by Lindsay Beyerstein
How our blog got its name
Sidney Hillman was a powerful national figure during the Great Depression, a key supporter of the New Deal, and a close ally of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
When the rumor spread that President Roosevelt ordered his party leaders to “clear it with Sidney” before announcing Harry S. Truman as his 1944 running mate, conservative critics turned on the phrase, trumpeting it as proof that the president was under the thumb of “Big Labor.”
Over the years, the phrase lost its sting and became a testament to Hillman's influence.
It's hard to imagine a labor leader wielding that kind clout today, but we like the idea—and we hope Sidney would give thumbs up to our blog.
Brian Chokes on The Donald; Fox Bids Beck Good-Bye
Donald Trump, Glenn Beck, Brian Williams
Above the Fold
Glenn Beck and Fox News have finally parted company–a welcome event which the New York Times chose to bury deep inside the Business Section this morning. Beck’s contract expires in December, but the Times predicted he would leave the network long before that.
In yet another ridiculous on-the-one-hand, on-the-other-hand story, Times reporters Bill Carter and Brian Stelter barely hinted at all of Beck’s on-air felonies, calling his show
“a daily broadcast platform for a libertarian strain of politics that is also evident in the Tea Party, a movement he embraced. Critics loudly condemned him for living with his own facts — but that only seemed to widen the conspiracy that he outlined each night, aided by a growing number of chalkboards in his studio.”
Yesterday’s announcement came just one month after anonymous Fox officials had leaked their plan to get rid of Beck to New York Times media columnist David Carr, who wrote that Beck’s future was in jeopardy in part because he had lost a million viewers since the peak of his show’s ratings.
Carr explained, “The problem with ‘Glenn Beck’ is that it has turned into a serial doomsday machine that’s a bummer to watch.” Then Carr quoted David von Drehle, who had written a pathetically soft profile of Beck for the cover of Time magazine. “He used to be a lot funnier,” Von Drehle said.
This, mind you, is the broadcaster who managed at least 202 mentions of Nazis or Nazism, 147 mentions of Hitler, 193 mentions of fascism or fascist, “and another 24 bonus mentions of Joseph Goebbels,” according to Dana Milbank. “Most of these were directed in some form at Obama -- as were the majority of the 802 mentions of socialist or socialism on Beck's nightly ‘report.’
I guess von Drehle thought that was pretty damn funny.
For the most part “sophisticated” media reporters like Carr refrained from giving their readers any real idea of what Beck was doing, while he was riding high in the ratings. As a result, the job of sharing Beck’s rantings with a larger public was left almost entirely to Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and Media Matters, which lists fifty of Beck’s most disgusting statements here.
The growing failure of journalists to call things by their proper names was exemplified by the refusal of the news department of The New York Times to call torture “torture” when it was carried out by the Bush administration–simply because the government didn’t want Times reporters to do so.
A particularly egregious example of the this growing embrace of sloppiness was on display last night on NBC Nightly News, when Brian Williams used a clip from what he called a “boisterous” interview that Meredith Viera had conducted with Donald Trump for use on Thursday morning’s Today show.
Williams prefaced the excerpt with this bland statement: “While we have talked with President Obama about his birth in America, that has not stopped the group Trump today called the birthers from stirring up doubts...Trump continued on this issue which has given him some traction.”
Then Trump was shown spouting various blatant lies–Obama “spent two million dollars in legal fees trying to get way from this issue” and “three weeks ago I thought he was born in America. Now I have real doubts.”
Once upon a time, when a bizarre buffoon was allowed to shout such idiocies on NBC News, the network's anchorman would have had the decency to specify to his viewers that everything they had just heard was false. But then, that might have discouraged one or two of them from tuning into the Today Show the next morning–and the only purpose of this obscene exercise was to increase the ratings of a sister show on the same network.
Fortunately, one or two print reporters are still willing to describe things as they actually are, which is what the Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart did today.
In a post headlined Trump’s disgusting, dangerous dance with birthers Capehart did exactly what Williams should have done: he told it like it is:
In double-barreled interviews on NBC’s “Today Show” and MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Trump continued his disgusting and dangerous dabbling in the disproved conspiracy theory that President Obama was not born in the United States. This might be good for the ratings of his television show. This might even be good for his business. But it is terrible for the nation and public discourse that someone who claims to be so smart is so willing to perpetuate a lie.
Then Capehart recited all of the indisputable evidence that Obama was indeed born in Hawaii when he said he was, including the completely authentic birth certificate which he produced long ago.
Good grief, even Glenn Beck was more sensible about this than Brian Williams, saying that Trump had made Beck feel “a little uncomfortable lately.” In an interview with Bill O’Reilly, Beck said Trump was merely getting attention for attention’s sake–something Beck could achieve by walking in the streets with his pants off.
Naturally, O’Reilly thought there was nothing wrong with that: “I understand why [Trump is] doing that–he’s getting a massive amount of attention quickly”–by repeating one of the most discredited lies in the history of American politics.
The daunting mystery is why supposedly respectable reporters like Brian Williams are such willing co-conspirators in this despicable fraud.