American Journalism’s Integrity Death Spiral, PART I: Illegal Voters and “Stonewalled”

Stonewalled

This week, the Washington Post published a story on the results of a  study by the Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES). The study appears to show that more than 14%  of non-citizens were registered to vote in both the 2008 and 2010 elections, that  6.4 % of non-citizens voted in 2008, and 2.2%  of non-citizens voted in 2010. This, the study reasonably concluded, would be enough to change the results of some close elections, both then and, if the same kinds of numbers hold true, in the coming one.

Since the partisan fight over voter ID’s and various measures that make it easier to register to vote still rages, I assumed that this would be a big story. Hope springs eternal, and I am an idiot. Even though the source of the report was the Washington Post, a reliable liberal/progressive/Democrat-promoting mainstream media engine, the story was buried, or at least has been so far. Perusing the list of links to it on the web, I found fewer than 20; in contrast there were more than 500 links on Google to reports of the death of Jack Bruce, the bassist for Cream.  Moreover, the 20-ish links contained nothing but right-leaning and conservative blogs, networks and publications: Fox (of course)…Brietbart…the National Review…The Daily Caller…The Washington Times…The Examiner, a few more. ABC? CBS? NBC? MSNBC? (“Illegal immigrants? That’s  immigrants, you racist!”) NPR? CNN? The New York Times? USA Today? No, no, no, no, no, no, and no. (The Wall Street Journal hasn’t covered the study either.)

This is just the most recent example illustrating how miserably the national media does its job, and how its choice of stories is unconscionably warped by the political and ideological agendas of publishers, editors and reporters who abuse their positions and discard the duties of their profession and their country.

We can expect similar results upon the release of Sharyl Attkisson’s new exposé of bias in the news media, “Stonewalled.” Despite the fact that Attkisson is an award-winning journalist who never showed any partisan proclivities in a two-decade year career as reporter for CBS News, her damning book will be either ignored, or, more likely, derided by the mainstream media, because it directly challenges the amazingly resilient lie that American journalism is non-partisan objective. Her book shouldn’t be needed— the frightening I.R.S scandal is still embargoed from the news, after all;  the New York Times ran an editorial this week chiding Democrats for running away from President Obama because he had been so gosh-darned successful; CNN’s Carol Costello has not been forced to apologize to Bristol Palin on the air and still has a job—-but reaching the verdict that the obvious is also fact has proven impossible so far. When so many citizens are hearing news that confirms their own biases and beliefs, it can only mean that the news media is objective, right?

Thus Attkisson will be dismissed by her former colleagues as a “disgruntled employee,” an undercover right-wing extremist, a traitor to the ideals of liberty who inexplicably snapped one day and went over to the dark side…maybe a racist, since that’s been the de-legitimizing accusation of last resort for Democrats this election cycle.

Among the anecdotes in “Stonewalled,” according to a New York Post preview:

  • When the longtime CBS reporter asked for details about reinforcements sent to the Benghazi compound during the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attack, White House national security spokesman Tommy Vietor replied, “I give up, Sharyl . . . I’ll work with more reasonable folks that follow up, I guess.”
  • A White House staffer, Eric Schultz, didn’t like being pressed for answers about the Fast and Furious scandal in which American agents directed guns into the arms of Mexican drug lords. “Goddammit, Sharyl!” he screamed at her. “The Washington Post is reasonable, the LA Times is reasonable, The New York Times is reasonable. You’re the only one who’s not reasonable!”
  • Working on a piece that raised questions about the American Red Cross disaster response, she says a boss told her, “We must do nothing to upset our corporate partners . . . until the stock splits.” (Parent company Viacom and CBS split in 2006).
  • Reporting on the many green-energy firms such as Solyndra that went belly-up after burning through hundreds of millions in Washington handouts, Attkisson ran into increasing difficulty getting her stories on the air. A colleague told her about the following exchange: “[The stories] are pretty significant,” said a news exec. “Maybe we should be airing some of them on the ‘Evening News?’ ” Replied the program’s chief Pat Shevlin, “What’s the matter, don’t you support green energy?”
  • One of her bosses had a rule that conservative analysts must always be labeled conservatives, but liberal analysts were simply “analysts.”“And if a conservative analyst’s opinion really rubbed the supervisor the wrong way,” says Attkisson, “she might rewrite the script to label him a ‘right-wing’ analyst.”
  • In mid-October 2012, with the presidential election coming up, Attkisson says CBS suddenly lost interest in airing her reporting on the Benghazi attacks. “The light switch turns off,” she writes. “Most of my Benghazi stories from that point on would be reported not on television, but on the Web.”
  • When Attkisson had an exclusive, on-camera interview lined up with Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the YouTube filmmaker Hillary Clinton and Susan Rice publicly blamed for the Benghazi attacks, CBS News president Rhodes nixed the idea: “That’s kind of old news, isn’t it?” he said.
  • A story on waste at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, planned for the CBS Weekend News, was watered down and turned into a “bland non-story” before airing: An exec she doesn’t identify who was Shevlin’s “number two,” she says, “reacted as if the story had disparaged his best friend. As if his best friend were Mr. Federal Government. ‘Well, this is all the states’ fault!’ . . . he sputtered.”
  • Meanwhile, she says, though no one confronted her directly, a “whisper campaign” began; “If I offered a story on pretty much any legitimate controversy involving government, instead of being considered a good journalistic watchdog, I was anti-Obama.”
  • After Scott Pelley and Shevlin aired a report that wrongly tarnished reports by Attkisson (and Jonathan Karl of ABC News) on how the administration scrubbed its talking points of references to terrorism after Benghazi, and did so without mentioning that the author of some of the talking points, Ben Rhodes, was the brother of the president of CBS News, she says a colleague told her, “[CBS] is selling you down the river. They’ll gladly sacrifice your reputation to save their own. If you don’t stand up for yourself, nobody will.”

Of course, the New York Post is a conservative news source, a paper owned by Fox New mogul Rupert Murdoch. Obviously, these are all lies.  This should get the effort to dismiss Attkisson as an anti-Obama zealot into high gear.

Next: PART 2: The James O’Keefe Conundrum

_________________________

Sources: NY Post, Washington Post

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts, and seek written permission when appropriate. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work or property was used in any way without proper attribution, credit or permission, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at jamproethics@verizon.net.

27 thoughts on “American Journalism’s Integrity Death Spiral, PART I: Illegal Voters and “Stonewalled”

  1. Or maybe Attkisson is being dismissed by the news media because she’s a toxic crank who’s been using literally every resource she can to push the idea that vaccines are dangerous.

    Then we can factor in her filicide apologism, her ongoing defense of Andy Wakefield…

    • Then we have the question of whether a reporter (who is not a scientist) digging into conventional wisdom and getting caught in a back road in validates all of her good work elsewhere. Reporters aren’t geniuses or even especially well-educated. This is a matter of sophistication, not bias. Nothing in accepting a fraud like Wakefield (who has fooled a lot of people, after all) shows her to be corrupt or dishonest. In a trial, the testimony regarding CBS’s bias could probably not be impeached using her mistaken antivax work.I think it’s probably irrelevant. Maybe not.

      • … “digging into conventional wisdom and getting caught in a back road”? Attkisson? Seriously? Have you seen her website?

        She actively lies about the facts of court cases, misrepresents quotes (see http://sharylattkisson.com/cdc-possibility-that-vaccines-rarely-trigger-autism , for instance; see http://leftbrainrightbrain.co.uk/2010/09/10/sharyl-attkisson-blogs-the-hannah-poling-settlement/ for commentary which was actually written before that piece discussing the tropes she repeatedly uses regarding that case), She pushes the idea of an active CDC coverup of the alleged vaccine-autism connection to the point of conspiracy-mongering (see http://sharylattkisson.com/cdc-responds-to-allegation-it-omitted-vaccine-autism-study-link , for example, then see http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2014/08/25/the-central-conspiracy-theory-of-the-antivaccine-movement/ or http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2014/08/26/the-cdc-whistleblower-manufactroversy-continues-apace/ for discussion).

        Her employers have been repeatedly burned by her antivaccine/conspiracy fixation, to the point that they cannot reasonably be expected to trust her. Her credibility is gone.

        Sorry.

        • Nothing here indicates she is lying. She believes the wrong people. Are you really suggesting that she knows vaccinations don’t cause autism and is trying to launch child epidemics? So she’s an evil madwoman, then? What other explanation do you have?

          I know this Issue One with you, Alexander, and you are emotionally involved. But someone can be dead wrong on an issue and not be untrustworthy in every other issue….especially reporters. If she is accurately recounting what she saw and heard at CBS, then it doesn’t matter if she believes in Santa Clause. Judgment and honesty are not the same thing.

          • You know, I worked at ATLA and helped institutionalize the vaccine litigation group. The lawyers get settlements based on the rare cases where vaccine side effects harm kids. Causation is never certain. SA’s stuff reads like a typical non-doctor non lawyer over her head, well-intentioned but feeding ignorance. Still not lying. I read bad interpretations of court cases every day. If she believes what she writes, she still has integrity. Just not enough knowledge.

          • … you know, I started to plot out a lengthy response, but then metaphorically threw my hands up in the air and shrugged. It all boils down to this bit: I didn’t say that she was lying — I said that she was not credible. There’s a huge, huge difference.

            You’re also oversimplifying at best when you describe this as “Issue One with” me. It does tie into it (intellectual honesty is very, very important to me), but no — it’s not so much her conduct tying into a hot-button issue for me as it is me being sick and tired of her misconduct, something which is very much justified… but I digress.

            Should we trust a “reporter” who automatically classifies people who disagree with her as “pharmaceutical vaccine propagandists”? (See, for instance, http://sharylattkisson.com/researcher-who-dispelled-vaccine-autism-link-most-wanted-fugitive ; see also her lack of understanding of what an “adverse event” is in that same article, along with her extraordinarily biased “coverage” of the Thorsen affair)

            Should we trust someone who’s willing to repeatedly cite a known fraud as a credible source, not even questioning her own beliefs in his propaganda after he’s struck off the medical register for serious professional misconduct — with a sanction that declared that he “repeatedly breached fundamental principles of research medicine”, “acted contrary to the clinical interests of” patients under his care”?

            She wasn’t just taken in by Wakefield — she continues to portray him as compassionate and dedicated to his patients interests, even after formal legal findings about “his disregard for the clinical interests of vulnerable patients” — the same patients that she continues to portray him as a passionate advocate for.

            And that’s just scratching the surface. She continues misrepresent the context of quotes, to offer horrifically biased reporting, and to make excuses for a woman who brutally murdered her vulnerable and disabled son, spinning her as a dedicated and loving parent even after said brutal murder. Any of these things — any of them! have signature significance when it comes to journalistic integrity.

            She. Cannot. Be. Trusted.

              • “About the facts of court cases”, with citation. I was specifically referring to the Autism Omnibus and the Hannah Poling case there.

                To quote her:

                “The case was strong. In 2007, contemplating Hannah would win her claim, sources say the vaccine court analyzed what the broader financial impact might be. It found that a flood of similar vaccine-autism claims would quickly deplete the government’s vaccine injury compensation fund, which is supported by a small fee patients pay on each dose of vaccine.

                “But instead of allowing Hannah’s case to publicly serve as a precedent for other possible victims, the government took another course: it quietly settled the case and sealed the results. Other families with autistic children were never to know. Hannah’s family petitioned the court to be allowed to reveal the findings but the government fought to keep the case sealed—and prevailed.

                While the first paragraph can be regarded as shoddy and highly-selective reporting (example: what “sources” say that? Note the — false — implication on why the case was settled? What about the other Omnibus cases?), the emphasized parts are damning.

                But yes, she’s perfectly willing to go against the facts. She doesn’t have to do it all that often, but…

            • I’m convinced. You certainly have this researched well, and better than any source I’ve run across yet in the mainstream media. It will be fascinating to see if any reports on the book get into her anti-vax reporting.

              Of course, if she’s that untrustworthy, how trustworthy is the industry that held her in such high esteem for 20 years?

              • I’ve presented on the tactics and tropes of the antivaccine movement at conferences — for the first time in 2010. The Hannah Poling case features prominently in a lot of them. I will admit that I’d misremembered a few details, leading me to initially think that there were more lies than there were when I posted (it’s been more than a year since I’ve even thought about the affair in detail), but the case was important to me and my work for years.

                (Just to be clear here, what I forgot is that it’s standard procedure for the details of cases before the vaccine court to be kept confidential until their completion. In this case, Hannah’s case was removed from the Autism Omnibus proceedings and the government conceded as Hannah had what’s referred to as a “table injury” — an adverse event of a type that the government will automatically give an award for without requiring medical evidence that the event was actually caused by vaccination — in her medical history. They were in the process of completing the settlement when documents were leaked to the antivaccine propagandist David Kirby, who promptly went on a media blitz with them.)

                As for her esteem, well, I don’t really know. Much of her work prior to her involvement in the whole autism-vaccine thing seems to have been pretty good (although I didn’t care enough about her to follow her before that). So 15 years or so of good reporting, followed by her falling in with some cranks and trashing her reputation, leading to her becoming increasingly rejected and ostracized by her colleagues…

        • BUT you raise a fascinating dilemma regarding reporters. The good ones accept no authority, challenge everything, all accepted assumptions and wisdom as they should. No assumed good guys, everyone under suspicion. That’s how all reporters should be, and virtually all of them are not. Don’t just swallow global warming, Obamacare assumptions, denials of government wrongdoing,Benghazi, claims that vaccines are safe. The problem is that in politics, things are either true or not. In science, there is usually doubt.

          • Well, yes, to a point, but they also question their conclusions and accept evidence that contradicts their initial assumptions and beliefs. They don’t apply massive double-standards to evidence and proof when doing so.

            That said, and this is getting off-topic, you’re… well, pretty off about politics versus science. The degrees of uncertainty involved in science are generally much smaller than those in politics — it’s just that scientists are generally much, much better about acknowledging that.

            • Don’t misunderstand…it’s not that politics is certain: it IS that the facts in politically-sensitive controversies like Watergate are capable of being settled conclusively by investigation to a layman’s satisfaction, and the investigator doesn’t have to be much more than tenacious and diligent. Science is not like that in the areas where the public is confused, and I do think this is why responsible expressions of uncertainty, as is “we aren’t sure exactly what might transmit ebola in all circumstances”/ “we don’t know why exactly there has been a pause in global warming trends”/ “we still aren’t sure how major new species arise from natural selection” is interpreted as “We are being lied to: these guys aren’t as sure what they are saying is true as they say they are.” A scientist would never say “no individual could ever have symptoms of autism triggered by a vaccination” because it is impossible to know that. A reporter like SA might take that to mean that there really is a danger of causing autism with a vaccination.

              • In controversies like Watergate, sure, but that sort of fact is every bit as common in science as in politics. For instance, a recent case report I stumbled across ( http://www.termedia.pl/Journal/-82/Artykul-23306 — scroll down for the English) details an… incident… which would easily be newsworthy for at least segments of the media. There was another piece in the Atlantic, back a few years ago, breaking one as news — and it was very much newsworthy and relevant ( http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/10/autisms-first-child/308227/ ). There’s even running blogs (notably including http://retractionwatch.com/ ) dedicated to news stories of the sort that can be settled in such a manner..

                That’s without even getting into the number of quite good pieces on the history and/or process of science, some of which (again) do represent both news and investigative journalism.

                The more nebulous sort of question — whose facts can’t be conclusively answered in that sort of manner — is also every bit as prevalent in politics, although the role is somewhat different (e.g. “Law X will do Y”, “Z percent of Americans A”). Still, when scientists make a statement, especially of this sort, they generally acknowledge the possibility that they may be wrong (even if said probability is infinitesimal) and make an effort to counter their biases (even if said efforts are often inadequate — see the entire field of research methodology, which is dedicated studying what constitutes an “adequate” effort). Politicians… well, don’t.

  2. Jack, do you have any links to the report per se? I couldn’t find anything on the CCES page (your link is to their homepage, and I got lost from there). The Post story (really pretty much a promotional piece) references a “forthcoming” article which seems to be available if you want to spend $20 on it (I don’t).

    If the methodology is sound, then it’s the left-leaning press that’s abrogating responsibility by ignoring the study. If it isn’t, then it’s the right-leaning press that’s abrogating responsibility by manufacturing a story where one doesn’t exist.

    La la how the life goes on.

      • I can get to the journal through my university library, but the issue in question hasn’t yet made it into the database, if it’s been published at all. Anyway, I have no intention of spending $20 for it now when I can read it for free in a few days or weeks.

        I find the two authors’ equivocation interesting but not surprising.

        But if they’re right, at least based on what we can read in the Post article, the left will have to abandon the insistence that non-citizens aren’t voting in any significant numbers, and the right will have to abandon the assertion that requiring photo IDs will do anything to solve the problem: “strikingly ineffective” is the authors’ term.

        Chances of either side allowing facts to influence to influence their rhetoric in any way… pretty close to zero, don’t you think?

        • Yes. Although I would argue that a photo ID requirement is 100% reasonable without any demonstrable effect at all. How many people steal hotel reservations? If an act is identity specific, requiring positive ID is per se reasonable. Of course, it is the right that opposed a national ID card.

          • I wrote in June of 2012:
            “A system for establishing the identity and legitimacy of voters needs to be established. With absentee balloting, voting by mail, etc., this becomes more complicated, but it’s not an insurmountable problem. As regards increased demand for appropriate identification, perhaps requiring a photo ID: yes, by all means, if and only if there is a full-scale, well-funded campaign to make sure that prospective voters know not only that the laws have changed, but how they’ve changed, and how to secure, without undue hassle, a legally sufficient, free, identification card…. Ideally, there would be a federal statute that certain forms of ID are always sufficient: driver’s license, passport, military or Veterans Administration ID, that kind of thing; states could add other means of acceptable identification but must honor those.”
            (For what it’s worth, I oppose a national ID card, too. I’m terrible at being a consistent liberal.)
            I think we’re on the same page.

  3. Of course, MSNBC then runs headlines like “Texas woman threatened with jail after applying for voter ID”. I read the article and I hope she was threatened with jail. She has been trying to get a Texas voter ID card for a year using a CALIFORNIA driver’s license. Apparently, the left has embraced the idea that you can vote early and vote often so much that they don’t realize that trying to register to vote in Texas while a California state resident is illegal. Most state laws dictate that you must get a driver’s license in the state within a certain period (usually 30 days) of establishing residency and your license must have your current address. The thought never occurred to her to get a Texas driver’s license, apparently.

    • It’s harmful because it makes an informed and engaged citizenry literally impossible.It’s harmful because it allows a privileged profession with complete and total freedom to misuse their role to mislead, distort and manipulate, despite their lack of special acumen, intelligence, wisdom or scholarship. It’s harmful because it allows ignorance, cynicism and distortion to infect our democracy. Does having elections voted on by voters who have no idea what the issues and facts are, or a balanced set of facts to consider influence said elections? It that a trick question?

        • Very good, Michael. As an aside, most, if not all, Americans get our information about what’s going on in the world from what is called Primary News Sources. These would be CBS, ABC, NBC and Fox. Note that I do NOT include MSNBC, because the four people who watch MSNBC are probably irrelevant to political action; nor do I include CNN, for much the same reason. More people watch CNN, but, intuitively, I would guess that fewer believe them. Most all of the print media have lost subscribers to the extent that they are being kept afloat by their core…well, believers. Then there are the people who Jesse Waters finds to interview…and I am almost certain he goes out of his way to find total air-heads with the idea of proving that all Americans have cheese for brains (and I intend no disrespect for cheese). So, yes, we would certainly make more informed decisions if we were presented with sufficient information to do so. Axiomatically, making better informed decisions leads to electing better leaders.

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