Among the varied collection of Armstrong Williams' excuses so far today, one struck me.  Earlier on CNN's lame-duck "Crossfire," Novakula offered the claim that Williams is a pundit, and therefore not actually a journalist, and therefore not bound by the standards of journalistic integrity.

Well, I agree that pundits aren't journalists.  Therefore, what citizens like us have to learn from this is something I like to call the "No Pundit Left Behind" strategy.  We should assume that all conservative pundits who spout their opinions on television, radio or the Internet are being paid by the government or some power sympathetic to their claim.

Any liberal on Sean Hannity's show should answer every question by asking him "How much were you paid by the Bush Administration to make that last comment?"  Same with Limbaugh.  O'Reilly.  Savage.  Coulter.  All of them.

This Arnstrong Williams affair is actually a huge opening into the realities of how the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy works.  Scaife and other billionaires pay for huge structures to funnel their ideas into the media.  In some cases, it appears, they actually eliminate the middle man and pay the media.  So we should just assume that they're paying everyone.

Before you think that this tactic is dishonest, read this sentence:

The contract, detailed in documents obtained by USA TODAY through a Freedom of Information Act request, also shows that the Education Department, through the Ketchum public relations firm, arranged with Williams to use contacts with America's Black Forum...

Ketchum is the same company that helped the Department of Health and Human Services put out fake video news releases touting Medicare that looked like the real thing.

This is what the right does.  They pull the wool over the eyes of the public by paying for media coverage, making it look like everyday journalism.  We should make the argument that,  given the evidence, citizens should not trust any conservative opinion on television.  

Based on the preponderance of evidence, we should assume Hannity, Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Coulter and everyone else is being bought and paid for.  And that should characterize every interaction with them on TV or radio by every liberal from now until the end of time.

This could lead to open mockery by liberal pundits, saying things like "oh, you must be one of the beneficiaries of the No Pundit Left Behind Act."  Every answer should be "How much did that comment cost the Bush Administration?"  "Do you make more than Armstrong Williams peddling this drivel or less?"

Already you can tell that conservatives know what kind of bad news this is.  Jonah Goldberg even got off his fat ass to denounce Williams and suggest he should return the money to the Department of Education.  He knows that, if spun right, this could mean the end of conservative punditry as we know it.

Republicans never worry about whether or not their charges are baseless.  They just charge.  We could learn from that, and thank Armstrong Williams with the ammo to put all conservative pundits on the defensive.

Originally posted to dday on Fri Jan 07, 2005 at 02:10 PM PST.

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