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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

HACKED TO DEATH: HIJACKING THE NEWS

Posted By on Wed, Oct 7, 2009 at 11:00 AM

WCPN morning-show host Dan Moulthrop is always polite and pleasant, but spin him at your own risk.

On Tuesday, the topic was Issue 2, the controversial, industry-backed proposed constitutional amendment that would create an oversight board for livestock companies. The debate was thick with competing and borderline-histrionic claims. Moulthrop pressed hard for clear answers from the guests; the studio must have been full of the smoke that at least one of them was trying hard to blow up Dan’s ass. And the callers weren’t much better. At one point, the host complained, “I’m having this frustrating experience right now where I feel like every phone call we go to has been planted by either campaign in this issue.”

We can relate.

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Last week’s cover story — “Drill Baby Drill” by Erin O’Brien — generated a lot of comments on Scene’s web site and blogs, most of it from people with a dog in the fight over suburban gas and oil drilling.

The first two comments were from the Northeast Ohio Gas Accountability Project, and the tone suggested that NEOGAP was irked at not having been interviewed for the story (some homeowners involved with the group were interviewed). These were followed by a string of comments slamming the article, O’Brien and Scene.

“These comments and the article are riddled with so many innacuracies it is sad. This one-sided journalism slanted toward liberal nanny-statists must stop … This should show people the kind of tactics these leftist organizations (NEOGAP) are using (lies and inducing fear) to achieve legislation that would bring the Ohio oil and gas industry to a complete halt; causing many more to lose there [sic] jobs.”

Nothing unusual there. But this from “samanthasam” caught my attention:

I live in an Ohio residential neighborhood where there are many oil and gas wells that has been producing for over 25 years. I’m proud that our community is producing some of our own energy. Perhaps if we do more — we can bring some of our soldiers home that are risking their lives every day in very hostile countries to protect energy sources that don’t even belong to us.

Natural gas can only come from a well drilled in someone’s community. How arrogant to want to use this energy source but expect, in fact demand, that it comes from someone else’s backyard.

To date there has been over 273,000 wells drilled in Ohio. Drilling has also been going on in developed areas (residential neighborhoods, churches, schools, businesses, et al,) since 1860 …

And so on. Curiously detailed for someone who’s just an interested reader. So I checked the IP address of the commenter: It belonged to the Ohio Oil & Gas Association.

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“Samanthasam” either busily posted under multiple aliases or enlisted other industry hacks (one of whom chose the screen name “industry hack”) to help muddy the water with lots of vague complaints of errors, fear-mongering and liberal propagandizing. One sarcastically hoped that a woman quoted in the story did not intend to heat her house — ’cause that would be like hypocritical. Or something. Another quipped, “Just like Geico — join with NEOGAP it is so easy even a tree hugger ... I mean Cave Man can do it!” Ha! Get it? Worrying about oilrigs next to your house is stupid! Sadly, that’s about as insightful as the criticisms got. I expected any minute for it to slide into “you’re gay” territory.

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman noted in 2005, “[W]e’re living in a country in which there is no longer such a thing as nonpolitical truth.” That’s the result of decades of conservative howling about alleged liberal bias in the media. And it’s worked. “Objectivity” has come to mean, “Facts schmacts — tell the story the way we want it told and no one gets hurt.”

One commenter, calling himself “TelltheTruth,” kept promising, in typo-riddled posts, to “disscet” O’Brien’s reporting and prove it false but never delivered. His one attempt to get into specifics was such a spectacular failure — it took me about 30 seconds to debunk it, with quotes right there in the article — that I wondered if he’d read it at all or just jerked his knees in response to our mocking use of the three-word Republican energy policy as a headline. Then he whined about how I was being mean and shutting down a potentially productive discussion.

Yeah, I was harsh, but my dad — a proud right-winger — taught me to love and respect the art of debate, and I can’t abide poseurs. Don’t bring that weak shit to my site and expect to be taken seriously. — Frank Lewis

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