Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Steve Rendall Responds ... and I Respond Back

The latest correspondence between myself and Steve Rendall, a Senior Analyst for the misnamed liberal group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR):

Dear Mr. Bowers.

As a name caller you really aren't entitled to a reasoned response, but I found so many misapprehensions in your note that I couldn't resist correcting them. Among your errors...

* You wrote: "you purport not to have a political bias." Where do we purport that? Answer: We don't, your statement is false. I would suggest that next time you decide to attack a group with a name calling tirade, that you take the time to learn a few basic, easily-found facts about the group. We state our left-of-center point of view right up front. In our prominently displayed mission statement, "What is FAIR," we proclaim ourselves "progressive". http://www.fair.org/whats-fair.html

* Your AIDS tirade is ridden with errors of fact and mostly not applicable to media criticism work. For instance, your beef with those arguing that people with AIDS should not have to disclose their illness, has virtually nothing to do with media criticism. Your claim that AIDS is "100% fatal" is false, as is your statement that "the risk of monogamous heterosexuals getting AIDS through sexual contact is non-existent."

* You say that we spend a lot of time "slamming" conservative pundits (I wonder if you would use the same verb to describe conservative criticism of liberal pundits?) But you are wrong again, less than 5% of our media analysis and criticism is directed at the right, most of the rest targets the largely centrist mainstream media.

* You say we *attempted* to discredit Limbaugh. This is more a question of opinion than fact, but I think Limbaugh was substantially discredited by our work. I could show many examples (e.g after our report David Letterman dubbed Limbaugh "The Lyin' King") but here's one of my favorites: after comparing our original report on Limbaugh, to Rush's "rebuttal" to our report, Limbaugh's favorite daily, the Washington Times, gave FAIR the higher marks.

Mr. Bowers, you are free to believe Limbaugh's falsehoods. You may agree with Rush that the NY Times never published a story on Whitewater (the Times BROKE the Whitewater story), or that Iran Contra prosecutor Lawrence Walsh never handed down a single indictment (he delivered 14). But no one should believe you if you do.

Finally, your accusation that the sources we used to debunk Limbaugh are less reliable than Limbaugh, cannot be taken seriously. If you were serious you would have cite errors on the part of our sources. Until you are able to show evidence debunking our work and the reliability of our sources, your charges are simply empty and meaningless.

Thanks for your interest.

Steve Rendall
Senior Analyst

Mr. Rendall.

Thanks for your response. It’s not often that you’ll find a liberal who even attempts to defend their beliefs or try to back them with facts. Your response falls far short of being factual or mounting much of a defense of your beliefs but at least it’s a response which is more than you can say for most liberals who are challenged on their beliefs. The typical response to for the liberal to retort with nasty names. Now, it’s time to pick apart you response point by point – with facts.

First of all, I would challenge you to copy and paste my response to your Hannity column into your email program and bold the portions containing the “name calling tirade”. The only name I called was a suggestion – in jest – of a more descriptive (and accurate) name for your group. Sorry you can’t take a joke. And sorry, calling a liberal a liberal doesn’t count as name-calling, even though I’m sure you’d like it to.

Secondly, progressive is a term that most people who aren’t politically aware don’t understand. Most people recognize the word liberal for what it is – liberal, which is why liberals like you mask your bias with the word “progressive”. (I don’t mind being called a conservative and don’t have to obfuscate the label with misleading synonyms.) Combine a misunderstanding of the word “progressive” with the misleading first sentence of your opening paragraph, (FAIR, the national media watch group, has been offering well-documented criticism of media bias and censorship since 1986.) and it’s easy to see how someone could mistake your group for being unbiased. When I see Jeff Cohen on panel discussions regarding the media on the “conservatively biased” Fox News (which, somehow, despite it’s radical conservative bias, manages to find room for Cohen and other “progressives” on their panels) it’s in the role of an unbiased critic of the media. Indeed, your very name is misleading. Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, implies fairness and accuracy, the definition of which, in any rational person’s mind, is an absence of bias.

As far as my “AIDS tirade” goes, you mention a “homophobic” (there’s a FAIR word) Christian right activist’s concerns about the spread of AIDS in a book published in 1989 (and presumably written earlier than that) a time when there were real questions about the spread of AIDS (ask the family of Kimberly Bergalis). Yet the connection I make between questions regarding the spread of this 100% fatal disease and the fact that it’s illegal to inquire of the status of someone who is essentially walking around a ticking time bomb, goes right over your head. The way the media distort the facts on AIDS (such as your myth that AIDS is not 100% fatal) is certainly “applicable to media criticism work.” Your comment on my “AIDS tirade” proves a couple of maxims about liberals. 1) Your (opposing) point is only relevant if a liberal deems it so and 2) because I’m a liberal, whatever I say is true – don’t complicate my distortions with facts. The facts are that, while expensive drug cocktails have prolonged life for many AIDS patients in this country and other industrialized nations by as much as 10 years or more, they all eventually die or will die of complications of AIDS. In developing countries in Africa, without these drugs 2.4 million people died of AIDS in 2001 and 28 million or more are infected. As far as heterosexual transmission of AIDS among monogamous partners who don’t use IV drugs, it just can’t happen unless some other method of transmission that you liberals are loathe to admit ever happens occurs. That’s an indisputable fact.

Finally, the idea that the mainstream media is centrist is laughable at best. Examples of liberal bias in the mainstream media abound. I’ll deal with this in my next installment of this discussion. As far as the idea that less than five percent of your criticism is dedicated to conservative pundits, that isn’t what’s reflected in your home page. Of the 19 links to original pieces on FAIR’s home page, five of them were dedicated to criticism of O’Reilly, Limbaugh and Hannity. That’s better than 25%. Combine that with your use of openly liberal interest groups in a book that nit-picks Limbaugh to death, and you’re hardly painting a FAIR or accurate picture. If you’re going to have a blatant liberal bias, don’t call yourselves FAIR and don’t hold yourselves out to be fair and accurate. Because you’re neither.

Yours truly,

Steve Bowers

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