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Friday, October 15, 2010

GOP Ties to Terrorism, FOX's Hypocrisy, and The Daily Show

It's tempting to use it as an example of just how blowful our media has become. I've said for some time that Comedy Central's The Daily Show offers some of the best media criticism out there. Sure, there's Media Matters for America and Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (where I'm sure TDS gets a lot of their ideas), but no one seems able to explain the problems quite so neatly and understandably.

But, in this case at least, it's not that most of the media is so bad, but that Stewart and his writers are so good. Comedy is the perfect outlet to deal with subjects like hypocrisy or corruption, since these subjects lead to outrage. The outrageous is the absurd is the funny. People can suffer from outrage fatigue, but no one ever gets tired of laughing at morons. As a result, the staff at The Daily Show can keep our attention when other media outlets have us reaching for the remote. At the same time, they can draw revealing parallels that are not only instructive, but are the payoff to the setup -- the lede becomes the punchline.

For example, earlier this week, TDS looked at FOX News' coverage of the US Chamber of Commerce's foreign funding scandal and compared it to their coverage of funding for the proposed Muslim community center in Manhattan.

"Is Park51 being funded by questionable foreign money? We have to know! Are the Chamber's attack ads on behalf of Republicans being funded by questionable foreign money? Yeah, we don't have to know that." It's ridiculous to the point of comedy.

Worse, an overlooked news story is making the case that we have more to worry about from secret funding of conservative causes than we do of the not-so-secret funding of the mosque project.

Washington Post:

A group of Ohio ministers has asked the Internal Revenue Service to investigate the organization that sponsors the National Prayer Breakfast because it received money six years ago from an alleged Islamic terrorist organization trying to finance illicit lobbying.


The foundation, an Arlington-based religious enterprise associated with a house at 133 C St. SE where several members of the House and Senate have rented rooms, acknowledged Wednesday that it had received two $25,000 checks, in May and June 2004, from the Missouri-based Islamic American Relief Agency.

The charity was included on a Senate Finance Committee list of terrorist financiers in January of that year.

The group, Fellowship Foundation, is also known as "The Family" and has figured prominently in both Gov. Mark Sanford's and Sen. John Ensign's scandals. And now they're taking terrorist money to lobby congress. According to the report, IARA's chief executive Mubarak Hamed "acknowledged sending a $25,000 check" to the foundation and that the money was "to pay for lobbying by former congressman Mark D. Siljander (R-Mich.), a prominent social conservative who promised to help the agency get off the Senate terrorist financing list." Siljander pleaded guilty to "serving as an unregistered agent in Washington for a Missouri-based Islamic charity that the federal government said had ties to international terrorism" in July.

Given that Republicans (and, to be fair, some conservative Democrats) belong to an organization that accepts money from terrorist sources, wouldn't it make sense to worry about foreign money benefiting Republicans elsewhere? Not if you ask FOX News. Yet proven GOP ties to terrorism are much stronger than any alleged ties the builders of Park51 have.

It's not my intention to smear Republicans with the terrorist brush here, as tempting as dealing that poetic justice might be. If anything, recent history shows that members of The Family are just idiots wearing zealot's blinders, not terrorists. But conservative media have convicted liberals and Muslims on much, much weaker evidence. If the fact that Barack Obama met Bill Ayers once or twice makes him the next Stalin, then Tom Coburn's ties to The Family are slam dunk proof he's the next Osama Bin Laden. The "logic" cuts both ways.

So, should we know who's secretly funding Republican campaigns? 84% -- including even 80% of Republicans themselves -- think so. And, if they're at all interested in ethical and journalistic consistency, so will rightwing media. But we all know they aren't interested in consistency at all, which is why we can look forward to laughing at their hypocrisy with The Daily Show.


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