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Saturday, September 15, 2007
(10:39 AM) | Stephen:
They Shall Fight Us On The Radio, They Shall Fight Us On TV, They Shall Fight Us In Every Newspaper

When I was in college - waaay back in the day, before camera phones and Web 1.0, let alone 2.0 - the right wing assault on America's media industry had already been in full swing for some time, long enough for the concept of "The Liberal Media" to have been accepted by pretty much everyone. All conservatives believed it, of course, because that explained why their philosophies didn't always square with the way the world was working. Liberals tended to believe it back then as well, based partly on the idea that "facts have a liberal bias" and the impression that journalists, being well-read and traveled, would naturally be liberals.

We know better now, of course. While it may be true that most journalists are registered as and give to Democrats, the US media has for a long time been controlled by large corporations that are reliably conservative, at least in fiscal policy, and The Boss's opinions tend to get in print whatever the underlings might think. Conservatives haven't let up with their critique, or with their desire to control the media. Talk radio is of course dominated by conservatives, newspaper editorial pages publish more conservatives than progressives, and in response to Rupert Murdoch's growing wingnut media empire, other cable news outlets have stocked their rosters with what appears to be anyone willing to shill for the right.

But these are all editorial in nature - with the exception of Fox News, of course, which still tries to pass itself off as a "straight news" operation. Even Fox News, though, is being exposed as a mouthpiece for the right, with conservatives taking the attitude that liberals once enjoyed about the media.

What's truly fascinating and frightening about the right's assault on the media is how they targeted not only editorial venues or established their own networks, but also actual journalists from other media outlets. Certainly the Bush Administration has been quite adept at granting/removing "access" in order to convince journalists to run White House spin as either fact or as if it were coming from sources outside the White House itself.

Nothing, however, comes close the the ways in which journalists have been duped by Alexis Debat. From fake interviews of Obama, Bill Clinton, Pelosi, Kofi Annan and others to fabricated reports coming from "sources" in Iraq and Iran, Alexis Debat has steadily and successfully pushed the neo-con agenda of his colleagues of the Nixon Center and The National Interest. Closely connected to the Debat saga is the story of Amir Taheri, an Iranian exile who has worked for Rupert Murdoch publications and, notably, was the editor of Politique Internationale, which published the fake interviews. Taheri was the source of the bogus story about Iran forcing its Jewish citizens and other religious minorities to wear armbands identifying them as non-Muslims, which was immediately debunked, though that didn't get in the way of Taheri going to the White House just days after the fabricated story was published to advise President Bush on Iran.

Clearly Alexis Debat and Amir Teheri are brilliant manipulators of the rules and culture of journalism - that they have been exposed doesn't take away from that at all. But they are only two of what appears to be a fairly large cohort on the right who have discovered at different times and ways that once the rules of the journalistic world are accepted and internalized, they can be turned into powerful methods for undermining the very purpose that journalism is supposed to serve.

The lesson for liberals, of course, is not that we need to adopt these methods, but that we need to be as skeptical of straight news stories as we are of the Journal's editorial page. As important as it is to have progressive politicians in Congress and the White House, the political battlefield has always been in the nation's media, and the other side, as it were, has established fronts in the media's every iteration.

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