Media Matters: Mike Check for liberal journalism
The Daily Caller has a long expose of liberal media organ Media Matters today. Among other things, it makes the tax-exempt non-profit status of Media Matters look even more ridiculous than it already was, since MM is little more than a branch of the White House press office, with extensive financial ties to the greater liberal political machine.
The big takeaway from today’s articles, billed as the first in a series of investigative pieces, is how thoroughly, and easily, Media Matters coordinates “news” coverage within the mainstream press. It’s basically the “Mike Check” for liberal reporters, to borrow the term used by Occupy Wall Street protesters for the bizarre way they tune up their “human microphone.”
A former Media Matters staffer said they were “pretty much writing” MSNBC’s prime-time shows, while “virtually all the mainstream media was using our stuff.” Particularly friendly and cooperative journalists were kept on speed-dial, while the paranoid head of Media Matters, David Brock, kept a very extensive “enemies list.” Hostile news coverage was routinely orchestrated against people and organizations on the Enemies List.
This is all very similar to the way liberals have always imaged The Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy worked. A good deal of liberal carping about conservative media outlets stands revealed as projection, a psychological tendency frequently displayed by the modern Left.
In truth, conservatives have nothing comparable to Media Matters’ ability to fire off a couple of emails and get wall-to-wall media coverage rolling. Some journalists are lazy, and fact-checking is hard work. It’s much easier to plug into a “trusted” mailing list and wait for extensively-researched pieces to appear in the inbox. Who cares about what they’re not telling you? The selection of stories not told, and challenges not issued, has always been the most insidious component of media bias.
Also, as we saw during the JournoList scandal, there is great influence to be gained by giving like minds a back-channel means of coordination. It’s not surprising that liberal reporters enjoy the social company of other liberals. “Talking shop” with people who basically agree with you is relaxing, but it’s hard work when you’re doing it with people who fundamentally, energetically disagree. In a friendly environment, data is easily shared, while among competitors, it is more likely to be challenged.
Conservatives have enjoyed some remarkable successes at pushing stories into the mainstream media over the past few years, but it’s remarkable how much harder they had to work at it. It takes hugely influential, widely cited and linked blog posts to generate the level of viral coverage necessary to compel mainstream press attention. Sometimes it takes so long that the window of opportunity to bring a hot story to the attention of the public has passed. Scoops can become “old news” rather quickly in the Information Age.
What a tremendous advantage it is for the Left, to be able to shape mainstream media coverage on a universal scale, with blinding speed! The rise of Fox News has been the Right’s greatest asset in the quest to achieve parity. Liberals who whine about “Faux News” rarely have an example of anything Fox has supposedly lied about or distorted to back up the complaint, especially since the barrage of counter-examples from the liberal media is so daunting. Instead, what really bugs the anti-Fox crowd is the way Fox can swiftly add legitimacy to stories that might have otherwise languished in the conservative blogosphere for weeks… and once Fox picks up a story, it becomes much more difficult for the mainstream press to ignore it.
Conservatives cheered by the success of alternative media should remember they still can’t arrange the swift saturation coverage available to the Left. Remember how quickly the Herman Cain sexual harassment allegations dominated the airwaves? In a matter of days, the networks had run more stories about Cain than they had ever produced about Bill Clinton. Nothing comparable will ever be possible with a scandal damaging to someone like Barack Obama. It took a while for even the RatherGate and Swift Boat Veterans for Truth stories to achieve critical mass, and become impossible to ignore. Some very strenuous efforts were made to ignore them.
Swift repetition of a story is key to achieving saturation, and making it something “everybody knows.” Media Matters plays an important role in coordinating that kind of saturation for the liberal media. Conservative media is still a guerilla action, while the liberal media is formed into organized and disciplined legions.