Various items

Anonymity in journalism. Reality denial among Bush followers. Character assassinations against George Tenet commence.

Published April 30, 2007 11:58AM (EDT)

(1) In the midst of a relatively positive discussion of blogs and their growing influence in California politics, this San Francisco Chronicle article contains the following passage -- one of the most ironic I've encountered in a while:

But one key state Democratic strategist, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of concern for riling the netroots crowd, warns that such efforts are potentially positive and negative.

Netroots commentary can frequently be intensely personal, even "totally mean and irrational," the strategist said, with some bloggers finding power in their ability "to assassinate political characters online."

"It's amplified by the anonymity, and it can be scary that it's so irresponsible," the insider said. "And it's pulling the mainstream media in that direction."

Warning that anonymity makes bloggers so "scary" and "irresponsible," while demanding anonymity to voice that criticism, is ingenious. And the anonymous quote is predictably being touted in right-wing circles as proof of how savage liberal bloggers are.

Journalists grant anonymity to people so casually to spout off about even the most commonplace matters that, at this point, I'd say there is at least as much anonymity in mainstream journalism as there is in the blogosphere. It's amazing how commonly journalists use the manipulative technique of inexcusably granting anonymity to one individual to do nothing more than voice a garden-variety political view, and then cite that anonymous statement as the basis for a whole story supposedly documenting a "trend" that exists only in the reporters' imagination.

And the notion that bloggers have ushered in an era of personal attacks and mean-spirited political commentary should be too inane for anyone to voice. The 1990s were characterized by our most prestigious media outlets following the lead of Rush Limbaugh and Matt Drudge by endlessly discussing the spots on Bill Clinton's penis, the sperm stains on Monica Lewinsky's dress, and Hillary Clinton's lesbian-fueled murder of Vince Foster, followed by Al Gore's emasculation at the hands of Naomi Wolf and all the other petty, snotty personality-based fabrications which decided the 2000 election.

Journalists who work in the world Ruled by Drudge really ought to refrain from lamenting the desecration by bloggers of our previously sacred, dignified and elevated political discourse. The emergence of the blogosphere is a reaction to the wholesale destruction of our political discourse by national journalists, not a cause of that destruction.

(2) Over at National Review's Corner, Cliff May valiantly continues to insist that the polling data is mixed regarding Americans' views about the Iraq war. To do so, he cites polls showing that a majority of Americans oppose de-funding as the mechanism to end the war -- a fact few people have ever contested and one which, in my view, is the fault of Democrats (their most significant mistake since winning in November) for not only acquiescing to, but affirmatively embracing, the truly ludicrous idea that to de-fund the war is to "abandon" and "endanger" the troops (rather than what is really is: just a mechanism for compelling the safe withdrawal of troops).

In any event, while Democrats have allowed de-funding to be discredited as an instrument for ending the war, poll after poll decisively shows that Americans overwhelmingly favor a legislated, forced withdrawal on a date certain. And rational conservatives who view "conservatism" as a set of political beliefs -- rather than a cult of reality-denying Loyalty to the Leader -- recognize those facts already.

If May has any further questions, he can consult William Buckley's latest column -- entitled "The Waning GOP" -- written in National Review on the very day May tried to tell his readers that Americans don't really oppose the War. As Buckley warned:

The political problem of the Bush administration is grave, possibly beyond the point of rescue. The opinion polls are savagely decisive on the Iraq question . . .

But beyond affirming executive supremacy in matters of war, what is George Bush going to do? It is simply untrue that we are making decisive progress in Iraq. . . .There are grounds for wondering whether the Republican party will survive this dilemma.

The hard-core 20% Bush followers (the ones who not only approve of the Leader's performance but who strongly approve) simply do not live in reality, literally. They want to believe that Americans support the ongoing occupation of Iraq, so no polling data, election slaughters, or anything else will ever convince them otherwise.

Ultimately, not only is it impossible for anyone to force them to recognize reality, it is also -- at this point -- undesirable. Their refusal to recognize reality is precisely what is going to ensure their destruction as a political movement, and at this point, given that our troops are inevitably staying in Iraq through the end of the Bush presidency, there is no higher priority than that.

If Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Reynolds, Cliff May and Michelle Malkin want to continue to assure their war-supporting readers and viewers that Americans really do support the Iraq war and don't want a compelled end, that can only produce positive results. As Jonathan Weisman put it in his Washington Post article today:

That cohesion reflects the views of the GOP's core voters, who see the war in Iraq in fundamentally different terms than Democrats and political independents do, said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. Voters from those groups tend to see unremitting gloom, but Republican base voters continue to see a conflict that is going reasonably well, with a decent chance of military success.

"That's the dilemma for Republicans going forward," Kohut said yesterday. "They've got to look out for their base, but they have to acknowledge the independents have aligned themselves with the way Democrats are thinking on the issue of Iraq."

Not just with regard to Iraq, but for the entire world, so-called "Republican base voters" have literally lived in a fantasy world since the 9/11 attacks, at least. And that is not going to change.

But what has changed is the fact that virtually everyone else has awakened to reality, so the more Bush followers cling to their fantasies and demand that their candidates and political leaders do so, the more they reveal themselves to be fringe and irrational figures, the more they alienate everyone other than fellow members of their authoritarian cult. That is a trend that ought to be encouraged and celebrated.

(3) Speaking of the ability of Bush followers to deny reality, this weekend's proclamation from John Hinderaker might have earned a place in the already crowded Hinderaker pantheon of jaw-droppingly delusional tributes to the Leader's Greatness -- alongside his prior claims that Bush is a "man of extraordinary vision and brilliance approaching to genius," that we have "an amazing record of progress" in Iraq, and that George Bush is "our Churchill . . .taking a firm stand against the great evil of our time." This weekend Hinderaker said:

The truth is that the Bush administration has been extraordinarily scandal-free. Not a single instance of corruption has been unearthed.

"Extraordinarily scandal-free." "Not a single instance of corruption."

(4) Blogger Roger Ailes discovers some inadvertently revealed truth in The Politico about how Norah O'Donnell spends her evenings and, more importantly, with whom she spends them (The Ailes permalinks seem not to be working -- scroll down one post to "Business as Usual").

Separately, Ailes highlights how Hugh Hewitt exploited the tragedy at Virginia Tech as a means for hawking his book, blog and radio show -- all while he was sitting there on CNN with his friend, Howard Kurtz, lamenting how terrible and immoral it is for the press to exploit that tragedy for ratings (Scroll to "Exploiting A Tragedy").

(5) In the post I wrote last week on the Tillman and Lynch cases, I wrote: "Identically, the American media did virtually nothing to investigate the Bush administration's absolute falsehoods about how Pat Tillman died. We know about it solely by virtue of the heroic relentlessness of the Tillman family -- led by his mother and brother, Kevin -- in doing the job which our press and Congress so profoundly failed to do."

In December, 2004, Washington Post reporter Steve Coll published a lengthy and very well-documented two-part series (the first part is here) regarding the circumstances surrounding Tillman's death and the military's efforts to conceal them. Coll's reporting is actually quite good and, had I known about it, I would have included it in the post.

But I don't think that, standing alone, it negates the point. As I've noted many times, there are many excellent investigative journalists and numerous isolated cases of good investigative journalism. But it does not disprove the media's general abdication of its responsibilities. If anything, those exemplary cases highlight why it is so damaging that we have such a dysfunctional press.

(6) For those interested, there are a couple of radio interviews I did recently with interviewers who I thought were particularly skillful and knowledgeable -- first, this one with Errington Thompson, a surgeon in North Carolina who moonlights by hosting his own political radio show; and this one with Scott Horton of Antiwar radio. PR Week has also just published a short interview I did with them on blogging and related matters.

(7) George Tenet has commmitted the crime in his book of identifying many of the neoconservatives responsible for some of the worst falsehoods and most egregious errors leading to the disaster in Iraq. And it is therefore now time for the full-on character smear. What neoconservatives understandably fear more than anything are facts which reveal the central and highly corrupt role they played in this disaster, and nothing prompts character assassinations as vicious as the disclosure of such facts.

Appropriately enough, Bill Kristol kicks off the campaign by seizing on two minor factual errors in Tenet's book -- including one where Tenet had the temerity to suggest that Richard Perle was a key figure in advocating an invasion of Iraq almost immediately after 9/11 (perish the thought) -- in order to suggest that Tenet is a serial liar. Asks Kristol, giving new meaning to the pot-and-kettle cliche: "How many other facts has George Tenet invented?"

(8) If you haven't read the amazing 2003 speech by former MSNBC reporter Ashleigh Banfield -- one which Digby unearthed this week and which caused Banfield to be fired -- I highly recommend it. While the speech contain some vital insights about how television news operates, the fact that it led to her firing is, for all the reasons Digby highlights, even more revealing than the speech itself about the state of our media.

By Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

MORE FROM Glenn Greenwald

Related Topics ------------------------------------------