Friday :: Jun 3, 2005

To Tell The Truth

by pessimist

Long before the age of dinosaurs began in 1980, there used to be a TV game show called To Tell The Truth (1956) in which contestants were presented with a dilemma to solve:

A team of three people, only one of which is actually associated with a story, introduce themselves. The host relates the person's story through an affidavit (which could be funny, serious, inspirational, having to do with their profession, political activity or cause they were actively involved in, etc.). The celebrity panelists, one at a time, question the three contestants (addressing them as No. 1, No. 2. and No. 3) in an attempt to expose the liars and determine the actual person [of whom the story was about].

I'm going to take this premise and adapt it slightly for purposes which will become clear shortly. I'm going to take a quote from a recent comment by one of our Wrong-Wing Wregulars to establish 'the story':

Kevin Drum has expressed puzzlement at why liberals on TV almost always appear overmatched by their conservative counterparts.
- muckdog

I have arbitrarily chosen three commentors from the same post to present their views as to why 'the story' is truthful:

I have posted time and time again that you cannot fight a war with clubs when your enemy has bullets.
- Judith

What the Republicans have is a well-oiled machine that enables them to manipulate and lie at will.
- Bad Ass

The Media is In on It. It is in their interest that the Conservatives "beat" the Liberals. There is no "surprise" here, that is the Plan. You can come up with as many points as you want Eriposte, but the Liberals will not be allowed to "win".
- T2

While all of the contestants have presented factual information (which I will cover during the 'message from our political blog sponsor' after this 'game show' ends), the answer from contestant T2 comes the closest 'To Tell The Truth':

Fox News Admits Bias!

Its London bureau chief blurts out the political slant that dare not speak its name.

Sound the klaxons! Corporate Message breakdown at Fox News! This is not a drill. Repeat: This is not a drill.

Assume battle stations! Fire in the hole! A-woo-ga! A-woo-ga!

Scott Norvell is London bureau chief for Fox News, and on May 20 he let the mask slip in, of all places, the Wall Street Journal. So far, the damage has been contained, because Norvell's comments - in an op-ed he wrote decrying left-wing bias at the BBC - appeared only in the Journal's European edition. But Chatterbox's agents are everywhere.

Here is what Norvell fessed up to in the May 20 Wall Street Journal Europe:

Even we at Fox News manage to get some lefties on the air occasionally, and often let them finish their sentences before we club them to death and feed the scraps to Karl Rove and Bill O'Reilly.

Try stuffing this genie back into its bottle! (But that was a different TV show!)

The number one reason that liberals look like shit on TV is because they're trying to make sense. They're trying to make rational, logical points, against people who are lying their fucking asses off.
- Walrus

The usually disciplined foot soldiers at Fox News have long maintained that their news organization is not biased in favor of conservatism. This charade is so important to Fox News that the company has actually sought to trademark the phrase "fair and balanced" (which is a bit like Richard Nixon trademarking the phrase "not a crook").

The Dems should be using their contacts in the media to push these people forward to start taking on the Right and the press.
- eriposte

Last year, for example, the Wall Street Journal actually ran a correction after its news pages described Fox News, accurately, as "a network sympathetic to the Bush cause and popular with Republicans."

Getting one of this country's most prestigious newspapers to state that up is down and black is white is no small public-relations victory, and if we can't admire Fox News' candor, we can at least marvel at its ability to remain on message.

The reason they suffer in front of liars is that they have no influence over the media which completely accommodates liars without fact-checking.
- eriposte

Or rather, we could admire it, before Scott Norvell went and shot his big mouth off. No fair-minded person actually believes that Fox News is unbiased, so pretending that it is calls for steely corporate resolve. Norvell's little joke about clubbing lefties to death should satisfy even the most literal-minded that the bias Norvell describes is a conservative one. (Lord only knows where Norvell acquired the erroneous belief that Fox News is "honest" about its conservative slant; perhaps he's so used to Fox's protestations of objectivity being ignored that he literally forgot that they continue to be uttered.)
Fox News is, after all, a private channel and our presenters are quite open about where they stand on particular stories. That's our appeal. People watch us because they know what they are getting.

The corporate media does as noted prefer liberals who live down to the winey bore sterotype.
- rlprather

Scott Norvell needs to be checking a few facts himself.

According to many Supreme Court decisions, the airwaves are still considered legally to be public property. Take, for example, some of the statements made in the opinions of the Court Justices - including current Chief Justice Rehnquist - in the infamous 'Seven Dirty Words' case - FCC v Pacifica Foundation:

MR. JUSTICE STEVENS delivered the opinion of the Court (Parts I, II, III, and IV-C) and an opinion in which THE CHIEF JUSTICE and MR. JUSTICE REHNQUIST joined (Parts IV-A and IV-B).

A satiric humorist named George Carlin recorded a 12-minute monologue entitled "Filthy Words" before a live audience in a California theater. He began by referring to his thoughts about "the words you couldn't say on the public, ah, airwaves, um, the ones you definitely wouldn't say, ever."

At about 2 o'clock in the afternoon on Tuesday, October 30, 1973, a New York radio station, owned by respondent Pacifica Foundation, broadcast the "Filthy Words" monologue. A few weeks later a man, who stated that he had heard the broadcast while driving with his young son, wrote a letter complaining to the Commission. He stated that, although he could perhaps understand the "record's being sold for private use, I certainly cannot understand the broadcast of same over the air that, supposedly, you control."

On February 21, 1975, the Commission issued a declaratory order granting the complaint and holding that Pacifica "could have been the subject of administrative sanctions." 56 F. C. C. 2d 94, 99.

Now, I'm no lawyer, but I believe the language in this opinion to be supporting the case that the federal government, as embodied by the FCC, has jurisdiction over the content of broadcasting over the public airways. Remember - these justices, including Nixon appointee Warren Burger as Chief Justice, were all conservatives. They also appear by this assertion to support the contention that the airways are public.

They go on to outline this jurisdiction and the reasoning for it:

First, the broadcast media have established a uniquely pervasive presence in the lives of all Americans ... in the privacy of the home, where the individual's right to be left alone plainly outweighs the First Amendment rights of an intruder.

Because the broadcast audience is constantly tuning in and out, prior warnings cannot completely protect the listener or viewer from unexpected program content. To say that one may avoid further offense by turning off the radio when he hears indecent language is like saying that the remedy for an assault is to run away after the first blow. One may hang up on an indecent phone call, but that option does not give the caller a constitutional immunity or avoid a harm that has already taken place.

Second, broadcasting is uniquely accessible to children, even those too young to read. Although Cohen's written message might have been incomprehensible to a first grader, Pacifica's broadcast could have enlarged a child's vocabulary in an instant. Other forms of offensive expression may be withheld from the young without restricting the expression at its source. Bookstores and motion picture theaters, for example, may be prohibited from making indecent material available to children. We held in Ginsberg v. New York, 390 U.S. 629, that the government's interest in the "well-being of its youth" and in supporting "parents' claim to authority in their own household" justified the regulation of otherwise protected expression. The ease with which children may obtain access to broadcast material, coupled with the concerns recognized in Ginsberg, amply justify special treatment of indecent broadcasting.

If the federal government is supported by the Supreme Court in defining jurisdiction over the airwaves that include those frequencies used to spew the crap that is the entire output of FOX, then I have as much of a right as a citizen to make the claim that such slanted broadcasts are as indecent as the father who instigated the action by the FCC against Pacifica over Carlin's monologue has.

In addition, these same Justices asserted another aspect of federal oversight over the airwaves and the content so distributed:

The government may forbid speech calculated to provoke a fight.

Take note of this comment of Scott Norvell, directed at the BBC:

"The Beeb's institutionalized leftism would be easier to tolerate if the corporation was a little more honest about it."

I for one would hardly characterize the BBC as 'institutionalized leftism'. While not as blatant as Ann Coulter's inflammatory "Liberals are traitors" comment, such a comment as Norvell's is, in my opinion, nothing more than a bald-faced challenge - and thus speech calculated to provoke a fight.

SLATE author Timothy Noah further builds the case:

Norvell never says the word "conservative" in describing "where [Fox's anchorpeople] stand on particular stories," or what Fox's viewers "know they are getting." But in context, Norvell clearly is using the example of Fox News to argue that political bias is acceptable when it isn't subsidized by the public (as his op-ed's target, the leftish BBC, is [British television is paid for through licensing of TV receivers - ed]), and when the bias is acknowledged.

Such bias by Fox can be demonstrated through the use of an English folk poem from about 1764 - or about the same time period that the government of King George the Third of England was beginning to tyrannize through excessive taxation the American Colonists - the results of which we all still get to cover, however briefly, in our schools today.

But I digress. The poem (unabashedly stolen from former FCC Commissioner Nicholas Johnson's website):

"The Common"

They hang the man and flog the woman
That steal the goose from off the common,
But let the greater villain loose
That steals the common from the goose

So what are we progressive Americans to do about the media situation we find ourselves in? I turn again to our wise commentors:

Now I will be among the first to concede your point that liberals don't always send the most prepared, or articulate people to participate in debates. The liberals have to get better at honing their core-competency--speaking the truth.
- Bad Ass

It's not the job of the Democrat speakers to make [sure] the viewer gets to hear from both sides. Just pretend the microphone is a $100 bill - Do you keep it or hand it to the other guy to make sure he gets to touch it too?
- Scott Butki

There's nothing boring or wimpy about true liberalism and adequate preparation can show this.
- rlprather

This all sounds logical, but as other commentors from the same thread point out, it isn't happening:

Did you hear Randy Rhodes' show last week that was broadcast from DNC headquarters? Unless she was joking, she said they only had a small television in the kitchen that was tuned to a soap opera.
Shouldn't they have a bank of televisions that are monitored 24/7 so they know what's going on and how the Republicans are handling the issues?
I understand that the DNC isn't where most liberals hang out, but this could indicate that our side isn't paying enough attention to the media.

This is why I get frustrated when I read my blogger friends claim they "haven't watched cable news for years."

... a couple of summers ago I saw Joe Biden on Meet the Press. He was asked about the redistricting mess in Texas. He claimed not to know anything about it.

It had been in the blogosphere for several days up to that point, so why hadn't his staff prepared him to talk about it?
... Bill Sher from Liberal Oasis went on MSNBC last week and was asked about the Amnesty gulag comment. He said he didn't know what they were talking about. (Obviously the topic of the segment was supposed to be something else, but he should have been prepared to discuss ANYTHING on the front page of the New York Times). It made him look out-of-touch.

We need an organization that can prep our talking heads; if not with talking points, at least with a digest of the fricking news!

Posted by Susan S at June 3, 2005 04:42 AM

Another commentor offers more examples of why we progressives are losing the media image battle:

I think you have a point about the idea of PREPARING for being on TV/Radio.

A few weeks ago I listened to the Brian Lehrer show on WNYC. The topic was Social Security, aka, the easiest freaking topic in the world for Democrats to defend, and the people discussing it were some typical right wingie guy from the WSJ and Ana Marie Cox of Wonkette.

The guy defended his specious points like a terrier yapping at your heels. Ana Marie Cox was all over the place. She criticized Democrats and Republicans equally. She engaged in meta-media criticism. When asked about the numbers that the WSJ was spouting, she said, "Gee, I wish my father was here, he's the numbers guy." My jaw was dropping. I thought, SO INVITE YOUR FATHER TO COME NEXT TIME, LITTLE GIRL."

Brian Lehrer, who is well-informed, basically had to take on the job of challenging the righty, which was HER job. She was in way over her head.

If she was completely unprepared to discuss the facts of the matter, what the HELL was she doing on that show?

Posted by Alexandra at June 3, 2005 05:21 AM

I couldn't agree more. The war shouldn't be left to amateurs like Ana Marie Cox. So where are the pros?

We have already discussed on this site numerous times prior to this post that the wrong-wing is essentially unchallenged in its control-by-media over the Red States and fundamentalist Christians. Democratic Party operatives - when they try - can still get onto the air and onto the influential 'news' shows and be able to spread the real message about what the Republican party is doing to this nation. Why are so few Democrats out there talking about their proposals to reverse the damage done by the Republican positions on the major issues facing the land? Are they afraid that they will get cut off in mid-sentence?

Should they get the plug pulled while in mid-message, this act also becomes irrefutable evidence to demonstrate that the wrong-wing media is colluding with the Republican party to establish a one-party state, and which is unwilling to allow anyone to challenge their plans by expresing opposing views about these plans.

The recent polls are clearly demonstrating that the American people - even some from the Red States - are beginning to lose respect and support for Bu$hCo. If there is going to be a traditional American nation left on the face of this earth, then the Democrats - the only option we have - have to get up off their loser asses and get moving.

Isn't it a fundamental adage of warfare that one has to know one's opponent? Isn't it a major course in the War College to study all the strategies and tactics of the great military leaders to know how to face up to and defeat an opponent? Why should it be any different when the battle is political - over the minds and loyalties of the American people - and the war is against the abuse of both the world and American traditions? One tactic to study would certainly be to understand how the media is being used as a weapon against progressives, and Fox - as can be demonstrated through Norvell's comments - is among the most blatant in that regard. This should be studied, as Susan S suggests. Watching soap operas doesn't gather intelligence about the battle being waged.

We know that we on The Left Coaster are read by high-level members of the Democratic Party. We have heard directly from people like former-Dean strategist Joe Tripi, and there have to be others who read us who certainly know all the right cell phone numbers. I call upon those to whom this characterization applies to call those in charge of the only viable Bu$hCo opposition party this nation has and ask why Democrats aren't better prepared to know what is going on with the wrong-wing media in this nation and to formulate a winning strategy to counter it.

We have had enough Dieppe Raids on Festung Evangelica. It is time to mount D-Day. Discover the truth - Discern it is truth - and then Distribute it!

Provide enough truth, and even a typical Red Stater can understand it.

Thus can victory be won.

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