Rage Against the MSMachine
"You people obviously still don't get it, but you will soon," wrote right-wing blogger Jerry Hurtubise in an irate letter to the Columbia Journalism Review, sounding the death knell of the mainstream press. "It's over, you clowns. Now, when you lie, we will report it, every time."
The army of die-hard "Kossacks" assembled in the Riviera's ballroom to hear Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas Zúniga couldn't have agreed more. They roared in approval as Moulitsas spent nearly half his keynote address repeatedly deriding "the media elite." At the Yearly Kos convention in Las Vegas in early June, the attacks on journalists--invariably described as lazy, incompetent toadies of the ruling elite--came fast and furious, a close second to those on the Bush Administration. Slamming the press was a guaranteed applause line.
The media rage on the left--at least among those politically active online--now matches that on the right.
In one sense, all political bloggers, conservative or liberal, define themselves in opposition to mainstream journalists, who are viewed as elitists determined to marginalize the true will of the American people as represented by the bloggers themselves. As Moulitsas put it in his speech: "Unlike the out-of-touch establishment in DC, we actually know what it's like to live day-to-day in George Bush's America. Chris Matthews may say that only the kooks don't like George W. Bush, but we, like the rest of the country, know better."
But where the right-wing blogosphere accuses journalists of ideological bias, the progressive netroots view them as corrupt and compromised.
"Their view is: 'You're part of the establishment, you're part of the problem. You're scared that if you write the truth, you're going to get kicked out of the club,'" says Jennifer Palmieri, vice president of communications at the Center for American Progress. This blistering assessment is hardly surprising since the very creation of the progressive blogosphere is directly linked to an institutional failure of the press. Enraged at the media for failing to represent their views in the aftermath of 9/11, and more so in the lead-up to the Iraq War, people like Moulitsas decided, as he put it, "to stop railing at Fox News and our so-called 'liberal' pundits, and start publishing those rants on the web."
Journalists have therefore been assigned a very specific role in the netroots narrative about the ascendance of the right, which in turn enabled the wrongs of the Bush Administration. They're marked as "collaborators" who either because of cowardice or greed delivered this country into the hands of right-wing tyranny.
As progressive bloggers are quick to point out, there is a vital difference between them and their right-wing counterparts when it comes to goals. Kicking off a panel titled "Political Journalism: Problems and Solutions," Matt Stoller declared, "One of the things that differentiates what we do from the right-wing echo chamber is that they are, in my opinion, trying to destroy journalism as an institution, and we are trying to remedy its failures."
Whereas progressives view the press as vital to a healthy democracy, the right assaults journalism, aiming to undermine its legitimacy and watchdog role. Under the Bush Administration the steady drumbeat of accusations of bias reached a new crescendo, accompanied by an all-out effort to essentially decertify the press as irrelevant to politics. As White House Chief of Staff Andy Card told The New Yorker, the media "don't represent the public any more than other people do. In our democracy, the people who represent the public stood for election."