Winston Churchill said: "A lie gets halfway
around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants
on." That was in the pre-digital age.
Now we enjoy a 300-channel, ever-connected world. Today that lie
is around the world and knocking at the door before the truth has
even fetched the morning paper. In fact, before that paper is even
printed, the lie has probably bounced around the TV, radio and
Internet echo chamber for hours.
A recent example of this occurred as Barbra Streisand was being
honored with something called the Humanitarian Award. She took the
opportunity -- in true humanitarian fashion -- to lash out at
"[Conservatives] can take a lie huckstered by The Heritage
Foundation," Streisand announced, "repeat it on Fox, hit it on
Limbaugh, print it in the Wall Street Journal, until it's coming
out of every media outlet imaginable. Repeating lies over and over
doesn't make them any more true. But it does make people believe
the lies a little more until finally they stop demanding the
Streisand's scenario is pure fantasy.
For one thing, Heritage doesn't lie. In fact, many of our critics,
while taking issue with our viewpoints, praise our rigorous
devotion to accuracy. There's a reason the media sought out our
analysts for more than 2,500 interviews last year: Those reporters
know what we are going to say is factual. Even though they may
disagree with us politically, they still want to hear the
Streisand also errs by dragging up the old "vast right-wing
conspiracy" Hillary Clinton made famous. Talk about repeating a lie
over and over.
Mind you, I certainly wish Heritage could fire up a media assembly
line and crank out favorable news coverage. But in fact, the media
tend to be liberal, not conservative.
Sure, talk radio and Web "blogs" have made conservative ideas more
influential. And on cable, Fox News does seem to have a
conservative flavor, especially in contrast to its more liberal
Still, the big three networks (ABC, NBC and CBS) get a combined 25
million viewers for their nightly news shows. Fox News' top show
averages about 3 million. Clearly the supposed conservative spin
machine has a ways to go to overtake the dominance of the
traditionally liberal media.
About the only thing Streisand got correct was the part about
repeating lies. That quickly happened in her case.
Less than a week later, John Kerry's campaign manager was
interviewed on National Public Radio. "Well, the difference between
the Democratic Party and the Republican Party," Mary Beth Cahill
told Juan Williams on March 12, "is that the Republicans have an
echo chamber where they're able to start a rumor on a Web page,
move it on to the radio to right-wing radio commentators, get it on
to certain supposedly public affairs shows which have a complete
Republican slant and start a noise, which is pretty scurrilous.
It's become an accepted part of the media."
Just two days later, Williams did some name-dropping on Fox News
Sunday. "I was talking to Mary Beth Cahill this week," Williams
announced. "She believes the right wing, and the supporters of
President Bush, have the ability to start a rumor on the Internet.
It gets them into the right-wing radio and to Rush Limbaugh and the
like. And then it suddenly gets repeated all over the TV
discussions shows, and suddenly, then it's taken as legitimate by
mainstream media, mainstream press."
Imagine that. It took just eight days for a political lie from a
Hollywood celebrity to be picked up and circulated on NPR, which we
know is controlled by liberals, and Fox News, which we're told
conservatives dominate. And the truth didn't even have its pants on