Sunday, March 27, 2011

The media war hots up again

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 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 . . .



Anonymous said...

Liberalism is a mental disorder.

suz said...

As a raving radical moderate, I see nothing wrong with investing time and money in exposing Fox for what it is - not news. Divisive, extremist propaganda has its place in the public discourse, but it has no business calling itself Fact rather than Opinion, and hiding behind the cloak of "fair and balanced" journalism. Every lie told by every news outlet SHOULD be exposed, along with the ideology the people behind the lies.

I would be disappointed in Media Matters only if it were to deny its true agenda. I find this honesty refreshing. Sadly, Media matters will get its hand dirty, because that what happens when one shovels manure.

Anonymous said...

If a group wishes to investigate news and opinion outlets, then they have my blessing - so long as they look at everyone - Fox, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, PBS and NPR, Univision's news programming, Al Jazeera English - everyone. Once they start focusing on one side or the other, then they simply become another political action group. That can't be good for the larger discussion and debate as a whole.

If media are going to be partisan, then they should do so openly, like newspapers used to do. "The Finney County Democrat" or "River City Republican" let you know up front what you were reading and you subscribed accordingly.


Anonymous said...

Especially when said shovel is made out of manure from the start, suz... but then being the typical Fox-hating lib, the usual manure that you eat every day from your ubiased sources - NBCCBSABCMSNBC, et al - probably makes it difficult for you to recognize the Soros paid for brand of manure from media matters.

perlhaqr said...

I have no objection to the statists attempting to argue for their positions, but unfortunately, they always try (and often succeed at) implementing their horrible ideas and forcing me to play along.

How much respect should I give to the utterances of people who are advocating enslaving me?

suz said...

@anonymous: Did you catch the part about "raving radical moderate?" I get most of my news from regional newspapers that cover both side of most issues. I have noting against editorial content, as long as it is so labeled. I strongly object to distorted and patently untrue information being "reported" as fact, and I don't care who does it on behalf of which ideology. I support ANY effort to expose lies in the news media. I personally know dozens if not hundreds of people who despise Fox News, and most of them are not liberals (except perhaps, when compared to, say, Hitler.) Oddly enough, most of them are of above average intelligence.

Liberal, conservative, or whatever: do you honestly object to the concept of researching and exposing the lies and private agendas of ANY news broadcasting organization? Please, feel free to let us know where you stand on the real issue. Or is it easier and more fun for you to make erroneous assumptions and toss around vague insults? Anonymously.

STxRynn said...

George Soros is not the independent impartial detective. GS funds anti-conservative groups routinely. The obvious slant of MSNBC, CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS et al is well documented. Fox is not even close to balancing out their bias.

And speaking of Conan the Barbarian:

raven said...

Sure sounds to me like they intend to attack the messenger, rather than the message. Typical liberal BS-

suz said...

I think in this case, the messenger IS the message. For a few years, Fox offered a perfectly rational conservative viewpoint. Then its own leadership decided to sell out. Sadly, the only thing needed to "sabotage" Fox News, is the truth, shining a little light in dark places.