Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Media Matters for America on the Swift Boat Vets

Media matters for America has decided on their strategy for handling the Swift Boat Veterans accusations: rather than investigating to see what's true and what's not, they will just convince everyone that the Vets have been shamed and discredited. It's so much easier to just say it --over and over and over and over... -- than to actually prove it.

From Will conservative media Swift Boat apologists now apologize?:
Due to reports by numerous credible news sources in recent days, many of the stories told in Unfit are falling apart, and the partisan ties of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth are proving to run even deeper than previously known.
The body of the post lists several articles that you might assume, given the title of this post and the sentence I quoted, provide evidence to discredit the Swift Boaters. Your assumption would be misguided.

Two articles discuss the citation that was given to Larry Thurlow for the same action. The citation says there was an ambush. But since the Swiftvets claim this citation was based on a false report by Kerry, it still amounts to no more than Kerry's word against the Swiftvets. That's hardly "evidence". All of the people on Kerry's boat think there was an ambush, most of the people on the other boats seem to think there wasn't. Could that be because Kerry's people were reacting to the panic of their commander? At this point I guess we'll never know, but one thing is certain: this story has not even been damaged by the text of Thurlow's citation, much less discredited.

Another article they link to is a transcript of Chris Mathews badgering Thurlow. Mathews demands a source for a rumor that Thurlow heard thirty-five years ago. He demands that Thurlow swear under oath that he knew Kerry's report was the source for his citation (while Thurlow repeatedly tried to provide the evidence for his belief instead). In this and several other places, it was clear that Mathews was just trying to get Thurlow to make irresponsible and absolute statements that could be discredited. He wasn't interested in drawing out Thurlow's side of the story.

In fact, Mathews acted like he was representing the Democratic party, not his viewers. And he failed to get Thurlow to say anything irresponsible, so this article hardly supports the Media Matters fantasy.

Other articles (1) show John Kasich badgering Thurlow for not giving back his medal, (2) explain that one of the Swift Boat Vets did not witness the incidents in question (he never claimed to), (3) propose conspiracy theories about evil Bush Republicans and Swift Boat Vets, (4) recycle the old news of George Eliot's second thoughts about some of the more inflammatory language in the affidavit as a "retraction".

I should point out that I never actually thought all 260-some of the members of the Swift Boat Vets were there to see Kerry blow up a rice bin and get rice in his butt. It should have been obvious to everyone that not all of these men claimed to be eye witnesses to Kerry's in-Vietnam activity. The very idea that this is news is, well, sadly typical.

I should also point out that I've seen about ten articles investigating the funding and motivations of the Swift Boat Vets for every zero I've seen investigating how much Kerry's Band Of Brothers are making or what their political affiliations are. And I'd really like to know that. Wouldn't anyone who really wants to know the truth about these allegations want to know that?

In their continuing efforts to smear the Swift Boat Vets, Media Matters suggest that Steve Gardner has lied about being present for the events leading to Kerry's medals:
Gardner has questioned Kerry's integrity; has claimed personal knowledge of the circumstances leading to Kerry's first Purple Heart; and has spoken with authority about the events leading to Kerry's Bronze Star.
Of course no honest person ever speaks with authority about events he didn't personally witness --an odd position for Media Matters to take, since they also don't seem to consider eye witnesses very trustworthy. Not when it's bad for Democrats, anyway.

Throughout the post, Media Matters gives the impression that Gardner has made claims to knowledge he didn't have, and that somehow he has been found out. Yet when you read past the first paragraph and pay attention, you find that they are reporting nothing even remotely like this.

What do they report? Well, they give several quotes from interviewers who said that Gardner served on the same boat with Kerry and was a witness to Kerry's service in Vietnam. None of them implied that he witnessed any of the medal incidents.

Then we get a couple of examples of Gardner making some statement about the medal incidents and then in the very same interview pointing out that he was not present at the incident and so cannot be considered an eyewitness.

The only quote where Gardner even remotely seems to be speaking as an eye witness is this:
Gardner himself claimed that all of the wounds for which Kerry received Purple Hearts "were superficial wounds, and I mean very superficial, scratches. The very first one is the only one that I can actually attest to because I was there when that wound happened." But Gardner was not there when Kerry sustained that wound; as noted above, Gardner went on to admit: "I was not on the boat with him but I -- in the next three days following that, I was with him on the boat..."
Notice how they toss in that commentary to make it seem like two different quotes. Like Gardner made a claim and then was forced to retract it. Now try it without the commentary:
The very first one is the only one that I can actually attest to because I was there when that wound happened. I was not on the boat with him but I -- in the next three days following that, I was with him on the boat...
Is Gardner trying to deceive anyone here? Is Media Matters for America?

Do they assume it wasn't well-known that Kerry had applied for a Purple Heart for a scratch? I'll bet things like that get around on a military base. And I'll bet Kerry was the subject of a lot of ridicule over it --the kind of ridicule that people remember. Gardner was there to hear the stories and to see Kerry's Band-Aid. That's what he means when he said he was there. Yes, it would have been deceptive if he didn't elaborate, but he did elaborate, didn't he?

Here's another deceptive post by Media Matters (you can pretty much pick 'em by throwing darts at a list). In this one, they say that O'Neill contradicted himself. O'Neill was talking to Nixon and dropped a shocking statement: "I was in Cambodia". Then he qualified that he was actually near the border. This is a rhetorical device. It is simply false to say that he told Nixon he was in Cambodia. By the next sentence, he made sure that Nixon understood he only meant he was on the border.

Yes, there was a minor rhetorical deception. It would have been a real deception if he didn't elaborate, but he did elaborate, didn't he? Again, Media Matters is taking the a quote out of context to make it false.

So I have a question for people who read Media Matters for America: Why? Why do you see value in a news organization that deceives its readers? Is it because you want to be deceived?

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