YOUR STATE-RUN MEDIA! Were close to having a state-run media. In the Post, Richard Cohen shows why:
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 4, 2004
COHEN, FIGHTING MAD: Richard Cohen is fightin mad, although its not really clear why. Well—we do know Cohen is quite upset because the GOP has been lying. But what exactly have the lies been? And why should a voter believe that theyre lies? Cohen doesnt bother to say. And therein lies a basic problem as we move toward corrupt state-run media.
What sort of lies have Cohen so mad? We start to learn in his second paragraph:
COHEN: The constant distortion of John Kerry's record, a drizzle of deceit that eventually soaks the listener in a fat, wet lie, is not to be admired.Yikes! So it seems that these lies—this deceit—have been aimed at Kerry. As he continues, Cohen explains that the lies concern the hopefuls Vietnam record—a record he tells us is admirable:
COHEN: [I]f you look back a month to the Democratic convention and see what has happened since, it sort of takes your breath away. Kerry, triumphant and accepting the nomination with a smart (but silly) salute, has been disparaged as a phony who lied about his combat record and then came home from war to smear his buddies.The lying about Kerrys admirable service has been immense and brazen. Cohen never dares to name those rough Swift Boat Vets, but moments later, he does name one liar. He lands on the back of Ol Zell:
COHEN: Bush virtually said the allegations [about Kerrys service] were not true, but he has not repudiated them—and so, in the minds of the jury, they stand. What's more, they were followed by a string of misrepresentations spit from the mouth of Zell Miller, as mad an eruption of hate as I have witnessed in politics.Miller issued a string of misrepresentations about Kerry too. And as a result, Kerry is floundering, Cohen says. Kerry has fumbled for a message, he writes. The one he thought he had—his commendable Vietnam service—has been tarnished, if not wrecked.
So there you have it. Kerrys commendable Vietnam record has been destroyed by a hail of Category Five lies. But why should readers believe this is true? Why should readers believe Richard Cohen? Cohen calls names—but offers no evidence. And therein lies a basic element of the destruction of John Kerrys record.
Readers, what lies did Zell Miller tell? Cohen doesnt bother to name one. And what sort of lies have the Swift Boat Vets told? Cohen doesnt tell us that either. Indeed, Cohen rants and name-calls throughout his column—but doesnt provide a single specific. Why should a reader believe Richard Cohen? We cant imagine an answer.
Cohens rant may be better than nothing, but in many ways, its a perfect example of the press corps endless lassitude in the past year. For example, try to believe what just occurred at the Republican National Convention. On Wednesday night, Miller made a series of nasty claims about Kerrys voting record—claims which are almost impossibly disingenuous. And all across the national press corps, big news orgs just sat on their hands, refusing to truth squad what Miller had said. Cohens paper presented a context check of Millers fake charges. But the New York Times stared off into space, and pundits stared into space all over cable (more below). Millers speech simply screamed for truth squad treatment—and American news orgs refused to provide it. So what is Cohen talking about when he yells liar all through todays column? Readers have little way to know. And they have almost no reason to believe Richard Cohen is right.
Cohen is too polite today to name those rough Swift Boat Veterans. But his timid paper has made little effort to examine the credibility of their claims. His paper has been too lazy, too indifferent and too gut-bucket scared to examine the claims that have changed this election. And Cohen calling liar today can hardly begin to make up for the way his paper has walked off its post.
Are those rough Swift Boat Veterans lying? Cohen says so (without even calling their name), but why on earth should his readers believe him? Was Miller lying Wednesday night? Why should Cohens readers believe that when he doesnt name one single lie? Cohen is angry, but hes still sleep-walking, providing no basis for a readers belief. Has Kerry been hit by a wave of Big Lies? Cohen says so, but why should Post readers believe him when the Post has refused to examine these lies? Cohen can name-call as much as he likes, but his case has never been made, and the name-calling fellows once again fails to make it in this mornings column.
YOUR STATE-RUN MEDIA: Just stop and consider the amazing thing that happened in your country this week.
On Wednesday night, Zell Miller keynoted the Republican Convention. And yes—he made a set of amazingly nasty claims against Kerry that were almost impossibly phony. Incredibly, he compared Kerry to an auctioneer selling off our national security because he opposed certain weapon systems. But guess what? Dick Cheney had opposed the same weapons systems, a fact that Ol Zell failed to mention.
Yes, the smell of fascism was in the air when Miller made his astonishing speech. His speech screamed for suppression of dissent—and it screamed even louder for fact check treatment. But the New York Times didnt fact-check the speech, nor did the perfumed boys and girls who slumber each evening on cable. On MSNBC, Chris Matthews killed time for hours ON Thursday night, but he and his guests never fact-checked what Ol Zell had said. And how about CNNs Thursday night effort? Did you see a fact check of what Miller said? Weve gone through the transcripts, and no, we cant find a truth squad segment. Some pundits did call Zell a man of hate. But why should any viewer believe them? Like Cohen, these pontificatin pundits were simply too lazy to explain what he said that was wrong.
But dont miss the larger context to this. As weve said, Millers grossly disingenuous claims have been made on TV all year long! They formed the basis of 30-second ads which the Bush campaign began running in April. The claims in those ads were as phony and fake as they were when Miller made them. But very few voters have ever heard how fake and phony those claims really are. Through the year, Richard Cohen said nothing about them, and neither did the bulk of your press corps. Papers offered a few modest Ad Watch reports—and the phony claims just kept on running. Because your pundits kept quiet all year, voters heard these claims again Wednesday night.
No fact check of Zell in the great New York Times! Readers, youre very close to a state-run media when you see the events that occurred this week. Wednesday night, a man on horseback made absurdly fake claims—and your biggest news orgs knew they mustnt correct him. But then, those same news orgs have gazed into space as these phony claims were made all year. Yes, these claims are amazingly fake—Category Five, as Cohen said. But your press corps is afraid of George Bush, and their salaries are quite good as things are.
State-run media? Bush can deceive you as much as he likes. A conquering man sits atop a white horse, and as we saw in the wake of Zells speech, your press lets him say what he pleases.
QUELLING ZELL: Cohen lacks the first clue about Zell Miller. At one point this morning, he dumbly says this:
COHEN: This is a Category Five lie, one so immense and brazen it almost compels you to wonder whether there is an element of truth to it...Bush virtually said the allegations were not true, but he has not repudiated them—and so, in the minds of the jury, they stand. What's more, they were followed by a string of misrepresentations spit from the mouth of Zell Miller, as mad an eruption of hate as I have witnessed in politics. Some time back, Kerry must have dissed Miller. This was personal.But Millers speech plainly wasnt personal, and if Cohen had been alive on Earth this past year, he would surely know it. Millers clowning book, A National Party No More, appeared in January; in it, Miller trashes all Dem White House hopefuls in the nastiest terms. Millers laughable explanations of his grievance were accompanied by the nastiest insults. For example, the following passage was widely quoted as Miller made his triumphant book tour. Earth to Cohen: This is why Millers book was produced in the first place:
MILLER (page 61-62): But Lord, those current presidential candidates in my party!...Whenever the candidates encounter a Political Action Committee group, they preen and flex their six-pack abs for the Groups like body builders in a Mr. Universe contest. Or, perhaps more appropriately I should compare them to streetwalkers in skimpy halter and hot pants plying their age-old trade for the fat wallets on K Street.As we noted in January, Miller has an active imagination about current fashions on K Street. But his book heaped insults on the Democratic candidates as a group. (They even come to have a certain kind of body odor that is all their own, the vile old thug wrote.) Millers speech had nothing to do with some personal diss by Kerry. This nasty old man would have been on that stage no matter who the nominee was, and the fact that Cohen doesnt know that illustrates the problem you currently face as a gang of thugs takes over your culture and an overpaid press corps sweetly sleeps. Cohen is lazy, and he lacks the first clue. So, therefore, do misled voters.
PART THE WAY WITH DDK: Dan Kennedy writes to say that CNN should get credit for working Zell over on Wednesday, shortly after his ugly, fake speech. Let us say this about that—yes and no. Yesterday, we were going to start with that CNN session until Glenn Kessler produced his Post context watch. But CNNs interview was necessarily truncated; it should have been followed by a systematic look at Millers nasty claims against Kerry. What happened instead? All over cable on Thursday night, pundits killed time as they awaited Bushs speech. Miller should have been systematically fact-checked. But on CNN, pundits stared vacantly off into space, offering thoughts about Millers tone and pointless guesses about the polls. Did a nasty old man call Kerry a traitor for doing the very same thing Cheney did? If you watched CNN all night Thursday, you still havent heard this remarkable fact. And thats the problem youre currently facing. Men on horseback ride into power when the media all know to keep silent.