The Facts Machine

"And I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide"

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


Not late, am I?

--Bush had a press conference today. A what?? BUSH!?!? Yup. Drudge's screaming headline is "BUSH TAKES ON PRESS AND HELEN THOMAS TOO". Apparently covering every president since JFK means you aren't part of the "press". Cute. Still, Josh Marshall notices that Bush's exchange with Thomas included a very blatant lie on his part:
I also saw a threat in Iraq. I was hoping to solve this problem diplomatically. That's why I went to the Security Council; that's why it was important to pass 1441, which was unanimously passed. And the world said, disarm, disclose, or face serious consequences ... and therefore, we worked with the world, we worked to make sure that Saddam Hussein heard the message of the world. And when he chose to deny inspectors, when he chose not to disclose, then I had the difficult decision to make to remove him. And we did, and the world is safer for it.
(emphasis added)

--Fox News' Carl Cameron: Whore. Though if you saw Outfoxed, this comes as no surprise.

But let's expand on that... The goal of that talking point has nothing to do with honest debate; it only has to do with confusing the issue, and pretending that the debate is about whether or not suspected terrorists should be wiretapped, and not the legality of Bush's warrantless (and widespread, nearly arbitrary) wiretapping. The goal is satisfied when our depth-challenged media goes along with it. Sure, Carl Cameron and his buddies at Fox are happy enough to do so. But then there's Wolf Blitzer, in a classic example of how this media strategy works, on The Situation Room.

Here's the Tivo-assisted transcript:
BLITZER: He was asked about Senator Russ Feingold's resolution censuring him for authorizing wiretaps without court warrants.
Okay, so far so good, a reference to the fact that the wiretaps were warrantless. Hopefully that point will find its way into the context of this report. Right?...
(VIDEO) BUSH: I think, uh, during these, uh, difficult times -- and they are difficult, when we're at war -- the American people expect there to be an honest and open debate, without needless partisanship. And that's how I view it. I did notice that nobody at the Democratic party has actually stood up and called for the, you know, getting rid of the terrorist surveillance program. You know, if that's what they believe, the people in the party believe, then they ought to stand up and say it. They ouught to stand up and say the tools we're using to protect the American people shouldn't be used.
Confusing the issue. Will Wolf unconfuse it, or will he take the bait?
BLITZER: Senator Feingold fired back just a short while ago, accusing the president of playing politics by implying that Democrats don't want to wiretap terrorists.
Now would be the time for context, dude... but instead we get...
BLITZER: Adding to the partisan heat, the Republican party is running a new radio ad in Feingold's home state of Wisconsin, accusing the Senator of being more interested in censuring the president than in protecting freedom.
...And Wolf moves on to another topic.

There you have it. A factual argument is boiled down by our brain-dead press into a he-said she-said tennis match. And sad to say for the Dems, but the Republicans simply do a better job of exploiting this condition. It all comes down to artificial objectivity. Obsoive...

To the media, an issue has three things: The facts, Side A and Side B.

You'd think that the negotiable portions of the issue would be the Sides, right?

Not to the media: To them, the facts are negotiable.


Ask Goldilocks. Because her view of "tasty pourridge" is pretty close to the media's view of "objectivity". Obsoive foither...

On an issue (the NSA stuff), the facts are "Bush approved numerous instances of warrantless (and thus, not legal) wiretapping of (spying on) American citizens, even though there was a specific legal framework (FISA) designed for precisely this sort of stuff."

The Democrats take Side A, "Warrantless wiretapping is illegal".

The Republicans--understanding how the media works--take a ridiculous Side B that doesn't directly correspond to side A at all, "Democrats don't think we should wiretap terrorists."

The media, then, mistakes splitting the difference for achieving objectivity. The end result? The he-said-she-said out of Wolf Blitzer's mouth today. To him, the pourridge is just right. The facts are negotiable, defined as the midpoint between one side of the debate and another ridiculous side to a completely different debate.

The Democrats are either reluctant or unable to play this game well. Perhaps because it requires blatant lies and obvious strawmen. Hmm, obvious strawmen... who uses those a lot?

Anyway, good to be back.


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