Latest media talking point: IRS scandal 'fizzles'

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Published by: Dan Calabrese on Monday July 08th, 2013

By DAN CALABRESE - Is there an echo in here?

It actually started back in May at Daily Kos. Then it hit the big time two weeks ago in U.S. News and World Report, where one-time Ted Kennedy biographer Susan Milligan takes the meme mainstream. The same day, it appears in Political Wire. Two days later, the Daily Beast picks it up. Late last week, it shows up in the Macomb Daily, which hilariously cites the New York Times as a voice of authority on the matter.

I'm not really sure whose idea it was, but someone got the word out to the groupthink media that the word of the day where the IRS scandal is concerned would be "fizzled." And just like that, one after the other, they picked up on the theme and began dutifully informing us that we need to move along, there's nothing to see here . . .

Except that there is.

The media's argument here - remember, these are the people who claim to hold the government "accountable" - is that the IRS list of watchwords also included words that pertained to liberal organizations, particularly the word "progressive," and that some liberal groups also received ridiculously daunting questionnaires.

First of all, even if that was true, so what? The IRS should not be demanding that kind of information from anyone. If the media now thinks there's nothing to see here because they were doing it to liberals too, the media has completely lost its concept of what it means for the press to serve as a watchdog on the government. It is not OK to abuse your power as long as you do it to both sides equally.

But let's destroy that notion too. They did not do it to both sides equally. Whatever words may have appeared on the watchlist, the results were not the same for conservative and liberal groups. Even the Times, which is being cited as the authority showing there was no partisan bias here, admits the opposite if you read far enough into its piece:

Democrats are now aiming their anger at J. Russell George, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration, whose audit in May helped make the controversy public. That audit focused on the targeting of groups that had “Tea Party,” “patriot” or “9/12” in their names.

Democrats say that they examined the 298 applications reviewed by the inspector general, and that some of them were from liberal groups. But Mr. George’s audit did not mention them.

Mr. George’s staff said he reviewed all the applications that the I.R.S. identified as potentially involving political groups, not just those from Tea Party groups. But the inspector concluded that only conservative groups got the extra scrutiny.

“When you serve in this capacity, you have to make determinations that, on occasions, upset people,” Mr. George said in a statement. “This obviously is one of those occasions.”

George cut to the chase, and that has Democrats upset. While the watchlist may have included an expansive list of words, in actual practice it was conservative groups who received the extra scrutiny.

Now, a question for the media who are jumping on the "fizzle" talking point in the hope of helping to make this scandal go away. Why do you think anyone would take you seriously in your oh-so-self-important role as "government watchdog" when the only people you actually "hold accountable" are people who bring grievances against the government? Let anyone launch a criticism against this administration, and you hold it under a magnifying glass to see if you can find some way to disqualify it as a "scandal," and then, if you think you've got something, you attack the credibility of ordinary citizens who really have no power, on behalf of a government agency with enormous power and, thanks to you, virtually no accountability for how it uses it.

Nice job, media. At least we know you're getting the talking points memos that let you know the preferred propaganda word of the day. Or are you just so un-original that you just copy each other all the time?

The only thing fizzling here is the credibility of the news media. The IRS scandal, whether it was directed by politicians or is the normal M.O. of the agency itself, is very real.

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