jan. 5 — and proving that the lull in primaries before Tuesday’s in Pennsylvania hasn’t dulled interest in the contest between Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama.


The Issues Americans Care About


There’s been a chorus of post-debate hee-hawing about how the ABC moderators ignored “the issues.” Every election, we’re treated to pious lectures about how Americans really want to hear about “the issues” and don’t care about personality politics and other trivia.

Is there any persuasive evidence for this belief?

In the media world, there’s lots of evidence to the contrary:

Circulation of Foreign Affairs: about 160,000

Circulation of The National Enquirer: more than 1 million.

Foreign Affairs, to its credit, published lengthy essays from the major presidential primary candidates on their foreign-policy thoughts. The essays were not, for the most part, very good. But if one wants to learn in some detail about Barack Obama slightly fuzzy foreign-policy ideas, his essay in Foreign Affairs would be a reasonable place to start. So how many people read that essay? Less than the population of Springfield, Missouri, or Greensboro, North Carolina. By way of comparison, that J-Lo baby scoop in People magazine will be read by more people than live in Los Angeles, Chicago, or Houston, two or three times as many people as live in Philadelphia or Phoenix, about three times the population of Dallas. The combined readership of People and TV Guide is larger than the population of Austria, Sweden, Switzerland, Greece, or Israel–and about twice the population of Hong Kong–while the paid readership of the Middle East Journal could be comfortably seated in the Cleveland Music Hall.

This isn’t to say that small journals don’t do important work–of course they do–but it’s also true that they serve a relatively small readership because magazine readerships are self-selecting, and readers’ preferences suggest that they care more about celebrity gossip than they care about reading about terrorism, trade, or the economy at any length.

Kondracke on the ABC Debate


I think he hit the nail on the head — 45 minutes spent on character questions is a bit much, but none of the questions was over the line in itself:

Imus Back in the News


Media Matters is not happy with latest from Imus:

IMUS: Stephanopoulos I thought was great, and the debate was fine. I thought Senator Obama was on the defensive most of the night. But they’re both sissy boys or sissy girls, or whatever. Because they talk big when they’re out on the campaign trail, wolfing on each other.

McCORD: But then –

IMUS: And then when they show up at the debate, they fold up like a couple of cheap lawn chairs. I mean, I don’t understand that. And he’s almost a bigger p***y than she is.

At least he didn’t call them elitists.

Time Cover an “Absolute Disgrace”


Trouble in MSNBC-Land


It’s looking like Joe Scarborough walked off the set of David Gregory’s “Race to the White House” after getting annoyed with Rachel Maddow over a discussion on “framing” Obama.  Maddow went on to compare Reverend Wright to McCain’s Florida co-chair who was caught in a bathroom sex sting.  Scarborough came back with, “I don’t engage in Crossfire-type debates and certainly I don’t want to talk about what people do in bathrooms.”  You then hear what sounds like a mic dropping on a desk and when the cut back to the Brady-Bunch type graphic of all the pundits arranged on the screen at once, Scarborough was missing.

AP’s Giddiness Over More Deserting Iraqi Soldiers



A company of government troops in Sadr City retreated when they came under attack from Shiite militiamen who used the cover of a sandstorm, police said Friday.

The clashes overnight killed two people and injured nine, a police commander said. The officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to release the information, said it was unclear whether there were any casualties among the soldiers.

The reports of the latest setback for the Iraqi army come after government officials acknowledged that during fighting last month against Shiite militias in the southern city of Basra, more than 1,300 Iraqi soldiers and police deserted or refused to fight.

There’s that 1,300 number again.  Funny how it keeps popping up, like in this BBC article on al-Sadr demanding that the Iraqi  government “reinstate” the 1,300 solider who deserted:

Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr has demanded the Iraqi government reinstate 1,300 soldiers and police who were dismissed for desertion during recent fighting.

His office said those who had handed their weapons to militiamen during the clashes in Basra and Kut were following orders from their religious leaders.

Those sacked are believed to be loyal to the radical cleric, whose Mehdi Army militia was the target of the raids.

It’s cute how the AP fails to mention the pesky fact that the soldiers didn’t desert because they’re badly trained or scared, they deserted because they were loyal to the guy they were ordered to attack, and then fired for it.

Back to the original AP piece…

This wasn’t just any sandstorm.  Elsewhere in AP land they report:

BAGHDAD (AP) — A thick layer of yellow dust blanketed houses and cars in the Iraqi capital Thursday as a heavy sandstorm over central Iraq sent dozens of residents to hospitals with breathing difficulties.

The spring storm, one of the worst in years, forced the closure of the Baghdad International Airport. It also appeared to hamper military flights.

None of the helicopter patrols that regularly roar over the city of 6 million people seemed to be airborne. The deadliest helicopter crash in this war occurred during a sandstorm that sharply reduced visibility in 2005, when a CH-53 Sea Stallion went down, killing 31 U.S. troops.

Apparently taking advantage of the reduced aerial activity, militants from eastern Baghdad repeatedly shelled the Green Zone, which houses diplomatic missions and much of the Iraqi government.

Is it really that hard to believe that during one of the worst sandstorms “in years” that a company of Iraqi troops might withdraw (not desert) when faced with an attack by an unknown number of Sadr goons with no help from US airpower?

One other thing, the AP story at the top of this post is sourced entirely from one, unnamed police commander.  Even if his story is entirely true, there should be a second source before they write a piece of this nature.

Hitchens: Pope’s a Dim Bulb


The media loves to find balance in religion stories by seeking out the nasty atheist for comment. For the papal visit this week, the Washington Post-Newsweek “On Faith” site has been welcoming Christopher Hitchens and Susan Jacoby to lob their atheist bombs. When Mother Teresa’s book on her struggle with doubt came out, Newsweek invited Hitchens to lob an op-ed. (Now imagine Newsweek granting a page to someone who wrote a whole book denouncing in the most vicious terms Martin Luther King, and you get the point: they agree with Hitchens on the nun. Otherwise, he would be seen as beyond the pale.)

It’s perhaps less tedious to see Hitchens interviewed on atheism by trendy-left websites like Radar, but Hitchens really underlines how there’s more bile than intellect in his analysis. He says the former Cardinal Ratzinger is in no way distinguished:

Joseph Ratzinger, who now calls himself Pope Benedict XVI and claims to be the vicar of Christ on Earth, doesn’t strike me as someone who is up to the average intelligence of most of my friends. If he weren’t making these claims about himself, no one would listen to a word he says! He’s a completely undistinguished human being.

Hitchens betrays his view — all religious people are dim bulbs, all atheist people are wise — by claiming (wrongly) that Congressman Ed Royce is “a very bright guy from some greater Los Angeles district, and he simply says, ‘I’m not a person of faith.’” (Even Radar found that Royce’s staff reports he’s a practicing Catholic.)

Any religious conservative who likes Hitchens for his views on jihadis should realize the admiration is not returned. He doesn’t like the religious right, but doesn’t consider his atheist rantings are directed at them: “They’re hardly worth mentioning. They don’t say anything interesting now. They’re just sick people.”

It seems Radar’s favorite quote is Hitchens insisting that Heaven is like North Korea, except you can never leave:

Why did Heaven sound like Hell?
Eternal penance. You can never stop—like North Korea. In North Korea, they have compulsory worship from dawn until dusk. That’s all there is, everything is praise. So now I know what it would be like. I know it must be the most proximate place we have on Earth to being in Hell. But at least you can die and get out of North Korea. Kim Jong-Il does not promise you he’ll follow you into the grave. But you can’t die and get away from f—ing Jesus.

Photo of the Day


Jimmy Carter to Israel:  Practice this if America adopts my peace plan!  (not really, but my caption is funnier than the AP’s)

RAND, Soldiers, Mental Health, &c.


A reader writes in on that RAND/Reuters story discussed yesterday:

I was curious about those Mental Health stats on the soldiers as well. A quick glance at the website of the National Institute of Mental Health (link below) shows that among the general population, 26.2 percent of all Americans suffer from some form of mental illness. So if I understand this right, while only 1 in 5 troops are afflicted, a staggering 1 in 4 among the civilian population are similarly suffering! Remind me: what was the point of that Reuter’s report again?

Advice and the Pinch of salt


I went from the New York Times’ editorial advice yesterday to Silvio Berlusconi on how to run Italy to today’s news that Pinch Sulzberger’s New York Times Company doesn’t seem to be able to run a newspaper.

According to the Times, the problem’s pretty obvious:

The poor showing stemmed from The Times Company’s core news media group, which includes The Times, The Boston Globe and The International Herald Tribune, as well as several regional newspapers.

The decline in first-quarter revenue was 10.6 percent, “the sharpest drop in memory.” That’s saying something: Pinch has already reduced the value of his media company by more than two-thirds since becoming prime minister of Times Square.

Berlusconi’s media company actually makes money. In Italy, no less.

CNN Just Can’t Win


What’s worse than groveling before the Communist thugs in Beijing? Groveling before the Communist thugs in Beijing and then having them kick you while you’re groveling. CNN remains clueless, reports the AP:

BEIJING — China on Thursday snubbed an apology from CNN over remarks by one of its commentators as a wave of verbal assaults on foreign media raised concerns over coverage at this summer’s Beijing Olympics.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu rejected CNN’s explanation that commentator Jack Cafferty was referring to China’s leaders — not the Chinese people — when he described them as “goons and thugs.” CNN said it apologized to anyone who thought otherwise.

But Jiang said at a regularly scheduled news conference that the CNN statement lacked sincerity and instead “turned its attack on the Chinese government to try to sow division between the Chinese government and the people.”

Does Drudge Heart Obama?


Like countless Americans, I am addicted to the Drudge Report. Drudge’s no-frills collection of juicy headlines is a major player in my daily depth chart of web surfing, and by no means am I a Drudge critic. That being said, am I the only one who has perceived a decidedly anti-Hillary (and therefore, by default, pro-Obama) bent when it comes to the stories, polls, etc., that Drudge chooses to highlight?

Take today’s edition: Following Barack Obama’s most disastrous debate performance so far, Drudge is focusing on leftwing outrage over the alleged “bias” of ABC News. He’s also posted a photo of Chelsea Clinton with a non-linked observation that ABC included eight close-ups of the former first daughter during last night’s tilt. Another headline reads, “JOLT: Obama gains support, now leads among elected superdelegates.” There have been a number of fascinating poll nuggets over the last few weeks, but it seems like those most damaging to Hillary get top–and sometimes exclusive–billing.

I’m just curious if I’m the only one who’s noticed this trend throughout much of the primary season. I also find myself wondering if Drudge, who launched his career into the stratosphere by attacking the Clintons, has made slaying her campaign his top priority, and is saving his Obama fire for later.

Perhaps I have a selective memory. Or maybe I’m just bitter.

RE: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Blogger


Maryland Conservatarian has the scoop on Abdul-Jabbar’s concern about the den of iniquity that is Whoville:

His concern got me thinking back to his days as a player and how I almost had one more final chance to see him play. I was stationed in Saudi Arabia in the immediate aftermath of the 1st Gulf War when it was announced that Mr. Abdul-Jabbar himself was part of a exhibition Basketball Tour that was coming to various parts of Saudi Arabia, including where I was.

Well, this would have been a wonderful diversion but unfortunately the exhibition game was off-limits to women spectators. Our military commanders correctly said then that if it was off-limits to female soldiers, it was off-limits to all soldiers.

…but I’m sure all the little Saudi girls who heard about the game from their brothers were clearly impressed by the message he brought.

Suspicious Numbers from Reuters


According to this Reuters report, some 300,000 U.S. troops are suffering from some form of mental illness, from post-traumatic stress disorder to clinical depression. The story also reports that an additional 320,000 troops have suffered possible traumatic brain injuries. (And what is a “possible traumatic brain injury”? It’s the possible that confuses; isn’t a traumatic brain injury reasonably evident?)

But the total number of active-service military is only something like 1.5 million. And lots of them will not be in combat. So we’re to believe that 620,000 — or nearly half — of U.S. troops are suffering mental disorders or traumatic brain injuries? That seems like a suspect claim.

The story cites a RAND study, and RAND has a good reputation in these matters, but still: 620,000 out of 1.5 million? Does that not qualify for some skepticism?

I Stand Corrected


A reader offers a helpful reminder:

How long will it take for like-minded authoritarians to argue that the First Amendment’s free-press guarantees only apply to government-recognized journalists?
 McCain-Feingold.  What do you mean, “how long until?”


He’s absolutely right, of course. Journalists can do whatever they like to influence an election, but if one of the little people tries to do so, he has to answer to McCain-Feingold.


Sign up for free NRO e-mails today:

Subscribe to National Review