The Stephen Colbert Campaign Catches Fire

Since announcing his intention to seek the nomination of both parties for President of the United States, Stephen Colbert has demonstrated a deft media strategy (appearing on Meet the Press, Larry King, etc) and popular appeal. In the first poll to be released since his announcement he shows both strength and promise. Here are the results:

Candidate: Percent:
Clinton 40
Obama 19
Edwards 12
Biden 2.7
Colbert 2.3
Richardson 2.1
Kucinich 2.1
Gravel <1.0
Colbert has surged ahead of New Mexico governor Bill Richardson and is threatening Sen. Joe Biden in the Democratic primary. On the Republican side he is lagging in Tancredo territory.

What this suggests is that Colbert may be the conservative candidate best able to make inroads into Democratic and Independent ranks. These early poll results should tell the rest of the field that voters are anxious for new ideas and are looking for candidates who espouse Truthiness as opposed to the same old so-called “facts” that are scattered by pundits and spinners.

Congratulations Stephen, and good luck.


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Olbermann Tops O’Reilly Again

It happened again last Friday. Keith Olbermann’s Countdown beat Bill O’Reilly’s Factor in the key 25-54 demo. And this time it was without the benefit of an NBC appearance to boost Olbermann’s numbers.

10/19/07 5p: 6p: 7p: 8p: 9p: 10p: 11p:
FNC BigStory: Hume: Shep: O’Reilly: H&C: Greta: O’Reilly:
  143 201 257 238 248 253 218
CNN Blitzer: Dobbs: Blitzer: Honest: King: Cooper: Cooper:
  197 229 190 172 283 136 150
MSNBC Hardball: Tucker: Hardball: Countdo.: Investig.: Investig.: Investig.:
  110 58 113 263 186 251 325

O’Reilly has been chalking up some high numbers recently, but he is still vulnerable and Olbermann is still growing at a much faster rate.



John Edwards’ Letter To The FCC

Responding to the FCC’s proposed new rules for media ownership, John Edwards has written a letter addressed to Commission chairman Kevin Martin. Like his predecessor Michael Powell (Colin’s boy), Martin has drafted a set of rules aimed at advancing the interests of Big Media conglomerates and permitting them to get even bigger and more powerful. Powell’s initiative was halted by over three million Americans rising up to oppose the media’s power play and now we have to do it all over again.

The letter Edwards sent is a great way to reignite this fire. Edwards is showing the sort of leadership that is in short supply in Washington. He is the only candidate of either party to speak so forcefully on behalf of a diverse and independent media.

Some excerpts:

“I urge you to cease your efforts to radically rewrite the rules preventing excessive media consolidation. You and your fellow commissioners have the responsibility to ensure that our nation’s media is open, democratic and as diverse as the American people, and not – like too much of our economy and our political system today – dominated by the wealthiest Americans, large corporations and their lobbyists.”

“The result of all this over-concentration, Mr. Chairman, is a poorer democracy, with a few loud corporate voices drowning out independent perspectives and local participation.”

“High levels of media consolidation threaten free speech, they tilt the public dialogue towards corporate priorities and away from local concerns, and they make it increasingly difficult for women and people of color to own meaningful stakes in our nation’s media.”

This is the kind of courageous and principled action that we ought to be getting from all of our candidates and representatives. Who do they think they are representing anyway? It certainly is not the people if they continue to act on behalf of giant multinational corporations that are only interested in their own wealth and power.

John Edwards deserves a lot of credit for getting in front of this train. The media is quite capable of ruining the reputation and electoral prospects of candidates they oppose or fear – just ask Howard Dean. I urge everyone to reward Edwards with support, donations, or just a few kind words of appreciation. But it is just as important to let the other primary candidates and current members of Congress hear from us about this. We must flood their email boxes and jam their phones. Visit Stop Big Media for more information and assistance with contacting your representatives.


Rejected PBS Documentary To Air On Fox News

The “Islam vs. Islamists,” episode of the PBS series “America at a Crossroads” is now scheduled to air on The Fox News Network. PBS had declined to broadcast the segment because they deemed it “alarmist” and “overreaching.” That description must have made Fox’s mouth water. Seeing as how alarmist and overreaching is the stock in trade for Fox, they probably couldn’t have signed this deal fast enough.

The Fox airing will bundle the documentary into a program that will also include interviews of the producers, giving them a platform from which to bash PBS as a bastion of liberal bias. Never mind that the president of the Corporation For Public Broadcasting, Patricia S. Harrison, is a former chair of the Republican National Committee. She was installed by the thoroughly corrupt Kenneth Tomlinson. The bashing of PBS has already begun .

This broadcast follows similar projects by Fox, airing or reporting on discredited or otherwise unreliable programs including:

Seems like Fox is ratcheting up their already prodigious propaganda machine.


Fox Business Network: Porn And Patriotism

The new Fox Business Network has launched and is rapidly proving itself to be faithful to the Murdochian Doctrine of Porn & Patriotism. It’s a business model that aims directly at America’s horny nationalists.Now they are narrowing their target to horny nationalistic investors. Is there really an audience for “America’s Next Top Business Models?” While I admit to taking some liberties with the ad at the left (here is the original ad), the slogan at the top (Your second opinion arrives today) is unadulterated and is an admission that Fox traffics in opinion, not news. And I wonder why they chose to include the World Trade Center Towers in the background.

Well, the early reviews are in and they are affirming the net’s vapid approach to journalism as pioneered by the Fox News Channel. First at the gate to critique the new net is its godfather, Rupert Murdoch:

“It’s two and a half to three days old and looks just terrific. Everybody, even in the industry, (recognizes) how different it is to CNBC, which is half-dead,”

You might wonder why Murdoch is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to enter a business whose top performer is “half dead.” And if CNBC, with a potential audience of 90 million households is half dead, than what’s so terrific about FBN which passes only 30 million homes?

[Speaking of terrific: FBN launched on Monday. The Dow was down every day this week. Total loss for the week was 517.06. Coincidence?]

Brian Lowry at Variety has the most humorous take on FBN. And it’s funny because it’s true. Lowry highlights one of FBN’s strengths pointing out that they “trump CNBC’s ‘money honey’ with a veritable money hive.” He mocks the network’s reliance on Stepford anchors in short skirts interviewing patrons of Myfreeimplants.com. But he hits his stride describing the network’s patented political prejudice:

“…the channel has enjoyed solid initial access to CEOs and Republican officials, and Neil Cavuto – the signature primetime voice – practically crawled into GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s lap to be read a no-new-taxes bedtime story.”

Ronald Grover at Business Week delivers a column that is mostly complimentary, although the features that Grover praises might be considered flaws by most discerning viewers. For example, he is enthralled by a segment wherein anchor David Asman attacks Democrats. Even though he concedes that Asman’s analysis is faulty, Grover says, “Who cares?” because he was entertained by it. I’m not certain that other viewers will be so forgiving. Grover himself engages in some faulty analysis describing why he thinks that FBN will succeed:

“Murdoch clearly wants to bring business to Main Street, NASCAR, and younger folks who like to mix stock chatter with their after-hour cocktails.”

Does Grover really believe there is a huge under-served audience of young NASCAR fans hankering to yak about the stock market? Does Murdoch? If that’s their target demo they might be better off actually launching a patriotic pornography channel. Oh, wait a minute…That would be the Fox News Network.

Other news outlets offered up dueling headlines. Reuters declares that “Fox Business launches to lukewarm review.” Analyst Andrew Tyndall found the network “hard to watch” and observed that…

“They appear to have a rooting interest in prices going up. It’s normally not a good sign of journalism when you’re rooting for an outcome.”

However, the devoutly conservative WebProNews blares, “Fox Business Channel Getting Positve Reviews.” Despite using the plural “Reviews,” the WebPro article only cited one from AP, and that review was hardly a vote of confidence:

“They went on the air, played it straight and people were giving information whenever I tuned in – that’s about as successful as you can be on your first day,”

Further diluting the WebPro case is the fact that the Syracuse University professor quoted above, Robert Thompson, was also quoted in the Reuters article saying:

“I don’t think this will change the entire landscape of American TV as we know it. So far, this morning, it’s not been terribly exciting.”

Not an auspicious week for the fledgling network. But one thing we know about Murdoch is that he is more than willing to wait out tough spots and to deficit finance operations pretty much indefinitely. FNC was in the red for the majority of its short lifespan, and the New York Post has lost money for as long as Murdoch has owned it. If it costs him money to spread his propaganda, he’s got it, and he’ll spend it.

That’s why the monopolistic media environment in this country is so dangerous. We have billionaire moguls who concentrate power and exploit it to advance their agenda. In Murdoch’s case, he will even use soft-core titillation and America’s pride to manipulate public opinion. And that’s why it is so important to Stop Big Media from gaining even more power courtesy of the FCC’s proposed new ownership rules.

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FCC Still Shilling For Big Media

From the New York Times:

“The head of the Federal Communications Commission has circulated an ambitious plan to relax the decades-old media ownership rules, including repealing a rule that forbids a company to own both a newspaper and a television or radio station in the same city.”

“Kevin J. Martin, chairman of the commission, wants to repeal the rule in the next two months – a plan that, if successful, would be a big victory for some executives of media conglomerates.”

The New York Times, a big media conglomerate, is severely understating the impact of these proposed rules. By relaxing ownership caps, the FCC will be exacerbating a problem that is already destroying free and diverse media in this country. In the past 25 years, the number of companies that controlled the majority of media output plunged from 50 to 5. The FCC thinks that that is a positive trend and is doing its best to sustain and advance it.

This is not the first time the FCC has taken such steps. The previous chairman, Michael Powell, tried to ram through similar rules but was beat back by the public and reversed by the courts. Martin is pretending to rectify Powell’s errors by staging events ostensibly to collect public opinion. However, he is now brazenly ignoring that opinion.

A year ago the FCC held hearings in Los Angeles that demonstrated a passionate opposition to further consolidation. The audience was probably 90+ percent opposed to relaxing ownership caps. That story was repeated in seven more cities where the FCC brought its show. Now Martin is justifying his proposed new rules by claiming that they were drafted with input from the public. The only problem is that nowhere in his proposal are the public’s views represented. It’s as if they never existed.


Tell the FCC: Stop Big Media
The FCC’s genuflection to Big Media was blocked last time because Americans in unprecedented numbers demanded fairness and independence. We must do so again. Sen. Byron L. Dorgan has long been a leader in this fight. Let him know that you appreciate his courage in taking on the media, an institution that could do him much harm. Also, visit FreePress and its affiliate Stop Big Media. Their site is stocked with information and tools to help you be an effective advocate for media reform.

This is a serious matter and demands a commitment to fight. Chairman Martin is determined to reward his Big Media patrons. No matter what other issue you are involved with, it is this issue that shapes the outcome. You cannot end the war in Iraq, or pass universal health care, or advance environmental protections, or [fill in the blank] without access to media that is responsible and accountable to citizens. It’s time to get to work…again.


Who’s Minding The Internet?

Larry Craig (R-Restroom) told Matt Lauer last night that he has never used the Internet:

“Matt, you won’t believe this. But I don’t use the Internet. I don’t have a computer at my desk. I’ve never used the Internet. It’s just not what I do.”

That’s funny, because Craig is a member of the Congressional Internet Caucus. ThinkProgress has more evidence that Craig is an unabashed liar. But this item sticks out for the way it typifies Washington. How does someone who has never used the Internet get into the Internet Caucus?

This may not be as bad as Mark Foley (R-Perv) being in charge of the House pages program, but it is still troubling.


Media: We Don’t Torture … Republicans

In June of 2005, Sen. Richard Durbin made this statement on the Senate floor with regard to a recent FBI memo about treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay:

“If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime — Pol Pot or others — that had no concern for human beings.”

Despite the fact that that was an entirely plausible description of how someone might perceive the memo were it read to them blind, Republicans, with their accomplice the media, went on the attack, accusing Durbin of having offended the whole of our military. Of course, he did no such thing, but that didn’t stop the press from magnifying the accusations until Durbin felt compelled to apologize for remarks that were thoroughly appropriate.

In today’s confirmation hearing for Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasey, Sen. Leahy asked Mukasey about the “Bybee memo” which defined torture so narrowly that anything short of crucifixion would not qualify. Mukasey unflinchingly denounced the memo with an allusion to the Holocaust. He said that the memo was…

“…worse than a sin, it’s a mistake.” And referencing photos of U.S. troops liberating Nazi concentration camps he said, “They didn’t do that so we could duplicate what we oppose.”

Either Durbin’s apology was an unnecessary gesture forced on him by partisan politicos and press, or Mukasey is a treasonous defiler of America’s forces fighting for freedom around the world.

Which is it, Media? Is it only Democrats who are subject to criticism for raising the atrocities of World War II? Are Republicans exempt from this linguistic scrutiny? I suppose we’ll be seeing Mukasey issuing a tearful apology in the next day or so.


Dow Jones Is Already Murdoch’s Bitch

The Fox Business Network launched yesterday in a manner that affirmed its mission to dumb down business news and to manipulate information for the benefit of itself or its agenda.

Emblematic of their reputation for low-brow, prurient exploitation, they managed to squeeze in an interview of the financial wizard on your left: The Naked Cowboy. This is typical of the Fox Filosophy that glorifies ignorance. It may be why Fox viewers think Bush is smart. On previous occasions Neil Cavuto, FBN’s managing editor, has called on such business luminaries as Tommy Chong to comment on immigration, or MTV dinosaur Kurt Loder to explain health care legislation. And we must not forget notable appearances by Ted Nugent, Kinky Friedman, and a plethora of porn stars and Hooters waitresses.

Also on FBN’s birthday, it appears that News Corp improperly used its influence to interfere with the business of its top rival. CNBC had purchased ads on Marketwatch.com and the Wall Street Journal’s website. Unfortunately for CNBC, both of those sites are owned by Dow Jones which has recently agreed to be acquired by News Corp. Consequently, not only did the ads not run, but ads for FBN ran in their place. It must be noted here that the Dow Jones acquisition has not actually been finalized and News Corp has no managerial authority of them. Nonetheless, someone made the decision to break CNBC’s contract and reward Fox with the spoils. Spokespersons for Fox were unable to adequately explain how or why this happened, but it doesn’t take a Blue Ribbon Commission to figure it out.

This sort of editorial intervention wouldn’t pass muster in a high school newspaper. Fox is generously providing all the evidence that anyone would need to conclude that this new network will be as manipulative, dishonest, and unethical as the Fox News Channel has always been. And it was particularly decent of them to do it all on the first day of broadcasting.