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The Press Strikes Back

Say what you want about The Washington Post, that hated embodiment of the establishment press, but they won their latest battle with their anti-establishment critics in a rout. Despite our frequent criticisms of the newspaper, something in our Republican souls relished the victory.
One of the unfortunate features of this moment in American history is the average person’s tendency to dismiss any story he doesn’t want to hear as “fake news.” It’s an old and bipartisan problem, but lately it seems more problematic among too many of our fellow Republicans. President Donald Trump didn’t create the problem, nor did he coin the phase “fake news,” as he improbably claims to have done, but he and his most die-hard apologists have been eager to exploit it.
To hear Trump and his die-hard apologists tell it, anything you might read in The New York Times or The Washington Post or almost any newspaper or magazine, or anything you might hear on any broadcast network other than Fox News or the Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh radio shows, can be dismissed as purely fabricated propaganda. To hear the more die-hard apologists tell it, they’re doing it at the behest of a cabal of “deep state” “globalist” “elites” and other “establishment” types who seek to oppress all the real Americans, and the president himself has repeatedly refuted any stories he doesn’t want to hear calling them “fake news.”
There are valid criticisms of the press coverage Trump has received, and God and the internet archives know we’ve also done our own share of media criticism over the past years, but far too many of those “fake news” stories have lately been corroborated by sworn testimony before congressional committees and a special counsel investigation, or been backed up by court documents or other official records, or acknowledged after the release of audiotape and videotape evidence, to dismiss them all as purely fabricated propaganda. The right-wing radio hosts like to sneer about the “The Washington Compost,” but it has lately had a far better record for accuracy than Trump’s “tweets” or his AM band apologists.
Which brings us back to the Post’s latest win by a rout. The story starts with that special senatorial election down in Alabama, where Republican candidate and self-proclaimed champion of Christian values Roy Moore was heavily favored until the Post ran a story about three women who claimed Moore had pursued them when he was a 32-year-old assistant district attorney and they were teenagers, with of them claiming he molested her when she was 14 years old. All three women gave their names, the paper had dozens of unnamed women who recalled the women giving the same accounts contemporaneously, another six women came forward to various media on the record with a slew of unnamed women recalling the same contemporaneous accounts, and other media found mall employees and district attorney’s office workers who recalled Moore’s reputation for liking them young.
Following Trump’s successful playbook Moore as his dismissed it all as “fake news” and assailing the liberal reputation of The Washington Post, and although the race has clearly tightened the wildly disparate polls suggest it just might work down in Alabama. Elsewhere it doesn’t seem to be playing as well, so an anti-establishment media outfit calling itself Project Veritas set out to discredit the post with one of its sting operations.
If you’ve not been following the anti-establishment media over the past many years, Project Veritas is a small but well-funded group that prides itself on such guerrilla tactics as ambush interviews and undercover hidden camera investigations of left-wing foes. They made quite a splash with their widely-disseminated video of a white actor posing hilariously as an inner-city pimp to seek help starting his prostitution at a notoriously left-wing community organizing scam, which led to the scam losing its congressional funding and at long last going away, so although Project Veritas wound up paying a six-figure settlement due to some admitted selective editing they were widely hailed as conservative champions.
Since then Project Veritas has pretty much proved a bust. The guy who runs the outfit wound up pleading guilty to a misdemeanor for his attempt to bug a congressman’s office, over some controversy of the moment we can’t recall, and since then his biggest hit was a non-viral video of himself crossing the Rio Grande dressed as Osama bin Laden, and after that his latest failure was some video of some Cable News Network workers saying they don’t agree with everything their employers do. Hoping to regain his anti-establishment mojo, he apparently hired a woman to tell The Washington Post that Moore had an affair with her when she was 15 years and persuaded her to abort the ensuing love child. Had the Post fallen for the scam it would have been humiliating, and a grand route for Project Veritas, but it didn’t work out that way.
We can vouch that the reporters at any old mainstream paper, such as the double-A and triple-A ones we long toiled for, are mostly damned liberals, but there and especially at such major league papers as The Washington Post they’re not damned fools and they know it’s not good business in the long run to purely fabricate propaganda, so of course they checked out their sources. In this case the amateurish if well-funded scam quickly fell apart, with the undercover operative caught on embarrassing videotape and the guy who runs Project Veritas being surprised by a videotaped interview and winding up telling his donors that he got caught and therefore needs their money all the more. All those stories in the Post and elsewhere about Moore’s proclivities for teenaged girls as a 30-something prosecutor seemed all the more believable, too.
There are reports that Trump is lately telling friends that the embarrassing “Access Hollywood” tape he once acknowledged and even apologized for is fake, and that even after saying that “Barack Obama was born in the States, period” he still has doubts about it, and he’s still insisting he was robbed of the popular vote by millions of illegally-cast ballots even as the commission he assigned to prove it is falling apart, and he’s “tweeting” links to to the magapill.com website that provides the real news about all his accomplishments and all the nefarious and far-fetched conspiracies trying to thwart them.
We still have no affinity for the Post’s undeniable liberalism, but at this point we’re no fonder of Trump or Moore or a a disturbing portion of our Republican party, and by now our only rooting interest is in the truth. On matters ranging from the growing nuclear threat on the Korean peninsula to the whole “Russia thing” to the ongoing problem of how some men treat women, we expect the truth will be a story that none of us will want to hear, but we’ll gird ourselves and hope the truth somehow wins out at the end of this dreary story.

— Bud Norman

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Abortion and the Second Videotape

The public relations department at Planned Parenthood is probably working overtime today, as there’s yet another undercover video of some of their top officials casually discussing over dinner and drinks at a nice restaurant the sale of organs from the fetuses are that aborted at their clinics.
The first one was bad enough that Planned Parenthood’s president felt it necessary to release a videotaped statement claiming that no one at at the organization would ever think of profiting from the sale of organs from fetuses aborted at their clinics, regardless of what that high official was chatting about in the videotape, but apologizing for the secretly recorded high official’s “tone and statements” which do no reflect the “compassion” of the abortion industry. The second one features an even higher official haggling for a price “big enough that it’s worthwhile for me,” adding that “I want a Lamborghini,” and offers to instruct her doctors to use abortion techniques that are “less crunchy” to insure the organs retain their market value, so the tone statements come across even less compassionate.
There’s a reasonable argument to be made that the fetal organs being bargained over could help further research that might save and improve lives, although they’re increasingly less persuasive as scientific methods improve, and there are reasonable ethical questions about the use of hidden cameras and sting investigations, although they never seem to be made when “60 Minutes” or some of the other old media are using such methods against industries less beloved by liberalism, and Planned Parenthood’s most steadfast supporters would no doubt be susceptible to the notion that its highest officials should be driving Lamborghinis as compensation for the good works they do, although the tone and statements involved would be seen in less entitled segments of the population as lacking in compassion, so instead there are the usual attacks on the opposition. Some of the old and new media who have bothered to pay any attention are questioning the tax-exempt status of the Center For Medical Progress, whose operatives portrayed themselves as a for-profit start-up company acquiring fetal tissue for medical researchers, and the denial and apology issued by Planned Parenthood note that their tormentors are opposed to abortion, and all of the apologists are noting how very carefully both high officials tip-toed around the federal regulations regarding the sale of fetal tissue, and of course there are allegations that the tapes have been selectively edit, but the public relations department at Planned Parenthood surely realizes that they’re on the defense, and that the tone is not helpful.
The same Internal Revenue Service officials who gave extra scrutiny to any organization with “tea party” or “liberty” or “Constitution” in its name will probably be inclined to be just as skeptical of the Center for Medical Progress, but the broader public will be more interested an organization already well-funded by taxpayer dollars trying to add a few more dollars toward that Lamborghini by selling organs from aborted fetuses. Whatever misrepresentations the Center for Medical Progress might have made about its affiliations with other anti-abortion groups never hid the fact they are also an anti-abortion group. The careful statements made by both high officials about the law sound more conspiratorial than comforting, too, and they’ve also published the entirety of the videotaped meetings as well as the edited versions to demonstrate they’ve not taken any statements out of context. The unexpurgated versions make the “tone” all the starker, with both high officials happily swilling wine and making small talk in swank restaurants as they haggle over the price of an aborted fetus. The tone is redolent of Hannah Arendt’s famous phrase “The Banality of Evil,” as Planned Parenthood’s own defense and apologies frankly acknowledge, and they raise issues that the most fervent abortion rights supporters would rather not confront.
Both high officials acknowledge that Planned Parenthood would be willing to use different abortion techniques to harvest salable fetal organization, or “less crunchy” ones in the gruesomely tone-deaf terminology of one, and at this point we can ascertain whether the women who signed those consent forms that Planned Parenthood boasts of were informed of what risks those procedures might entail. There’s also the matter of whether those high Planned Parenthood officials had tip-toed carefully enough around the laws regarding the sale of fetal organs, and the unmistakeable impression that they’re trying their best. Worse yet, there’s the acknowledgement that the meaningless mass of fetal tissue they’re blithely aborting has human organs and human cellular structures and a potential for human life that the crunchier methods of abortion routinely mutilate.
The abortion issue is more complicated than that, and will continue to be debated long past the soon-to-be-released sequels to this sting operation, but Planned Parenthood and the Democratic Party and the mainstream media and the rest of the abortion rights side seem to know they’ve lost this round. Longtime media star Mark Halperin tried to trip up presidential nominee and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry about his longstanding opposition to Planned Parenthood, but found himself stuttering a sort agreement when Perry asked if his interlocutor had seen the video and whether he had any problems with it. Some of the media have already noticed that Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton has been conspicuously silent about the story, and any long-shot challengers that try to fire up the base by rushing to Planned Parenthood’s defense know they won’t be helping their chances in a general election. The ambivalent middle ground of the abortion debate know that it is at best an evil to be tolerated rather than a right and rite to be celebrated, and even those who reluctantly conclude that it must allowed would hope that the grisly business is carried on with regret and the highest regard for the law, and that is not at all the tone of either of two high Planned Parenthood officials as they sip wine and eat at fancy restaurants and haggle over the price of the organs of the fetuses their organization has recently aborted.

— Bud Norman