Media

Taking Apart Bill O'Reilly's Shoddy Journalism

It's not the first time Bill O'Reilly has targeted the progressive blogosphere with with disingenuous attacks. Now, the netroots movement returns the fire.
On Monday night, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly aired a segment full of misleading, inaccurate claims attacking the upcoming YearlyKos blogger convention, its namesake DailyKos, and one of the event's sponsors, JetBlue. In his "report," O'Reilly cherry-picked an extreme minority of reader comments and diaries from the hundreds of thousands on DailyKos, claiming them to be representative of the community website and the greater netroots movement that will be gathering in Chicago on Aug. 2-5, 2007, for the progressive convention. Calling the netroots "the radical left" and DailyKos "hatemongerers" like "the Ku Klux Klan" and "the Nazi Party," O'Reilly compared YearlyKos to "a David Duke convention," calling it "one of the worst examples of hatred America has to offer"." O'Reilly's segment, which has been latched on to by his ideological allies in the conservative blogosphere, is an attempt to discredit a movement that "each day" is having "more impact" on America's political discourse while "helping to renew our democracy." O'Reilly's preemptive attack on the convention is a testament to the fact that the netroots are not a "nutroots" fringe movement as critics would like to characterize it, but rather a snapshot of energized progressive activists agitating for change in America.

Myth of the 'crude,' 'angry,' 'crass' fringe: The shoddy journalism of O'Reilly's YearlyKos hit piece is not the first time the progressive blogosphere has been the target of disingenuous attacks labeling it "the radical left." After several Democratic presidential candidates backed out of Fox News' debates due to the news channel's ideological bent, O'Reilly attacked the grassroots activists who agitated for the pullout, calling them a "radical movement" that uses "propaganda techniques perfected by Dr. Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi minister of information." Searching through two years of Washington Post articles, media writer Eric Boehlert could find just one profile of a progressive blogger. The article -- "The Left, Online and Outraged" -- portrays My Left Wing blogger Maryscott O'Conner as "a Bush-hating lunatic," using such key phrases as "angry," "rage," "fury," "angriest," "outrage," "crude," "loud," "crass," "inflammatory," "attack." As Boehlert notes, the Post's profile of prominent conservative blogger Michelle Malkin was "a Valentine's Day week mash note, presenting Malkin as a pugnacious, on-the-rise pundit who has her liberal critics up in arms." In reality, though, the image of progressive bloggers as "unhinged," as Malkin describes them, is just a myth. The make up and politics of the netroots are actually quite mainstream.

Online activists reflect general population: In a survey conducted by Pew Internet and American Life after the 2006 midterm election, "online political activists" were said to "mirror the general population of those who are civically active." As a group, they are "evenly divided between men and women" with a "racial and ethnic composition" that is "not very different from the general population." Furthermore, many of the causes supported by the netroots have broad support across the country. In a recent analysis of public opinion polls, Center for American Progress fellow Ruy Teixeira found that 68 percent of Americans support withdrawal from Iraq within a year, a key issue for the netroots. Over three-quarters of Americans believe that "the effects of global warming are apparent now," with 60 percent favoring immediate action to address the problem. Like the progressive blogosphere, a solid majority of Americans believe President Bush should not have commuted the sentence of his former aide, Scooter Libby. Seven in 10 Americans believe that current discrepancies between income levels are too large." A majority of Americans support either gay marriage (27 percent) or civil unions (24 percent) while 79 percent of Americansbelieve openly gay people should be able to serve in the military. "A majority of Americans say the federal government should guarantee health insurance to every American, especially children, and are willing to pay higher taxes to do it." These political priorities, which the netroots are working to make a reality, are the priorities of the majority of Americans.

'Bloggers as real people': Held for the first time last year in Las Vegas, Nev., the YearlyKos convention was the premiere gathering for "people from all walks of life who belong to the Netroots community" to "see hundreds of bloggers as real people for perhaps the first time." The event was "heavily covered by the more traditional media, was considered a rousing success, this year's convention is shaping up to be even more impressive. Featuring a Presidential Leadership Forum and panels such as "The Military and Progressives: Are They That Different?" and "The Changing Dynamics of Diversity in Progressive Politics," convention attendees are preparing themselves for three days of intense politicking, networking and social engagement. With public figures such as Arianna Huffington, Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D), Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif., and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., expected to appear on panels, the convention is far from the "radical left" gathering that people such as O'Reilly would like to believe.
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