If you google "Stephen Lerner"--the former SEIU employee who made some rather inflammatory remarks at a liberal conference held this past weekend at Pace University, as we have reported--would it surprise you that only a handful of opinion blogs (most of them conservative) are covering the jaw-dropping speech in which he said:
We have an entire economy that is built on debt and banks so the question would be what would happen if we organized homeowners in mass to do a mortgage strike if we get half a million people to agree it would literally cause a new finical crisis for the banks not for us we would be doing quite well we wouldn't be paying anything...
...So I think we weed out a very simple strategy: how do we bring down the stock market, how do we bring down their bonuses, how do we interfere with their ability to, to be rich.
With the exception of the Washington Post--which we'll get to in a moment--why isn't the mainstream media covering the story of an avowed leftist whose life ambition at the moment includes bringing down the US economy?
That is, in part, a rhetorical question. Of course the mainstream media would not cover the story of a union organizer with ties to the Obama White House. But perhaps there is another reason why the media is shying away from this story. Taking a look at the scant non-conservative blog coverage of the story, it seems like the media does not know what to make of Lerner's revolutionary remarks. They are pretty damning, after all. As Business Insider reports it: "Caught on Tape: Former SEIU Official Reveals Secret Plan to Destroy JP Morgan, Crash the Stockmarket, and Redistribute Wealth in America."
Two websites, for instance, which always have something to say about all things Beck-related have for once found themselves speechless in their coverage of this Beck-related item. The media watchdog site, Mediaite, simply mentioned the Lerner affair in passing:
Today he [Beck] gave another example of someone he felt belonged on the Evil side; Stephen Lerner, formerly (maybe) of SEIU, who explained in tapes procured by Beck and The Blaze, his plans to destabilize the stock market.
Beck, however, had a plan to combat the Evil and that meant enlisting his audience in increasing the “visibility” of the Good side through a planned flash mob.
And the liberal Media Matters, which has scathingly blasted Beck in the past, simply posted the Lerner audio without comment. In a later post, however, Media Matters analyzed the video by...resorting to an ad hominen attack on Beck:
It shouldn't surprise anyone that Beck blows the import of the clip way out of proportion. But what's truly remarkable is that Beck responds to that supposedly dangerous rhetoric with full-throated apocalyptic panic...
It's as if Beck doesn't hear the words coming out of his own mouth. Calling for strikes and civil disobedience is tantamount to "economic terrorism," but threatening that the United States government will collapse, predicting that "millions will die," and urging your listeners to prepare to "grab on to your gun" is indicative of a level-headed, well-reasoned assessment of the situation?
One reason that the media outlets have been sheepish in their coverage could be this: that the source of the audio--The Blaze--is a bit of an unknown quantity. On the one hand, that The Blaze is a Glenn Beck product causes these media outlets to jump to various conclusions; on the other, National Journal reports Lerner-gate thus:
The talk purportedly happened at a closed session at Pace University over the weekend. The plan, which smacks of socialist fantasy, is to bankrupt the nation's banks by convincing students, homeowners and city and state governments to stop paying their loans in a coordinated debt strike.
Given past episodes of "shocking" recordings proving less shocking upon review, as well as The Blaze's strong conservative leanings, this should probably be taken with a deep dose of skepticism. That said, earlier this month, The Blaze did publish a fair-minded report on the misleading editing job of James O'Keefe's NPR sting, which shifted the public perception of the hit job.
It was perhaps with that in mind that Ezra Klein decided to give the Lerner audio a fair hearing. Klein, one of the Washington Post's key bloggers, is a wonkish expert on economic matters--and he seems to have a lot of respect for Lerner:
He’s considered one of the smartest organizers, if not the smartest organizer, working in the labor movement right now. A month or two ago, when I began asking around for forward-looking labor thinkers who could give me some ideas for where labor should go after Wisconsin, his was the first name I was given — even though he’s no longer actually employed by his union. There was a good reason for that. At a time when a lot of people in labor have become, if not resigned to their fate as a marginal force in American life, increasingly confused as to how to reverse it, Lerner has a lot of fight left in him.
On the one hand, Lerner was Klein's go-to guy on the future of labor. On the other, Klein has this to say about Lerner's vision for the US economy: "I think there’s much to fear in Lerner’s plan, and also a fair amount to like."
Klein, it seems, is willing to admit that certain parts of Lerner's goals are whacky--but Klein's reaction to them is tempered by the assumption that Lerner's goals are unlikely to come to fruition. Here's Klein:
It’s true that the banks got off too easy, and that a lot of mortgages should be renegotiated. It’s also true that economic disruption is, by its very nature, difficult to control. You might think you’re engaged in a targeted action against J.P. Morgan Chase only to end up somewhere very different. But for better or worse, it’s unlikely that the union movement would actually adopt Lerner’s plans, or that they’d even have the power to make good on them if they wanted to adopt them.
Neither Klein, nor the other liberal bloggers covering this story, are ready to equate Lerner's remarks with "economic terrorism," which is what we at The Blaze did in our initial report, and what Beck did on his television show yesterday evening. Klein writes:
Beck’s outlet sells its transcript of a talk Lerner gave in public as “REVEALED — THE LEFT’S ECONOMIC TERRORISM PLAYBOOK.” In reality, it’s Steve Lerner’s plan to organize a series of strikes and protests in order to force the banks to forgive a lot of homeowner and student-loan debt.
What Lerner lays out is the unions’ plan to destroy the US economy, and then, ahem, fundamentally transform it to a model that’s more in the far left’s liking.
If the fellow who was running around with the “Liberty coins” can be accused of domestic terrorism for that, how can the unions not be rightly accused of domestic terrorism for hatching a plan that actually is a large-scale attack on the US economy?
Rush Limbaugh, on his program today, put the issue into the form of a question: "Is this not a form of terrorism this guy is preaching?"
Though it's nothing new that the media coverage of Lerner-gate breaks down along partisan lines, it is surprising how reticent the mainstream media--and the left blogosphere has been--on this issue. Even Media Matters does not want to bite into the substance of what Lerner said last weekend--and that's saying something.