John Edwards Takes On The Media

Now he’s done it. John Edwards has unleashed the hounds of hell and will face certain and swift punishment for his petulance. By daring to tell the truth about the risks posed by runaway media consolidation, Edwards now must keep an alert eye over both shoulders. From his web site:

“News Corp’s purchase of the Dow Jones Co. and The Wall Street Journal should be the last straw when it comes to media consolidation. The basis of a strong democracy begins and ends with a strong, unbiased and fair media – all qualities which are pretty hard to subscribe to Fox News and News Corp.”

He goes on to call on all candidates to refuse contributions from the Dark Empire of Lord Murdoch, and to return any donations already received. For the most part, that call is directed straight at Hillary Clinton, who counts Murdoch as a supporter and fund-raiser.

But rather than become defensive, Clinton and the other candidates should stake out their own positions on media reform. To date, Edwards is the only candidate to take a position on the excessive powers that the media have assembled. By overtly challenging the media’s ravenous appetite for consolidation, Edwards is demonstrating a rare courage to seek reforms that are truly in the public interest. But he is also painting a target on his back.

The media are a formidable foe and they don’t like to be challenged. Witness the campaign of Gov. Howard Dean. Early in his campaign for the 2004 nomination, he appeared on Hardball where Chris Matthews asked if he would break up the powerful media conglomerates:

Dean: “The answer to that is yes. I would say there is too much penetration by single corporations in media markets all over this country.”

Dean went on to say that he would appoint commissioners to the FCC that:

“…believe democracy depends on getting information from all portions of the political spectrum, not just one.”

We all saw what happened to Gov. Dean. His fall from being the front-runner in the Democratic Party to an object of ridicule almost overnight, was entirely the work of a frightened and panicked media. This may be a forecast of what awaits Edwards as he steps into the most shark-infested waters of politics. However, it is exactly this kind of commitment to the principles of freedom that we must demand of our representatives.

Edwards has been more successful in guiding the public debate than in raising his chances for the nomination. He has maneuvered the issues of health care and poverty into the spotlight when no one else was talking about them. One can only hope that he will have the same effect bringing the media’s malignancies into view. He had better, for his own sake. Without widespread support for this issue and/or his candidacy, the media will grind him up and spit him out. Or worse, from a political perspective…they will ignore him.