As a former card-carrying member of the mainstream media I am only too aware that many of its current wounds were self-inflicted. But there is something else going on too. You might call a continuation of the “vast rightwing conspiracy.”
This time let’s call them, “Infonistas.” They are a tightly knit association of far-right neo-conservatives who believe information control and management is the most important tool of government. And, that they have too allowed liberal secularists to control this vital tool.
Their goal was to erode public confidence in the mainstream media, even create hostility towards it. That goal has been largely accomplished. By leveraging the mainstream media’s own shortcomings (Dan Rather, Jason Blair and more recently CNN’s Eason Jordan,) together with a non-stop campaign against the “liberal media,” the public now ranks journalists right there with used car salesmen and politicians. Mission accomplished.
Simultaneous with that campaign other Infonistas began creating well-funded parallel propaganda organs masquerading a “fair and balanced” media for those seeking “liberal” mainstream media.
Their plan was conceived, I believe, when they saw the affect Rush Limbaugh’s radio show had on millions of voters who traditionally voted Democrat – working class voters.
Infonistas who, for decades had sought ways to court this rich working class base from pro-labor Democrats saw that Rush had found the formula. All they had to do was serve up content that, while humorous in its delivery, portrayed Democrats as limp-wristed liberals, pro-gay, pro-affirmative action, pro-European, pro-welfare, anti-American sissies.
Their plan worked better than they could have ever imagined. Even their victims in the mainstream media jumped in to give them a hand. In the constant chase for ratings cable news giants like CNN and MSNBC fell all over themselves to add “conservative” commentators, like Robert Novak, Tucker Carlson and others to their “news” stables.
FOX News – started and run by former Reagan strategist Roger Ales – quickly became both the flagship and pace car for the growing Infonista media machine.
Now, some may be asking by now, do I exaggerate? Have I become a liberal conspiracy nut? Or just a plain nut? Well, the latter may be true, but not the former. Here’s a sampler. (For lots more go to Media Matters.)
- Operation Gannon. Jeff Gannon, who does not use his real last name – Guckert – because he has, shall we say, a colorful past - ( :-0 Nude photos) – became a Infonista-funded operative masquerading as a journalist. How did he get into the White House press briefing room? Well, let me tell you, not by accident. The last time I got into the White House compound to interview an official I had to submit reams of personal info 24 hours before, including my Social Security number so the Secret Service could run me. (And that was before 9/11) The White House knew Gannon was an Infonista operative. Believe me, they knew. That’s why they called on him. He was a ringer. It was a set up.
- Operation Novak. Yesterday a federal court ruled that Judith Miller of The New York Times and Matthew Cooper of Time magazine, either had to cough up their sources in the Valarie Plame, CIA leak scandal or go to jail. But wait, wasn’t it Infonista senior operative Robert Novak who got the leak and blew Plame’s cover? Why isn’t he threatened with jail? There can only be one reason – he talked, further proof that Infonistas are not real journalists. And, the fact that he got the leak from this administration – the most secretive in history – further cements the working relationship that exists between Infonista propagandists and the Bush administration.
- - Operation Armstrong Williams. Need I say more?
- - FOX News and radio host Sean Hannity made the obviously false claim on his February 11 radio program that "there is an absence of evidence" that Senator John Kerry "was in combat in Vietnam." Echoing a syndicated column by veteran Infonista Ann Coulter, Hannity compared Kerry's record in Vietnam to that of Ward Churchill, the University of Colorado professor who compared some victims of the World Trade Center terrorist attacks to Nazis: "There is an absence of evidence, just like John Kerry, that he [Churchill] ever was in combat in Vietnam."
- - Infonista David Horowitz, who had to recently defend himself against charges of racism by baselessly branding one of his critics, liberal radio host Al Franken, a "racist" -- paid nearly $300,000 to Rotterman & Associates, a Republican media consulting firm that helped run the racially divisive campaigns of former Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC), according to tax filings of Horowitz's “Center for the Study of Popular Culture” shows.
- - Last week Lis Wiehl, FOX News legal analyst and regular co-host of Bill O'Reilly's radio program, claimed that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) "lied about going to the funerals" of victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks. Her accusation is false. Wiehl was repeating O'Reilly's own misleading statements on Clinton following 9-11, claiming falsely that she failed to attend "any funerals for the regular people killed." In fact, Clinton attended several funerals and memorials, including one for 79 restaurant employees.
- - MSNBC “analyst” and former Nixon speechwriter Pat Buchanan falsely claimed that President Bush's plans to partially privatize Social Security would address the program's fiscal shortfall "down the road," and that Bush has said as much. In fact, although Bush has suggested that private accounts will be part of the solution, a White House official has acknowledged that the administration's proposal to let workers divert payroll taxes into private accounts will do nothing to address Social Security's long-term revenue shortfall.
- - FOX News Washington managing editor Brit Hume falsely claimed that a Washington Post story on a new White House cost estimate for the Medicare prescription drug benefit had reported that "the new estimate contradicted an earlier 10-year forecast." In fact, the February 9 article never reported that the new estimate "contradicted" an earlier estimate, only that the new estimate indicated that the benefit would cost hundreds of billions more in later years than most people expected based on previous estimates. The co-author of the article was Washington Post staff writer and FOX News contributor Ceci Connolly, who regularly appears on the "FOX All-Star Panel" on Hume's show, Special Report with Brit Hume.
Anyway, you get the idea. And so do the Infonistas. Turning a free media into an organ of propaganda requires a three-stage process. It begins by discrediting the existing free media, then infiltrating and compromising it, and finally co-opting it.
The Infonistas are now well into Phase II.
Oh, wait. There is one further requirement: that you let them get away with it.
Do I hear a big “double ditto” on that?
"Journalism that is inquisitive and intellectually honest, that surprises and unsettles, [doesn't] always exist. There is no law saying that it must exist forever, and there are political and business interests that would be better off if it didn't exist and that have worked hard to undermine it. This is what journalists in the mainstream media are starting to worry about: what if people don't believe in us, won't want us, anymore?"
--Nicholas Lemann, writer, 2005