The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza has a problem. He’s the type who unironically referred to Bush’s plan to let Wall Street pillage Social Security as “reform.” He now says that Paul Ryan’s mission to replace Medicare with coupons-of-lesser-value is a “plan to reinvigorate” the program. On MSNBC, he said the probably-won’t-be Veep’s now-infamous slew of RNC lies were merely facts “out of context.” All the tragic, familiar signs are there. Hell, even his blog is called The Fix. Like so many poor souls of his lost journalistic generation, Chris Cillizza is addicted to bullshit.
So how does Chris Cillizza stack up as a journalist? Well, he’s about 6’3”.
You see, Cillizza’s “How President Obama’s acceptance speech stacked up — in 1 chart” rates Barry’s performance in minutes and seconds (38:23), so you may now guffaw. Sure, charts are fun, and the duration of past convention speeches is harmless trivia, so it may seem to the casual news consumer that I’m picking nits. But the misleading title, innocuous in this case, is typical of Cillizza’s depraved MO. Though he writes, “There seems to be little correlation between speech length and victory,” he simply cannot resist disingenuously framing the data in terms of its potential electoral impact. Advertise one thing, fail to deliver, and churn out content while imparting nothing of use: This is why Cillizza earns the big bucks.
Earlier this year, the Times then Public Editor, Arthur Brisbane, asked whether reporters should be “truth vigilantes,” rather than professional regurgitators. The common sense chorus answered: “Duh!” Paul Ryan’s epic RNC dishonesty forced the national press to, yet again, reexamine what their job actually entails. That this phony objectivity vs. real objectivity “debate” endures explains so much—why civilization is screwed, for example. Real Americans™ understand that the news media’s sole duty should be sorting fact from fiction, not acting as shameless stenographers. Cillizza represents a class of elitist wankers who’re so far up their own asses that they’d rather wax epistemological than actually subject themselves to the lowly task of journalism. Here’s what he told Howard Kurtz at The Daily Beast (Tina Brown’s most productive hack-factory):
“What’s hard is that people, particularly partisans, assume that there is a white and a black on everything, that the ‘truth,’ the ‘fact,’ is crystal clear—when in fact even with facts, there are gray areas…You’ve seen fact-checkers actually come under scrutiny.”
So what if fact-checkers have come under scrutiny? If the Romney camp said that they weren’t going to let their campaign be dictated by the law of gravity, would Cillizza worry about floating into space? Some folks actually make a living debunking Creationists’ scrutiny of evolution with the cunning use of empirical reality. If only there were some kind of news equivalent—people who could compare and contrast politicians’ claims with the objective truth. Sadly, nothing like that exists. And Cillizza is not employed in that imaginary field. Oh. Wait.
When not saying absolutely nothing (or engaged in hilarious misogyny), Cillizza’s fond of defending the indefensible—even that which he’s explicitly deemed “indefensible,” like the time former Mississippi Governor and tarball aficionado, Haley Barbour, got all warm-and-fuzzy for good old-fashioned racism with the goons at The Weekly Standard. On the TeeVee, Cillizza called it a little “slip-up,” and in the Post, he asked, “How can Barbour get beyond the race story quickly and with the least damage done?” Well, gee whiz, Chris, maybe a widely read political sycophant could help him out with that. That’s just one example. Ryan is another. But it’s a safe bet that any time a politician sticks his or her racist foot in their lying mouth, Cillizza will be among the first on the damage control scene.
A politician can waddle like a fraud, and quack like a hypocrite, but there are no ducks in Chris Cillizza’s world. Only political “winners” and “losers.” One of the winners of the Republican convention? Paul Ryan. His speech was “packed with great lines”. One of the losers? Clint Eastwood. There’s often no rhyme or reason behind Cillizza’s winners and losers. Romney’s convention bump was negligible, and Ryan’s prime time introduction to the electorate set an accurate narrative regarding his profound mendacity, yet they’re both “winners” in Cillizza’s mind. But he’s right about one thing: Clint Eastwood should have never invited himself to speak at the convention. After that unscripted bit of doddering Dadaism, Clint Eastwood will never be president. The foul-mouthed empty chair was dubbed neither winner, nor loser. Odd.
“Are you better off than you were four years ago?” is a ridiculous question. From the Clinton-era repeal of Glass-Steagal and signing of NAFTA to the Bush-era tax cuts for the rich, our stark economic inequality, the ’08 financial collapse, high unemployment, and low-wage employment are the result of a generation of bipartisan corporatism. But the American media has the institutional memory of a goldfish, so the very least (literally) a diligent fact-checker can do is play the constrained game, and put forth a numbers-based assessment. And that’s exactly what Chris Cillizza did. Twice! Here’s a chart that Obama should use to prove that you are better off, and here’s a chart that Romney should tout as proof that you’re eating cat food for dinner. Long term economic trends don’t track exactly with the relatively short increments of presidential politics, but Cillizza neither acknowledges this reality, nor offers any indication of which chart is more valid. Shame, really, because the Obama chart shows job growth, and the Romney chart shows decreased wages and median income, which when put together perfectly describe a generation of bipartisan screw-jobs. But Cillizza’s take is a contrived dichotomy, fifty shade of his own gray, masturbation at its most old-lady-disgusting.
The Fix never misses an opportunity to profess a deep, abiding wonk-lust for charts and polls—the sexy right angles, the titillating bars (or pie pieces), and, apparently, how one can use the raw data to cook up the most idiotic conclusions. “Obama: The most polarizing president. Ever.” is one egregious example. Cillizza and his codependent cohort, Aaron Blake, analyze a Gallup poll that shows Obama’s approval disparity along partisan lines is the widest gap ever. True. But here’s how the authors satiate their need for bullshit: It’s their “guess…that we are simply living in an era in which Democrats dislike a Republican president (and Republicans dislike a Democratic one) even before the commander in chief has taken a single official action.” The headline-skimming public is left with the impression that Obama is actively divisive. A more thorough perusal casts him as a victim of a grim, cuts-both-ways “hyper-partisan reality.” False equivalence, thy name is Cillizza. And the most stunning sin of omission: race is not mentioned once.
Cillizza doesn’t do investigative reporting. He doesn’t sort fact from fiction. He’s a piss-poor political consultant—every campaign’s DJ, spinning facts just for his own twisted amusement. All fresh information is divorced from any useful context, its relation to objective reality, its impact on people’s lives, and then tarted up in both blue dress and red lipstick, for Cillizza’s sick electoral role-play. His is a FUBU punditry—for the political elite, written by the same—that exists solely to portray the election du jour as entertainment. In order for this horse-race to entertain, it needs to seems close. In order for it to seems close, Cillizza must ignore reality by professing a quasi-religious disbelief in partisanship. When you ignore reality, bullshit ensues. And once you experience that rush, baby, that unrestrained glee that comes from successfully passing off garbage as gold, you can’t stop until you choke on your own gray vomit in the middle of the night—or get help. We should pretend to prefer the latter. But, first, Chris Cillizza needs to admit that he has a problem.
This article originally appeared at AlterNet
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