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April 7, 2005

We need our own media

-- by John Emerson

Atrios has just published a request for donations to John Aravosis, who did most of the heavy lifting on the Gannon-Guckert story but who has also done a lot of other good work. Aravosis wants to be able to work full time on political stuff, and he's shown that he's good at it. I endorse this drive, and let me throw in Susie Madrak of Suburban Guerilla. Susie has a media background and is job-hunting, and she should be doing political writing for pay.

This brings up my pet theme: Democrats need their own media. Amateurism and voluntarism are fine, but you don’t want to be in a position of depending on it. If someone’s doing valuable work, they should be paid for it. People with jobs and families (who also want to have lives) should not be expected to make enormous sacrifices forever for their political cause.

There’s a lot of money out there. The DNC spent over a half a billion dollars in 2004. There are dozens of foundations and political groups spending tons of money. So why aren’t John and Susie and Billmon and Steve Gilliard and my partner Dave Johnson and a couple of dozen others fully funded?

Dozens of mercenary, treacherous, and incompetent consultants have milked the Democrats for tens or hundreds of millions of dollars over the last fifteen years or so. The outcome has been the near-destruction of the Democratic party. Couldn’t some of that cash have gone to some of the people I just named?

This isn’t really a blogosphere thing. Blogging is just the place where new people with new ideas happened to be able to make their voice heard. It has more to do with the domination of the media and the Democratic Party by an old-boy network of credentialized and well-connected mercenaries skilled at losing elections.

In the media and in the larger society, there’s little place for a partisan Democrat or a strong liberal. Not just media people, but even Democratic officeholders and party workers know that if they want to have a future and further their careers, they have to be moderates who are able to get along with Republicans. That's why the liberal media are so chicken.(And that's where the treachery comes from: Stephanopolous, Estrich, Chris Matthews, and dozens of retired-officeholder lobbyists).

Bob Somerby tells the truth about the media, but no one will back him because that would kill their careers. What we need is a new media where Bob Somerby and people like him could make a real living.

I’ve been told and told that the money is there, but I don’t see any of it being passed around. I’ve been told and told that the blogosphere is doing important work and that people appreciate it, but I don’t see anything more real than occasional pats on the head.

Partly, I suppose, it’s the control of the Democratic party by a coterie of incompetent leeches who’re protecting their turf. Partly it’s because Democrats with money are, as the right is happy to point out, decadent hedonists who have lots of fun things to spend their money and time on. Partly it’s probably because Democrats are almost all credentialed organization insiders promoting people similar to themselves. (Certainly the populist streak of the Democratic Party is ancient history by now – Republican populists are total fakes, but Democrats are constitutionally incapable of telling anyone that.)

Is this sour grapes? Damn right it is! I would have been willing to work 30 hrs. a week doing internet stuff for 400$/ mo. plus medical insurance -- roughly what McDonald’s would pay. Did I have any realistic possibility of getting that? No. Maybe I’m just not good enough, but what about all the other people I mentioned?

George W. Bush should have been vulnerable during the 2004 election because of his favoritism toward the Saudis, and I spent a whole month documenting that and published the results here. But no one showed any interest and the Democrats refused to pick the issue up; when Michael Moore talked about the Saudis and Bush, the big Democrats ran home and hid under the covers.

The Swift Boat Liars played a major role in destroying Kerry’s campaign. Along with the now-retired Hesiod, I spent another month researching various smear groups of that type, and published the results here. Again, no interest from the Democrats, and I’ve been told that everyone in the Kerry campaign was told in no uncertain terms to have nothing to do with the blogosphere.

And the loser who made that disastrous decision is still doing very well for himself or herself, and I’ve given up even wishing for $300/ mo. They say that things have changed, but I don’t see it happening.

Posted by John Emerson at April 7, 2005 11:45 AM

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Comments

John,
Robert Parry has written a series of articles on the need to build up a media infrastructure on the left which equals its counterpart on the right (www.consortiumnews.com). If my financial situation was not so precarious I would donate - have donated to FAIR and to some bloggers before - but I am looking for a job and my husband is self-employed, so the income stream is somewhat irregular. Wish you success, though ..
Best,
Helga from Australia

Posted by: Helga Fremlin at April 7, 2005 1:18 PM

Dead right. I keep hearing from Dave how there are plenty of really rich folks out there who are eager to fund an effective liberal communications structure.

I think he's deluded. I'm with Mike Malloy who says that, from decades of direct experience, anybody who thinks a limosine liberal will come through with actual cash is a total fucking moron.

Posted by: richard at April 7, 2005 1:53 PM

Greg Beato suggested as much years ago. The party really missed the boat on this one. Had Democrats seeded the liberal blogosphere back when, it'd already be a significant force.

Posted by: GD at April 7, 2005 1:55 PM

Agreement all around it seems -- including me.

I pop for $15 bucks here and there. It comes out of my vast $511 SS check usually (my wife still works -- I'm a "retired" musician -- oh, and sorry about your son. Tell him for me will ya'?).

But what the hell. If Steve G., or Kos, or John A., or any of the others I occasionally send a few bucks to were to show up on my doorstep, I'd certainly take us both for some Tex-Mex and a beer here in Austin. Probably spend a few bucks more than $15 crumby doleros. Then they would have to listen to my blather, which might not be good for them. And theirs might offend my pre-conceptions of who I think they are from their blogs.

So it's better that I just send them $15 every now and again. I know it ain't much, but like I said before, WTH.

The question then becomes: How do we get these folks to become more of the leaders of the DamnDems than that Krew at the DNC was in the last election and too long before? My happily departed Uncle always used to say that if you don't like the way things are run, get inside and change it. But that's easy to say, hard to do. These guys guard their turf pretty hard -- no outsiders allowed into the party at that level. Look at the way they assinated Howard Dean before the primaries, when it looked like we might have an actual Democrat running for the first time since -- oh, I dunno' -- 1948?

Well - enough for me. Just wanted to let you know some folks do care and appreciate what you wrote. I carry on sometimes.

David Winn
Austin, Texas

Posted by: David Winn at April 7, 2005 2:11 PM

The workers independent news is started in the direction (www.laboradio.org). They are nonprofit and do news for working people, news that falls under the radar.

There site says they are on about 60 stations including KMOX where I live in St. Louis.

Posted by: Anita at April 7, 2005 2:13 PM

Hmmmmmmm.

"assinated"

I kind of like that. But it should be "assassinated" I think.

Being a "lib-rul," I must need a Latte.

Or it could be the drugs wearing off.

Keep writing.

David Winn
Austin, Texas

Posted by: David Winn at April 7, 2005 2:16 PM

I don't mean to sound pessimistic, but what good would our own media do? Maybe I'm missing the point, but it seems like we'd just be preaching to the choir. There are some very good alternative sites like indynewmedia.org, the nation, KPFA, etc.
I understand the frustration of bloggers who are great writers struggling to make a living, but even with our own media there would still be plenty of talented voices left out.

Posted by: moose at April 8, 2005 1:18 AM

what good would our own media do?

Ask Scaife. Ask Murdoch. Ask Rev. Moon.

Posted by: Thad at April 8, 2005 1:34 AM

Why not raise the money from the ground up?

Also, is it possible to reach out to other liberal netroots organizations?

As for whether or not having our own media would do any good... The liberal cause - and liberal principles - need to be sold to the electorate. Nobody is automatically a liberal. Even those who have become more liberal will be greatly heartened to see that there are others out there like them. People need to feel that they are joining a strong movement that protects its own, however small it may be, not a wishy-washy bunch of compromisers. Having our own media is a way to begin building that kind of movement; it's also a way to show people that there ARE liberals out there, that they have a good point etc. etc.

Plus, once you lay the groundwork - letting people in on what we all already know, namely that a fairer economy performs better for everyone, that conservatives are really quite surprisingly untrustworthy and incompetent, that religion is no substitute for science and so forth - any individual policy measure is that much easier to sell to people.

I'm just amazed that academics, certain lawyers, any "reality based" doctors, mid-size businesses etc. don't realise that their own interests are threatened by the modern Republican party and band together against it. None of these groups are individually terribly wealthy, but surely together they could raise some money?

Posted by: Passing_Fancy at April 8, 2005 3:43 AM

"I don't mean to sound pessimistic, but what good would our own media do? Maybe I'm missing the point, but it seems like we'd just be preaching to the choir."

I'm talking about our own major media, like Fox, which reaches out to the general public. Not a small internal-communications media, whihc we basically already have.

Fox gets the "conservative" word out to people who aren't necessarily conservative to begin with. Many people pick up ideas "from the air" without necessarily thinking about them much. People who work that way NEVER hear liberal ideas.

Air America was a good start, and I hope they start moving into swing markets like Ohio Missouri, and Florida -- they may already be in Florida. But we need TV and a newspaper. The Times has been intimidated.

This is big-money stuff. I don't see it happening with nickels and dimes.

In the past, talking about this kind of thing, I've found that many liberals are just too good and too pure to dirty their hands with mass media. Seemingly for many liberalism is a way of asserting personal cultural superiority, sort of like dressing tastefully and eating gourmet foods.

Posted by: John Emerson at April 8, 2005 4:49 AM

Pacifica News started out as a nickel and dime station and has grown substantially. Democracy Now and INN News Report are both independent/Progressive news broadcasts that are being totally supported by the people that watch them. These news casts receive no money from their station (Free Speech TV, Link, etc) and no money from corporations. They have no commericals and are totally dependent on contrubutions from the public.....and they are growing. You may say that they are preaching to the chior but so is FOX. We have enough of a chior to support these newscasts as well as others that are independent. They, like FOX, have the ability to gain "believers" who may have found them by channel surfing (just as I did) and thereby possibly change peoples minds. Don't forget, if all the public has access to is the falsehoods of FOX and the watered down and misleading news of CNN and others, then they have nothing to compare it with. We absolutely need to be out there, if for no other reason than to show people that that they are not alone, that they are not crazy and that they are not unpatriotic because they question.

Posted by: Jane Algozzini at April 8, 2005 9:37 AM

Jane --

Expanding Pacifica would be a good thing, though I read that there's been a recent management coup d'etat which might make that less wonderful than I'd wish.

But right now, Pacifica is just too small. That kind of niche/enclave broadcasting can only reach a few percent. We need something that potentially can reach every single person in the country.

Posted by: John Emerson at April 8, 2005 9:50 AM

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