MMFA’s “War on Fox”
posted at 9:21 am on March 26, 2011 by Jazz Shaw
Several friends drew my attention to a piece over at Politico this morning. It deals with an announcement of sorts regarding a “transformation” of the mission of Media Matters for America and their upcoming, self-described “war on Fox.”
The liberal group Media Matters has quietly transformed itself in preparation for what its founder, David Brock, described in an interview as an all-out campaign of “guerrilla warfare and sabotage” aimed at the Fox News Channel.
The group, launched as a more traditional media critic, has all but abandoned its monitoring of newspapers and other television networks and is narrowing its focus to Fox and a handful of conservative websites, which its leaders view as a political organizations and the “nerve center” of the conservative movement…
“The strategy that we had had toward Fox was basically a strategy of containment,” said Brock, Media Matters’ chairman and founder and a former conservative journalist, adding that the group’s main aim had been to challenge the factual claims of the channel and to attempt to prevent them from reaching the mainstream media.
The new strategy, he said, is a “war on Fox.”
I’ll confess that my initial reaction was one of confusion, essentially wondering, “Ummm, isn’t that what they’ve always done?” But still, some of my regular conservative contacts are treating this as something of an Aha moment.
One of them described it as “pretty creepy” while another asked, “Don’t you think ‘oppo research’ against mid-level execs in a free media outlet is a tad chilling?”
I’ve been struggling with that question this morning, and frankly I’m just not convinced that this qualifies as a “bad thing,” particularly in light of the fact that they are openly admitting that’s what they’re doing. Further, some of the same friends raising the alarm over MMFA’s announcement seemed curiously quiet when James O’Keefe took it upon himself to “investigate” executives at NPR and PBS to discover bias in their ranks, leading to the resignation of CEO Vivian Schiller. Would we be equally up in arms if someone were checking into the affairs of anchors, reporters, production executives and owners at MSNBC to see if, perhaps, they might have a tad bit of a liberal slant to their world view? (Duh)
Yes, I recognize the knee-jerk response to say that NPR and PBS both receive taxpayer dollars and should be held to a higher standard of transparency. But they do operate as media entities, not government agencies. Further, the media – especially the portion of it covering politics and government – are pretty much a de facto fourth branch of the government anyway. That description was enshrined by the founders right in the first amendment. Doesn’t the public have a right to know what’s going on with the people who provide the news, even if it’s a private corporation?
For that matter, doesn’t any corporation which provides goods or services to the public deserve some level of scrutiny so consumers can shop wisely? If a production line manager at a baby food company had a history of arrests for poisoning food, wouldn’t you want to know that before you made a purchase?
And let’s remember that this is a completely private outfit (MMFA) doing the investigating, not the United States government, so arguments about unconstitutional prying eyes doesn’t really cut it here.
In the end, if you honestly believe that Fox news isn’t up to anything improper, then they have nothing to worry about. And if MMFA just starts making things up out of thin air to attack them, that should be easily proven and potentially even open up the “watchdogs” to court proceedings over slander, etc. The more I think about it, maybe every major distributor of political news and opinion could use a set of well funded watchdogs investigating their staff, their practices and their product. It’s an important service which the entire nation relies upon, affecting one of our most sacred duties in the form of voting.
The media is tasked with watching the government and our politicians for us. But this begs the old question, who will watch the watchers? If you want to be upset about anything, perhaps you should be put off that there isn’t a better organized set of similar watchdogs digging in to MSNBC as well as the major network news shops, papers and radio.