[Note: This blog post is reprinted from the November 27, 2002 edition of Scoobie Davis Online]
Case Study Number One: Rush Limbaugh--When the going gets rough, mute the caller
Today in the New York Observer, Al Gore pointed out how the right-wing media promotes a right-wing agenda and misinforms millions of people. He mentioned three media phenomena: Fox News, The Washington Times, and talk radio. This triumvirate is mutually reinforcing in its goals of slanting the information transmitted to the American people (as well as what information doesn’t reach the American people such as the Florida disenfranchisement campaign). I was working on a concrete case study to illustrate this. While I was writing, I got through to Rush Limbaugh’s show. My very brief conversation with Limbaugh also is a case in point of how the American right has a huge home field advantage when it comes to information transmission (as well as disinformation transmission).
LIMBAUGH: Here’s Scoobie in Los Angeles. Hi, Scoobie. Welcome to the EIB Network.
SCOOBIE: Hello, Rush. How are you doing?
LIMBAUGH: Thank you.
SCOOBIE: I agree with Al Gore in the sense that the right-wing media is an uneven playing field that disinforms people.
LIMBAUGH: You know, I have to laugh. I am loving this. You actually—you agree with Al Gore that that there is a right-wing media conspiracy?
SCOOBIE: Absolutely. And you’re really on the forefront of that—along with the Moonie Times, what you call the Washington Times—which is nothing but a Moonie newspaper.
LIMBAUGH: Now, Scoobie. No need to be bitter here--just because it prints news that you don’t see anywhere else.
SCOOBIE: No, disinformation. Let me give you an example—[from this point on, I was muted. I was beginning to explain the Moonie Times smear of Bill Clinton’s 11/01 Georgetown speech (see below)—a smear that Limbaugh broadcast to his listeners as fact. I discovered that Limbaugh was talking but that I couldn’t interject anything into the conversation. When I played the show tape back, it confirmed that I was muted.]
LIMBAUGH [talking to himself because I’m muted. Rush did that the last time I spoke with him]: No, it’s not. Scoobie, it isn’t disinformation. The Washington Times reports factual things. It reports things that you won’t see in other newspapers and sometimes it does. I mean, some of the news is common, but it also—it reports things that happen, say, at a Daschle press conference that the New York Times will ignore. It reports things at an Al Gore press conference or a Clinton press conference that the Washington Post and New York Times will ignore. They just have a different filter with—through which they look at the news—same as I do...
REALITY: Being a talk radio host is a good gig. If you can’t stand the heat, mute the caller. It’s unfortunate that I was not allowed to elaborate on my point to the people who believe in the healing powers of Gold Bond Powder. Since I was not a part of the last part of the conversation, let me answer briefly before I segue to a more comprehensive answer. First, there has been reporting in the Washington Times that constitutes gross journalistic misconduct that has gone unpunished (those of you familiar with this blog know examples). The case study below is a case in point. Another example is the deliberate and systematic twisting of a Washington Post story by Times reporter and Fox News political analyst Bill Sammon in his book At Any Cost: How Al Gore Tried To Steal the Election—portions of which were reprinted in the Times. Although I am not a trained journalist, my parents have a combined 90 years of journalistic experience for a small-town newspaper. If Sammon’s misconduct had been committed at the paper my parents work for, the perpetrator would be fired on the spot. Why hasn't the Washington Times (or Fox News) fired Sammon? Because the filter through which the Washington Times looks at the news is a microcosm of Sun Myung Moon’s worldview: it is a filter of intellectual dishonesty, predation, and malevolence.
This leads me to the article I was working on when I called Limbaugh:
Case Study Number Two: The Right-Wing Media Nexus
The Event: Bill Clinton gives a sensible speech in the aftermath of the horrific 9/11 terror attacks.
Step One: A “reporter” for the Washington Times covers the event. In this case, it is Joseph Curl.
Step Two: The reporter twists Clinton’s words to convey that Clinton had an anti-American message.
Step Three: The Fox News gang and talk radio people treat Curl’s story as if it were from a reputable news outlet. Click here for what the Fox gang had to say. Limbaugh compared Clinton’s words to Jane Fonda’s anti-war activities. Months after Curl's spin was debunked, Sean Hannity rehashed it in his book Let Freedom Ring. Let’s also not forget that Drudge posted Curl’s story on his web site. This is the most important step. Although the Washington Times is considered a joke by serious journalists and has a very low circulation (despite massive subsidies from Moon’s charity scams), it does provide fodder for the other two components of this triad of dishonesty which have a larger audience. The result: tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions, of people are fed Moonie propaganda. It is a tidy exercise in disinformation transmission. It is an effective way to reach the masses by those who have no conscience.
Step Four: When the legitimate media refused to tow this line, the Fox News gang and talk radio jocks give this as evidence that the mainstream media has a liberal bias. This increases the audience for talk radio and Fox News—and they can increase fees to advertisers who want to sell baldness cures, precious metals “investments”, MLM, impotence medicine, "no money down" real estate scams, and Hooked On Phonics. I guess Rush was right when he said that the Washington Times reports things that the Washington Post and the New York Times don't report.