Jay Severin, unreliable source

Here’s the kind of false propaganda Jay Severin pumps into the heads of his listeners, whom he likes to call “the best and the brightest.” Within the past 15 minutes, he went into a riff about how the mainstream media, out of “professional courtesy,” would not cover the fact that CNN had allowed Democratic ringers to take part in the YouTube debate. He specifically mentioned the New York Times as refusing to cover the story.

In fact, both the New York Times and the Washington Post ran prominent stories today, both of which were featured on Jim Romenesko’s heavily trafficked media-news site, along with Media Nation. Now, the Times and the Post are only the two most important newspapers in the country. But just for good measure, check out the results of this Google News search.

Severin either lied about today’s Times (and the rest of the media), or bloviated about what he imagined the Times had done without bothering to check. I’m not sure which is worse.

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How CNN blew it

If CNN executives took citizen media seriously, then they wouldn’t be facing charges that they’re in the tank for the Democrats. Well, OK, they probably would, but the charges wouldn’t seem as credible.

Following Wednesday night’s CNN/YouTube debate, it was revealed that retired general Keith Kerr, a gay man who asked the candidates a pointed question about why they oppose letting openly gay men and lesbians from serving in the military, was a prominent supporter of Hillary Clinton’s. And that turned out to be only the most notable of what conservative blogger Michelle Malkin is calling Democratic “plants.”

Well, of course, it was incredibly stupid of CNN to do such a poor job of vetting the 5,000 or so videos that were submitted by YouTube users. And it certainly didn’t help that Kerr was allowed to hector the candidates from the audience. His question was perfectly legitimate, but his Clinton affiliation should have disqualified him. (And it’s too bad that Anderson Cooper is getting tainted by this. I thought he did an exceptionally good job of keeping the proceedings moving along while remaining substantive.)

But why is CNN deciding which videos to use in the first place? As my former Boston Phoenix colleague David Bernstein wrote after the first Democratic YouTube debate in July, CNN “pretty much created a TV show out of the free raw video materials, not entirely unlike an episode of America’s Funniest Home Videos.”

So let me repeat and expand on a suggestion I made back then: If CNN wants to harness the power of citizen media, then it should go all the way. Here’s what I’d do:

  • Have people upload videos in six or eight subject categories — the war in Iraq, terrorism, taxes, immigration, the environment, whatever.
  • Subject those videos to light vetting to make sure none is tilted for or against a particular candidate, or is grotesquely offensive.
  • Let the YouTube community vote on the best video in each category. Those are the questions that will be asked.

Such a system wouldn’t be perfect. One problem, of course, is that the candidates would get to see the questions ahead of time. But so what? We should be looking for thoughtful answers rather than making these debates a test as to who can spit out the best instantaneous soundbites.

There’s also the possibility that the process would be hijacked in some way. But I think that’s a risk worth taking. Besides, how would that be any worse than letting people associated with Hillary Clinton’s and John Edwards’ campaigns ask questions, as CNN did?

“Score this one for the people,” says the Boston Globe in an editorial today. Well, no. This was CNN’s show from start to finish. Let the people decide — then we can celebrate.

The sagacious Dick Cheney (II)

Jon Garfunkel has some thoughts on the 1994 Dick Cheney tape. There’s a lot in here, including some ramblings from the conspiracy-minded left as to whether the media are deliberately ignoring evidence that George W. Bush is prematurely senile. But Garfunkel does get to the heart of the matter with this about the Cheney tape:

[W]hat’s remarkable is that no one found this earlier — five years ago would have been a good time. Vice President Cheney appeared on Meet the Press with Tim Russert on September 8, 2002 and then on March 16, 2003, three days before the Iraq war. Russert asked him reasonably tough questions. In the March interview he showed a video clip from Cheney’s appearance on the the show during the 2000 campaign. Cheney had said in 2000 that they didn’t go to Baghdad on the advice of the neighboring governments in the coalition. What had changed, to Cheney and the war’s supporters, was the world on 9/11. But while the specter of global terrorism may have changed the urgency for war, it could not have changed the expectations about the quagmire. Either the 1991 NPR clip or the 1994 C-SPAN clip would have brought that more directly.

Garfunkel makes an important point here. After I posted my earlier item, several Cheney defenders wrote comments saying, essentially, So what? Lots of politicians change their minds. Look at John Kerry! Karl Rove said the same thing yesterday in his appearance on “Meet the Press,” telling substitute host David Gregory:

He [Cheney], he was describing the conditions in 1994. By 2003 the world had changed. It changed on 9/11, and it became clear — it should be clear to every American that we live in a dangerous world where we cannot let emerging threats fully materialize in attacks on our homeland…. [P]eople are entitled over time to look at the conditions and change their mind, and that’s exactly what Dick Cheney did.

Well, yes. But, as Garfunkel observes, changing your mind about the threat posed by Iraq is one thing (John Maynard Keynes: “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”), but changing your mind about the consequences of war is quite another. We now know that Cheney got it exactly right in 1994. We have no idea why he later decided the invasion and its aftermath would be a cakewalk. Did Ahmed Chalabi really hold that much sway?

Not that it could have stopped the war, but it’s a shame that Cheney’s 1994 words couldn’t have been thrown in his face in 2002 and ’03, before the invasion. Forcing him to explain why he no longer believed the war would lead to a quagmire would have been a useful exercise. It’s nice that it’s come out now, but at this late date it only confirms what most Americans believe about a vice president they detest and a war they no longer support.

Update: The Telegraph quotes Media Nation.

The sagacious Dick Cheney

I’m late to this, but offer it as a public service in case you haven’t seen it yet:

If only President Bush had advisers as wise and cautious as Dick Cheney was in 1994.

A better YouTube debate

May I make a confession? I completely forgot about last night’s Democratic debate, and thus missed the two-hour exercise in YouTube-fueled citizen participation.

But I can definitely see both sides regarding the one controversy the format engendered: CNN’s decision to handpick the questions rather than let the YouTube community vote on them. The chances of campaign workers’ monkeywrenching the results were high. On the other hand, if CNN is going to pick which questions it wants the candidates to be asked, it might as well let Anderson Cooper ask the questions.

David Bernstein of the Phoenix writes that CNN “pretty much created a TV show out of the free raw video materials, not entirely unlike an episode of America’s Funniest Home Videos.” He’s right.

So here’s an idea that might work. Let CNN pick six or seven (or 10) broad categories that it wants to put to the candidates. Let the YouTube community vote on the best question in each of those categories. Questions that mention any candidate by name can be thrown out. What do you think?

Over at YouTube today, you can watch the debate, question by question, and post your own video response.