When Debunkers Need Debunking (1): American Thinker

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For the first in our series on media sources that pose as debunkers but desperately cry out for debunking themselves, we turn to the website American Thinker. With its respectable sounding name and its mascot of Uncle Sam emulating Rodin’s celebrated statue, American Thinker promises informed, thoughtful and insightful commentary. What it delivers is more of the same old same old. Here are, honest to Pete, some actual random titles of recent articles on the site:

California Wildfires and Environmental Radicalism

Election Slaughter for Climate Activism

Global Warming Snowed Under

Hollywood Erases Hope

Democrat(sic) Corruption Is a Clear and Present Danger to America

Florida Election Fraud’s Hidden Gun-Control Agenda

The Left Favors Global Warming

Green Energy is the Perfect Scam

Reminder: White Liberals Hate Living in Black Neighborhoods

As laughably awful as such titles are, you can be assured that the articles they accompany are only worse. (While you well might suspect that the two we’re about to examine were chosen because they represent the site at its most inane, they’re actually among the most intelligent posts appearing there!) It appears that American Thinker doesn’t do much thinking at all except about how to advance the right-wing narrative and attack “liberals” — which are really the same objective. Among other things, you’ll notice that Thinkering apparently involves an obsession with trying to discredit science. (A little hint, guys: if you want to maintain even a modicum of credibility, lay off parroting the kindergarten “skepticism” about climate change.) One article even exults that American Thinker’s beloved White House Occupant is not an “intellectual”, in quotation marks. And not surprisingly, it jumps on the right-wing’s oh-so-trendy “fake news” bandwagon, rebranding real news as fake, and vice versa.

“Fake news is whatever we say it is”

One such endeavor is authored by David Solway (one of those “former leftists” who transformed into a right-winger after having a revelation that smugness is more profitable than humanity) with a piece called A Brief History of the Fake News Media. Unfortunately, he gets so carried away with being brief that he neglects to include any actual instances of fake news. (The BBC offers a much more respectable compact history of fake news.) What he mentions instead are a couple of possible instances of spin and political distortion from decades ago. Those things happen constantly — sometimes inadvertently. And, to cite a current extremely popular right-wing defense, both sides do it.

One of his supposed milestones in the history of “fake news” is that the media in 1964 ran with the contrived Democratic narrative that Barry Goldwater was trigger-happy. That characterization was based on Goldwater’s own words, such as this pronouncement:

There is real need for the supreme commander to be able to use judgment on the use of these weapons, tactical nuclear weapons, more expeditiously than he could by telephoning the White House, and I would say that in these cases the supreme commander should be given great leeway in the decision to use them or not to use them.

Maybe it really was unfair to conclude from such remarks that he was an antsy nukehead. (Solway limits his own consideration of Goldwater’s words to a different statement that sounds even less sinister.) But that hardly qualifies as fake news. And if Solway really wants to highlight such cases of media irresponsibility, one must wonder why he makes no mention of a very similar but far worse case 36 years later: the media’s relentless complicity in the GOP’s dishonest characterization of Al Gore as a liar. That involved not only misinterpreting but willfully misquoting and mangling Gore’s utterances — many, many, many of his utterances. The only problem is, the Gore disaster does not (to make a titanic understatement) do much to support the all-important narrative of “librul bias” in the mainstream media.

He also brings up another incident from ages ago, British politician Enoch Powell’s so-called “rivers of blood speech” in 1968,  citing the supposed dangers of allowing too many immigrants into his country.  Indeed, Powell recommended allowing virtually no immigration at all, and warned of the resentment and anger among (white) citizens if the Race Relations Bill were passed into law. Some in the media expressed outrage over the apparent racist connotations of his remarks; and in Solway’s universe, that’s just another example of the librulmedia making up things out of whole cloth. (He previously defended Powell in an article called The Scourge of Multiculturalism. No, really. That’s the actual title.)

What he fails to mention is that several conservative politicians were also outraged by the speech — the Conservative leader Edward Heath even dismissed Powell from his post because of it. Furthermore, there were instances of violent racist attacks by Powell’s supporters who were egged on by the comments. Yet, by Solway’s reckoning, the less than glowing reception of that oration by the Fifth Estate illustrates that

The media are especially adept at creating villains out of whole cloth for public consumption to advance a particular and often dubious purpose. How else explain the transformation of significant political figures into synonyms for perfidy and opprobrium.

If he really believes this — and if he’s truly concerned about it — then one really, really, really must wonder why he makes no mention of a far more recent, far more protracted, far more intensive, far more dishonest, far more malicious, far more lopsided and far more catastrophic occurrence: the media’s relentless demonization of Hillary Clinton, whom they turned into… well, a synonym for perfidy and opprobrium. And guess what? That undertaking included several instances of real, actual, genuine, bona fide fake news — e.g., “Pizzagate”, Russian uranium deal, and “Hillary caused the deaths in Benghazi”. No saga in modern history illustrates more clearly the disastrous impact of fake news than the tragedy of Hillary Clinton. It would have been the perfect textbook case study for Solway’s dissertation. Except for, um, one pesky little detail: it goes strongly against the grain of the librulmedia motif. Accordingly, he makes nary a peep about it.

But his most cringeworthy moment is in asserting that Joe McCarthy got a bum rap. It’s a stark testimony to the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of many wingers (like the Thinkerers, evidently) that they try not only to rehabilitate but to canonize this execrable waste of carbon. (More about this in a future post.) Particularly since the release of the Venona papers in 1995, the McCarthyites have been crowing that Their Boy has been exonerated, vindicated and exalted. Maybe the guy went a “little overboard”, they say, but he was right about the existence of Soviet spies in the U.S.

Yes, there were indeed such spies in the Thirties and Forties (when the Soviet Union was a U.S. ally, for what it’s worth), but they’d mostly come and gone before McCarthy ever decided to exploit paranoia for his megalomaniac pastime of destroying lives and careers. McCarthy knew zilch about communists and even less about spies, yet he was obsessed with conflating the two, and trying to implicate anyone who so much as wore red socks. He was just an unprincipled opportunist hugging the spotlight and firing into the dark. Perennial Communism scholar Harvey Klehr sums it up best:

But if McCarthy was right about some of the large issues, he was wildly wrong on virtually all of the details. There is no indication that he had even a hint of the Venona decryptions, so he did not base his accusations on the information in them. Indeed, virtually none of the people that McCarthy claimed or alleged were Soviet agents turn up in Venona. He did identify a few small fry who we now know were spies but only a few. And there is little evidence that those he fingered were among the unidentified spies of Venona. Many of his claims were wildly inaccurate; his charges filled with errors of fact, misjudgments of organizations and innuendos disguised as evidence. He failed to recognize or understand the differences among genuine liberals, fellow-traveling liberals, Communist dupes, Communists and spies — distinctions that were important to make. The new information from Russian and American archives does not vindicate McCarthy. He remains a demagogue, whose wild charges actually made the fight against Communist subversion more difficult. Like Gresham’s Law, McCarthy’s allegations marginalized the accurate claims. Because his facts were so often wrong, real spies were able to hide behind the cover of being one of his victims and even persuade well-meaning but naïve people that the whole anti-communist cause was based on inaccuracies and hysteria.

These words are from a speech that was even reprinted on the rabidly right-wing site  Frontpage Mag, founded by frothy-mouthed right-winger David Horowitz, whose schizo creed is that “the political left has declared war on America and its constitutional system, and is willing to collaborate with America’s enemies abroad and criminals at home to bring America down”. And steal our precious fluids, no doubt. I repeat, even this pitiful soul has signed off on Klehr’s assessment. Note also that it was a Republican who finally stood up to McCarthy on the Senate floor. And when the Senate voted to condemn him, half of his GOP pals broke ranks to vote against him. (Do you realize what a feat it is to get even one GOPer to break ranks on anything?) And yet, we’re supposed to believe that McCarthyism is a wholesale fiction created by The Left in collaboration with their accomplices, the lamestream media.

Had them librulz really exercised such a stranglehold on the media, McCarthy would have been brought to account for his recklessness and cruelty years earlier. Yet in Solway’s universe, the media’s reporting, at long last, the truth about McCarthy is not only a specimen of fake news, but proof positive of librulbias in the media. His allegiance to the McCarthy cult probably tells you all you need to know about him. And, for that matter, all you need to know about American Thinker. Not to mention the fact that the site also defends the forty-fifth White House Occupant — it even labels as “snowflakes” those who oppose this putative president whose fragile ego and infantile whinings are the daily fodder of news and social media.

The color of welfare

Meanwhile, another frequent contributor, Sierra Rayne (a supporter of the 45th W.H.O., which is probably all  you need to know about him) tries his hand at debunking the “myth of red state welfare”.  As you may have heard, the meme has been going around (a “key liberal talking point”, as he pegs it) that “red states” — i.e., those who vote for Republican presidential candidates — are bigger welfare leeches than “blue” states — i.e., those who vote for Democratic presidential candidates. Rayne takes aim at this “myth”, but unfortunately for him, he seems to have a clumsy habit of serving up facts that debunk his own debunking efforts.

It’s really not fair, he says, to judge a state’s redness or blueness merely by how it voted in the most recent presidential election; we should look at a more long-term trend. Sounds reasonable enough. So then he posts the following table, covering percentages of votes for Democratic candidates in elections from 1980 to 2012.

Red state welfare.PNG

Trouble is, even over this three-decade span, the figures strongly corroborate the “red state welfare myth”. Of the top 10 welfare states, only two were not clearly red (New Mexico and West Virginia, which were evenly split). And of the bottom 10 welfare states, only three were not clearly blue (Nevada and Colorado were distinctly red — though they’ve been trending blue of late — while New Hampshire was evenly split).

Ah, but it’s really the numbers in those columns on the right that he wants you to focus on. Because the central point of his thesis is that the hue of a state should actually be determined by how it votes for governors and congresspersons, because… well, just because. And here, he claims, is where the red state welfare “myth” completely “falls apart”. By his reckoning, North Dakota and South Dakota should be considered blue states, even though both have gone Democratic in NONE of these presidential elections.

It isn’t terribly difficult to see that something doesn’t add up about his claims. For one thing, it results in some serious mixed messages. Mississippi (which also scored zero in favoring Democratic presidents) voted 13 percent for Democratic senators and 62 percent for Democratic representatives. So which is it? There are similar problems with Louisiana (87 percent and 45 percent) and Minnesota (35 and 62).

To his credit, Rayne himself seems to acknowledge that it’s not always easy to determine that a state is either red or blue. But again, he swats down his own argument by bringing up California. Surely just about everyone in the galaxy recognizes that the Golden State is the quintessence of azure. You know, granola crunching, war protesting, pot smoking, free love and all that groovy stuff, man. Not to mention the “Hollywood elitists”.  Yet, as he points out, California has a nasty habit of electing Republican governors, going back decades — those kooky Californians even elected a couple of those Hollywood elitists, for heaven’s sake.

Rayne’s mention of California should have clued him in that he was overlooking a very important point: voting habits are a reflection of the values that actually determine redness or blueness. And the evidence indicates that presidential choice usually reflects those values more accurately than voting patterns in other elections. The probable reasons are simple and obvious (except perhaps to Thinkerists). First, more voters participate in presidential elections. A lot more. Average voter turnout for presidential election years is about 50 percent higher than for midterm years; for other elections, it can be 200 to 300 percent higher! Furthermore, whatever the number of participants, most voters simply regard the presidential vote as the most important; thus, it’s more likely to show the true colors of the electorate. And voters probably are more likely to cross the aisle when they feel there’s less at stake.

In trying to pull a gotcha on them librulz for cherry picking, Rayne does some major cherry picking himself. Just another day in the life of a Thinkererer. For all its pseudointellectual posturing, American Thinker clearly exists for the same purpose as other right-wing propaganda outlets: to promote anti-intellectualism and bigotry.

Why Bush Vs. Gore Still Matters

2000_election_supreme_court_ap_img

It’s now been 15 years since a fiercely partisan Supreme Court handed the keys to the kingdom to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney (not necessarily in that order). A hotly contested battle at the time, the clash between the Bush camp and the Gore camp has faded into a paragraph in the annals of history; most people seem to assume that the matter was settled long ago and everyone has moved on. Anyone who suggests otherwise is likely to be dismissed as a mere librul being a sore loser. Just recently, I saw yet another indignant editorial denouncing the insidious “liberal lie” that Bush stole the election.

But as we detailed in a four-part series on its tenth anniversary, there are many reasons why this travesty never should be forgotten. It amounted to a bloodless coup, brought about by a multi-pronged apparatus of nepotism and election tampering. And it probably would not have happened without the complicity of a grotesquely lopsided media.

The media ignored and even actively refused to examine a massive, irregular, highly suspicious pre-election drive by Florida’s governor (who just happened to be Bush’s younger brother) and secretary of state (who just happened to be co-chair of the Bush campaign in that state) to unlawfully purge the voter rolls of tens of thousands of likely Democratic voters under a false pretext. Disenfranchising thousands of perfectly qualified Democratic voters? That doesn’t count as election theft, does it?

During the campaign, the media took up the drumbeat of the Karl Rove character assassination against Al Gore, thoroughly branding him as a pathological  liar — without producing even one actual lie he’d told — and trying to manufacture whoppers out of the most trivial things he did say. Meanwhile, the media ignored bona fide lies that Bush told about important policy matters and his actions in office while he was governor of Texas. They also ignored his long track record of consistent failure and his gross ignorance about the federal government he was positioning himself to lead. His almost daily verbal gaffes were shrugged off, scrubbed, or spun as part of a folksy charm he supposedly inherited by being a Texan (though he was actually from Maine).

The media ignored or glossed over the fact that 80 percent of the ballots nationwide were counted by electronic voting machines supplied by 3 companies — all of which were owned by persons with strong ties to the Republican Party; and that Republicans did extremely well in places where these machines were used. In fact of the many highly suspicious glitches and irregularities that these beasts coughed up, virtually all benefited GOP candidates. Screwy voting machines owned by Republicans that disproportionately generate errors helping Republicans win? Why should anyone care about that?

On election night, it was the standard bearer of American media, Fox “News” that proclaimed Bush the winner, with the other networks sheepishly following suit, thereby immediately and permanently casting Gore in the role of challenger. That premature election night call was made by a Fox talking head who just happened to be Bush’s cousin.

During the legal battle, the media ignored the fact that the Supreme Court (which happened to include two justices appointed by Bush’s father, one of whose wife was involved in promoting a Bush presidency) did an abrupt about-face from its usual states’ rights stances in halting the Florida recount, generating a legal argument so egregious that the justices inserted a decree that no future court should follow it in any other case. And that the Court imposed arbitrary deadlines and restrictions, and offered unjustified reasons for stopping the recount. And that one of those reasons was that Bush would probably win his suit — a preliminary ruling the justices delivered without even reading the brief! And that the court openly admitted its main interest was in preserving Bush’s claim to victory — as opposed to determining the actual winner. Blatantly interested Supreme Court justices ruling in favor of their boy? Nothing suspicious about that, is there?

But perhaps the biggest slap in the face of all to the American public came a year after the election. The Supreme Court fiat did not satisfy the curiosity about who would have won had the recount proceeded. To quote myself from an earlier article:

So, with the supposed objective of setting the matter straight, a consortium of eight news organizations sponsored a painstaking review of the ballots that were rejected. (At least all they had available. Thousands of them, mostly from heavily Democratic precincts, were mysteriously MIA.) Conducted by the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center and closely monitored by representatives of both political camps, the review tallied the likely outcomes under several different counting standards.

And what was the result? Somewhat mixed, with Bush winning under some counting scenarios and Gore under others. But Gore won under more scenarios than Bush — including any and all that involved a statewide recount. This,  bear in mind, was even after all the shenanigans the pachyderms pulled off.

Strangely enough, this fact was dutifully noted by The Drudge Report — a very unusual degree of honesty for Drudge or any other  right-wing source. In an article titled “Gore Beat Bush in Florida, Says New Recount” Drudge led off with what it must have found a very disturbing conclusion:

A vote-by-vote review of untallied ballots in the 2000 Florida presidential election commissioned by the nation’s main media outlets shows Al Gore edged ahead of George W. Bush “under all the scenarios for counting all undervotes and overvotes statewide,” the Drudge Report has learned. [Newspapers] will splash in Monday editions an election review which will ignite total controversy during a time of war…

But of course no such splash was splashed, and no such firestorm erupted. National unity was preserved in time of a contrived war, praise the lord and pass the ammunition. Because the rest of the media did not follow Drudge’s surprise lead. Instead, most major media outlets buried the results of their own investigation under the unequivocal narrative that the right man ended up in the White House. Their headlines screamed “Bush Would Have Won a Recount”, while the truth, if it was reported at all, was mentioned in passing somewhere on the back page.

The New York Times (an ultra-librul rag, don’t you know) ran a piece under the unwieldy heading

EXAMINING THE VOTE: THE OVERVIEW; Study of Disputed Florida Ballots Finds Justices Did Not Cast the Deciding Vote

Except that farther down the page, the Times fleetingly mentions bits and pieces of the evidence that actually, the justices sort of did. And the editors also managed to let this slip through the filters:

Another complicating factor in the effort to untangle the result is the overseas absentee ballots that arrived after Election Day. A New York Times investigation earlier this year showed that 680 of the late-arriving ballots did not meet Florida’s standards yet were still counted. The vast majority of those flawed ballots were accepted in counties that favored Mr. Bush, after an aggressive effort by Bush strategists to pressure officials to accept them.

A statistical analysis conducted for The Times determined that if all counties had followed state law in reviewing the absentee ballots, Mr. Gore would have picked up as many as 290 additional votes, enough to tip the election in Mr. Gore’s favor in some of the situations studied in the statewide ballot review.

Counting illegal Republican ballots because the Bushites demanded it? What’s complicating about that? (See the late great Gore Vidal’s eloquent dissection of the Times article in The Nation.)

Anything approximating journalistic integrity and impartiality would require reaching and publicizing the conclusion that the results of the Florida review made Bush’s “victory” questionable to say the least. But that’s not what the mainstream media said then. And that’s not what they’re saying now. And that’s why it’s so important to preserve and present the facts.

There is a scene In Tony Kushner’s play Angels In America, in which one character asks what history will say about something, and another replies that history will lie as usual. Yes, history does lie — sometimes through many generations of schoolchildren who are force-fed inaccurate information, creating a warped sensibility that is often very difficult to rectify, and shapes the kind of world those children live in when they become adults. Let’s try to make certain that history doesn’t take as long to speak the truth about George W. Bush as it did about Christopher Columbus.

 

The Media Role in Bush vs. Gore, Part 2: The Opponent

Liar.

That’s probably not a word that Al Gore had heard applied to himself very often prior to 2000, at least no more often than your average politician. But by the time the Karl Rove juggernaut was through, it was his official brand. Rather than trying to engage him on the issues or even on the actual features of his character or his record, Team Rove wisely recast him in the public eye with a single, simple epithet (a service they also would perform four years later for John “Flip-Flopper” Kerry): Liar, liar, liar.

In fairness, Rove and Company didn’t really invent the image of Gore as serial prevaricator; the media had already been kicking its tires for a while before the 2000 open season on Gore officially began. But Rove et al certainly took advantage of it; in one debate Dubya even piously admonished Gore to “tell the truth” – advice that he didn’t exactly practice very diligently himself. To whatever extent the Bush-Rove propaganda machine helped, Gore’s alleged dishonesty was the second most frequent theme the media applied to him during his presidential campaign (the most frequent being that he was “scandal tainted”, whatever that means). He was, in propaganda parlance, completely re-framed.

And here’s the really cool part. This was accomplished without producing even one single bona fide lie Gore had told.

That might surprise you if you paid any attention at all to the media during that election season. You surely heard about, and probably even recall, a great deal of discussion about Gore’s “lies” – one boastful whopper in particular. But on closer inspection, each “lie” turned out to be a distortion crafted by Team Rove and/or their accomplices in the Republican party and the mainstream media. It’s worth revisiting some of these “lies”, because they provide excellent textbook illustrations of how to take a rather harmless fact and, by tweaking it a bit, transform it into a blatant distortion, and a potent bit of propaganda.

Here, then, are a few of the most frequently recounted Gore “lies”:

INVENTING THE INTERNET
This has come to be not only one of the most notorious lies but one of the most famous quotes by a politician ever. Trouble is, he never said it. What he said was “During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet. ” Some of his detractors have hedged their bets by declaring that “create” and “invent” are synonyms. But that’s true only in certain circumstances. A chef might go into the kitchen and create a chocolate cake, but that wouldn’t necessarily mean that he invented it. If I design a spaceship and hire you as the shop foreman when the prototype is built, I wouldn’t get mad if you claimed you took the initiative in creating it. In Gore’s case, he pushed as a legislator to help make the Internet (which wasn’t even called the Internet yet) available to the public. Vinton Cerf, hailed as the “Father of the Internet”, has publicly praised the former V.P. for his efforts in that regard. So, for that matter, has former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, an extreme right-wing Republican. Cerf personally presented Gore with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences for three decades of effort in shepherding this technology to life. The event barely made a blip on the media’s radar.

LOVE STORY
During his Harvard days, Al was acquainted with Erich Segal, future author of “Love Story”, and was a roommate of future Oscar-winning actor Tommy Lee Jones (who would make his screen debut in the 1970 film adaptation of the novel). In an article in a Tennessee newspaper, Segal stated that he based the lead character on both young men, and when the paper reported this, it also incorrectly suggested that the female lead was based on Al’s wife, Tipper. When Al relayed this account, he was of course relying on sloppy journalism. (Is there such a thing? Heaven forbid!) But as far as the media were concerned, it was “another bizarre fabrication” by a pathological fibber.

THE STANDING STUDENT
During the first presidential debate, Gore illustrated the problem of underfunded schools by describing how classes were so crowded at Sarasota High School in Florida that a student named Kailey Ellis had to stand to class. He was correct that at one time she’d had to stand in class, but since he received that news, circumstances had changed. “Ah ha!” Screamed the the media in chorus. “Another bald-faced lie!” They had no problem with Bush stating that Social Security is not a federal program, but when Gore used the wrong verb tense, they went into a frenzy. And in all the brouhaha, the real issue got completely swept aside.

LOVE CANAL
While addressing a group of high school students in Concord, NH, Gore was speaking about the importance of environmental activism and activism in general, when he related how as a congressman he had received a letter from a student in Tennessee about toxic waste that piqued his interest in the subject, and it inspired him to find more problem sites to investigate, including Love Canal in New York. “That was the one that started it all”, he said of the obscure site in Tennessee. The very next day, the media reported that he had said “I was the one that started it all”, as if he had invented not only the Internet, but toxic cleanup as well. The Republican National Committee gleefully circulated the quote, after altering it to “I was the one who started it all”. (Perhaps they wanted to make certain his grammar was correct so he wouldn’t be confused with their boy.) The media not only bandied this one about endlessly, but also interpreted his statement about learning about Love Canal (for himself) as discovering Love Canal (for everyone).

LIAR’S LULLABY
In a speech, Al expressed his pro-union sympathies by joking that when he was a child, he was sung “Look for the Union Label” as a lullaby. “Ah ha!” screamed. “That song wasn’t written until he was a grown man.” The obvious fact that it was an obvious joke totally eluded them, even though he had made the same joke many times before.

SPREADING LIKE WILDFIRE
Also during the first debate, Gore mentioned that he had traveled to Texas on a certain date to view wildfire damage, accompanied by James Witt, head of FEMA. He hadn’t. But he had traveled with Witt on 17 other occasions, so it’s easy to see how they might all blur together. And he promptly corrected his own mistake, but by then the wildfire of his latest alleged whopper was already raging out of control.

And so it went. According to a review by two non-partisan groups (Project for Excellence in Journalism and Pew Research Center), a whopping 76% of the media’s coverage of Gore in early 2000 was based on his “lies” or “scandals”. Meanwhile, Dubya uttered a number of factual inaccuracies (deliberate and otherwise) that went all but unnoticed. They did not concern his inspiration for fictitious characters or what lullabies he was exposed to or even anything so monumental as his sex life. But they did deal with boring matters like military operations and his own tax plan. In one debate, he even claimed responsibility as governor of Texas for passage of a patients’ rights bill; in truth, the measure passed despite his veto. And what was the most frequent media theme about him? That he was “a different kind of Republican”.

Why the disparity? Especially given that we all know there is an overwhelming “liberal bias” (wink wink) in the mainstream media. Did the media just have it in for Gore for some reason? Well, that certainly appears to have been the case, even though a majority of major American newspapers did endorse him – the first time that had happened to a Democrat in 40 years (i.e., since JFK). As Time magazine’s Margaret Carlson commented, “But it’s really easy, and it’s fun, to disprove Gore. As sport, and as our enterprise, Gore coming up with another whopper is greatly entertaining to us.” So entertaining, evidently, that they were willing to do the work of coming up with the whoppers for him.

But there is perhaps another explanation. Newsweek’s Howard Fineman made this mind-blowing admission: “I don’t think the media was going to allow, just by its nature, the next seven weeks, the last seven or eight weeks of the campaign, to be all about Al Gore’s relentless, triumphant march to the presidency. We want a race, I suppose. If we have a bias of any kind, it’s that we like to see a contest and we like to see it down to the end if we can.”

If that was the strategy, it certainly appears to have worked. Whenever Gore would surge ahead in the polls, a new revelation about his latest “lie” would pull him back down again. There is little doubt that by relentlessly painting him as dishonest – even if they themselves had to be dishonest to do it – the media made the election much closer than it otherwise would have been. And set the stage for the Bizarro planet post-election showdown that was to come.

(Next: What the media ignored)