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Media: The Netroots Responds

On Monday night, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly aired a segment full of misleading, inaccurate claims attacking the upcoming YearlyKos blogger convention, its namesake DailyKos, and one of the event's sponsors, JetBlue.

July 18, 2007 by Faiz Shakir, Nico Pitney, Amanda Terkel, Satyam Khanna, and Matt Corley
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MEDIA

The Netroots Responds

On Monday night, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly aired a segment full of misleading, inaccurate claims attacking the upcoming YearlyKos blogger convention, its namesake DailyKos, and one of the event’s sponsors, JetBlue. In his “report,” O’Reilly cherry-picked an extreme minority of reader comments and diaries from the hundreds of thousands on DailyKos, claiming them to be representative of the community website and the greater netroots movement that will be gathering in Chicago from Aug. 2-5, 2007 for the progressive convention. Calling the netroots “the radical left” and DailyKos “hatemongerers” like “the Ku Klux Klan” and “the Nazi Party,” O’Reilly compared YearlyKos to “a David Duke convention,” calling it “one of the worst examples of hatred America has to offer.” O’Reilly’s segment, which has been latched onto by his ideological allies in the conservative blogosphere, is an attempt to discredit a movement that “each day” is having “more impact” on America’s political discourse while “helping to renew our democracy.” O’Reilly’s pre-emptive attack on the convention is a testament to the fact that the netroots are not a “nutroots” fringe movement as critics would like to characterize it, but rather a snapshot of energized progressive activists agitating for change in America. 

MYTH OF THE ‘CRUDE,’ ‘ANGRY,’ ‘CRASS’ FRINGE:
The shoddy journalism of O’Reilly’s YearlyKos hit piece is not the first time the progressive blogosphere has been the target of disingenuous attacks labeling it “the radical left.” After several Democratic presidential candidates backed out of Fox News’s debates due to the news channel’s ideological bent, O’Reilly attacked the grassroots activists who agitated for the pullout, calling them a “radical movement” that uses “propaganda techniques perfected by Dr. Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi minister of information.” Searching through two years of Washington Post articles, media writer Eric Boehlert could find just one profile of a progressive blogger. The article — “The Left, Online and Outraged” — portrays My Left Wing blogger Maryscott O’Conner as “a Bush-hating lunatic,” using such key phrases as “angry,” “rage,” “fury,” “angriest,” “outrage,” “crude,” “loud,” “crass,” “inflammatory,” “attack.” As Boehlert notes, the Post’s profile of prominent conservative blogger Michelle Malkin was “a Valentine’s Day week mash note, presenting Malkin as a pugnacious, on-the-rise pundit who has her liberal critics up in arms.” In reality though, the image of progressive bloggers as “unhinged,” as Malkin describes them, is just a myth. The make up and politics of the netroots are actually quite mainstream.

ONLINE ACTIVISTS REFLECT GENERAL POPULATION: In a survey conducted by Pew Internet and American Life after the 2006 mid-term election, “online political activists” were said to “mirror the general population of those who are civically active.” As a group, they are “evenly divided between men and women” with a “racial and ethnic composition” that “is not very different from the general population.” Furthermore, many of the causes supported by the netroots have broad support across the country. In a recent analysis of public opinion polls, Center for American Progress fellow Ruy Teixeira found that 68 percent of Americans support withdrawal from Iraq within a year, a key issue for the netroots. Over three-quarters of Americans believe that “the effects of global warming are apparent now” with 60 percent favoring immediate action to address the problem. Like the progressive blogosphere, a solid majority of Americans believe President Bush should not have commuted the sentence of his former aide, Scooter Libby. Seven in 10 Americans believe that current “discrepancies between income levels are too large.” A majority of Americans support either gay marriage (27 percent) or civil unions (24 percent) while 79 percent of Americans believe openly gay people should be able to serve in the military. “A majority of Americans say the federal government should guarantee health insurance to every American, especially children, and are willing to pay higher taxes to do it.” These political priorities, which the netroots are working to make a reality, are the priorities of the majority of Americans.

‘BLOGGERS AS REAL PEOPLE’: Held for the first time last year in Las Vegas, NV, the YearlyKos convention was the premiere gathering for “people from all walks of life who belong to the Netroots community” to “see hundreds of bloggers as real people for perhaps the first time.” The event was “a three-day blur of workshops, panels and speeches about politics, the power of the Internet and the shortcomings of the Washington media.” Featured guests included then-Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D), former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (D), and retired Army Gen. Wesley K. Clark. While last year’s convention, which was heavily covered by the more traditional media, was considered a rousing success, this year’s convention is shaping up to be even more impressive. Featuring a Presidential Leadership Forum and panels such as “The Military and Progressives: Are They That Different?” and “The Changing Dynamics of Diversity in Progressive Politics,” convention attendees are preparing themselves for three days of intense politicking, networking, and social engagement. With public figures such as Arianna Huffington, Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D), Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) expected to appear on panels, the convention is far from the “radical left” gathering that people such as O’Reilly would like to believe. 

UNDER THE RADAR

ADMINISTRATION — DOCUMENTS REVEAL INFLUENCE OF INDUSTRY IN DEVELOPING ENERGY AGENDA: The Washington Post reports today that in 2001, as the head of the administration’s energy task force, Vice President Cheney routinely brushed off environmentalists in order to develop a heavily pro-industry energy agenda. In fact, as of April 2001, “Cheney and his aides had already held at least 40 meetings with interest groups, most of them from energy-producing industries” such as the American Petroleum Institute, National Mining Association, Enron (including convicted CEO Ken Lay), and BP, by the time his staff even met with the first environmental organizations, according to a recently disclosed confidential list. Cheney has mysteriously guarded memos about the task force. “For six years, those names have been a closely guarded secret, thanks to a fierce legal battle waged by the White House. Some names have leaked out over the years, but most have remained hidden because of a 2004 Supreme Court ruling that agreed that the administration’s internal deliberations ought to be shielded from outside scrutiny.” House Oversight Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) said it is “ridiculous” that it has taken six years to see who attended the task force meetings, describing the surreptitious nature of the meetings as an indicator of “how secretively Vice President Cheney wanted to act.” Cheney’s secrecy here reflects a history of evading oversight. Most recently, Cheney exempted his office from an executive order protecting classified information, claiming he was not part of the executive branch.

ETHICS — WHITE HOUSE POLITICIZED NATIONAL DRUG CONTROL POLICY: Newly released documents reveal that during the last congressional election cycle, former White House Political Director Sara M. Taylor “enlisted the nation’s drug czar to attend events with vulnerable GOP incumbents.” The documents reveal what appears to be a “coordinated effort to employ a senior official who is barred by law from political activities to help boost the fortunes of Republican candidates.” According to the Los Angeles Times, Taylor “suggested” in a memo to John P. Walters, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, that he attend “20 programs — round-table discussions, tours, a town hall meeting and other antidrug events — with Republican candidates from New Jersey to California.” Walters was subsequently thanked by Bush’s long-time political adviser Karl Rove for his “attention to the candidates.” The White House asserts that the events were not political. In a new letter to Taylor, House Oversight Committee Chairman Harry Waxman (D-CA) requests that she appear at a “voluntary deposition” by July 24 to address her apparent use of federal resources for political activities — a violation of federal law. Waxman said he recognizes that “federal political appointees have traveled to events with members of Congress in prior administrations,” but that “what is striking about [Taylor’s memo to Walters] is the degree of White House control, the number of trips, and the agency involved.” In the letter, Waxman explained, “there has been growing evidence that the operations of the Department of Justice, the General Services Administration, and the Surgeon General have been improperly politicized. … Documents recently provided to the Oversight Committee suggest that White House efforts to politicize the activities of federal agencies may be more widespread than previously known.” Recently, Taylor responded to suggestions that she was involved with the politicization of the Justice Department, saying, “I took an oath the President, and I take that oath very seriously.”

IRAQ — PENTAGON FINALLY REQUESTS LIFESAVING VEHICLES AFTER URGENT PLEAS BY COMMANDERS IN IRAQ:
Yesterday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates asked Congress for more funds “to buy Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles to protect troops in Iraq from insurgent bombs.” MRAPs are “designed to withstand the underbelly bombs that cripple the lower-riding Humvees,” such as improvised explosive devices (IEDs), “the No. 1 killer of U.S. forces” in Iraq. In the more than 300 attacks on the few MRAPs in Iraq, “no Marines have been killed.” Yet Gates’s request for the vehicles “comes about 2 1/2 years after Marines in the field made an urgent plea for” MRAPs. According to a letter sent to Gates by Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE) and Kit Bond (R-MO), the delay has cost the lives of “621 to 742 Americans.” A USA Today investigation found that “instead of granting the February 2005 request, then-Marine commandant Michael Hagee decided that June to buy more armored Humvees.” Marine spokesman Col. Dave Lapan said yesterday that Hagee ignored the commanders’ request because “IEDs…were not a pronounced threat at the time.” In 2004, the Bush administration spent “$150 million to defeat IEDs,” and “there were 5,607 IED attacks.” In fact, e-mail records obtained by USA Today reveal that “Pentagon analysts sent detailed information about the superiority of the vehicles to the Joint Chiefs of Staff” as early as Dec. 2003. In one of the e-mails, a Pentagon analyst complained to a colleague that it was “frustrating to see the pictures of burning Humvees while knowing that there are other vehicles out there that would provide more protection.”

THINK FAST

“The board of Dow Jones said late Tuesday it was ready to sign off” on Rupert Murdoch’s proposal to buy the company for $5 billion. “However, the key remains with the Bancroft family, whose three dozen members have been deeply divided over whether to sell to Murdoch.”

The National Intelligence Estimate released yesterday warned that Hezbollah could be “more likely to consider attacking the homeland” if it sees the United States as a threat to the group or to Iran. Slate’s Fred Kaplan says that “this amounts to a direct warning to the White House: Don’t attack Iran.”

Resentment toward American forces remains “fierce” as “Iraqis endure their fifth blazing summer without sufficient power.” The LA Times writes, “If anything is seen as symbolic of the United States’ failure to deliver on its promise that life would be better without Saddam Hussein, it is the lack of reliable electricity.”

The White House yesterday “played down the importance of President Bush’s proposal for a Mideast peace conference and said it was too early to say where or when it would take place.”

Rapidly rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are driving noxious poison ivy and those annoying patches of dandelion to grow taller, lusher and more resilient, according to two new studies.”

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) continues to maintain a “hold” on a bill that would cut down the lengthy wait time that plagues the Freedom of Information Act system. “Following easy passage by the House of Representatives and the Senate Judiciary Committee, however, the FOIA fix has been halted. Despite recent reports detailing delays and difficulties in getting government information, the Department of Justice has objected to the new legislation.”

And finally: While Senate staffers were busy yesterday rolling out cots for the chamber’s all-night Iraq debate, many senators said they didn’t plan on using them. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), who “towers at 6-feet-7-inches tall,” said, “I don’t fit on a cot.” Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) admitted, “I’ve got a couch in my hideaway.” Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) lives just four blocks from the Capitol and planned on slipping home to catch a nap.

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GOOD NEWS

“The Army is launching an education program to teach 1 million soldiers how to recognize symptoms of brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder, the two signature injuries of the Iraq war. The program aims to encourage troops to get treatment — and to help erase the stigma of doing so, Army officials said.”

STATE WATCH

TEXAS: Texas has seen the smallest decline in pregnancy and birth rates despite receiving the most money for abstinence education.

MISSISSIPPI: “A federal court ruling in June that forces voters to register by party could return Mississippi to the days of racially polarized politics.”

MINNESOTA: Sexual violence costs the state $8 billion per year, a first-of-its-kind calculation.

BLOG WATCH

THINK PROGRESS: The New York Times’s David Brooks enters President Bush’s “universe” and walks away entranced by the President’s “self-confidence.”

OLIVER WILLIS: Forbes publisher Rich Karlgaard says on Fox News that it’s okay that over 3,000 soldiers have died in Iraq because “they’re all voluntarily military people.”

FP PASSPORT: The U.S. military has more musicians than diplomats.

CROOKS AND LIARS: MSNBC’s Chris Matthews describes anti-war activists on Capitol Hill as “a wholesome-looking crowd for an anti-war bunch.”

DAILY GRILL

“Good job.”
— Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, 7/16/07

VERSUS

“[A] former Gonzales aide had placed Fitzgerald’s name on a list of prosecutors who had ‘not distinguished themselves’ in March 2005, just after Fitzgerald had indicted former GOP Illinois governor George Ryan and as he was investigating the leak of the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame.”
— Washington Post, 7/17/07