What would it be like to live in a thoroughly tribalized world? A world in which each tribe got thoroughly sanitized “news,” from thoroughly partisan sources?
Increasingly, we live in that world. Consider two recent stings.
In one of these stings, Mayor Bloomberg sent undercover agents to a gun show in Arizona. (For the New York Times news report,click here.) In some instances, private gun sellers sold them semiautomatic pistols, even after Bloomberg’s agents said they probably couldn’t pass a background check.
These transactions were captured on tape. On Tuesday night, Rachel Maddow played some of the tapes on her show, then interviewed Bloomberg about the sting. (To watch the full segment, click this.) Quite appropriately, she praised Bloomberg for doing “something confrontational and eye-opening…on an issue about which everyone says progress is not possible.” Quite appropriately, Bloomberg’s sting was widely praised in liberal circles, although this week’s event in Egypt probably cost it attention.
The word “hoax” was never uttered, although Bloomberg’s agents presumably made false representations in the course of their sting. No one asked Bloomberg how many gun sellers refused to go for the sting.
Quite appropriately, Bloomberg’s sting was widely praised in liberal circles—and it was accurately reported. Not so for a second recent sting, this one aimed at Planned Parenthood.
For the second straight day, this second sting is reported in today’s New York Times. Click here.
In this second sting, an anti-abortion group (Live Action) sent undercover agents to a number of Planned Parenthood clinics. In at least one instance, a clinic manager engaged in conduct which Planned Parenthood has condemned in extremely strong terms. In today’s news report, Erik Eckholm described the agency’s reaction:
ECKHOLM (2/3/11): Planned Parenthood officials expressed dismay at the statements of the office manager in the videotape, and fired her on Tuesday night.
“We were profoundly shocked when we viewed the videotape,” Phyllis Kinsler, chief executive of the agency’s central New Jersey branch, said in a statement. Ms. Kinsler said the tape “depicted an employee of one of our health centers behaving in a repugnant manner that is inconsistent with our standards of care and is completely unacceptable.”
Stuart Schear, vice president for communications of the national federation, said in an interview on Wednesday that Planned Parenthood had “zero tolerance” for unethical behavior and that the behavior filmed in the video was “very isolated.”
It may well be that the conduct in question is “very isolated”—that very few Planned Parenthood staffers would behave as this manager did. That said, Kinsler said the agency was “profoundly shocked” by what appeared on the tape; she said the employee had behaved “in a repugnant manner” that was “completely unacceptable.” In the rest of her statement, Kinsler echoed some of Schear’s language. “We have a zero tolerance policy for this kind of behavior,” she said late Tuesday, “and the employee in the video was immediately suspended from her duties this morning and was terminated this evening.”
In Eckholm’s news report in the Times, he quotes Lila Rose, who ran this sting, saying she had “other damaging materials” (Eckholm’s term) which she would distribute later. “Soon, we will be releasing more evidence to law enforcement officials and the public showing that Planned Parenthood is willing to aid and abet sexual exploitation of minors and young women,” Rose was quoted saying.
Do other embarrassing tapes exist? We have no idea.
In the last two days, readers of the New York Times have been allowed to know these basic facts about this second sting. But if you get your “news” from certain sources in the emerging “liberal” world, you may have a very different picture of this second sting. At TPM, to cite one example, Josh Marshall clowned his readers on Tuesday afternoon with this front-page post. But then, what else is new:
Lightning Fails to Strike Twice
Pro-life group admits trying to pull an ACORN-type sting on Planned Parenthood and failing miserably. If nothing else, left-leaning social service groups are probably hip to pimp walk-ins at this point. But hope springs eternal.
Say what? According to this runner of rubes, the “pro-life” group had admitted “trying to pull an ACORN-type sting,” but the sting had “fail[ed] miserably.” Lightning had failed to strike twice! By this time, Planned Parenthood had already condemned its employee’s apparent actions in extremely strong terms, as readers could learn if they clicked Josh’s link to this TPM news report. Josh’s post is hard to square with the facts described in Rachel Slajda’s report—but even there, Slajda took a rather peculiar approach to this story. She focused on the idea that the sting was a “hoax,” in that the undercover agents had made false representations in the course of acquiring their tape. Planned Parenthood’s condemnation of their employee’s conduct appeared rather late in her piece.
Already, Planned Parenthood was working hard to confront the possible damage caused by this event. But so what! At TPM, we rubes were being told that the sting had been an epic failure! Nor would TPM be the only site running us rubes on this matter.
At the Washington Monthly, Steve Benen waited until Wednesday morning to offer a post on this topic. By this time, Planned Parenthood had fired the employee in question, while condemning her conduct in the strongest terms. But so what! Benen treated his readers like rubes, in the following account of the incident. In the italicized language, Benen is quoting Salon’s Alex Pareene, to whose earlier “report” he linked:
THE PLANNED PARENTHOOD 'STING'.... I'm glad conservatives are interested in investigative journalism. I just wish they were better at it.
Between Jan. 11 and Jan. 15, five separate Planned Parenthood clinics received mysterious visits from men who claimed to be involved in underage sex-trafficking. This meant, obviously, that someone was trying to pull a James O'Keefe-style "sting," in which deceptively edited Internet videos would prove that some organization dedicated to providing services to the poor or otherwise non-privileged was in fact engaged in high crimes and conspiracy against freedom.
It didn't really work, because Planned Parenthood quickly caught on and alerted the FBI. (BigJournalism.com exclusive: Planned Parenthood alerts the authorities when confronted by self-proclaimed human traffickers!) Planned Parenthood suspected that the hoaxer had ties to Live Action, an antiabortion activist group run by Lila Rose, a sometime O'Keefe partner-in-undercover-stinging. And Live Action confirmed its involvement by posting the sad results of its exhaustive video investigation today. It caught one staffer possibly advising a make-believe pimp to send a make-believe underage prostitute somewhere where her abortion would not be reported. (It is obviously impossible to tell what actually happened without the unedited video.) (And also this Planned Parenthood alerted the authorities about the weird visit.)
In a case like this, we have conservative activists—who appear to enjoy playing dress-up a little too much—who make wild assumptions, and then go about hatching schemes intended to make their ideas credible. The result is a "sting" that appears to be a flop.
Note the way Benen covered his keister with some carefully chosen language. The sting didn’t really work, he said. It appears to be a flop. (For Pareene’s report, click here. According to Salon’s headlines, this second sting had been a “hoax”—a “hoax” which had “imploded.”)
Hey rubes! Through the language he cadged from Pareene, Benen quickly told his readers that it was “obvious” that this new tape must be “deceptively edited.” (If you actually watch the tape, it’s hard to believe that this is true in any major way, though anything is possible.) In passing, Benen’s text did mention the fact that one staffer had “possibly” offered imperfect advice. By this time, the staffer in question had been fired and harshly condemned by Planned Parenthood.
Benen’s readers weren’t told about that. We liberal rubes weren’t required to process such unpleasant facts.
Benen went on to offer one of his standard analyses straight from Fantasyland, Vermont. In his analysis, he lamented the fact that conservatives are no damn good at conducting stings of this type. The last time they ran such a sting, of course, they managed to put ACORN out of business—unless you read the silly prose these silly rube-runners offer. Here’s the good news: Many of Benen’s commenters reminded him of this obvious fact, challenging the ludicrous, feel-good “analysis” he was selling.
What would it be like to live in a world which has gone totally tribal? Why wonder? Just look around! Planned Parenthood is trying to limit the damage which could be caused by this embarrassing incident—and Live Action is claiming that there is more to come. But so what? At Salon, at TPM, at the Washington Monthly, liberals still haven’t been forced to learn basic facts of this matter.
Did someone get fired and condemned by Planned Parenthood? Salon still hasn’t broken the news; Benen hasn’t done so either. Yesterday afternoon, Slajda filed this fuller report at TPM about the firing and condemnation—but Josh, who now fancies himself Bob Dylan, hasn’t gone back to let the rubes know that his earlier, front-page post was straight outta a football pep rally at dear old Hibbing High School.
Will more embarrassing evidence surface? We have no idea. How typical was this staffer’s conduct? We don’t know that either. Was the tape edited in some way that distorted its apparent meaning? We don’t know—although if you actually watch the tape, the likelihood doesn’t seem great. But some “liberal” coverage of this event has been strikingly silly. Planned Parenthood is fighting to avoid going the ACORN route—and liberal tribunes are telling the rubes that the other dumb-ass tribe has bungled things badly again!
They’ll take your money, and dumb you down. Ain’t life in the tribal world grand?