I'm depressed to read that Media Matters is at it again. Politico reports:
The liberal group Media Matters has quietly transformed itself in preparation for what its founder, David Brock, described in an interview as an all-out campaign of "guerrilla warfare and sabotage" aimed at the Fox News Channel.
The group, launched as a more traditional media critic, has all but abandoned its monitoring of newspapers and other television networks and is narrowing its focus to Fox and a handful of conservative websites, which its leaders view as political organizations and the "nerve center" of the conservative movement. The shift reflects the centrality of the cable channel to the contemporary conservative movement, as well as the loathing it inspires among liberals - not least among the donors who fund Media Matters’ staff of about 90, who are arrayed in neat rows in a giant war room above Massachusetts Avenue.
"The strategy that we had had toward Fox was basically a strategy of containment," said Brock, Media Matters’ chairman and founder and a former conservative journalist, adding that the group’s main aim had been to challenge the factual claims of the channel and to attempt to prevent them from reaching the mainstream media.
The new strategy, he said, is a "war on Fox."
In an interview and a 2010 planning memo shared with POLITICO, Brock listed the fronts on which Media Matters - which he said is operating on a $10 million-plus annual budget - is working to chip away at Fox and its parent company, News Corp. They include its bread-and-butter distribution of embarrassing clips and attempts to rebut Fox points, as well as a series of under-the-radar tactics.
Media Matters, Brock said, is assembling opposition research files not only on Fox’s top executives but on a series of midlevel officials. It has hired an activist who has led a successful campaign to press advertisers to avoid Glenn Beck’s show. The group is assembling a legal team to help people who have clashed with Fox to file lawsuits for defamation, invasion of privacy or other causes. And it has hired two experienced reporters, Joe Strupp and Alexander Zaitchik, to dig into Fox’s operation to help assemble a book on the network, due out in 2012 from Vintage/Anchor.
Brock said Media Matters also plans to run a broad campaign against Fox’s parent company, News Corp., an effort which most likely will involve opening a United Kingdom arm in London to attack the company’s interests there. The group hired an executive from MoveOn.org to work on developing campaigns among News Corp. shareholders and also is looking for ways to turn regulators in the U.S., U.K., and elsewhere against the network.
There's more at the link.
I can't help feeling that this polarization of radical opinion - on both sides of the political aisle - is very harmful to open debate and free speech. We've gone from Voltaire's tolerance of opposing views (ably expressed by one of his biographers, Evelyn Beatrice Hall, in the famous phrase "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it") to applying to politics Conan the Barbarian's view of what is best in life: "To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women!"
I'm afraid this tendency can't be productive in the long term, if we want to keep our multi-party, multiple-perspective approach to politics. I have my own firm political views, but that doesn't mean I hate or detest those with different ones; nor does it mean that I'll spend my time attacking anyone and everyone who supports those differing views. If I can convert them to my views through rational, reasoned argument, that's one thing (and, of course, they have the same potential to convert me through the strength of their own arguments). To 'trash' them, and everyone supporting them, is quite another.
For those who support such intolerance, I'd like to propose the following food for thought:
"Political correctness does not legislate tolerance; it only organizes hatred." - Jacques Barzun
"Tolerance is giving to every other human being every right that you claim for yourself." - Robert Green Ingersoll
"What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly - that is the first law of nature." - Voltaire
Of course, if you really want to 'dish' your political opponents (or colleagues), no-one ever did it better than Winston Churchill.
On Lord Charles Beresford: "He is one of those orators of whom it was well said. Before they get up, the do not know what they are going to say;when they are speaking, they do not know what they are saying;and when they have sat down, they do not know what they have said."
On Gladstone: "Mr Gladstone read Homer for fun, which I thought served him right."
On Lloyd George: "The happy warrior of Squandermania."
On John Reith: "There he stalks, that wuthering height."
On Clement Atlee: "A sheep in sheep's clothing", and "A modest man, who has much to be modest about," and "An empty taxi arrived at 10 Downing Street, and when the door was opened, Atlee got out."
On Stafford Cripps: "There but for the grace of God, goes God."
On Stanley Baldwin: "He occasionally stumbled over the truth, but hastily picked himself up and hurried on as if nothing had happened."
On Neville Chamberlain: "He looked at foreign affairs through the wrong end of a municipal drainpipe."
On General Montgomery: "In defeat unbeatable, in victory unbearable."
Somehow, I doubt Media Matters' anti-Fox campaign will be conducted with such epigrammatic class . . .