THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 2004
THEY JUST KEEP HOLDIN ON: Were sometimes surprised when our readers strain to retain belief in favored, false stories. Did the right-wing press drive the War Against Gorethe war which decided the last White House race? Alterman and Tomasky seem to say this (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/18/04), but the claim is patently bogus. From start to finish, the War Against Gore was driven by the mainstream pressby the Washington Post and the New York Times. By the first week of April 1999, it was perfectly clear that the Post was driving an aggressive agenda against Gore, and for the next twenty months, the Post and the Times led the press assault on the Dem hopeful. Indeed, in several of the iconic Gore Stories (Love Canal is the perfect example), the right-wing press accidentally engaged in some accurate reporting, and were therefore forced to play catch-up when the mainstream made up phony tales. To see the Washington Times scramble to get Love Canal wrong, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/8/99.
But some of our readers just wont accept it! It has to have been the right-wing press. Here is one e-mail, out of several:
E-MAIL: Hmm. Im not sure youve got this one right, DH. While it is true that the NYT and WP did first print the War-on-Gore stories, it has always been my assumption that their respective decisions to run stories were the result of gradually caving in to incessant goading from right-wing pseudo-political orgs like Heritage Foundation and Judicial Watch. So maybe the right wing outlets didnt PUBLISH the stories, but they didnt have to and it probably wouldnt have served their interests to do so. Instead, they simply cowed the respectable mainstream outlets to cover the stories by sending a bunch of press releases and publicly calling them the liberal media. The stories DID originate with the right-wing media apparatus, even if they werent originally published there.Lets file this one under tortured reasoning. The Times and the Post did start the Gore Tales. But only because they were forced to!
For the record, many (not all) of the War-on-Gore stories originated at the RNC, as we have shown in the past. But the route these stories took is clear: The RNC dished to the mainstream press, and the mainstream press ran to bruit them. The right-wing press played no role in this process. Indeed, when the right-wing press tried to make up Gore Lore, their stories generally failed to gain purchase. In July 1999, for example, the Washington Times ran reports about Gores troubling canoe trip on its front page for seven straight days. But the story got almost no play in the mainstream press. The mainstream press had its own bogus tales, and needed no help from pretenders.
Why do liberal writers often say different? In individual cases, we simply cant say. But one potential motive is clear. Mainstream career writers get paid (and invited to parties) by mainstream press organs and by mainstream press figures. With that in mind, its safer and easier to ignore what occurredto pretend instead that Rush and Sean somehow drove the War Against Gore. The story is pleasing, but it just isnt true. Citizens should learn to see past it.
The good news? The press is running no such war as it covers Campaign 04. That explains the relative change in the weather described by Eric and Mike in their piece. No, the War Against Gore has blown out at last. But that doesnt mean we should reinvent the press scandal that occurred four years back.
A GUTTER RUNS THROUGH IT (PART 3): What do you do when a gutter runs through it? When a gutter runs through your national discourse? On this mornings eponymous program, Don Imus wanted to know who started this rumor about the woman with Kerry. Newsweeks Evan Thomas stated the obvious. We definitely know where this stuff started, he said. The whole thing had started with Drudgenowhere else. And no, it hadnt begun at big news orgs. Drudges tale was just wrong, Thomas said:
THOMAS: As I recall, he said that the Washington Post and the New York Times and Time magazine were hot on the trail. That just wasnt true. I mean, those news organizations were not hot on the trail. He just made it sound that way.Oops. Meanwhile, at the New Republic, Ryan Lizza says Drudge was just wrong about what Wesley Clark said. Did Clark really say that Kerrys campaign would implode over an intern issue? Lizza was there. He says no:
LIZZA: Just in case anybody was still wondering whether anything in the original Drudge item about John Kerry was accurate, I can confirm that Wesley Clark did not say what Drudge says he said at that off-the-record conversation with reporters in Nashville one week ago.So Drudge was wrong about that too, just as Ceci Connolly suggested (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/17/04). For the record, that bogus quote was the way Drudge worked the word intern in his latest slimy story.
So Matt Drudgea dirt-bagwas wrong on all counts. But that doesnt mean that his fake, phony story hasnt already affected your lives. Why did Kerry lose ground in Wisconsin last weekend? On yesterdays Imus, Jeff Greenfield wonderedand he thought of a famous web dirt-bag. No, Drudge kept this thing alive, he said, when Imus said that well-meaning Drudge had just been trying to cover the coverage. And then he continued, saying this:
GREENFIELD: You know, we dont even knowits interesting, because I dont think that exit polls can measure thiswe dont know whether or not the three or four days of under-the-radar, widely speculated stories may have hurt Kerry in Wisconsin, even though there is apparently absolutely nothing to it.So lets see. Dirt-bag Drudge sent out a fake storyfake all the way to its last phony detail. And it may have affected the Wisconsin race, in a way which gave Edwards new hope.
Amazing, isnt it? A well-known dirt-bag peddles some pornand he affects a White House campaign. But tryjust tryto find mainstream journalists who seem upset by all this. For the last two days, Imus has been shilling for Drudge, saying that he was just covering the coverage. And here at THE HOWLER, weve searched high and low, looking for a member of the press elite who even pretends that he cares about this. What do you do when a gutter runs through it? If youre a millionaire newsman, you yawn and then hide. To his credit, Tom Oliphant lodged a complaint in the Boston Globein a column which principally chastised Clark for having made the now-debunked intern remark! But how much outrage have you seen around your millionaire press corps this week? As noted, Imus has spent the past two days trying to vouch for Drudges intentions. And how many pundits have you seen mentioning Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity by name? The pair of dirt-bags ran quite fast to lovingly linger on Drudges fake tale. But when will the mainstream press call them by namecall them the dirt-bags they are?
Sullivan said it best, to Kurtz: I dont know how to talk about this. Well, here at THE HOWLER, we do know how. Well lay it our clearly tomorrow.
TOMORROW: Part IV: How to talk.
FOX DEMOCRAT KNOWS HOW TO TALK: Meanwhile, famous Fox Democrat Susan Estrich slithered out of the wood-pile last night, intent on spreading more slimy tales and dragging your discourse into the mud. Incredibly, she brought up that old Boston Herald storythe one that Kaus had run to revive (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/13/04). But then, thats what Estrich is paid for:
ESTRICH: I could not get over the fact, Brit, that last week when rumors started flying, I heard from Democrats across the country who said to me, No, not again.As we Democrats like to call it! It may have been a lousy weekend for Demsbut it was clearly a great time for Estrich. She and her pals simply burned up the lines, recalling old tales about John.
But then, thats what Estrich is paid for. Indeed, we remember that recent New Hampshire evening when a certain well-oiled Fox pundit staggered over to the comedians table and told us alltwo separate times!about how well they paid her at Fox. We all felt good for Susan thenand last night, we saw her deliver the goods. She brought up a pointless old gossip reportand even lustily slimed Kerrys wife! As we Democrats like to call it, Susan Estrich played dirt-bag again.
But then, your press corps is crawling with people like this. How should pundits talk about it? Tomorrow, we provide helpful hints.