Saturday, December 01, 2007

It's okay to say it's a lie if it's a lie

I was thinking more about the Times-Picayune's treatment of the so-called racial controversy involving City Council's inquiry into overpriced garbage contracts and services not rendered. 

And I thought about newspapers in general and the decisions editors make to call certain statements false or deceptive. 

When and how does "impartiality" reduce a news piece's connection to empirical reality?

Then I was pointed to another media coverage controversy by daily kos and talking points memo.

To summarize, the Washington Post wrote a piece addressing the fact that there have been lots of right-wing rumors insinuating that Barack Obama is secretly a Muslim and if he gets elected he'll start eating our babies and stealing Christmas.

If you read the WaPo article, you'll see very quickly why people might be upset. I am too.

The writer, Perry Bacon Jr., repeats many of the rumors, which could have remained in right wing nut-job obscurity they not been published them on such a reputable mainstream platform:

-Obama is a 'Muslim plant' in a conspiracy against America
-He's going to swear in on a copy of the Koran
-He was educated in a 'madrassa'
Bacon Jr. quotes Robert Spencer - "our first Muslim President"
And so on and so forth.

At NO point in the article does Bacon Jr. mention that all of these allegations are false, have been proven false by mainstream media outlets, and have been reported as false by mainstream news outlets. He fails to mention that these conservatives are clearly hoping to smear Obama by inciting a wild conspiracy theory to subvert his candidacy via xenophobic fears.

He only mentions:

"(Obama's) denials"
"Obama aides sharply disputed the initial stories..."
 "Obama has denied a separate charge..."
"After Obama denied the rumor..."

The false allegations by the conservatives are referred to repeatedly as "rumors" and not lies, smears, falsehoods, etc.

Rumor, as I understand it, is an unsubstantiated claim that may or may not be true.
Obama was NOT educated at a school for Muslim clerics - there is nothing to be left open to interpretation about that. Google it.

The Washington Post article has legitimized these conservative con artists by putting their names in the paper and charitably transforming their malicious lies into simple rumors.
The article would have been more reality-based if it were instead titled: 

"Malicious allegations against Obama persist, in spite of empirical fact"

Sort of like the other day, when the Times-Picayune's lead story SHOULD have read:

"Garbage company chiefs claim racial bias, hire protesters in attempt to intimidate city council"


"SCLC hired to make room look crowded, say boycott using microphone"

Add your own more appropriate headline for either story in the comments section.

P.S. The Washington Post's political cartoonist has a take on the Obama article controversy:


Civic Avenger said...

The TP has a history of reporting rumors as true, and then defending those stories as "but we were reflecting the sentiment of those involved..." ilk. See MediaMaven's link of October 6 ( for a more expert dissection of rumor-reports-as-fact.

It's shameful, and it's not journalism by any stretch.

Anonymous said...

It is clear that Obama purposefully wants to preserve ambiguity about his religious preferences. If he wanted to clearly indicate that he is a Christian, he would have adopted a *CHRISTIAN* name instead of the overtly *MUSLIM* "Barack Saddam". There is a long biblically sanctioned tradition of heathens changing their names upon becoming followers of Christ (particularly if their original names are offensive), for example Simon->Peter, Saul->Paul. So there is a lot of legitimacy in questioning Obama's religious proclivities.

E said...

Well you're obviously an idiot.

What is "Barack Saddam?"

His name is Barack Hussein Obama.

I didn't know that Saul and Simon were heathen and offensive names.

I shouldn't even be responding to you.

You're not welcome here anymore.

Never visit this website again.