THE BLOG

Think Again: Real Reporting and Right-Wing Ideology Don't Mix

03/14/2013 09:56 am ET | Updated May 14, 2013

Erick Erickson of CNN and the conservative RedState blog recently announced that RedState plans to hire a few real reporters for the site. This is ironic for a number of reasons. First, Erickson is best known--to liberals, anyway--for calling former Associate Supreme Court Justice David Souter a "goat-f***ing child molester" and First Lady Michelle Obama a "Marxist harpy." Second, as The American Prospect editor Paul Waldman writes, conservative commentator Tucker Carlson noted the need for conservatives to take up the cause of actual journalism at a Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, a few years ago; was subsequently booed; and later created a website where reporting, when it's there, often turns out to be false.

Thing is, there appears to be a genuine and unbridgeable conflict between reporting and right-wing ideology. You can see it in action nearly every day, just by briefly surfing the Internet. I did this, for instance, on the day I set out to write this column and happened on this story: "O'Keefe partner pays $50K to fired ACORN worker."

Here we learn that Hannah Giles, partner to admitted criminal and celebrated conservative "journalist" James O'Keefe, was forced to pay $50,000 to the same former ACORN employee to whom O'Keefe was forced to pay $100,000. The payments were the result of a legal settlement in which the worker, Juan Carlos Vera, successfully sued the two for invasion of privacy. This violation, which included illicitly taping Vera against California law, was part of a sting operation undertaken by the two, who then released the video to various media outlets with deceptive edits--all of which was funded by the late conservative author and commentator Andrew Breitbart.

In the video O'Keefe and Giles made it appear as if Vera had been eager to help the masquerading couple smuggle underage prostitutes into the United States from Mexico. But in fact the opposite occurred, as Vera immediately contacted law enforcement authorities to report the proposed crime. O'Keefe and Giles, together with Breitbart--and unfortunately, many lazy members of the mainstream media--misreported the story based on the falsehoods they purposely passed on. Why did they go ahead with their false story? As O'Keefe laterexplained: "I did want to follow up. I just didn't end up following up."

Leaving aside the damage their lies did both to Vera and to ACORN, which no longer exists, it's important to note that these people are still considered models among many on the right for the kind of "journalism" they believe in which conservatives should engage. The name "Breitbart" is still carried on by a group of the late activist's acolytes under the mistaken impression that what they are doing, literally in his name, actually constitutes as journalism. Of course, given the various misunderstandings of the term that led to their confusion in the first place, much was lost regarding the notions of original reporting and fact checking. This at least partially explains how the website Breitbart.com could publish a story that attempted to trumpet the "fact" that well-known liberal economist Paul Krugman had declared personal bankruptcy. The article breathlessly "reported":

Paul Krugman, the economic darling of the left, has filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection, according to Boston.com. Krugman has been the leading advocate for increased deficit spending as the only solution to turn the US economy around. He believes that President Obama needs to be even bolder with continued trillion dollar stimulus programs driving our nation deeper and deeper into debt.

Apparently this Keynesian thing doesn't really work on the micro level.

Alas, the original story appeared on a website called The Daily Currant--widely considered as a satiric website in the style of The Onion. Of course, minimal journalistic standards, to say nothing of a sense of humor, would have saved them the embarrassment. But these qualities are simply deemed to be irrelevant in the world of conservative journalism.

At this point, my reader may accuse me of picking easy targets from the bottom-feeders of the right-wing journalism world. I'm not actually sufficiently familiar with the pecking order to plead guilty or innocent to the charge, but to demonstrate that it appears to affect every strata of the right-wing journalistic world, take a look at the pundits who are published in the nation's leading newspapers.

Last week, for instance, The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan took a walk through an airport she found unpleasant, which led her to explain:

I'm in Pittsburgh, making my way to the airport hotel. The people movers are broken and we pull our bags along the dingy carpet. There's an increasing sense in America now that the facades are intact but the machinery inside is broken.

Got it? The people movers were shut down, she didn't like the carpet, and as a consequence, "There's an increasing sense in America now that the facades are intact but the machinery inside is broken."

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