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How Time magazine enables Glenn Beck's lies

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Reprinted from Media Matters

Four years ago, Time magazine devoted its cover story to a puff-piece profile of Ann Coulter, the right-wing ideologue best known for serial lies and wishing death upon those she disagrees with (journalists included). Only, Time forgot about the lies and the bloodlust and portrayed Coulter in a remarkably kind light.

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Now, it's Glenn Beck's turn.

In its new issue, Time features a cover profile of the Fox demagogue, written by David Von Drehle -- a profile that downplays or ignores Beck's defining qualities, draws false equivalencies between liberals and conservatives, portrays obvious lies as simple differences of perspective, and omits Beck's most shocking and outrageous statements.

In the opening paragraph, Time describes last weekend's Beck-organized, right-wing temper tantrum in Washington, in which conservative activists got together to air a disparate array of sometimes contradictory grievances. Here's how it dealt with the size of the crowd, right in the first paragraph:

If you get your information from liberal sources, the crowd numbered about 70,000, many of them greedy racists. If you get your information from conservative sources, the crowd was hundreds of thousands strong, perhaps as many as a million, and the tenor was peaceful and patriotic.

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But here's what Time left out: Those conservative sources are flat-out lying.

Progressive media critics often point out that the media too frequently take a "he-said/she-said" approach to politics that boils down to, "Is the Earth flat or spherical? Opinions differ." That may seem like an exaggeration, but Time's handling of the crowd size dispute is virtually indistinguishable from that caricature.

Actually, in some ways, it's less honest than the caricature. See, the 70,000 estimate didn't come from "liberal sources"; it came from sane sources, such as the Washington, D.C., Fire Department. Time portrayed the disparate estimates as equally-likely-to-be-true products of ideological observers. In fact, the large estimates from conservatives were clearly false, and the lower, accurate estimates came from official, nonpartisan observers -- and even from some conservatives like Beck's colleagues at Fox News.

And the estimates of "as many as a million"? True, they came from conservatives (actually, some conservatives put the crowd size at the 2 million mark. Time has downplayed the dishonesty displayed by one of the very conservatives it later references.) But, more accurately, they came from dishonest conservatives who were lying, lying about how many people were there, lying about where the estimates came from. Lying.

Look: The difference between 70,000 people on the National Mall for a protest and 2 million is huge. Seventy thousand people is a good-sized crowd. It's nothing to be ashamed of. It's almost as many as the 85,000 people who attended last Saturday's college football game in Lincoln, Nebraska. But 2 million people? There probably weren't 2 million people in the entire state of Nebraska (population: 1.8 million) last Saturday.

Houston, Texas, is the fourth-largest city in America, with just over 2 million residents. Do you know what happens when you drop the population of Houston, Texas, in the middle of Washington, D.C.? Hotels for miles and miles around are booked far in advance. The Metro system is stretched to the breaking point. Thousands of people get trapped in tunnels. It is, in short, unmistakably different from what happens when Missouri plays Bowling Green.

I dwell on this because the difference between 70,000 and 2 million people is simply not something about which reasonable people of honest motives can disagree. It is not something that can be an innocent mistake. Dishonest people who wanted to misinform you told lies in order to exaggerate the crowd size. There really can be no doubt about that.

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But Time not only won't make clear that they are lying, it won't even tell you that they were wrong. Thus, the magazine makes clear right up front that this article is not "journalism"; it is a pathetic attempt to pander to malicious liars.

Here, look at Time's next paragraph:

At any rate, what we can say with confidence is that Deanna Frankowski was there. A cheery woman of 49 from Leeds, Ala., Frankowski said she had come to Washington as part of a group of 100 or more protesters. They filled two buses.

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www.mediamatters.org
Executive Vice President at Media Matters for America, a Web-based, not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. (more...)
 

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