Are Media Manipulations Setting the Political Agenda?

by THE EDITOR October 14, 2010
 
The press must be free, we are told. The First Amendment of the Bill of Rights clearly states:
 
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
 
The Bill of Rights – including this Amendment – was ratified on December 15, 1791, two years after it was first proposed before Congress. It has remained inviolate for almost 220 years. The fundamentals of a free press involve honesty. However, with the rise of the internet and the apparent free expression of news and opinion, some of the honesty that should underpin a free press has been increasingly compromised.
 
When the “Journolist” scandal broke earlier this year, leaked onto the online pages of Tucker Carlson’s Daily Caller, many of those people who report the news were seen to distort it, and also to engage in campaigns to silence the news. Many figures who had urged fellow journalists (and bloggers) to bury newsworthy stories and to promote their own agenda belonged to the mainstream media. The mainstream media, for its part, did little to expose the Machiavellian activities of those in its employ, and no MSM journalists were officially fired.
 
Journolist had been the brainchild of Ezra Klein. It began as a private web forum for journalists to share information and also to grumble and gripe. One journalist who had joined the listserve had taken a record of what was being discussed and then fed the news to the Daily Caller which published the revelations in installments.  
 
Spencer Ackerman (who at the time was writing for the Washington Independent) had suggested a means to close down criticism of Obama, who at that time was not president. Ackerman suggested to choose a critic of Obama, “Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares — and call them racists.”
 
One exposure showed how journalists were trying to bury negative stories about the America-bashing preacher Jeremiah Wright. Certain members of the discussion group had objected to a question posed to Obama in April 2008 on an ABC pre-election debate. Obama had been asked by George Stephanopoulos: “Do you think Reverend Wright loves America as much as you do?”
 
Michael Tomasky, a journalist from the leftist British newspaper The Guardian, had written about the ABC interview:
 
“Listen folks – in my opinion, we all have to do what we can to kill ABC and this idiocy in whatever venues we have. This isn’t about defending Obama. This is about how the [mainstream media] kills any chance of discourse that actually serves the people.”
“Richard Kim got this right above: ‘a horrible glimpse of general election press strategy.’ He’s dead on,” Tomasky continued. “We need to throw chairs now, try as hard as we can to get the call next time. Otherwise the questions in October will be exactly like this. This is just a disease.
 
It is perhaps no coincidence that Spencer Ackerman, who presumptuously calls himself “Attackerman” on his Twitter account, was a frequent contributor to the Guardian newspaper’s online edition. Ackerman’s polemics frequently appeared on the section “Comment is Free.” This section of the online Guardian is usually a podium for leftists and even Islamists to peddle their nostrums, and the voices of the right are nowhere to be seen.
 
Why should I be dredging up what is now, three months after the Journolist “exposures,” an issue that is considered to be “old news”? Sadly, in the run-up to the midterms, the habit of peddling misinformation is continuing. In a bizarre inversion of the Journolist manipulations, even the President has been drawn into this web and has been promoting a story that has no substantive evidence to back it up. This false allegation is also being used as an electoral device.
 
Richard Douglas has suggested:  
 
The White House is attacking the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for taking “foreign money” but it is providing no facts, no specifics, no direct or indirect evidence.  Instead, the Obama White House is using innuendo, a whispering campaign, deploying suggestions rather than proof.
 
This is classic Louis Farrakhan.  See for yourself – pick up a copy of The Final Call, or read it on-line.  Read a Farrakhan speech.  And what you will see is the same kind of indirect innuendo about mysterious conspiracies and sinister unnamed manipulators.
 
Allegations Against The US Chamber of Commerce
 
 
Last week, on October 7, while commenting on the $75 million that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was spending on commercials supporting Republican “business-friendly” candidates, President Obama said:
 
“Just this week, we learned that one of the largest groups paying for these ads regularly takes in money from foreign sources. Are you going to let special interest groups from Wall Street, from Washington, and maybe places beyond our shores come to this state, and tell us, who our senators should be?”
 
 
The implication was that the funds coming in to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce from “foreign sources” were the same as those used to promote the ad campaigns. The allegation by the president is stunning. If this were true, it would breach the Tillman Act of 1907 (2 U.S. Code section 441b) which specifically prohibits direct contributions from corporations and businesses to political parties and election committees. The Tillman Act, named after Senator Benjamin Ryan Tillman, was supported by Theodore Roosevelt to counter the widespread political corruption of the time. Soon after its implementation, the act easily became circumvented. There have been calls to repeal the act and replace it with more stringent legislation.
 
The problem remains that the president, facing a difficult time in the Midterms, is making unsubstantiated allegations, suggesting that “attack-ads” against Democrat candidates are somehow tainted by donations from unnamed “foreign sources.” There is a touch of xenophobia to this allegation, which sits uneasily with the administration’s extensive Muslim outreach work. Yet there is no evidence to support this allegation.
 
Where did the president gain this “information”? The story began with the liberal think tank called “Think Progress” which ran an article entitled: “Exclusive: Foreign-Funded ‘U.S.’ Chamber Of Commerce Running Partisan Attack Ads.”
 
The article uses innuendo, stating for example that:
 
Another foreign chamber, like the Abu Dhabi AmCham, which includes American firms and Esnaad, a subsidiary of the state-run Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, claims that it is a a “dues paying member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and part of the global network of American Chambers of Commerce.”
 
Tita Freeman, an official at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, responded to the allegations, saying:
 
AmChams are independent organizations and they do not fund political programs in the United States. We have a system in place for ensuring that they are not government-controlled entities.
 
The Chamber is proud to have global companies among our membership. We’re careful to ensure that we comply with all applicable laws. No foreign money is used to fund political activities.
 
Such denials have done nothing to prevent Think Progress and its supporters attempting to spin the issue even further. Yesterday, Michael Tomasky – yes, that Michael Tomasky who added to the notoriety of “Journolist” – published a piece in his blog at the Guardian newspaper.
 
Tomasky still defends the as-yet unsubstantiated comments. He claims that Think Progress, which pushed the rumor mill into motion with nothing other than a supposition “basically made a reasonable surmise based on the known fund-raising practices of the Chamber's overseas branches.”
 
He draws attention to another piece published yesterday on Think Progress by Lee Fang, entitled “Exclusive: Chamber Receives At Least $885,000 From Over 80 Foreign Companies in Disclosed Donations Alone.” The title itself says what it needs to say – by inserting the word “alone” it implies, with no evidence whatsoever, that there could be further UNDISCLOSED donations.
 
Lee Fang’s article attempts to damn the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and refers to a further inhouse report that condemns the Chamber for previously saying that foreign funds did not exceed $100,000. That statement may have been in error, but it apparently came from a spokesperson, and not from any written documentation. The implication – never verified with “smoking gun” evidence – seems to be that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is operating a policy of dishonesty, therefore anything is possible.
 
Spokespeople often make mistakes when addressing the media, but despite the thrust of Fang’s article, the only “evidence” of a discrepancy between what was stated and what actually took place comes entirely from the Chamber’s published accounts.
 
Furthermore, the important earlier allegations, that money from “foreign sources” has been used to fund attack campaigns against Democrats, still have not been proved to be true. Michael Tomasky states:
 
Fang has identified 84 more foreign companies that donate to the CoC's 501c6 arm that is used, he writes, for attack ads. Dues contributions from these companies to the c6 total $885,000 - still not a large percentage of $75 million, but a pretty penny indeed, and far, far more than the $100,000 the chamber earlier acknowledged came from foreign companies.
 
He spells it out more plainly:
 
Here's nearly a million foreign dollars, and Fang notes it could be more, that's apparently going directly into a group running attack ads.
 
Fang still has not proved that the funds are going directly to the campaign, but truth is becoming irrelevant in this debate.
 
The Democratic National Committee is running a campaign of ads on cable TV, in which Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie are attacked. To augment the attack, the still unsubstantiated claims about the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are being used. The ad includes the words:
 
“Karl Rove, Ed Gillespie: They're Bush cronies... The U.S. Chamber of Commerce: They're shills for Big Business. And they're stealing our democracy… Tell the Bush crowd and the Chamber of Commerce: Stop stealing our democracy.”
 
False information and innuendo are being used in the ethics-free media war. A  British street movement called the EDL is now being used by the leftist media to attack the Tea Party movement. The English Defense League is against the Islamification of Britain and Europe. It has been a standard practice of British-based media to tie any right-wing critics of Islamic extremism with the EDL and by implication suggest they are racist or that they also support the neofascist BNP party. Melanie Phillips is currently angry at being represented as an EDL supporter by a leftist blogger.  The main reason why Ms Phillips is being represented this way comes from a report in the Observer, the Sunday version of the Guardian newspaper.
 
This report, which was picked up in America by the Huffington Post, maintains that there are links between the EDL and the American Tea Party movement. The article uses the same “six degrees of separation” method of fact-collection that is becomingly commonplace for the left: A meets B who knows C, therefore A and C are in a conspiracy together.
 
Journalism is weakened when unsubstantiated “connections” are made as a means to smear individuals and organizations. When politicians take such reports seriously and present these unsubstantiated findings as fact, political ethics are also weakened.
 
Adrian Morgan
 
 

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