Thursday, October 27

Media War of Words

It's Bill O'Reilly vs David Brock of Media Matters -- to the death.

O'Reilly has apparently decided to launch a "counter-smear" campaign against anti-Right wing website Media Matters. He mentioned them numerous times but over the last two days the rhetoric has gotten especially heated.

In response to Media Matters exploding the Bill Bennet comment controversy - O'Reilly and others have continually defended Bennet's "aborting all black babies to reduce crime" comments and accused Media Matters of misquoting, taking him out of context and smearing him. However, a clear and objective reading of Media Matters original report on the subject did in fact include all of his comment, including where he stated that doing such a thing...

Bennett conceded that aborting all African-American babies "would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do," then added again, "but the crime rate would go down."

In their attacks O'Reilly has consistently missed the point of Media Matters criticism - which wasn't that Bennet was literally suggesting that black's be aborted, but was the serious consideration that black people are inherently connected to crime. Although it is true that the Bureau of Justice Statistics reports the following:

Lifetime chances of a person going to prison are higher for
-- men (11.3%) than for women (1.8%)
-- blacks (18.6%) and Hispanics (10%) than for whites (3.4%)

To my knowledge this raw data has not be analysed when controlled for other demographic issues such as relative poverty, or disparities in law enforcement and sentencing practices. Taken alone they would indicate that blacks are nearly 6 times more likely to be imprisoned, but this information doesn't neccesarily mean that they are 6 times more likely to commit crimes. (Incidentally the same data - using the same lack of detailed analysis - would indicate that men are 10 times more likey to "commit crimes" than women - so why didn't Bennet suggest we abort all male babies to lower crime rates?)

Racial profiling, where black's are more frequently targeted for arrest among our Police agencies, remains a serious problem of bias. Following up a previous study in New Jersey, the ACLU found in a study conducted in Rhode Island that:
● As was true in the first study, minority drivers were more than twice as likely as whites to be searched or frisked by police. Statewide, for those vehicles stopped, 7% of black drivers and 6.2% of Hispanic drivers were searched compared to 2.9% of
white drivers.

● Despite the proportionally greater number of searches of minority drivers,
white drivers – just as in 2001-2002 – were still more likely than racial minorities to be found with contraband when searched.
So minorities are searched more, arrested more - but they do not have higher occurances of possesing drugs or other contraband. This type of disparity at the policing level then has to be added to fact that these searches, which are obstensibly for drugs, also tend have a extreme racial impact on imprisonment and sentences during the prosecution phase - as has been reported by The Sentencing Project
Crack is usually sold in small quantities in open-air markets. Powder is more expensive and is usually sold in larger quantities behind closed doors in locations that are inherently private. In urban areas the “fronts” of crack use and sales are large metropolitan centers which gather the greater emphasis of law enforcement. Since minorities and lower income persons are most likely to inhabit these areas, they are therefore at greater risk of arrest for crack cocaine possession than are white and higher income powder offenders. The latter inhabit working class and upper-class neighborhoods where drug sales are more likely to occur indoors instead of the street sales of the urban neighborhoods that receive disproportionate (greater) attention from law enforcement.

The failure of Congress to amend the (100:1) sentencing disparities between crack cocaine and powder cocaine reflects a culture-wide set of misconceptions about crack – who uses it, who sells it, and what the consequences of its trade, such as violence, have been. Many have submitted that the disparities illustrate something much more disturbing, namely, a deeply embedded racist and classist undertone to our society’s political, legal and law enforcement structure.
When all these factors are taken into account, it becomes clear the underlying premise of Bennett's statement - that Blacks are somehow more criminal -- is in fact false, unproven and a racially biased comment - and that is why Media Matters attacked it.

Media Matters further pointed out that Bennett's later attempts to attribute such racial comments to the authors of "Freakonomics" are also poorly founded.
On his September 29 broadcast, Bennett said: "The author of Freakonomics, Steve Levitt engages the theory that abortion reduces crime, and he also discusses, as I did, the racial implications of abortion and crime. And he does that in an extended debate on" But in the course of the three-day discussion, Levitt barely mentioned race. In fact, on the first day of the discussion, Levitt noted specifically that race was not a key part to his theory:

In additional to the Bennet Bruhaha there has also been discussion of comments made on O'Reilly's own radio program involving the allegation that "illegal immigrants are like biological weapons" by one of his callers. A suggestion that O'Reilly did not disagree with, but rather went on to state...

O'REILLY: You might be right, [caller]. And, if you look at it that way, you've got 11 million at least here, unsupervised. Nobody knows the condition they're in. And you have 3,000 dead from 9-11.

This statement was made despite the fact that all of the 9-11 hijackers entered the U.S. Legally -- and that there have never been any terrorist attacks on U.S. shores as a result of illegal immigration. From reading the 9-11 Commision Report it becomes clear that most terrorist want and need full access to the society in order to reach sensitives areas and positions where they can do the most damage - in order to accomplish this they tend to be as low-key and law abiding as possible.

In reponse to Media Matters accurate quotes of the inflammatory rhetoric - O'Reilly has come out with guns blazing...
O'REILLY: Far-left billionaires George Soros and Peter Lewis, who heads the Progressive insurance company -- remember that; if you have Progressive insurance, you may want to look elsewhere. Those guys have poured tens of millions of dollars into political organizations designed to harm people with whom the left disagrees.

So that's what they [Media Matters & The Center for American Progress] always do. They tape The Radio Factor, they tape Rush Limbaugh, they tape Bill Bennett, and they look to see if they can find something to smear us with.


All of these people are far-left fringe players, but they know their money is going to smear merchants. They know it's going into character assassins, correct?


It is a very well-oiled, effective character assassination machine.

The most chilling portion of O'Reilly's attack was to list and name each mainstream reporter who has used information from Media Matter's as a source... (while ignoring the fact that Media Matters reports are nearly always completely and totally accurate).

Here's a name -- here are some names of mainstream journalists who take stuff directly from the left-wing smear sites. Paul Krugman, a New York Times columnist, Jack Matthews, New York Daily News columnist, the aforementioned Miss Hernandez, Alan Dershowitz, the left-wing lawyer at Harvard, Maureen Dowd, another New York Times columnist, Frank Rich, another New York Times columnist. It just goes on and on that these people are fed this kind of stuff and it gets in, as you said, the mainstream media and blows up everywhere.

So besides making Progressive Insurance a target, O'Reilly has named a serious of Journalists and columnist as being allied with "far-left fringe players" as if he were suggesting a Black-List to his audience and supporters -- and he thinks Media Matters engages in smears? Seems to me he needs to go re-read the definition of the word.


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