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Daily Howler: Disinforming the public is easy for Bush. Steve Luxenberg helps out at the Post
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IT’S SO EASY (PART 1)! Disinforming the public is easy for Bush. Steve Luxenberg helps out at the Post: // link // print // previous // next //

POST BOYS ARE EASY (PART 1): Good God! How to describe the irresponsibility (and the sheer dumbness) displayed by the Washington Post’s Steven Luxenberg? Luxenberg edits the paper’s Sunday “Outlook” section. How to describe the irresponsibility he displayed when he published yesterday’s “opinion piece” by know-nothing twenty-something Laura Thomas?

In her piece, Thomas says she’s 25 years of age. According to her ID tag-line, she is “a news aide in The Post's Style section, assisting with the ‘Out & About’ column and coordinating classical music reviews.” And oh yes, one more thing—while Thomas may be a whiz-kid with classical music, she seems to know nothing about her subject, the future of Social Security. The results are sadly predictable. The headline which sits atop her piece recites familiar propaganda. (“Who’s Counting on Social Security? Not We Twenty-Somethings.”) Incredibly, haplessly, here’s her first paragraph. Only Luxenberg can explain why he put such complete, perfect drek into print:

THOMAS (2/6/05): People my age are as likely to believe in Social Security as they are in Santa Claus. And, if you ask me, it would be equally naive for a twenty-something to believe in either one.
At least she skipped the scripted remarks about believing more in UFOs. But according to Thomas, it would be completely “naive” for a twenty-something “to believe in Social Security!” Conservative propagandists have labored for decades to produce disinformed young people like this—and to produce the type of spineless editor who is willing to publish such drivel. But as we’ve seen again and again, such spineless editors (and TV producers) are found all over our major news orgs (links below). Disinformed twenty-somethings are dragged on TV to proclaim that SS “won’t be there” for them. And marks who write about classical music now sing this sweet song in the Post.

How little does Thomas seem to know about the Social Security program? As we’ve noted again and again, if no adjustments are made to the program, there is exactly no chance that it “won’t be there” when twenty-somethings retire. Thomas, who says she is 25, will retire in the mid-2040's. What will the state of the system be then? According to the CBO, the system will still be paying full promised benefits when Thomas retires in the mid-2040's. A funding shortfall will develop about five years later. If nothing is done, this will require a (roughly) 20-percent reduction in promised benefits; fairly modest funding adjustments would pare down the shortfall. But there is no projection—none; zero; nada—under which the program “won’t be there” for Thomas. There is no projection under which it makes sense to talk about UFOs—or Santa Claus.

No, there is no projection—none at all—under which Social Security “won’t be there” for Thomas. But many disinformed young people don’t know that, because conservative propagandists have targeted them with relentless propaganda campaigns—and because people like Luxenberg publish young music aides who make absurd statements like these:

THOMAS: I was amused during the State of the Union speech to hear that Bush thought I was expecting to receive [Social Security]...

[My family] decided that we were all more or less on the same side: Start saving now, because Social Security, if it still exists when you're older, will only be for people on welfare or those who didn't have the foresight or willpower to save...

[W]hen it comes to my retirement money, I don't want anyone else touching it, especially the government, which has done such a dandy job of handling retirement funds so far.

But if Social Security is left alone (or lightly tweaked), Thomas surely will receive it. And if Social Security is left alone, there is no reason to suspect that it will “only be for people on welfare.” Meanwhile, we’d be willing to pay a stiff cover charge to hear the scribe explain her third point—to hear her say just what is wrong with the way the government “has handled retirement funds so far.” Let’s say it—almost surely, Thomas doesn’t have the slightest idea about the way that money has been handled. But she has proven herself the perfect mark for a generation of disinformation. So as she ends her hapless piece, she falls back on Santa again:
THOMAS: Politics notwithstanding, my logic goes like this: It's time to "prepare and plan" for the future as the president put it Tuesday. That's why last week, as soon as I hit the one-year mark at my job and became eligible for a 401 (k) plan, I signed up—much to the relief of my family, I'm sure. And I don't think other people my age are just sitting in the dark waiting for a glimpse of Santa Claus, or tossing their money up the chimney while counting on Social Security.
There’s a term for that: clueless know-nothing. But conservative propagandists have labored for decades to get those ideas into young people’s heads—and to produce a generation of editors who are willing to print such disinformed thoughts in our most important newspapers.

Readers, life is good if you’re President Bush! It’s amazingly easy to disinform voters with men like Luxenberg ready to help, publishing pieces by clueless kids which further the Bush Admin’s disinformation. No, it really isn’t Thomas’ fault that she is young and disinformed. The fault here lies with Steven Luxenberg, who knows what forces rules his town, and who knows the price those forces exact for the maintenance of his perfumed, powdered station. Yes, Luxenberg—like so many others—found a clueless twenty-something and used her to disinform many others. It’s so easy for President Bush when big news orgs help out this way—and when the Dems, and our own liberal bloggers, fail to speak up in loud protest.

TOMORROW: It’s so easy! Bush pimped Thomas’ point at his Tampa town hall—and the mainstream press just sat and stared.

VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: It’s easy for Bush to disinform voters with people like Luxenberg running big papers. And alas! TV producers like to play this game too! On CNN, Aaron Brown aired a young know-nothing named Chelsea Naja; see THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/10/04. On CBS, John Roberts pimped a young know-nothing too; see THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/13/04. Last Saturday, CBS’S Russ Mitchell aired another clueless kid; see THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/2/05. Major news orgs love to promote these totally clueless twenty-somethings. Readers, it’s easy for Bush to disinform voters! The Browns, the Robertses, the Mitchells and the Luxenbergs are routinely there to oblige.

FORCED TO ASK: Kevin Drum has done, and continues to do, superlative work about Social Security. But this morning we’ll ask an obvious question—why did his post about Thomas’ article mention Thomas and omit Luxenberg? The fact that a young music journalist wrote a dumb piece isn’t exactly earth-shattering news; this piece is news because Luxenberg printed it. It’s Luxenberg who needs to be challenged, not his disinformed music scribe.

We raise this question for an obvious reason. Liberal career writers have failed you repeatedly in the past decade, refusing to challenge the work of the mainstream press corps. (Silence about the Gore campaign coverage was an obvious example.) Human nature being what it is, some have failed you for an obvious reason; career writers have a major incentive not to bite the hands that will feed them. If you’re publishing work in the Washington Post, you may not want to challenge its conduct real hard. You may find yourself beating up on an inconsequential music aide and ignoring the powerful man who published the piece in question.

We don’t have the slightest idea why Kevin framed his piece as he did. We wouldn’t assume that he had any “motive.” (Repeat: Kevin has done, and continues to do, superlative work about Social Security.) But here at THE HOWLER, we’ve grown sick to the bone of liberal bloggers who miss the Big Picture. That Big Picture is desperately needed, and it won’t be coming from Dem Party leaders. Clearly, they aren’t up to the task; the Big Picture will have to churn up from below. And when liberal bloggers finally churn the Big Picture, Laura Thomas won’t play a big role in it. Steven Luxenberg and his Post colleagues will.

In the next few weeks, we plan to examine ways in which the liberal web has missed the Big Picture in recent years. Drum has done tons of great work on this subject. But Luxenberg is the story here, not Thomas, and we’ve grown sick of the ways the liberal web skips the wheat and beats up on the chaff.

BY CONTRAST: Josh Marshall goes straight at Fred Hiatt today. As we’ll note later on in the week, Hiatt’s comments on SS make no earthly sense. It sounds like Josh plans to get to that too.

Dems and centrists need to craft an (accurate) Big Picture to counteract the Big Picture the right has long peddled. Fred Hiatt may be a part of that story. In truth, Laura Thomas will not.