Bill O'Reilly is a ratings engine for Fox TV.
He knows how to stir the pot - whether the subject is guns, gays, or budget cuts. He's not strictly conservative in all the positions he advocates, and that makes for engaging – and sometimes bombastic – exchanges on his own show 'The O'Reilly Factor" as well as providing fodder for other programs on the Fox TV network to chew on.
On Tuesday, O'Reilly came really close to endorsing gay marriage.
“The compelling argument is on the side of homosexuals ... 'We’re Americans, we just want to be treated like everybody else. That’s a compelling argument, and to deny that you’ve got to have a very strong argument on the other side. And the other side hasn’t been able to do anything but thump the Bible,' said O'Reilly in an exchange with Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly.
O'Reilly closed by saying that “I support civil unions, I always have." The he added: “The gay marriage thing, I don’t feel that strongly about it one way or the other. I think the states should do it.”
So, O'Reilly is pro civil unions, which is not news. He's said that before. And saying that gay marriage is a states' issue – not a federal one – echoes the comments made by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy made during the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) hearing today: "The question is whether or not the federal government, under our federalism scheme, has the authority to regulate marriage."
But O'Reilly didn't exactly endorse gay marriage. He essentially called the argument against gay marriage weak, and described the argument for gay marriage as "compelling."
This is a fence that many Republicans are also trying to perch on. Of late, a few have made rather high profile shifts to the gay marriage side. The biggest was Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio. The Christian Science Monitor's Mark Guarino wrote that "His reversal on the issue [earlier this month] is significant considering he is one of the original backers of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in the 1990s and a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between one man and one woman in 2004."
Still, most GOP politicians who have come out in favor of gay marriage are either no longer in office or have family members who are gay. As The Christian Science Monitor's Linda Feldman writes, the key indicator of a sea change within the Republican Party will be "when a major Republican currently holding elective office in a red state – and who does not have a gay child or another close relative – announces that he or she now supports a right to same-sex marriage."
Many Republicans say it’s just a matter of time. In fact, some Republicans say it’s entirely possible that the GOP’s next presidential nominee will support same-sex marriage. “At the rate this issue is changing within the party, I think it’s not out of the question,” Margaret Hoover, a former George W. Bush White House aide, told Time magazine.
Is Bill O'Reilly getting ready to move into the Sen. Rob Portman's gay marriage camp? According to The Atlantic Wire, he implied that he was during the gay marriage exchange with Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly: "I hate to say this, and next week I've got something that Kelly's really not going to like."
Whatever he announces, O'Reilly will be certain to entertain.
Veteran Fox News host Bill O’Reilly had a real shout-down with regular guest Alan Colmes on the “O’Reilly Factor” earlier this week. The pair were discussing President Obama’s fiscal proposals – specifically, whether the White House has proposed budget cuts to any specific programs. Mr. Colmes opined that he had. Then Mr. O’Reilly went ballistic like a North Korean missile test, jabbing his finger and turning up the volume while the smile on Colmes’s face suddenly went fixed.
“You are lying! You are lying!” yelled O’Reilly.
This exchange has had some resonance in Washington for substantive reasons we’ll get to a moment. But our initial reaction to the whole thing was whether O’Reilly preplanned the exchange.
This does not mean we’re charging journalistic impropriety. O’Reilly is a seasoned pro whose show is the engine that drives Fox ratings. He’s apologized for the personal attack, saying he wished he hadn’t used the word “liar.”
But we’re wondering whether he and his producers had planned an amped-up discussion of the fiscal subject and things just went a little too far.
After all, it’s not like the “O’Reilly Factor” is free-flowing. The genial and generally liberal Colmes is a regular guest who often plays the role of the Washington Generals to O’Reilly’s Harlem Globetrotters. In other words, he’s supposed to provide some opposition and then lose. The only question is the score, not the outcome. Why get angry when it’s your show and you’re going to win?
Second, the tantrum has brought lots of attention to the main point O’Reilly wanted to make. He’s a moralist about the US debt, decrying the trillions-piled-on-trillions as a burden that he says will debase the currency and crush the US economy.
“This spending issue is vital for all of us, and that’s why I’m raising my voice,” said O’Reilly on an apology segment broadcast Wednesday.
Last, the controversy has been great for his network. O’Reilly has been defended on most Fox programs but also skewered by Fox’s Kirsten Powers, who told O’Reilly to his face that he’s “100 percent wrong,” and Mr. Obama has offered specific Medicare cuts.
Maybe O’Reilly doesn’t believe Obama would really make those reductions, or maybe he doesn’t think they’re enough. But it’s wrong to deny their existence, she said.
As far as Fox News chief Roger Ailes is concerned it doesn’t matter which of his employees is right there. It only matters that the dust-up has provided buzzy content for an array of programs. As Joe Concha writes on Mediaite, this is why Fox dominates cable news ratings.
“The audience revels in being able to witness a family fight on an almost-daily basis,” he writes.
As to substance, folks are continuing to argue about this in D.C. because it appears to confirm a deep fear on both sides.
Liberals believe that many Republicans exist in a closed news loop that only feeds their beliefs. Thus the GOP does not realize that Obama has in fact proposed cutting Social Security benefits by changing the way inflation is calculated and reducing Medicare costs by increased means testing of benefits. Ezra Klein at Wonkblog wrote perhaps the definitive post about this earlier this month.
Conservatives meanwhile believe Democrats don’t understand the economy and don’t take debt seriously. They think Obama’s main aim is to recapture the House in 2014 and destroy the Republican Party. In fact, that’s what Colmes and O’Reilly were talking about just before they moved on to fiscal stuff and the resultant explosion.
Hmm ... so maybe O’Reilly was actually boiling after all?
Because the leadership of both political parties and the media are trying to sell the US on an over-the-top, untrue story about the allegedly dire effects of the coming “sequester,” that’s why. At least we think that’s Mr. Limbaugh’s story.
“Ladies and gentlemen, for the first time in my life, I am ashamed of my country. To be watching all of this, to be treated like this, to have our common sense and intelligence insulted the way it’s being insulted? It just makes me ashamed,” said Limbaugh, according to a segment transcript posted on his website.
True, in recent days, the media have been full of stories from administration officials warning of the effects from the $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts known as sequestration, which is set to take effect March 1.
President Obama has talked about everything from effects on military readiness to delays at airports and closed sections of national parks. And GOP leaders have walked the thin line of insisting that big cuts in government spending remain necessary but sequestration would still be a bad thing.
“There is nothing wrong with cutting spending that much – we should be cutting even more – but the sequester is an ugly and dangerous way to do it,” wrote House Speaker John Boehner in a Wall Street Journal op-ed earlier this week.
Thus Limbaugh’s line: Watch out! The professional big-government class and its defenders are just scaring you so that Washington can keep spending more and more.
“Here they come, sucking us in, roping us in. Panic here, fear there: Crisis, destruction, no meat inspection, no cops, no teachers, no firefighters, no air-traffic control. I’m sorry, my days of getting roped into all this are over,” Rush said Thursday.
OK, notice anything in that quote? Such as “no cops”? Yes, Limbaugh has set up an exaggerated straw man to build an outrage, and he can thump it with a rhetorical bat until it breaks apart in bits. Or something like that.
That doesn’t mean he’s without points here. Notice the reference earlier to $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts. That’s how much the cuts would amount to if they’re allowed to continue for a decade. Cuts the first year would be about $85 billion, according to Representative Boehner.
But Limbaugh also said this: “Do you really think 800,000 people are gonna lose their jobs in the Pentagon because we cut $22 billion? Do you really think air-traffic control’s gonna shut down? Do you really think there aren’t gonna be any meat inspectors? Do you really think that all of these horror stories are going to happen? I don’t.”
He’s right the horror stories won’t happen, because nobody has said 800,000 Pentagon workers will lose their jobs. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has said he’ll have to furlough that many Defense Department civilians if sequestration occurs, meaning that they will only be paid for working four days a week instead of five. So they’ll get a 20 percent reduction in pay, which isn’t fun. But it’s better than getting laid off.
Air-traffic control won’t shut. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has warned that travelers may face 90-minute delays at airports because of air-traffic restrictions. Meat inspectors will stay on the job, and so forth.
Yes, we know Limbaugh talks this way all the time, for calculated effect. He’s using it as a tool to try to make a larger point. Like many conservatives, he considers the federal government per se a huge, unproductive drag on the economy. But you’d be surprised how many people believe pretty much every word he says.
On Wednesday night’s “Colbert Report,” a proud, and dare we say, jealous, Colbert announced that his sister, Elizabeth Colbert Busch, is running for Congress.
“Holy cow! My sister is running for Congress!” Colbert said.
And then two days later he told a group of House Democrats that Americans liked colonoscopies more than Congress. “But [it's] just edging out meth labs and gonorrhea,” he added.
Ms. Colbert Busch, also known as “Lulu,” is running for the South Carolina congressional seat vacated by Rep. Tim Scott (R), who was appointed to fill Sen. Jim DeMint’s Senate seat, when Senator DeMint (R) resigned in December.
Colbert Busch, a business-development director at a Clemson University institute, is one of 19 candidates seeking the Charleston-area 1st District seat, and besides former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (yep, he’s running, too), has the most name recognition, not to mention a famous little brother.
Not that it helps.
Ever just, Colbert promised no special treatment for his sister.
“No free airtime, Lulu!” Colbert said Wednesday. “As a broadcast journalist I am obligated to maintain pure objectivity. It doesn't matter that my sister is intelligent, hardworking, compassionate, and dedicated to the people of South Carolina. I will not be mentioning any of that on my show.”
There’s just one problem. Colbert Busch is running as a Democrat.
“A., I take that as a personal affront,” Colbert said, “and two, there are so many great choices on the Republican side.”
Some 16 candidates have filed in the GOP primary. “Republicans are all over this election like white on Republicans,” Colbert said.
He went on to plug some of the GOP candidates including Ric “The Stick” Bryant, “The Electrifying” Keith Blandford, Elizabeth “Killing Them Softly” Moffly, and Chip “This is My Actual Name” Limehouse.
But it’s former Governor Sanford, who gained national attention when he said he was hiking the Appalachian Trail but was actually cavorting with his mistress in Argentina, that Colbert said he favors.
“At this point I'm leaning toward actual candidate and former governor of the Appalachian Trail – Mark Sanford. You see, I'm a family values conservative, and Mark, he just seems so steady.”
(Nonetheless, we heard Colbert will be raising campaign funds for his sister at a Feb. 22 benefit, according to a campaign invite.)
Colbert left his sister’s rivals, who no doubt watch his show, with this advice, honed, we're sure, over years of merciless sibling ribbing.
"Right after she makes a good point, repeat it back to her in a dumb voice,'' he said. "Trust me, it works.''
The future of the republic does not hinge on this development, but the divergence in the conservative commentators’ fates is nevertheless telling. Both, after all, had issued spectacularly wrong predictions on who would win last November’s presidential race. (Mitt Romney in a landslide!) Both were adamant, night after night, that their data were rock solid.
On election night, Mr. Rove went so far as to challenge Fox News’ decision to call Ohio for President Obama, which effectively called the election. In the most entertaining bit of TV all night, Fox’s cameras followed while anchor Megyn Kelly led Rove back into the bowels of the network’s political operations to talk to the number-crunchers about their decision.
But while being entertaining (and therefore profitable) certainly matters at Fox – as with all the cable news channels – it doesn’t explain why Fox gave Rove a new, multiyear contract and dropped Mr. Morris, as reported Tuesday night by Politico. The reason is more about relevance and how the network is positioning itself, say analysts of political media.
“Karl Rove is still a major player in Republican Party politics,” says Jeffrey Jones, a professor of media and politics at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va. “He still runs his 'super PAC,' and he has shown himself to be important and influential. Dick Morris doesn’t get you anything. He’s not really a player.”
Indeed, in the last election, Rove’s two outside groups – American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS – spent upwards of $125 million on TV ads opposing Mr. Obama and supporting GOP presidential nominee Romney, not to mention the other Republican candidates the groups supported (albeit with limited success).
Rove originally made his name as the architect of George W. Bush’s two successful presidential campaigns. Morris gained fame as an adviser to President Clinton, most notably schooling him on the art of political “triangulation” after the Democrats lost control of Congress in 1994. But Morris hasn’t had a big second act like Rove’s.
Mr. Jones also sees in Fox’s personnel decisions – including, too, the decision to drop Sarah Palin – an effort by the network to update its brand.
“It’s time for fresh faces,” Jones says, noting a decline in Fox’s ratings among a key demographic.
One figure who has moved to Fox (from CNN) is Erick Erickson, a 30-something conservative blogger at RedState.com. And adding a jolt of ideological diversity to Fox is left-wing former Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D) of Ohio.
Fox is still the king of cable news – nine of the top 10 programs in January were on Fox – but, as rival network MSNBC points out, Fox hit a 12-year low with the 25-to-54 age group in prime time last month.
Another aspect of Fox’s recent moves may be ideological. In keeping Rove but parting company with Morris and former Governor Palin, Fox seems to be leaning toward the Republican establishment and away from the tea party. Rove recently started a new super political action committee called the Conservative Victory Project, which aims to help electable candidates win Republican primaries. In the last two cycles, tea party-backed candidates have cost the Republicans several Senate seats.
Rove also appears to have a close connection to Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes. In a recent article on Palin’s departure from Fox, Gabriel Sherman of New York Magazine writes that the 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee was a “polarizing presence” and presented Mr. Ailes with a management challenge.
“Her tea party message attracted the ire of establishment poobahs like Karl Rove,” writes Mr. Sherman. “Before the 2010 midterms, Rove complained to Ailes that Palin was damaging the GOP brand and getting too much airtime.”
And what about Morris’s future? Perhaps he will share that information on CNN Wednesday, when he appears on “Piers Morgan Tonight.”
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) gave a bravura performance on David Letterman’s “Late Show” on Monday night, in case you haven’t heard. He was the main guest and talked at length about his state, its struggle to recovery from hurricane Sandy, and even his presidential prospects.
He also ate a doughnut. This occurred right at the start, after Mr. Letterman had noted that viewers might never have expected the Garden State governor to show up on the “Late Show” couch due to all the Christie weight jokes they’ve told on the program.
Letterman was going on about how he was sorry if he’d given offense, and how Governor Christie was a regular guy for showing up, when the latter reached into his pocket and pulled out the pastry. It was a real doughnut, too – sugar-coated and jelly-filled. No carrot muffins for him.
“I didn’t know this was going to take so long,” said Christie, munching away as the audience roared.
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Christie then went on to explain that he only cared if Letterman was funny, and that he found, oh, about 40 percent of the Christie weight cracks to be comedic.
He read two of his favorites.
“Celebrity birthday today. Chris Christie turned 50. He blew out the candles on his cake – and wished for another cake,” said the governor, giggling along.
Then he added, “A billion dollars will be spent on potato chips on Super Bowl Sunday. And that’s just at Governor Christie’s house.”
So why the magnanimity? After all, Letterman has been pretty brutal on Christie over the years. And Christie’s got a temper – look at the way he blasted his own Republican Party when House Speaker John Boehner held up a vote on aid for hurricane Sandy victims in January.
We’d say Christie accomplished a number of things with his appearance. First, he defused the weight issue, to some extent. He’s going to continue to be asked about that as his political career goes forward, and joking about it in front of a national audience can only help his image.
Look – we know it’s irrelevant to his performance. It’s going to continue to be an issue though. That’s just the way politics is.
Second, he’s won over Letterman. As the Obama campaign showed, political appearances on late night talk shows can be potent. The questions are easy, and the audience is huge. (Remember Obama “slow jamming” the news with Jimmy Fallon?)
This doesn’t mean “Late Night” won’t still poke fun at Christie’s size. But you can bet it will be in a genial context. Letterman all but endorsed Christie in his 2013 reelection bid last night.
“I love you being governor of New Jersey,” said Letterman.
Third, and most immediately, he’s got a burst of good publicity for his gubernatorial campaign, while spreading the word that New Jersey still has problems in its recovery from hurricane Sandy and needs continued aid and effort from folks outside the state.
“We still have 42,000 families tonight who are homeless,” said New Jersey’s chief executive.
Will he run for president in 2016? Letterman asked, and Christie, as he always does, made clear that he might, depending on what US politics looks like in a few years. Given his performance on the show, he certainly continues to look like a viable candidate.
But the last point we’ll make is that the Letterman appearance also highlights the biggest obstacle standing in the way of a Christie White House bid. That’s the national Republican Party. Christie’s a Northeastern moderate, and he doesn’t hide the fact that he’s got conflicts with those in the GOP who held up Sandy aid, in part because some in the party are leery of federal disaster spending.
“When it happens in their backyard, it needs to be taken care of, but if it's somewhere else it isn’t as important,” he told Letterman.
And he took a parting shot at Speaker Boehner, by name, for delaying the aid vote. “I made my views known to him, and I was less gentle privately than I was publicly,” said Christie.
Christie appears to have made up with Letterman. If he wants to run for president, he’ll have to do the same thing with the current speaker of the House and GOP fiscal conservatives.
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Is the White House quietly pleased about the wild feud between Piers Morgan and Alex Jones over gun control? We would not be surprised if that were the case. CNN nighttime host Morgan is using his bully pulpit, such as it is, to push new gun restrictions just as VP Joe Biden is holding White House meetings on the issue. Meanwhile, Mr. Jones – a Texas radio host and conspiracy theorist – was a volcano of pro-gun something-or-other during his Monday appearance on Mr. Morgan’s show. Many gun rights supporters are not happy about that.
After all, Jones called Morgan a “hatchet man of the New World Order” and offered to wrestle him wearing red-white-and-blue trunks, then blamed 9/11 on a rogue element within the US government
“Conservatives and gun owners have lamented a perception that Alex Jones will become the face of gun owners," writes Erick Erickson, editor of the right-leaning RedState website, Thursday in a lengthy post on the roots of gun violence.
On Thursday the White House kept the whole thing going by issuing an official response to Jones’s petition to have British citizen Morgan deported for his antigun views. (In case you’re unaware, the administration has a “We the People” website where you can petition the government on anything you care about. Officials promise to respond to any petition that garners 25,000 signatures within 30 days.)
“The Constitution not only guarantees an individual right to bear arms, but also enshrines the freedom of speech and the freedom of the press – fundamental principles that are essential to our democracy,” wrote Mr. Carney.
We’ll note the response was not cursory. Within it, the White House embedded a video of President Obama responding to gun petitions in general. In this, Mr. Obama asked petitioners who had written in demanding new gun restrictions in the wake of the tragic Sandy Hook school shootings to keep up their activism.
“You started something and now I’m asking you to keep it up,” says Obama in the two-minute clip.
See how the White House public outreach effort and the Morgan controversy kind of fit neatly together, in a publicity sense?
Safe from being forcibly escorted back to Jolly Old England, Morgan himself has kept at it, hosting a series of gun-control-related conversations on his own show while dropping in on other chat hosts to push his views.
On Thursday's “CBS This Morning,” Morgan said that his goal is to keep gun control at the forefront of the US national conversation, even as the memory of the Sandy Hook tragedy fades.
Gun advocate Jones “exposes the reality of how a section of Americans feels about this debate ... trying to frame anybody who wants more gun control as attacking the Constitution ... that’s not what this is about,” said Morgan on Thursday.
Piers Morgan’s instantly infamous interview with Alex Jones on gun control has started a feud that’s getting weirder by the day. CNN host Mr. Morgan on Tuesday described his encounter with Mr. Jones the night before on “Piers Morgan Tonight” as “terrifying,” and added that Jones’s unhinged rants are the best advertisement for gun control he can think of. Meanwhile, Texas talk-radio host Jones – a self-described “paleoconservative” – accused Morgan of joking on-air about shooting him.
Will any of this affect the actual chance of passage for national gun legislation? Well, maybe. Even staunch gun rights supporter Glenn Beck noted on Tuesday that Jones sounds “crazy” and makes it easy for liberals to portray the right as extremists on this issue.
But the whole thing is becoming so outrageous that it may end up as nothing but a vaudeville show that occupies viewers' time while VP Joe Biden meets with the NRA and other groups to try to come up with a serious approach to what might be done to lessen firearm violence.
OK, let’s back up a second to summarize the state of play. Jones is a main supporter of a petition on the White House citizen input website that calls for the deportation of British citizen Morgan because of his continued calls for gun-control legislation. On Monday, Morgan had Jones on his show to talk about this. “Talk” isn’t really the word for what happened, though. It was more of a one-person shoutfest, as Jones riffed about guns, oppressive government, the flag, his ancestors’ role in Texan independence, and what flag Morgan would have on his tights if they wrestled.
We’ll add here that Jones believes a conspiracy within the US government caused 9/11 and the Oklahoma City bombings and the Gulf of Tonkin incident (look it up). So it’s not as if he’s somebody who’s seen the mainstream for a very long time.
Our reaction was that it was a setup, in the sense that Morgan knew full well that Jones’s opinions would horrify much of America, and that the resultant car wreck of a segment would prove irresistible television.
On Tuesday, Morgan lit into Jones during a "CNN Newsroom" appearance.
“I can’t think of a better advertisement for gun control than Alex Jones’s interview last night,” he said. “It was startling, it was terrifying in parts, it was completely deluded.... It showed no compassion whatsoever to the victims of gun shootings, and the kind of twisted way that he turned everything into this assault on the Second Amendment is exactly what the gun rights lobby people do. And it’s a lie. It cannot be allowed to continue.”
Meanwhile, Jones’s camp responded with outrage to what it said was a threat on their guy’s life. On Morgan’s follow-up show Tuesday night, sportswriter Buzz Bissinger said this, according to Jones-affiliated website Infowars.com: “But what do you need a semi-automatic weapon for? The only reason I think you’d need it, Piers, challenge Alex Jones to a boxing match, show up with a semi-automatic that you got legally, and pop him.”
Was Mr. Bissinger talking about “pop,” as in “punch,” there, or something worse? In any case, if he really said that, he’s being reckless with his words, at best. Why give Jones something like that to work with?
Ultraconservative radio talk host Alex Jones appeared on CNN’s “Piers Morgan Tonight” on Monday talking about gun control, although “talking” is a word that might not really describe what went on. Mr. Jones shouted, ranted, and preached in a voice so loud that Rush Limbaugh is a whispering golf announcer by comparison. Jones did everything but wrap himself in an American flag – though he did offer to fight Mr. Morgan while wearing red white and blue trunks.
“You’re a hatchet man of the New World Order.... You wear the Jolly Roger,” he snarled at the very British Morgan.
Why are we bringing this up? Well, first of all, the very loud Jones is a key figure behind a White House petition to deport Morgan because of the CNN host’s pro-gun control stance. US citizens can file a petition on the White House website to do pretty much anything. If they get 25,000 signatures within 30 days, the White House promises it will respond to the nature of the citizen complaint.
As of Tuesday morning, more than 106,000 signatures were attached to the Morgan petition. “British Citizen and CNN television host Piers Morgan is engaged in a hostile attack against the U.S. Constitution by targeting the Second Amendment,” it reads. “We demand that Mr. Morgan be deported immediately for his effort to undermine the Bill of Rights and for exploiting his position as a national network television host to stage attacks against the rights of American citizens.”
The White House issued a statement following the Jones CNN appearance, promising to deal with the Morgan petition.
“The White House responds to all petitions that cross the threshold and we will respond to this one. In the meantime, it is worth remembering that the freedom of expression is a bedrock principle in our democracy,” said a statement from White House spokesman Jay Carney.
But if anything, the White House should be happy that Jones is getting so much publicity for his attacks on Morgan’s pro-gun control stance. That’s our second point. The National Rifle Association might be furious: Jones is so outrageous and vituperative that the gun lobby must believe he’s counterproductive.
For example, here is what Jones said after Morgan asked the simple question, “Why do you want to deport me?”
“We did it to point out that this is globalism and the megabanks that control the planet and brag that they’ve taken over and Bloomberg, AP, Reuters, you name it, brag that they’re going to get our guns as well – they’ve taken everybody’s guns but the Swiss and the American people, and when they get our guns they can have world tyranny,” Jones said.
At another point, Jones gave a disquisition as to how even mainstream media have proved that the 9/11 attacks were the work of a longtime criminal conspiracy within the US government that was also responsible for the Gulf of Tonkin incident that President Lyndon Johnson used to get the United States more deeply involved in Vietnam. The Bush administration was involved, he said: It allowed the hijackers to enter the country.
He delivered much of this screed in a singsong British accent meant to mock Morgan, whom he called a “redcoat here trying to tell us what to do.”
He also attacked his host for using notecards. We are not making that up.
“You’re not going to pull on American heartstrings. We know your script,” Jones said.
Who is Alex Jones? He’s a Texas-based radio personality who says his show is broadcast on more than 140 stations nationwide. He also maintains a string of conspiracy-theory websites that claim the US government was at the heart of the Oklahoma City bombing as well as 9/11. In the flesh he’s so bombastic you think he’s overacting and can’t really believe his own diatribes, except for the fact that he’s been doing this for so long (some 15 years) that it would be hard to maintain the facade.
After Jones’s unhinged appearance, Morgan said on air that he thinks fewer and fewer Americans believe in such people. “A tipping point has been reached,” he said.
Morgan has long called for a renewal of the ban on assault rifles, as well as tighter restrictions on gun sales.
Social media may be the darling of a mobile generation weaned on interactivity and speed, but Election Night this year delivered a small silver lining of good news to so-called legacy media outlets such as newspapers and television.
With massive increases in traffic on news sites linked to such outlets as The New York Times and ABC News and with 66 million viewers watching TV, news of the legacy media’s death – to paraphrase Mark Twain – is greatly exaggerated.
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While many people now interact with social media such as Twitter and Facebook while they are watching TV, Professor Shyles says, “they are commenting on it, messing around with it, having fun with what they just heard, and sharing it with others.”
But, he points out, the legacy media is still the pre-eminent source, “and social media is still ancillary.”
Legacy media are stage setters for social media actors, agrees Charles Dunn, author of “The Seven Laws of Presidential leadership.”
Social media have come into their own as major players in political debate, he says via e-mail, “but legacy media continue to play the primary role in setting the stage for debate and discussion about political issues and personalities.”
Certainly the allocation of resources in the two campaigns leading up to Tuesday night supports this view.
According to the most recent report from the Wesleyan Media Project, the number of TV ads aired in the presidential general election passed the one million mark as of Oct. 29. The two candidates, their party committees, and supporting interest groups sponsored 1,015,615 ads since June 1, a 39.1 percent increase over 2008 and a 41 percent increase over 2004.
A recent student-conducted study from the Farmer School of Business at Miami University in Ohio also supports this media consumption model. When asked what media had the most influence on their knowledge of the issues in this election, 29 percent of student respondents said Fox News, 22 percent said social media such as Facebook and Twitter, and 12 percent said MSNBC.
The live element of Election Night gave a huge advantage to television, points out John Robinson, former editor of the News & Record newspaper in Greensboro, N.C., and adjunct journalism professor at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
“People get their quick updates on Twitter and Facebook, but they tune in to watch the events unfold live on television,” he says. “This is what the legacy networks already know from their sports events,” he adds, “where people will tweet and text during the event, but they stay tuned to watch it unfold in real time.”
And he says he watches as his students, using online searches, find and pass along content originating on sites belonging to major newspapers such as The Los Angeles Times and New York Times.
However, he points out, herein also lies the dark cloud growing around that silver lining.
“Many people, especially younger users, will tweet information and updates they found at the legacy media, but less and less do they either credit or even know the legacy media outlet that produced the information in the first place.”
This disconnect from the original source of information has serious consequences for outlets that rely on branding and advertising for their financial survival, Mr. Robinson says.
Perhaps equally important, while students in the Ohio study say they may glean more information from the more static, one-way model of traditional media, social media are more likely to move them to action.
“In terms of the youth vote in Ohio, clearly the Obama campaign’s effort surrounding social media paid off,” said William Even, professor of economics at the Farmer School of Business. “As our student survey revealed, social media is increasingly important in shaping political outcomes. While the majority of students continued to rely on traditional media for information on the presidential election, he adds, “social media seems to have had a larger effect on getting people to vote.”
The shift to more emphasis on social media will continue to grow because it appeals to our most basic desires to connect and engage, says Mike Gisondi of Socialbakers.com, which specializes in social media analytics.
Both candidates understood that their campaigns would be made or broken on the Internet and not on TV, he says via e-mail, “although that didn't stop the enormous media buys.” All Internet activity is essentially social, he says, because there is always a feedback mechanism, “be they likes, comments, shares, follow, etc. People feel a part of it. They're engaged, they interact, they feel they have a voice.”
Repetitive commercials are a one-way ticket to desensitizing and eventually disengaging a voter, he says.
Social media, on the other hand, deliver more connection. So while TV advertising in the US, for example, reaches 78 percent of the US on average, he says, and social media only 20 percent, “that 20 percent is more likely to be engaged.”
IN PICTURES: Election Day 2012 – America Votes!