A few posts ago over at The Woodshed (also posted here last week), commenter RossK aka the Gazeteer asked how good journalists stop the swiftboating of candidates.
It isn't just a matter of the work of a single journalist, in fact what passes for journalistic ethics can sometime perpetuate inaccurate information in the name of providing balance, reporting such stories as groups lying about John Kerry's war record or making spurious accusations about Obama's property dealings as a sort of "he said/she said" story in which no conclusion is drawn as the truth of the allegations or the credibility of the source.
This sort of reporting is, not to put too fine a point on it, horseshit. Only a buffoon or a Nazi propagandist would report a story dealing with say, Holocaust denial, by saying "Well, David Irving says the Holocaust never happened, but almost every other historian in the world says it did, so who knows what really happened?" and yet this is the way the original swiftboat accusations were reported. Even after the claims of the paid political group were thoroughly debunked they kept being repeated in the media. Proper reporting examines the souces and what they say instead of just parroting the content of the press release.
Thus, we present these examples:
The way it is done
Alcatraz O'Houlihan (perky young female CNN anchor of indeterminate ethnicity): Disturbing accusations are surfacing about Democratic Presidential hopeful Barack Obama today. Wulf Blitzkrieg has more. Wulf?
Wulf Blitzkrieg (steely-eyed, jut-jawed CNN reporter) Alcatraz, I'm here in Chicago speaking with Jon Galt, whose community group will soon be airing some public service announcements on television across the country that make some disturbing accusations about Barrack Obama. Jon, I understand that your Chicago-based group of concerned citizens claims that Obama once sold crack to children, is that right
"Jon Galt" (a well-groom, middle-aged white man in a nice brown suit) That's absolutely right Wulf. As you know "Barry" Hussien Obama brags in his book a that he smoked pot as a teenager. But if you thought that was disturbing, I'm here to tell you that he used to sell crack to schoolkids while disguised as a nun.
Wulf: That is indeed a disturbing accusation, that Obama sold crack to schoolkids while dressed as nun. Did you witness this yourself?
"Galt":Not exactly Wulf, but a member of our group - Chicagoans Organized Can Knowingly Sink Unethical Candidates with Knowledge Everytime, Regardless - heard it from a friend who knows the guy who cuts Obama's dogs' hair, so obviously the fact that Hussien Obama sold crack to schoolkids while dress as a nun is indisputable. And that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to his criminiality.
Wulf: Well, that looks like pretty solid evidence to me, Mr. Galt, thank the good Lord for public watchdog groups like yours. There you have it Alcatraz, this group of citizens want people to know that Obama sold crack to schoolkids while dressed as a nun. It's pretty disturbing stuff.
Alcatraz: It certainly is Wulf. Has Obama's campaign responded to the news that he used to sell crack to schoolkids while dressed as a nun?
Wulf: Well, they said it was beneath comment, so obviously they are running scared about this relevation that Hussien Obama sold crack to schoolkids while dressed as a nun. In a related story, Bill O'Donahue of the Catholic Defensiveness League told CNN that if some pervert like Obama were to dress up as a nun to do something as evil as selling crack to schoolkid, it would be pretty bad and should disqualify them from being president.
Alcatraz: Well Wulf I'm sure we can count on you to keep us posted on these and other disturbing allegations about Obama's blasphemous cross-dressing and drug dealing. And now, back to our top story -- Seamus Sanchez, what is the latest in the Paris Hilton crisis? Does it look like her Chihuahua will survive?
The way it should be done
Greg Palast (Champion investigative reporter and new anchor of CNN after the company is bought by Al Gore and George Soros and set up as an independent non-profit foundation run by its staff-elected editorial board): Well, thanks for that story on the latest fundementalist church sex scandal, Anderson. Now, finally, before we go to sports, we have a sort of an odd story from Rev. Paperboy about a group of political activists making accusations about Presidental candidate Barack Obama.
Rev.Paperboy (Svelte, steely-eyed bon vivant, rancouteur and champion of truth, justice and good jazz): Well Greg, I'm here with a man who goes by the name "Jon Galt" who claims to have some disturbing information about Barak Obama. What is it your group is claiming Mr. "Galt"?
"Jon Galt" (a well-groomed, middle-aged white man in a nice brown suit): Well, sir, our group has it on good authority that Hussien Obama sold crack to schoolkids while dressed as a nun.
Rev. (beginning smile broadly) Oh, really? That's a pretty serious allegation Mr. "Galt". Can you back it up?
"Galt":Absolutely! A member of our group - Chicagoans Organized Can Knowingly Sink Unethical Candidates with Knowledge Everytime, Regardless - heard it from a friend who knows the guy who cuts Obama's dogs' hair, so obviously the fact that Hussien Obama sold crack to schoolkids while dress as a nun is...
Rev.: Total bullshit.
"Galt": I beg your pardon?
Rev.: C'mon, Mr. "Galt", this is obviously a trumped up charge put together by a bunch of partisan political character assassins organized by the Republican party, isn't it?
"Galt": But he sold crack! to schoolkids! I don't even know any republicans! He dressed up like a nun!
Rev.: Gimme a break, this isn't even your real hair. (yanks toupee off of "Galt's head) Your name isn't Jon Galt, you're Jeff Gannon aka Jim Guckert, the prostitute and right-wing shill that infiltrated the White House press corps a few years ago aren't you?
Gannon: Well, yes, that's true. But I'm outraged by this left-wing bias in the mainstream media! We are a group of concerned citizens with no ties to any political party that...
Rev.: Zip it, Rent Boy. Your "Chicagoans Organized Can Knowingly Sink Unethical Candidates with Knowledge Everytime, Regardless" is a tax-exempt 527 group set up by another group funded by the Republican party. Its memebership rolls consist entirely of the interns at the Heritage Institute and the board of directors includes Karl Rove and James Baker's personal assistants and Grover Nordquist's 102-year-old mother.
Gannon: That's outrageous! We are not! You can't prove that, we burned all the rec...
Rev.: (produces sheaf of singed papers) Nice try, Jimmy-Jeff. This is your membership roll, minutes of your board of directors' meetings and collection of cheque stubs from Ann Coulter, Rupert Murdoch, Richard Mellon Scaife and a group called "Republican Activists To Fight Undesirable Candidates with Knavery" -- we got them from your janitor. You really should have been nicer to Juan, before asking him to destroy evidence.
Gannon: But, but, but...aw crap! Okay, its a fair cop.
Rev.: And there you have it, Greg: Yet another inept attempt by the Republicans to smear the Democratic candidate. Back to you.
Palast: Jesus jumping Christ on a pogo stick Rev., how dumb do these prick think the American people are? It makes me sick some days. Now, on a brighter note, in our top story the World Court in the Hague has confirmed that they will waive their prohibition on the death sentence for the war crimes trial of Donald Rumsfeld...