Fallout from the Arizona shooting continues to reverberate from Washington DC to Orange County. Last week, Irvine City Council member and 2010 Democratic congressional candidate Beth Krom weighed in with a letter to the editor in the OC Register calling the right wing media to task for elevating the rhetoric.
Key points from Krom’s letter: “Whether the shooter in Saturday’s assault was mentally unstable is not the central question. Removing him from the street will not address the underlying interests of those who have driven the conflict and chaos that has made America more fractured over the past few years. When we allow political pundits who rely on ignorance and disinformation to gain credibility by virtue of their media overexposure we should not act surprised when their words incite hatred and aggression.
Our democracy requires an informed electorate, yet with all the sources of information at our disposal, we’ve never been more ignorant. That’s because the information we receive has never been more sensationalized or less credible. Media organizations seem to care little for the audience they serve, as long as they can hook the viewer and generate profits. Accuracy, context and journalistic integrity have become irrelevant in today’s sound-bite-driven world.
Free speech is the cornerstone of our democracy, but when irresponsible speech and the demonization of public officials lead to tragedy, the First Amendment is not a shield for accountability.”
We’ll note that Krom’s father, Irv Weinstein, was a trusted anchorman in Buffalo, NY, so she well knows the importance of journalism, ethics, and the responsibilities that come with free speech.
Krom is right about the right wing media’s success in inflamming attacks on the non-conservative elements of America (which goes much deeper than Blue State/Red State). Check out this list of right wing attacks on those who don’t share their views.
And Krom’s letter has sparked a mini-outrage. Despite her not listing anything about The Fairness Doctrine, the issue has come up in Orange County conservative media circles with Rep. Ed Royce weighing in with his own Letter to the Editor. It appears below:
“Former Irvine mayor Beth Krom’s letter to the editor blames the Arizona massacre on “highly charged anti-government rhetoric.” President Obama’s opponents are to blame, in her view, with the Tea Party being the main culprit. But what about the guy who pulled the trigger?
There is no evidence that Jared Lee Loughner is a Tea Party member. Pundits have scoured his readings to ascribe political motives. For what it is worth, favorite books included “The Communist Manifesto” and “Animal Farm.”
A far more likely explanation is mental illness. A former classmate said of Loughner, “It almost seemed like he was on his own planet, because his comments would have nothing to do with what we were talking about.” In fact, half the rampage murders in the U.S. are committed by the seriously mentally ill. Either way, Krom’s claim that the assailant’s mental health “is not the central question” reveals her political motives.
By politicizing Loughner, Krom can launch into a harangue against the media, specifically “conservative” media. It is sensationalized, inaccurate and profit-driven, she writes. Never mind that the “mainstream” media outlets routinely spew vitriol on conservatives. Worse, Krom hints at firm government control of the media.
In the aftermath, the third-ranking Democrat in the House has called for bringing back the so-called, “Fairness Doctrine.” Until abolished in the late 1980s, the Federal Communications Commission required broadcasters to report all sides to issues. Since it was so difficult to ensure this balance and with fear of lawsuits, broadcasters simply dropped controversial subjects. It wasn’t “fair” …“ it chilled debate.
Free speech, to survive, does require responsibility, as Beth Krom argues. We should all check ourselves. But I don’t recognize the “bully tactics and mob mentality” in America that she does. More troublingly, the remedy of state-controlled media is far, far worse than the media’s shortcomings.”
Let’s Edit Royce here for a second: “By politicizing Loughner, Krom Sarah Palin can launch into a harangue against the media, specifically “conservative liberal” media. It is sensationalized, inaccurate and profit-driven, she writes. Never mind that the “mainstream conservative” media outlets routinely spew vitriol on conservatives liberals.”
Quite frankly, there are similarities between Krom’s letter and a statement issued by former Alaska governor Sarah Palin in her infamous “blood libel” speech. Palin said: “Vigorous and spirited public debates during elections are among our most cherished traditions. And after the election, we shake hands and get back to work, and often both sides find common ground back in D.C. and elsewhere. If you don’t like a person’s vision for the country, you’re free to debate that vision. If you don’t like their ideas, you’re free to propose better ideas. But, especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible.”
And Royce seems to miss the point on the Fairness Doctrine too.
As a radio news director in the 1980s, the Fairness Doctrine was hardly as difficult to adhere to as Royce describes. If we had a political story, if couldn’t air until you got comment from the other side. It was actually pretty easy to pull off and we usually produced two versions of the same story, one that led with the right wing point of view and one they led with the left wing point of view. Stories were alternated until replaced by something else in the news cycle. And because of the requirement for balance, it made for a better story.
What seems lost of Royce is that the Fairness Doctrine only applies to media that use the public airwaves. It wouldn’t apply to Fox News at all. It wouldn’t apply to MSNBC. It would apply to ABC, NBC, CBS, local Fox News affiliates, NPR and local broadcast radio and TV stations. Nothing on satellite or cable TV only.
Royce should probably know that conservative media gets low marks when it comes to the trust factor. Fox news is the lowest rated network when it comes to trustworthiness. From the survey: “The study was released on Wednesday. It is the second annual TV news trust poll PPP has conducted. The poll finds that PBS is the most trusted news outlet by a wide margin, with 50 percent of respondents saying they trust it, as opposed to 30 who don’t.
Fox News is the second-most trusted network, but also the most distrusted one, with 42 percent trusting it and 46 percent not trusting it. That’s as compared to the 43 percent who said they didn’t trust CNN, CBS or ABC. But Fox News was one of only two networks that saw its distrust levels increase from last year’s study. Last year, 37 percent of respondents said they didn’t trust Fox–a nine-point difference from the 2011 poll.”
Royce, who voted to repeal Healthcare Reform this week, is part of a party that is using deliberately inaccurate messaging to justify the repeal of healthcare.
From today’s LA Times, David Lazarus documents the GOPs misinformation campaign: “And the Republicans have outdone themselves for misinforming the American people about what the reform law will and will not do.
Aside from scurrilous talk of “death panels” and “socialized medicine,” House Republicans have reimagined healthcare reform as a jobs bill, rather than as a long-overdue revamping of how medical treatment is accessed and delivered in a country with about 50 million people lacking insurance coverage.
They titled their legislation the “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act.” They claimed that 650,000 jobs will be lost if the law is allowed to stand.
And don’t take their word for it, House Republicans insisted. That alarming job-loss figure is attributable to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
Except it isn’t.
What the budget office actually estimated in a report last year was that the reform law “will reduce the amount of labor used in the economy by a small amount, roughly half a percent, primarily by reducing the amount of labor that workers choose to supply.”
In other words, there will be a small reduction in the amount of work that gets done because some people will voluntarily choose to work less. For example, a worker might retire early because healthcare will be more readily available.
That’s not an estimate of job loss or production. It’s an estimate of labor performed by workers.
But House Republicans donned their fuzzy-math hats and seized upon that half-percent number as representing a portion of the roughly 131 million jobs in the U.S. economy. Half a percent of 131 million is 650,000. Therefore, 650,000 jobs will be lost.
That’s not what the budget office said or even implied. If not a deliberate invention by healthcare reform foes, it was a gross misreading of what the budget office had actually concluded.”
Lastly, Jim Bieber, head the Bieber Communications, a PR firm catering to conservatives, chimes in on The Flash Report with an angry diatribe at Krom as well. Bieber also citing the Fairness Doctrine in this column.
The campaign to silence political speech from conservatives comes on two fronts. Liberal activists are attempting to intimidate and shame conservatives into limiting their expressiveness and passionate anger at public policy and public officials. Liberal legislators are calling for laws to regulate political commentary…..While nothing can be done to stop the liberal smear machine from re-writing history, proposed legislation banning the use of threatening symbols in campaign literature could criminalize political speech. As a political consultant that specializes in producing voter persuasion mail, I often use imagery to convey or stimulate anger. For over 15 years, I have produced campaign literature that has played off some combat metaphor or some kind of conflict. I have produced campaign literature that included graphics of bullet holes, angry mobs, boxing gloves, dunce caps, clenched fists, hammers, snarling dogs, bulldozers and even crosshairs from a gun scope without a single fatality attributed to the brochures that were mailed out. If some liberals get their way, I or the campaigns that contract with me, would be reported and charged for engaging in the production of imagery that could be perceived as threatening.”
Translation: Bieber has confessed to running his own conservative smear machine that specializes in using inflammatory rhetoric against Democratic candidates and positions. But dame those Liberals for running a smear machine to rewrite history.
I have to wonder if Bieber or Royce will be critical of Palin for accusing the Arizona shooter of having “leftist” ties with no evidence that he had any. Will Royce and Bieber ignore the litany of videos of Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly repeating hateful rhetoric or audio clips of Rush Limbaugh doing the same? Media Matters has those videos and more.