John Ziegler, the wingnut "documentary filmmaker" who got that much-discussed interview with Sarah Palin, showed up for a second go-round yesterday afternoon with MSNBC's David Shuster after making a national ass of himself earlier in the day during Shuster's morning news show.
In many respects, it was just a repeat of what we've already seen from Ziegler -- a prickly ideologue who quickly descends into abuse and dismissal, relying on simple tropes and an aggressively picayune attacking style to carry his argument. You'll recall that obscene exchange he had with Nate Silver in which he in short order began attacking Silver as a "pinhead" and a "hack" and wrapped it all up by telling him to go Cheney himself.
In other words, a classic wingnut. (On the segment following this, Bob Shrum observed that having to interview a nutcase like Ziegler was akin to being waterboarded.)
Watch the video and you realize that Ziegler, like many wingnuts, actually occupies another universe: the Bizarro Wingnut Universe, where up is down, right is left, and heads are implanted in hindquarters. The special quality of this universe is that its occupants believe that any point of view other than theirs is an attack upon them. Any thought other than those that jibe with their peculiar take on the world is evidence of a "bias" against theirs.
The interview is sprinkled throughout with examples of Ziegler aggressively complaining that any skepticism of the Palinoid POV is an example of "bias" against her. He's also a master of Calvinball -- moving the goalposts wherever he can find a place to erect the moth-eaten "librul media bias" banner. Mostly, he finds ways to evade answering Shuster's rather astute questions, at one point even resorting to a cheap shot against Barack Obama as a way of steering the discussion into the ditch.
Fairly typical of his style is this exchange, after Ziegler has accused Shuster of "bias" for having asked (in the earlier segment) whether or not Ziegler ever asked Palin if she took any responsibility for the election's outcome. Since there is no indication he did so in the YouTube video he's released -- which is only a small portion of the entire interview -- it actually was a reasonable question to ask.
Shuster tries to pin him down, and Ziegler filibusters with inane crosstalk before he says:
Ziegler: The YouTube video at HowObamaGotElected.com is just over nine minutes. The interview I did with Sarah Palin is fifty minutes long. You ain't seen nothin' yet with regard to the real content of this interview. And you won't until my film comes out in late February.
Shuster: All right. Great point. All right, so why don't you just say, "Oh no, she did take responsibility, but we just didn't feel the need to show it in the eight minutes that we released to the media"?
Ziegler: [Pause] Well, there are times -- Take responsibility for what exactly, David? Why don't you give me examples --
Shuster: Take responsibility for not being able to answer the question to Katie Couric, take responsibility for not understanding where --
Ziegler: She wasn't -- If you had watched the YouTube video you would have the explanation on that, but apparently you either didn't watch it, or watched it with such a partisan view that you weren't able to see clearly.
Of course, the video does no such thing, unless you're inclined to view Palin's whining about how the campaign bigwigs mishandled her on the Couric interview as "taking responsibility." It's clear she sees that debacle as other people's fault. I don't think that's a partisan reading, either.
Guys like John Ziegler are so enamored of their worldview that they don't think there's any need to persuade other people of its veracity. Of course, this can be especially tricky when it has little veracity to begin with.
Consider, for instance, that absurdly partisan poll Ziegler commissioned to form the groundwork for his "documentary." It's built around the notion that the national media were so in the tank for Obama that they neglected to properly inform the electorate about negative aspects of his character. As I observed at the time, the problem with this thesis is that the chief right-wing claims about Obama forming the basis of Ziegler's poll were dubious at best and in several cases flatly false:
-- Biden's plagiarism: While it's true that the media swirl around the "plagiarism" story probably drove him from the 1987 primary campaign, Joe Biden was in fact cleared of those charges.
-- Obama kicked opponents off the ballot: Also false.
-- Obama wants to bankrupt the coal industry? Complete bulls--t.
-- Obama and Ayers: The claim he began his political career in Ayers' living room is false: "Ayers was one of many who sponsored coffees for Obama in 1995 when he declared for the Illinois Senate. The official campaign launch occurred at the Hyde Park Ramada. Their relationship barely goes beyond serving together on an education foundation board in Chicago."
So what the wingnuts are complaining about is the fact that the news media, for some strange, unknown reason, failed to pick up these falsehoods and loudly broadcast them as factual.
I left newsroom work in large part because people like Ziegler and his movement-conservative counterparts have no tolerance for any point of view other than their own -- and holding such views, or moreover even merely being properly skeptical of them, is evidence of a "liberal bias." By the late '90s I realized the reflexive fear of being accused of being "librul media" by these mau-mau masters was preventing me from reporting thoroughly, accurately, or honestly. Good thing blogging came along.
There's nothing wrong with people pointing out that journalistic "objectivity" is a malleable thing, but it's not very convincing coming from a guy who flamboyantly lacks that quality himself, whose "journalism" is transparent propaganda, and whose version of "factuality" has little bearing on actual fact.
Not to mention that he frankly appears to be unhinged, too. That's kind of a clincher.