Friday, April 15, 2005

Vast {Left/Right} Wing Conspiracies

In the progressive web site In These Times, Jessica Clark and Tracy Van Slyke, map out their view of the Conservative Media Machine and the Emerging Progressive Media Machine. Since one purpose of this chart is to show how much better the conservatives are than the progressives, the MSM is left off completely as is CNN and PBS. Only a few columnists are included and few of them are ones I would have picked. The effects of George Soros and his shadow party are minimized (even though they spent more money trying to defeat Bush than Kerry did). The amount and flow of money involved is also misrepresented. The chart for conservatives shows money flowing to the conservative media (Fox, Rush Limbaugh, etc.). In fact, these operations are not only self-supporting, they are money-makers (unlike Air America).

For a different take on the subject, look at this article on Soros's Shadow Party and how it directed the attack on Tom DeLay.

There are a few reasons for this discrepency. A big one is that progressives don't like to admit that the MSM leans liberal. The seize on individual stories that aren't written the way that they want or stories that don't make it into the news as justification that the press is neutral or conservative. They don't look at coverage as a whole nor do they acknowledge that the press, while not as far to the left as they are, is still left-of-center.

Another reason is that they lost and they want an easy answer. They don't want to re-think their philosophy. They know that their message is right (left?) so the problem must be in getting it out.

Clark and Van Slyke mention Dan Rather in passing without ever considering why conservatives hated him.
Paid political operatives posing as bloggers are taking down journalists like Dan Rather
Why was Rather a target and why do they feel his loss? Could it be because he represented their values? (And for the record, the DailyKos is run by a paid political operative who continued defending Rather months after everyone else gave up.)

Clark and Van Slyke move on to slightly firmer ground when talking about the mechanisms for the "Conservative Noise Machine".

In an effort to shift public discourse to the right, conservative foundations, right-wing donors and corporations worked together to create multiple organizations that in turn generated think tanks, issue-based nonprofits and conservative media outlets—all with their own highly paid and well-coached “experts.” Then, the right, ever more loudly denouncing the biased “liberal media elite,” inserted these newly minted experts into a mainstream media that was now on the defensive and vulnerable to manipulation.
Yes, these think-tanks exists and they do have experts. Conservatives see this as a response to the liberal bias of the universities where the well-coached liberal experts come from.

One thing that hurts the authors and the progressive movement in general is the refusal to give any credit at all to their opponents. Take this statement:
Where does this leave progressives? Stuck, as they are, with defending old-fashioned values, such as truth, fair play, factual accuracy, civility, the open exchange of ideas, the power of reasoned debate, and the honor of upholding the public trust.
I could write a whole columns on the election citing numerous specifics examples of how the anti-Bush crowd violated every single one of these values. As far as the open exchange of ideas, Clark and Van Slyke are in favor of a revised fairness doctrine.

The basic principle of the Fairness Doctrine—that radio and television stations have the obligation to address all sides of public controversy during the course of their broadcasting—was implied in the Communications Act of 1934, and then formalized in 1949. In practice, the Doctrine was meant to do two things: require stations to cover controversial issues of public importance and provide differing viewpoints on such issues. It was meant to prevent stations from broadcasting a single ideological perspective, day in and day out, without opposing viewpoints.
When this was first proposed during the Clinton years, it was known as the "Flush Rush" act because liberals hoped it would force Rush Limbagh off the air. This is their idea of " truth, fair play, factual accuracy, civility, the open exchange of ideas, the power of reasoned debate, and the honor of upholding the public trust."

Sidenote - how many progressives wanting to restore the Fairness Doctrine support the Accedemic Bill of Rights?

An interesting conundrum is that the progressives approach to media matches the rest of their philosophy - let the government handle it. They mention this in passing:
When liberal foundations do provide media grants, they shy away from overtly political media projects, and instead direct millions toward federally supported public media, such as the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) and National Public Radio, or to individual documentary film projects that might be shown on PBS.

And they wonder why conservative dislike PBS. This also shows a bit of hypocracy - for years American TV consisted of three networks and PBS but the Fairness Doctrine only applied to the commercial stations.

Another telling remark:
Yet these Washington-centric efforts are still not connected to grassroots, single-issue organizations. Too often, they lack the involvement of women, people of color and those who are not upper-middle class.
This is a reflection of progressives in general as opposed to liberals and Democrats. Ralph Nader was the most progressive candidate in decades and his demographics were mainly white men.

This is also reflected in a quote that they made from Mother Jones:
There is no time for canned political rhetoric. The focus is on winning. Here, strategy is honed. Talking points are refined. Discipline is imposed. … In building his coalition, Norquist has made a conscious strategic decision to go with a big-tent approach. At his weekly meetings, social issues like gay rights and abortion, which can divide the electoral base of conservatives and libertarians, are played down in favor of issues like tax cuts, tort reform, and the rollback of federal regulations and rules. These are the broad-appeal political winners on which Norquist is pinning the movement’s future. And they’re a strong lure for the corporate community, some of whose members—Philip Morris, Pfizer and Time Warner, for instance—also happen to supply funding for Americans for Tax Reform.
Conservates have descided that these issues are either not winnable or not worth fighting for. This confounds people like Clark and Van Slyke who based much of their political support on fighting for these causes. What do you do when you win? Do you give up and go home? Do you keep trying to rally people for a fight that they see as won? Do you move on and try to find new issues?

This is the left's real problem. Their fighting the wrong battles. Maybe the creation of new think tanks will result in new issues. Maybe not. Maybe the whole concept of a united front for the left is a waste of time. Howard Dean's anti-war supporters will never support candidates who are strong on defense. Other groups within the left are similarly at odds with each other.

The left already suffers from having an echo chamber. Look at the number of lefties who still think that the election was fixed. They keep telling each other that it was and pretty soon, everyone they know believes it. The trouble is that they only know people from the small group living in the echo chamber.

My wife wonders why I read this junk (the Democratic Underground, etc.). The reason is that I don't want to be fooled by living in an echo chamber. I read and evaluate lots of points of view. If it is persuasive enough, I change my attitudes. In this case, I write a rebuttle.

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