Psst. Don’t tell anyone, but the Sunday morning talk shows are slanted old, white, male, and Republican. Also, don’t believe people who claim to have “secrets.” (More)
Squirrels have lots of secrets. That’s why you can still find lots of authoritative sources that say we’re solitary, when in fact we often share dreys, adopt related orphan babies, time-share with squirrels who migrate at different times of year, and have complex social norms. In fact, some of the best evidence for the evolutionary basis of altruism came from studies of squirrels. In other words, we had lots of secrets until someone bothered to look more closely.
So when the New York Times published their in-depth investigative story on the 2012 Benghazi attacks on Sunday, I wasn’t surprised that Republicans raced to the Sunday morning talk shows to say the Times was wrong. And I wasn’t surprised that they based that claim on secret information.
I wasn’t surprised that Republicans dominated this week’s Sunday morning talk shows because, well, they usually do:
The general impression is rooted in fact: the Sunday shows love Republicans. Meet the Press, Face the Nation, This Week, State of the Union, and Fox News Sunday, hoping to reflect and help shape the conventional wisdom for the political world, collectively favor GOP guests over Democratic guests every year, but who were the big winners in 2013?
The above chart shows every political figure who made 10 or more Sunday show appearances this year, with red columns representing Republicans and blue columns representing Democrats. For 2013, the race wasn’t especially close – House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI) easily came out on top, making 27 appearances this year. That works out to an average of one appearance every 1.9 weeks (or 2.25 Sunday show appearances a month, every month for a year).
And lest you think that most frequent appearances don’t reflect the overall mix of guests, well, they do:
Broadcast Networks Hosted Republican And Conservative Guests Most Often. Out of 400 total guests hosted by ABC’s This Week, CBS’ Face the Nation, NBC’s Meet the Press, and Fox’s Fox News Sunday during the first three months of 2013, 40 percent were either Republicans or conservatives while only 29 percent were Democrats or progressives. Centrist, nonpartisan, and ideologically neutral guests made up 31 percent.
Each Network Hosted More Guests From The Right Than The Left. Republicans and conservatives outpaced Democrats and progressives on all four networks. Fox News Sunday had the largest discrepancy, with 53 percent of guests being Republicans or conservatives and only 24 percent being Democrats or progressives.
In fact, on Sundays only MSNBC’s Up With Chris Hayes – now Up with Steve Kornacki – and Melissa Harris-Perry have fewer White Male guests than Everyone Else:
- There is precisely one woman on the list, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), who famously voted against enforcement of equal-pay laws for women because it would place a “lot of additional burdens” on “job creators.”
- There are no men or women of color on the list, unless you count Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), whose father is Cuban, and who has attacked Democrats as “always willing to play the race card.”
- The average age of the six men who top the list is nearly 66. Take the spry Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI; age 50) out of the equation, and the average goes up to 69.
- Newt Gingrich hasn’t held public office since 1999. And still he rises. And not because of his love of animals. This is proof that if God exists, He intends for you not to watch TV on Sunday mornings.
I didn’t need any secret information to know that Republicans would dominate this Sunday’s talk shows. It was already out there, except for Steve Benen’s graph, and only because he didn’t have the final tallies until Sunday afternoon.
That’s pretty much the story of Daniel Ellsberg’s amazing book Secrets, which should be required reading for any student of government … and any new government hire.
Ellsberg explains why so much information is classified. In most cases it’s not to protect sensitive military or law enforcement operations, or intelligence sources and methods. In fact, most ‘classified’ information is available in public sources, which is why President Bill Clinton said “his morning papers were better than the [classified Presidential Daily Briefing], and better written.”
So why is so much publicly available information classified? Because, Ellsberg explains in Secrets, many senior government officials use classification ratings as a filter. There’s simply way too much public information for anyone to read every day. But filter that down to papers stamped “Top Secret” or above, and the pile becomes more manageable. Of course, as Ellsberg also explained, intelligence analysts know that, so they classify even briefing papers based publicly available information … in the hope that someone will read their work.
Nor is classified information any more reliable, Ellsberg argues. Like anyone else, intelligence analysts are not very good at predicting what will happen. Once something has happened, like anyone else, analysts are prone to start with a theory of what happened and why and then look for evidence to fit that theory. Given the mass of data available, it’s all too easy to connect dots whose only real link is that they fit the analyst’s preferred theory.
Thus we get the Republican claim that Benghazi was “absolutely” an Al Qaeda planned attack because one of the many Libyan groups at the consulate that night was led by a guy who made a phone call to someone “believed to be” linked to an Al Qaeda offshoot in Africa … probably because that someone once called or met a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy….
All of this Republican outrage is, of course, motivated by partisan politics. President George W. Bush ignored Osama bin Laden to attack Iraq. President Obama ended the war in Iraq and approved the operation that killed bin Laden. As Vice President Biden famously said last April, “Bin Laden is dead, General Motors is alive.”
So while the flames were still burning in Benghazi last September, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney issued a middle of the night statement claiming that President Obama sympathized with the attackers. From that moment on, Republicans have been convinced that the Benghazi tragedy should end the Obama administration, and they’ve spread lie after lie trying to make that case.
Given the political history and the nature of most government ‘secrets,’ I’ll take the New York Times report over claims that rely on classified sources … any day and especially twice on Sunday.
Good day and good nuts