By Jerry Waxman
as submitted to the Huffington Post
“We must have lunch real soon…….Your luggage is checked through………..We’ve got inflation licked……I’ll get right back to you…….. It’s just a standard form……..Tomorrow without fail. ……..Pleased to meet you……Thanks a lot……….Your check is in the mail.
Marooned………Marooned…..….Marooned in a blizzard of lies! Marooned..……Marooned……..Marooned in a blizzard of lies! Your toes and knees aren’t all you’ll freeze when you’re in it up to your thighs……………It looks like snow, but you never know, when you’re marooned in a blizzard of lies.”
Songwriter Dave Frishberg’s witty and satirical lyric from 1983 is spot on when you’re talking about all of the myths and distortions being offered up by Health Care Reform’s opponents. Will Rogers classic allusion that all he knows is what he reads in the paper is, unfortunately, the case for many Floridians, and no attempt is made to clarify or get at the truth or supply background information by the Orlando Sentinel’s editors. Case in point: conservative radio host Neal Boortz was a prime reason that there was a protesting crowd at Congressman Alan Grayson’s Aug. 17th town hall meeting. Boortz and other talk hosts continued to advertise the meeting site and time. The Sentinel reporters covered the event, but there was no mention of radio station WDBO’s involvement. Opinion columnist Scott Maxwell, who seems to be pretty fair in his assessments, never mentioned the radio rabble rousing either. There is no way that those protest crowds would have been there in such numbers without the publicity yet the local press makes no mention of it. Deliberately withholding this kind of information gives the protests more weight than they deserve, and it certainly flies in the face of certain journalistic basics such as who, what, when, where and why.
Each Sunday the Sentinel features a section called New Voices, where anyone (I’ll repeat that) anyone can write a 600 word op-ed on any subject. On September 5 a contributor named Kristen Soltis wrote a very carefully worded column that derided Alan Grayson’s August 17 town hall meeting labeled The Health Care Debate Deserves an Honest Forum. At the end of her letter the Sentinel disclosed that she is Director of Policy Research at The Winston Group. Once you Google search this firm you discover that it is a very right leaning polling and strategy organization. Another simple Google search revealed more than we need to know about Ms. Soltis. If you want to know who and what her connections are here is a link to her Muckety Relationship Map, which as you click on all of her relationships will reveal that she is extremely well connected in Republican and other right wing circles, having spent time at the RNCC and the Heritage Foundation. Here’s an example of one of her blogs. She has published scores of articles including one about getting the youthful voter to vote Republican in The Huffington Post. She is hardly a new voice, and she has her facts wrong about Grayson’s meeting.
Florida State Rep. Scott Randolph was incensed at the Sentinel’s lack of fact checking. I talked with him at the AFL-CIO Labor Day picnic. Randolph asserts that Ms. Soltis is a paid staffer whose job is to write these articles in newspapers around the country. “I was at three of Grayson’s Town Hall meetings, and she doesn’t know anything about how they turned out. The Sentinel allowed itself to be fooled. She’s not even a registered voter in Orange County.”
Another Democratic activist took it even further. Douglas DeClue, in an angry letter to the editor (copied to me) let his feelings be known. Here are some excerpts:
To the Editors of the Sentinel:
Give me a break.
The only reason the right wing Republican teabagger crowd is complaining now about Alan Grayson is simply because they got beat at their own game.
They were out organized by local grassroots Democratic activists in turning out a crowd for Alan Grayson’s town hall event and now that they got beat they want a do-over.
The teabaggers who have been crashing town halls around the country and harassing and intimidating elected officials have clearly been organized by right wing radio talking heads who in turn have apparently gotten their marching orders and talking points from the Republican Party and the Health Insurance lobby.
In this particular case, for all of her whining about the event being “preloaded” with Democrats, she utterly fails to point out in “Honest Forum” that nationally syndicated right wing radio talk show host Neal Boortz had tried to do its own “preloading” by using his national radio program to whip up a lynch mob to storm a local town hall meeting with his ill informed radical right wing shouters.
In this Neal Boortz failed miserably of course because the City of Orlando and Orange County overall is overwhelmingly Democratic, by over 80,000 registered voters (272,923 to 192,419 as of March of this year) and by 19% in the last election (Obama 59%, McCain 40%).
Perhaps it is time for the newspaper publications that are still around to start practicing the journalistic standards and display the integrity that we expect of them. Ideology aside, a free and independent press is necessary to the functioning of a free society. A paid for press is nothing but an expensive ad. An incurious press is an insult to everyone’s intelligence.
“Walk on, Walk on with hope in your heart and you’re in for a big surprise,
when you’re marooned, marooned, marooned, marooned, marooned in a blizzard of lies!”