Why Does Media Matters Keep Denying its Ties to Soros?

As the adage goes, it’s dangerous to mud-wrestle with a pig because you both end up getting dirty, and the pig likes it.

Which bring us to Media Matters for America, an organization that -despite its insistence to the contrary- is not primarily interested in the truth. The group is interested in detecting and correcting media bias, specifically “conservative misinformation,” in order to intimidate conservative commentators and politically incorrect journalists to ensure they toe the correct ideological line. To this group “conservative misinformation” means conservative ideas, and it is MM’s mission to stamp out, or least marginalize, conservative ideas. Legitimate political differences of opinion are treated as untruths or thought crimes, and the Media Matters approach to content analysis is a sham.

Reduced to a crude syllogism, the Media Matters philosophy could be rendered as:

Conservatism equals hate.

Hate is bad and should be eradicated.

Therefore conservatism should be eradicated – using any means possible.

MM’s approach is similar to that employed by Morris Dees’s (ultra-wealthy) Southern Poverty Law Center. In the eyes of the SPLC, one practices “hate” whenever one fails to genuflect with politically correct reverence before every human difference. Translation: Do what we say or we’ll slander you and have activists hound you.

Similarly, MM regards people who embrace conservative ideas as infidel purveyors of hate, and conservative commentators such as Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Bill O’Reilly are routinely smeared by MM – not because they make mistakes or are biased, but precisely because they hold conservative views. In the parallel universe inhabited by Media Matters, Hardball‘s Chris Matthews, who was a speechwriter in the Carter White House and an aide to the late House Speaker Tip O’Neill, is a right-winger! According to MM columnist Eric Alterman, New York Times executive editor and Pulitzer Prize winner Bill Keller is a “neoconservative” and The New Republic magazine is a right-wing rag. (Of course, talking heads on the right are not infallible and if they make mistakes, those errors should be pointed out. A bona fide media watchdog that kept its eye on the right and kept reporters and pundits honest might contribute something of value to society, but that’s not what Media Matters is, and that’s not what it does.)

The misdeeds of Media Matters are legion but no matter how long anyone spends documenting them, the group will always have a sophomoric high school debating-level comeback brimming with indignation and condescension. There is a new outrage virtually every day on the Media Matters site, but when one points out the absurdity of the latest post, the group won’t concede anything. Brock’s minions just keep on arguing and arguing and arguing while becoming progressively more haughty and obnoxious. (The MM site does contain a near-empty “Corrections” page. It shows exactly three corrections as of today. Considering the volume of bile the site churns out, three seems like a low number.)

ConWebBlog and the Rules of Evidence
Anyway, let’s now move on to yesterday’s post by ConWebBlog, a website run by a Media Matters staffer who likes to keep pointing out that the two groups are separate. (Whatever, dude. You work for Media Matters and your approach mirrors that of your employer. What’s your point?)

The writer gives the piece, a response to a blog entry I wrote, the headline ‘Powerful Circumstantial Evidence’ and I visualize someone jumping excitedly in the air shouting “eureka!” or “gotcha!” The “powerful circumstantial evidence” phrase appears in my post “Soros’s Political ‘Hit Man’ Brock Takes Aim at McCain” (NewsBusters version here, Capital Research Center blog version here).

My point was that it’s interesting how Media Matters, which specializes in a Clintonian legalistic parsing of statements, is suddenly playing dumb about the rules of evidence:

Um, how can evidence be both “powerful” and “circumstantial”? Doesn’t the fact that Vadum is resorting to circumstantial evidence to support his claim demonstrate that it is, in fact, not powerful?

No, not at all, unless all you know about evidence is what you picked up by watching TV shows. As any lawyer can tell you, circumstantial evidence is often the most powerful evidence. Eyewitnesses are often unreliable. They can be bribed and intimidated. Video and audio recordings can be tampered with, but good, solid circumstantial evidence is not easily ignored. “Circumstantial evidence can be, and often is much more powerful than direct evidence,” according to attorney Robert Precht, who noted that circumstantial evidence was strong enough to convict Timothy McVeigh of the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building.

Here’s a textbook-style example of circumstantial evidence. A hears a gunshot and then immediately walks into a windowless room to find B dead. C is standing there alone holding a smoking gun. A cannot testify truthfully that he saw C kill B, but A can testify truthfully as to what he witnessed that happens to suggest C’s guilt. Other indirect evidence may also be brought in that points to C’s guilt such as the existence of C’s fingerprints on the gun used in the killing, results from ballistics tests, results from a lab test showing gunpowder burns on C’s hands, or testimony from another that C believed his wife was having a romantic affair with B. (Books have been written on the use of indirect evidence.) C may very well be convicted on the strength of indirect evidence even though it might not be proved absolutely that he killed B. In other words, C may be found guilty on the strength of indirect evidence alone. Is this a bad thing? Of course not.

MM’s constant, lawyerly insistence on direct “proof” sounds reasonable at first, probably because most readers don’t grasp the difference between direct and indirect proof. But once you actually think through the implications and realize that insisting on direct proof alone excludes from consideration things that are obviously true, that evidentiary standard doesn’t sound quite as reasonable anymore.

Media Matters and George Soros
This brings us to the relationship between Media Matters and George Soros. It’s true, as Media Matters has pointed out on its website, that no one (at least no one I know of) has produced a canceled check to Media Matters signed by Soros.

So what? There is a mountain of circumstantial evidence connecting the Democratic duo.

They’re on the same political team, share roughly the same worldview, and know each other. Brock met with Soros in his home last week to discuss Progressive Media USA’s planned $40 million attack ad campaign against presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain. They both attend Democracy Alliance meetings. The Democracy Alliance, which is trying to move America’s political culture to the left and in which Soros is a major player, has directed at least $7 million to Media Matters.

As I wrote in my blog post the other day:

The $7 million donation, which may have come from one or more Democracy Alliance members including Soros himself, is also referenced at page 117 of The Argument: Billionaires, Bloggers, and the Battle to Remake Democratic Politics, by Matt Bai, a book published in 2007 by Penguin Press. In addition, Democracy Alliance founder Rob Stein acknowledged his consortium’s role in directing funding to Media Matters. During a panel discussion held by the Hudson Institute’s Bradley Center for Philanthropy and Civic Renewal on November 30, 2006, Stein responded to a question from fellow panelist Byron York about “the media organizations in which your partners were putting their money – which ones were they?” Stein responded by saying (see page 22 of PDF): “The major media organization that has been publicly identified is Media Matters. But there are some others, now, that we have funded.”

If George Soros is not funding Media Matters, the group certainly expends significant resources to defend him. A search I just performed on MM’s search page for George Soros (with his name sandwiched in-between quotation marks as “george soros,” and without “start” and “end” dates) generated 235 hits. That’s a lot of defense for Media Matters to be playing, especially for someone who remains virtually unknown except by politics junkies and those interested in finance.

Much better known figures on the left haven’t been discussed as frequently on the MM website, according to searches conducted the same way. A search for Arianna Huffington generated just 31 hits. Here are the numbers I got when searching the names of other noteworthy figures on the left using MM’s internal search engine: Bill Maher got 36 hits, Hugo Chavez got 64 hits, and Jimmy Carter, who is in the news frequently, got 158 hits. (Note: Admittedly, this might not be the most scientific approach, but it does at least provide a snapshot of MM’s priorities. Also, all these figures, obtained April 14, 2008, are subject to change as MM’s site is updated.)

Could Media Matters be less interested in discussing these other figures because they don’t rely on them for funding?

David Horowitz said the two have ties, and CNSNews.com reported the following in 2005:

Media Matters for America, the group headed by conservative turned liberal writer David Brock, has changed course on its stated association with billionaire liberal financier George Soros.

After initially claiming on Dec. 1, 2004 that “neither Media Matters nor its president and CEO David Brock has received any money from Soros or from any organization with which he is affiliated,” the group is no longer disavowing any connection with groups “affiliated” with Soros.

The Media Matters shift came after Cybercast News Service questioned the group’s financial ties and demonstrated that there were numerous and extensive links between Media Matters and several Soros “affiliates” like MoveOn.org, the Center for American Progress and Soros ally Peter Lewis.

Media Matters for America (MMA) spokeswoman Sally Aman responded to Cybercast News Service’s questions with an e-mail. “In response to your query regarding donor funding Media Matters for America has never received funding directly from George Soros,” Aman stated, no longer denying any relationship with organizations affiliated with Soros.

She went on to reference the “early support from Moveon.org, and the New Democrat Network,” that Media Matters had received.

Search Google using the terms “george soros” and “media matters” together. I just did and got 62,800 hits. Use “george soros” and “david brock” and you’ll get 13,200 hits. The two must have a lot in common.

And why is Media Matters so afraid of being linked to Soros? Most major groups on the right already take it as a given that Soros funds MM anyway.

ConWebBlog’s Admissions
ConWebBlog fails to respond to other key points in the same post, such as the fact that Brock is in the habit of not telling the truth, but offers some encouraging admissions.

The blog repeats my comment that Brock’s assumption of the chairmanship of Progressive Media USA is tantamount to Brock publicly unmasking himself “as a partisan political operative, as opposed to a mere liberal ideologue.” This is true, and I’m glad that ConWebBlog is honest enough to admit it, though it responds with an infantile but-you-guys-did-it-first argument.

The blog continues: “Vadum doesn’t note that the precedent for such ‘partisan political operative’ activism was set by … the Media Research Center.” Really? Tell someone who cares. I was writing about Media Matters, not the Media Research Center.

I do not and cannot speak for the Media Research Center, a group with which I’ve been associated only since last year. I do not work for MRC and I speak only for myself in my NewsBusters blog posts. On NewsBusters, some of the writers work for MRC, and some don’t. (I get zip, zero, nada for my blog posts.) The Media Matters site, on the other hand, is a far more monolithic paid operation. NewsBusters is more of a true blog: posts are not screened by editors before they go up on the website. Media Matters has a different approach. Its posts speak for the organization and apparently have to be approved by senior management before they appear on the MM website.

Although I’ve heard they’re fine individuals, I don’t know Brent Bozell or Scott Hogenson personally and confess I am not familiar with their resumes.

Illogical Thinking Rules at Media Matters
Logical thinking is in short supply at Media Matters, so it’s no surprise that Eric Boehlert pummeled Chris Matthews in his MM column today for what he alleged were misogynistic comments. It is true that Matthews has been harshly critical of Senator Clinton, but the fact that he was harshly critical of her is not proof of misogyny.

And were the comments complained of actually misogynistic? First we need a definition of misogyny: the word means “hatred, dislike, or mistrust of women.”

Boehlert doesn’t waste time explaining what “misogyny” is because he knows his fellow-traveler readers are on the same politically correct wavelength and they understand the sense in which he is using the term.

According to Boehlert (who refers back to a colleague’s earlier column for examples), Matthews is misogynistic, that is, a hater of women, because he

    * featured a Photoshopped image of Clinton sporting “She Devil” horns while discussing Republican efforts to demonize her;

    * repeatedly likened Clinton to “Nurse Ratched,” the scheming, heartless character from the mental hospital drama One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest;

    * described her laugh as a “cackle,” suggested she was “anti-male,” “witchy,” and was on a “short … leash”;

    * referred to Clinton as “Madame Defarge” and described male politicians who endorsed Clinton as “castratos in the eunuch chorus”;

    * compared Clinton to a “strip-teaser,” wondered whether she was “a convincing mom,” referred to Clinton‘s “cold eyes” and the “cold look” she supposedly gives people;

    * claimed that “some men” say Clinton‘s voice sounds like “fingernails on a blackboard.”

It’s pretty thin gruel and it’s also the same old militant gender-feminist piffle that millions of Americans have been forced to pretend to agree with in order to escape college. I have not seen the clips complained of, but let’s go out on a limb and assume the quotations and descriptions are accurate, and, relying exclusively on Boehlert’s work, let’s go through this supposed evidence that Matthews is a member-in-good-standing of the He-Man Woman Haters Club:

    * featured a Photoshopped image of Clinton sporting “She Devil” horns while discussing Republican efforts to demonize her;

It seems like Matthews was trying to demonstrate how Republicans were characterizing Hillary Clinton. It doesn’t seem like Matthews was asserting that he necessarily agreed.

   * repeatedly likened Clinton to “Nurse Ratched,” the scheming, heartless character from the mental hospital drama One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest;

Is the mere fact that Matthews compared a public official who happens to be a woman to a villainous female character in a movie proof that Matthews is a woman-hater? Matthews certainly wouldn’t be the first pundit to accuse Mrs. Clinton of being scheming and heartless. The larger implication here is that any criticism of Mrs. Clinton is unacceptable to Media Matters, and that the group believes anyone who criticizes her should be vilified and demonized. MM is not merely interested in making sure Mrs. Clinton is treated fairly.

    * described her laugh as a “cackle,” suggested she was “anti-male,” “witchy,” and was on a “short … leash”;

Matthews is not the first to criticize Mrs. Clinton’s laugh for sounding forced, phony, and odd. Criticizing her laugh does not prove Matthews is misogynistic. She is certainly not the first candidate for president in the history of the Republic to be criticized for her personal idiosyncrasies. I confess I have no idea what Matthews is talking about when he calls her “anti-male,” but the mere fact that he labeled her as anti-male does not in itself prove he is misogynistic. Although the “witchy” descriptor is not what immediately pops into my head when I think of Senator Clinton, Matthews is not the first to liken Hillary to a witch. When you run for the White House, you have to expect people will say nasty things about you, but the fact that nasty comments have been made is not proof of habitual hatred of women. (Or maybe this is a case of Media Matters striving for accuracy in reporting? Naaaaaaah.) As for Hillary being on a “short…leash,” she is, reportedly. I’ve read numerous media accounts about how scripted she is on the campaign trail, and how her appearances are tightly choreographed. What’s so offensive here, anyway? Is the word leash a code word of some kind?

    * referred to Clinton as “Madame Defarge” and described male politicians who endorsed Clinton as “castratos in the eunuch chorus”;

The comparison of Mrs. Clinton to a villainous figure in Charles Dickens’s Tale of Two Cities may be harsh, but again, comparing her to a fictional character doesn’t by itself show that Matthews is misogynist. (I’ve always thought disgraced terrorist lawyer Lynne Stewart was more the Madame Defarge type, but that’s just me.) As for comparing male politicians who endorsed Hillary to castratos, again, it’s harsh, even crude, by what does it actually have to do with hating women?

    * compared Clinton to a “strip-teaser,” wondered whether she was “a convincing mom,” referred to Clinton‘s “cold eyes” and the “cold look” she supposedly gives people;

Comparing Hillary to a stripper is harsh, but so what? Ditto the arguments above. Questioning her mothering skills or her perceived mothering skills is quite harsh and probably irrelevant but how is it an example of woman-hating? As to “cold eyes” and a “cold look,” as a reporter I got up close to Senator Clinton a few times and beg to differ. When I saw her, she -I hate to admit it-  exuded warmth and had a kind of star quality. Nevertheless, saying she has “cold eyes” and a “cold look,” is hardly a misogynistic statement.

    * claimed that “some men” say Clinton‘s voice sounds like “fingernails on a blackboard.”

I’ve heard this many times. I don’t mind her voice but I’ve heard from many men and many women that they don’t like the senator’s voice. How is a statement indicating that a group of men don’t like her voice an example of woman-hating?

Hitchens and his Comment
The intolerant, politically correct, militant gender-feminist outlook of Media Matters was illustrated in a particularly ridiculous, frivolous post earlier this month labeled “On Tim Russert, Hitchens said to Sullivan: “Oh, well don’t be such a lesbian. Get on with it.”

The silly post discusses the word “lesbian,” which Christopher Hitchens used on a talk show. The other guest shown in the video clip MM provides, Andrew Sullivan, hesitated during a discussion and Hitchens said “Oh, well, don’t be such a lesbian. Get on with it.”

The web page urges readers to contact Tim Russert and NBC executives Steve Capus and Phil Griffin to express their concerns.

It’s worth noting that “lesbian” isn’t a swear word as such, and some (myself included) may wonder why Hitchens used it. But it’s not at all clear from the MM post why exactly we’re supposed to be offended. Sullivan, who is openly gay and quite capable of expressing outrage on his own, didn’t seem offended at all. In fact, he laughed.

What point is Media Matters trying to make? Is it that it’s bad to call someone, anyone, a lesbian? Or perhaps it’s bad to call someone who, by virtue of being a male, cannot by definition be a lesbian. Maybe it’s bad to use the word as an epithet and throw it around without properly genuflecting to the PC gods first.

Whatever the reason, MM believes we’re supposed to be offended by the L-word, and we’re all just supposed to know instinctively why we’re offended.

But what’s more interesting than what’s in the post, is what’s been left out of the post.

The post may be motivated, at least in part, by MM CEO Brock’s personal hostility toward Hitchens. In a review of Brock’s memoir of his political epiphany, Blinded by the Right, Hitchens wrote, “I would say without any hesitation that he [Brock] is incapable of recognizing the truth, let alone of telling it.” (See the paper my employer, Capital Research Center, published on Media Matters last year in Foundation Watch, which I edit.) Yet no reference to the past run-ins between Brock and Hitchens is referenced on the post. It’s surprising that MM, which screams about fairness daily, fails to disclose the history of animus between Hitchens and himself. It’s a pretty serious omission that speaks volumes about Media Matters.

Add to that the fact that MM analysts are always going for the jugular. Once the target has been acquired, the group makes no effort to distinguish between statements that are serious assertions and those that are facetious or tongue-in-cheek. If a figure on MM’s enemies list makes a statement that leaves the group any kind of an opening, even if the statement is clearly intended as a joke, MM pounces, context be damned.

Anyway, I still want to know why I am supposed to be offended so I just sent an email to host Tim Russert:

Hi Tim.

The Media Matters website implied I was supposed to be offended by comments made on your show.

Here is the top of the relevant blog post found at http://mediamatters.org/items/200804070005:

On Tim Russert, Hitchens said to Sullivan: “Oh, well don’t be such a lesbian. Get on with it”

    Summary: On MSNBC’s Tim Russert, responding to Christopher Hitchens, Andrew Sullivan said, “And now you’ve made me forget my second point,” to which Hitchens replied, “Oh, well, don’t be such a lesbian. Get on with it.”

Why do you think I am supposed to be offended? Is “lesbian” a bad word?

If I get a substantive, non-form letter response, I’ll post it.

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