On March 31st, Mara Liasson "reported" on Social Security (on NPR) and we noted that morning (as the report aired) that she was putting the "lie in Liasson." Then we waited (and waited) for a watchdog to attack.
Maybe they had others things to bark about?
Who knows, who cares.
But we'll do what wasn't done and note the problems with Liasson's "report."
(You can listen to it yourself online by utilizing the link above.) Then we'll note the problems that result from not dealing with Liasson's reporting.
Liasson begins introducing her "report" by noting:
The AARP says it wants to make changes now to keep Social Security solvent . . .
But it's been spending millions of dollars on a hard hitting lobbying campaign to
stop the president's idea of having private accounts inside social security. The
campaign includes ads like this one.
"Private accounts." Oh, how the net's been alive with clucking over the use of that term. And when Mara Liasson uses it on Fox "News," we hear about it. Well she did it again on NPR but
we didn't hear about it.
After playing the ad from the AARP (if the kitchen sink has a problem, you fix it and don't tear down the entire house), Mara Liasson moves quickly to CoMPASS and their ad stating the AARP is "standing in the way."
Then she trots out a spokesman for CoMPASS who states that "if you want the seniors view on Social Security, better to ask seniors than to ask the AARP."
Now it's time for the infamous (and discredited) USA Next.
Liasson notes that the USA Next ad "went much further" than CoMPASS by "attacking AARP not on social security but on it's supposed support for gay marriage. The ad also said the AARP did not support soldiers in Iraq."
Although she can trot out Charles Jarvis (USA Next spokesman), she can't be bothered with basic duties such as informing the listeners that the charges are false.
Charles Jarvis: AARP is clearly the planet's largest left lobbying organization. And we found low and behold that nearly 40% of AARP's membership considers themselves self-identfing conservatives, traditional value, free market people. We also found that they don't have a clue about the positions that AARP has taken over the last years or decades. So one of the things that we're really interested in doing is making sure that AARP pays a very high prices for taking positions against those people's views.
Liasson: USA Next got tremendous publicity for their ad against AARP but is not considered a major player.
They did get "tremendous publicity" (even Liasson can get one right from time to time). And they got it again when Liasson repeats the false charges of the ads without clarifying them for the listener.
Not considered a major player? Major enough for Liasson to repeat their false charges without clarifying. Major enough for Liasson to give the spokesman time on NPR. Major enough that she doesn't feel the need to note the federal court finding that the USA Next ad can't continue to air on the internet due to using a photo of a couple without their permission.
As Democracy for America has noted, USA Next is "the same team of hatchet men that ran the swift boat smear campaign against John Kerry. Now they are targeting the AARP, a group that millions of seniors rely on to defend their interests."
Here's The Left Coaster on February 22nd:
As you have seen here and at other sites, the USA Next (USAN), a GOP front group formed to be a conservative attack group against the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), has brought aboard the same folks behind the Swift Boats Veterans campaign to run a negative campaign against the AARP and their support of Social Security. It didn’t take long for these slime balls to make their presence known. As you can see from the internet ad above which debuted on right wing websites yesterday, the USAN initially decided to smear the AARP for opposing Bush on Social Security privatization by claiming that the AARP is against the troops and in favor of gay marriage. I say "initially" because the folks at USAN have already withdrawn this sickening ad and pulled it from their site. Before this outrage dissipates however, I wanted to offer a few ideas on what the AARP, the DNC, and the Hill Democrats should do to make sure that any future smears by USAN become toxic for the White House and the GOP.
[. . .]
The point here is to take this ad and beat the White House over the head with it before Chris LaCivita can slither back to his hole, make the media forget about it, and do it again in a week or so. Making the USAN a pariah and calling them out for what they really are and exposing who is really behind them, while pointing out what the White House and its cronies on the Hill and at the RNC are willing to do to destroy the AARP will kill off not only the USAN but Bush's remaining privatization effort as well.
Didn't happen. Not only did they get away with it, we can now hear Mara Liasson repeat the lies on NPR without feeling any need to inform the listeners.
Here's Bob Somerby from The Daily Howler on Feb. 24th:
LOGIC FOR DUMMIES: Amazing, isn't it? It's amazing to think that you live in a world where Maureen Dowd actually has to explain the thing she explains in this morning’s column. Dowd discusses right-wing crackpot Charlie Jarvis. In Jarvis' latest ad campaign, he has claimed that the AARP loves gay marriage but just hates the troops:
DOWD (2/24/05): The oleaginous Mr. Jarvis explained that the soldier was X-ed out on the ad because AARP does not ''take a position on veterans and combat veterans' health and support an expansion of their assets. And we do.'' That is so lame. Just because AARP doesn't endorse a USA Next plan for veterans' health, that doesn't mean it hates American soldiers.
How sad. Yes, it’s good that Dowd teaches this Logic Lesson. But how sad--that idiots like Jarvis have been enabled so long that Dowd knows she has to walk her readers through this obvious QED. Hmmm--let's see if we have this one straight! Just because you oppose a particular conservative program, that doesn't mean you hate the troops? She might as well "explain" that the earth isn't flat, or that two plus two really does equal four. But that's the state to which we've all been reduced by events of the last several decades. It's the state to which we've been reduced by the mainstream press corps' long-standing tolerance of crackpot dissemblers like Jarvis.
Somerby again, this time from Feb. 25th:
By contrast, in this morning's Times, Paul Krugman does what these two pundits didn't; he clearly states the larger point about these attacks on the AARP. He ends up stating the key, clear point: They do this sh*t all the time:
KRUGMAN (2/25/05): It's tempting to dismiss this as an exceptional case in which right-wingers, unable to come up with a real cultural grievance to exploit, fabricated one out of thin air. But such fabrications are the rule, not the exception.
For example, for much of December viewers of Fox News were treated to a series of ominous warnings about "Christmas under siege"--the plot by secular humanists to take Christ out of America's favorite holiday. The evidence for such a plot consisted largely of occasions when someone in an official capacity said, "Happy holidays," instead of, "Merry Christmas."
So it doesn't matter that Social Security is a pro-family program that was created by and for America's greatest generation.... Right-wingers will still find ways to claim that anyone who opposes privatization supports terrorists and hates family values.
Right-wingers do this sh*t all the time! We told you yesterday--the liberal web needs to develop some Master Narratives. Last night, Maddow and Madison showed how weak our spokesmen can be when they don’t have Large Stories to offer.
As John over at AMERICAblog pointed out on March 9th:
In one version of the USA Next ad disseminated widely on the Internet in February, and aired repeatedly by television news programs and newspapers nationwide, the couple’s image, superimposed with a green checkmark, is side-by-side a picture of a US soldier with a red "X" across it. Below the photos is the phrase "The REAL AARP Agenda."
And on March 31st Mara Liasson disseminated it again.
I'm not slamming the above people. They've dealt with USA Next, so I've quoted them (and thanks to Dallas for tracking down John's post). But when I get various e-mails telling me that they gave heads up to ____ on March 31st (____ is not cited above) about Liasson's "reporting" and waited and waited and are still waiting for ____ to address it,
The reluctance to criticize Liasson other than when she's on Fox "News" needs to be addressed.
(Again, I'm not speaking of the people cited above.) Bloggers, media critics, media analysts should all write about what they want. And Lord knows, not everyone listens to NPR. (I usually catch Morning Edition a few times a week.) But when Liasson's March 31st report was aired and someone so concerned about the debate over Social Security and over USA Next is advised of it but takes a pass, there's a problem.
(Some members feel ____ also took a pass on Robert Kagan being brought on to address John Kerry's comments. Calling him a neocon doesn't begin to deal with the reality of the problems Kagan's "commentary" posed. Kagan is married for Victoria Nuland. Nuland's boss? Dick Cheney. And NPR listeners weren't informed of that. ___ needs to stop taking a pass on criticizing NPR.)
(If Nuland & Kagan are new to you, read the post from November 24, 2004 -- and my apologies because the term "reader" is used. The community was still being built -- and that post attracted a lot of members.)
When Liasson repeats similar distortions on Fox "News," ___ is happy to address it.
(And ___ has.) But when she's in her apparent NPR safety zone, we get nothing. That needs to stop. The idea that NPR is "liberal" should have been stamped out long ago. At it's best, it's mainstream. At it's worst (more and more each year) it courts conservatives to get funding.
(And they always buckle. Postcards from Buster is only the most recent example of PBS's buckling.)
When Liasson is allowed to distort on NPR and not be called upon it, the idea becomes one of "Well, she only gets it wrong on Fox 'News.'" That's not what's going on. And ____ needs to start realizing how this is playing out elsewhere.
Take for instance the comments that "NPR's Mara Liasson takes a look at the facts" for a March 18th story. That's posted (by the same woman) on various Democratic and left sites. (The link is to Liasson's report. We're not linking to the post giving up a heads up to 'factual' Liasson.)
Listen to the story and see what "facts" Liasson deserves applauding for. "Hyperbole" is how the AARP's kitchen sink ad is described. Truemajority.org's ad is then addressed: "This is terrible Frank, when President Bush and his Wall Street pals privatized social security they never told us" the dangers.
To which Liasson's Factcheck.org spokesperson (Brooks Jackson) tell us the "ad plays on people's fears that the stock market is a risky place." The ad is dismissed as "remote."
After two ads against the Bully Boy's plan are dismissed, the conservative Progress for America's Iceberg ad is addressed.
We're being kind and not naming the author spreading the word that Liasson's taking 'a look' all over the net. It's not her fault she assumes Liasson's a tell-it-like-it-is reporter when she's on NPR. Blame that on the fact that NPR's off-limits apparently. It's beyond criticism by ____.
There's no excuse for ____ not weighing in on the NPR issue. They were informed of it and they were provided with a link to the March 31st segment which is less than five minutes long so they could have addressed it.
The continued reluctance to address what goes out over the airwaves at NPR is troublesome.
Is this a sign of reluctance, appeasement or relief? Take the March 18th segment (which I only heard tonight). We got slugged in the face twice, then pecked on the cheek. So for some reason we shouldn't be dialing 9-1-1? The woman posting that Liasson's taken a look at the facts (the woman omits all discussion of the first two ads and focuses only on the third one) may need to get herself to a Media Abuse Shelter. If so ____'s not even telling her that there's a problem.
As Marlo Thomas has noted:
A woman who got beaten up in the 1960s and 1970s was just unlucky. She wasn't a battered wife. She wasn't a displaced homemaker. Those words . . . reproductive freedom . . . none of those things existed. It's amazing when people say, 'Do you think you've made any strides?" I say, "Are you serious? Are you kidding me? I mean, come on.
(That Girl by Stephen Cole, p. 130. Thanks to Shirley for finding that quote.)
I want to be clear that I firmly believe everyone should write about what they want to write about. But if someone's stated intent is to monitor bias in the media, they can't let NPR off the hook. Especially when people alert them to a problem story and send them a link so that the can listen to the story. "Them." We're talking about a staff here. There's not an excuse for a staffed site to continue to let NPR off the hook.
That's not just feeding into the right-wing lie that NPR is "liberal," that's also encouraging people to settle for less than they deserve. Possibly that's why the presumably progressive woman
felt she should post that Mara Liasson was taking a look at "the facts" (and posted it all over the net!). She also does two slap downs to those opposed to the Bully Boy's plan and then addresses one organization in favor of privatization.
This passes as "fair." This is okay? This is a "look at the facts?" (Maybe with both eyes shut tightly.) ____'s silence on this issue may allow the woman to think that sort of "reporting" is okay, that she needs to settle for that, even applaud it.
You can't cover distortions in the mainstream media and give NPR a pass. I have no idea why NPR's given such a huge pass. I won't speculate (though members do). But no one's being informed if ___'s reluctance to show the same zeal for addressing distortions elsewhere isn't applied to NPR.
On March 18th, Liasson was allowed to tilt. On March 31st, she was allowed to present USA Next as just another organization (as opposed to one barred from airing the advertisement she referenced, barred by a federal court) and repeat the charges made in the ad without examing them. Consider Liasson's history on Fox "News," her actions elsewhere deserve the same attention.
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