Political Flavors

Why Ian Murphy Isn’t Lila Rose

Posted in Editorials on March 1st, 2011

Last week, Ian Murphy, a blogger at the Buffalo Beast, called Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, posing as conservative millionaire, and Tea Party funder David Koch. Walker believed that he was Koch, and admitted, among other things his strategies for busting the public unions of Wisconsin, that he had considered hiring people to disrupt the peaceful protests with violence and that he saw defeating the unions as akin to defeating communism.

This Sunday, on CNN’s Reliable Sources, the pundits complained that many in the media praised Murphy as a hero and bemoaned the fact that he was not demonized as Lila Rose, James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles were for trying to make people believe that Planned Parenthood and ACORN actively aided traffickers of underage girls.

KURTZ: Amy Holmes, MSNBC led with this hour after hour. The focus was on the embarrassment of Scott Walker. Nobody seemed to mention that this guy lied, that he committed a journalistic fraud, pretending to be someone else. Why?

HOLMES: Right. Well, I think because it fits their ideological framework. And I looked at this, and he was hailed as “Most Intriguing Person of the Day” by CNN. And you didn’t see the hand-wringing over journalistic ethics like you did, say, in the ACORN case, when those two young people used the same sorts of tactics of being an impostor and sort of — some people would say tricking people into participating in this. And there, there was a huge discussion about journalism and is this fair, is this right?

In this, it was, like, he’s a hero. He accomplished a feat, as you just heard.

KURTZ: I was also struck by CNN saying he was the “Most Intriguing Person.” If anybody who worked for CNN did what this guy did, they would have been fired.

Jim Warren, you want to get in on this?

WARREN: Yes. I mean, on one hand, I thought it was fascinating and revealing, what was going on in the governor’s mind in a certain sort of cynical pragmatism that was playing out on his side.

At the same time, I didn’t see this guy as performing any vaguely legitimate form of journalism. He was perpetuating an absolute hoax, starting with misidentifying himself. Although I think there are times when mainstream legitimate journalists can misidentify themselves. But, boy, it has to be for higher causes — maybe saving lives or actually revealing some huge systemic government fraud. In a case like this, just to embarrass, no.

KURTZ: And Steve —

PEARLSTEIN: He’s not a journalist. He’s a blogger. That doesn’t mean there’s not two overlaps between those two, but there is a difference between them, and you just identified one of them.

KURTZ: Well, look at the way it was picked up. We talked about MSNBC playing this. Fox News barely mentioned it, although Greta Van Susteren was interviewing Governor Walker, so she asked him about the call.

And as Amy points out though, when the ACORN sting happened — you remember James O’Keefe and the pimp and the prostitute — liberal commentators all attacked them, but Fox News played them up and that story up in a way that was much more favorable.

So how much of this is ideological.

HOLMES: Right. And the ACORN folks, they said that they were activists. They were very explicit about their point of view, where, in this case, oh, well, maybe he’s a blogger, maybe he’s a journalist. It doesn’t really matter and he doesn’t get any kind of criticism for his methods.

KURTZ: Are you giving — saying we should judge people like this by a different standard because they are not card-carrying newspaper journalists, they’re just bloggers, or they have online news sites?

PEARLSTEIN: Well, Howie, you sort of dismiss it with the question, well, they are not card-carrying. He’s not a journalist because he doesn’t behave like a journalist.

How do I know he doesn’t behave like a journalist? He does pranks like that. Journalists don’t do that. I’m not saying there’s not a legitimate function for it, but that’s not what journalists do.

Here’s the difference between Ian Murphy and Lila Rose.

Ian Murphy started with the premise that Scott Walker would talk to David Koch, but not to him. He knew the two had political ties, and wanted to find out more about their relationship and whether or not Walker was participating in illegal activity. All he really found was political dirt – but he never claimed otherwise. He presented the audio unedited to the world, and while his opinions are well known, he didn’t make any claims that the audio could not support.

Lila Rose started with the premise that Planned Parenthood aides and abets pimps who traffic underage girls. When she found no evidence of this, she insisted that it did. The films have been shown to be heavily edited, so it’s difficult to know what really went on.

Finally, there’s something satisfying about punching up. Ian Murphy was attacking a man who is trying to take the collective bargaining rights away from state employees like teachers, nurses, and prison guards. Lila Rose is attacking an organization that gives contraceptives and cancer screenings to poor people. If there’s a reason he seems more sympathetic to you, that’s probably it.

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