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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Fantasy Recall Coverage

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Now that the recall of Gov. Scott Walker is officially on, all of us should make one simple request of the mainstream Wisconsin news media covering this historic election of national significance: Only cover stuff that is really happening.

It shouldn't be necessary to spell out such a universally accepted expectation of the news media. But the coverage steeped in fantasy leading up to this election, only the third recall election of a governor in our nation's history, demonstrates otherwise.

From the time more than 30,000 volunteers around the state began collecting recall signatures, many of the news stories on radio and television and in many daily newspapers were completely fabricated.

It's not difficult to trace the source of those fabrications either. Most of the stories were made up by right-wing talk radio.

According to totally unreliable right-wing talk-show hosts, Walker's opponents couldn't possibly reach 540,000 signatures, the extremely high requirement to recall a Wisconsin governor, unless they turned in the same signatures over and over or made up totally fictitious names.

This made-up claim was not just repeated once in the media. It appeared in story after story for weeks.

One widely reported story, which Walker himself repeated as if it were true, claimed one individual signed the recall petitions 80 times.

Tea party groups, who regularly work in tandem with talk radio to insert manufactured falsehoods into our everyday political dialogue, warned of scores of fraudulent names on recall petitions, including pretty much the entire cast of Disney World.

The tea parties claimed they had an extensive network of Republican volunteers standing by to scour those petitions as soon as they were turned in to expose the entire fraudulent Democratic operation for all to see.

The real truth became obvious when the Walker campaign didn't challenge a single signature.

The state's Government Accountability Board (GAB) did find some fictitious signatures when it certified 900,939 valid signatures and ordered the election to recall Walker.

It found exactly four. Two were a mouse and a duck and the third was the late Adolf Hitler. But the fourth phony name indicated the probable source of all the fraud. The made-up name was: I Love Scott Walker Thanks.

Walker's supporters were the only ones with any motive to add fraudulent names to the petitions. Those who wanted to recall Walker wanted their signatures to count.

The GAB also removed about 4,000 duplicate signatures, counting each signature only once. Some may have signed more than once after Republicans bragged online about collecting signatures under false pretenses and then destroying them.

Other signatures were disqualified because of technical problems or incomplete information. But in the end only an infinitesimal 3% of the signatures were ruled invalid.

News Media as Public Relations

OK, so all those exaggerated pre-recall stories promoted by talk radio were proven false. From now until the June 5 recall election, will the daily news media limit itself to covering things that really happen instead of stories made up by talk-show hosts?

We know news staffs are shrinking drastically. Isn't it hard enough for editors to scrape together enough reporters to cover real news? Besides, the mainstream media used to have enough professional self-respect that it would never consider right-wing blowhards a legitimate news source.

Sadly, that's not very likely anymore. Most reporters know better, but too many editors and news directors today do not consider their jobs simply to be reporting and interpreting the news.

They are in the public relations business to try to fend off declining daily newspaper circulation and shrinking ratings. And they're absolutely terrified of being branded “the liberal media,” another story made up by the right wing that every liberal finds hilarious.

That's why news editors bend over backward—no, frontward—to cover the fraudulent stories invented by the right wing.

Dishonesty is now official Republican policy under Walker. Time after time, major laws passed during his first year in office have either been fully or partially invalidated by the courts.

Instead of cleaning up their acts going into the second round of state Senate recalls, Republicans again announced they will lie on public documents to run “fake Democrats” in primary elections to delay their own removal from office.

The brazenness of the dishonesty is certainly a legitimate news story. That's why Walker is making history right now. It's been a long time since any politician, Republican or Democrat, has dared to be so openly dishonest.

But the daily media is afraid to clearly connect all the lies, unconstitutional acts and illegal activities, including 15 felonies charged to Walker's associates, for fear of being accused of liberal bias.

So, just to even things out, fantasy recall coverage will continue giving plenty of play to fraudulent stories made up by right-wing radio.