Presswatch

Presswatch

Gabby Giffords Poisons the Well

By From the June 2013 issue

When the Democratic Senate killed every one of President Obama’s gun-control proposals on April 17, the next day’s New York Times featured two revealing stories. The first was a front-page “news analysis” by reporter Jennifer Steinhauer, which carried the headline “Gun Control Effort Had No Real Chance, Despite Pleas.”

I could have told them that months earlier. Even if the Senate had passed a bill, it would have had to get through the Republican-controlled House. But the effort’s futility was apparently news to Steinhauer, who for days had been filing suspenseful reports with headlines like “Centerpiece of Gun Bill Remains in Doubt,” “Threat to Block Debate on Guns Appears to Fade in Senate,” and even, on the day of the vote, “Senate Sets Flurry of Crucial Votes on Gun Measures.” How could they have been crucial if the outcome was predetermined?

Most striking, though, was this passage:

At a moment when the national conversation about how best to stem the menace of guns in the wrong hands seemed to have shifted, it turned out that the political dynamic had not.

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Nuts to Nutter

By From the May 2013 issue

Blacks are on the defensive about white racism and whites are on the defensive about the accusation of racism, almost universally regarded as a grave moral offense.
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Gray Lady Dumps Darwin

By From the March 2013 issue

It turns out you can deny evolution and get published on the New York Times op-ed page. Dan Slater did just that, in a January piece called “Darwin Was Wrong About Dating.” Slater, author of a book about online dating, set out to debunk one aspect of a subspecialty known as evolutionary psychology, which, among other things, seeks to use Darwinism to explain behavioral differences between men and women.

Evolutionary psychology suggests that differences in sexual be­havior, which we tend to understand in moral or cultural terms, are biologically rooted. Since the male makes the lesser investment in reproduction, men are driven to favor quantity over quality. They are especially attracted to youth and beauty because these are signs of fertility. One man can reproduce with many women, so there is no evolutionary need to be selective. The most efficient way to pass on a genetic legacy is to father as many children by as many women as possible.

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The Medium Is the Motive

By From the February 2013 issue

If these killers seek recognition, it is available to them because the mass media can be counted on to pay a great deal of attention to their horrific deeds.
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Taranto’s Revenge

By From the December 2012 - January 2013 issue

PRIOR TO ELECTION DAY, I had been planning a triumphal column explaining how Mitt Romney’s victory vindicated the Taranto Principle, but events intervened. Here instead is a circumspect column explaining how Barack Obama’s victory vindicated the Taranto Principle.

The Taranto Principle, named after yours truly by Spectator editor R. Emmett Tyrrell, posits that the liberal media’s uncritical coverage often disserves liberal politicians by making them complacent, thus encouraging bad or foolish behavior. The classic example is from 2004, when journalists failed to question John Kerry’s self-presentation as a war hero. Along came the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, and Kerry was undone by a scandal for which an adversarial press would have left him prepared. (See “Kerry’s Quagmire,” TAS, July/August 2005.)

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Jaws ‘12

By From the November 2012 issue

The mainstream media tends to view their authority as an entitlement rather than a trust.
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PBS, R.I.P.

By From the April 1995 issue

It is time to finally settle the argument about public broadcasting: End federal funding now. Congress had no business offering it in the first place. Lost in all the noise now about the peril to Big Bird and Barney is the indisputable fact that public broadcasting is part of the press, and the press is supposed to be independent of government. The Founding Fathers recognized this with the First Amendment, and everyone else should now recognize it, too. There is simply no way around this. The arguments about public broadcasting will remain, intractable and insoluble, so long as it stays on the dole.

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God Save This Voluble Court

By From the September 2012 issue

ONE OF THE MOST UNUSUAL ASPECTS of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision upholding Obamacare was the speed with which journalists punctured the court’s secrecy. Three days after the ruling in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, CBS’s Jan Crawford, citing “two sources with specific knowledge” of the court’s deliberations, re ported that Chief Justice John Roberts had initially voted to hold the individual mandate unconstitutional, then changed his mind. Two days after that, lefty law prof Paul Campos reported at Salon.com that “a source within the court with direct knowledge of the drafting process” had confirmed the Roberts flip but also claimed, contrary to Crawford’s account, that the chief justice had drafted much of what ended up being the dissenting opinion of four associate justices.

Whatever the truth of the details in dispute, and apart from the legal merits of the case, the leaks reflect poorly on Roberts’ management. The Court looked like a dysfunctional executive agency or political campaign, with aggrieved players pleading their cases anonymously to the press.

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