The other day, when the folks at Media Matters Action Network released their scathing report on the mishandling of the immigration debate on the news networks, I made one of those tomorrow-the-sun-will-be-up predictions:
However, I will also predict that the subjects of this critique will simply dismiss it out of hand because, well, that’s what they do with their critics. MM, of course, is just a bunch of dirty Naziesque liberals funded by George Soros, right? And now, I’m sure we can expect to see "open borders crowd" added to the list of pejoratives.
Well, Lou Dobbs had MM’s Paul Waldman on his CNN program last night, and he did not of course disappoint. His defense rested almost entirely on dismissing Media Matters as a "left-wing" and "open borders" organization.
But what was surprising was how ugly and vicious Dobbs got. In the video above, you can see him leaning towards Waldman, baring his teeth in barely suppressed rage. I thought he might reach over and bite him.
Let’s go to the transcript:
DOBBS: Let me ask you this. You’re hooked up with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Media Matters is itself a left-wing organization. I mean, why — what credibility do all of you have on this issue? Would you have any more credibility, for example, than the Chamber of Commerce and the Bush administration in proposing amnesty and open borders?
WALDMAN: Well, I know that’s the kind of thing you’ve been saying about this for the last day or two. I heard on the radio today that you said I was out to lunch.
DOBBS: Were you actually out to lunch?
DOBBS: If I said it, but I don’t recall saying it.
Right off the bat, Dobbs’ argument rests on the ad hominem: They’re a left-wing organization and therefore must not be credible. That is, the entire body of evidence they present can be dismissed because of their political orientation.
Most of all, Dobbs reflexively trots out the "open borders" canard; when the Southern Poverty Law Center criticized Dobbs, he attacked them with the same argument, even though the SPLC has never enunciated any position with regard to border security or general immigration policy. And the same is certainly true of Media Matters. The concern of both of them is the way people like Dobbs spread provably false information, based on falsehoods propagated by the racist and nativist right — and of course, Dobbs simply won’t address that issue.
And so it goes throughout the interview:
WALDMAN: Is there some kind of a document that they say this is going to go from Mexico to Canada? Because we looked around, and we tried to document…
DOBBS: Why did you not — why did you not call? How can you call research — if you didn’t call this broadcast and ask us for these documents and ask us for the proof in the reporting…
WALDMAN: Do you have one?
DOBBS: Of course, we do.
WALDMAN: I would love to see — because we looked around…
DOBBS: You are a left-wing advocacy group. You’re charging nonsense.
DOBBS: And the only way to appease both you and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus would be for me to support illegal immigration and open borders. I reject it, I reject you, and I reject your position.
Now let’s get to your report.
And then Dobbs just began filibustering and refused to let Waldman finish a single statement — while accusing Waldman of filibustering. It’s quite a performance:
WALDMAN: Lou, if I had my own television show, and I knew that there were extremist groups like the John Birch Society and white supremacist groups like the Council of Conservative Citizens that were cheering me on on their Web site, it would make me want to step back and say, "OK, what am I doing? How can I change to make sure that this debate is responsible in the way it could be?"
DOBBS: Do you like balance? Do you like balance? Do you like balance? Do you like balance?
WALDMAN: Balance is fine, Lou. But the question is whether or not the rhetoric is responsible and whether it’s feeding into…
DOBBS: What have I ever said about illegal aliens? Have I said that illegal aliens, I think, are the most rational actors in this entire mess? Have I said that I have worked with and respect greatly illegal aliens? Have I not said I’ve got great respect for the work ethic, the family values of most illegal aliens working in this country.
Have I not said that their wages should be increased? Have I not said that we should come to terms with the reality and raise wages of illegal aliens working in fields?
Because you are an ideologue, and a left-wing hack, you will ignore the reality.
WALDMAN: Calling me names is the way to avoid talking about…
DOBBS: I’m talking to you, partner. And I’m telling you exactly. Respond to what I just said. I just…
WALDMAN: Absolutely. OK. So I’m…
DOBBS: Name one of them that you mentioned in your report.
This becomes the only other component of Dobbs’ defense: That at some point, he actually said one or two fair things about illegal immigrants. But journalistically speaking, it’s a defense that fails utterly.
If I write a book and 98 percent of it is good material, but 2 percent of it contains libelous and false material, perhaps plagiarized material taken from a white-supremacist website, then it should not surprise me if the public and critics decide to discard the remaining 98 percent as unreliable. Journalists should always strive for complete accuracy and reliable, responsible sourcing, and understand that when they fail, it mars the rest of their work — and moreover, good journalists recognize that, cop to their mistakes, and move immediately to correct them.
But with Dobbs, the equation is actually reversed. His show is such a major font of misinformation on immigration that it’s fair to say that probably only about 2 percent of it is either reliable or responsible. And Dobbs not only never cops to his mistakes — he says he does, but in fact the record shows otherwise — but he badgers and attacks the people who call him on them (see, for instance, his treatment of Mark Potok of the SPLC).
But then, this is how Dobbs operates, and how he is able to keep doing this schtick. His entire show, even when it’s not talking about immigration, is all about drumming up Limbaughesque outrage — everything on the planet, it seems, is a head-shaking outrage.
Too bad he can’t look in the mirror and see that it’s his own misbegotten reportage that is the outrage.