Media Criticism

NY Times: IRS Targeting of Tea Party Only Proves Republicans Are Desperate

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At least you can wear this NYT editorial. |||

How to portray news that the Internal Revenue Service targeted Tea Party and other right-of-center groups, and then BSed about it as recently as last week? If you're The New York Times, you see it not as an example of government abuse, but rather as a political story about…Republicans. Check out the headline on today's front-pager:

I.R.S. Focus on Conservative Gives G.O.P. an Issue to Seize On

The article has a strong and original potential news hook: A new inspector general audit that the NYT obtained Sunday shows that IRS official Lois Lerner knew of the Tea Party targeting in 2011, contradicting her comments Friday that she only learned about it last week. And yet the paper takes this first-mover advantage and shifts immediately to how "the new information will only add to the criticism" from conservatives desperate for an issue:

Since last year's elections, Republicans in Congress have struggled for traction on their legislative efforts, torn between conservatives who drove the agenda after their 2010 landslide and new voices counseling a shift in course to reflect President Obama's re-election and the loss of Republican seats in the House and the Senate.

But the accusations of I.R.S. abuse are sure to fuel an effort that appears to be uniting dispirited Republicans and their conservative political base: investigating Mr. Obama and his administration. Republicans are pushing a portrayal of an administration overreaching its authority and punishing its enemies. […]

Republicans got little political traction last year when they highlighted the "Fast and Furious" operation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, in which guns that were supposed to be tracked by the agency were instead lost to drug cartels in Mexico.

But the Republican focus on attacks on United States officials in Benghazi, Libya, got new life last week when Gregory Hicks, a State Department critic of the military's response, told a House committee that he had been effectively demoted after lodging his criticism. […]

The I.R.S. disclosures present Republican critics a golden opportunity.

This is a classic demonstration of what Nick Gillespie has called "the politicization of everything." It's the inability to see discrete news events for what they are, rather than what they might mean for the neverending scrum between Teams Red and Blue. We have learned to expect such dreary reductionism from the dwindling bands of committed partisans, but newspapers are supposed to be above all that, bravely rooting through the muck of rhetoric to find truffles of truth.

Journalists react to Benghazi hearings. |||

Instead, what you get so often—from the IRS to Benghazi—is what I like to call "La La La La I Can't Hear You" Journalism. Because Republicans are inherently irritating and unhinged (oh hey look, here's the lead NYT editorial today: "Who Can Take Republicans Seriously?"), because adversarial politics and congressional hearings by definition produce hyperbole as well as information, then stories conservatives care about are assumed to be non-stories until some entity (preferably governmental) produces a preponderance of evidence.

Sometimes journalists slip up and let this decidedly anti-journalistic calculus find its way into print. For instance, here's Alex Koppelman writing about Benghazi in The New Yorker:

For a long time, it seemed like the idea of a coverup was just a Republican obsession. But now there is something to it.

I'LL give you some "obsession"! |||

Well, don't tell that to The New York Times editorial board, which headlined its reaction to the dramatic congressional hearings on the subject like this: "The Republicans' Benghazi Obsession." Read this section of the lead paragraph, and ask yourself who's obsessesed with who:

[T]he hearing showed, yet again, that sober fact-finding is not their mission. Common sense and good judgment have long given way to conspiracy-mongering and a relentless effort to discredit President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Journalism defenders like to tell you that they practice the "discipline of verification." But this looks an awful lot more like straight-up defense of Democratic power against the conservative hordes. Or maybe the Times is just discovering that every new revelation of administration misbehavior merely verifies what they've known all along: Republicans are crazy. 

Previously at Reason, Damon Root highlighted a remarkable 2012 NYT editorial about Tea Party targeting, headlined "The I.R.S. Does Its Job." 

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  1. What difference, at this point, does it make?

  2. The worst part is they really can’t see past their own hypocrisy.

    Republicans aren’t allowed to complain about big things such as Benghazi and tax discrimination, but at the same time progressives will nitpick conservatives and libertarians to death on every little issue they can.

    Hell the NYT themselves are a shining example of this.

    1. The worst part is they really can’t see past their own hypocrisy.

      Progressives don’t just see their own hypocrisy, they embrace it.

    2. It’s not hypocrisy, it’s speaking truth to power. Because everyone knows that all Democrats are impoverished performance artists/urban artisanal boxwood basil farmers (which is why Barrack Obama financed his Presidential campaigns exclusively with the proceeds from his aluminium can recycling) i.e. the ‘little guy’ and Republicans are all lazy billionaire fatcat country club members, who probably still own slaves. Or toothless inbred hicks, who probably want to own slaves. So you need the NYT to balance the scales, since all the other media and social outlets in the country are so rabidly conservative/under the power of Sauron.

      Also, it’s easier to sell papers when you don’t challenge your customer’s self image and deeply held beliefs.

      1. While in LA I have a center-left leaning friend, who I before though was further left than center, explain to me his utter frustration with liberals: that on the left coast (and he suspected in places like New York and DC too), everyone who wasn’t a coast-dweller was seen as an inbred redneck with buggy eyes, belonging to a militia, and ready to receive our marching orders from O’LimBeckLin on a moment’s notice.

        They’ve built a nation of strawmen, and they pat themselves on their pretty little backs everyday that they have been given the ability to slay their own worst fears.

        1. hmmm… sounds like our resident trolls.

        2. Yeah, he’s right, that’s pretty much how it is. In NYC, I hang out with a lot of artsy types (mainly because I’m an artsy type). But when it comes out that I’m right of center (and a minority no less) all hell usually breaks loose. Because in their universe, I’m basically the Devil incarnate, and they just had a lovely conversation and a glass of wine with me without me trying to oppress them, even a little bit.

          1. Well, geekster, you’re a minority, so, by definition, you can’t oppress anyone.

            1. You can’t tell me what to do! Now I gotta go oppress somebody.

    3. I read the whole NYT article and didn’t see any condemnations of Republicans making an issue of this. It’s a horserace/dogfight spectator article that does not paint the Dems or BO’s administration in a good light at all. Is the NYT never supposed to report on political activity?

      1. Yeah, but you’re as dense as London fog. What Nick was highlighting was the choice of angle the Times took, focusing on insignificant Republican politics rather than the truly disconcerting new low revealed in the targeting of political adversaries, all of which of course is in lock-step with the partisan narrative being pushed by the Journ-o-listers on the left.

      2. Who said they were never supposed to report on political activities. The problem is they make everything a political activity.

      3. Seriously, Tulpa, you don’t see the bias in a headline that says “I.R.S. Focus on Conservative Gives G.O.P. an Issue to Seize On”? When was the last time you saw a scandal described in a Times headline with the words “______ Gives Democrats an Issue to Seize On”?

  3. The real world is such a disappointment.

  4. I started to read the comments. I have to go wring out my brain now.

    1. What was their reading grade level?

    2. Thanks for taking one for the team, but for fuck’s sake, don’t do that again.

    3. Just cut straight to the mind bleach. It’s the only way to be sure.

      1. Oh god the comments are stupid, I was curious and looked through the replies and I honestly feel less intelligent as a result. Save yourselves the brain damage and just don’t read them. My head hurts.

  5. In the Times‘ses defense, Congressional Republicans tend to bring this on themselves with the way the conduct themselves.

    But the thing is, the opposition party does the complaining about abuses, or should, and journalists should see themselves as partners in the effort. But the left media will never walk hand-in-hand with Republicans against Obama. Never.

    1. The media is fucking pointless as “The Fourth Estate?” if it doesn’t latch on to even the slightest hint of scandal with the jaws of a mad dog.

      Of course, this and some of the other scandals involve more than a hint of impropriety.

      I wish partisanship ended where corruption, abuse of power, and lying began.

      1. This isn’t even a scandal. The TP groups are transparently political (and I say that as a TP person myself) and were filing as a social welfare group. The IRS had every right to grill them. The question is whether they were doing it in an arbitrary and capricious way.

        1. “This isn’t even a scandal…..The question is whether they were doing it in an arbitrary and capricious way.”

          And you don’t find that scandalous?

        2. As opposed to the non-political Organizing For America, also a 501(c)(4)? Or Media Matters, a 501(c)(3)? Were they asked for membership lists, etc.?

  6. National Lampoon wasn’t satire, it was a view into the future.

  7. What difference, in journalism, does it make? It’s not a scientific field. There’s no blinding or placebo-control or randomization to eliminate the possibility of biases sneaking into the finished product. If anything, it’s a discipline defined by bias, or at least masking bias well enough to pass it off as unvarnished fact. The problem, to my mind, isn’t with NYT writing articles the NYT would write, it’s readers on the left failing to recognize that it’s brain candy for progressives, little better than Daily KOS.

    1. BUT FAUX NEWS!!!

  8. Republicans got little political traction last year when they highlighted the “Fast and Furious” operation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, in which guns that were supposed to be tracked by the agency were instead lost to drug cartels in Mexico.

    If every story is told through the prism of political point-scoring and the New York Times is the oft-described “paper of record,” doesn’t this paragraph boil down to:

    “Republicans got little political traction last year when they highlighted ‘Fast and Furious’ operation … because we didn’t give them traction.”
    ?

    1. Exactly.

    2. Yup, the logic that has been out their with Benghazi is “they were the only ones talking about it back then so they made themselves look stupid and now it’s old news”. There is no comment on why the NYT, etc, wouldn’t talk about it back then.

      1. BFYTW

        hth

    3. Actually, it boils down to, “We didn’t pay attention when Republicans highlighted the ‘Fast and Furious’ operation…”

  9. I could swear one of the bad things Nixon did was use the IRS (and the FBI) to mess with political opponents. That’s all okay now?

    1. *sigh*

      ONLY WHEN IT’S A DEMOCRAT! Because Truth to Power, and Rethuglicans something something minorities and women something something correct wrongs of the past systemic racism something structural something angry rich white guys.

      Flase equivalency – what Nixon did was WRONG and Our Glorious POTUS The One does is to correct things like what Nixon did. DUH!

      1. And “Flase” equivalecy is like “false” equivalency but WAY worse, and only committed by bitter, clinging, rat-bagging teafuckers.

    2. And how many Peace Prizes did Nixon win, Mr. Smartypants?

      1. He’d have been in the running if we’d have lost sooner in Viet Nam.

      2. He certainly earned as many as the current president.

        1. Well played old man.

  10. The lilly of the valley girl is a great picture.

  11. Why are you obsessing about old news from last week? Doesn’t that prove you’re only interested in scoring political points when you keep dredging up old stories like this? It’s already been investigated, hearings have been held, those responsible have been disciplined, reports have been issued, all over this one isolated incident. Nothing to see here, move along.

  12. Hey Matt, thanks for using the Obsession album art to punch up the article. I eagerly await mad libertarian guy’s review and youtube link.

    Not!

  13. NYT: Woman with short skirt invited rape! or something like that.

  14. How can anybody take Darrell Issa seriously? He made his millions selling car alarms, for crying out loud. When his granddaughter is in Congress, with a nice clean trust fund income, then the Issa family will be respectable and the NYT will listen.

    1. I’m no fan of those randomly-going-off car alarms, but I appreciate that someone is trying to meet the market need of car-owners dealing with thieves.

      The NYT editors probably don’t have to worry about car alarms because their chauffeurs park their cars in special locked garages.

  15. The fact that Republicans have cried wolf so many times, thrown spaghetti at the wall, or whatever other metaphor, means that it is ever more difficult to take them seriously when they are on to their next self-serving hissy fit. I want Republicans to be better so Democrats are held more accountable. Their neverending list of fake and semi-fake grievances makes that all the more difficult.

    1. Tony, you have no idea how glad I have been to have you around lately. Watching you try to defend this administration’s corruption while failing miserably at it has been truly a joy to see. Your scrambling and prevaricating to figure out a reason why THIS time it was different, because someone from your TEAM did it, has been awesome.

      Keep up the good work, buddy!

      1. The IRS thing happened under a Bush-appointed commissioner, and the agency I think only has two political appointees, so it’s really an IRS scandal if anything, not a TEAM scandal. And I just said I want there to be more accountability. That’s just made more difficult by the fact that one TEAM is so transparently political about everything that fewer and fewer people are taking their complains seriously. There might as well be a high-placed mole in the GOP urging them on: “Yes, Benghazi, keep harping on that! Hey nobody’s talked about Obama’s birth certificate lately. Why don’t we get back on that for a while?”

        1. Name one thing the Republicans cried wolf about recently. They were right about both Benghazi and Fast and Furious.

          Hey nobody’s talked about Obama’s birth certificate lately. Why don’t we get back on that for a while?”

          The mainstream Republican party never talked about Obama’s birth certificate. Or do you think Donald Trump is the Republican National Chairman?

          Face it. The Obama administration is Nixon level corrupt and Grant level incompetent.

          1. Other than Rand Paul, the GOP weren’t right about Benghazi. I haven’t seen McCain and Graham et al. denounce the interventionism addiction that is the root cause of that event.

          2. After Bush II, Nixon-level corrupt seems like a long-lost age of innocence. And what a masterful way of handling it: the Bushies were so mind-fuckingly corrupt in so many bloody and unconstitutional and horrific ways, it’s as if they got away with it all simply by instilling a psychological block in everyone. “It’s all too ugly, just make it go away!” And so it did, and we got Scooter Libby’s head, and that’s about it.

            You’re gonna have to do better than trumped-up bullshit like Fast and Furious and Benghazi. More accountability has already been demanded and extracted for the Obama mini-scandals than for the legalized torture, wars based on lies, or inept counterterrorism of the previous one.

            It’s an odd thing in politics. There were so many channels of corruption under Bush we’re basically numb to it. That the two or three Obama “scandals” keep coming up over and over suggests a couple things, one being that they must be relatively ethical to have only these couple of minor things tarnishing them, the other being that Republicans are desperate for scandal. That they have absolutely no shame for their utter blindness to the real scandals of the past is of course a given.

            1. “the Bushies were so mind-fuckingly corrupt”

              Yes, the were, almost Clinton-level corruption. Fewer mysterious, inexplicable suicides, though.

        2. “That’s just made more difficult by the fact that one TEAM is so transparently political about everything that fewer and fewer people are taking their complains seriously.”

          Yes, I think I saw this transparent politcizing once when a certain TEAM had a conniption fit over the patriot act until their guy signed it into law, or when a certain stimulus package was distributed most heavily to districts that voted for the party who passed it, or when an certain house member made a mistaken, yet insignificant comment about the female body’s reaction to rape, or when a certain president blatantly lied about the cause of an embassy attack so as not to harm his political prospects, or when a certain TEAM implied that Sarah Palin was responsible the death of a certain congresswoman because of some obscure web site posted months earlier that made use of a common unrelated cliche, or when….

          1. You had to push pretty hard to squeeze those little nuggets out. Wake me when Obama starts a multitrillion-dollar war based on lies.

            1. You realize that saying the Iraq war was based on lies is straight-jacket Info Wars, don’t you?

              No, you don’t. You actually think that’s the case. You actually believe the intel on Iraq was manufactured. Oil, right? Even though we never got any oil from Iraq?

              Whatever the depths of your insanity, if we’re comparing multi-billion dollar boondoggles (aren’t they all?), I’ll take a war that frees 57 million people from a cruel dictator over a stimulus package that makes the economy worse.

              1. You just lost your privilege of being given the benefit of the doubt regarding your sanity.

                It doesn’t bother you that the intel, whether you describe it as “manufactured” or “selectively cited” was wrong?

                Dick Cheney personally lied to members of Congress about the level of certainty about WMD. He, himself, lied to get Congress to vote for war. Not that he felt a vote in Congress was even necessary.

                That, and so much more. The stimulus didn’t get anyone killed, and you’re wrong about the economics anyway, but that’s apparently just your prerogative.

                1. “It doesn’t bother you that the intel, whether you describe it as “manufactured” or “selectively cited” was wrong?”

                  Yes it bothers me and it’s been drubbed to death. Like, actually drubbed to death, not the “we’re going to almost comically parrot the ‘its old news’ narrative even though it was never even covered or discussed” kind of drubbed to death.

                  “you’re wrong about the economics anyway, but that’s apparently just your prerogative.”

                  ??? I’m just using Obama’s economics.

                  “That, and so much more.”

                  And so much more? Tony, it’s all the same innuendo and six-degrees-of-separation stuff you’re brushing off now. It’s just that now you see it as drummed up innuendo, when before it was all certain scandalous corruption. And the end result is the politicians just learn if they just push the team v. team enough they can get away with anything.

                2. It doesn’t bother you that the intel, whether you describe it as “manufactured” or “selectively cited” was wrong?

                  you’re right. i am outraged over the benghazi lies

            2. Wake me when Obama starts a multitrillion-dollar war based on lies.

              well, smuggling weapons to syrian rebels is a good start.

    2. The point of throwing spaghetti against the wall is to see if it’s done. Even in your use of metaphors you’re a moron.

    3. Its hackery nourishes me

      nomnomnom

    4. Re: Tony,

      The fact that Republicans have cried wolf so many times, thrown spaghetti at the wall, or whatever other metaphor, means that it is ever more difficult to take them seriously when they are on to their next self-serving hissy fit.

      I don’t understand the point of your obfuscation and your red herrings, especially when a middle-level IRS manager already conceded that the IRS acted in an unethical way (at least.) That concession should tell anyone with a mind that the grievances and complaints from Tea Party organizations and others who said they were especially targeted by the IRS, were all true.

      1. And I guarantee you there will be a somewhat appropriate level of accountability for any wrongdoing. The problem is the FOX News sheeple want this to be a nefarious Obama plot.

  16. So, do you think the New York Times has any self awareness, or did that ship sail a while back?

    1. The robot devil is going to come and enforce that contract with the NYT, sooner or later.

  17. I think that the Democrats’ consistent and obviously insincere and political dismissal of this and other evident corruption from their guy indicates that a certain event horizon has been passed, and we’ve entered the inevitable democratic death spiral as the rules of reason and intellectual honesty that it requires as a backdrop have been furlonged in the petty pursuit tribalist power plays. The best thing Republicans can do at this point is run with it, escalating the foul play whenever their opportunity arises, knowing Democrats will respond in kind, up until people grow so weary of the whole thing that there’s a revolutionary reaction and real and stronger safeguards are adopted against the abuse of majority rule.

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