Why Is The Edwards Surge Not A Headline Story?

A picture sometimes really is worth a thousand words…

Rassmussen conducts a daily national tracking poll of all presidential candidates. The latest shows John Edwards picking up significantly more support, since the beginning of the year, than any candidate of either party.

The percent change for Republicans is: Huckabee 18.8% / Giuliani 13.3% / McCain 11.8% / Thompson 8.3% / Romney -6.3%.

So why isn’t this news?

Because some networks are more interested in trivialities than substance:
[Chris]Wallace asked a total of five questions, three of which concerned Edwards’ non-appearance on the network.

Because some candidates are unafraid of taking on the media:
Edwards continues to solidify his position as the candidate most committed to media reform and supportive of efforts to rollback consolidation. He has spoken out on many occasions on the need for independence and diversity in the press and he has been a leading voice of opposition to the FCC’s policy of weakening regulations on ownership caps.

Because the media’s pack mentality kicks into high gear when it gets defensive:
They are ultimately afraid that the populist appeal of a movement that truly seeks to bring economic opportunity to every citizen, instead of just the elite, could catch on. That’s why it has to be strangled in the cradle of a candidate who is running third in national polls. The risk extends beyond Edwards himself. If voters responded positively to the issue, the other candidates would adopt it. So even if Edwards does not become a contender, the issue stays on the table.

Because media conglomerates make billions from their political connections:
There doesn’t seem to be an end in sight for the profligate spending on political ads and events. These expenditures are sponsored, for the most part, by mega-corporations with interests in the outcome of the elections.

And because sticking your neck out to curtail media abuse can attract some freshly sharpened axes:
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.

And now the media fails to report the strongest surge of support of any candidate. What a surprise. However, it is important that we do not become sullen and defeatist. We cannot allow the media establishment to lead our nation around by its nose. Just because they have an immense quantity of old-world firepower is no reason to surrender to them. We have new weapons that give us more power than they imagine. The very fact that Edwards’ support has accelerated despite the media resistance, is evidence that the people’s message can be heard over the din of propagandists. We only need to keep our voices and our spirits up.

While the circumstances related above are specific to the campaign of John Edwards, it could (and will) apply to any candidate with the courage to take on entrenched media institutions. So even if Edwards is not your candidate, this is still your fight because your candidate will be next.

Chris Wallace Justifies Fox News Embargo

Chris Wallace has proven once again why John Edwards (and any other Democrat) is thoroughly justified in declining to appear on Rupert Murdoch’s Foxic airwaves.

In a segment that was only three and a half minutes long (video below), Wallace wasted half of it badgering Edwards’ spokesman, Chris Kofinis, about why Edwards wouldn’t come out and play with Wallace. This already too brief interview, on the day of the Iowa caucus, was halved because Wallace was determined to make a self-serving point that could only have been of interest to Fox News insiders. Wallace asked a total of five questions, three of which concerned Edwards’ non-appearance on the network. Here’s the first question:

“Before we get to the caucuses, let me ask you a question. When is Senator Edwards going to stop boycotting the voters who watch Fox News?”

First of all, let’s be clear about who the voters who watch Fox News really are:

“…research revealed that Fox viewers supported George Bush over John Kerry by 88% to 7%. Only Republicans were more united in supporting Bush. Conservatives, white evangelical Christians, gun owners, and supporters of the Iraq war all gave Bush fewer votes than did regular Fox News viewers.”

Secondly, despite Wallace’s dishonest phrasing, Edwards is not boycotting viewers at all. He is sending a clear message to Murdoch and Fox that they cannot repeatedly disparage a party, its members, supporters and ideals, and expect to be received with gracious hospitality.

This exchange is proof that a concerted effort by Democrats to embargo Fox News (see Starve the Beast for more) is both warranted and working. It is warranted because, as you can see in this interview, Fox is more interested in its own affairs than in providing fair access to information. It is working because, as is also apparent, Wallace is obsessed with Edwards’ cold shoulder. If the strategy wasn’t hurting Fox, Wallace would not have spent half his time whining about it. He even came back to his lament at the close of the segment saying:

“Chris Kofinis it’s a pleasure talking to you. It would be even more of a pleasure to talk to your boss, but thank you so much.”

Wallace couldn’t let it go, and there is a reason for that. He knows that this strategy could result in delegitimizing Fox News on a broad scale (yeah I know, delegitimizing Fox News is like dehydrating the Sahara). A reputable news agency is not sustainable if half of its subjects refuse to respect its validity. Wallace knows this and that is why he is so fixated on it and fearful of it. Just last month he resorted to insulting the very constituency he is now pretending to covet:

“I think the Democrats are damn fools [for] not coming on Fox News.”

If that’s an example of how Wallace intends to cajole Democrats into his lair, he may encounter some resistance. However, it is a good example, along with this interview, of why Fox should be considered off-limits by reasonable Democrats and progressives.

John Edwards Not Playing Rupert Murdoch’s Monopoly

John Edwards isn’t shy about letting Rupert Murdoch know how he feels. When asked a question about media consolidation at a recent campaign stop, Edwards said:

“I am not particularly interested in seeing Rupert Murdoch own every newspaper in America.”

Nicely done, John. This answer responds directly to the heart of the question and points an incriminating finger at the industry’s worst offender.

Edwards continues to solidify his position as the candidate most committed to media reform and supportive of efforts to rollback consolidation. He has spoken out on many occasions on the need for independence and diversity in the press and he has been a leading voice of opposition to the FCC’s policy of weakening regulations on ownership caps. He was also the first candidate to refuse to participate in Fox News-sponsored primary debates.

But every time Edwards takes a principled stand, the pundidiots can’t help but crack-wise at Edwards expense. In the item linked above, James Pindell of the Boston Globe follows the Edwards quote with this bit of irrelevancy:

“It should be noted that Edwards received nearly $800,000 in a book contract from one of Murdoch’s companies, HarperCollins.”

Why, pray tell, should that be noted? It is not a political contribution or evidence of electoral support. It is a payment for publishing rights to an author from a book publisher. It is the free market at work. And if anything is notable about it, it is that Edwards will act on his principles even if it is contrary to the interests of corporations who lay out big bucks to do business with him. In other words, they can’t buy him.

This isn’t the first time this canard has been raised. Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post felt it necessary to note the same book deal after Edwards called on his opponents to refuse donations from Murdoch. Never mind that he was not admonishing them to refrain from doing business with News Corp., just from accepting the sort political funding that can be seen as buying influence. And lest anyone think that the book advance in itself has purchased any slice of Edwards’ soul, just look to these statements for proof that his independence and integrity is in tact:

“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.”

“It’s time for all Democrats, including those running for president, to stand up and speak out against this [News Corp./Dow Jones] merger and other forms of 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.”

Contrast that with Hillary Clinton’s qualifying remarks following a rather commendable statement against media consolidation:

“I’m not saying anything against any company in particular. I just want to see more competition, especially in the same markets.”

While Clinton takes pains to soften the blow against her Foxic benefactor, Edwards comes right out and says what he thinks. For this he is often tagged in the press as a phony. That is the same characterization they make of him when he advocates for the poor – something the media apparently believes rich folks should never do. And for his trouble he is ganged up on by sanctimonious pundits that would rather point a finger at targets of their imagined hypocrisy than left a finger to help those less fortunate.

If you’re paying attention it’s easy to see who the phonies really are.

TVNewser Completes Its Descent Into Tabloid Drudgery

Last night on the CBS Evening News, Katie Couric presented another in her series of Primary Questions to the candidates for president of both parties. The question for this installment dealt with marital fidelity and whether it should be a determinative factor when deciding for whom to vote.

This question, while not as elevating to the debate as questions about Iraq, global warming, the economy, or health care might have been, could still have produced some observable squirming from a number of the candidates. But in reporting on Couric’s broadcast, the rapidly deteriorating TVNewser was more interested in propagating rumors than in objective journalism. In an item by Steve Krakauer, who joined TVNewser last month and previously worked for Fox News, two candidates were singled out as having answers that would “be of interest.”

The first was Hillary Clinton, for whom a case could be made for a potentially interesting exchange. Although it should be noted that it was not Hillary, but her husband, who was guilty of infidelity. Since the context of the question was whether someone who was not true to their spouse could be trusted to be true to the country, it really did not apply directly to any behavior on her part. And despite their troubles, a decade has past since the affair and they have managed to keep their marriage and family together.

The second candidate Krakauer cited was John Edwards. And this is where Krakauer demonstrates either a woeful inability to mask his prejudice, or a professional immaturity that borders on incompetence. This is how he presents his next point:

“Also, with reports of a Sen. John Edwards extra-marital affair and subsequent pregnancy, his answer will be looked at more carefully as well.”

By referring to “reports” of Edwards’ “affair” Krakauer implies that there are credible allegations from responsible journalists and sources. The truth is that there is only a single allegation by an anonymous source as reported to the “National Enquirer” (to which I refuse to link) which is nobody’s idea of a responsible journal. And not a single reputable news organization has yet to follow the Enquirer’s smarmy lead, although Matt Drudge headlined it (good company).

The Enquirer’s story is fraught with ambiguity and error. Both Edwards and Rielle Hunter (the alleged other woman) describe the charges as untrue and ridiculous. Hunter, who is pregnant, has identified the father as Andrew Young, with whom she worked on Edwards’ campaign. Young confirmed his paternity, but that didn’t stop the Enquirer from asserting, with no evidence whatsoever, that everybody was just trying to cover up for Edwards. The Enquirer even faulted Edwards for not nipping the scandal in the bud early on by revealing the relationship between Hunter and Young. Of course Edwards could not have done that because he didn’t know anything about the relationship, as Young told the Enquirer.

This is the level of unsubstantiated innuendo that Krakauer pretends is newsworthy. In fact he is engaging in the most vile sort of rumor-mongering. He doesn’t even bother to explicitly inform his readers that his source is the Enquirer (he hides it in a link). And if all of this isn’t bad enough, in an article about the relevance of the breaking of marriage vows, Krakauer smears two candidates for whom there is no evidence of such behavior, but fails to mention others with known multiple marriages (McCain and Thompson) and notorious philandering (Giuliani).

So Krakauer thinks rumors spread by tabloid rags are interesting, but Mayors who keep their mistresses in the Mayor’s residence and use city funds to pay for trysts in the Hamptons are not even worth mentioning. What’s truly interesting and sad is how low TVNewser has sunk and how useless it has become. It is no better now than its new partner the Enquirer or, as I lamented in an earlier article, the Drudge Report. What an embarrassment for everyone involved.

Feel free to let TVNewser know what a pack of ethically-deprived journalistic lowlifes they are:

Chris Ariens, Editor, Exec. Producer
Laurel Touby, Founder, CEO

Bill O’Reilly’s Fair And Balanced Presidential Poll

Bill O’Reilly is currently polling his audience on the presidential candidates. He has completed a survey on the Republican field in which Mike Huckabee prevailed over Giuliani and Romney. Now it’s the Democrats turn. The poll includes only Clinton, Obama and Edwards.

Needless to say, this poll will have absolutely no significance to any campaign and will be illustrative of nothing but O’Reilly’s monstrously disturbed ego. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun with it anyway. After all, it’s not as if we would be violating any of BillO’s journalistic standards:

Throughout the past year, The Fester has been hammering John Edwards as a phony who has sold his soul to the far left. O’Reilly is apoplectic in his ravings about how Edwards is intent on destroying America. I wrote about the media Ganging Up On Edwards last June and it has only intensified since then. For more detail, check out this brand new video from Brave New Films that also features Fox News’ attacks on Barack Obama.

Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to venture to the Forbidden Zone itself and vote for John Edwards. Vote for Edwards whether or not he is the candidate you are supporting. An Edwards victory could be just the thing to send O’Reilly over the edge of the precipice upon which he has been teetering for so long.

The poll is on the front page of BillOReilly.com. I would suggest that you go to Google, or some other neutral site, and type the URL in from there so that O’Reilly’s web minions don’t get curious about a lot of voters coming from this site.

It will be interesting to see how O’Reilly will handle the announcement of an Edwards victory provided by the visitors to his own web domain. He said that he will be announcing the poll results on Thursday (tomorrow), so waste no time in placing your vote. And feel free to enlist your friends and family. We may all finally get to see that vein on his forehead burst.

I can’t think of a better Holiday gift than getting to stick it to The Fester one more time before the new year.

Update: Poll results: Obama – 58 / Edwards – 27 / Clinton – 15.
Second place aint too shabby for Edwards on O’Reilly’s show where he is bashed incessantly.

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.

Starve The Beast

See also
Starve The Beast
Part II and
Part III

The problem with Fox News is not that it’s a right-wing platform for war, intolerance, and greed; it isn’t that it’s spreading propaganda in support of an out-of-control White House that is hoarding unprecedented levels of power; it isn’t that they engage in relentless and unfounded attacks on Democrats, progressives, and the rest of the 72% of Americans that Fox portrays as unpatriotic because they disapprove of Mr. Bush and his war; it isn’t even that it sits at the center of a politically charged media empire run by Rupert Murdoch, a monopolistic ideologue with no allegiance to country or the common good.

Certainly any one of those things would reasonably explain a sharp increase in chronic anxiety, and the combination could set off an epidemic of cerebral aneurysms. But these are not the problems with Fox News.

The problem with Fox News is that people care about Fox News. What I hope to prove here is that it isn’t necessary or useful to do so. They are a constituency whose currency has been devalued by a deliberately constricted field of political viewpoints. In economic terms, the Fox dollar has crashed and it’s time to divest.

The partisan perspective at Fox is not so much a slant as it is a vertical incline. They themselves make little attempt to disclaim their bias. The network adopted its slogan, “Fair and Balanced,” not to signal a practice of evenly weighted reporting, but to indicate their intention to counter a news media that they believed was predominantly liberal. Fox News’ president and chief executive officer, Roger Ailes, even admitted that, “Anybody who says bias does not exist is either lying or stupid.” Not wishing to be cast as either, I’ll take Mr. Ailes at his word and concede that Fox News is biased.

Any evaluation of the social or political impact of that bias is, or course, dependent on the composition of the viewing audience. It would be safe to say that if Sean Hannity broadcast his program into a convention of the Feminist Union Members Against Global Warming, his words would have negligible influence. Obviously, that crowd would be less than receptive to Hannity’s factless fatuousnous. However, he would be equally as ineffectual before an audience of the Pro-life Caucus of the National Rifle Association. While he would be well received, it’s impossible to persuade people to adopt a point of view that they already hold. Consequently, his appearance would produce a net gain of nothing. And the same is true for any Democrat who hopes to profit from appearing on Fox News.

Let’s take a look at the make-up of Fox’s audience. One of the more foreboding characteristics of this group is that they appear to be more loyal to Fox than to Republicans or conservatism. This is a malady that I previously described in The Cult Of Foxonality. Here are three surveys that paint a consistent picture of Fox viewers as a devout congregation of true believers, incapable of critical thought.

  • The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press just completed a study that shows that Republicans are more likely to find fault with the media than non-Republicans. But Republicans for whom Fox is their primary source of news, the number is even higher.
  • World Public Opinion conducted a study in 2005 that proved that Fox viewers were significantly more likely to have misperceptions about the war in Iraq. And viewers who paid more attention were even more misinformed.
  • The Mellman Group’s research revealed that Fox viewers supported George Bush over John Kerry by 88% to 7%. Only Republicans were more united in supporting Bush. Conservatives, white evangelical Christians, gun owners, and supporters of the Iraq war all gave Bush fewer votes than did regular Fox News viewers.

What is there in that assembly that holds value for politicians or pundits of the progressive stripe, save for disdain and abuse? The potential for comrades or converts is so small as to be virtually nonexistent. It is long past time for Democrats to recognize this simple fact and resolve to stop allowing themselves to be used for target practice by disingenuous pseudo-journalists whose purpose is to defame and defeat them in politics and public opinion.

The Democrats that recently declined to participate in a Fox-sponsored primary debate proved that there are no discernible repercussions for exhibiting such moral fortitude.

The sole consequence of their defiance was that the agents of Fox set about to disparage them – again. But Fox would have gone on the attack even if they had agreed to participate. Observe the sample of fairness and balance in the video here, and ask yourself whether John Edwards would be justified in shunning Fox News.

So if going on Fox News can’t help Democrats, and staying off can’t hurt them, why is there still a debate about the future course of action? Here’s why…..

Fox News touts itself as the #1 cable news network. On the surface, that’s a plausibly accurate assertion that creates the illusion that an appearance on Fox is potentially advantageous. But, as shown above, it is not.

The other cable news networks, and even the broadcast and newspaper outfits, are intimidated by Fox’s perceived girth. Apparently this turns them into raging imbeciles who conclude that the way to compete with Fox is by emulating them. This behavior is emblematic of an industry that thrives on plagiarism whether it be inspired by a hit movie, a sitcom, or a pop tune. But you cannot beat Fox by copying it. Fans of Fox’s brand of sludge know good slime when they are wallowing in it and they will not settle for cheap imitations.

To make matters worse, competing networks have misunderstood the nature of Fox’s success and are, thus, copying the wrong components. It is not conservatism that draws viewers to Fox – It is conflict. Fox’s strategy was to dress up news as entertainment, employing a formula that includes drama, humor, sentimentality, suspense, sex, and visual and aural cacophony. All the elements of a good, escapist movie-of-the-week. And entertainment has always been a better ratings magnet than news. However…

The ratings story is a fraud. By accepting the premise of an all-powerful Fox Dynasty, everyone from their competitors to their critics to their guests, and even their hosts, are falling prey to a myth. While Fox is indeed the leader in average audience share, when measured by cumulative audience, CNN still beats Fox by delivering more unique viewers (see more here and here). Additionally, the relative performance of cable news is still far below that of its broadcast cousins. Even SpongeBob SquarePants has a bigger audience than Fox’s #1 show, the O’Reilly Factor.

So there goes the only remaining weapon in Fox’s arsenal. It should now be clear that Fox is neither a gateway to valuable audience exposure, nor a hospitable port for wayward Democrats. The way is now clear to steer wide of Fox News altogether. This new course can lead to a number of considerable benefits.

The O’Reilly Interview 101

Ask direct yes or no questions where one answer is clearly reprehensible and the other is totally meaningless, and bully your guest into responding.
“Do you want the U.S. to lose in Iraq? Well, do you?”
Create an association with an unpopular (preferably mischaracterized) opinion with the broadest attribution possible.
“Do you agree with Harry Belafonte, and the rest of the liberal establishment, that Venezuela should take over America?”
Never concede on substance, even if your arguments are demonstrably false.
“Saddam Hussein did too meet with Osama Bin Laden at Michael Moore’s compound in Libya – Twice.”
Employ ad hominims liberally.
“Why should anyone listen to a radical, Kool-Aid drinking, far-left loon like you?”
Shout louder than your guests and interrupt frequently, especially when they are making a good point.
[Inspired by KimChi]

Stop the Masochism
First and foremost, it would put an end to the unnecessary submission to assaults from disreputable smearcasters with demonstrably hostile intentions. Bill O’Reilly is the premium model for such encounters. It is impossible to win a debate with him because he doesn’t care about winning. He is only concerned with generating the sort of heat that fuels his ego and his ratings. He only books three types of guests: Those who agree with him; those he can dominate; and those he can exploit. Don’t be one of them.

The Sinking of Fox
The loss of Democrats as foils would transform the character of Fox’s conflict-driven programming, resulting in less controversy and, hence, lower ratings. Viewers would quickly become bored with repeated appearances by Fred Barnes, Michelle Malkin, Dick Morris, and Geraldo Rivera. Minus the shoutfests, and the potential for on-air meltdowns, there is no reason to watch Fox. Neil Cavuto is already whining about his inability book A-list Democrats, and O’Reilly has made it a staple of his program to lambaste no-shows as cowards. That’s a desperation move on his part because he knows he can’t force guests into his inquisitor’s lair. When the entertainment value of Fox disappears, so will its audience, its ratings, and its cache in the media.

Deprive Fox of Bragging Rights
One of the most galling traits of Fox personalities is the way they use their ratings to validate their disinformation agenda. But even if the ratings story weren’t a myth as described above, they still have a flawed argument. McDonald’s is the #1 restaurant in America. I don’t think that anyone interprets that to mean that they have the best food. What they have is the cheapest crap that is loaded with filler and seasoning to appeal to the largest number of consumers with the least sophisticated taste (Hey, that’s a pretty good description of Fox News). Absent their ratings victories, however, they can’t even make this flawed argument.

Affirm Fox’s Lack of Credibility
The mere act of not showing up sends a message that Fox is not deserving or reputable. By sequestering Fox they will be left to themselves and their minions to dispense their McNews. It will make it that much more obvious to observe how they are attempting to denigrate their ideological opponents and to manipulate popular opinion.

Encourage More Responsible Journalism
By using discretion when formulating a media strategy, Democrats can strike a blow in favor of a more honest and independent press. It does not further the goals of ethical journalism to accommodate deceitful practitioners. Conversely, it does advance such goals to purposefully engage media who adhere to higher standards. What’s bad for Fox is good for journalism.

Rupert Murdoch and his rightist platform for propaganda must not be further appeased. All previous efforts to abate the influence of Fox News have failed because they generally reserved a place for Fox in the effort. This has to stop. It’s time to go cold turkey.

Starve The Beast
The solution is obvious. Democrats and progressives have got to swear off Fox News. They must decline all interviews. They must stay off of that tainted air. They must avoid the Stuttering Jesse’s (Watters, O’Reilly’s producer) that are resorting to ambush interviews. They must continue to refuse to participate in Foxic events like debates or forums. And if they find themselves trapped in an appearance from which they cannot escape, they must be certain to pepper their remarks with the truth about Fox. Let the audience know that this network is degrading public discourse and leading viewers astray. And don’t let the bullies steer the dialog.

Progressive politicians and pundits must be called upon to heed this advice. It is more than just a request. It is an obligation. Every time one of our representatives appears on Fox, they are setting back our agenda. They are not just wasting a little time trying to confront the enemy in its lair. They are literally causing harm to the efforts of the rest of us who are fervently struggling to repair and improve our country. Anyone in our political provinces who betrays our mission by succumbing to the Fox siren should be firmly scolded and educated as to the damage they are inflicting.

I propose that we have a routine response to the weak and the fraternizers. If you should spot one of them across enemy lines, send them a link to this article with this introduction:

Please stop hurting our cause by appearing on Fox News. Rupert Murdoch and his media megaphone is openly hostile to our agenda and our representatives. They will only use your appearance to distort your message and derail our mission. Studies have proven that their audience is unreceptive, and even antagonistic, to us. Your appearance will be rewarded more with ridicule than respect.

I therefore request that you refrain from such appearances in order that you not do further damage to the goals we share by helping to strengthen the foremost advocate of our defeat.

If we can build a united front against the lies and insults that are the daily repast on Fox, we can also start to reform the broader media landscape that is bewitched by Fox’s aura. And it is long past time that we break this sorcerer’s spell.

See also the update: Starve The Beast: Appetite For Distortion

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.

Media Gangs Up On John Edwards

In the past couple of weeks, the press has taken a decidedly negative turn on John Edwards. The ferocity of the attacks and the diversity of their origin is curious, to say the least. Their obsession with housing and haircuts and speaking fees has become all-consuming. This media phenomenon was apparent to media critic and author Jeff Cohen who wrote:

“The focus on these topics tells us two things about corporate media. One we’ve long known – that they elevate personal stuff above issues. The other is now becoming clear – that they have a special animosity toward Edwards.”

Edwards is receiving treatment that is generally reserved for front-runners like Clinton, Obama, or Giuliani. Here is a sampling of the assault:

Jonah Goldberg: “[Edwards] gives new meaning to the term “poverty pimp.”

USA Today: “Edwards, most prominently, has undermined his passionate advocacy for ordinary Americans by seeming to be anything but ordinary himself. Expensive haircuts reinforce the elitist image of a wealthy trial lawyer…”

Sean Hannity: “[Edwards isn’t] up to the task of understanding the nature in the battle in the war that’s being waged against us.”

Jim Cramer (on Hardball): “[Edwards is] public enemy #1.”

Bill O’Reilly: “The former vice presidential candidate has sold his soul to far left interests […] Edwards is running a preposterous campaign. He lives like a sultan in a 30,000 foot North Carolina house […] Talking Points tries to respect all of those who want to serve their country, but Edwards is an exception. I have no respect for him. He’s a phony and is in the tank for special interests to damage this country.”

As an added bonus, O’Reilly offers swag for sale at his web site about which he says, “remember, when you buy anything on BillOReilly.com, a good portion of what you spend goes to charities, send a lot of kids, poor kids to camp this summer.”

Is O’Reilly a hypocrite as well because he is a multi-millionaire advocating help for poor kids? I might have a little more sympathy for these arguments if any of Edwards’ critics placed even a fraction of the effort on behalf of America’s poor that Edwards does. Edwards himself posed this question in response to these criticisms:

“Would it have been better if I had done well and didn’t care?”

This whole line of attack seems preposterous to me. First of all it is implying that you cannot be wealthy and concerned about the poor at the same time. If that’s true, it exempts about 90% of Congress and every presidential candidate, Democrat or Republican, except for Dennis Kucinich. Secondly, it is a rejection of the American Dream that holds that everyone can share in this nation’s prosperity; everyone except John Edwards, who is to be pilloried for the audacity of being born poor but achieving great wealth through hard work and determination.

You have to wonder why Edwards is getting hit so hard from so many directions. Jeff Cohen believes it has something to do with Edwards’ criticism of corporate-driven trade policies. Certainly that position would anger the captains of industry that wield so much influence in American government. And remember, many of those captains are at the helm of media conglomerates. It was probably not lost on those folks that Edwards was the first Democrat to refuse to participate in the Fox debate.

But I think that just brushes the surface of their objections. I think it goes much deeper into the matter of the class distinctions raised by Edwards’ “Two Americas” campaign. They are ultimately afraid that the populist appeal of a movement that truly seeks to bring economic opportunity to every citizen, instead of just the elite, could catch on. That’s why it has to be strangled in the cradle of a candidate who is running third in national polls. The risk extends beyond Edwards himself. If voters responded positively to the issue, the other candidates would adopt it. So even if Edwards does not become a contender, the issue stays on the table. This fear has already been articulated by Nina Easton of Fortune Magazine to Brit Hume on Fox:

“Well, I think the most interesting thing about these speeches was the extent to which both candidates borrowed from the No. 2 candidate we saw there, John Edwards […] to me it’s like they’re all joined at the hip on domestic policy”

It isn’t Edwards that they are all afraid of. It is economic populism, fair trade, and, in the end, the American Dream. That’s what the media and their mouthpieces in politics and punditry are trying to kill.

How To Handle Fox News

The Politico speculates that Fox News might retaliate against John Edwards for his principled stand against participating in debates sponsored by the network devoted to defeating Democrats. But it doesn’t require much imagination because Fox has already stooped to issuing veiled threats directed at independent minded politicians:

“Any candidate for high office from either party who believes he can blacklist any news organization is making a terrible mistake about journalists.” ~ Roger Ailes, Fox CEO.

To which I would respond:

“Any news organization who believes they can smear any candidate for high office from either party is making a terrible mistake about democracy.”

Roger Ailes is not someone to whom I would turn for advice on journalistic ethics. This is, after all, the same man who said, with a shamelessly straight face…

“The greatest danger to journalism is a newsroom or a profession where everyone thinks alike.”

Then he hires Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, John Gibson, Fred Barnes, Neil Cavuto, Tony Snow, Brit Hume, John Moody, etc. Now that the right wing tunnel vision that plagues Fox has resulted in the objects of their scorn declining to submit to the abuse, Fox gets cranky.

Earlier this year, the publicist for Joan Baez protected her client from a pre-Grammy assault by Mike Straka, VP and Executive Producer of FOXNews.com. Straka wrote of his surprise at being avoided, saying…

“she was on her way over to talk to Anita Vogel and me when her publicist whisked her away shouting, “They’re FOX. We don’t talk to FOX.”

Imagine that. Straka, the author of “Grrr! Celebrities Are Ruining Our Country,” was surprised that a celebrity didn’t want to talk to him. Sounds like an alert publicist to me.

So what’s wrong with the Congressional Black Caucus who, despite having been rejected by Edwards, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton, insist that their Fox-sponsored Democratic primary debate is still on:
“As a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization, the CBC Institute is holding the debates to help educate African-Americans and others on key issues of national policy.”

I submit that the CBC could go a lot further to help educate African-Americans by refusing to be exploited by a network that has repeatedly slandered them. And if they really think that debates on Fox represent…

“…a unique and rare opportunity for the candidates to present their message and ideas to millions of voters in a manner that is unfiltered by any political or news organization.”

Well, I’d just have to conclude that they are acutely naive.

It’s nice to see that the Edwards camp isn’t caving in to Fox’ tantrums. Edwards’ aide Jonathan Prince, responding to the prospect of vengeance from a spurned Fox, said:

“What are they going to do? The more that they behave outrageously, the more they show that they’re not a legitimate objective source of news.”

Bingo! If there is anyone who is still intimidated by the cable news neighborhood bully, this is all you need to know. It is now safe to stand up for honest reporting and unbiased coverage. Fox can’t persist with their defamatory behavior and expect their targets to stay silent and absorb the blows. And they can’t fight back either because it would just confirm their image as antagonistic and ideologically slanted.

The jig is up. Fear not, for there is no wizard behind the curtain. If you stand up to Fox, Fox will stand down – or fall down, flat on its face.