Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Daleks on helium

Now that the pesky GDP report has fallen to 24th (and last) place on the Fair 'n' Balanced hit parade, maybe we should look at the lead story from a little earlier in the day:

House Republicans have dug up emails from Lois Lerner in which the former IRS official refers to some in the Republican Party as “---holes” and "crazies" – an exchange they say shows her “animus” toward conservatives.

As with much of Fox's reporting on the party's pet scandals, the presentation here is only partly made up. The emails by themselves don't "reveal disdain for Republicans"; that's the claim of the particular Republican who released them (Dave Camp of Michigan, if you're scoring along at home), but what's a little attribution between friends? And who exactly she called "- - -holes" (Fox Nation opted for "a - - holes"; after a phone call to confirm, the AP boldly went with "assholes") kind of depends on how hard you squint and what you're willing to overlook:

In the email exchange, Lerner appears to be chatting with another unidentified individual about a vacation in Great Britain. She describes how she overheard “some ladies” talking about how America is “going down the tubes.”

The person she tells this to responds that “you should hear the whacko wing of the GOP. The US is through; too many foreigners sucking the teat; time to hunker down, buy ammo and food, and prepare for the end. The right wing radio shows are scary to listen to.”

Lerner responds: “Great. Maybe we are through if there are that many ---holes.”

And the crazies?

After another email to her about how “rabid” the radio show callers are, Lerner responds: “So we don't need to worry about alien teRrorists. (sic) It's our own crazies that will take us down.”

Confused? Politico manages to muddy things a little further:

Although Lerner doesn’t say “Republican” or “conservative” in the particular emails, she and the unnamed person were discussing conservative talk radio hosts.

Well, not entirely, if you take the AP's word for it:

The other person replies: "And I'm talking about the hosts of the shows. The callers are rabid."

Lerner says: "So we don't need to worry about alien teRrorists. It's our own crazies that will take us down."  

If Politico is convinced that "our own crazies" in that clause means the hosts, rather than the callers (or even the "whacko wing of the GOP," which also qualifies), Politico has missed its calling. It needs to be in a dark tent at the county fair with a funny hat and a deck of scary cards. But either way, it should learn how to avoid carrying water for its sources:

Ex-IRS official Lois Lerner refers to some Republicans as “a—holes” and “crazies” in an exchange from 2012, according to emails released by House Republicans on Wednesday.

Should somebody remind Politico that, um, not all the crazies on the AM dial are Republicans? Hannity, for one, specifically claims not to be, and for all we know, they were talking about the distant fringe -- the ones who sound like Daleks on helium.* Either way, it's hard to see how party identification is the core value here. If Dave Camp is upset at being lumped in with the kind of people who get through Limbaugh's screeners, or if he's upset that he wasn't, that's his business. News organizations are supposed to have their radar up for the bogus parts of political assertions.

The AP at least manages a qualification: A former IRS official at the center of the agency's tea party controversy referred to some right-wing Republicans as "crazies" and more in emails released Wednesday.

I'm still not seeing a lot of space-saving over "conservative talk radio" followed by a count noun. And for all its lexical boldness, AP falls back on some tut-tut  cluelessness:
In a series of emails with an associate in November 2012, Lerner made two disparaging remarks about some members of the GOP, including one remark that was a profane characterization.
Oh, how to put this? Jesus Christ, AP. "Asshole" might be vulgar, but it's not profane.
That's rather a lot of space to spend on two words in a private email exchange about -- let's be honest here -- some of the assholes and crazies of the mediated political landscape. Obviously it's a lead story for Fox; I mean, it's even partly true. One does have to wonder a bit about why the purportedly serious political press has such trouble putting it into context.

* I totally stole that from Language Czarina; she hadn't heard Mark Levin before.

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