Saturday, February 16, 2008

Ginned-Up Phony Outrage - Or Misguided REAL Outrage?

Maybe I'm too charitable. I look at some of the things that the right wing gets upset about and I assume that, well, they must be kidding. Case in point: this recent Warner Todd Huston piece accusing a liberal media operative of slandering Dick Cheney by reporting he'd said something he didn't.

In one of the most egregious examples of MSM bias I've seen lately, Tim Rutten of the L.A.Times has blatantly lied about remarks that Vice President Cheney made at CPAC in a February 8th piece headlined "Bush's message for McCain." Rutten makes the outrageous claim that Cheney said he was "glad the administration had tortured people" during the Conservative Political Action Conference...
One of the commenters suggests that Ruttan should be fired for " advance (his) personal agenda."

Okay, so the outrage appears to be that the MSM misreported the content of Dick Cheney's speech. So I read Cheney's speech - it's true, he never said anything of the kind. But I also read Ruttan's piece, which starts as follows:
If you're one of the people who couldn't quite follow all the steps in the intricate little folk dance the Bush administration performed around the torture issue this week, don't feel left out.
Odd beginning for a straight news story. But since it's an editorial on the editorial page, it's a little less odd. What Ruttan is clearly doing is telling you what he thinks Cheney meant.

You can legitimately take issue with that opinion, but Huston is frothing at the mouth over the so-called "lie" perpetrated by the far-left media, furious that they're trying to fool you into thinking that Dick Cheney supports torture.

I tried to convince him otherwise, and I got a little snarky. Quoting myself here: There wasn't a LITERAL folk dance at the White House. That is a metaphor. Though the White House has held folk dances at times, it is seldom during discussions of policy issues. Metaphors are often an indication that the writer is expressing an opinion.

Another tip-off - Tim Ruttan is referred to as a "columnist" and not a reporter. Yes, sometimes columnists do break stories (Robert Novak famously did a few years ago, for example) but generally they try to not break the story and offer opinions about it at the same time. Novak didn't say "Valerie Plame is a CIA operative AND therefore Joe Wilson must have been lying." See how that works? Because it dilutes the impact of the story.

Here's another paragraph that might indicated that it's opinion and not reportage:
"It's hard to read this week's events as anything other than an attempt to put McCain on notice that he'd better acknowledge the unitary executive theory if he wants help with the conservative base."

Whether you agree with the sentiment or not, it's really hard to advance the idea that he's trying to fool you into thinking this is not an opinion piece.

Sorry I was so snarky in the early paragraphs, but I'm assuming you're not really serious either. You can't really believe this was an attempt fool readers, can you? You're better than that, Warner.

Honestly, I don't know if I've gotten through to him on this. He's changed the subject so either he agrees with me or feels he doesn't want to repeat himself. But again I can't help but wonder - is this stuff an attempt to whip up the base because he thinks they're dumber than him, or is he the base?

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