March 20, 2007
-- by Dave Johnson
What do people "know?" If you are reading this you are probably a hyper-informed citizen. But what about the rest of us? What information reaches the public?
Progressive blogs reach progressives. Right-wing blogs are part of a noise machine that is designed to reach and influence the general public.
Right-wing blogs are tied into the conservative movement's larger "noise machine" information apparatus. This is why we see successful results when the right launches an information campaign. They echo or are echoed through every channel through which the public receives information -- by Limbaugh, Fox News, Drudge, and funded outreach into other channels, and their politicians are part of the coordinated process. So their message gets out there and the public "knows" what they want them to know. A very good example is what happened to Dan Rather. The public "knows" that Dan Rather "tried to smear President Bush" with "forged documents." In fact the origin of the documents is still unknown, and forged or not, the underlying story was factual.
It would benefit us to keep in mind that progressive blogs have a limited reach and that we need to keep looking to extend that reach. There is no progressive noise machine. There is no coordination. There is no funded outreach to the general public. Democratic politicians likely as not fear blogs and tend not to join in a coordinated messaging efforts. Yes, progressive blogs are read by media figures, informed opinion leaders and public officials, and that is very important. But we have very little effect on what the general public "knows." Only after shrill repetition for several days or weeks across the entire blogosphere does an important story even begin to reach into the traditional corporate media.
Current example - the prosecutor scandal. On the Heading Left Blog Talk Radio Show last week Nate mentioned that there was wide coverage of the scandal over firing US Attorneys who wouldn't play ball and drop investigations of Republican corruption or wouldn't falsely accuse Democrats of crimes. But in my own local paper there was only a short article on page 6, and it repeated verbatim White House talking points that the firings were "handled badly," that the President "has the right to hire and fire prosecutors," and that "Clinton fired all 93 prosecutors while Bush fired only 8."
Older example: What is the current percentage of Americans who think Iraq attacked us n 9/11? It's probably still very high - considering that Iraq didn't. What is the percentage who think we found the WMD?
Older example: The Downing Street Memo received constant, ongoing attention in blogs but I don't think it ever really broke through into the traditional corporate media.
So yes, progressive bloggers have an effect, but let's not get ahead of ourselves in our understanding of the effect we have.
The beginning of a solution lies in joining with progressive politicians to carry the message to a wider audience. Then a story can begin to be driven into the corporate media. Recent example: The Fox News Nevada Democratic Presidential Debate. Visit MyDD and scroll backwards through the history of Matt Stoller's effort to get the Democratic candidates to back away from Fox News. It worked. But more than that - much more - when Democratic political leaders joined with the blogs to drive the message the result was much bigger than just another intra-blog discussion. Fox News was exposed as little more than a Republican Party mouthpiece. Their credibility and brand suffered and the public began to get a glimpse into the nature of this propaganda network.
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Very good points, Dave! I hope serious attention is paid to this. Now there's about to be a genuine showdown about the firing of the prosecutors. This would be a good time to unite with political leaders, assuming that's possible. Certainly the blogs must have played a role in helping to develop this scandal.
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