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5 of the Biggest Hacks in American Media

Excerpted from Alex Pareene and Salon's 2011 Hack List, here are five of the worst, most predictable and least interesting pundits in America.

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When he’s not hyperbolic and violent, he’s  just wrong and lame.

And it gets no lamer or wronger than  the “We are the 53% movement,” a stillborn, inadvertently hilarious right-wing response to Occupy Wall Street involving self-proclaimed members of the producer class crowing about their Randian productivity while decrying everyone else as leeches. The name was taken from the premise that “only” 53 percent of Americans pay taxes, which is true only of federal income taxes, and is true only because there are a lot of  poor Americans, and a few lucky Americans who are skilled at taking advantage of Republican-supported tax loopholes.

Erickson led off the “53%” movement by declaring that he “works three jobs,” at least two of which are simply spewing a never-ending stream of risible bullshit. Other contributors to the “We are the 53%” site included a number of people who were clearly  not in the 53 percent, being apparently unaware that they were clear beneficiaries of government social spending, or in one instance,  being a dog.

Surprisingly, not his 53 percent activism. The hackiest thing Erick Erickson did all year was withdraw support from an insurgent GOP candidate  because his rich bosses are personal friends of George Allen. That’s the sign of a true careerist hack right there.

4. David Brooks

Last year, we gave New York Times columnist and liberal editors’ favorite moderate conservative David Brooks grief for being milquetoast and lazy. But this year, let’s hand it to the guy: When you want a truly vile opinion dressed up to sound innocuous, Brooks is your guy.

He can make  a defense of racist demagoguing sound benign. He obfuscates and misleads  on income inequality, while, as always, accusing those damned coastal liberal elites of disrespecting Real Americans. Accusing liberals of disrespecting Real Americans is one of Brooks’ go-to lines, even though there’s absolutely no evidence that he has any clue whatsoever how the middle and working classes live in America in 2011.

Everything, with Brooks,  comes down to “values.” Bad things happen because of a lack of the correct “values,” and the correct “values” are essentially white upper-middle-class mid-20th-century bourgeois values. Poverty happens because the poor don’t have those values.  Earthquakeshappen because of a lack of those values. The sexual abuse of childrenhappens because — you guessed it — America lost those important pre-’60s values. The abuses at Penn State, in Brooks’ worldview, went unreported because America has become “a society oriented around our inner wonderfulness.”

That linked column on the abuses at Penn State was the sanitized version of Brooks’ comments on “Meet the Press,” in which he blamed both the failure to report the sexual abuses to the police and the riots following the firing of Joe Paterno  more explicitly on “30 or 40 years” of “muddying the moral waters.” If it weren’t for women’s lib and the self-esteem movement, those kids could’ve been protected!

5. Megyn Kelly

Megyn Kelly is  one of Fox News chief Roger Ailes’ favorites, and it’s easy to see why: She’s equal parts gorgeous and belligerent. She’s smart and quick enough to hold her own in any interview, and she has no qualms about beating the drum for whatever crackpot right-wing story line the network’s lead propagandists are currently pushing, no matter how dubious. Hence, we get a year’s worth of  terrifying stories on the awesome political power of the New Black Panther Party, complete with unlikely Justice Department conspiracy theories and b-roll footage designed to unnerve old white viewers. When the story has outlived its usefulness, it’s summarily forgotten, and we move on to the next tale.

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