Brock Vs Cathy Seipp
On Media Bias
Audio Feb 7, 2006
Audio Feb 8, 2006
The format of the USC debate is that the opening speaker (the first night it is Cathy, the next night it is David) gives a ten-minute speech. The other person gives a ten-minute rejoinder. Then they each get five minutes. The moderator asks them about their political journey and then the audience asks questions.
Feb 7, 2006: Cathy opens with a description of the liberal media establishment. She says 80-90% of its journalists and editors vote Democratic. "They were used to not having their omniscient voice-of-God point of view questioned. Especially since September 11, we've seen a constant barrage of letters to the editor [through their blogs] by people who are citizen journalists and temperamentally a little bit on the right [questioning and challenging the liberal media establishment]. We can fact-check you. Rathergate. That would never have been corrected in the old days. It was easy to show that those Bush National Guard memos were faked.
"'We will not accept your perceived wisdom.'
"What is the Left's response to this censoring of the cartoons [American news organizations, with two exceptions, won't publish or link to the offending Danish cartoons] and to the rioting Muslims? They say we should understand the Muslim's rage and it is wrong to insult another's religion.
"People on the left [who in America push for affirmative action for women and gay marriage] are making common cause with political Islam, which regards women as chattel and think homosexuals should be crushed in walls.
"The Los Angeles Times and The New York Times are liberally-biased and will not admit it... It's more honest to be transparent about it."
Brock: "Bias is difficult to prove. It involves mind-reading and second-guessing about motivation with little, if any evidence, attached to it. Bias isn't what's wrong with the media.
"What I want to talk about is truth, not opinion. I want to talk about the explicitly right-wing media. One, talk radio. Overwhelmingly dominated by the Right. A survey a couple of years ago of the top 45 radio markets, there was 310 hours of right-wing talk to ten hours of liberal talk.
"The problem with the skewing is that it is a problem for democracy when one side dominates a medium like talk radio."
Seipp quotes Kenneth Turan's review of Outfoxed (a movie that liberal Michael Kinsley said was pitiful): "Perhaps the most disheartening thing about "Outfoxed" is the realization that, unlike any administration, liberal or conservative, a news organization cannot be voted out of office."
Cathy notes that it is disheartening to many liberals that Fox News can't be voted out of existence.
"When CNN covers [the Danish cartoon controversy], they run a little thing along the bottom saying they do not show the cartoons out of respect for Islam."
I ask a question for David. "Did being a conservative cause you to do bad journalism? If so, how? Why didn't you try to get the other side, for instance with the Anita Hill book?"
David: "Yes. In my book Blinded by the Right, I describe how right-wing political people put up $2 million to dig up dirt on the Clintons in 1993-94. There was an organized political effort [to fund journalism to attack the left] that I participated in and I regret... The mainstream media picked up the dirt from the American Spectator and put it on the air."
A student calls Noam Chomsky an "internationally known journalist."
Cathy says Chomsky has never met a terrorist he didn't like.
There are about 50 students in the audience who watch The Daily Show for everyone who watches Meet the Press.
Brock: "The popularity of The Daily Show is that they have been doing a treatment of the news that you can't find in the news."
Seipp says there's more healthy debate in America today than ever before because anyone can write their own website.
Brock: "Just a debate isn't enough. What would be great...is if the media returned to the time where they took it upon themselves to adjudicate factual disputes.
"The Right is more focused on the balance debate than about objectivity and truth."
Seipp: "What Rush Limbaugh said about the Abu Ghraib photos [compared them to a college fraternity prank] was terrible. Rush Limbaugh is often an idiot."
Feb 8: Brock: "More important than Right Vs. Left, the media is no longer serving the public interest, so democracy is suffering...
"The media is not telling you the truth. The public is misinformed in ways that futher the conservative agenda.
"The spectrum of opinion in the media is too narrow. That progressives are often entirely shut out of the debates, particularly on TV.
"A right-wing journalist like Bob Novak will often be paired with a neutral journalist such as Andrea Mitchell. That's not a full spectrum of opinion."
Cathy asks the audience how many of them watch Meet the Press. Each night one student raises his hand. She asks how many watch Jon Stewart's The Daily Show. Between a third and a half of the audience raise their hands.
"Programs such as Meet the Press are skewed [right]. Whether they are watched by students or not, they are highly influential and shape the debate.
"The [Danish] cartoons business came up last night and I didn't address it because I think it is a red herring. It's not a Left-Right issue. Media organizations [in America] have made this decision [not to show or link to the cartoons] because it is an inflammatory situation. The ombudsman at PBS and NPR say the cartoons should be shown.
"It is a smear to imply that liberals are soft on this sort of terrorism.
"I'm also troubled by the fact that our when own Taliban in this country make hate speech, the Right falls silent. When Bill O'Reilly went on the air two months ago and invited terrorists to bomb Coit Tower in San Francisco, that the United States should not defend San Francisco against Al Qaeda, I did not hear anything from conservatives that that is unacceptable discourse. Yet it is even though [the Right] tolerates it and celebrates it."
"It is phony balance to give both sides. We should return to the time when the press took it upon itself to discern the facts.
"There were consequences when CBS [60 Minutes 2] made that mistake [about President Bush's National Guard service]. They didn't meet their own standards. That doesn't happen in our right-wing media. When Britt Hume goes on the air and crops a quote to try to suggest that FDR favored the privatization of social security, did he lose his job? No. They reward that kind of dishonesty on the conservative side.
"We still don't know the truth [about Bush's national guard service]."
Brock blasts the right-wing media such as Fox for inaccurate attacks on John Kerry's war recording ("Swift-boating"). "That garbage started in the right-wing [media] and echoed in the [mainstream media]."
Cathy: "David says the right-wing media don't criticize their own Taliban...a phrase usually taken to refer to right-wing Christians who are trying to impose Intelligent Design teaching in the schools, for instance. Bill O'Reilly and Pat Robertson [called for the assasination of Venezuela's president] were critized for their remarks."
David interrupts Cathy repeatedly (while she never interrupted him). "Pat Robertson is still on the 700 Club."
Cathy: "Not many people watch it. I don't watch it.
"Bill O'Reilly is a sanctimonious blowhard... To say there are no consequences, let's take a look at Ann Coulter. She was joking but it was an obnoxious statement when she said she hoped The New York Times building got blown up. She called the editors of the National Review "girly-men." She no longer writes for National Review. There are consequences.
"Before the cartoons, the biggest media story of the past few weeks was the pundit payola scandal. These right-wing columnists on the take, such as Michael Fumento and Doug Bandow [got fired]."
David Brock insists that Bandow had a column in today's LA Times Op/Ed page.
Cathy Seipp said that was not true. Brock later retracted.
Cathy: "The closer [to the Danish situation, the more courageous newspapers are in publishing the cartoons.] The only newspaper in England that published a link to the cartoons was a small school paper in Wales and the papers were shredded and the editor was fired."
A fat fortyish woman gets up. She's not wearing a bra. "My father was a concentration camp survivor. He survived five years in five different camps.
"Of course I'm very interested in what's going on in Iran.
"I do think the cartoons are offensive.
"Even your own terminology, that 'any normal person would not be offended.' Normal from an ethnocentric US position. It doesn't show understanding of the Muslim world of which we all know very little.
"And if conservatives are indeed defending the right to see this... That's part of the problem...of justifying the invasion of Iraq, justifying the crime of profiling that conservatives want to do in this nation..."
Cathy: "I'm going to have to ask you to put your answer in the form of a question to give other people a chance."
Woman: "So what is your concept of the moral person?"
Cathy: "People in the US [frequently] don't have any idea about the Muslim world. In Denmark, in Europe, they have a strong idea. That's why they're brave enough to do it."
Woman: "I'm talking about here."
Cathy: "I'm explaining that to you. They understand the danger of doing that. They live with this every day. These cartoons are not the type of thing that the average person in America would be offended by, but even if they were, it doesn't matter. We do not have a constitutional right in this country not to be offended."
The moderator asks the woman questioner to be quiet so Cathy can speak.
Cathy: "I've been to a lot of press conferences and I can tell you that it is [irritating] for people in the audience who don't get a chance to ask questions because someone wants to do a lecture. Ooh, people get their feelings hurt in a free society. In a democracy, people don't react to offensive speech by killing people and burning down their embassies."
An Asian girl make a long rambling point about the forging of yellow cake documents and then followed with a windy question about the outing of Valerie Plame as a supposedly covert CIA operative (though many of Plame's neighbors and social acquaintances knew about it).
Cathy: "I don't believe any documents should be forged."
Cathy's further reply is drown out by applause (the loudest applause during the two nights of debates) for the three male streakers.
David: "There's been a well-funded campaign by conservatives to convince you there's liberal bias.
"[Many] conservatives view journalism as a way to shape public opinion."
Cathy urges students to get their news primarily from newspapers rather than television and radio, which are inherently more superficial. She notes that when she was on the Dennis Miller she worried more about getting off a good line rather than checking her facts (which she obsesses over when writing). It doesn't matter if talking heads on TV don't get their facts right.
Cathy Seipp Thinks I'm A Treasure
Thursday. 1:50pm. My caller ID tells me it's Cathy Seipp. "She's going to chew me out about something," I think as I pick up the phone.
Cathy: "You are a journalistic treasure."
Luke, thinking she's been sarcastic: "How so?"
Cathy: "I can't believe that pompous ass Dennis Prager is frightened for society and that [Michael] Fumento is an important voice.
"I'm glad you called in. Fumento said, 'These are new rules.' That this is on record is fantastic. Amazing. You are truly a journalistic treasure. They should give you a Pulitzer."
Luke: "Prager spent the whole hour on Fumento's plight. Prager said that not disclosing the grant was wrong."
Cathy: "That's not the only thing Fumento did that was wrong. Soliciting the grant was wrong. What is these people's problem?
"Fumento's latest column has two baldly-inaccurate facts -- that Sharon Waxman threatened and bullied me, and that my [publicist] source complained to my editors twice."
Neither Townhall.com (and its ilk) nor the Scripps-Howard news service pay their columnists such as Fumento for syndicating them weekly.
Cathy: "You've got to wonder how is this guy [Fumento] making money?
"If he makes these kinds of factual errors, how many factual errors are there in his science reporting?
"...You were pretty worshipful of Prager?"
Luke: "I've always admired him and that has not changed [even though we may disagree about many things]."
Cathy emails me Wednesday night:
I email Cathy: "Wasn't [X] obnoxious?"
She replies: "As obnoxious as you bringing up the topic of double anal right there at dinner with all these professors?"
Luke: "I said double-penetration."
I would never be so uncouth as to raise double-anal at a dinner with professors. Unless they wanted me to, or drove me to it by being very boring.
Sometimes these stuffed-shirt types need loosening up, and, come to think of it, there's nothing like a discussion of double-anal to do just that.
Over dinner with the profs, I learned that Playboy had little success at USC and UCLA when they came seeking girls to pose naked. I guess they have more success at Chico State, San Diego State and other less prestigious schools. The more accomplished the woman, the less likely she is to pose naked for publication.
Dennis Prager: 'Michael Fumento is a truth-seeker'
Dennis on his radio show Feb 9: "His first impact on me was [in the late '80s] with his 'Myth of Heterosexual AIDS' [first published as an essay on Commentary magazine, then later as a book].
"I am not happy with the way Scripps-Howard let Michael go."
Scripps-Howard is about the lowest rung syndication network.
Fumento says he's done 150 columns for the service.
Michael: "It doesn't bode well for Hillary Clinton's vast-right-wing conspiracy. It's a left-wing conspiracy. Doug Bandow had a column for Scripps-Howard. He lost his column because he was involved in the Jack Abramoff scandal. [Bandow] was paid per column by Abramoff.
"The Left got an idea. Bandow was rid off because he took money for something he wrote. Let's put together an enemies list. Let's just say they were paid for pieces and let's give them to sympathetic reports. The only two reporters I've found who have taken this is Sharon Waxman at The New York Times [who has not published on the story yet] and Eamon Javers at Business Week.
Fumento says his job is coming to an end at the Hudson Institute in the next month. "A little bit of it has to do with my not having a column anymore. My being involved in this scandal. They know I didn't do anything wrong but there's this taint. There's been scandal involved in his name. That's why Scripps dropped me. They didn't even consult me."
Fumento says it is the practice for fellows at think tanks to solicit corporate money (as Fumento did). "Hudson finally said enough is enough."
Fumento says he lost his job writing for the Rocky Mountain News (owned by Scripps-Howard) after his first book (The Myth of Heterosexual AIDS) was published.
Prager: "There is something frightening going on here where a particularly important columnist, a voice this society can not afford to lose. Apparently you have annoyed enough people that you need to be quieted. I am frightened, not for me, [but for society]."
I called in to Prager's show. I was the first caller on this topic.
Luke: "A journalist can not go soliciting money from people he plans to write about. Michael Fumento asked for money from Monsanto and various agribusiness companies to finance his  book [BioEvolution]. He did not disclose it in his book. It's an elementary matter of journalistic ethics. He should be fired."
Prager: "Who should've fired him?"
Luke: "Anyone who employs him as a journalist. He did something beyond the pale. If I'm going to write about somebody, I can't go to them and ask them for money to write about them. He didn't disclose it in his book and he didn't disclose it in his columns."
Michael: "These rules are new to me. In fact, they are new to everybody. Are you a writer?"
[My answer did not make it on the air.] Luke: "Yes."
Michael: "These rules are new to me. They are new to everybody. That's exactly what Business Week did. They invented new rules and applied them retroactively. I don't care much for retroactive rules. I'm willing to follow rules that are made up before I do something."
I think that these rules are not retroactive. It is elementary journalistic ethics that you do not solicity funds from people you plan to write about.
Michael: "The book took four years to write. I got far less than minimum wage to write it."
Dennis: "In retrospect, you should've mentioned the [Monsanto] grant."
"The other way the other side [the Left] works is that they do not [concern themselves with truth]."
Fumento keeps painting the issue as a Left-Right debate when it is a matter of journalistic ethics. "Whenever you analyze research, you examine the funding," notes a caller. "For your guest to say that all of a sudden there are new rules...to not disclose your source of funding. Corporations do not give away something for no value. To say that this is a new rule is an egregious misstatement for scholars and scientists."
Michael: "Give me an example of someone who has lost a column for taking a grant seven years ago."
Dennis: "Michael made a mistake. I don't think he should be a lost voice for America."
The way Fumento reacted to Cathy Seipp's critique struck me as screamingly gay. From the first time I heard Fumento on Prager's show (circa 1989), I thought, this man is gay. What kind of straight man (who is a scholar) would publish on his website a picture of himself in a thong? And then take offence at comments people make about his nipples?
Fumento writes: "Seipp posted a photo of me on her website, inviting her readers to laugh. Don't know if I'm in Brad Pitt territory, but does this woman not look like a mouse that drowned in a bottle of Old Milwaukee?"
This is the type of catty remark that gay men make.
Wednesday Night Three Male Streakers Interrupt Cathy Seipp's USC Debate With David Brock Over Media Bias
Cathy, the moderator Michael Dear, and David (along with the audience) seemed thrilled with the 7:56 pm interruption of a boring audience question about Valerie Plame.
The streakers (part of some larger free-speech protest at USC over the past few weeks) ran up and down the aisles (wearing backpacks filled, I assume, with clothes) and out the side door.
Cathy's 16yo daughter Maia emails her friends: "USC may be my college because mom spoke at USC which went well though three guys streaked in the middle of her speech. She told me they had nice butts. Then the faculty guy who was impressed by me yesterday...so I may be a Trojan, not the condom but a rah rah rah Trojan."
Maia came to the first night of the debate. She asked me if she should ask a question. I asked her for her question. She wanted to know the debaters favorite journalism era. I said that was a good question.
Maia gingerly walked up front. Then she got into a discussion with the student manning the microphone, got intimidated, and returned to her seat without posing her question.
The second night of debate reprised the first night. Cathy spoke up for American news organizations linking to the controversial Danish cartoons about the Islamic prophet Mohammed.
David Brock, on the first night, accuses Cathy of being funded by the right-wing. Yeah, she does some opinion pieces for National Review Online and the Independent Women's Forum and probably makes about $250 each. And she got about $150 for reprint rights for her FrontPagemag.com articles. David Brock, meanwhile, got a $2million grant from left-wing sources for his organization Media Matters, which bills itself as: "A non-profit progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation..."
"Maybe that's because I'm better at what I do," said David, when Cathy pointed out his grant.
About the same time he came out as a homosexual (circa 1995), Brock decided to become left-of-center politically.
Both nights of debate, the audiences are largely composed of apathetic students, many of them wearing sweats. It's rare that they cheer. They never boo. A handful ask questions. A handful hang around afterwards (including two Muslim women in headcovering) to talk to Cathy (I only notice one or two trying to talk to David Brock, he's not friendly). None of them seem to want to date me.
I hear one student say he's grateful that the media bias debate sounds more interesting than USC's last such program -- about whale talk.
David Brock doesn't answer questions. He uses them as pretexts to say whatever he wants. When I tried a dozen different questions afterwards to open him up, he had nothing to say.
Brock evinces little interest in what anyone has to say.
I would like a job counseling college students, particularly attractive female college students. I would like to be their moral leader in these turbulent times.
To me, the worst part of participating in such debates is being subjected to the earnest harangues of non-hot people who must pour their views all over you (I couldn't care less about the in-depth views of 99.9% of humanity on media bias, politics, religion, et al) and you can't escape them.
Dennis Prager notes that when he's picked up at the airport for a speech, he's forced to give his speech twice (to the audience and to the driver).
Listening is often more work, and more annoying, than speaking.
When someone speaks or writes on something for pay, they usually don't want to be subject to the views and interrogations of amateurs. I'd rather talk to such people about something interesting in their personal life. What do I care about amateurish views on politics and media when I've devoted enormous study to these mattes?
David Brock (who smokes and has impossibly black hair) included Bill O'Reilly and Pat Robertson in "America's Taliban."
Wednesday night, I have dinner with Cathy (she twice made sure I'd get a vegetarian entree) and a bunch of USC profs and administrators.
Two profs next to me each say their spouse is vegetarian (and teaches in the same department at the same college). I wonder if they have the same wife but it turns out one prof is gay.
An administrator talks about teen sins.
In front of David Brock, Cathy blames the prevalence of oral sex among teens, in part, on the pornification and gayification of society.
Walking to the debate afterwards, moderator Michael Dear asks if I am Cathy's Boswell.
"Yes," Cathy and I reply, proud that he's paid such close attention to her blog.
I want to call him "professor" but he insists on "Michael." Next time I'll try "Your Royal Highness."
I ask Michael if Priscilla, Queen of the Desert was based on his year in Sydney.
"Yes," he says.
From Wales, he has an earing.
Need I say more?
Cathy critiques the USC Daily Trojan article. She says it needed more quotes from students, such as the Muslim students who approached her afterwards.
I say (without reading it) the article needed to shed more blood. A simple he-said, she-said account is not compelling.
Debates bring out the tiresome American trait of earnestness. The British are far more witty.
'I Must Warn You That The Women In This Town Have Loose Morals'
Tuesday, 7:15 am. I drive to my first Breakfast Club (an offshoot of David Horowitz's Wednesday Morning Club) at the Lux (14671 Sunset Blvd).
I fear the traffic will be bad and the free parking impossible to find. Instead I arrive within 15-minutes and have no problem finding a landing pad a quarter-mile from the hotel. It's not easy to walk there however. I run across four lanes of busy Sunset Blvd traffic, then across the grass and up the boulevard (there aren't sidewalks) until I arrive at 7:35. For the next 15-minutes, I read The Worry Cure: Seven Steps to Stop Worry from Stopping You by Dr. Robert L. Leahy.
CSPC (Horowitz's Center for Study of Popular Culture) employees Michael Finch and Elizabeth walk up. I get a name tag. I get a hot cup of lemon herbal tea. I get a muffin. I get grapes. I get watermelon. I get chamomile tea.
I meet our speaker -- Brian C. Anderson, the author of South Park Conservatives: The Revolt against Liberal Media Bias.
The babes flow in. Yes, they're all over 50 but that doesn't bother me. That's how I like 'em. They have so much more wisdom about life. What's an extra 40 pounds?
I can think of no more romantic way to spend Valentine's Day than at the Breakfast club.
Brian has never been to the West Coast. Aside from his radio interviews, he's going to have a few free hours today before flying home to New York Wednesday morning. He solicits sight-seeing advice. Sunset Blvd is mentioned.
My concerns are lofty. "I must warn you that the women in this town have loose morals," I intone.
I receive these simultaneous responses:
"I'm not worried about that," he says. "I'm happily married."
"I take offense to that," says a mother of two college kids. She walks off.
Brian (who has a PhD in political philosophy from a Canadian university) is low-key and easy to talk to. I can't wind him up like a crank. He says his two most hostile interviews were by Al Franken and Michael Signorile. He got a couple of negative reviews on his book in the conservative press (New York Sun) but two positive ones in The Wall Street Journal.
He has not seen Brokeback Mountain but he did see Curious George with his kids.
By 8:35 am, the crowd of about 30 is seated.
Brian reads his speech (most of it was published in the Winter 2006 issue of City Journal). His voice often trails off at the end of a sentence and becomes inaudible. That and the wild screaming from the fevered crowd (OK, I made up that screaming stuff).