Libertarian Hawk


Liberals Don’t Know What Politicization Is

May 15, 2013 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Media

imageTwo recent events—the Benghazi coverup and the IRS scandal—provide an object lesson in how liberals and conservatives view “politicization.”

Conservatives’ definition of politicization is: liberals treating them unfairly for partisan reasons.  Liberals’ definition of politicization is: conservatives pointing out something they did wrong.

Consider: When conservatives highlighted the Obama administration’s incompetent, deceitful, disastrous handling of the terrorist attack on our Benghazi embassy, Democrats dismissed the affair as no big deal and accused Republicans of politicizing it.

Actually, politicizing Benghazi would have involved, say, a Presidential candidate who pressed the issue during his foreign policy debate with Obama, or who mentioned it in campaign commercials leading up to the election.  Instead, Mitt Romney decided it would be more Presidential to bring it up once and then never, ever mention it again.

When evidence of their malfeasance becomes too overwhelming, liberals simply switch tactics and claim that, OK, sometimes they politicize their faults by downplaying them, but the other side is just as bad.

Thus, The New York Times’ Maureen Dowd recently confessed, “The administration’s behavior before and during the attack in Benghazi was unworthy of the greatest power on earth…  The State Department’s minimum security requirements were not met, requests for more security were rejected…  Obama aides wanted to promote the mythology that the president who killed Osama was vanquishing terror.  So they deemed it problematic to mention any possible Qaeda involvement.”

Nonetheless, Dowd ludicrously titled her piece “When Myths Collide in the Capital” and claimed that both sides are politicizing Benghazi.  She wrote, “Welcome to a glorious spring weekend of accusation and obfuscation as Hillaryland goes up against Foxworld…  Truth is the first casualty here when competing fiefs protect their mythologies.”

Except that it’s not a mythology if it’s the truth.  Exactly which part of the Republicans’ Benghazi charges has proven unworthy of investigation?  Did ABC News recently join the feifdom of Fox News?

And The New Yorker’s Alex Koppelman had to admit, “It’s striking to see the twelve different iterations that the [administration’s] talking points went through…  The mere existence of the edits seriously undermines the White House’s credibility on this issue.”

Yet Koppelman felt compelled to add, “For a long time, it seemed like the idea of a coverup was just a Republican obsession.  But now there is something to it.”  No—there always was something to it; the left was just too blinded by partisanship to see it.  It isn’t bipartisan partisanship when liberals finally start admitting what conservatives have been saying all along.

Meanwhile, conservatives actually are the objects of politicization.  Witness the IRS’s recent admission that it targeted dozens of conservative and Tea Party groups for extra scrutiny during the 2012 Presidential election, solely on the basis of having words like “patriot” in their names instead of “progress,” action,” or “organizing.”  The IRS was warned about its improper filtering criteria back in 2010 and briefly stopped using them, then started using slightly different ones in 2012.  Congress learned about the IRS harassment last spring, but, as with Benghazi, didn’t address it until after the election.  Last Friday the IRS lied and said its actions were carried out by only a few low-level employees, a claim it has since retracted.

How has politicization affected free-speech rights as a result of the scandal?  Numerous conservative and Tea Party groups had their tax-exempt status delayed for months or even years, some until after the 2012 election.  Some are still waiting for approval.  Many eventually had their requests granted only because the American Center for Law and Justice stepped in and helped fight their case.  And how many conservative grass-roots activists will be intimidated into staying out of politics for fear of government harassment or bankrupting fines?

Naturally, liberals’ response to these charges has been to accuse Republicans of politicizing them.

The right is also the target of politicization in the form of persistent media bias.  At least since the 1960s, mainstream journalists have reliably voted for and donated to Democratic over Republican candidates by an order of magnitude.

Conservatives know what it’s like to have their actions politicized; they experience it in the form of a constant stream of harassment from supposedly neutral organizations like the mainstream media and the IRS.  Politicization for conservatives means an endless maelstrom of invective and staggering odds against getting their unfiltered message out to anyone outside their base.

If media-coddled liberals ever faced any actual politicization, it would crush them.

Previously published in modified form at Red Alert Politics

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NYT Charges for Content People Avoided When It Was Free

March 30, 2011 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Media


With the news that Frank Rich and Bob Herbert have left The New York Times, the selection of my 20 free Times articles a month couldn’t be less strongly affected if Paul Krugman and Maureen Dowd decided to quit.

Recently John Gruber of Daring Fireball deconstructed the imbecilic, overly complicated pricing structure the non-business-adept Times has spent a year-and-a-half and tens of millions of dollars devising to undergird its new digital subscription plan.

The Times’ business model, in addition to being extraordinarily confusing, includes the following giant loophole: “Readers who come to Times articles through links from search engines, blogs and social media will be able to read those articles, even if they have reached their monthly reading limit.”

So if you find a story on the Times site that looks worthwhile (suspend your disbelief for a moment), but you’ve reached your monthly limit, you can just copy the title, paste it in a search engine, and click on it from a site that links to it.

Admittedly, this is too much work for most people to bother to find out, say, Dowd’s opinion on the rise of Mormons in popular culture, but some tenacious fans will undoubtedly make the effort.

Perhaps The Times hopes its free backdoor policy will lead more social media outlets to link to their articles.  Maybe they’re afraid they won’t easily be able to regulate access from third-party sources.  But either way, doesn’t this aspect of their plan defeat the purpose of limiting content in order to make people buy subscriptions?

All articles from the Top News section will continue to be available for free via New York Times smartphone and tablet apps.

Also, purchasing just the Sunday print version will give you the most comprehensive tier of unlimited access to digital content, including online, smartphone, and tablet.  This leads Reuters’ Felix Salmon to wonder, “[I]f you get a Sunday-only subscription and then suspend delivery of the physical newspaper while you ‘go on vacation’ for a month or two at a time, how long can you drag out your free access to the website before the NYT gets wise to what you’re doing?”

I guess we shouldn’t expect a sterling business model from a paper whose editorial board believes the way to create wealth is to blow up federal spending and increase federal regulation of the economy by an order of magnitude.

Isn’t The Wall Street Journal’s model much more sensible: everyone has free access to most online content, but key articles require a subscription?  Isn’t it easier to tie access to content, rather than try to tabulate the ephemeral surfing activities of millions of users out there in the ether?

The Times and Journal’s payment plans seem to reflect their ideological worldviews: The Journal, which leans right, offers general content funded via advertising and charges for premium content readers are willing to pay for, a typical capitalist arrangement.  In contrast, The Times, which leans left, will rely on a cadre of loyal followers willing to donate the equivalent of welfare to keep the sputtering paper going, regardless of how frequently the journal offers specific content worth paying for.

In the same way that liberal celebrities frequently announce how much they love paying taxes, soon I can imagine New York elites sanctimoniously defending the Times’ plan by declaring how much they adore shelling out for its superlative content.

Given the astronomical cost of the Times’ plan, only rich liberals will be able to afford it anyway.

At least the new digital subscription plan is an improvement over the short-lived TimesSelect debacle, in which the paper charged for online access to the site’s premium content—which included such must-read material as the repetitive, stale-as-a-cigarette-butt columns of Krugman, Herbert, Rich, and Dowd.

Borrowing language from President Obama’s State of the Union address, New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. announced in a letter to readers that the new subscription plan is an “investment in our future.”

In other words, Obama implied that taxpayers should subsidize inefficient, underused high-speed rail—so more people will be forced to use something they didn’t use when they didn’t have to pay for it, and other options hadn’t been driven from the market.  Similarly, Times readers will now have to pay for biased, slanted content so more people will be forced to read something they didn’t want to read when they didn’t have to pay for it, and other options hadn’t been driven from the market.

Except that The Times won’t continue to dominate the news market the way government-subsidized boondoggles like high-speed rail and ObamaCare will take over their markets.  Does The Times really think they’re the only game in town?  The Times is one of those papers everyone reads because everyone else reads it.  That won’t be true once people start getting charged hundreds of dollars a year to read it.

Unless the federal government steps in and gives The Times a giant bailout, consumers are going to wise up and start getting their content elsewhere.  Not only does the sclerotic, past-its-prime paper’s poorly conceived paywall fail to invest in its own future, it indirectly invests in its competitors’ futures.

Which is fine with me.

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Doesn’t Matter What This Column Says—You’ll Call It Racism

September 16, 2009 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Racism

Jonathan Martin of Politico notes that, even though racism against the president is supposedly widespread, “it’s still a sensitive enough issue that the [Democratic] party doesn’t broach it directly.”  By “sensitive,” of course, he means “far-fetched, ludicrous, and laughable.”

Representative Hank Johnson (D-GA) claims that in Senator Joe Wilson’s outburst toward the president last week, Wilson “kind of winked at that element” of the U.S. that disrespects Obama because he is black.  I’m not sure what criminal statutes are on the books for “kind of winking” at an “element,” but I do know that Democrats’ charges of racism until recently have been so timid and indirect, because they know that if they made them openly, they might have to produce actual evidence of racism.

Lately some of the attempts to label opposition to socialized medicine and trillion-dollar deficits as racism have gotten more blatant.

The Reverend Jeremiah Wright was just caught on video snarling, “I think the racists in the right wing are upset because poor people are about to be helped.”  And it wasn’t even during one of his weekly sermons!

Jimmy Carter weighed in on the subject over the weekend: “[A]n overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man… [and] a belief among many white people… that African Americans are not qualified to lead this great country.”

MSNBC bloggers recently wrote, “Whether it’s fair or not, there is a perception growing that race is driving some elements of the opposition to Obama.”

Maureen Dowd wrote of Wilson in the New York Times, “[F]air or not, what I heard was an unspoken word in the air: You lie, boy!”  Oh, the New York Times doesn’t need to be fair!  Stop being so hard on yourself!

According to Dowd, who was praised by liberal bloggers everywhere for finally stating openly what they believed but didn’t feel comfortable expressing, “Wilson clearly did not like being lectured and even rebuked by the brainy black president presiding over the majestic chamber.”  Note to Dowd: None of the conservatives in Congress did, and it had nothing to do with Obama’s being brainy or black—it had everything to do with his being wrongheaded and pompous.

Dowd lamented “the frantic efforts to paint our first black president as… socialist, fascist, Marxist, racist, Commie, Nazi; a cad who would snuff old people.”

I don’t know—some would say that taking over banks, car companies, and the health care industry is a bit socialist; wanting to “spread the wealth around” is a bit Marxist; having a spiritual mentor who railed against white people in church for 20 years is a bit racist; nominating former communists as czars is a bit Commie; receiving material support from groups that beat up health care protestors at townhall meetings is a bit Nazi; and planning to set up government panels to ration end-of-life care implies a willingness to snuff old people.  Then again, some don’t write for the New York Times.

Dowd added, “Wilson’s shocking disrespect for the office of the president… convinced me: Some people just can’t believe a black man is president and will never accept it.”  Yes, and the “shocking disrespect” for the office of Congressman at mostly white Senators and Representatives’ townhall meetings has convinced me: Some people just can’t believe white people can be in Congress and will never accept it.

Dowd charged that Obama is “at the center of a period of racial turbulence sparked by his ascension” and that “this president is the ultimate civil rights figure—a black man whose legitimacy is constantly challenged by a loco fringe.”

For liberals, the equation is “challenged” plus “black” = “victim of racism.”

I suppose we need to inform Thomas Sowell, Larry Elder, Walter Williams, Sonja Schmidt, Mychal Massie, and other fantastic black conservative and libertarian commentators and harsh Obama critics that their opposition is based on mere black self-hatred.

It was also insinuated by major media outlets that the massive tea party held in Washington over the weekend was fueled by racist resentment of a black man in the White House.  As amply documented by photos of the event, however, signs protested the actions of not just Obama but: Bush, Congress, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Barney Frank, Steny Hoyer, Saul Alinsky, government, and the mainstream media, among many other targets.

Tea party signs protested Medicaid and Medicare’s insolvency, passing on trillions of dollars of debt to future generations, providing health care to illegal immigrants, paying for abortions through health care legislation, excessive taxes, cap-and-trade schemes, government takeover of the automobile industry, and the appointment of czars.  (Take that, NAACP!)

Finally, signs supported tort reform, health savings accounts, a flat tax, gun rights, the war on terror, and a strange, unheard-of cult called “Liberty.”

Notably absent from protest signs were calls for the repeal of the Civil Rights Act and the resegregation of water fountains.  As Obama correctly observed in one of his health care speeches this summer, “This is not about me.”

As for the occasional reference to race on protest signs, Martin writes, “Republicans see an important distinction between Obama critics who are genuinely worried about his… policies and those whose fears go beyond the president’s liberalism…  But for some Democrats, it’s difficult to make that distinction when conservative marchers take to Washington bearing images of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Obama that read, ‘He had a dream, we got a nightmare.’”  And for some Republicans, it’s difficult to make a distinction between signs comparing King and Obama that would be acceptable to liberals and those that would be branded “racist.”

As one prescient and widely photographed sign at the protest read, “It doesn’t matter what this sign says—you’ll call it racism anyway.”