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"New Low: Beck and Right-Wing Media Minions Fearmongering About Kids to Attack Progressives":

Is it just me, or is that headline just a bit rhetorically over the top? (No, the last link doesn't make a moral analogy, just an analogy in the rhetoric.) "New low"; "right-wing media minions" (why not "nattering nabobs of negativism"?); "fearmongering" -- just a bit much for a credible debunking, it seems to me.

This is especially so when part of the fearmongering that is supposedly debunked is actually not bunk at all; here's the response the site (Media Matters) gives as to the Obama praise song incident:

Conservative media fearmonger about unauthorized YouTube video of school kids "praising" Obama

The Drudge Report: "SHOCK VIDEO: School kids taught to praise Obama ..." On September 23, Internet gossip Matt Drudge linked to a YouTube video purportedly showing "[s]chool kids taught to praise Obama." The video, showing young schoolchildren in New Jersey singing a song about Obama, provides no evidence that the children or their parents consented to having the video posted on YouTube.

America's Newsroom: "Many parents ... just don't want this sort of political cheerleading, if you will, in the classroom." On Fox News' America's Newsroom, hosts Bill Hemmer and Megyn Kelly aired the video and asserted that "many parents" don't want kids "singing praises" to Obama. Before showing the video, Hemmer said: "It is one thing to have kids say the Pledge of Allegiance, but we're not sure what's going on with the videotape now online when students are singing praises to the president and why some parents are saying, not with my kid." Later, Kelly teased the video by saying, it's "getting attention on The Drudge Report website this morning. It shows young children singing the praises, quite literally, of the president." She continued:

KELLY: Well, information posted with the clip says that it is from the Bernice Young School in Burlington Township, New Jersey, but the school won't exactly confirm that for us. In fact, they won't confirm anything for us. We have made multiple attempts to ask them about these students, about this tape and how this came about. We are hoping that they can get back to us shortly, so that we can clear this up.

Already we're getting a lot of emails from our viewers. It went on from there -- you saw a clip of the children singing. Then came a bit of a chant by the children where they praised President Obama for all his great accomplishments, saying, quote, "You're number one. Hooray, Mr. President, we're really proud of you." And on and on it goes.

You know, many would have no problem with this. Many parents would, and just don't want this sort of political cheerleading, if you will, in the classroom. We just don't know the details behind the tape, but it certainly caught our attention and we're trying to find out from, again, from this school, which we have multiple calls into. The B. Bernice Young Elementary School, Bernice Young Elementary School in Burlington, New Jersey. And as soon as we have it, you'll have it. [America's Newsroom, 9/24/09]

The Fox Nation: "School Children Sing Songs of Obama's Glory." On September 25, the allegedly fair and balanced TheFoxNation.com posted the video with the headline "School Children Sing Songs of Obama's Glory." fearmongerkids2

Beck: Song sounds like "a hymnal for a dictator." On the September 24 edition of his radio show, Beck said: "I want to show you, and tonight I'm going to play the tape for you, of indoctrination that is going on. We've been going through all of this indoctrination for the last few days. Tomorrow, I do a full hour live with moms, and their children, and we're going to talk a little bit about things they're concerned with -- and indoctrination I know will come up. Play this, this is -- do we know where this is from? Elementary School in Burlington, New Jersey. The B. Bernice Young Elementary School. The woman who did this is, I believe, an activist, she's the principal, or the teacher. I don't have her name here. But listen to -- this is -- these are elementary school children, and they are singing a song for Barack Obama." After Beck played audio of the video and read the words out loud, he said it sounded like "a hymnal for a dictator. ... Does anybody see what's going on? Does anybody see what's going on?" Later, Beck said: "This is indoctrination. This should horrify the American people." [Premiere Radio Networks' The Glenn Beck Show, 9/25/09]

Beck also promoted the video September 24 on his Twitter feed: RT @keepthemhonest: How young does Obama target (more indoctrination video) http://is.gd/3C1Qc @glennbeck #tcot

Burlington Township School District superintendent: Song is from Black History Month activity, and the "recording and distribution of the classroom activity was unauthorized." The school board's superintendent wrote in a letter to parents that "[t]he video is of a class of students singing a song about President Obama. The activity took place during Black History Month in 2009, which is recognized each February to honor the contributions of African Americans to our country. Our curriculum studies, honors and recognizes those who serve our country. The recording and distribution of the class activity were unauthorized."

Really, that's it for the site's explanation for why this story is supposedly "fearmongering": The event took place during Black History Month; it "honors and recognizes those who serve our country"; and the video was "unauthorized" (note that the "unauthorized" meme makes its way even into the section header). Move along, folks, nothing to see here, nothing to fear, just regular honoring and recognition of public servants, plus the video of the event was unauthorized, which is somehow very important.

Struthius:
And this just in--"The principal of a New Jersey elementary school where young students were videotaped singing the praises of President Obama is making no apologies for the videotape and says she would allow the performance again if she could, according to parents who spoke with her Thursday night."
9.25.2009 1:48pm
martinned (mail) (www):
@Prof. Volokh: My two cents: You'd do well to stay away from these types of posts. As prof. Bernstein has showed just today, these e-flame wars about who is the greater partisan hack make everyone involved look like, well, something unmentionable.
9.25.2009 1:52pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
Remember, it's terribly inappropriate, unconstitutional, even, for the school to sanction prayers in school... even moments of silence are often challenged by the ACLU and others. Where was Media Matters when Michael Newdow and some on the left were attacking recitation of the pledge of allegiance in public schools? Was that "fear-mongering" to them? Why did Media Matters not criticize him and his supporters for fomenting outrage against a long-standing American tradition?
9.25.2009 1:53pm
Granite26 (mail):
Black History Month seems a lot like the WNBA to me...
9.25.2009 1:53pm
FC:
plus the video of the event was unauthorized, which is somehow very important.

The revolution will be authorized.
9.25.2009 1:55pm
one of many:


well I'm kinda surprised that you consider such a restrained headline on the part of Media matters to be "over the top". Not even close to being over the top for the source.


And forget about your debunking argument, MediaMatters has said its bunk to be debunked and by Monday that will become the conventional wisdom in the press. Expect Jon Stewart to mention it Monday or Tuesday as a joke (taking the MediaMatters position).
9.25.2009 1:55pm
frankcross (mail):
True, but I'd say there are thousands of absurdly over the top headlines out there, some from Beck and Limbaugh. What commenters wonder is how the heck you pick this one out. As opposed to hotair saying Cass Sunstein wants to steal people's organs without their consent.

Maybe you don't visit these sites much, which would be to your credit, I guess. But maybe also a reason not to bring up the results of your occasional visit. There are lots of these daily.
9.25.2009 1:57pm
bbbeard (mail):
Which is scarier -- that children are being indoctrinated to love Big Brother, or that someone in a position of "authority" thinks the release of such information should be solely at the dicretion of "authorities"?

"Unauthorized"? To me, that says it all about the statist mentality of Obama supporters.

BBB
9.25.2009 1:58pm
Mark N. (www):
Not really commenting on the subject of the dispute, but as far as "unauthorized" goes, it seems moderately important to me. Were I as a student, or my child as a parent, videotaped without their or my permission in school and the video disseminated publicly, I would certainly be upset about the intrusion. A school isn't a private place like the home, but I think schoolchildren have some reasonable expectation of privacy in the classroom, or at least reasonable expectation that they won't be recorded in class, with videos of them plastered on the evening news.
9.25.2009 1:58pm
Steve:
The song sounds like a "hymnal for a dictator," huh... but let's write about the over-the-top headline instead!
9.25.2009 2:04pm
FC:
Mark N.:

That never occurred to me. I was "plastered on the evening news" at least half a dozen times from elementary school to undergrad.
9.25.2009 2:04pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Martinned: I appreciate your good intentions, but I like the fact that on my blog, I can express my views on whatever subjects I want to express them on.

Frank Cross: I only ran across this headline because I did a Google News search for "Bernice Young," looking to see which other major news sources had covered it. It struck me as amusingly ridiculous, so I thought I'd blog about it; and then I saw that the post was weak on its substance as well, so I noted that. If I run across something similarly ridiculous on a conservative site, I'd happily blog about it, too. I have indeed blogged in the past about rhetorically excessive and substantively unsound things I've seen on conservative sites.

I'm going to keep doing this, and if people feel that I'm somehow not proportionally representing the misdeeds on all sides of the aisle -- even though, as I mention, I do often criticize conservative excesses as well as liberal excesses -- that's no concern of mine.
9.25.2009 2:10pm
David Welker (www):
Eugene Volokh,

Maybe you haven't watched Glenn Beck. I give you credit if that is the case. But I have, and he is always talking about how he is scared, and how you should be too.

I think that what Glenn Beck does can be accurately and fairly described as fearmongering. It is night and day between his discussion of such topics and your discussion of such topics.
9.25.2009 2:10pm
Stevie Miller (mail):
Martinned: I appreciate your good intentions, but I like the fact that on my blog, I can express my views on whatever subjects I want to express them on.

Nothing you can do that can't be done.
Nothing you can write that can't be run.

Nuff said...
9.25.2009 2:13pm
martinned (mail) (www):

I appreciate your good intentions, but I like the fact that on my blog, I can express my views on whatever subjects I want to express them on.

O certainly, and I wouldn't dream of denying you that freedom. My only point is that, just because you can, doesn't make it a good idea. [Insert expression here about wrestling pigs in the mud, or any of a hundred other proverbs/expressions.]
9.25.2009 2:23pm
frankcross (mail):
EV, I don't think you're being biased, just naive. As I said, there is tons of ridiculous stuff out there everyday. It's good you don't generally post about them, it would get out of control. It seems kind of random to pick one that you ran across by accident. There's a lot worse out there.
9.25.2009 2:25pm
Timber (mail):
Media Matters jumped the shark of being an effective so-called "counter" voice in their boogey man noise machine long ago and frankly I am surprised the progressive movement even wastes the resources on such a suck hole as they usually tend to be more mindful. Seriously, have you looked at how many people Media Matters employees? Big bucks for a bunch of National Enquirer Bat Boy crap of the left. No one takes them seriously and I guess the only purpose they serve is sending out pr story templates for the retard journalists known as the MSM, but eve they are tired of the Media Morons.
9.25.2009 2:49pm
Steve:
Prof. Volokh, I'm surprised this needs to be explained to you, but when Glenn Beck repeatedly asks, "Does anybody see what's going on???" he's not asking if we see what's going on in a single isolated classroom somewhere in New Jersey.
9.25.2009 2:51pm
one of many:
I disagree strongly Timber, Media Matters still has much effectiveness in driving the media narrative. As I mentioned earlier, they are a major source for Jon Stewart of The Daily Show, the most widely viewed news source in the US right now. I agree that many have learned to check what Media Matters reports against reality but too often that checking is cursory.
9.25.2009 2:56pm
BGates:
he's not asking if we see what's going on in a single isolated classroom somewhere in New Jersey.

Even if you want to focus on instances of hero worship that take the form of video recordings of elementary school children coached to sing hymns to Obama, this isn't the first.
9.25.2009 3:11pm
Public Servant:

Move along, folks, nothing to see here, nothing to fear, just regular honoring and recognition of public servants, plus the video of the event was unauthorized, which is somehow very important.


Of course it's very important, in a telling way. It demonstrates that they're mostly upset about getting caught, like the recent ACORN lawsuit trying to stifle the whistleblowers.
9.25.2009 3:19pm
PlugInMonster:
I challenge all conservatives to find more evidence of this kind of pure indoctrination.
9.25.2009 3:50pm
Redman:
Just imagine what would be happening if the kids were singing about Jesus of Nazareth instead of The Messiah from Chicago.
9.25.2009 3:57pm
Karen Schell (mail):
This school district has a habit of making the news. In 2007 it did a mock "hostage situation" where the "killers" were "Christian gunmen". World Net Daily reported on it at the time:

'Hostage situation' portrays killers as Christians
9.25.2009 4:25pm
Suzy (mail):
The song is silly, the coverage is silly, the complaints about the coverage are silly, and it's silly to air a tape of someone's kids if it wasn't a public performance and they didn't give you permission. So there you go. Silly all around.
9.25.2009 4:29pm
PlugInMonster:

The song is silly, the coverage is silly, the complaints about the coverage are silly, and it's silly to air a tape of someone's kids if it wasn't a public performance and they didn't give you permission. So there you go. Silly all around.


If it were a song about Dubya you wouldn't think it was just silly, you'd be foaming at the mouth.
9.25.2009 4:45pm
liberty or death:
I agree with Timber, media matters is a joke. I'm not sure why anyone pays any attention to them.

Suzy: Wow, that is interesting. Apparently there is something to the idea that the school is advancing a very peculiar agenda.
9.25.2009 5:12pm
Suzy (mail):
I don't know why you would assume that I have some terrible distaste for Bush that I don't have for Obama. I'm sure both of them are perfectly nice men who deserve to be admired by the schoolchildren; just not in the manner of worship songs. And especially not by rewriting a song and replacing the name of Jesus with a president's name.

Really, do you just assume I'm some kind of liberal or opponent merely because I think the whole thing is equal-opportunity dumb, as opposed to lock-step agreement with what a certain group of "conservatives" are saying about it?
9.25.2009 5:29pm
zuch (mail) (www):
liberty or death:
I agree with Timber, media matters is a joke. I'm not sure why anyone pays any attention to them.
Hmmmm. I have the same opinion of Mark Levin, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck ... and I'd say that in my experience, these three hacks are far the worse for peddling false information. In fact, I suspect you'd be hard pressed to come up with a single example of MediaMatters doing so.

And the outrage here about a song I couldnt't even understand the words to, by the very same people that engage in grotesque Reagan hagiography each and every day, seems a bit manufactured.

Cheers,
9.25.2009 5:30pm
Law Dem (mail):
9.25.2009 5:38pm
Curmudgeonly Ex-Clerk (www):
Zuch wrote:
. . .these three hacks are far the worse for peddling false information. In fact, I suspect you'd be hard pressed to come up with a single example of MediaMatters doing so.
This seems deceptive enough to be labeled "false information."
9.25.2009 7:08pm
Kazinski:
This was even more ridiculous from Media Matters:


Fox News' Glenn Beck recently aired a video indicating that an ACORN employee shot and killed her husband, without first bothering to verify whether the husband is, in fact, dead. He isn't. The video is, in other words, a fraud. But that didn't stop Beck from calling it evidence of "murder" and perhaps even "premeditated murder."


Never mind that the video that was shown was the ACORN employee herself claiming that she shot and killed her husband. It of course is one thing to allege that someone committed murder, that requires a high level of fact checking before making an allegation like that on the air. But when somebody is making a voluntary admission (even though false), then I think any news outlet is fairly entitled to run with it. Especially since it was just a side topic of the video, and was not the main subject.
9.25.2009 8:03pm
Mac (mail):
Curmudgeonly Ex-Clerk,

That was an excellent link and it seems incontrovertible.

Now, zuch, that wasn't too hard for Curmudgeonly Ex-Clerk to come up with Media Matters flagrantly lying in a pretty short time.

Zuch, you said, "I have the same opinion of Mark Levin, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck ... and I'd say that in my experience, these three hacks are far the worse for peddling false information." Your examples please? You only have to come up with one for each of them and if they are doing it all the time, that really shouldn't be too hard. However, I would expect the same level of proof that Curmudgeonly Ex-Clerk provided. Nothing like the original video tape which showed that Media Matters had to carefully edit Glen Beck to come to its conclusion and totally lie about what he said.

Back to the song. Are you aware that the hymn was sung to the tune of a Christian spiritual? The second one was set to the tune of the Battle Hymn of the Republic.

Also, perhaps you missed the Pledge of Allegiance video put out by the "artists" of Hollywood. Didn't the the NEA or Dept. of Education help with that one? I don't recall for sure. It was shown once, as far as I am aware, in Salt Lake City and the Principal had not reviewed it. She apologized. While it had some good moments, it ended with asking the children to "Pledge to Serve Obama". So, that is at least two, now. Combine that with the original version of Obama's speech to all school children and the corresponding lesson plans for reading Obama's words and writing about how they, the children, can "help" Obama, and a pattern just may be emerging here.

I think the "serve Obama" part bothers me the most. We "serve" our God or our Lord, we "serve" our country, we used to "serve" our kings and queens but we fought a rather bloody war to not have to "serve" any man or woman. Now, yeah, I am finding all of this kind of creepy.
9.25.2009 8:09pm
Mac (mail):
zuch?

Waiting for your response and examples. I am ready and willing to be educated on the lying of Beck, Leven, and Hannity.
9.25.2009 10:24pm
Mac (mail):
zuch?

Waiting for your response and examples. I am ready and willing to be educated on the lying of Beck, Leven, and Hannity.
9.25.2009 10:24pm
NickM (mail) (www):
Most embarrassing videos are unauthorized. The rest get submitted to America's Funniest Home Videos.

Nick
9.25.2009 10:30pm
Mac (mail):

As I mentioned earlier, they are a major source for Jon Stewart of The Daily Show, the most widely viewed news source in the US right now.


one of many,


The only problem is that Jon Stewart is a comedy show, not a news show. That you would think he is a news show speaks volumes about the sorry state of journalism in this country today.
9.25.2009 10:48pm
Mac (mail):
And then, there is this about this same school district in 2007. May I suggest that those who think this is no big deal read what they did in 07 and continue to proclaim, "No big deal?".
9.25.2009 10:52pm
Mark Bahner (www):
<blockquote>
And the outrage here about a song I couldnt't even understand the words to,
</blockquote>

Song 1:
Mm, mmm, mm!
Barack Hussein Obama

He said that all must lend a hand
To make this country strong again
Mmm, mmm, mm!
Barack Hussein Obama

He said we must be fair today
Equal work means equal pay
Mmm, mmm, mm!
Barack Hussein Obama

He said that we must take a stand
To make sure everyone gets a chance
Mmm, mmm, mm!
Barack Hussein Obama

He said red, yellow, black or white
All are equal in his sight
Mmm, mmm, mm!
Barack Hussein Obama

Yes!
Mmm, mmm, mm
Barack Hussein Obama

Song 2:
Hello, Mr. President we honor you today!
For all your great accomplishments, we all doth say "hooray!"

Hooray, Mr. President! You're number one!
The first black American to lead this great nation!

Hooray, Mr. President we honor your great plans
To make this country's economy number one again!

Hooray Mr. President, we're really proud of you!
And we stand for all Americans under the great Red, White, and Blue!

So continue ---- Mr. President we know you'll do the trick
So here's a hearty hip-hooray ----

Hip, hip hooray!
Hip, hip hooray!
Hip, hip hooray!

P.S. Bonus trivia points for anyone who can name the next line in the following song, "Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight..."
9.25.2009 10:57pm
Mac (mail):
Mark Bahner,

And, your point is?
9.25.2009 11:25pm
one of many:
Kazinski:


Never mind that the video that was shown was the ACORN employee herself claiming that she shot and killed her husband. It of course is one thing to allege that someone committed murder, that requires a high level of fact checking before making an allegation like that on the air. But when somebody is making a voluntary admission (even though false), then I think any news outlet is fairly entitled to run with it. Especially since it was just a side topic of the video, and was not the main subject.




Even worse, Beck actually did say (missing from the Media Matters clip through an inadvertent editing error*) "
I don't know, but we haven't been even able to confirm from the state of California whether Tresa's husband from 10 years ago was killed, or if he's dead or if she even had a husband. Did she make the story up? I don't know. Nobody is asking questions.



* it must be an accident and Media Matters must be able to prove that. Given the publicity the story has received there is no way an independent press would not crucify Media Matters for making so distorted an edit and then criticizing Beck unless they could prove it was accidental.
9.25.2009 11:33pm
Bleh:

Zuch, you said, "I have the same opinion of Mark Levin, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck ... and I'd say that in my experience, these three hacks are far the worse for peddling false information." Your examples please? You only have to come up with one for each of them and if they are doing it all the time, that really shouldn't be too hard. However, I would expect the same level of proof that Curmudgeonly Ex-Clerk provided.


One of each. Okay.

Glenn Beck:
http://thinkprogress.org/2009/01/22/glenn-beck-bible/

Levin:
http://mediamatters.org/research/200807090009

Hannity:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IalNDTTtk2U
http://mediamatters.org/research/200908190033


But I'm sure you won't accept any of those as lies. Anyhow, it's a stupid question. You can't be a pundit for either side without lying, or relying on some unreliable source's lie, or misstating something, etc, etc...

What's always a good indicator to me of how serious a person is, is how convinced they are that they (and their pundits) are always right. Someone who thinks that Keith Olbermann always fact checks everything he says before saying it, is kidding themselves. Sames holds true for people who believe everything Glenn Beck says. Trouble to me seems to be that a lot more people listen to, and believe, Glenn Beck than listen to Olbermann. I could be wrong, but hey I'm willing to admit that.
9.26.2009 1:09am
MixedRace2:
Man that song is creepy. If it was done as a Saturday Night Live skit SPOOFING Obama worship it would be acceptable. The fact that it was done in earnest is f-ing creepy!
9.26.2009 1:14am
MixedRace2:
F-me! I just went back and read the comments and some morons are defending it(attacking the messenger). Probably the same guy who let his kids have a sleepover at Michael Jackson's house.
9.26.2009 1:19am
Mac (mail):
Bleh,

You gave it a good shot. I will give you the Bible thing re Adams and, maybe Roosevelt, as he was in a hurry after McKinley's death and was sworn in on the fly. He did use a Bible the 2nd time around. It is a rather obscure footnote in history, but if you want to call it a lie, I'll give you that.

Did you happen to go to the sources listed in any of these articles? Some don't even talk about the items mentioned so why they are listed as sources is anyones guess and others are opinions or transcripts in which Beck gives his opinion based on the facts. They say, Beck lied. But, to agree that Beck lied, you have to agree with their version. They do not go into the actual facts at all. To assume he lied assumes he is incorrect in his assessment. To call them a lie, you have to believe that the subjects are cut and dried, which, in the items listed, they are not. Examples from your sources include polar bears and the presumed behavior of employers re tax law and health care and the total tax burden of the US taxpayer compared to the rest of the world and so on. The devil is in the details. In all of the so-called lies, listed by your sources, there are many other opinions and you have to assume the sources listed are absolutely correct, which I am not willing to do.

None suggest a concerted and blatant cutting and pasting of transcripts to make a factually incorrect statement as Media Matters did.
9.26.2009 4:08pm
rfg:
I believe that in this case, fear-mongering is an accurate description. Notice how often Mr. Beck uses the words 'fear' or 'I'm afraid' in his broadcasts.

Of course, this is simply a timeless tool used by activists of all stripes. Sometimes it is a preposterous accusation (claims that AIDS is a CIA plot come to mind) simply used to stir up hate and discontent. Other times it is not.

Unfortunately, the reader's preconceptions tend to shape his or her reactions.
9.26.2009 11:45pm
ginsocal (mail):
It's really pretty simple: Beck gets it. Many of you clearly don't.
9.27.2009 2:29am
Ryan Waxx (mail):
Anyone who is against school prayer or Pledging Allegiance but doesn't see a problem the school's behavior here is showing a stunning lack of consistency. Pledging Allegiance to one's country in general is several orders of magnitude less harmful or indoctrinating then doing so to a particular politician.
9.27.2009 10:12am

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