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Daily Howler: Yes, the liberal web will fight. But is it prepared to fight smart?
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OPEN LETTER TO OPEN LETTER! Yes, the liberal web will fight. But is it prepared to fight smart? // link // print // previous // next //
FRIDAY, JANUARY 27, 2006

DAOU PART DEUX: Peter Daou’s post is so important, we’ll recommend it to you again. “Republicans have mastered the art of institutional rage against the media, Democrats have not,” Daou writes. We would not recommend that Dems engage in the dumb-ass press bashing of the pseudo-con world. But citizens deserve to hear the truth about the way their press corps really functions. It’s very important to grapple with the reason why Dems still don’t do this.

Again, we’ll cite this post by Reed Hundt. Given Daou’s accurate comments, it’s amazing to see such a major Dem discussing the press corps’ recent conduct so accurately. As Daou notes, Dems still don’t provide this service. It’s time they swallowed hard and began.

Meanwhile, a note on pundits and “style.” In the comments to Hundt’s post, a dispute rages about whether Dowd (and other pundits) were actually right in their assessments of Bush and Gore’s personal styles. For example, were pundits right when they (incessantly) said that Gore was just hopelessly boring?

We offer a fairly obvious observation. Citizens don’t need pundits to tell them which hopeful is boring. Citizens can judge such things for themselves! Duh! Citizens can judge for themselves whether a presidential candidate is boring (or inappropriately dressed). Was Gore overbearing in Bush-Gore Debate 1? Citizens can judge that for themselves. (Instant polls made it fairly clear that the public’s judgment was “no.”) But how about this: Was Bush telling the truth about his budget plan in that debate? And who was right in the dramatic dispute about Bush’s prescription drug proposal? Citizens do need help with such factual matters—and their pundits simply refused to provide it. “It makes my head hurt,” Ted Koppel told Larry King the next night, when asked about a fundamental factual dispute from that crucial first debate—and no, he never answered the question. Koppel was being paid millions per year—and he should have been fired that night. His lazy ass should have been kicked to the curb in front of his priceless McMansion.

OPEN LETTER TO OPEN LETTER: Yep! The liberal web is willing to fight, unlike some folk at our “liberal journals.” But is the liberal web prepared to fight smart? We keep getting linked to the street-fighting blog, “Open Letter to Chris Matthews.” At that site, we found this post—and it struck us as utterly foolish:

OPEN LETTER TO CHRIS MATTHEWS: Further proof of Chris Matthews' lurch to the right, Hardball has announced a new panel discussion at the end of the show. Who's on the panel? Chris Matthews, himself a conservative, and three other far-right conservatives: former conservative Republican congressman Joe Scarborough (Scarborough, like Matthews, has compared patriotic Americans to Osama); former Crossfire conservative host Tucker Carlson (who also compared us to Osama); and former FOX News host Rita Cosby, herself a massive conservative who worked at the GOP-mouthpiece news service.
Is Rita Cosby “a massive conservative”—a “far-right conservative?” We’ve watched far too much of Cosby’s dumb-it-down work, and while she’s surely the pure soul of tabloid, we’ve never seen the slightest sign that she has any personal politics. Frankly, we’ll be amazed if it ever turns out that Cosby is “a massive conservative.” And by the way: While Matthews is a near basket-case (over the years, no one has criticized him more than we have), it’s also absurd to call him a “far-right conservative.” One commenter to an earlier “Open” post offered a bit of tough talk:
COMMENT: Jesus Christ you guys are fucking clueless. Chris Matthews has said time and again that he opposes the war in Iraq. During the lead-up to the war he was one of the few pundits who actually questioned the WMD claim, and has been critical throughout. To suggest that he's pro-war or right-wing indicates that you don't know what you're talking about.
It’s true—Matthews came out against Iraq in the fall of 02, and from that point on, he did the best, most skeptical cable work on the subject. And there’s more. Matthews completely adopted the liberal/Dem line on the Plame matter last year. (Going back to his initial stand on the war, he was anti-Scooter Libby years before being anti-Scooter Libby was cool.) Indeed, for several months, we wondered if his producers had decided to turn Hardball into a “liberal” show, his focus on this matter was so persistent and unrelenting. Meanwhile, during Campaign 2004, he aggressively attacked the Swift Boat Veterans. As usual, he was massively unprepared when he did so, but his position was perfectly obvious. Yes, Matthews is a persistent wreck. He’s irresponsible, cavalier and persistently unprepared, and he frequently throws bouquets to viewers on the right. (Once he adopted his anti-war stance, these “make-up calls” became quite flagrant.) Chris Matthews is a cable train wreck—but it’s silly to say that he’s a “conservative” in the way that Carlson and Scarborough are. To the larger world it is trying to influence, the liberal web makes itself look dumb when it self-indulges in claims of this type.

It’s nice to fight—but it’s better to win. We think the liberal web veers off course when it street-fights in this self-defeating manner.

(By the way—what else is new? Four years after his Larry King moment, Koppel, like Matthews, was unprepared when he took on the Swift Boat Vets.)

FOR THE RECORD: “Open Letter” was perfectly right on the facts in this post—the one to which the commenter replied. In fact, Matthews was plainly and completely wrong when he described the TV ad in question. But Matthews is constantly wrong on his facts—and his spins and errors go in various directions. In this post, “Open Letter” acknowledged the possibility that Matthews’ error may just have been a case of “incredibly sloppy journalism.” Trust us: Matthews may have spent all of twelve seconds preparing for that bogus report. Matthews is a deeply irresponsible broadcaster. But at present, it’s a silly stretch to describe him as a “far-right conservative.” Yes, the liberal web will fight. But is the liberal web prepared to work to create more cogent critiques? Is the liberal web prepared to work in search of long-term advantage?

THIS TOO IS ACCURATE: In fairness, what follows has merit too. We quote from a post by The Poor Man:

THE POOR MAN INSTITUTE: Here’s the thing, though. Accuracy in Media, the Media Research Center, and the rest of the right-wing noise machine spent decades beating on the media, and they showed that constant, nasty, personal attacks–and only constant, nasty, personal attacks–will get the media to do what you want. If you are persistent enough, you can get the media to join in on any political smear you want, no matter how disgraceful or absurd. Hell, if you really put your mind to it, you might even get the ombudsman of even the liberal Washington Post swearing up and down that Jack Abramoff doesn’t have a partisan bone in his body. Sounds crazy, I know, but you gotta believe.
We don’t agree with every word of that, but the general thrust is worth considering. Polite presentation of information and fact play almost no role in our public discussion. If there’s one thing we’ve proved in eight years at THE HOWLER, we’d have to say that we have proven that.