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Archive for August 2009

Frank Luntz manipulates words to GOP advantage on health care to earn the Media Putz

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Originally published on on August 27, 2009

Frank Luntz


“If you call it a public option, the American people are split. If you call it the government option, the public is overwhelmingly against it.”

— Frank Luntz to Sean Hannity

The MSM is littered with vacuous right-wing talking heads that spout gibberish when they aren’t going off on regimented talking points. But one of those behind-the-scenes people who works with them on the particular of words is Frank Luntz.

Though Luntz spends some time onscreen as a conservative pundit, his primary job is Republican pollster. Or more specifically, “testing language and finding words that will help his clients sell their product or turn public opinion on an issue or a candidate.”

We are told that politics is a game with winners and losers. After all, this is the way that the MSM covers the action, as if it were a pre-season NFL game.

Frank Luntz is paid and paid well to trip up the opposition, word ballet to get people to oppose something they desperately need, such as higher wages or better access to health care.

Politics used to be about ideas, an exchange to see which idea would be best. But since the GOP lacks ideas, they send in people such as Frank Luntz with no ideas, but armed with deception strategy.

On health care reform, Luntz wrote an extensive 28-page memo earlier this year for talking points not based on reality or truth, but spin.

You’ll notice we recommend the phrase “government takeover” rather than “government run” or “government controlled” It’s because too many politician (sic) say “we don’t want a government run healthcare system like Canada or Great Britain” without explaining those consequences. There is a better approach. “In countries with government run healthcare, politicians make YOUR healthcare decisions. THEY decide if you’ll get the procedure you need, or if you are disqualified because the treatment is too expensive or because you are too old. We can’t have that in America.”

This leaves out the inconvenient fact that in Canada and Great Britain, politicians don’t make healthcare decisions. They just settle the bill, an example of good government intervention. And “government takeover” isn’t true even if single-payer were on the table (which sadly it is not).

The idea that a “committee of Washington bureaucrats” will establish the standard of care for all Americans and decide who gets what treatment based on how much it costs is anathema to Americans. Your approach? Call for the “protection of the personalized doctor-patient relationship.” It allows you to fight to protect and improve something good rather than only fighting to prevent something bad.

The status quo destroys any concept of a “personalized doctor-patient relationship.” If Republicans really believed that were true, they would be fighting to get health insurance companies out of the decision-making process. But they don’t because they don’t believe what they are saying. And Luntz knows deep down that a “committee of Washington bureaucrats” won’t decide the standard of care. But in Luntz’s world, the truth is meaningless.

And there are intentionally vague statements designed to show empathy that doesn’t exist.

Republicans must be for the right kind of reform that protects the quality of healthcare for all Americans.

All? Quality? Reform? None of those are valid on the Republican side of this debate. The sentence sounds good, but is virtually useless.

And that is part of Luntz’s strategy: getting Republicans to sound like they care when they don’t.

Luntz has been doing this for quite a long time, coming up with words and phrases to sell the invisible platform of GOP ideas. He was involved in creating much of the language back to the days of “Contract with America.” Remember “death tax” for “inheritance tax”? That was Frank Luntz.

Republicans think of Luntz as a “genius wordsmith.” If Democrats played the Luntz game, they would think of him as an “Orwellian wordsmith.”

The use of propaganda is an admission of being on the wrong side, the bad side of the equation. Victory requires that bad becomes good, night becomes day, and cloudy becomes sunny. Truth and justice are laid by the wayside, innocent victims of the propaganda express.

The childhood line about sticks and stones breaking bones ends with “but words will never hurt me.” But in the hands of Frank Luntz, his words have done significant damage to Americans over the years.

Though we aren’t as good with words as Luntz is, there is no other way to phrase this: Frank Luntz is our Media Putz of the week.


Written by democracysoup

August 27, 2009 at 6:00 am

John Stossel agrees to ‘moderate’ right-wing health care town hall to earn the Media Putz

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Originally published on on August 20, 2009

John Stossel

The role of the moderator is to be impartial, neutral, central Switzerland. The moderator is not supposed to be on one side or the other. They are also supposed to be boring in a Jim Lehrer, Gwen Ifill, Tom Brokaw, and Bob Schieffer (think last fall’s presidential and vice presidential debates) kind of way.

Then we have John Stossel, who has been hired by the conservative group Americans for Prosperity to moderate three town-hall-esque “health care meetings.” As MSM journalists go, Stossel is not milquetoast and not without bias. His “libertarian masquerade” is a phony excuse to lash out at anything that is liberal or anything else that disrupts the status quo.

As conservative as the MSM is, most would stay away from groups such as Americans for Prosperity, already known for its tea-party sponsorship, but not John Stossel.

AFP is run by Tim Phillips, someone who has devoted a lot of time to covering:

With nearly 70 Republican operatives and former oil industry spokesmen working behind the scenes of AFP’s various fronts and disclosures that point to ever increasing oil and corporate donations to the group, one must wonder, who is guiding this massive front group factory? The answer is Tim Phillips, the President of AFP who has built a long career of inventing fake grassroots causes. In Phillips’ official biography, there appears to be over a 10 year gap — but that period was when Phillips developed his very first astroturf groups to do everything from smearing his opponents with anti-Semitic attacks to laundering money for criminal lobbyists.

Americans for Prosperity is also behind Patients United Now, an astroturf group designed to disrupt town halls to stop health care reform. Its most famous TV ad involved the uber-deceptive “Shona Holmes” health care ad, claiming she got a runaround for brain tumor surgery in Canada and was forced to come to the U.S. for treatment.

Clearly, this is an organization with a heavy, heavy bias. And yet Stossel is going to pretend to be a neutral observer.

But it’s not like Stossel doesn’t know what he is getting himself into with AFP. After all, Stossel already has a connection with the right-wing group. Stossel has spoken at its Defending the American Dream Summit, and his picture is placed prominently in the list of past speakers.

Given where Stossel has been on health care, it’s not a shocker to see Americans for Prosperity interested in his services. From July 31, 2009’s “20/20”:

STOSSEL: Some in Congress say they’re moving closer to a plan that will make health care cheaper and better. Sounds great. But when government takes charge, it can also mean innovation stops, and you may not get the breakthroughs and care that you need to save your life.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Affordable health care for every single American. That’s what we’re called upon to do.

STOSSEL: Care for everyone for less money. Critics say that just isn’t possible.

That isn’t reporting; that’s editorializing. That isn’t objectivity; that’s bias.

John Stossel sold out a long, long time ago, but unlike his true brethren — Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, et al — Stossel has this need, almost as if it’s a second cheesy porn-style mustache, to seem legitimate. And ABC News eagerly gives him that credibility. The network gives him hour-long specials and allows him to co-anchor “20/20.”

At these fake, pseudo town halls, no one expects Stossel to be a fair and unbiased moderator. No one expects that a function sponsored by AFP will be fair and unbiased. But what we really need is for the MSM to stop giving Stossel any legitimacy and credibility.

For selling out in such an egregious manner on a vitally important issue such as health care, for betraying your roots as an actual journalist (from many years ago), and for pretending to be legitimate, John Stossel wins the Media Putz of the week award.

graphic from Defending the American Dream’s Web site

Written by democracysoup

August 20, 2009 at 6:00 am fights back on Glenn Beck, gets advertisers to withdraw to earn Wings of Justice

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Originally published on on August 19, 2009

Glenn Beck has been a bunion on the foot of America for some time. The conservatives cry out, “If you don’t like it, turn the TV off.”

But progressives know that just turning Beck off isn’t enough. His content — devoid of facts even by conservative media standards and dangerous in content and tone — proves that accountability has been missing from the picture.

When Glenn Beck called President Obama a “racist,” this became the top straw in a straw field 8 feet high, 10 feet deep, and a mile long. Instead of sitting back and letting Beck go off time and time again, stepped up and noted that this time, it’s different.

So the organization rallied together and started a campaign, going to Beck’s advertisers and asking them whether they really supported the views of the Glenn Beck program.

GMAC Financial Services, ConAgra, Roche, Sanofi-Aventis, RadioShack, Men’s Wearhouse, State Farm, Sargento, LexisNexis-owned, Procter & Gamble, Progressive Insurance, Geico, and SC Johnson.

These are just some of the companies that have been swayed to not advertise on the Glenn Beck show on Fox “News” Channel.

And the list keeps growing: Keith Olbermann noted Monday night that eight new companies were recently added to the list, including Wal-Mart, CVS, and Best Buy.’s message is simple:

Fox’s Glenn Beck recently said President Obama is “a racist” and has a “deep-seated hatred for white people.” Beck is on a campaign to convince the American public that President Obama’s agenda is about serving the needs of Black communities at White people’s expense. It’s repulsive, divisive and shouldn’t be on the air.

Join us in calling on Beck’s advertisers to stop sponsoring his show.

Most boycotts and threatened boycotts are treated with disdain, especially if those protests stem from the left. But this time, the response from companies was swift.

They have been dropping pretty quickly. Some companies even pulled out the fancy excuses, such as their ads weren’t supposed to be on that particular show. Maybe these excuses happen to be true, but when you hear such phrases, more than likely, they are so eager to jump off the bandwagon, they risk a proverbial sprained ankle in the process.

James Rucker, founder of, looks at the situation this way:

“As Glenn Beck’s advertisers learn of his hateful rhetoric, and how deeply it concerns thousands of organized people across the country, they’re deciding that they don’t want their companies associated with Beck’s divisive fear-mongering.” went to its 600,000 members and asked them to send letters of protest to the advertisers of Beck’s FNC program. At least 100,000 of its members came through with letters.

And the Beck cause isn’t the only recent effort by The organization also called on CNN to fire Lou Dobbs after he revived the debunked notion of so-called “birthers.”

The organization notes the considerable buying power of African-Americans. And these major companies, not swayed very easily, saw the implications of not going along. Regardless of their views, they made bottom-line decisions for their pocketbooks, and in this case, common sense, too.

But those companies would NEVER make this call on their own. Companies don’t unilaterally make such decisions — even with the insane ramblings of Glenn Beck. made the decision to step it up, respond effectively, and made a difference.

For their successful efforts to bring financial accountability to the dangerous rhetoric of Glenn Beck, is this week’s Wings of Justice award winner.

Written by democracysoup

August 19, 2009 at 6:00 am

Posted in media criticism, MSM

Glenn Beck calls Barack Obama a racist and then denies it to win the Media Putz

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Originally published on on August 13, 2009

Glenn Beck

If we ever decide to have a Hall of Fame for Media Putzes, Glenn Beck just might get his own wing.

What is so amazing about Beck is that he comes across as someone who literally doesn’t think before he speaks. Glenn Beck called the President of the United States, Barack Obama, someone who is half-white, a racist. We watched him deny it, then watched him confirm it again later.

“this president, I think, has exposed himself as a guy, over and over and over again, who has a deep-seeded hatred for white people… This guy is, I believe, a racist.”

Denial or no denial, this is what Beck said on “Fox and Friends.” No proof, of course, since that is Beck’s modus operandi.

His latest bit of “what was I saying?” came when he wondered out loud — since there is so little room in his brain for actual thought — and asked us (himself?) why Major Garrett was never called on in the White House correspondents room.

“I know [Fox News White House correspondent] Major Garrett doesn’t ask the questions at the White House, because he’s never called on. Hmmm. I wonder why.”

Uh, Glenn. We realize you don’t have the intellectual capacity to remember the day before, but Gibbs has taken questions from Garrett during every press briefing in August, including one earlier that day.

Obama has also took questions from Garrett during press conferences, and even sat down with Garrett in the White House for an exclusive interview (one that Sean Hannity butchered to win our Media Putz award).

Then there’s the death panel saga. When former Alaska governor Sarah Palin made her audacious claim of “death panels.” Even among conservatives, her remarks were seen as being way off the mark. But not to Glenn Beck.

“I believe it to be true, but that’s quite a statement,” said Beck, adding, “I believe she at least should be listened to and you should question, ‘Is it evil?'”

The idea that Sarah Palin has become the ideal of truth would only exist in a mind such as Beck’s.

Jon Stewart put it well when he contrasted Glenn Beck’s rant for health care reform last year to his rants against health care reform now.

Correcting the record on Beck’s insanity is as easy as adding 1 + 1. Not very challenging, but neither is Beck.

The other prominent media villians — O’Reilly, Hannity, Limbaugh — at least hide behind some thought process, though their intellectual capacities are only slightly ahead of Beck’s.

What has been more amazing than Beck — since after all, every town needs a village idiot — is the credibility with which the corporate world gives him. In ye olden times, Beck would walk through the streets, spouting his gibberish. The townspeople would see him, maybe even wave “hi,” but when the village idiot would speak, that person bemused them. They didn’t take him seriously.

We are starting to see bit and pieces, corporate advertisers acting a slight bit nervous. But it has been too little and way too late.

No matter what we do, Glenn Becks of the world will always exist. But given them any sense of legitimacy is doing way more than he would ever deserve. So once again, Glenn Beck is our Media Putz award winner this week.

Glenn Beck previously won the Media Putz on April 9, 2009, December 18, 2008 and October 25, 2007.

Written by democracysoup

August 13, 2009 at 6:00 am

Posted in media criticism, MSM

General Electric brings ‘bad things’ to influence news coverage to be the Media Putz

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Originally published on on August 6, 2009

General Electric

If you want your company to not be seriously investigated by the media, there is one simple yet expensive solution: buy your way into the corporate media.

Though it takes a lot of money to buy a network or cable news channel, you end up making money on the deal. After all, you don’t have to defend yourself from costly investigations. And how you make your money can be your little secret.

The GE/News Corp. war — as profiled recently in The New York Times — is a symptom of the bigger problem that GE, News Corp., along with Disney, CBS/Viacom, and Time Warner are virtually free from recrimination, at least by the corporate media.

You would think the war chest that literally is General Electric would be worth investigating. The most wide-eyed optimist wouldn’t expect NBC to go after General Electric. But the unofficial code says that CBS, ABC, CNN, and Fox wouldn’t dare go after GE for one simple reason: if Disney went after GE, GE would go after Disney.

So what we have is détente on a level that the United States and Russia would have drooled over, say, in October 1962.

Keith Olbermann and Bill O’Reilly — yes, Bill O’Reilly — threatened this détente, admittedly on the tiniest of levels, more like slingshots while riding in sailboats. In their tit-for-tat, they would drag in the success or failure of MSNBC and the Fox “News” Channel. Somehow, that became a threat to GE and News Corp.

In GE’s corporate-minded mind, when O’Reilly’s producer asked questions about GE’s business in Iran, the red flags went up at GE.

As Glenn Greenwald, in his excellent coverage, put it so well, “GE’s journalists will stop reporting critically on Fox and its top assets because Fox can expose actions of GE that we want to keep concealed.”

For the record, Olbermann has denied any deals with his bosses. But that doesn’t mean GE didn’t step into this particular case, or numerous other instances. On every level, the “good things to life” presence has been felt on the MSNBC family for some time.

We don’t have to go back all that far — about 12 months ago — when multiple forces worked to pull Olbermann and Chris Matthews off the anchor desk.

Ironically, GE didn’t step in for several months as MSNBC had Richard Wolffe on its programs, and even guest-hosting “Countdown” without disclosing his public relations position with Public Strategies, Inc., the corporate communications firm run by former Bush White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett.

The corporate influence over news coverage has been felt for a long time. All the way back in 1998, ABC’s Brian Ross was working on a story about lax standards in checking for pedophiles in hiring for theme parks. One company Ross investigated was Disney, owners of ABC.

Michael Eisner, then chairman of the Walt Disney Co., said on September 29, 1998, in response to the potential story:

“I would prefer ABC not to cover Disney … ABC News knows that I would prefer them not to cover [Disney].”

Days later, the 20/20 story on exposing Disney’s lax attitude toward employing pedophiles at its theme parks was killed by ABC News management. What was amazing in reality — but not in the realm of the corporate media — was that no other network or cable news channel ran with the story.

Here was a shocking story already uncovered, so a network wouldn’t have to even spend much money to further the story. Yet no major corporate media outlet touched the story, now going on 11 years.

But that is the way the corporate media works. No back scratching involved, but nods in elevators that say, “Don’t touch my company and we won’t touch yours.”

Owning a major corporate media outlet is more than just about making money. It’s about protection for how you make your money outside the media ownership. Though all these companies participate in the farce, General Electric went above and beyond to influence news coverage to win the Media Putz award this week.

Written by democracysoup

August 6, 2009 at 6:00 am

Posted in media criticism, MSM

Lloyd Doggett stands up to astroturf health care protestors to win Wings of Justice

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Originally published on on August 5, 2009

Lloyd Doggett

You’ve likely seen them: the videos of astroturf protests against government-run health care. There are screaming people in the videos, and stunned look on the faces of politicians.

While we know the protests are not legitimate, politicians tend to fear about negative reactions, sincere or otherwise.

But one politician who was subject to attack by these astroturf protestors is standing up, and refuses to be intimidated: Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX).

Rep. Doggett released a statement following the constituent gathering at a local grocery store:

This mob, sent by the local Republican and Libertarian parties, did not come just to be heard, but to deny others the right to be heard. And this appears to be part of a coordinated, nationwide effort. What could be more appropriate for the “party of no” than having its stalwarts drowning out the voices of their neighbors by screaming “just say no!” Their fanatical insistence on repealing Social Security and Medicare is not just about halting health care reform but rolling back 75 years of progress. I am more committed than ever to win approval of legislation to offer more individual choice to access affordable health care. An effective public plan is essential to achieve that goal.

Intimidation only works if you let the other side know you’re scared. Rep. Doggett doesn’t sound scared.

The mainstream media seems eager to follow along, treating the astroturf protests as legitimate outposts of concern. Having a member of Congress step up, speak up, and call out the truth — especially these days — is an act of bravery.

Doggett could have behaved like most politicians and ran meekly away; instead Doggett called out the artificiality of the protestors.

And these protestors weren’t just obnoxious in voice. Their signs include a picture of Doggett with a circle around it and a slash through it. Then there was the “dessert”: a marble tombstone with Doggett’s name on it.

The protestors are tough, but so is Doggett, almost as if Doggett is receiving strength from their cries. As Doggett noted on Monday’s “Hardball” on MSNBC:

So “Just say no,” a mob scene, is just one way of trying to intimidate members into weakening their position. In my case, it really just reaffirmed my resolve to go back and get a strong public plan, force more competition, provide more choice to people, get the reform I know my constituents want.

Not enough voices are speaking out for why health care reform is so vital. The feeling is that health care reform is so obvious, why speak up too loudly. Except the progressive voices are being drowned out.

Which makes Doggett’s words all the more valuable. Again from Monday’s “Hardball”:

I think these folks are really desperate to stop health reform. They see that for the first time in 60 years, we really have, with President Obama and a Democratic Congress, a chance to enact meaningful reform and deal with these policies of health insurance giants that hurt small business, that deny choice to so many people, and deny them coverage at a time they need it the most.

When Rep. Doggett spoke with Mike Stark of FireDogLake (above) as Stark was asking a number of politicians on their stance on health care, he shared with Stark that people do need to speak up if we are going to get better health care.

If this decision-making process is only a great president like Barack Obama and this Congress, we won’t get the right product. We have to have the American people demanding… we’ve got to have them demanding more.

For fighting for better health care and against astroturf protestors, Rep. Lloyd Doggett earns our Wings of Justice award.

Written by democracysoup

August 5, 2009 at 6:00 am

Posted in health care reform