Follies and lies of the MCM (mainstream conservative media)

About ten days ago I saw an episode of Sean Hannity’s television program that was entirely devoted to Hannity’s and his guests’ responses to the speech President Obama had delivered to the UN General Assembly earlier that day. Unfortunately, one could not call it a discussion. It was a nonstop, high-intensity attack on Obama for his supposed put-downs of America, culminating in Hannity’s long colloquy with Michelle Malkin in which the two of them, with an effortlessness obviously borne of long practice, skillfully fed off each other’s animus against the president, each statement topping the last. I was struck by the way these conservative stars had become like the liberal media they despise—experts at generating endless amounts of furious moral indignation against the object of their dislike. The show was also frustrating, because, notwithstanding Hannity’s and Malkin’s roundhouse condemnations of Obama for his anti-Americanism, they provided almost no quotations from his speech to back up the charge. The exchange consisted almost entirely of overheated adjectives, not facts. The fact that Obama, like all leftist Democrats, believes that America has too much power relative to other countries does not automatically mean that every time he opens his mouth he is tearing down America. It is necessary to show that he is tearing down America.

There was however one passage from the speech that Hannity did quote, consisting of Obama’s remark that “on certain critical issues, America has acted unilaterally, without regard for the interests of others.” Hannity, backed by Malkin, must have repeated this line three or four times. And I had to agree with them, that was certainly an egregious thing for the president of the U.S. to have said.

Except, as I found our later that evening when I looked up the speech on the Web, Obama hadn’t said it.

Here is the entire passage:

I took office at a time when many around the world had come to view America with skepticism and distrust. Part of this was due to misperceptions and misinformation about my country. Part of this was due to opposition to specific policies, and a belief that on certain critical issues, America has acted unilaterally, without regard for the interests of others. This has fed an almost reflexive anti-Americanism, which too often has served as an excuse for our collective inaction.

So, when Obama stated that “America has acted unilaterally, without regard for the interests of others,” he was pointedly not expressing his own view, but describing the view of other people, a view that he associated with “an almost reflexive anti-Americanism” which he said has damaged international cooperation.

Either Hannity (with Malkin’s energetic assistance) told a scurrilous lie about Obama, or he is so stupid that he can’t tell the difference between Obama stating his own views and Obama discussing (and criticizing) other people’s views.

While this episode of Hannity’s program was especially bad, it was not unique. To a disturbing degree the mainstream conservative media have become a mirror image of the liberal media, a generator of vitriol without facts.

—end of initial entry—

LA writes:

Here is an article of mine from May 2008 where I commented on this same sloppiness in the conservative media.

Jim C. writes:

It’s not very difficult to parse Barack Obama, but the MCM do not do it for fear of being labeled racist. Obama was elected despite the fact that he had accomplished nothing and had been a beneficiary of academic welfare (the euphemism is affirmative action). Obama has the cognitive abilities that would have made him a great black rip-off preacher, like Jesse Jackson. Why don’t we hear this analysis from the likes of Hannity?

I don’t blame Obama; I blame all the dumb knuckleheads in America who were deceived by this well-spoken doofus.

LA replies:

I think you overstate Obama’s lack of intellect. I’m not saying he’s a great intellect.

Sage McLaughlin writes:

Hannity has a habit of accusing Obama of saying the things that Obama is actually criticizing. John Stewart has skewered him for this in the past, though I don’t have the exact quote to hand. When Stewart is able to catch you out on an embarrassingly obvious distortion, you probably have earned it.

Personally, I have no idea—none—what makes Hannity appealing to anybody. When liberals like Brooks try to read men like Rush and Beck out of respectability, I am struck that Hannity seldom rates more than a passing mention. If anybody actually fits the caricature of the heat-producing, light-shuttering conservative talk radio host, it’s Sean Hannity. He’s clearly incapable of producing anything resembling an argument from known facts. He shouts, he uses lots of abrasive adjectives, but as you say he doesn’t actually marshal any evidence to support his position (sometimes he obliquely refers to commonsense arguments that everyone knows to be true, but I’ve never heard him actually use one). He has a daily radio show and is one of the best-known conservative commentators on Fox. If that doesn’t say something about the sorry state of public conservatism, I don’t know what does.

LA replies:

I think Hannity appeals to some mindless stratum in the human psyche that is much larger in some people than in others.

Mark M. writes:

I agree with your general observation that Hannity’s constant tone of moral indignation and his seeming lack of interest in developing factual bases for his attacks makes his show nearly unwatchable (and I say this as someone who shares most of his views on domestic issues). However, on the specific point for which you take Hannity to task, I think his criticism of President Obama is fair. In the portion of the speech that you quote, Obama juxtaposes “misperceptions and misinformation about my country” with “opposition to specific policies” and “a belief that on certain critical issues, America has acted unilaterally, without regard for the interests of others.” He is plainly implying that there is some basis in fact for the belief that America acts “without regard for the interests of others,” for, otherwise, this particular reason for “skepticism and distrust” of America would fall under the “misperceptions and misinformation” reason for it. Had Obama wished to convey that this particular belief was not grounded in fact, he could have said that skepticism and distrust of America was due to “opposition to specific policies and to misperceptions and misinformation about my country, including the misperception that America acts without regard for the interests of others.” But, I suspect that Obama and his speechwriters would not have considered this conciliatory enough. Obama’s choice of words reflects Obama’s view of himself as the great bridge maker/neutral arbiter of differences between America and the rest of the world.

Of course, Hannity is at fault for not explaining that he was drawing an inference from what Obama said and not simply quoting him verbatim. But, this would have required Hannity to go into the details and, thus, to postpone briefly his tone of moral high dudgeon.

LA replies:

This is too subtle. Yes, it’s true that Obama was being artfully ambiguous (something he would not be so skilled at if he was merely the aggressive preacher type Jim C. says he is). Yes, it’s true that he didn’t come out and say, “The view that America has acted unilaterally, without regard for the interests of others, is dead wrong, I condemn this wrongheaded and michievous characterization of my country.” But he did clearly criticize and distance himself from that view by associating it with “misperceptions and misinformation about my country” and with “reflexive anti-Americanism.”

Yet Hannity repeatedly and with emotional fire presented the statement as though Obama had said, speaking for himself, “America has acted unilaterally, without regard for the interests of others.” That was an out and out lie. It was despicable. And Michelle Malkin, who is presumably more intelligent than the large-jawed, low-browed fellow from Long Island, went along with it totally.

October 7 12:35 a.m.

LA writes:

Out of curiosity, I watched Hannity again tonight. His guest was Michael Moore. The theme of their discussion was supposed to be Moore’s new movie attacking capitalism. There was a vigorous exchange between them. Vigorous, but utterly pointless. They bounced off each other meaninglessly, jumping aimlessly from one subject to another.

Watching it I remembered how, when I last listened to Hannity’s radio show from time to time in the late ’90s, his specialty was having one-on-one-exchanges with liberals. And how such exchanges were always useless. Hannity has energy, he has confidence, he has belief in his positions, he has guts, and I give him credit for all that. Those qualities are probably the source of his popularity. But he’s so lacking in intelligence and understanding that he doesn’t know how to bring anything to a point. Instead of discrediting liberalism, he gives it credibility by constantly engaging with liberals, being friendly and very decent to them, and generally failing to score decisively against them.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at October 06, 2009 09:48 AM | Send

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