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THE LIBERAL MEDIA
By David Podvin
Conservatives insist that the major problem with American politics is the bias of the liberal mainstream media, but the liberal mainstream media is a childish myth, not unlike unicorns or leprechauns or William Bennett’s virtue. The real problem is that democracy becomes a farce when votes are cast based on corporate propaganda, and in a nation where a network anchorman recently was fired for telling the truth about his employer’s amoral political benefactor, corporate propaganda is the coin of the realm.
As George Soros and other wealthy Democrats analyze the best ways to subsidize the improvement of the American political system, they should realize that nothing would improve this country more than having a powerful liberal media to counteract the reportorial charlatans of the Fortune 500. If journalists were allowed to expose the Republican Party’s blatant criminality, the conservative movement would quickly be discredited and disempowered. As a result, there would be no wars of conquest resulting in massive loss of innocent human life. The Treasury would not be looted for the benefit of multinational conglomerates. Federal judgeships would not be reserved for segregationists and theocrats. The environment would not be used as an industrial septic tank.
Ralph Nader does not know it, but the absence of evil is a truly wonderful thing.
Yet rather than finding a method for circumventing the corporate media blackout on reality, the Soros group reportedly is inclined to channel its resources towards liberal think tanks and policy groups. While these institutions are worthwhile adjuncts to a political movement, the compelling need of American liberalism is the ability to communicate directly with the public. That objective cannot be accomplished by sending well-prepared progressive spokespeople onto Meet The Press where Tim Russert will twist their words.
Since the mainstream media is irredeemably corrupt, liberals need to have their own communications infrastructure. The dominant medium in the United States is television, so to communicate effectively the progressive cause requires a national TV network that unapologetically presents each day’s events from the liberal perspective. The narratives must be kept simple and feature good guys versus bad guys because for most Americans nuance is a foreign language.
It is imperative that the network resist the liberal compulsion to value fairness over effectiveness. This nation is in the midst of a great philosophical civil war, and conservatives are waging that war using any means at their disposal. Although liberals can win without adopting the tactics of the right wing, it is necessary to relinquish the idea that there is a unilateral obligation to honor the Marquis of Queensbury rules.
Embracing the competitive spirit exemplified by Fox, the liberal network must aggressively emphasize those issues that reflect favorably reflect upon progressives and damage the other side. There should be an unrelenting focus on the decadence of the Republican Party and the inherent immorality of conservatism. Just as Fox presents “debates” between Sean Hannity and Alan Colmes, its progressive counterpart should not hesitate to feature nightly intellectual slugfests pitting resolute liberals against hapless conservatives.
A liberal broadcasting network would act as a braking mechanism on right wing disinformation campaigns, and that would severely inhibit the proliferation of conservative urban myths. There should be entire shows devoted to reviewing the other networks’ broadcasts for the purpose of fact correction, with a permanent debunking unit specifically designed to spring into action whenever the corporate media practices character assassination against liberals.
The key is to present these features entertainingly. In America, journalism is show business, as is politics, which gives progressives an enormous edge. Show business has always been dominated by liberals because conservatives have difficulty presenting an entertaining product: creativity and psychosis tend to be mutually exclusive characteristics. It is no coincidence that the litany of right wingers in the performing arts always reads like a minor league roster. Creative liberal news programs would become far more influential than the boring pseudo-journalistic sewage currently polluting the airwaves.
The liberal network must also have a division that produces drama and comedy to proselytize the progressive viewpoint. A worthy dramatic prototype is The Lou Grant Show, which appeared on CBS from 1977-1982. Starring Edward Asner, the series was a brilliant combination of entertainment and information, with storylines that examined the flaws of American society while sparing no sacred cows. The Reagan Administration felt threatened that the public was receptive to a show about the real world, so it demanded cancellation of the program. Despite strong ratings for Lou Grant, CBS yielded to the pressure, but the experience clearly shows that there is a vast audience for liberal dramatic programming.
Having politically charged comedies on the air is absolutely crucial. The Republicans flaunted their plan to discredit John Kerry through the use of ridicule, and it worked. Conservatives were able to make the senator a laughingstock, even though the right wing is capable of delivering ridicule only in a ham-handed manner. When employed by people whose wit is not lacking by half, the technique can be infinitely more devastating. Had a liberal network broadcast daily comedic scorn of George W. Bush it would have turned the election, in part because Mr. Bush might be the best subject for ridicule ever created, and in part because the conservative philosophy itself is tailor-made to be mocked.
A truly liberal television network would become the highest rated broadcaster because the best talent would flock to participate in a creatively free environment. The big entertainment ratings lead-ins would ensure a vast audience for the news programming.
Liberals are now making inroads into what used to be a conservative talk radio monopoly, but should settle for nothing less than total dominance. The success of Rush Limbaugh and his right wing peers is extremely fragile because it was obtained by default rather than as a result of talent. To capitalize on the vulnerability of tedious conservative broadcasters, there should be multiple progressive talk radio networks reaching into every backwater of the country. As long as liberal hosts remember that they are entertainers and not social studies teachers, there will be no problem attracting audiences even in the reddest of states. A strong presence in talk radio would provide liberals with the apparatus to mobilize the grass roots that the GOP has used to great effect.
A new national liberal publication can resurrect the kind of intrepid investigative journalism that was done so well by the Washington Post before it became a de facto Republican subsidiary. There is a wealth of stellar journalistic talent available to staff such a project, beginning with Greg Palast and Bob Parry, whose outstanding exposés of vote fraud in the United States merit a wider audience. The Soros group can help resuscitate American democracy by providing ethical journalists with the necessary resources and then unleashing them to disclose the corruption of the right wing movement.
When Americans are finally exposed to honest presentations of how the country is being run, many will initially be skeptical, but over time that skepticism will erode. Prolonged exposure to the truth is the proven antidote to conservatism.
Repetition is an essential concept; in order to penetrate the public consciousness, a message must be endlessly repeated. Conservatives have constructed an echo chamber so that their deceptions constantly ricochet across America. The well-oiled Republican mendacity machine amplifies right wing lies to an ear-splitting level while liberals are left to whisper the truth.
Progressives must amplify their own message by working cooperatively. This will not be easy because liberals are much harder to organize than conservatives. It is the nature of things: those who march to the beat of their own drummer are inherently less conformist than those who goosestep to the music of Richard Wagner. Nevertheless, liberalism can reassume its role as the preeminent political force in the United States only when there is a unified transmission system capable of projecting the truth forcefully.
The Internet must be a crucial component of that equation. Existing liberal websites occupy the front line in the war against American fascism, and financing them is a cost effective way to stem the right wing tide. There is a desperate need for sites with full time journalistic employees possessing the latitude to investigate crucial issues that the Federal Communications Commission has actively discouraged from appearing elsewhere, issues such as the corruption of the FCC. One day, most people will get their information from the web, and establishing control of the medium should be a priority.
When it comes to think tanks, the best source of ideas will always be the liberal rank and file, a group that includes experts in every field of endeavor and non-experts who are incredibly creative. A well-funded website that aggressively solicits public participation for the purpose of devising innovative liberal strategies will yield far greater results than can be achieved by academicians.
A dynamic liberal infrastructure would alter the balance of American power, but it cannot be a panacea. Ignorance and bigotry will still proliferate, especially in places that time forgot like Louisiana, where cockfighting is legal while cock sucking is not. Conservatives are impervious to logic, and nothing will ever change that.
However, there are millions of other citizens who vote Republican due to the uncontested misinformation that vomits forth from the press. Across the world feudalism is imposed by force, but in America the preferred method is deception. Until there is a viable alternative to the communications conglomerates, liberalism will be seen almost exclusively through the filter of Corporate America, which has an immutable financial incentive to deceive the public.
With wealthy Democrats currently planning to open their wallets, the potential exists to shatter the mainstream media’s house of mirrors. What remains unclear is whether the philanthropists will opt to provide the seed money needed for a major structural overhaul of American mass media, or whether they will be content to reinforce the ineffectual liberal establishment.
George Soros did not become the most successful currency trader on the planet by playing it safe. He is known for bold gambits, such as his audacious confrontation with the Bank Of England that generated a billion dollar profit in a single day. Now, he has the opportunity to make a similar masterful stroke - this time for democracy - by underwriting the resurrection of journalistic freedom.
Mr. Soros insists that he is committed to subsidizing profound change in the United States. It is a goal that certainly can be achieved. Rupert Murdoch did it, and with considerably less money and brainpower. Whether Soros succeeds will depend on the scope of his vision. Rather than funding policy committees designed to operate more effectively within the corrupt media status quo, the world’s premier financial gunslinger should aim higher and blast the media status quo straight to hell.
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