There's an old definition of an "honest" politician -- "one who, once bought, stays bought." There's a refreshing bluntness in that definition, something that's all too rare in these days.
One place where you can find such blunt honesty is at Media Matters For America. Their mission statement clearly defines what they see as their prime directive:
Media Matters for America is a Web-based, not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media.
Got that? They only worry about CONSERVATIVE misinformation in the U.S. Media. Anything else? They are not interested.
That means that if a matter does not have an angle that involves "conservative misinformation," they don't worry about it. And if they want to get into some story, they have to have some kind of "conservative misinformation" angle to justify it.
Such as, say, the recent "astroturfing" of the Sarah Palin smear video by a vice president of a PR firm who has hefty ties, both familial and professional, to Democratic politics.
Well, Media Matters has decided to weigh in on the matter. And how to justify digging into this expose' of out-and-out fraud?
OK, now that they've got their pretext for "monitoring" this subject, how well do they do at "analyzing and correcting" it?
Jawa was at the center of an overexcited right-wing blog launch Monday morning ("extensive research" was involved!) with a completely circumstantial report that basically accused somebody who may or may not have had indirect relations with the Obama campaign of posting an anti-Palin video on YouTube "aimed at discouraging people from voting for McCain/Palin." Period.
I'll ignore the sneering "extensive research)" dig, and start with the "cimpletely circumstantial" part of the allegation.
Yup, the Jawa Report's story was completely circumstantial. Big whoop. They said up front they had no smoking gun, just an incredibly long chain of events and evidence and facts that, put together, represented either exactly what they alleged or the biggest series of coincidences the world has ever seen -- by far.
And Media Matters' summary of the charges? Rusty and colleagues "basically acused somebody who may or may not have had indirect relations with the Obama campaign of posting an anti-Palin video on YouTube."
Nice summary, missing some nuances that might have been too subtle for the razor-sharp wits at Media Matters.
The "somebody" in question is a professional in the field of public relations, and works for a firm that has a record of producing such political videos. Ethan Winner is no amateur, but a professional -- and, as such, has access to resources that the average person would have to pay through the nose to get.
As for as "may or may not have had indirect relations with the Obama campaign," that would be through Obama's Chief Media Strategist, David Axelrod. Axelrod worked with the firm's founder back in the 1990's. The voiceover artist's voice bears a striking resemblance to a woman whom Axelrod has employed for at least one Obama ad. And that same woman seems to be Axelrod's agency's main female voice artist.
And that video is not merely an "anti-Palin video." It asserts as fact something that has been definitively proven as false. To the average person, that is called a "lie."
It states that Sarah Palin was a member of the Alaska Independence Party. In response to this allegation when it first arose, Palin released her complete voter registration records from the day she first registered to vote -- and proved, conclusively, using official government records (the forging of which is a felony) that she had joined the Republican Party back in May of 1982, and has never left the party -- the only changes she has made were of name (when she married) and of address (whenever she moved).
This lie was debunked over a week before the ad was posted, and it's simply not credible that anyone so obsessed with Palin's alleged involvement with the AIP would not know about the public release of the voter registration records.
So, here we are into the second paragraph (ignoring the sneering introductory paragraph), and we already have three major points of "misinformation" from Media Matters. Does it get better?
Oh, hell, no.
We know, it didn't make much sense to us either. We guess Jawa's point was that the Obama campaign was somehow trying to create the perception of a viral video when in fact the clip was professionally made. We're talking real above-the-fold breaking news, right?
Wrong. From the Jawa Report's original story:
This does not mean that we believe that Barack Obama's campaign is behind the stealth Palin smear campaign. In fact, a preliminary analysis of Obama's campaign expenditures filed with the FEC did not find any payouts to Winner & Associates or Publicis. But our familiarity with how to search FEC expenditures is limited, and there are tens of thousands of recorded transactions.
Does Media Matters even READ the stuff they're trying to debunk?
Well, it turns out the Los Angeles-based public relations specialist who Jawa accused of being the Obama bag man on the YouTube clip, Ethan Winner, did in fact create the video. He did it himself and paid for it himself and the campaign was not involved in making or spreading the YouTube clip. (Even if the Obama team was involved, so what?)
So, the Jawas got it right. They said Ethan Winner was involved in the video. And he stated that he created it himself, paid for it, and spread it around all on his own.
Do we believe his confession? I don't.
He was busted because he used the user name "eswinner" to plug the video -- it was that kind of arrogant stupidity that made the Jawa's job so easy. But two other identities were used to promote the video -- "cnwinner," which matches quite nicely with his father and boss, Charles N. Winner, and "stckyfngz," an identity used by his colleague (and non-relative) Jared Liu-Klein at ESPN.com.
So, Ethan on his own whipped up identities based on his father and one of his colleagues to spread his video? In particular, one of his colleagues with lengthy and strong ties to Democratic politics?
Again, it strains credibility.
As far as the part where Ethan Winner "did it himself and paid for it himself," we have only his word for it. He clearly didn't do it all himself. The voiceover was by a professional voice artist, not him (unless he has an extremely feminine voice).
So, who was the artist? He doesn't say. In fact, he specifically says that she has NOT been paid yet, and will not until she submits an invoice. So we don't know if she is the same woman whom David Axelrod has used extensively in the past, and whose voice is a dead ringer for the woman Ethan Winner used.
Finally, "(e)ven if the Obama campaign was involved, so what?" Well, I happen to think that it would be important if it was discovered that a presidential campaign had been directly involved in producing a video that asserted defamatory out-and-out lies about the vice-presidential candidate of the other party. And so do a lot of other people.
(Before certain idiots start blathering about "the ties between Palin and the AIP that need to be explored," let's shoot that down right now. The video doesn't discuss nebulous "ties," it asserts -- in absolute language -- that Palin was a MEMBER. That has been completely and utterly disproven, with legal documents and everything.)
Winner made this sort of glaringly obvious observation about the rise of user-generated media, which the right-wing bloggers just don't get:
Just like the thousands of Americans who have posted videos on the Internet regarding the current Presidential campaign, I produced this video as an expression of my right to free speech, which is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
Note that Winner pulled the YouTube clip in question because after JaWa published personal information about him, his family started receiving threatening and abusive phone calls and emails.
Um... no. Winner pulled the video MINUTES after the Jawa Report story was published. And that story was published at 11:32 last Sunday night -- a very odd time for a professional like Ethan Winner to be awake and surfing right-wing websites like the Jawa Report.
Ethan Winner says it was because he was getting harassing phone calls and e-mails, and that is why he took down the videos. Now, fifteen minutes is very damned fast for people to take the Jawa Report's story and track down some way to contact him at midnight on a Sunday -- but it's just enough time for a "klong" moment -- a term I first heard years ago as "a sudden rush of shit to the heart." Patterico had his own term, one picked up from his career as a criminal prosecutor -- "consciousness of guilt."
So really, just another day at the office for the can't-shoot-straight gang on the far side of the blogosphere, which is now reduced to analyzing audio snippets of the voice-over pro who helped with the YouTube clip because she apparently is the key to unlocking this (none) mystery.
Could that be because identifying the voiceover artist COULD unlock the whole story? Because if she is the same woman who seems to be an exclusive "property" of David Axelrod, then we have our linkage to Obama's Chief Media Strategist -- who has made a very successful career out of this kind of "astroturfing."
I can understand Media Matters' incompetence in matters like these. They specialize in dealing with conservative misinformation; they have chosen to deliberately turn a blind eye to liberal
misinformation lies. As such, they simply don't have any experience or skill at dealing with such matters.
What I don't understand is why they want to to to such lengths to expose their incompetence.