Media Matters' Hacking Charade | The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Media Matters’ Hacking Charade
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Everybody hates hacking, no?

Well, no.

Peering electronically into the cyber business of others is, of course, merely the 21st-century version of that distasteful business cited by Establishment pillar Henry L. Stimson. Stimson, a legendary gentlemen’s gentleman, was so above-board he was summoned by presidents as wildly different as William Howard Taft, Herbert Hoover, Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman to serve as either Secretary of War (twice) or as Secretary of State.

The notion that anyone would deliberately open and read communications intended for someone else was utterly if not horrifyingly disgraceful to Stimson.

Times have changed.

Unless of course, you are Media Matters. Or, for that matter, just about anyone on the American Left — or for that matter the Left anywhere.

Amid all the hubbub about Media Matters having managed to obtain a tax-exempt status that tax experts say is a sham, we find a curious double-standard.

Media Matters, funded by left-wing gazillionaire George Soros, hates Fox News. (And all things conservative, but they love to hate Fox News especially. If your side was pumping out partisan gas disguised as news at places like the broadcast networks, CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times, the Washington Post — to name a few — unchallenged, for decades and decades…well, you’d hate Fox News and the Fair and Balanced crew too.) But it’s not possible for rabid lefties to hate Fox News without really hating Rupert Murdoch and the News Corporation. Murdoch, of course, is the media entrepreneur who will be forever regarded in America as the man who made it possible to break the liberal media monopoly.

The News Corporation, aside from being the parent company of Fox, is quite famously a global media company. Newspapers, television and radio networks, a movie studio, satellite and Internet ventures — a veritable candy store of media properties. All painstakingly — at considerable risk and with considerable skill — built from a platform that was one, just one, lonely newspaper in Adelaide, Australia.

Mr. Murdoch (as we discussed here some time ago when he was in a battle to own The Wall Street Journal) is where he is, to the fury of Media Matters and left-wingers around the globe, because he always “…had a crystal clear vision of where he was headed, had the guts to continually embrace change and risk, and worked tirelessly to understand the nitty-gritty of his business.

As with any human life or enterprise there are bumps in the road — mistakes or errors — along the way. And a Murdoch publication in Britain — the 168-year-old tabloid News of the World — has just hit the wall in a 21st-century style.  Long story short, the paper has been accused of hacking, and the charges are indeed serious. News stories on this side of the pond allege hacking by News of the World journalists or investigators working for the paper into voice mails of all manner of British citizens, including, says Reuters, “celebrities, politicians or people involved in major stories…The latest claim on Thursday alleged the paper hacked the phones of relatives of British soldiers killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Pretty bad. News Corporation has responded by pulling the plug on the paper completely, its last issue coming out this past Sunday. The paper, said James Murdoch (one of Rupert Murdoch’s two sons and a senior executive of News Corporation) has “been sullied by behavior that was wrong.” James Murdoch went on to say, according to The Washington Post, that the paper:

has a proud history of fighting crime, exposing wrong-doing and regularly setting the news agenda for the nation,” James Murdoch said. But those attributes “have been sullied by behavior that was wrong,” he said. “Indeed, if recent allegations are true, it was inhuman and has no place in our company. The News of the World is in the business of holding others to account. But it failed when it came to itself.”

Referring to the phone-hacking scandal, the younger Murdoch, deputy chief operating officer of his father’s News Corp., said the newspaper “failed to get to the bottom of repeated wrongdoing that occurred without conscience or legitimate purpose.” He added, “Wrongdoers turned a good newsroom bad and this was not fully understood or adequately pursued.” He pledged that “those who acted wrongly will have to face the consequences.”

But here’s what’s so…ahhhh…interesting. And most certainly going unnoticed.

Over there at Media Matters — the place where they are conducting a “war” on Fox News and News Corporation (as in this latest gem of liberal-think wherein MM summons ABC to ever-so-subtly insinuate that Murdoch is the head of a criminal industry) — there’s something else going on. An insinuation that because Murdoch owns both News of the World and Fox News that Fox and its staff are somehow part of this supposed vast international criminal syndicate whose real crime is to dare to dissent from the left-wing agenda? No, not quite.

No, the curious story here is that…gasp!!!!…could it be????….Media Matters and their comrades really don’t have their knickers in a knot over the idea of hacking at all! No, shocking as it may be, the real problem for MM and liberals is that they only object to hacking — reading other people’s communications — if the readers are doing it illegally from some way station in the Murdoch Empire.

But on principle? Media Matters loves hacking and hackers. Liberals get a thrill up their leg at the very thought of illegally reading other people’s stuff. Let’s go to the record:

June 23, 2006Media Matters defends illegal leaks to New York Times.

The New York Times obtains classified information on the Bush administration’s “Swift Program.” The program, a legal terrorist-tracking effort of the Treasury Department centering on financial transactions, had its cover blown by Times — over the strenuous objections of President Bush and others cleared for knowledge of the super-secret program. 

The information, like that obtained by the Murdoch-owned News of the World, was gathered surreptitiously by the Times. Making them, as charged the Weekly Standard at the time, a serious national security threat.

As with hacking phone e-mails in Great Britain, it is illegal to hand out classified information in the United States. Whether it’s done over a computer (sending the info through e-mail, links or e-mail attachments) or the more old-fashioned route of Xeroxing a copy to be slipped to some decidedly un-cleared Times reporter in some corner of a darkened garage.

Either way, big trouble.

Unless, of course, you are the lefties at Media Matters who immediately jumped to defend the idea of illegally obtaining classified information. Here MM targets conservatives for their “vitriol” in calling out the Times for publication of clearly illegally-obtained classified information. Some of the conservatives mentioned had called the Times‘ actions “treasonous” — which is to say criminal. Unlike MM’s phony fury at Murdoch and the News of the World — a case where the company has stepped up to the plate, accepted responsibility, fired the perpetrators and closed the paper — here MM is citing conservatives because they opposed the idea of illegally obtaining classified information, then publishing it. Included in the list of those cited for scorn by Media Matters are Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, William Kristol, Brent Bozell, Andrew McCarthy and Newt Gingrich.

In a separate story, MM cited numerous mainstream media papers who defended the acceptance of illegally-obtained information from charges that it was “treasonous.” 

Not satisfied, the group also ran New York Times editor Bill Keller’s defense of accepting illegally-obtained information, in which Keller says that the Times had been “offered access to the material for about a month before its release.” Notice Media Matters does not note that the access Keller is discussing here as having been “offered” was, by its very definition as classified material, considerably illegal. Keller, in turn, lovingly describes the ease with which tapping in illegally to private information can take place, saying: 

The digital age has changed the dynamics of disobedience in at least one respect. It used to be that someone who wanted to cheat on his vow of secrecy had to work at it. Daniel Ellsberg tried for a year to make the Pentagon Papers public. There was a lot of time to have second thoughts or to get caught. It is now at least theoretically possible for a whistle-blower or a traitor to act almost immediately and anonymously. Click on a Web site, upload a file, go home and wait.

 Ahhh… how lovely! Just upload and wait!

July 27, 2010Wikileaks celebrated as the new Pentagon Papers.

Media Matters’ Joe Strupp includes this story in his list of favorite stories posted as part of his “Strupp Stuff: My Media Mix.” Interestingly, Strupp is reported here to be one of two people assigned by Media Matters to investigate Fox News. Back around this time last year, however, Strupp made a point of linking to this story at the Washington Post. Hyped with the note to “check these out”, the second story on Strupp’s list was headlined this way: Daniel Ellsburg: Wikileaks Has Strong Parallels To Pentagon Papers.

The story includes an interview with Daniel Ellsberg, famous back in the day for — yes, you guessed it — illegally obtaining classified information. The information in question known eventually as “The Pentagon Papers.” Ellsberg and another colleague involved were prosecuted under The Espionage Act of 1917. The charges included theft and conspiracy. What saved Ellsberg from a potential 115-year stint in prison? Watergate. It was Ellsberg who had his psychiatrist’s office burgled as part of the incredible series of Watergate crimes — and on that basis the judge simply refused to let the trial go forward. So Ellsberg, through a fluke, got off the hook.

Yet whether it’s Media Matters or other leftist sites, the adoration for the very idea of illegally obtaining information by any means necessary is celebrated out there more vividly than Anthony Weiner’s private parts were celebrated on Twitter. And that’s saying something. Here’s praise at Altnernet in a piece called  Why WikiLeaks is Essential. Take note of the opening sentence:

“WikiLeaks has been criminalized for doing, in essence, fundamental investigative work to keep people informed.”

Mind you, this is exactly the attitude that Rupert Murdoch has insisted is not acceptable at News Corporation — and in response to what he has learned people have lost their jobs and a very old newspaper closed completely.

Over here is a Daily Kos celebration of Wikileaks as “a VERY big deal,” with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and his colleagues lauded as “brilliant” for their illegal hacking.

And who could forget Michael Moore, who released this statement announcing he was posting bail for the newest hacking star of the moment, Wikileaks’s Assange? “WikiLeaks deserves our thanks…” Moore proclaimed. He said more on the then-MSNBC show of Keith Olbermann. (Where Olbermann snapped of Assange critic Bob Beckel, a lifetime Democrat who served as a Deputy Secretary of State before managing Vice President Walter Mondale’s presidential campaign, that Beckel was Fox’s “pet ex-Democrat.” Why the slap at a liberal Democrat? Because Beckel displayed his always-charming shyness and said one option to deal with Assange’s rampant illegality would be to “illegally shoot the son of a b…”)

So.

What, exactly are we witnessing here?

What we have here is the (usual) massive left-wing hypocrisy about illegally obtaining information. 

It’s OK to illegally steal information. As long as you’re a left-winger furthering The Cause.

From Daniel Ellsberg and The Pentagon Papers to the New York Times terrorist bank data program to Wikileaks’ Julian Assange, if you are a left-winger and have managed to steal classified information, either physically or by using the good-old 21st-century hacking style, you are one big hero. Your bail gets paid, you can hit the speaking circuit, and you certainly are in no danger of closing your newspaper. 

But woe betide the News Corporation — or, for that matter, any conservative establishment where a few employees go off the track. You can acknowledge the mistake. You can apologize. You can fire people. You can close the paper. You can take every single action consistent with that major conservative principle — the idea of the rule of law. But you will still get criticized.

And people on the left — whether at Media Matters or The New York Times, AlterNet or Daily Kos or Michael Moore or Olbermann of MSNBC and now Al Gore’s Current TV — will still be out front celebrating those whose actions are in fact legally associated with plain old-fashioned theft.

The plain and simple truth is that whether the information stolen is a voice mail in London or a document from the State Department or Pentagon in Washington, theft is theft.

Once upon a time, an American President talked about this problem with the Left. He knew it well.

Said President Ronald Reagan at his very first press conference, describing a problem with the famous leftists of his day: “They reserve unto themselves the right to commit any crime; to lie; to cheat.”

And so they do.

With Media Matters cheering them on.

Edited to remove duplicative paragraph. 

Jeffrey Lord
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Jeffrey Lord, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is a former aide to Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp. An author and former CNN commentator, he writes from Pennsylvania at jlpa1@aol.com. His new book, Swamp Wars: Donald Trump and The New American Populism vs. The Old Order, is now out from Bombardier Books.
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