Tag Archives: Media Bias

Live by the cynical lie, die by the cynical lie

The media was duly aflutter when Maureen Dowd broke the “news” in her August 1 column that Beau Biden had, on his deathbed, implored his father to run for president.  This tidbit could obviously only have been leaked to Dowd by Vice President Biden either directly or indirectly.

However, the media has been quiet about an astonishing revelation from last night’s softball 60 Minutes interview with the vice president:  he claimed that “nothing like that ever, ever happened.”

Does Maureen Dowd feel ashamed at being used so cynically by Biden, uncritically lapping up his spin?  It’s ghoulish enough that she would serve as the mouthpiece for a cunning politician whose only possible motive for reporting such an anecdote could have been to gain political points from his family tragedy.

Is she now wallowing in the ignominy of being sold out when Biden decided it would be in his interest to shift the narrative?  Does she feel foolish at all?  Will she think twice the next time an unseemly liberal requests to exploit her influence to do his own bidding?  Kudos to Biden for playing the pliant liberal media like a fiddle; shame on Maureen Dowd for serving as his sycophant.

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Can we please stop using “birthright” citizenship as a synonym for jus soli citizenship?

One can basically become a citizen of a country in one of two ways:  by virtue of birth, or birthright, in which case he is known as a natural-born citizen; or by being granted citizenship after birth, in which case he is known as a naturalized citizen.

The U.S. is one of the few countries in the world which grants birthright citizenship automatically to individuals born on U.S. soil (under most circumstances), known as the jus soli concept (jus soli is Latin for “right of the soil”).  There are ways for one to be a birthright citizen other than being born on U.S. soil, namely, to be born abroad if both parents are U.S. citizens or, in some circumstances, if one parent is a U.S. citizen.  The State Department summarizes the law here.

We can have a legitimate debate about the merits of the jus soli concept, and also whether this practice is actually mandated by the constitution:  there is a constitutional argument that a child born of illegal immigrants on U.S. soil need not automatically be granted U.S. citizenship.

What Donald Trump is really talking about is ending the jus soli principle, at least in some cases.  He should clarify his language, for even though no one (as far as we are aware) is talking about ending birthright citizenship as such, our politicians and pundits are muddying the waters—often deliberately.  It would be useful for presidential candidates to state whether they oppose jus soli citizenship in all cases, in some cases (such as when the mother or both parents are in the U.S. illegally), or not at all.  Trump’s immigration policy paper mentions “the children of illegal immigrants” in passing, but does not fully explain his position.

For an example of the obfuscation, see James Taranto eviscerate a misleading tweet, which claimed that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) is a hypocrite for attacking “birthright” citizenship even though he is a “birthright” citizen.  Wrong:  Cruz is indeed a birthright citizen, because his birth abroad to a U.S. citizen mother fulfilled the requirements of birthright citizenship, but he is clearly opposing granting birthright citizenship to people born in the U.S. to illegal immigrants.  Cruz is opposing at least one application of the jus soli principle, and he is not a jus soli citizen—much less one born to illegal immigrants—which of course is not hypocritical at all.  Donald Trump is also a birthright citizen, but he is also not a hypocrite for opposing a certain type of birthright citizenship.

In defense of the tweeter, the article to which he linked does cite Ted Cruz’s opposition to “birthright citizenship” multiple times, including in the headline, and it appears that Cruz used those two words in the radio interview that was the subject of the article.  However, Cruz was talking about birthright citizenship when the parents are in the U.S. illegally, which is a special case that provides necessary context to any discussion of the subject—and which the headline, from CBS Dallas, also deliberately, or negligently, failed to represent.

Jeb Bush recently referred to “a noble concept, which is birthright citizenship” in attacking Donald Trump’s calls to end it.  Presumably he was thinking of jus soli as the noble concept.  Are politicians and the media avoiding the proper, precise Latin term for simplicity, or because “birthright citizenship” is a euphemism that is hard to argue against?

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We’re going to see a lot of this. . . but usually with at least some attempt at logic

Eugene Robinson’s apparently phoned-in column in the Washington Post yesterday raises what will be a common trope leading up to the 2016 presidential primaries and then the general election:  Is [insert issue here] good for [insert presidential candidate here]?  The answer, of course, no matter the issue, will be “yes” in the case of Hillary Clinton or whoever the Democratic nominee is and “no” in the case of the Republican nominee, with an extra vociferous “no” in the case of Donald Trump.  Media bias is always more prevalent when it comes to which issues even appear in  the first place than in how pieces are written.

Still, Robinson’s column is especially spurious and lazy, even by the standards of the Post editorial page.  His question is, “What could stumbling stocks mean for presidential politics?” and somehow his answer is that they would help Hillary Clinton.

If he presented a theory to explain why he thought this was the case, then we could just roll our eyes and conclude that it was a typical column.  (And then await a column next month, titled, “What could skyrocketing stocks mean for presidential politics?” which has the same conclusion.)  However, he doesn’t even offer any reason, other than the fact that Hillary Clinton has a resume that includes elected office and Donald Trump does not.

Robinson uses an anecdote to poke fun at the reactions of both John McCain and President Obama to financial turmoil in fall 2008, reporting the accounts of others that McCain “had nothing of substance to say” and Obama “gave an academic lecture on finance to a room littered with MBAs.”  Although his summary of Obama’s performance is not a compliment, Robinson concludes, “In the end, voters decided that sang-froid, perhaps with a touch of arrogance, was better than cluelessness.”

If we find ourselves in similar straits leading up to the 2016 election, Robinson avers, “I’m guessing it could make voters pay more attention to the candidates’ records on economic and financial management—and might give a boost to those with experience, as opposed to promise.”

If you were to think that this is an endorsement of Donald Trump, who has navigated all types of business environments very successfully, compared to career figurehead and politician Hillary Clinton (who does, in fairness, have a good track record in cattle futures), you would be wrong.  See, “Polls consistently say that voters see her as the most experienced candidate in either party.”  As a commentary on how one particular change in circumstances—a falling stock market—might impact different candidates, all else equal, this seems like a non sequitur.  He then spouts the brief talking-point attacks on most of the Republican candidates, including Trump, all of which are either irrelevant to his question or contrary to his conclusion:  he gives no credit to the “records on economic and financial management” of Govs. Walker or Christie, and doesn’t mention the other governors in the race.

His next non sequitur is the conclusion, which again does not follow from anything stated in the column:  “Logically, it seems to me that market craziness ought to be bad for Trump. But while his candidacy is about many things, logic isn’t one of them.”  So, if Trump’s candidacy is not about logic, then can we infer the converse of the first of these sentences—i.e., that “market craziness” is good for Trump?  We’re scratching our heads.

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Today’s version of “Spot the missing party label”!

The mainstream media is notorious for failing to mention the party of a politician implicated in a scandal if said politician is a Democrat.*

Today’s Los Angeles Times puts a new twist on the practice in an article entitled “Mississippi in limbo over high-court’s same-sex marriage ruling”:  “Mississippi’s attorney general, Jim Hood, declared that the U.S. Supreme Court ruling declaring same-sex marriage a constitutional right would not be observed in the Magnolia State” until the Fifth Circuit “gives gay weddings the go-ahead.”

It’s unclear in what form, or whether, this legal housekeeping will take place, and the article doesn’t hesitate to cite the state’s religious leanings, shameful historical record on everything, etc.

But it never mentions that Attorney General Hood is . . . a Democrat.

The phrasing “in limbo” suggests a sympathy to the legal conundrum.  On the other hand, we don’t need much of an imagination to speculate that if Hood were a Republican, the headline would read something like “Republican A.G. defies Supreme Court on same-sex marriage.”  We have plenty of examples in MSM outlets, including the Los Angeles Times itself, that prominently identify such rogue state and local officials as Republicans, usually in the first sentence.

*We can actually defend this practice to some extent.  When a Democrat politician is corrupt, it’s sort of a “dog bites man” story, so perhaps the party of the crook can go without saying.  On the other hand, we see the identity of a dirty pol as Republican as legitimately newsworthy.  Tu quoque, MSM?

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Non sequitur of the day: lack of black Republicans elected in swing districts

Republican political junkies know that most blacks elected to the House of Representatives in majority-white or and/or swing districts are Republicans, e.g., Gary Franks (Conn.), J.C. Watts (Okla.), Allen West (Fla.), and, most recently, Mia Love (Utah).  Nearly all black Democrats come from heavily black, heavily Democratic districts.  Ann Coulter and the National Journal have discussed this recently.

This history doesn’t prevent a Washington Post article, “Texan Will Hurd defies the odds for House Republicans. Can he last?” from reverting to the usual liberal trope:  “Moreover, House Republicans have never been able to retain a black lawmaker in a true swing district for more than a couple terms, suggesting broad appeal across ideological and racial lines.”

Besides being a sloppily-formed sentence, as well as a tautology—either party would have trouble retaining a member of any race long-term in a “true swing district”—this passage’s principal implication that it is the Republicans, and not the Democrats, who don’t elect blacks from swing districts is false.

Despite the fact that black Democrats outnumber black Republicans in Congress considerably, it isn’t the case that Democrats come from swing districts.  In the current Congress, there are 43 members of the Congressional Black Caucus—42 Democrats and Rep. Love.  Of these 43 Representatives, 42 c0me from districts that were rated as “safe Democrat” or “safe Republican” by a consensus of political forecasters in the 2014 elections, and one comes from a district that was not unanimously rated “safe.”  We’ll give you one guess as to the identity of the outlier.

(Rep. Hurd, the subject of the article, also comes from a swing district—which was in fact rated “Lean Democratic” by all of the forecasters cited in the linked article.)

True, the Republicans have not yet been able to “retain [Love and Hurd] for more than a couple terms”—and it’s not surprising that most of their minority members of Congress representing majority-white and/or swing districts become the top targets for defeat by Democrats and the media—but that doesn’t make the Post‘s false implications anything other than lazy and biased.

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(Small) moments in the use of passive voice, to obscure government workers’ incompetence

Sort of a non sequitur in an article about firefighter overtime from the Washington Post (emphasis ours):  “District revenue from traffic cameras fell off precipitously during the second half of the last budget year because of failures by city workers to keep the systems running.  Amid an effort to transfer more maintenance duties from contractors to city crews, some red-light and speed cameras and other traffic-control devices stopped working.  In some cases, batteries in the systems went dead, [D.C. City Council Chairman Phil] Mendelson said.”

This throw-away passage refers to another budget challenge in the local Washington, D.C. government that is not the subject of the article.  We can suppose that the inference is clear, though it’s an odd use of a semi-passive construction to suggest that the cameras “stopped working” and batteries “went dead.”  To co-opt James Taranto, why do bad things always happen to the city government workers?

The Post has extensively covered the roll-out of traffic cameras in the city, but seems to have never previously reported on the in-sourcing of maintenance.  A September 2014 article reported that revenue from this boondoggle was lower than projected, according to a spokeswoman for the mayor, “for a variety of reasons, including delays in deploying some new devices, higher speed limits on some streets and more motorists obeying the law.” The spokeswoman went on, “And we don’t view any of this as a bad thing.  As we’ve said all along:  the purpose of automated traffic enforcement is to improve public safety and save lives, not to raise money.”  Naturally, the Post agreed in an editorial, “Automated Cameras Mean Safer Streets in the District,” despite many studies in different jurisdictions showing that cameras do not even improve, and may even harm, safety.

Any big-government skeptic assumes that the main purpose of the cameras is to further tax citizens. So it’s not surprising that the Post would tread lightly in questioning the cameras’ effectiveness or government workers’ competence.  Not surprisingly, the D.C. inspector general found that the abuse of the system runs through the entire traffic-ticket value chain (i.e., racket). Perhaps the scandal of city workers’ dereliction in maintenance is worth some coverage in its own right?

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Why does the mainstream media refer to “the Prophet Muhammud”?

Virtually every mention in the Western mainstream media of the seventh-century historical figure Abū al-Qāsim Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd Allāh ibn ʿAbd al-Muṭṭalib ibn Hāshim, who founded Islam toward the end of his life and whom the religion regards as the final prophet, refers to him as “Prophet Muhammad” or “the Prophet Muhammad,” complete with capital “P.”  (The name Muhammad is sometimes spelled differently due to transliteration from the Arabic; even the New York Times apparently doesn’t have a consistent spelling in its style guide.)

The uncritical assignment of the title “the Prophet” seems rather normative given the media’s neutrality on, or disdain for, religious belief.  They refer to Cardinal and Pope, but those are official titles granted by a recognized sovereign state, akin to Duke or King.

Use of “the Prophet” seems more analogous to “Jesus the Christ” (which means something like “Jesus the messiah”), which would also editorially confer a religious imprimatur to a historical figure—which the mainstream media’s news pages rarely, if ever, do when it comes to Jesus.  Mainstream newspapers rightfully discuss Jesus as a historical figure, of course in the context of his place in religion, but one doesn’t find many examples of a reporter assenting to the views of the faithful through his use of default language.

One would think that the mainstream media, committed to objectivity, would use language like “the Muslim historical figure Muhammad” or “Muhammad, the founder of Islam” or “Muhammad, whom Muslims regard as the final prophet.”  Do the editors of the New York Times think that prophets exist?

P.S.  In the Muslim world, the press always refers to him as “Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)” and “Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)” or “the Prophet (pbuh)” in subsequent references.  How long before the Western press feels compelled to adopt this usage as well?

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John Kerry joins the French on the “Daesh” bandwagon

At a meeting in Brussels among the 60 countries fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Secretary Kerry refers to the group as “Daesh.”

Some Arabic media, notably the Gulf News, Dubai’s flagship newspaper, added “Daesh”–which is sort of an acronym of the terrorist group’s name in Arabic—to its style guide in an obvious effort to obscure the “Islamic” element of the name.  The name hasn’t really caught on in the West, except, naturally, for the French, who object to associating Islam with a group that it claims, absent any evidence, that “the vast majority of Muslims finds despicable.”

We haven’t found an explanation of the usage from Sec. Kerry’s office, but we can assume that it’s due to the same concern for political correctness.

The U.S. government apparently hasn’t devised a consistent policy on the group’s name.  Rear Admiral John Kirby, Defense Department spokesman, usually refers to the group as “ISIL” (pronounced “eye-ess-eye-el”), for the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.  President Obama usually refers to the group as “ISIL” (pronounced “eye-sl”), probably choosing that moniker over “ISIS” to obscure the “Syria” element of the name, lest we be reminded that his bungling of the “red line” has been a major enabling force for the group.

None of this is to make light of our mandatory—existential—fight against the group and its enablers.  Let’s hope the Brussels meeting was productive.

At least the terrorists hate the name.




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Referendum vote showing the folly of British politics on all sides

We hope that Scotland secedes.  It won’t take long for the country to become a political and economic counterpart to the U.K. kind of like Ecuador is to the U.S.  It would be fun just to see what would happen (the idiocy of both sides’ appeals notwithstanding, there are some fascinating issues for political junkies to watch unfold), and if we’re lucky, it will become a cautionary tale, namely, that Anglo-Saxon values of capitalism, individual liberty, peace through strength, and (relative) fiscal restraint aren’t so bad.

The removal of the Scottish delegation will end Labor’s natural monopoly in the U.K. parliament, and improve the prospects for passage of a get-out-of-the-E.U. vote if it ever happens.  (Best case scenario: Prime Minister David Cameron resigns as a result of the vote, the Tories under Boris Johnson win the next election anyway, and they become capable of articulating a strong moral and economic argument against the E.U. that the more-favorable electorate then endorses in a referendum.)

It’s hard to sympathize with Scotland First Minister Alex Salmond, who is trying, absent all logic, to convince Scots that they can keep as much cake as they want and eat as much as they want too based solely on the fruits of the Scottish economy.  If the voters buy his cynical (bashing Westminster Tories as the cause of Scotland’s malaise), dishonest (downplaying the limitations of the reserves of oil in the North Sea), thuggish (threatening “unpatriotic” businesses who dare voice support for the union) campaign from the far-left playbook, then they will certainly get what they deserve.  Add demagogic to his tactics:  he has extended the franchise to children, apparently counting on their gullibility to his promises of bread and circuses; and to non-British E.U. citizens living in Scotland, probably figuring that they will relish the opportunity to poke a stick in the eye of Europe’s leading light on the world stage.

Salmond’s threats to “nationalize” BP—and the fact that he rationally thinks that this will resonate with voters—tells us everything we need to know about the minds of the Scots.  Pretty clever of him to appeal to the peacenik sentiment too, which is easy when he considers that he can just join the rest of Europe as free riders on the protection of U.K. and United States military power.

It’s almost as difficult to sympathize with Cameron.  He has long stood for nothing—from opposing the Iraq War because Tony Blair supported it, to trying to outflank Blair on the left on “global warming,” to his now-abandoned-in-name-but-not-in-practice “Big Society” (i.e., big government) nanny state.  His characteristically condescending promises to devolve more power to Scotland if it stays in the union, trotted out only when independence began looking possible in the polls, cannot be called anything other than pathetic.  He started with the arrogant assumption that independence would never come to pass, and has moved on to a ham-handed response when that assumption proved shaky.

We have only one question, however.  The standard media line is that Cameron will have to resign if the Scots vote for independence, but why is no one asking whether Salmond—who seems like a one-issue politician—must resign if they vote no?  Maybe because Cameron is a Tory and Salmond is a socialist?

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One big non sequitur from the Times: Hasidic Jews’ “clashes with American values” means they must be Republicans

The New York Times asks, “Are Liberal Jewish Voters a Thing of the Past?”  We can hope so, but the article offers no evidence, mostly just muddled tropes and non sequiturs pointing out some of the out-of-the-mainstream cultural practices of New York Hasidim (who constitute a subset of Orthodox Jews), and not-really connecting the dots to not-at-all answer the headline question.

Among the non sequiturs in the article are references to the group’s “stances on. . . the role of women” and “anachronistic way of life.”  In the Times‘ worldview, this makes them obvious Republicans.  It’s true that American Orthodox Jews tend to be pro-life and supportive of Israel, but, on the other hand, they also hold views that would traditionally align them more with the left.  The article cites their “tendency to vote in blocs according to the wishes of a sect’s grand rabbi, who often makes his choices based on pragmatic rather than ideological reasons.”  Sounds like many other urban constituencies whose “pragmatic” demands end up feeding big government.

The ultra-Orthodox population in Israel defies comparison to any American political force.  It tends to benefit from big government, such as welfare and privileges like exemption from the armed forces for religious study.  Some live in collectivist communes and some are anti-Zionist.  Small political parties representing the community have seats in the Knesset.  To the extent that New York ultra-Orthodox Jews seek analogous opt-outs from public education and “public health” laws (like prohibitions on certain circumcision practices mentioned in the article), and a special role for religious authority in criminal justice matters, it is not at all clear that this would make them less liberal in terms of U.S. politics.  Perhaps they would gravitate towards a libertarian political force, though it’s just as likely that they would use their influence to establish themselves as yet another “embattled minority” (to use a quote concluding the article) seeking the patronage of the local government.  The latter seems to be the case today in New York, and the article offers no data on the group’s voting patterns or political views in general, other than citing a few very specific lifestyle issues around which they’ve successfully lobbied.

The ultra-Orthodox community’s tenets bear a good deal of resemblance to those of Muslims, who voted 85% for Obama in 2012.

H/T:  Instapundit

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