Thursday, September 27, 2012

Drooling media easily duped

The liberal media elite: they're...well...elite. Just ask them, they'll tell you. And the principle component of that "eliteness" is a superior intellect. They are all--not unlike the President--the smartest people in the room. Always.

Remember back before the 2010 elections, when the Tea Party was going strong with rally after rally? Sarah Palin addressed a crowd in mid-October, warning them that it wasn't quite time to "party like it's 1773." The year referenced the original Boston Tea Party, of course. But eager-beaver members of the media elite--like Gwen Ifill and (Daily Kos founder) Markos Moulitsas--jumped on the comment, assuming Palin had bungled it, that she meant 1776. So they mocked her supposed stupidity, her lack of knowledge.

After it was pointed out to them that Palin didn't mess up anything, that it was their own lack of knowledge--they didn't know the year of the original Tea Party--on display, they became defensive. Gwen Ifill, for instance, insisted that her very obviously mocking tweet was no such thing. Right, sure. Moulitsas claimed his tweet was sarcasm, but I think everyone got that, it's just that his sarcasm was misplaced because he was clueless about the meaning of the date. Either way, both refused to admit error. And that's the telling thing.

Fast forward to the present time and the various reactions to this article at Politico. The article--by Roger Simon--was intended to be satire. Admittedly, it's not very good satire, but there are some obvious bits that make it apparent the article was not intended to be taken at face value. Like this portion, for instance:
A word about PowerPoint. PowerPoint was released by Microsoft in 1990 as a way to euthanize cattle using a method less cruel than hitting them over the head with iron mallets. After PETA successfully argued in court that PowerPoint actually was more cruel than iron mallets, the program was adopted by corporations for slide show presentations.
Now, if you're reading what you think is a serious piece--even though the article had already made the ridiculous claim that Ryan had begun referring to Romney as "the Stench"--and you come to the above, wouldn't you reassess your assumption? PowerPoint as a way to euthanize cattle, seeing that is akin to being smacked in the head with a giant clue stick. It screams humor, or at least an attempt at humor.

Nonetheless, erstwhile members of the Fourth Estate jumped on the article as actual news and hit the ground running. There are a now a boatload of stories out there detailing all of the people who treated the story as factual, who jumped on the manufactured quotes Simon attributed to Ryan and opined about them on cable news shows or incorporated them into their own pieces. The list of names is a veritable Who's Who of the liberal media elite, from Keith Olbermann to Lawrence O'Donnell, from Ed Schultz to Paul Krugman.

With the cat now out of the bag, how do they react? A little mea culpa, a sheepish smile with a quiet "sorry"? No, of course not. It's not their fault they were duped. It the fault of Roger Simon (one of their own, incidently) because the piece wasn't obviously satire. Paul Krugman, for instance, struck out his initial comments about the piece and inserted this disclaimer:
Update: OK, the word is that this was really clumsy satire.
Got that? It was "clumsy satire." It had to be, right? Because as we all know, Krugman has a Nobel Prize. He's way too smart to miss satire, as long as it's not "clumsy." But if you think Krugman's excuse is weak, check out Mediaite's Tommy Christopher. He took Simon at face value, too, though he did note that the quotes from Ryan were unsourced. Nonetheless, he said the quotes had the "ring of truth" and that he did believe that they "were real." And now? His update:
Simon tells Buzzfeed that his column was something called “satire,” which normally wouldn’t include what Simon thinks it does, like “describing PowerPoint as having been invented to euthanize cattle,” which is self-evident hyperbole, not satire, and normally is used in service of a larger, central critique (like, maybe, Politico‘s egregious use of blind quotes, or the mainstream media’s sudden interest in Peggy Noonan), not just to fill space at Politico. In any case, Buzzfeed lists us as an outlet that was “fooled” by Simon’s not-actually-satire, but in my defense, I used scare-quotes in the headline, and correctly identified the remarks themselves as satirical in nature.
Well sure, he said the remarks may have been satirical on the part of Ryan, but he believed they were real. That's a pretty twisted attempt to absolve himself of responsibility. And note again how Christopher blames Simon, takes Simon to task for failing to be satirical in a piece of satire. In doing so, Christopher makes a remarkably dense claim about hyperbole and satire, another twisted attempt to blame-shift on his part.

Granted, as I said previously, Simon's piece is not great satire. But it most certainly is satire, something that should be self-evident to anyone reading the piece as it's actually written. And that's the real problem: the other media folks that jumped on the story were looking for meat, were drooling in anticipation of being able to repeat what was in the piece because it made Ryan and Romney look bad.

Just like Ifill and Moulitsas, they were salivating in anticipation of scoring points. Fact-checking and careful thought? Screw that, these quotes are juicy!

And above all else, the response to Simon's story indicates how--when it comes right down to it--unprofessional our professional media elites really are, how easy they are to play and dupe, how decidedly partisan they are as a group.

Time to party like it's 1898? Yeah, I know. They'll have to look it up...

Cheers, all.

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