Monday, April 09, 2012

The Journal Sentinel Jumps the Shark

An out-of-state right-wing front group, funded by the usual suspects, pulled together a couple dozen lost, confused souls this past Saturday and conducted an informational picket outside the moat surrounding the Journal Sentinel castle in downtown Milwaukee. "Don't believe the liberal media" was apparently the message sent over from the Koch Brothers, via the Media Research Center in Virginia, and you had to wonder what the hell all those people were doing at the headquarters of the biggest supporter of the FitzWalkerstan regime in the straight media.  This is like contraception rights supporters protesting outside of Planned Parenthood. I mean, if you don't know who your friends are...

The phony staged and purchased "protest" comes just when the Kings of State Street are winding up to do the previously unthinkable -- to endorse Scott Walker for governor again

The increasingly right-wing J-S editorial board, under the leadership of the unfortunate David Haynes, has been completely clueless ever since Walker and his obedient legislature "dropped the bomb" on public employees and proceeded to run roughshod over the legal rights, local control and voting rights of everyone else.  When the Brave Wisconsin 14 made the brilliant move of leaving the state to deny the quorum that the GOP jihad needed to continue their destruction of state government, the Journal Sentinel's collective knee jerked and, with the rest of the right-wing media, it spent more than a month screaming for them to come back so that the Republicans could finish the job the Koch brothers bought them to do.   And when the Republicans decided to just go ahead and ram the bill through without the required quorum or notice, well, the newspaper was just fine with that.

But, although they still look down their nose and sneer at the historic efforts of the Brave Wisconsin 14 from time to time, that turned out to be a temporary annoyance to the denizens of FitzWalkerstan and the Journal Sentinel.  There were and are bigger fish to fry in the recalls last year and this year, and the fact that the Wisconsin Constitution allows for mid-course corrections in the midst of radical action by an out-of-control majority acting at the behest of the rich drives the editors of the news sections and the editorial board at the only state-wide newspaper absolutely crazy.

Although the recall process last year has already resulted in a razor thin majority in the Senate (although alleged moderate Dale Schultz has voted for many more bad bills than he stood in the way of) and, now, an even split, leading to a Democratic flip of the Senate in June, moderation and bipartisanship is suddenly the last thing on the newspaper's agenda.  "It's bad enough that recall fever has dragged Wisconsin into the muck of bitter and ugly political contests such as the kind we saw last summer," writes the brooding board in its most recent anti-recall screed on March 24th.

Who dragged Wisconsin into the muck again?  Talk about blaming the victims. Walker and the Republicans use their unexpected majorities to bring in a radical agenda from Washington think tanks to use Wisconsin as some kind of incubator for bad ideas; Wisconsinites of all stripes use a perfectly legitimate recall process to put the breaks on and we're the bad guys?
Even funnier was the line that we have to get out of this "muck" so we can concentrate on more important things like...wait for it...the Republican presidential primary!  Sounds more like comic relief to me.  What this state needs is more Santorum.  Nothing makes me feel more right than watching someone so wrong talk on television.  But I digress...

The March 24th editorial is full of the Journal Sentinel's usual snooty, dismissive attitude towards the recall movement.  The main point of the editorial is to promote messing around with the state constitution, to push for a constitutional amendment (not just a "bill", as the editorial calls it) to restrict recalls to cases of "misconduct in office", whatever that means.  Right now, according to the Kings of State Street, state officials can be recalled they "because someone doesn't like the look of their hair or the dog they own".  Really -- they actually wrote something stupid like that. Technically true, except that no one could get a quarter-of-a-million signatures for something like that.  Hell, Republicans couldn't even manage to get enough signatures to get recall elections against most of the eligible Brave Wisconsin 14 last year -- and none this year.  

This kind of trivialization of the recall movement is typical of the newspaper's editorial stance.  They are apparently just fine with the radical destruction of state government, as long as the party in power was duly elected.  Hey, wasn't the Milwaukee County Board and the County Executive at the time duly elected when they voted for the county pension plan in 2002?  The Journal Sentinel supported those recall efforts. What if the Republicans now in Madison got drunk on something other than power, snuck in the Capitol in the middle of the night and did the same thing?  But internal inconsistency -- especially holding Democrats to higher standards than Republicans -- is what the newspaper does best.

All of that is what we have come to expect in Journal Sentinel editorials in the Age of Haynes.  But the newspaper took a dramatic hard-right turn into the arms of the Bradley/Koch-supported alternative-reality media on Sunday by running a purported "history" of the recall clause on the front page of the opinion section, complete with a photo of Bob LaFollette and the decisive headline "Not what they meant democracy to look like".  Written by long-time well-paid Republican hack Christian Schneider, under the aegis of a Bradly Foundation-funded GOP front-group, the Wisconsin Policy Research "Institute", the immensely inaccurate and misleading piece is presented by the Journal Sentinel -- without an opposing view -- as the definitive word on the intent of those who drafted and passed the recall clause in the 1920s.

Schneider is identified for the J-S readers as a "senior fellow [heh] at the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute and author of 'The History of the Wisconsin Recall.'", which makes it sound like a book, but is only a longer version of the same article in a "WPRI Reports" blog post.  WPRI also is not identified as the phony institute and conglomeration of Republican flacks that it is (all you need to know -- editor of its "magazine" and thereby WPRI's Minister of Propaganda: Charlie Sykes). At least when its regular wing-nut columnist Mike Nichols has his say every Sunday (there are no progressives with the same privilege, by the way), the paper tells its readers WPRI is a "nonpartisan conservative think tank".  Which is also inaccurate, since WPRI is highly partisan, but it links Nichols at least slightly to the radical fringe currently poisoning the political environment in Wisconsin with false and inflamatory information.   No such disclaimer for Schneider's piece.

How laughably wrong Schneider is about those who promoted the recall clause is obvious just from reading it.  It is remarkably fact-free and those language he does quote come mostly from the recall clause's opponents.  Prof. Ed Fallone bends Schneider over his knee and spanks him like he deserves in this response on his Marquette Faculty Blog. Before taking apart the "facts" of Schneider's piece and sending it to the Land of Broken Toys, Fallone accurately identifies the Orwellian tendencies of today's Right Wing Media establishment:
In his novel 1984, George Orwell imagined a future world where a government at war could switch allegiances with the country’s enemies and allies and a docile public would accept the revised version of history unquestioningly. Orwell, a keen observer of the modern world, recognized that history itself could be manufactured and manipulated in the service of broader purposes.
But phony facts and false history is all the right-wing has as they scramble to escape the march of progress, diversity and truth.  And the Jounal Sentinel has no business getting into bed with them by running crap like Schneider's piece, basically unattributed and without disclosure of the slanted -- no, upside-down -- perspective of a cheap, dishonest hack; one of those many on the right-wing payroll who are smart enough to know better, but have made a conscious decision to deliver a never-ending stream of lies in the service the Dark Side, for a price.  The placement and promotion of Schneider's piece on Sunday is a new low for the Journal Sentinel, indicating they have not hit bottom yet.


Man MKE said...

In a word: Yes. Great job pulling this together and unrevising Journal Sentinel's false history. Another bit of false history: I smart whenever a media outlet (public radio, the Journal Sentinel, local TV news) says the recalls are the result of Walker's anti-union bill. Oh, but that meme is so convenient for the GOP spin machine. Apparently, false histories are the only way to plausibly un-do the state constitutional right to recall, just as the conservatives on the US Supreme Court are no doubt now busy having their law clerks figure out some plausible way to deny the US Constitution's commerce clause so the majority can return us to the Gilded Era. Revisionism comes easily to editors, after all.

Anonymous said...

I didn't know the Media research Center was funded by the Koch brothers. How did you find that out?

Bill Kurtz said...

The bottom line for the JS editorial page is to be in sync with the downtown business community on local and state issues. That explains the original Walker endorsement, and the tone of editorials opposing recalls of Walker and legislators, one of supporting Walker reluctantly out of duty, rather than conviction that he's right, a la talk radio.

Anonymous said...

Dude, you are wasting you time. The joke is on you!