A Reply to Steve Regarding Faux News Et Al.
When I read Steve's excellent post this afternoon about the cravenness of the corporate media I smiled, as this is something that I've been thinking about oftentimes since the election. Until recently, I broadly agreed with Steve's main point; namely, that Democrats and center-left commentators should simply avoid/boycott the Faux/Tweety Matthews/Wolf Blitzer parade of fools, since they either actively coordinate their programming with the Republicans, in the case of FNC, or meekly cower at the sight of an RNC blast fax. But something that I experienced a few weeks ago changed my mind, so that I no longer believe a boycott is the best way to go.
Soon after my graduation two weeks ago, I was driving back to Sweet Home Chicago along the Pennsylvania Turnpike when I stopped at a service plaza in Somerset. James Carville famously described Pennsylvania as Philadelphia at one end, Pittsburgh on the other end, and Alabama in the middle. Somerset is unmistakably in the "Alabama" portion of the state. So sure enough, every TV in the service plaza was blasting out--you guessed it--Faux News. This was the week before the filibuster compromise, so the blithering host and some right-wing bigwig (Bill Kristol, I believe) were solemnly tsk-tsking the Democrats' "unprecedented" obstructionism blah blah blah.
Anyway, as I was standing in line waiting for my double Whopper with cheese (pardon the melodrama), it suddenly dawned on me--every employee at the service plaza was subjected to this propaganda on a daily basis, so that the Faux News representation of events constituted their reality. Therefore, we could boycott Faux, MSNBC, CNN, etc., but the Right-Wing Noise Machine will still be merrily pumping out its agit-prop to the captive audience at the Somerset, PA service plaza and thousands of similar spots across the US. They're not going be changing the channel or turning the dial to Air America, or any possible liberal TV network either.
Thus, turning our backs on Faux News and the like will simply give them an even more unbalanced filter for the millions of Americans who don't receive their daily news from any other sources. I fully agree with Steve that we need an "assault upon the media." But instead of of boycotting cable news and the Big Three, we should instead mount a guerrilla campaign (perhaps this isn't the most appropriate analogy to use right now, but I digress) to puncture the Roger Ailes-created reality that many TV viewers take for granted.
Let me give you an example of what I'm getting at: whenever you watch the cable news shows, the Democratic "side" will frequently be represented by a bloodless policy wonk working for a liberal think tank or magazine. Inevitably, the host (whether it be O'Reilly, Hannity, Blitzer, etc.) will cut that person off mid-sentence, inject some RNC talking point, and then elicit the opinion of some sharp-tongued right-wing operative. The message to Middle America is clear--the liberal panelist, like the Democrats in general, is a tongue-tied, indecisive bore.
Instead of believing that we're engaging in earnest public policy debates, we have to realize that TV is entertainment above all else. Thus, under a "guerrilla campaign," we would make sure that the center-left position on the cable chatfests is represented by a quick-witted and tenacious debater whose primary goal is to pound the Democrats' talking point(s) again and again. As an example, think back to "Gorgeous" George Galloway's rumble with Smilin' Norm Coleman on national TV. Even his left-wing detractors admit that, if nothing else, he can always be counted on to put on a hell of a show. That's what we need.
Is this strategy the answer to all our problems? Of course not. But think about the cashier at the Somerset service plaza with Faux News droning in the background all day long. Although he/she will be subjected to a steady stream of right-wing propaganda, this will be broken up periodically by a sardonic, take-no-prisoners voice (as opposed to the dry, professorial voice we're accustomed to) railing against the lack of armor provided for our troops in Iraq, the sheer idiocy of the abstinence-only sex education programs, etc. This is what I mean by a guerrilla campaign to puncture the Faux News version of reality.