It's Long Past Time For Democrats To "Work The Refs" Themselves
Peter Daou wrote another great piece on the media’s ongoing bootlicking for the Bush Administration today over at Salon. As you know, we've previously had similar thoughts on the blog here, but Peter once again nails it quite well, as do several of his commenters.
Look, until the Democrats understand that they now need to spend a decade "working the refs" and being more aggressive and relentless in going after the media like the GOP did in the 1990's and before, it won't matter how good we are on policy. People vote on emotion and not facts; and those emotions are based on what they see and feel, and how they see themselves. And if all they see are the GOP talking points parroted day after day as news by the bootlicking media without a Democratic war room operation to counteract it every day, then voters will continue to be deceived. It also follows that Democrats need to focus more of their fire at the editors and publishers who allow lazy reporters to mimic the GOP and White House talking points instead of doing fact checking and research to find balance on an issue. After all, they all by now should know how to use Google. Beating up on Tweety and Timmeh is fun, and warranted, but putting their corporate GOP bosses under the microscope and shining some heat at them would do some good as well, since these are all publicly traded companies and their competitors would love to skewer them for being biased and sloppy with their product.
What can be done? Well, every afternoon there should be a DNC press conference aimed specifically at 1) debunking whatever Scottie McClellan said that morning; and 2) restating the Democratic talking points for the week in time for the afternoon and evening news and cable shows so that the media has a coordinated Democratic pushback they can include in their stories that night. And if the Democratic pushback and counter-narrative isn’t included in what the NYT, the WaPost, MSNBC, CNN, and the major news networks said that night or the next day, Democrats should make an issue of that as evidence of bias, every time it happens. Remember, work the refs, but do it with facts.
And yes, every week there should be a Democratic version of the Grover Norquist message coordination sessions that take place now within the GOP's right wing. Democrats will not agree on everything, but Norquist doesn't force agreement either. He seeks areas of common ground from which talking points and coordinated messages can be developed, and then between him and the White House and RNC the script is blasted far and wide for that week and the weekend cable and news shows, and aimed right at Fox. Democrats can do the same thing, and still ignore Fox by calling it repeatedly for what it is: a right wing propaganda outlet.
It is entirely possible for a DNC media operative, and media operatives from the DCCC, DSCC, Reid and Pelosi’s offices, and the supportive think tanks to meet by phone every morning for an hour to do this, and then to have the pushback press conference every afternoon to point out the lies, spin, and framing attempts by this administration in time for the evening news and the cable shows. And doing these meetings with framing experts like Dr. Jeffrey Feldman or George Lakoff would help as well. All I ask is that you don’t do it with Beltway pollsters and consultants, who have already done enough damage to the party for a lifetime. Deal with the facts and turn that focus through framing into messages that can reach people through a media that will be challenged every day to cover both sides of the day’s stories, and not just what the White House peddles to a lazy and co-opted media without a daily counter-programming from the Democrats. The goal is to stay on message, and hammer both the GOP as well as the media with an alternate narrative that challenges the White House and GOP on their efforts to write their own history to their liking. For example, Juan Cole’s piece from yesterday laying out the case against Bush and the right wing bedwetters on Iraq and the war on terror debacle should be Exhibit A of a counter-narrative.
Unless you give the media an alternate storyline to cover, and pressure them and specifically their bosses to cover it, we are wasting our time. Democrats cannot break through the media blackout because we are not disciplined and aggressive enough. Now is the time to start working the refs ourselves. It can’t be left to center-left bloggers to do what the party and Beltway politicians have heretofore been too self-interested and unfocused to do themselves.