Thursday, April 18, 2013

Question Everything

Because the accuracy of what you're seeing, hearing, and reading is just ghastly.

The New York Post was derided Tuesday for apparent inaccuracies in its reporting on the bombing at the Boston Marathon. And now, its rival tabloid, the Daily News, is facing criticism over an apparent photo touch-up.

On yesterday's cover wrap, the News ran a photo taken by John Tlumacki of The Boston Globe showing an injured woman lying in a pool of blood while being tended to by a civilian.
It was one of many widely circulated images capturing the moments after explosives were detonated near the finish line of the marathon on Monday afternoon, killing as least three and wounding more than 170 in a likely terrorist attack about which police are still scrambling to scare up leads.

But the version published by the News seemed to erase a gory wound to the woman's leg that was visible in other publications that used the photo. On Tuesday evening, a link to a blog post exposing the manipulation began circulating among News journalists, some of whom were none-too-pleased about the situation, multiple newsroom sources told Capital

The graphic photo -- before and after Photoshopping -- is at that last link.

We should remind ourselves that this sort of thing happens constantly, and not just on our Facebook pages. If you're like me, you barely have ingrained a Snopes habit of verifying everything you read. Now you have to add "photographs often lie" to the list, right behind politicians and car salesmen.

-- Andy Kroll at Mother Jones with the emphasis expressed in the title above. Richard Jewell, the Atlanta Olympics "bomber", was innocent. (Eric Rudolph was guilty.) There was no fire on the National Mall on the morning of 9/11/01 as CNN claimed. It wasn't Muslim jihadists that slew dozens of Norwegians two years ago; a James Holmes shot and killed people in an Aurora movie theater but not that Jim Holmes; and poor Ryan Lanza initially got the blame for what his brother, Adam, did at Sandy Hook Elementary.

These are just a few hideous examples of the damage that the race to break first has done. As I wrote earlier in the week, our increasing reliance on social media is making it worse.

I'm with Eileen.

Update: One serious, one not so much. You decide which is which.

“After monitoring every minute of CNN’s broadcast since Monday, we have found hearsay, rumors, falsehoods, and a steady stream of inane commentary,” one authority said. “Everything but information.”

“I fear we have permanently entered the Age of the Retraction. All the lessons of the past — from Richard Jewell to NPR’s announcement of the death of Gabby Giffords to CNN’s erroneous report on the Supreme Court Ruling on ObamaCare — fail to inform the present. The rush to be first has so thoroughly swallowed up the principle of being right and first that it seems a little egg on the face is now deemed worth the risk.” 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

What's Wrong with US Media, Part 5,439,826

Just now on HuffPo...

Says all that needs saying, doesn't it?

Update: The humiliation of a journalistic reputation...

Wednesday afternoon has seen a flurry of contradictory reports about the status of an alleged suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing, but for the past hour or so, CNN has been going all-in with sources that said an arrest had already been made. A few minutes ago, though, CNN’s chyron went from “Sources: Arrest In Boston Bombing” to “Defcon: Oh, Crap,” as CNN contributor Tom Fuentes came on the air to tell Anderson Cooper that two “highly-placed sources” say there has been no arrest, followed by Fran Townsend reporting that “two administration officials” have confirmed that there has been no arrest.


It’s still possible that CNN’s first source was correct, but if their reporting on the arrest turns out to have been positively wrong, it will be a black eye that makes their SCOTUS decision flub feel like a backrub. With the Boston Police Dept. now refuting even CNN’s local sources, that appears likely now.

Update II: The excruciating play-by-play.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

For Boston

First, the Dropkick Murphys...

Beantown will be just fine. It's America I'm worried about.

Our United States always seems to screw these things up. I'm talking about the present and future overreaction, no matter who the perpetrators turn out to be. Our wonderful social media, the driver now of all things buzzworthy, opened the bidding yesterday afternoon.

"When tragedy strikes America, Twitter remembers bad reporting." Yes it does. There was Ari Fleischer, Bush's Baghdad Bob, reminding everyone how to conduct themselves during these moments. Gratefully, there also was TBogg of firedoglake...

If you click on the Slate link above, you'll see that one of the morons continuing to Tweet out their auto-propaganda was our very own Rick Perry...

You don’t want to be tweeting about the tax benefits of the state of Texas while limbs are being amputated in Boston if you’re @GovPerry ...

Eh, he's too stupid to know and too obnoxious to give a shit anyway.

And wading through the bramble of prayers, statements of solidarity, updates from friends who had family members at or near the scene and the like, the casual observer struggled to find a kernel of wheat amidst all that chaff. One did not turn out to be the Murdoch-owned New York Post, which is still reporting the death toll as "12" and said that initially there was a "Saudi national" in custody, and then "a person of interest under guard at the hospital" after the Boston PD knocked that down.

Update: The Onion skewered the NYP over their "reporting". And Media Matters wonders if this is the end of the line for the ailing paper.

And let's ignore -- well, let's try to, anyway - the conspiracy theories blooming like 'shrooms in bullshit.

Fox News contributor Erik Rush tweeted, then deleted: “Everybody do the National Security Ankle Grab! Let’s bring more Saudis in without screening them! C’mon! #bostonmarathon,” then responded to a tweet asking if he was “already blaming Muslims”: “Yes, they’re evil. Kill them all.”

You can see screenshots of his tweets here.

It got worse than that. Hard to believe, right? Then there were the local news outlets left to trolling Twitter for news.

(I)nstead of doing the traditional leg-work that, you know, delineates the media's responsibilities and activities, a handful of local news outlets have outsourced their work to the readership that is attempting to turn to them for a fuller perspective on the story. Over a half-dozen outlets across the state have decided that now was the right time to turn over their reportage to their reader- and viewership, instead of, or at least in addition to, attempting to flesh out something carrying the dimensions of a terrorist attack.

It's one thing to crowd-source, guys. It's one thing to ask what your audience's "worst pet peeves!" or "favorite kind of ice cream!" or "all-time best Astrodome memories!" are. There's a time and place for all of that. But this -- with the dead, and the wounded, and the blood and viscera and video still redounding on each and every channel and feed across the nation -- this isn't the time. This is the time to do some damn work on your own.

"Tweet us your details because we just don't know how to do journalism any more". There, fixed it for ya, Chron.

This ought to be completely embarrassing, but it won't be. Our media's disgraceful conduct at times like these is nothing short of atrocious. I won't even go into what was talked about on the teevee, because I never turned it on. Teevee news accounts during these events are even worse, as you already know. Oh wait; yes, I will, because somebody else watched it for me.

(This is) cable news (doing) what it does best: Shift the narrative from straight news (what happened, how many were killed and injured, possible suspects, etc) to shameless, unfounded, ludicrous blame (President Obama, Congress, sequester cuts, the NRA, the Tea Party, foreign policy…you name it).

In fact, New York Times columnist Nicolas Kristof is already leader of the idiot pack, blaming the attack on Senate Republicans on blocking the appointment of an ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) Director in the tweet below.

All class… and, of course, having an ATF director in place absolutely would have prevented these attacks in Boston — right, Nicolas? (He has since walked back that Tweet, but some myopic ideologues just can’t seem to put their hatred aside even for five minutes during a time we should be unified as a nation). And winners like Kristof won’t be the last. On cue, CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen told host Jake Tapper that the attack was either the work of al Qaeda or “right-wing extremists,” while sitting in a studio 1,000 miles away just hours after the attack. And NBC’s Luke Russert took to Twitter to speculate about a “possible” connection to the ATF deadly siege on Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas…which happened 20 years ago and 2,000 miles away. FOX and CNN also wondered about that possible (flimsy) connection. 

Bombs in Boston on Tax Day, April 15, Patriots Day -- which used to be celebrated on April 19 but is now the third Monday in April -- the same day the Oklahoma City federal building was destroyed by a fertilizer bomb, because Timothy McVeigh was angered by the fed's involvement in the Waco/Branch Davidian compound invasion which ended in flames on April 19. Oh, and also Columbine, which happened the day after...

Yes, a thick juicy stew for the conspiracy theorists. My advice? Keep calm and carry on.

Update: Cong. Michael McCaul's ignorance is not helping. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Bob Perry dead

It's just a slow Swift Boat ride down the River Styx, made faster by the fact that there will be no pause in Purgatory.

Houston homebuilder Bob Perry, a major Republican campaign contributor and a leader of the successful drive to limit lawsuit awards in Texas, has died, a spokesman confirmed late Sunday.

He was 80.

There really isn't a single solitary thing about Republican politics in Texas over the past ten or twenty years -- and for a while there, the entire country -- that Perry did not have a hand (read: his money) in. The TXGOP, several sessions' worth of conservative legislators, and even the US presidency bear the mark of his financial legacy: $32 million to candidates and causes since 2000.

Update: I thought that sounded low. "Since 2004, Perry has given a total of at least $45 million in federal contributions — excluding direct donations to candidates, according to Federal Elections Commission records, a 2012 AP analysis and figures tabulated by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics."

The Center for Public Integrity ranked Perry third in its list of super donors, noting he contributed $23.5 million to Super PACs in 2011 and 2012. In the 2004 presidential campaign, he was a top donor to the Swift Vets and POWs for Truth, which fervently questioned the accuracy of John Kerry's description of his military service in Vietnam.

Perry was a pragmatic Republican who became a kingmaker as "the most prolific political donor in the state of Texas," said Rice University political scientist Mark Jones, who predicted Perry's death "is going to have a profound impact on Texas politics."

"Pragmatic" is definitely not the word I would choose. But Jones is, after all, a big fan of the man. (Jones is also credited with the underestimate of Perry's spending; the $32 million figure above is now attributed to Perry's donations statewide.)

He did sometimes donate to Democrats - like state representatives Eddie Lucio of Brownsville and Mike Villarreal of San Antonio - so long as they championed "education, economic liberty and tort reform," (spokesman Anthony) Holm told the Dallas Morning News last fall.


For example, he bankrolled the successful 2005 effort to pass a state constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage but stunted a 2011 effort to expand the authority of police inquiring about the immigration status of people they detain.

Yeah, Swift Boat Bob earned the enmity from the Xenophobe Caucus for his lasting support of cheap labor, but not for the same reasons others would (like refusing to raise the minimum wage, for example).

I think there is something serendipitous about the timing: Perry, and the generation of Texas Republicans who rose to power in the Reagan years, are being carried now to the cemetery just as the children of all those day laborers come of voting age, and the Democrats in Texas poise themselves for a renaissance. The locals sure are scared; there are at least two different reports of Battleground Texas meetings in Houston that Republicans have attended and reported on. And in reading that, the sheep seem real nervous.

Rest without peace, Bob.  Your epitaph is what it is. Nobody will actually miss you that wasn't depositing your checks.