Media Shocker: MSM Discovers the Death of Truth


Loyal Calbuzzers know that we started ranting about the Death of Truth in politics – and the ability of candidates with enough money to ignore the nattering nabobs of negativism in the news media — more than two years ago. So it was refreshing to see the front-page story in the New York Times by Jeff Zeleny and Jim Rutenberg, declaring:

The Romney campaign is airing an advertisement falsely charging that Mr. Obama has “quietly announced” plans to eliminate work and job training requirements for welfare beneficiaries, a message Mr. Romney’s aides said resonates with working-class voters who see government as doing nothing for them.

As James Fallows at the Atlantic noted, it is an “important step” when reporters – not just commentators — in the MSM are willing to state unequivocally that something a candidate or campaign is saying is simply false. Without qualifications or attributions or detailing some bogus false equivalency.

Our analysis of why Romney is continuing to use this false charge is a bit less generous than the rationale suggested by Zeleny and Rutenberg. Romney’s campaign — which his pollster Neil Newhouse said won’t “be dictated by fact checkers” — is seeking votes from suburban and working-class whites who still can be made to believe in welfare queens and shiftless street-corner food-stamp swindlers by blowing a racial dog whistle.

But the New York Times (and some other MSM outlets) deserve credit for stepping up and beginning to cut through the bullshit and outright falsehoods that Romney tells about 10 times more than Barack Obama does (according to PolitiFact). The same can’t be said for toadies like CNN’s Wolf Blitzer who suggested he’d have to defer to the fact checkers to tell viewers whether Romney and Paul Ryan were twisting the truth.

It started with eMeg: Of course, Ryan’s convention speech was so dishonest, even Fox News contributor Sally Kohn declared that, “Ryan’s speech was an apparent attempt to set the world record for the greatest number of blatant lies and misrepresentations slipped into a single political speech. On this measure, while it was Romney who ran the Olympics, Ryan earned the gold.” (Speaking of running, Ryan’s self-proclaimed sub-three-hour marathon, debunked by that known left-liberal rag Runner’s World, only burnished his reputation as “Lyin’ Ryan.”)

We’re also delighted that NYU’s Jay Rosen, the Atlantic’s James Bennett and others have begun to address an issue that Calbuzz has long seethed about — starting with Meg Whitman’s 2010 campaign for governor, which has served as a kind of template for her crony Mittens — and more recently detailed in the 2012 presidential campaign. But it truly is a concern that campaigns (with the help of Super PACs) do not appear to be suffering consequences from telling lies over and over and over again.

As we argued before: “Perhaps it’s just a case of wishful nostalgia, but it seems to us that before the rise of Fox News, Rovian manipulation and the abnegation by certain people of fact-based reality, there was some sort of agreed-upon truth that was adjudicated daily by the mainstream media.”

With the rise of the internets as the preferred method of exploring the news, voters seem no longer to know where they can go to discover the actual truth. Or perhaps they no longer care. We all should worry that in today’s political world, ideology and bias seem to trump fact and reason.

“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain,” the Romney campaign argues. But unlike Dorothy, the Tin Man and Scarecrow, voters appear not to be shocked to learn that characters like Romney and Ryan are frauds of the first water.

Crooks, liars and civic morality: It was Third Reich Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels who is said to have famously argued, “If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth.” Which is not to say all liars are fascists. But the notion of repeating a lie until it becomes an accepted idea is, at least, antithetical to our collective concept of civic morality. “How can they get away with that?” we ask, as if the Ninth Commandment (“Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor”) had relevance in today’s politics.

Lots of people — even though they think all politicians are crooks and liars — just can’t believe someone would go on national TV and just make shit up. But they do. All the time.

As Paul Krugman of the NYT notes, this election is  “a test of how far politicians can bend the truth . . .  the first time one of our major parties has run a campaign so completely fraudulent, making claims so at odds with the reality of its policy proposals.”

Which is why the news media have no choice but to take a stand on the side of truth. In the news columns. They can no longer allow their dedication to “neutrality” to be manipulated by those who care not a wit for the actual facts.

This might or might not matter to voters, who are being overloaded with falsehoods in pursuit of a presidency. But on one particular measure – likeability – which is a catch-all for how voters feel about the candidates, Obama still leads Romney 47-32% in polling by Ipsos Public Affairs and Reuters.

Perhaps – just perhaps – if candidates find that gaining a reputation for lying undermines their likeability among voters, they’ll cut the crap.

We’re not betting on it.

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There are 15 comments for this post

  1. avatar Chris Reed says:

    Sorry, guys, no sale. Mickey Kaus, an L.A. Democrat who knows welfare reform better than practically any one, points out the superficiality of the “fact check” analysis:


    • avatar Donald from Pasadena says:

      Sorry, but just like his idol Zell Miller, Mickey Kaus is and has always been a shill for the right. No honest-to-goodness Democrat would ever agree to be a regular columnist on Tucker Carlson’s website.

  2. avatar beth rogers says:

    Your comment on the political mind set which sees lying as the core way of behaving in the public arena fits nicely with Eric Hoffer’s 1950’s classic analysis of THE TRUE BELIEVER. He noted that it is the zealot mind set, never mind whether fascist, communist , or religious that sees everything in the light of serving a higher power. Since they “channel” this higher power, they can do anything and it is justified for the end. We can never forget that to understand Romney and Ryan we have to accept that they are die hard “believers” regardless of sect and they are currently enmeshed in the Republican “theocracy” true believer movement whose goal is to unseat secular humanists and “re-establish” a theocracy. Truth would mean nothing in the face of accomplishing the mission. There is normal political lying and then there is lying with “fervor”…maybe that is what you sense.

  3. avatar Hank Plante says:

    John Burton “aggregated” your Joseph Goebbels line in an interview this morning in Charlotte with Joe Garofoli & Doug Sovern. Burton must be reading Calbuzz down there. I envy his free time.


    • avatar chrisfinnie says:

      The comment made it to Chuck Todd’s report for the NBC nightly news on Monday.

      Made me wonder where the chair’s chair was.

      It appears it is a dental chair back in CA. The CDP tweeted that Mr. Burton has left the convention for a pre-scheduled root canal. Could be the dental work was less painful than the media attention, since the time and place of the convention was established over a year ago and the dentist could have been scheduled around it.

      However, after Mr. Burton’s appearance on the Colbert Report, it amuses me that the media finds this only mildly intemperate language cause for attention. John is capable of so much more.

  4. avatar Ernie Konnyu says:

    Calling a political truth a lie as Calbuzz does here about Rommney and the welfare work requirement removal by Obama can only be done with a straight face by lefty zealots who have lost their sense of responsibility.

    I am the author of California’s mandatory work or training law for welfare recipients that was in force for nine years which was replaced by the federal Clinton-Gingrich mandatory work and training law. President Obama with his White House edict did, in fact, remove the federal mandatory work and train feature in welfare since his order allows the several states to decide whether the work requirement is mandatory for welfare recipients in order to receive monthly cash and benefits. This was so egrigious that Newt Gingrich protested the Obama removal for the law that he, Newt, help make happen. He did so because that wording of that law foreclosed the White House from the authority to make work requirement optional.

    No Romney lie here Calbuzz. And you get four pinnochios for creating a fictitious lie and becoming rightious about it.

    • avatar chrisfinnie says:

      I don’t think Calbuzz created this particular line of argument. I’ve seen it in a bunch of places.

      That said, this lefty zealot actually read the link Chris posted. Combined with your insider knowledge of the issue, it appears the 20% requirement is squishy at best.

      However, I find it equally difficult to justify claims that the Obama administration eliminated all work requirements. It appears to me that the truth–unlike the rhetoric–is, as usual, somewhere in the middle.

  5. avatar LesFrancis says:

    Cheers to Calbuzz–and a few others–for blowing the whistle on perhaps the most dishonest campaign (Romney’s) in memory. Not to be ignored is the inconvenient fact that his primary opponents were quite vocal on this very point. As for Ernie Konnyu’s reaction, he seems to have forgotten his old campaign slogan not to ” con you!” Too bad, Ernie, because I do remember it!

  6. avatar winston says:

    Your bland description of Goebbels as a propagandist/government official is appalling. In fact the “Goebbels calendar” was integral to the murder of Jews, which Goebbels found “barbaric ” but “fully deserved by them.” In 1942, Goebbels ordered hundreds of Berlin Jews arrested and “eliminated.” (his words, not mine.) Please find another poster boy for those with whom you disagree.

  7. avatar Silent Sleuth says:

    Not only is Mr. Konnyu an idiot for either blindly spouting GOP propaganda or outright lying about the Obama administration’s waivers to some states regarding welfare, I can’t figure out how he ever got elected to Congress since he can’t spell worth a damn. Even the GOP candidate’s name seems too challenging for him.
    Many republican governors, including Mitt Romney a few years ago, have repeatedly requested waivers so they can implement their own state’s work or job training programs that they view more beneficial for their populations. HHS has to approve all such programs and will only do so in cases where states can demonstrate that their programs move 20 percent more people from welfare to work than previous plans.
    So not only is this charge false, it’s highly hypocritical since nobody whines more about state’s rights than the GOP.

    • avatar chrisfinnie says:

      Actually, I see far fewer misspellings here than in most of Ernie’s posts. Nor can I find a candidate’s name that’s misspelled. I grant you that “foreclosed the White House from” is one of the more tortured grammatical constructions I’ve seen today. But, again, not particularly so for Ernie.

      However, Republican is capitalized when it refers to the Republican Party as you clearly are here. Since it bugs me when Faux Noise calls the Democratic Party the Democrat Party. I can’t sanction the same type of error on the other side.

      Your point about states’ rights is well taken. As with most things, Republicans are for them except when they’re not. Just as they’re for smaller government unless it pertains to sex, marriage, and reproduction. For some reason, the things that are spelled out in The Constitution as functions of the federal government–such as taxation, regulating interstate commerce, running the post office, and providing for the general welfare–horrify these supposed constitutional originalists. But things that are never mentioned, like marriage, are sacred responsibilities of our federal government. I frankly doubt most of them have read it.

      When you look at the Republican elected officials who are currently in office, that’s not surprising. I’m not sure all of them can read. They have butchered American history, medical science, climate science, and constitutional law. Most of them would not pass high-school classes on any of these subjects. Yet American voters elected them to office. It truly frightens me.

    • avatar Silent Sleuth says:

      “Romney” does not have 2 “M”s. And I do not capitalize the name of the republican party anymore because they’ve surrendered to the Crazyypants Party which wants government out of everything except the bedroom and the female reproductive tract.

  8. avatar winston says:

    Why isn’t Calbuzz getting more credit for the Goebbels comparison? You even posted a picture of the guy. Life’s not fair sometimes. . .

  9. avatar chuckmcfadden says:

    Tell whoppers. When a fact-checker calls you on it, attack the fact-checker. Why not? Seems to be working.

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