Put up or shut up, Barnicle . . .
Mike Barnicle has accused "talk radio" of serving as "allies" and a "megaphone" for the worst fringe elements on the right. That's how the former Boston Globe columnist justified the MSM's focus on the right-wing fringe while downplaying that of the left. [H/t reader Ray R.]
Barnicle floated his defense of the MSM on today's Morning Joe. To their credit, Mika Brzezinski and Andrew Ross Sorkin of the NY Times argued that the fringe left has historically received a pass from the MSM.
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Barnicle, was the Eric Cantor story [about death threats he and his family received from a Barack Obama donor] on the front page of the newspapers?
MIKE BARNICLE: I don't think it was. It was in the body of a lot of news stories. I don't think it was on the front page of the newspapers. Are we seeing balance in this? No. But we cover the moment. Right now we're covering the fringe of the Tea Party movement: the loudest, the most vile, the most expletive-filled things that come out during these demonstrations.
. . .
BRZEZINSKI: I have a sense that when it comes to violence and crazy-talk, the fringe, that the left doesn't get seen--they get a pass. Would you agree with that?
BARNICLE: They're getting a pass right now. Because they are not in the forefront. The Tea Party movement is.
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN: I can't remember a moment where the left actually had this sort of, completely, where we covered it in the same way that we cover the fringe element of the Tea Party.
BARNICLE: No, I agree with you on that.
SORKIN: I don't remember ever a moment where there was sort of this, where there was such a view of crazy-talk coming out of the left in that respect.
BARNICLE: The left never had the megaphone that the right now has with talk radio. They just never had that. Listen: you have to be truthful about it. They have allies in talk radio that echo what you hear on the sidewalk.
Barnicle's argument fails for at least two reasons:
- he justifies the MSM's focus on the right on the basis that the left is not in the "forefront" and "right now we're covering the fringe of the Tea Party movement." That reasoning is entirely circular, of course. It amounts to saying "it's fair for the MSM to focus on the right because that's what it's focusing on."
- the alleged existence of "allies" in talk radio should have nothing to do with news judgment as to what gets covered. Whether or not Norman Leboon had a media "megaphone," his threat to kill Cantor was inherently newsworthy.
Finally, there is the matter of Barnicle's accusation that "talk radio" serves as "allies" and a "megaphone" for the dangerous right. Let's recall Limbaugh's line: "when they say 'talk radio,' they mean Rush." Was Barnicle referring to Rush? If so, say so, and back it up, chapter and verse, with ways that Rush echoed or encouraged fringe elements. If Barnicle can't substantiate his allegation--and I don't believe he can--he should apologize for his slur.
If Barnicle was alluding to others, again, he has an obligation to get specific, rather than letting his amorphous accusations remain on the record.
And while liberal talk radio has largely been a failure, surely Barnicle is aware that the kook left has its "allies" in talk . . . television. Did Mike never tune into his own network to hear Olbermann going on endless rants about George Bush & Co. being fascists and needing to be removed from power? The fringe also has its megaphones in the halls of Congress, as when House Dem whip James Clyburn recently accused ObamaCare opponents of "aiding and abetting terrorism."