I was formulating my second comment on the thread when I hit "Preview" and discovered the article had been flushed down The Memory Hole by Politics Daily. Fortunately, I had the screen still active in another tab of my browser. Sorry, Christopher Weber, the plunger will do you no good -- it's here to stay, to your everlasting shame.
Meghan Stapleton, Sarah Palin's official spokesperson, smacked down the rumor with great prejudice within hours. Strangely, she has been chided (along with her boss) by Politico.com's Jonathan Martin and other MSM figures because she, it is implied, unnecessarily stooped to respond to totally baseless rumors that the former Governor of Alaska was leaving her husband of two decades.
You see, the leftist, media elitist Palin critics -- the same ones that had trouble containing their hot-and-runny enthusiasm for the candidacy and election of Barack Obama -- don't appreciate being "bashed." They act as if they are perpetually blameless, and complain that she is unfairly tarring responsible "journalists" by saying they are in the habit of "making things up" about her. Their defense is, in part, that she is in reality responding to less-reputable non-professional sources, and lumping professionals in among them.
Here's how Martin put it in a supposed hard news story from Saturday, August 1, 2009 titled "Sarah Palin beats press to blog claim":
By having her spokeswoman repeat the charges to rebut them in a public form (sic), Palin effectively guaranteed coverage from the mainstream media that otherwise would not report claims attributed to unnamed sources on an anonymous blog.
Last month, just after announcing that she would resign, Palin similarly had her attorney issue a stinging letter threatening news organizations with defamation lawsuits if they reported on blog rumors that she was facing federal indictment. In doing so, Palin’s attorney recounted in detail the issue at the center of the accusations – that as Wasilla mayor she embezzled money from the construction of a town sports arena. Until the letter, the rumor had been confined to blogs. (Justice Department officials subsequently said there was no investigation.)
Going public with denials of these sort of charges may represent an odd sort of preemptive defense.
Maybe it's "odd" to a longtime Washington writer, but to this longtime news consumer, not so much. What is so strange about rooting out the chaff from the wheat before the public can't tell the difference? After all, in the thick of 2008 Presidential campaign, Mr. Martin (along with his Politico colleague Ben Smith) wasn't at all critical of the Obama campaign when it first took direct action against viral emails alleging that the then-freshman Senator was either Muslim, unpatriotic, or foreign-born.
From The Politico, May 21, 2008:
The main obstacle standing between Barack Obama and the White House was distilled into five words by a local television correspondent in South Charleston, W.Va., earlier this month.
Prefacing a question about the challenges of winning over white, blue-collar voters, the reporter offered this observation: “They think you are un-American,” he said.
Such questions, asked by reporters and plainly on the minds of voters in Appalachia and elsewhere, are the fruits of an unprecedented, subterranean e-mail campaign.
What began as a demonstrably false attempt to cast Obama as a Muslim has now metastasized into something far more threatening to the likely Democratic nominee. The spurious claims about his faith have spiraled into a broader assault that questions his patriotism and citizenship and generally portrays him as a threat to mainstream, white America.
[T]his [anti-Obama smear campaign] would be a shameful but largely irrelevant mark on this historic election but for one thing: Voters widely and repeatedly cite information that has been gleaned directly or indirectly from the e-mails to explain why they won’t support Obama.
It seems that Martin & Smith and their media brethren felt compelled to take action to debunk, disprove, and expose (and perhaps malign) spreaders of internet inaccuracies about Obama. On the other hand, when it came to the sliming of Sarah Palin, they felt they were acting professionally and responsibly by simply by refusing to relay the lies, leaving it (for the most part) to the McCain campaign to play Whack-a-Smear all by itself. And now, more than a year later, Palin is not supposed to be preventing people from "cit[ing] information that has been gleaned directly or indirectly from the e-mails" slandering her.
Perhaps Mr. Martin can explain what is "odd" about Palin's recent aggressive strategy, since this latest malicious divorce rumor would be far from the first time scurrilous, sensational Web rumors and/or grievous factual errors about Palin and her family crossed over into the world of professional "journalism."
The most famous example of how web-borne anti-Palin propaganda leached into "legitimate" news is the way ABC News anchor Charles Gibson, in his ballyhooed first in-depth TV interview with the newly-crowned Vice Presidential candidate aired September 11, 2008, falsely suggested that Palin might believe that the Iraq War was -- in his words, not hers --"a holy war."
Below are video evidence of how The Big "Task From God" Lie went from the Internet to the MSM to right in front of Sarah Palin's face, with Charles Gibson demanding she explain why she said something she never said, and how ABC News covered up how it was duped into believing it.
Here is the way ABC News first presented this portion of the full interview on the September 11, 2008 edition of ABC World News with Charles Gibson:
NOTE: The full transcript of that part of the Gibson interview revealed that Palin rightly disputed he was quoting her correctly. ABC News either knew or should have known by World News' air time 9/11/08 that Gibson's characterization of her remarks was deceptive, but ran that portion of the eagerly-anticpated interview anyway.
Giving Gibson the benefit of the doubt that he did NOT deliberately attempt to smear the Governor or edit the video to distort her meaning, he at the very least had fallen for a deceptively-edited YouTube video of her June 2008 appearance at a commencement ceremony at Wasilla Assembly of God church. That video clip is used to this day by Obama supporters to bolster other dubious anecdotes to portray Palin as a "bible thumper" who would -- should she become President -- wage "holy war" based on her personal interpretation of God's will (a hysterical charge made against every Republican Commander-in-Chief since Reagan).
Here is the original video of her statement, in context, followed by my verbatim transcript:
“My oldest, my son Track, he's a soldier in the United States Army now, he's an infantryman. And, uh, and so Track sends his love also, to his former nanny, Christie (sp?). And Track -- Pray for our military! He's going to be deployed in September to Iraq. Pray for our military men and women, who are striving to do what is right. Also, for this country, that our leaders, our national leaders, are sending them out on a task that is from God. That’s what we have to make sure that we’re praying for, that there is a plan and that that plan is God’s plan. And so, bless them with your prayers, your prayers of protection over our soldiers."
To any intelligent, intellectually honest observer, it's crystal clear that Palin was taking a moment out of her planned remarks to the graduates to request prayers to God to 1) protect American soldiers in Iraq, and 2) to "also" guide the decisions of the nation's leaders in Washington. No honest interpretation of her words suggests that Palin was in her remarks endorsing the Iraq War as "a holy war." But that ridiculous idea was promoted from Net Natterings to Important Issue before a national TV audience by none other than NBC anchor Brian Williams.
Here's video evidence of that fact. The video goes over ground covered above because it is cross-posted on YouTube, and the details are new to folks who haven't read this blog entry.
(NOTE: This video contains scenes from John Ziegler's 2009 documentary Media Malpractice: How Obama Got Elected and Palin Was Targeted, available on DVD at HowObamaGotElected.com)
The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto had all the debunking details by the morning of September 9, nearly a week after Palin's blockbuster acceptance speech. By that time, Joe Klein & Brian Williams had lent credence to the tall tale before millions of NBC News watchers and whichever concerned (yet gullible) folks were activated by it.
So for Jonathan Martin and all those who suggest that Sarah Palin was actually spreading the divorce rumor further and faster than "legitimate" news sources would have allowed, here are the facts (as if you didn't know): Palin news is gold. It spreads like wildfire regardless of the gravitas of the source. Everybody seems to have a desire to either report or opine about her, professionals and amateurs alike. This is not limited to the National Enquirer & Us Weekly crowd, as much as a lot of reports regarding her belong there; "hard" news loves Sarah Palin just as much because she stirs up passion, positive or negative. That translates into magazine and newspaper sales and web traffic. To wit: For most of the month of July, the front page of ABCNews.com had a "Sarah Palin" link right next to its "Michael Jackson" link. That's right, next to the late King of Pop. Not bad for someone that -- according to conventional wisdom -- is a has-been that nobody serious took seriously.
If Mr. Martin from The Politico wants to argue that a story in Politics Daily (operated by America Online, America's third-largest Internet Provider) isn't the same as if it was in, say, The Politico, he should consider -- or, to be more precise, acknowledge -- that since AOL's MediaGlow division introduced Politics Daily in April, its readership has shot like a rocket past that of The Politico.
Here's analysis from ComScore, published on TechCrunch.com June 20, 2009. Click to enlarge and look at the chart. See the red line? That's the readership of Politico.com dating back to May 2008. It's like a roller coaster, peaking in late October 2008 at about 2.4 million unique views, and sliding down after the November election to slightly over the million view-level since then. Now, take a look at that blue line all the way to the right of the chart. THAT is Politics Daily, and its trajectory is like a rocket, zooming up to 2.4 million in less than two months. Based on that information, it is possible that more people read Politics Daily writer Christopher Weber's shameful re-routing of the blog-borne Palin divorce rumors (before it was deleted later that afternoon) than Martin's half-hearted quashing of the rumor on The Politico.
Probably even more read the of the divorce fantasy via Jeanne Devon (aka AK Muckraker), a rabid anti-Palin blogger cross-posted on the (inexplicably) popular Huffington Post. Devon was one of those Alaska bloggers who published promises that Palin's resignation would eventually be proved to be due to that apocryphal Federal investigation into embezzlement by the Palins. No less an authority than the FBI ended those rumors by saying there was no truth to them and that the Palins were and are NOT under investigation. This time around, Devon did publish Stapleton's complete and categorical denial of the divorce rumor, but she pretended it was only partial.
The tech revolution that makes every individual a potential journalist -- or, at the least, a widely-read writer -- cuts the old news source/news consumer paradigm with a two-edged sword. When you sign on to the Wild Wild Web, you might find yourself the beneficiary of a private individual who scoops the entire world (a la Matt Drudge's tip on The Lewinsky Affair, or the Iranian Tweeters) or the victim of someone who goes off half-cocked and hits "send" too early (Drudge falsely claiming Clinton staffer Sidney Blumenthal was arrested for domestic violence, false Tweets that actor Jeff Goldblum died). Remember that most people heard about the death of Michael Jackson from TMZ.com, which was the first to confirm it, but weeks later, TMZ falsely confirmed that the alive-and-well "mixed martial arts" fighter Kimo Leopoldo had died.
(For a thorough decimation of the haters' sewerful of lies about Palin, there's only one place to go: Conservatives4Palin.com).
The democratization of publishing that began with Johannes Gutenberg's loosening the grip of the clergy on the Holy Bible has now diluted the traditional monoliths' authority as news sources. There once was a time when there was the newspaper, there was television, and there was the Internet, and never the three would meet. No more. Print and video have given way to the modern miracle of the Internet, and must be assimilated to assure their survival in a hypercompetitive market. Because all the news now comes out of the same pipeline as malicious mendacities penned by bilious bloggers, what was once was easily dismissed by most as mere gossip is accepted by too many as pure gospel.
Mark Twain is credited with saying that that "A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes." Ponder the fact that during most of Twain's existence, the fastest communication medium was the telegraph! Maybe Mr. Martin thinks it only sporting to grant the Palinphobes a head start. Governor Palin -- that is, Mrs. Palin, current and future --has little left to lose at present, and has no problem rewarding those charging from the blocks before the starter's pistol with a warning shot of her own. Get used to the sound, Mr. Martin -- Click, click! BOOM!
Lest someone think that the failures of uncredentialed web scrawlers is a case for the continued dominance of the self-righteous J-schoolers of the media titans, not so fast. Walter Cronkite has passed away, but even before his heart stopped beating, the concept of an individual being deemed "The Most Trusted Man in America" beat him to his grave. The general public has no handbook giving them guidance as to which information source out of the new myriads are believable and which are not. Such a publication would have come in handy when weeding out the Charles Foster Kane-era "Remember the Maine" reports from Hearst newspapers, Walter Duranty's Pulitzer-winning Potemkin Village reports for the New York Times, Janet Cooke's Pulitzer-winning fictional pre-teen smack addict story for the Washington Post, Stephen Glass's amazing tales of conservative decadence and idiocy for The New Republic, and Jayson Blair's NYT eyewitness reportage by "remote viewing." "The news" is now more than ever unworthy of being consumed so thoughtlessly.
Even if there was such a handbook, it likely wouldn't have prepared the public in 2004 for CBS News' living legend Dan Rather (and its signature broadcast 60 Minutes) using forged Texas Air National Guard documents to smear President George W. Bush a month-and-a-half before Election Day. The last thing that idyllic guide would have done is predict that Free Republic -- a commonly-condemned "right-wing" news forum -- would expose Rather and CBS News, leading eventually to his resignation in disgrace, and causing damage to the CBS brand that endures to this day.
Watch yourself, Jonathan Martin. You don't want to be the next Dan Rather. Ask Christopher Weber.