Friday, August 31, 2012

The truth doesn't matter?!?!?!?!

 There is a lot of talk about the state and validity of mainstream media these days.  Although never very “worldly” contemporary mainstream media outlets in America have definitely gotten much worse in their coverage during my lifetime.  Here in Wisconsin there have even been organized boycotts of media outlets over the stunning lack of coverage, or extreme spin they put on stories.  We have seen aerial photos of mass protests around the Capitol in Madison of groups numbering over 100,000 people.  The next day television and print media will report “several thousand” attended the event.  That of course is only one possible example.

Although the media is supposed to be the fourth branch of our government, there to maintain a informed citizenry, active in the processes of democracy, they have failed us in that mission.  All too often money from commercial advertisers has dictated what stories these outlets carry.  Even worse when dealing with the modern neo-conservative movement of right wing extremists, it is not only a matter of what stories are reported, but how they are reported and when.

Wisconsin is of course no exception, as a matter of fact we are dealing with some of the worst media coverage imaginable.  Media outlets in Wisconsin receive stories now straight from Governor Scott Walkers office, not just press releases, but actual story content and directions on how to spin it and when it goes out.  That is why the few hard news stories that have actually been covered in Wisconsin under the Walker regime tend to only come out late on Fridays, when media viewership is at a low point.

Here in Madison one name comes up over and again when it comes to media representation, and that name is Clay Barbour.  For the last two years or so, Clay Barbour has been one half of the coverage of events in state government for the Wisconsin State Journal, along with Mary Spicuzza.  If one were to automatically believe all the buzz that one hears, Barbour is the most spin driven, blatantly racist, pro-Walker hack to ever come down the turnpike.  So I decided to look into Clay Barbour and report to my readers on what my research into him turned up.

Clay comes to us from his native North Carolina and has previously worked for the Charlotte Observer and the St. Louis Post Dispatch among other publications.  He received his degree in journalism from Appalachian state and appears to have been set on a course to become a journalist since he was rather young.  To explore his facebook page it would seem that Barbour is hardly a radical right winger by any definition, rather he seems like a, more or less, moderate independent.  Some quotes I lifted off of his facebook page include:

Here's the think about Akin. His ignorance is the natural evolution of the all-too-common anti-intellectualism favored by that wing of the GOP. It starts with the concept that you can put Bible stories on the same scientific footing as evolution. It continues to a complete disregard of climate change. And now, it settles in on a basic, fundamental, misunderstanding of 9th grade biology. It is simply the natural evolution of dumbassery writ large.

The entire time I watched the Eastwood RNC speech, I kept thinking, "Would the Duke have stooped this low?" And to me, some of the worst bits were the dismissive ones, like his mocking of the epic student loan problem in America.

Not sure what pisses me off more; the now-common over-the-top insults tossed at the president by totally irrelevants musicians (specifically to get attention) or the media coverage of them. Hank Jr. is, and has always been, a bad joke. Nugent, a complete idiot (worse musician than pontificator) and Mustaine is by everyone's account a total douche (just ask Metallica).

Like Paul Ryan. Hate Paul Ryan. I think we can all agree, the dude needs to buy better fitting suits. OK, maybe only I can agree on that. But that doesn't mean it's not true. Dude looks like a 14-year-old wearing his dad's clothes.

Says it all about collective bargaining, no mention on women, voting rights, barely mentions John Doe and makes it sound like Walker may not even be involved )double read that)
In the article attached to the link below, written by Barbour, it would seem that the entire Wisconsin Movement, all the backlash against Walker, is related only to collective bargaining.  It would seem from this story, that only public union employees are the people opposed to Walker’s radical agenda.

There is no mention of the attacks on equal pay for women, removal of science and medical fact based sexual health education in schools.  Likewise no mention of repeal of child labor legislation, destruction of tenant/renter protection laws, no mention of the monstrous tax breaks for the wealthy which led to the defunding of education and other important services.  No mention of the long term goal of dismantling the entire state’s police and sheriff’s departments and replacing them with near-minimum wage privatized personnel.

The two paragraphs below are from a television news interview with Barbour where he seems to back up the sentiment that this is all a “union only” movement, and that it has little to nothing at all to do with the majority of Wisconsin citizens.

O'DONNELL: Yeah, so what's your sense of that? You're the reporter out there. I know there's this Democratic state senator Jon Erpenbach who said today it's not about the money, that this is really about the unions' bargaining rights, and that this is just the Republican governor taking advantage of a budget situation and trying to break the unions with this. What is it about?

BARBOUR: Yeah, it's - I definitely think you could say that it's more about weakening the unions in this state. The governor has put several pieces of legislation into this budget repair bill to specifically weaken the unions. So - so I don't think there's any disagreement there. But as you can tell from the crowds and from the unions that are bringing - they're bringing people in from out of state to fight this. They sort of feel like this is the firewall, they've got to fight it here or they're going to be fighting it in Ohio and New York, New Jersey, Tennessee, Michigan - so it really does come down to collective bargaining for most of these people.

To think back upon the statements Barbour made on his facebook page, it would hardly seem likely that the spin he put on the stories linked to above, would be his personal spin.  Very few reporters have the kind of personal clout, that would allow them to spin stories the way they want to.  Normally that decision comes from the much more powerful editors who determine nearly completely, the content of story material.
And the Wisconsin State Journal which Barbour works for, like the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal, are both admittedly conservative leaning publications, and that comes from their staffs at the Capitol building in Madison.  And of course as previously mentioned, there is also the complicity of Walker’s own staff in what is being reported.

So it would be my tendency at this time to say that Clay Barbour is not an extremist with an agenda, rather it seems more like he is a reporter who has given up on journalistic integrity as the only way to maintain his position with his employer.  I could almost start to feel sorry for a family man like Barbour who had to make a terrible decision between his need to serve his readers, and his commitment to be a provider for his household……..almost!

Then I think of this story from not too long ago.  When the ALEC and Tea party owned members of the legislature were ramming through legislation at all hours of the night, and Rep. Joel Kleefisch was caught on film by Arthur Riggs, voting for other republicans who were out having a drink at the time.

WI Assembly Representative Caught Double Voting, Solution: Cover the Windows.
Republicans in charge of the State Assembly took yet another shot at transparency, this time, literally.  I came to the gallery today to find this.  The windows to every gallery door had paper and tape over them.  Why would they do this you may ask?  The answer is quite simple.  Last time they were on the floor, Arthur who runs the page Shit Scott Walker is Doing to My State, got some controversial footage.  It was of Representative Joel Kleefisch (R-ALEC) voting for absent members.  Some dismissed it as common practice but the impression the general public had was quite different.  Whether common practice or not people don’t like to see this happen.

The Republicans, who control the Assembly by a large majority, must have been embarrassed by Joel getting caught.  Clay Barbour and Mary Spicuzza, of the Wisconsin State Journal, quickly attacked Arthur and his footage and said that he was breaking policy himself by filming from the gallery.  The problem is that Arthur was not filming from the gallery–this was a direct lie.  And when confronted with the fact that they literally lied to their entire reading audience, they brushed it off and the lie remains to this day.  Fortunately for Arthur the footage was picked up by a number of people at MSNBC and also Keith Olbermann who named Kleefisch as his “worst person.”  And the Republicans, obviously failing in their poorly disguised attack of Arthur through Clay and Mary, did what they always do.   They covered it up.  Again, literally.  They covered up the windows so no one can film from outside the gallery as Arthur was doing when he caught Kleefisch.
Source: abaldwin360

Clay Barbour and Mary Spicuzza really did go on the attack.  And with much more vehemence than anyone possibly could have predicted.  And also, they were in the wrong and the both knew it, so there was definitely some strong personal bias to things this time.  And events such as this have happened before I learned while doing the research for this posting.  As a matter of fact when challenged once, Barbour even went so far as to make the following quote, Barbour said “the truth doesn’t matter!” 

And with that statement any possible empathy, along with any respect for Barbour as a “journalist” was gone.  I just can not see any other possible way around it.  Respect for the truth is not just the basis for all morality, it is the very cornerstone of journalism itself.  If you have no respect for the truth than you have no integrity, and thus you are no longer a journalist, you are a hack, a corporate whore as it were.  A few months back I had a prolonged debate with Chris Rickert of the Wisconsin State Journal, over companies and employers punishing employees for signing the recall petitions against Scott Walker.

The matter of journalistic integrity was discussed, and at what point a journalist becomes a mouthpiece for hire.  Rickert stated that himself and others (Barbour was alluded to in that conversation) didn’t  receive all that much compensation for the work they do, in other words they felt underpaid.  Thinking back on that now, not only is Barbour a whore, but a cheap two-bit one at that.

At least Barbour is good at one thing that journalists are known for, protecting their sources.  Barbour and ALEC, Tea party extremist Robin Vos appear to be good personal friends.  You can see them paling around the Capitol together all the time. Two strutting and dapperly dressed, pompous men out and about together.
 Right now the big story starting to form out of Madison is the criminal investigation into Vos and his soon to be ex-wife, her alleged multiple felony counts of voter fraud, seemingly carried out with his complicity.  All the while Vos was drinking in public establishments and being overheard bragging about a pay to play scandal he was (allegedly) involved in, before heading back to his office to have sex with a staffer on his office desk.  Once again conservatives and family values just do not seem to ever go together.

It would be my opinion to advise Clay Barbour that having now given some serious thought to the matter, that he may want to consider looking for another career field.  Something where fact checking is second to story telling perhaps, or similarly along those lines.  Luckily for him, he seems to have already been pursuing that option.

I just found out that due to a significant decrease in readership (see how that works Clay?) that budget cuts are forcing a reduction in staff at the Wisconsin State Journal.  So I guess Clay will not be a thorn in the side of honesty in Wisconsin anymore soon.  Rumor has it that he has found another position somewhere on the East Coast though, bye bye Clay.

On Wisconsin!    FORWARD!!!!

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