Sunday, November 13, 2005

Don't Be Fooled by Mark Crispin Miller

With the recent episode in which it sure looked like Mark Crispin Miller’s reports on Kerry’s statements on election fraud were not reported accurately, Salon takes a closer look at Miller’s work. They come to a similar conclusion in doubting his accuracy:

Mark Crispin Miller, the New York University media studies professor and longtime Bush critic, appeared on the lefty radio show “Democracy Now!” to promote his new book, “Fooled Again: How the Right Stole the 2004 Election and Why They’ll Steal the Next One Too (Unless We Stop Them).” As part of an on-air debate with the investigative reporter Mark Hertsgaard, who recently criticized Miller’s book in Mother Jones magazine, Miller let slip a dramatic piece of news about last year’s Democratic nominee for the presidency. “On Friday, this last Friday night, I arranged to meet Senator Kerry at a fundraiser to give him a copy of my book,” Miller said. “He told me he now thinks the election was stolen.”

Now, this was big news. If what Miller said about Kerry was right, it would have signaled a momentous shift in thinking for the senator. For a year now, partisans on the left who say that Bush stole last year’s presidential race have had a hard time making their claim stick precisely because Kerry, the man they allege was the main victim of the fraud, had so quickly conceded the election and so thoroughly ignored any suggestion that it had been rigged. But if Kerry now thought that these people were right — if Kerry now believed Bush didn’t actually win the race — well, that would change everything. Suddenly the year-long online barrage of half-baked theories and misreported election data that some people say proves a massive, successful Republican conspiracy to install Bush in the White House would have found a very prominent, aggrieved backer, someone to finally make the case to the world that Americans had been cheated of their rightful president.

Unfortunately for the partisans, Miller’s Kerry blockbuster quickly fizzled. “I know Mr. Miller is trying to sell his book and he feels passionately about his thesis, but his recent statements about his conversation with Senator Kerry are simply not true,” Jenny Backus, a Kerry spokeswoman, told Raw Story shortly after the “Democracy Now!” broadcast. “The only thing true about his recollection of the conversation is that he gave Senator Kerry a copy of his book.”

Of course, I don’t know what transpired between the professor and the senator, but Miller’s shaky scoop is all too typical of much of the reporting in his book, in which Miller claims to prove that “hundreds, even thousands” of people on the right, spread across the country, conspired to steal the 2004 presidential election (and many others besides).

I say that Miller claims to prove this because that’s pretty much all he does. In his introduction, Miller promises to prove that Republicans rigged the race, and then at some point in the middle of the book he begins talking like he already has, and the reader is left to leaf through the volume in a daze, wondering if perhaps some kind of typesetting or bookbinding error caused the explosive section of Miller’s tome to be left out of this one copy. But not so; my book is intact, and though I searched the contents, the index and the voluminous endnotes, I found no proof of Miller’s theory. Like his claim that Kerry now believes he was robbed, Miller’s many suggestions of fraud dissolve under close scrutiny. By the end, the only fraud you’re sure of is the one perpetrated upon you, the reader, into bearing with this book.


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