Monday, November 28, 2011

We have to be our own gatekeepers

I suppose that by now most of you have heard about the ridiculous column by Naomi Wolf over at The Guardian titled The shocking truth about the crackdown on Occupy. In it she suggests a nefarious plot about local police departments getting their marching orders on police brutality from the Dept. of Homeland Security, Congress and the White House.

I haven't written about the whole affair because bloggers like Angry Black Lady and Karoli have done a superb job of thoroughly debunking her claims.

But I had a special interest in all of this because a couple of years ago I started hanging out at the Guardian's Comment is Free America blog. That was back when Michael Tomasky wrote several columns a day there. What I found were thoughtful columns (though I didn't always agree) and a group of commenters that ranged from the most liberal, to Blue Dogs, to conservatives, to tea partiers. I enjoyed the diversity tremendously and learned a lot.

Then Tomasky left and went to The Daily Beast. Some of us kept an eye on The Guardian to see who they would pick as a replacement (I suggested Steve Benen, of course). A little while ago they made the announcement...Ana Marie Cox. Yes, she of Wonkette and Twitter fame. I was a bit shocked that a respected news organization would make that decision, but kept my eye on the place to see how it would go. Ms. Cox produced the same shallow cynical drivel she has always been known for. I can only suspect that The Guardian was looking to capture some of her 1,370,000 Twitter followers.

And then came the column by Naomi Wolf. Now the picture is getting a little clearer. Today the Guardian's editor of Comment is Free America - Matt Seaton - published a follow-up to Ms. Wolf's post.

When a single article is recommended on Facebook 235,000 times, tweeted nearly 7,000 times, gets close to 1,000 comments and is viewed, over three days, by approximately 1 million people, it is by any account a phenomenon.

So you see where this is going.

I made several comments to that post - basically chatting with Mr. Seaton to suggest that he owed Guardian readers an apology for Ms. Wolf's column. He would have none of it. She's free to speak her "opinion." At one point, he even said this:

...see this AP report, about the role played by federal agency PERF in facilitating conference-call information-sharing between police departments on handling Occupy protests.
(Emphasis mine)

If the American editor of a major newspaper had taken just a moment to google PERF, he would have found this in less than a minute.

The Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) is a national membership organization of progressive police executives from the largest city, county and state law enforcement agencies.

So no, PERF is clearly not a "federal agency." If I can find that out so quickly - what does it say about journalism these days that he did not.

I say all this to point out something you probably already know. When it comes to information and news these days, we have to be our own gatekeepers. We can no longer rely of "journalists" to give us the facts. Lucky for us, the internet is there and we still have the ability to fire up our critical minds to get them.


  1. Need Clicks? Start a rumor based on "Unnamed Sources at the White House" (DOJ, insert government agency)and wait for gullible Lefties to bankroll your next vacation.

  2. I live in the UK. I am married to a Brit, an expat and a regular Guardian reader. You must understand something about the Guardian (and, to a degree, the BBC). They are geared to be institutionally skewed against America and Americans. Seriously. A memo was leaked a few years ago because US correspondents were showing Americans in too good a light.

    During the BP oil crisis, the Guardian shilled against America more than the usual suspect the Rightwing Daily Mail. I would have told Seaton that Wolf may be entitled to her own opinion but not her own facts. They love Americans who present the US in a bad light. Wolf wrote that infamous rant in the Guardian about naming all rape victims as a defence against Julian Assange.

    Michael Moore and Kucinich regularly give Anti-Obama shite on the Comment is Free pages. The Guardian thrives on anti-Americanism. Doesn't matter who is in the White House - Clinton, Bush, Obama or Jesus.

  3. Tien Le - Exactly!!!!!

    So sad to see the Guardian go that direction - but there it is.

  4. Flaming Emilia - thanks for the insight.

    When Tomasky left, some of us regulars wondered if there wasn't more to the story than he said publicly. What you're suggesting may be part of it.

  5. Matt Seaton's comments concerning PERF are so telling. Not only does Seaton mislead readers into thinking PERF is a federal agency, he clearly wanted readers the think that the AP story he linked to refers to PERF as such. It doesn't. And his response to your correction is ridiculously laughable; "I stand corrected. It is not a federal agency, but it is a national police group (so it could be said to have played a quasi-federal role in coordinating a city and state response to Occupy).

    But as to how progressive it is, I suggest you read the blogpost I flagged up and then decide, rather than simply take their own homepage at face value."

    A quasi-Federal role? WTF?!?!

    And see what he did there; pretending the PERF's description of itself as "progressive" was relevant to the point you were making. Fox News would be impressed.

    I don't believe Seaton was just being sloppy. In the context of this "story", calling PERF a federal agency is a huge piece of misinformation. There's no way this guy doesn't know it.

  6. Great post and comments! Thanks to all of you for helping me become a better gatekeeper. -bonkers

  7. Seaton was just being bloody British. They still view us as recalcitrant colonials and assume they know better. I have lived in the UK for 30 years and have read some otherwise intelligent and educated Brits say and assume tripe about the American government and how it governs, as long as it skews against the US. And the Guardian isn't just "going" in this direction. It's been there for as long as I've been here. Their US Comment Is Free (post Tomasky) is a haven for firebaggers. What is sad to see is this paper and The Independent (another Left-leaning British journal) practicing Janet Cooke and Jayson Blair journalism, which is a matter of course in the US.