Adding a Log to the Distrust of the Media Fire

Overwhelming majorities of Americans say they don’t trust the media because of instances like this:

In covering remarks by President Obama, NPR reporter Ari Shapiro commented, “The American people agree with the president’s solution to the problem, combining spending cuts with tax revenues. Even a majority of Republican voters support that approach.”

That statement is suspect. It appears to be based on old polls taken prior to the Jan. 1 tax hike. I did a Google search for polls taken within the last month regarding support for further tax increases, and came up dry.

Moreover, you’ve probably noticed that any commentary that NPR adds to news stories, such as in this instance, is leftward biased. They want to try to make the listener think that the tax increases are right because that’s what “the American people” supposedly want.

Prior to conducting open heart surgery, does a heart surgeon take a poll to find out what the American people think is the best way to conduct the operation? Prior to building a bridge, does a bridge engineer take a poll to find out what the American people think is the best method to construct it? Prior to designing a new piece of software, does a computer programmer take a poll to find out what the American people think is the best software code to use?

So if the American people as a whole aren’t qualified to offer advice on the nitty-gritty of surgery, engineering, or computer programming, what makes NPR think that the American people are qualified to offer advice on the nitty-gritty of economics? Raising taxes is an intensely economic undertaking, with economists going to years of schooling in order to best analyze what effects raising taxes will have on the economy and society.

Moreover, of course a majority of the American people would like to sock it to the rich. Such a thought is emotionally satisfying to most people. Shadenfreude, particularly directed at the rich, is a common human trait. But economic policy should not be based on emotion, especially based on the emotions of a majority of the American people. In other words, NPR’s commentary that it snuck into its news story is not only suspect in terms of its accuracy, but it’s also absurd.

 

NPR’s Peter Overby: Reporting the Left’s Side of the Story but Not the Right’s

If one comes across blatant bias and shirking of journalistic responsibility on the occasional occasions when one does listen to NPR, imagine how much bias and irresponsibility a dedicated listener must be exposed to.

I fall into the former category of listeners. The other day I came across a story by NPR’s “Power, Money and Influence” reporter Peter Overby on a recent American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) conference. With a job title like that, it’s a good bet that Mr. Overby isn’t going to treat those he disagrees with fairly. And in this recent story, that certainly was the case. He reported on the left’s recent campaign against ALEC for its support of voter I.D. laws “which Democrats say are meant to keep minorities and young voters from casting ballots in November.”

OK, so listeners hear from Overby why the left doesn’t like voter I.D. laws (which, by the way, is hogwash). But does Overby ever mention why the right likes voter I.D. laws, which is because such laws help reduce voter fraud?

Nope, not a peep of that.

So listeners hear from Overby the left’s stated reason for disliking voter I.D. laws, but never hear from Overby ALEC’s stated reason for liking voter I.D. laws. Overby could have made a simple and short mention of “voter fraud” in order to inform listeners of ALEC’s rationale for supporting voter I.D. laws. But he conspicuously left that out.

And that’s a downright shirking of journalistic responsibility. It crosses over into propaganda.

I’m thinking of the young people listening, like high-school and college students who are just becoming politically aware, and how deceived they are being. They hear stories like that from Mr. Overby, and lacking exposure to alternative viewpoints, think the only reason organizations support voter ID laws is racism – “to keep minorities and young voters from casting ballots in November.”

Abolish the taxpayer subsidy for NPR now.

Journalistic Malpractice at PBS Frontline

If there were a clearer case of journalistic malpractice, I can’t think of one at the moment. This isn’t just media bias. It’s out-and-out journalistic malpractice bordering on deceit.

This evening the PBS series Frontline broadcast a program called “Money, Power and Wall Street”. It’s about the origins and consequences of the financial crisis that began in 2008. Just from the title, you know it’s dripping with bias.

Still, in order to try to maintain a facade of impartiality, and given that the program’s funding comes from American taxpayers of all political persuasions – not just from leftist taxpayers – you would have thought that Frontline would have at least briefly acknowledged the very popular and very convincing argument that the U.S. government had a significant hand in causing the financial meltdown.

During the program when the topic of subprime mortgages was introduced, which everyone agrees was at the crux of the financial meltdown, the narrator said that the subprime market went from being a very small niche market to a huge one. That begged the obvious question that surely was on the mind of any discerning viewer: how did the subprime market get so big?

This is where the journalistic malpractice really kicked in. Frontline totally ignored why the subprime market got so big. That’s because if they were to explain why it got so big, they would have had to discuss the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) and the fact that banks, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, and other lending institutions were required by law to make loans to subprime borrowers. (Click here or here for a smidgen of the voluminous literature on the subject.)

Journalists and producers with a modicum of journalistic integrity, even if they leaned left, would have at least briefly mentioned that well-established line of thinking.

Based on what I watched, Frontline didn’t even mention the name Barney Frank in the whole discussion, let alone Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae – all players who were instrumental in promoting the continuation of loans to subprime borrowers.

One speculates as to why they would ignore it. It’s either deceit or ignorance or both. Deceit if the producers of the show were familiar with that line of thinking, and privately acknowledged that it even made some sense, but chose to not present that information because it wasn’t consistent with the agenda they’re trying to promote. Ignorance if the producers of the show have been so conditioned by leftist viewpoints over their lifetimes that they’re mentally incapable of understanding how any arm of the government, except perhaps the military and CIA, can do any wrong, leading them to dismiss the whole CRA angle outright – and ignore the question of how the subprime market got so large because they have no idea themselves how that happened.

Journalistic malpractice, while unfortunate, is a fact of life in a democracy. It’s inevitably going to happen in societies where there’s freedom of the press. People can choose not to patronize or fund the entity committing the malpractice. But what’s galling is when journalistic malpractice is carried out by entities that people are forced to fund through their taxpayer dollars. That goes against everything a free society should stand for. Taxpayer-funded entities should be bound to the highest of standards. Instead, in this case, PBS has been captured by leftists trying to foist an agenda. As the people forced to finance such entities come from both sides of the political spectrum, such taxpayer-funded entities should lose their subsidies, or barring that, be required to hire reporters, editors and producers on both sides of the political spectrum.

Journalists have a professional obligation to present all significant angles of a story. That’s woefully lacking in Frontline. It’s far from a news program. And it doesn’t bill itself as an opinion program. So propaganda program is a more apt description. “Money, Power and Wall Street” easily could have passed as a Michael Moore production.

The principal Frontline interviewer, by the name of Martin Smith, was fond of using the term “crap” while interviewing his subjects, in characterizing the subprime securities that caused the whole mess.

Mr. Smith, your manner of presentation of the issue at hand falls into that category, too.

* * *

BTW, here are some names behind the content of the above-referenced program:

  • Producer – Callie T. Wiser
  • Web Design & Development – Jordyn Bonds
  • Senior Digital Producer – Sarah Moughty
  • Director of Development – Sam Bailey
  • Director of Digital Media/Senior Editor – Andrew Golis
  • Managing Editor – Philip Bennett

Injustice at NPR

With reference to NPR’s David Welna (see the previous post), to paraphrase a quote attributed to Mark Twain:

It’s better to remain silent and be thought to be economically challenged, than to speak and remove all doubt.

(The original quote has “a fool” in place of economically challenged, but that’s too harsh.)

That’s what happens when straight news reporters wander into the realm of political & economic commentary. They confirm our suspicions that they’re as leftist (which is synonymous with economic illiteracy) as they come.

And that brings up another quote by Thomas Jefferson:

To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.

It truly is unjust to compel right-leaning taxpayers to furnish funds for the propagation of the unbalanced left-leaning ideas featured on NPR. Straight news reporting is deceptively subjective. The reporter and/or editor has wide discretion over the topics he or she chooses to feature, and whom he or she chooses to interview on those topics. I’m confident that an analysis would show that NPR overwhelmingly chooses left-leaning topics, left-leaning interviewees, and quotes from left-leaning people.

If NPR were funded from purely private sources, then that would be totally fine. But because it receives funds from taxpayers, and therefore from coerced funds from people who lean right, the decision-makers at NPR and PBS should feel morally compelled to hire half left-leaning and half right-leaning reporters and editors. If moral suasion doesn’t work – and it won’t because if it did they’d already be doing it – then there should be a regulation compelling them to do so (yes, some regulations are good!). Either that, or forgo the taxpayer funds.

Not to take either of those actions is sinful and tyrannical.

 

 

NPR’s Welna: Spend with Abandon … Until We’re Like Greece?

At least two things stuck out at me while listening to a portion of the Diane Rehm radio show yesterday as I drove home from a football game: the lack of economic literacy of a lot of people in America, the fact that some of those same people are reporters for taxpayer-funded National Public Radio.

(And, it’s a safe assumption that these people are good proxies for discerning the thought processes for many if not most people in the Obama administration – which explains our 9 percent unemployment and pathetic economic growth – only 1 percent currently, which is lower than our population growth, which means our per capita standard of living is declining, at least for now. Yesterday morning it was reported that no net new jobs were created for the latest quarter.)

One guest on the show in particular stands out. He’s a voice commonly heard on NPR, named David Welna. He doesn’t think that we have a deficit problem because, based on what I discern from his comments, we’re not yet facing a debt crisis like Greece. Welna seems to think that you can keep borrowing money with abandon. It’s only when the day comes when you’re so manifestly profligate that no one wants to lend to you anymore (or only lend to you at high interest rates), like what Greece is going through now, that you should think about reining in your spending.

David Welna: there (is) no deficit crisis because borrowing (is) very easy. Interest rates are extremely low. I’ve been in countries where there definitely was a debt crisis, and they couldn’t borrow any money….But that is not the case in the United States right now. …We haven’t had a recovery that’s adequate enough and that requires further government stimulus.

Diane Rehm: So you’re saying that Republicans succeeded in making the case for an artificial debt crisis?

Welna: They really set the narrative that we are broke when, in fact, right now, this is the best time the government has actually had to borrow money …

Actually the goal is to avoid a situation like what Greece is going through now, for obvious reasons (obvious to everyone except for people like Welna). We’re headed that way with current levels of spending, even without the additional trillions of dollars in additional money that Welna wants to borrow.

The federal government used to regularly borrow about 15 percent of what it spends. Now under Obama, it’s regularly borrowing about 40 percent of what it spends. Three trillion in additional debt in Obama’s first two years as president (compared with three trillion in eight years under Bush II, which was bad enough as it was). Welna, and probably Rehm, think all this is an “artificial” crisis – all a sham, and that there’s actually nothing to worry about because we’re not like Greece yet. If they had their way, we’d be borrowing 50 or 60 percent of what we spend.

While listening to the radio show, I was thinking that what if they were talking about, say, some complicated surgical procedure, even though they had no training in medicine whatsoever. They’d be laughing stocks. Well it’s the same thing – only it’s the American economy they were talking about with no training in economics whatsoever. Or, if they ever did have any training, they deserved an F.

 

NPR Should At Least Pretend To Be Impartial

You know when you and another person or persons generally agree on things and you want to test your arguments by playing devil’s advocate – i.e. pose a question that you think your opponents would ask? Stating you’re asking a devil’s advocate question almost always implies that you and the other person are in agreement.

That’s the question a National Public Radio reporter asked a New Yorker reporter. The latter, one James Surowiecki, argued that the debt ceiling should be scrapped. The NPR reporter, Mary Louise Kelly, said, “Let me play devil’s advocate….many would argue that having a sort of ceiling in place fosters accountability.”

Mary Louise, you work for a taxpayer-subsidized radio corporation that is supposed to be for all Americans, not just left-leaning ones who are sympathetic to scrapping the debt ceiling. Your taxpayer subsidies don’t just come from lefties but righties as well. You can at least try to convey the appearance that you’re speaking on behalf of Americans of all political stripes. You should have dropped the “Let me play devil’s advocate.” That implies that you’re on Surowiecki’s side in the matter and that you don’t want him to think that you aren’t.

No, a hard-nosed reporter should in no way be worried about putting the  person he or she is interviewing in a tight spot provided the question is a legitimate one. And asking about the accountability issue is very legitimate.

Meanwhile, Surowiecki at first dodged the question. So Kelly asked it again. The only thing Kelly could muster up was that because Congress has raised the debt ceiling so many times in the past without a fight, it shows that the debt ceiling is a weak way to foster accountability.

Hey James – it appears that that’s changing. Congress is now starting to take the debt ceiling issue seriously as a way to foster accountability. In fact what’s happening now in Congress – a deal to raise the ceiling in exchange for spending controls – is unprecedented as far as I know.

So finally, the debt ceiling is fostering accountability! That kind of destroys Surowiecki’s argument that the debt ceiling is unnecessary because it has never worked in fostering accountability in the past. Well now, it is! And hopefully this will start a good precedent for the future.

One other note. Surowiecki said we’re one of the only developed countries that have a debt ceiling. “And, you know, most other countries, developed countries, seem to do reasonably well in terms of keeping their books in order without one.”

Yeah. Like Greece.

 

A Veiled “Racist” Smear

Has David Chalian, of PBS’s The News Hour, been taking his marching orders from Spencer Ackerman? That’s the “Journolist” member who wrote “call them racists” in reference to conservatives.

On the July 21 News Hour, Chalian smeared Tea Party activists when he said – paraphrasing – “BigGovernment.com is saying hey, it’s not just elements in the Tea Party who are racists, it’s Sherrod who’s racist too…”

Either it’s a deliberate smear by Chalian, or he’s so out of it as to think that the folks at BigGovernment.com actually think that elements of the Tea Party are racists. Hasn’t he heard of BigGovernment.com’s standing offer of $100,000 to anyone who can produce evidence of the Democratic congressman’s smear that racial epithets were hurled at a rally? Probably not, since it’s doubtful he ever reads anything but left-leaning media outlets (which undoubtedly don’t report on BigGovernment.com’s $100,000 challenge).

Note to David Chalian: if you’re so sure that the Tea Party is racist, here’s your chance to make an easy $100,000.

 

NPR’s Rovner: Advocate, Not Journalist

“To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves is sinful and tyrannical.”

That quote by Thomas Jefferson sums up lots of folks’ beef with National Public Radio. They’re forced, through their tax money, to pay for the propagation of wrongheaded opinions, including those of Obamacare cheerleaders.

One such cheerleader is NPR’s “health policy correspondent” Julie Rovner. Recently she took questions from listeners, and based on her answers, she easily could have been mistaken for an Obama administration spokesperson – putting the best face on Obamacare without the slightest hint of skepticism about any aspect of the proposed bill.

A listener asked about the apparent contradictions of the financing of the bill – that it will cost about $1 trillion over 10 years yet save $130 billion and add not a dime to the deficit.

Rovner’s response started out, “All three of those statements are true at the same time, believe it or not.”

A good reporter would have prefaced her response with something like “The Obama administration (or Democratic senators) claims that all three of those statements are true…” Instead, Rovner just stated it as if it were fact – or an Obama administration talking point.

She ended her answer with this Obama talking point: “it adds not one dime to the federal deficit; in fact, takes a whole lot of dimes away.”

Julie, in journalism you’re supposed to preface a statement like that with “so-and-so claims…” or “so-and-so believes that…” and then state some of the counter arguments.

Either that, or NPR should introduce her not as “health policy correspondent” but “health policy advocate” or “Obama administration spokesperson” or at least “NPR commentator,” and then add a disclaimer at the end along the lines of “Ms. Rovner’s opinions are solely her own and do not necessarily represent those of NPR, the station, its owners,” etc.