In a reprise of last April’s Tea Party propaganda campaign, Fox News is once again heavily promoting the latest Astroturf movement by rightist opponents of the administration. This episode of tea baggery is focusing specifically on health care reform.
Recall last April, when Fox News not only aired millions of dollars worth of free publicity for the Tea Baggers, they also assigned their anchors to host the events. Neil Cavuto in Sacramento. Greta Van Susteren in DC. Sean Hannity in Atlanta. Glenn Beck in San Antonio.
The latest promotional effort is already underway. One of the first assignments is Griff Jenkins (Bill O’Reilly’s ambush specialist) who is actually tagging along with the Tea Party Express bus tour. His reports consist of unabashed cheerleading for what he falsely identifies as a grassroots movement (It’s more like grassROTS. After all, these people don’t care much for nature). The Express is winding its way across America. paid for by the Our Country Deserves Better PAC, an organization headed by far-right talk radio host Mark Williams.
But the “fair and balanced” network is demonstrating its bias by ignoring another bus tour that is generating as much or more popular appeal as the Tea Baggers. This project, sponsored by Organizing for America and Health Care Reform Now, is taking a similar path across the country, stopping along the way for rallies, and is scheduled to wrap up in Washington, D.C. on September 13, one day after the Tea Baggers. OFA has reported brisk attendence of their events so far:
“…hundreds of health insurance reformers [in Milwaukee] […] Earlier today, more than 3,000 reformers gathered in New York City with the same message of hope. One thousand came out in Portland. Another 1,800 are finishing up a reform event in Austin, Texas. And, nearly 800 rallied for health insurance reform in Fargo, North Dakota today.
“These crowds come on the heels of last night’s 1,500-plus reformers gathering in Denver, Thursday’s 1,000 plus rally in Albuquerque and another 1,100 on Wednesday night in Phoenix”
With turnout like that, these events are at least as newsworthy as those by the tea bag/insurance lobby. Yet Fox News has invoked a virtual blackout on any news of reform activists. Not only do they not have someone like Griff Jenkins riding along with the reform bus, they haven’t even reported that the effort exists (except for a couple of tangential and backhanded references). What might the media landscape look like if there were an alternative to the overtly partisan Fox News that published something like this:
I harbor no illusions that anything like that will happen. It isn’t an accident that Fox News is ignoring these events – it’s deliberate. They have a vested interest in keeping this information from their viewers. In addition, they surely don’t want to raise the profile of these events for fear that it might enhance turnout. So Fox has committed to suppressing coverage as part of their political agenda.
What would it take to get Fox News to assign a reporter to the Reform Now bus tour? Could any amount of phone calls or emails turn the trick? Could a sustained campaign of exposing and/or ridiculing Fox for their journalistic dishonesty result in a reporter (even a biased one) embedded with the reformists? Probably not. But here’s another question: What would it take for the rest of the media to cover the reform bus tour? Because they aren’t in the game either.
There are going to be two events on the weekend of September 12 and 13. One of them is getting premium promotional services from a major television network and its extended media platforms in print, radio, and online. The other is not. It’s impossible to predict the attendance for either of these rallies, but if progressives could draw more reform advocates in spite of the media imbalance, it would go a long way toward educating our representatives, and the press, as to where the people really stand on this issue.
Your assignment, if you chose to accept it, is to get to D.C., if you possibly can, on September 13. If that’s not possible, get to a local reform event. And by all means contact every media outlet, not just Fox, and ask them why they are not covering this truly grassroots movement.
The Organizing for America Action Center:
Where you can find local events and send letters to your local and national newspapers.