Stupid Question of the Day: What Would Breitbart Do?

Many conservatives totally fail to understand why they did so poorly in last week’s election. Andrew Marcus at Townhall asks a rather ridiculous question: WWBC–What Would Breitbard Do?

The simple answer is that Andrew Breitbart would probably do what he always did before he died. He would spread lies about the opposition. He would do things such as editing video to make it appear that his opponents said things totally different from what they said.

Another answer is that he would remain on the losing side. We saw this year that, despite a spending amount of spending to spread right wing misinformation, Republican ads and false arguments did not fool the voters. People like Breitbart primarily fool other conservatives into believing their false descriptions of Democratic policies and beliefs, putting them at a disadvantage when campaigning in the real world as opposed to the conservative echo chamber.

But I’ve said too much. Let conservative bloggers adopt WWBD as their new mantra. This will just make it more difficult for conservatives to communicate with people living in the real world

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Another Conservative Writer Breaks From The Extremism Of The New Hysterical Right

In recent years the conservative moment has been taken over by the types of extremists which former conservative leaders such as William F Buckley, Jr. worked to keep out of the movement. Conservative publications and blogs have replaced serious arguments in favor of their views with distortions of facts and attacks on anyone who disagrees with them (left or right). We’ve seen a number of more honorable conservatives leave the conservative movement, including Andrew Sullivan of  The Dish, Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs, John Cole of Balloon Juice, and David Brock, author of Blinded By The Right. Today another conservative writer, Michael Fumento, has broken away from the extreme right. His full post is well worth reading, but here are some excerpts:

I was always way ahead of the curve. And my exposés primarily appeared in right-wing publications. Back when they were interested in serious research. I also founded a conservative college newspaper, held positions in the Reagan administration and at several conservative think tanks, and published five books that conservatives applauded. I’ve written for umpteen major conservative publications – National Review, the Weekly Standard, the Wall Street Journal and Forbes, among them.

But no longer. That was the old right. The last thing hysteria promoters want is calm, reasoned argument backed by facts. And I’m horrified that these people have co-opted the name “conservative” to scream their messages of hate and anger.

Nothing the new right does is evidently outrageous enough to receive more than a peep of indignation from the new right. Heartland pulled its billboards because of funder withdrawals, not because any conservatives spoke up and said it had crossed a line.

Last month U.S. Rep. Allen West, a Florida Republican recently considered by some as vice-president material, insisted that there are “78 to 81” Democrats in Congress who are members of the Communist Party, again with little condemnation from the new right.

Mitt Romney took a question at a town hall meeting this month from a woman who insisted President Obama be “tried for treason,” without challenging, demurring from or even commenting on her assertion.

And then there’s the late Andrew Breitbart (assassinated on the orders of Obama, natch). A video from February shows him shrieking at peaceful protesters: “You’re freaks and animals! Stop raping people! Stop raping people! You freaks! You filthy freaks! You filthy, filthy, filthy raping, murdering freaks!” He went on for a minute-and-a-half like that. Speak not ill of the dead? Sen. Ted Kennedy’s body was barely cold when Breitbart labeled him “a big ass motherf@#$er,” a “duplicitous bastard” a “prick” and “a special pile of human excrement.”

The new right loved it! Upon his own death shortly after, Breitbart was immediately sanctified and sent to lead the Seraphim. He was repeatedly eulogized as “the most important conservative of our time never to hold office,” skipping right past William F. What’s-his-name Jr.

There was nothing “conservative” about Breitbart. Ever-consummate gentlemen like Buckley and Ronald Reagan would have been mortified by such behavior as Breitbart’s – or West’s or Heartland’s. “There you go again,” the Gipper would have said in his soft but powerful voice…

A single author, Ann Coulter, has published best-selling books accusing liberals, in the titles, of being demonic, godless and treasonous. Michelle Malkin, ranked by the Internet search company PeekYou as having the most traffic of any political blogger, routinely dismisses them as “moonbats, morons and idiots.” Limbaugh infamously dispatched a young woman who expressed her opinion that the government should provide free birth control as a “slut” and a “prostitute.”

As a conservative, I disagree with the political opinions of liberals. But to me, a verbal assault indicates insecurity and weakness on the part of the assaulter, as in “Is that the best they can do?” This playground bullying – the name-calling, the screaming, the horrible accusations – all are intended to stifle debate, the very lifeblood of a democracy.

Meanwhile, these people who practice shutting down the opposition through shouts and smears accuse President Obama of having dictatorial dreams? A recent email I received, based on accusations from umpteen right-wing groups, blared in caps-lock fury: “BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA HAS SIGNED A MARTIAL LAW EXECUTIVE ORDER!” This specific message, from a group calling itself RightMarch.org, goes on: “THIS IS OUTRAGEOUS! BARACK OBAMA IS TRYING TO VIOLATE THE CONSTITUTION, BECOME A DICTATOR, AND TAKE AWAY OUR RIGHTS!”

Outrageous, indeed. Obama’s order updated a National Defense Resource Preparedness act, which was essentially identical to one signed 19 years earlier and actually originated in 1950. It granted no authority to Obama that he did not already have under existing laws.

President Obama is regularly referred to as a Marxist/Socialist, Nazi, tyrant, Muslim terrorist supporter and – let me look this up, but I’ll bet probably the antichrist, too. Yup, there it is! Over 5 million Google references. There should be a contest to see if there’s anything for which Obama hasn’t been accused. Athlete’s foot? The “killer bees”? Maybe. In any case, the very people who coined and promoted such terms as “Bush Derangement Syndrome, Cheney Derangement Syndrome and Palin Derangement Syndrome” have been promoting hysterical attitudes toward Obama since before he was even sworn in.

No, I’m not cherry-picking. When I say “regularly referred to,” interpret literally. Polls show that about half of voting Republican buy into the birther nonsense (one of the more prominent hysterias within the hysteria). Only about a fourth seem truly sure that Obama was actually born here. In her nationally syndicated column Michelle Malkin wrote regarding Limbaugh’s slut remarks, that “I’m sorry the civility police now have an opening to demonize the entire right based on one radio comment.” In a stroke she’s expressed her disdain for civility and declared the new right’s sins can be dispatched as an itsy-bitsy little single faux pas, “one radio comment.”

No, Michelle, incivility – nay, outright meanness and puerility – rears its ugly head daily on your blog, which as I write this on May 23 has one item referring in the headline to “Pig Maher’s boy [Bill Maher]” and another to “Jaczko the Jerk,” [former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko]. She calls Limbaugh target Sandra Fluke a “femme-agogue” and her supporters “[George] Soros monkeys.” Pigs? Monkeys? Moonbats? It’s literal dehumanization.

One problem in blogging about the right wing is that it isn’t feasible to insert the same disclaimer in each post: I am referring to the extremists who now dominate the conservative movement, not all conservatives. In contrast, I attempt to run posts on more rational conservatives who seek to compromise, look at facts as opposed to blind adherence to ideology, and seek real solutions to our problems. Perhaps I can borrow from Fumento and use the term hysterical right to refer to the extremists. Unfortunately I’m finding far fewer examples of sane people remaining in the conservative movement since Obama was elected, with most of the remaining sane ones abandoning the conservative movement). While at one point it might have been useful to have a term to differentiate the sane conservatives from the extremists, there appear to be so few sane conservatives left that this might not be necessary.  Of course there are a number of lunatics on the left who are just as crazy as those on the right. The difference is that such people are generally ignored and have no influence, while on the right the lunatics dominate the movement and the Republican Party.

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Andrew Breitbart 1969-2012

Andrew Breitbart has died at age 43. Big Journalism reports, “Andrew passed away unexpectedly from natural causes shortly after midnight this morning in Los Angeles.”

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Fallout From Weiner’s Sexting Continues Including Bizarre Suggestion That This Vindicates Breitbart

The country remains obsessed with Anthony Weiner’s weiner pics and sexting, apparently finding this to be a far more urgent issue than the economy or health care. Pressure is mounting on Weiner to resign from members of both parties. Ideally the question of whether Weiner is fit to represent his district in Congress could be settled by the vote of his constituents, but it is understandable that Democratic leaders would want an end to this distraction. To Democratic leaders, attempts to retake the House are the prime consideration. Anthony Weiner’s behavior was wrong but there are worse things a Congressman can do, such as vote to destroy Medicare.

As Weiner’s reputation has justifiably been seriously damaged, there has been a strange response from some to rehabilitate Andrew Breitbart. Should Andrew Breitbart get credit for being right this one time on Weiner, or should he be further condemned for making public  a comparatively  trivial sex scandal which was limited to consenting adults on line with no actual physical contact or violation of the law? Is Breitbart a crusading journalist, or is he just scum for making public pictures which should have remained private?

There is a strange double standard here if one thinks Breitbart was vindicated. After a long and distinguished  career of delivering hard news, Dan Rather was forced out of CBS due to using one poorly chosen source in a story. After a brief career of intentionally distorting the news, Andrew Breitbart is suddenly being treated as credible because he was finally right on one story.

Dan Rather and Watergate. Andrew Breitbart and Weinergate. Hardly any comparison in terms of journalistic accomplishments.

When the  National Enquirer turned out to be right about John Edwards, they might have enhanced their credibility in terms of searching out sex scandals, but this did not give them any credibility with regards to political coverage.  Similarly, Breitbart is no more credible than he was before in his political smears.  Weiner just made it too easy for Breitbart this time. It was foolish of Weiner to make it so easy for Breitbart by actually engaging in such behavior. He saved Breitbart of making things up, as he usually does.

The initial picture from Twitter showed Weiner’s weiner covered.  More recently Weiner’s uncovered weiner from Andrew Breitbart’s phone became public. In a case of very unfortunate timing for the couple. It was revealed yesterday that Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin, is pregnant. Next will Breitbart release  ultrasounds displaying  the fetal genitals?

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Anthony Weiner’s Weiner Remains Big News Over Holiday Weekend

It is obviously a slow time for news when Rep. Anthony Weiner’s weiner is the biggest news story. Having had my Twitter account hacked  in the past year (fortunately without the same consequences) I am inclined to believe Rep. Weiner that he did not send the weiner pic. The woman who received the lewd weiner pic also states that she does not know Weiner:

Friday evening I logged onto Twitter to find that I had about a dozen new mentions in less than an hour, which is a rare occurrence. When I checked one of the posts that I had been tagged in I saw that it was a picture that had supposedly been tweeted to me by Congressman Anthony Weiner.

The account that these tweets were sent from was familiar to me; this person had harassed me many times after the Congressman followed me on Twitter a month or so ago. Since I had dealt with this person and his cohorts before I assumed that the tweet and the picture were their latest attempts at defaming the Congressman and harassing his supporters.

Annoyed, I responded with something along the lines of “are you f***ing kidding me?” and “I’ve never seen this. You people are sick.” I blocked their accounts, made my page private, and let the matter drop, expecting them to eventually do the same.

Within about an hour, however, I realized that I had grossly underestimated the severity of the situation that I had somehow become a part of.

The last 36 hours have been the most confusing, anxiety-ridden hours of my life. I’ve watched in sheer disbelief as my name, age, location, links to any social networking site I’ve ever used, my old phone numbers and pictures have been passed along from stranger to stranger.

My friends have received phone calls from people claiming to be old friends of mine, attempting to obtain my contact information. My siblings have received tweets that are similar in nature. I began taking steps, though not quickly enough, to remove as much personal information from the Internet as possible.

Not because I “was exposed as Weiner’s mistress” or because I “was responsible for the hack,” as Gawker has suggested. I removed my information because I, believe it or not, do not enjoy being harassed or being the reason that my loved ones are targets of harassment.

I have seen myself labeled as the “Femme Fatale of Weinergate,” “Anthony Weiner’s 21-year-old coed mistress” and “the self-proclaimed girlfriend of Anthony Weiner.”

All of this is so outlandish that I don’t know whether to be pissed off or amused, quite frankly. This is the reality of sharing information online in the 21st century. Things that I never imagined people would care about are now being plastered all over blog sites, including pictures of me from when I was 17 and tweets that have been taken completely out of context. I tweeted once (it was reported that I said it twice) that “I wonder what my boyfriend @RepWeiner is up to.”

I am a 21-year-old college student from Seattle. I have never met Congressman Weiner, though I am a fan. I go to school in Bellingham where I spend all of my time; I’ve never been to New York or to DC. The point I am trying to make is that, contrary to the impression that I apparently gave from my tweet, I am not his girlfriend. Nor am I the wife, girlfriend or mistress of Barack Obama, Ray Allen or Cristiano Ronaldo, despite the fact that I have made similar assertions about them via Twitter.

There have never been any inappropriate exchanges between Anthony Weiner and myself, including the tweet/picture in question, which had apparently been deleted before it reached me. I cannot answer the questions that I do not have the answers to. I am not sure whether or not this letter will alleviate any future harassment. I also do not have a clear understanding as to how or why exactly I am involved in this fiasco. I do know that my life has been seriously impacted by speculation and faulty allegations. My reputation has been called into question by those who lack the character to report the facts.

Update (June 6, 2011): Anthony Weiner admitted to sending the picture. Nancy Pelosi has called for an ethics investigation of Weiner.

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Osama bin Laden Is Still Dead: Top Stories On The Attack

Osama bin Laden is still dead, and there is a lot of interesting things to read since the initial post here (which includes video and text of President Obamas statement).

Business Insider reports that President Obama watched the raid live via a helmet-cam.  The picture above shows Obama and others watching in the Situation Room.

The New York Times reports on the detective work which helped make this possible.  Remember when  George Bush mocked John Kerry for stressing the importance of intelligence and police work  (along with military action) in fighting terrorism?

Marc Ambinder reports on the secret team which carried out the attack.

WikLleaks claims documents show that Pakistan protected bin Laden. Deputy National Security Adviser John Brennan, Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, called it “inconceivable” that Pakistan was not providing a “support system” for Osama bin Laden.

Wing nuts on Andrew Breitbart’s web site came up with new conspiracy theory that bin Laden is not dead. They have been labeled “deathers.” Joe Scarborough, who should know better, engages in wing nut thought claiming Obama’s base did not want bin Laden dead. Of course there are nuts on the left as well as the right, with Cindy Sheehan joining those who claim that bin Laden is not dead.

There are varying views as to how what degree the death of bin Laden will affect Obama politically.  While the election will still be more likely to be decided by the economy, this could be huge. A common conservative meme is that Obama is not up for the job. Comparing this action to how Bush botched his chance against bin Laden at Tora Bora shows what a competent president really looks like. It will also be quite hard for conservatives to get away with the claims that they could keep the country safer or that liberals are soft on terrorism.

Twitter has had a CNN moment with coverage of the attack. TechCrunch reports that this was a record evening on Twitter with 4000 tweets per second.  Here’s a story on the person who first reported news of the raid via Twitter. Keith Urbahn  is given credit for being  the first  to tweet having a reliable source that bin Laden was dead.

Google has already mapped out bin Laden’s hideout.

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Andrew Breitbart and Huffington Post

Allowing Andrew Breitbart to blog at Huffington Post made a lot of Huffington Post readers upset, with Breitbart ultimately being removed from the front page. As Breitbart specializes in smears based upon falsifying information, his material certainly isn’t worth posting, even if kept off the front page. However,  once he was placed there, I question the wisdom of removing him without better cause. This just gives him more ammunition to whine about liberal bias (not that this is a surprise at Huffington Post).

I hardly think all the efforts to have Breitbart removed were worth the effort. Personally, if I were to engage in a campaign to alter what is posted at Huffington Post I’d be more concerned about the junk science which often appears there. I figure that is more likely to do harm, considering that few Huffington Post readers are going to take anything Andrew Breitbart says very seriously.

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How The Right Wing Rewrites History

Many articles analyzing the midterm election try to attribute the problems faced by the Democrats to events of the last year or two. While these are a factor, the battle has been influenced by events going back to well before the Democrats took control of the White House and Congress. Republican use of misinformation has placed Democrats at a disadvantage, even to the degree that many plan to vote for Republicans despite disagreeing with them on the issues. There are some recent items worth noting on how Republicans rewrite the facts and rewrite history.

Michael Hirschorn has an article in The Atlantic which looks at how the right is has been burying the truth:

Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said (or is famously reputed to have said) that we may each be entitled to our own set of opinions, but we are not entitled to our own set of facts. In a time when mainstream news organizations have already ceded a substantial chunk of their opinion-shaping influence to Web-based partisans on the left and right, does each side now feel entitled to its own facts as well? And thanks to the emergence of social media as the increasingly dominant mode of information dissemination, are we nearing a time when truth itself will become just another commodity to be bought and sold on the social-media markets? Or, to cast it in Twitter-speak: @glennbeck fact = or > @nytimes fact? More far-reachingly, how does society function (as it has since the Enlightenment gave primacy to the link between reason and provable fact) when there is no commonly accepted set of facts and assumptions to drive discourse?

The article provides multiple examples of distorting the facts including right wingers on Digg banding together to bury stories they disagree with, the faked video which destroyed ACORN, distortions from Andrew Breitbart, Shirley Sherrod’s firing, Bush’s use of Jeff Gannon, and the “Ground Zero” mosque.

Tea Party rallies are notable for the massive amount of misinformation being spread and a view of American history which was fabricated to promote right wing views.  Today Terry Gross interviewed historian Sean Wilentz who discussed material in his article in The New Yorker on how Glenn Beck distorts history, recycling conspiracy theories from the John Birch Society:

Wilentz, who teaches at Princeton University, argues that the rhetoric expressed by both conservative broadcaster Glenn Beck and the Tea Party is nothing new — and is rooted in an extremist ideology that has been around since the Cold War, a view that the Republican Party is now embracing.

“I think what’s happening is the Republican Party is willing to chase after whatever it can to get the party back — to get power back,” he tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross. “This is what’s happening in the Republican Party, so instead of drawing lines, they’re jumping over fences to look like they’re in the good graces of these Tea Party types.”

Wilentz says Beck, who has emerged as a unifying figure and intellectual guide for the Tea Party movement, finds fodder for his Fox News Channel and syndicated radio shows in the ideas espoused by the John Birch Society, an ultraconservative political group founded in 1958 that, Wilentz writes, “became synonymous with right-wing extremism.”

“It’s a version of history that demonizes the progressive era, particularly Woodrow Wilson,” Wilentz says. “It sees it as the beginning of America’s going down the road to totalitarianism, which ends in Beck’s version with Barack Obama.”

Particularly troublesome, Wilentz says, are the gross historical inaccuracies Beck makes on his Fox show, which now reaches more than 2 million people each day.

New media outlets provide people such as Glenn Beck to reach an audience far larger than the John Birch Society could reach. This is leading to extremist views which conservative leaders such as William F. Buckley, Jr. repudiated in the past now becoming the dominant views among Republicans.

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Crazy-Cons Embarrass Serious Conservatives

With anti-intellectualism, hostility towards science, and belief in conspiracy theories becoming dominant views within the conservative movement, it has become increasingly common to see the more sane conservatives either leave the movement or point out its many faults. The later then tend to be run out of the conservative movement.

Professor Brainbridge, in a post entitled It’s Getting To Be Embarrassing To Be A Conservative, pointed out ten embarrassing items. Many of these  are similar to problems in the conservative movement which I’ve often pointed out:

  1. A poorly educated ex-sportwriter who served half of one term of an minor state governorship is prominently featured as a — if not the — leading prospect for the GOP’s 2012 Presidential nomination.
  2. Tom Tancredo calling President Obama “the greatest threat to the United States today” and arguing that he be impeached. Bad public policy is not a high crime nor a misdemeanor, and the casual assertion that pursuing liberal policies–however misguided–is an impeachable offense is just nuts.
  3. Similar nonsense from former Ford-Reagan treasury department officials Ernest Christian and Gary Robbins, who IBD column was, as Doug Marconis observed, “a wildly exaggerated attack on President Obama’s record in office.” Actually, it’s more foaming at the mouth.
  4. As Doug also observed, “The GOP controlled Congress from 1994 to 2006: Combine neocon warfare spending with entitlements, farm subsidies, education, water projects and you end up with a GOP welfare/warfare state driving the federal spending machine.” Indeed, “when the GOP took control of Congress in 1994, and the White House in 2000, the desire to use the levers of power to create “compassionate conservatism” won our over any semblance of fiscal conservatism. Instead of tax cuts and spending cuts, we got tax cuts along with a trillion dollar entitlement program, a massive expansion of the Federal Government’s role in education, and two wars. That’s not fiscal conservatism it is, as others have said, fiscal insanity.” Yet, today’s GOP still has not articulated a message of real fiscal conservatism.
  5. Thanks to the Tea Party, the Nevada GOP has probably pissed away a historic chance to out=st Harry Reid. See also Charlie Crist in Florida, Rand Paul in Kentucky, and so on. Whatever happened to not letting perfection be the enemy of the good?
  6. The anti-science and anti-intellectualism that pervade the movement.
  7. Trying to pretend Afghanistan is Obama’s war.
  8. Birthers.
  9. Nativists.
  10. The substitution of mouth-foaming, spittle-blasting, rabble-rousing talk radio for reasoned debate. Michael Savage, Glenn Beck, Hugh Hewitt, and even Rush Limbaugh are not exactly putting on Firing Line. Whatever happened to smart, well-read, articulate leaders like Buckley, Neuhaus, Kirk, Jack Kent, Goldwater, and, yes, even Ronald Reagan?

He cited an op-ed in The Los Angeles Times by David Klinghoffer entitled From Neocons to Crazy-cons. Klinghoffer began:

Once, the iconic figures on the political right were urbane visionaries and builders of institutions — like William F. Buckley Jr., Irving Kristol and Father Richard John Neuhaus, all dead now. Today, far more representative is potty-mouthed Internet entrepreneur Andrew Breitbart, whose news and opinion website, Breitbart.com, is read by millions. In his most recent triumph, Breitbart got a U.S. Department of Agriculture official pushed out of her job after he released a deceptively edited video clip of her supposedly endorsing racism against white people.

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Firing of Shirley Sherrod Demostrates Why Right Wing Smears Should Not Be Taken Seriously

Hopefully the premature firing of Shirley Sherrod has been a learning experience for all involved–especially anyone who pays attention to right wing smear campaigns. Media Maters has prepared a time line of the whole affair. To summarize quickly, Sherrod became a target of Andrew Breitbart. Breitbart, like Fox and other conservative attack dogs, uses material taken out of context to attack his targets. He prepared a 2 minute 38 seconds video clip which gives the impression that Sherrod, a black employee of the Department of Agriculture, was refusing to help a white farmer because of his race. The right wing noise machine quickly used this to claim there was racial discrimination in the department.

The full video provides a totally different story as described by AP:

A complete, 43-minute version of the video surfaces the next day, Tuesday, and casts a much different light on Shirley Sherrod’s comments: They were part of an NAACP speech about how she overcame her racial prejudice to help the farmer, not about prejudice that stopped her from helping him.

You would think that by now people would realize that you cannot pay any attention to such right wing smear campaigns. Unfortunately the Obama administration, which certainly should have known better, paid attention to the initial attack and Sherrod was fired. Subsequently the full story came out with both Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack and President Obama offering apologies. Sherrod was also offered another job.

The publicity surrounding this might have created a tipping point where more people recognize the dishonesty of the right wing noise machine in mind. This will hopefully lead to fewer people taking them seriously when they launch their next smear campaign, along with realizing that taking quotes out of context to suggest an entirely different meaning is a common strategy employed on the right.

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