mediahome I: the problem

When I began this blog, I named it UNMEDIA for the simple reason that the mainstream media simply did not meet my needs. This had long been a problem in my mind but 9-11 was what finally galvanized me to action. I first created the UNMEDIA mailing list, for whose list description I wrote the following rather incisive text:

The media is the primary filter through which we perceive the world. It affects opinions, policies, attitudes, and understanding. The media has failed in the West to educate and inform, rather it has devolved into entertainment and propaganda in service of the current prevailing political attitudes.

The first post to the list was October 2001. By March of 2002, I was ready to begin blogging, and since then I have strived to make UNMEDIA list and blog both serve as spotlights, to highlight information that remains unavailable in the "normal" media channels (which regrettably still shape the opinions of the vast majority of Americans).

Principle: Knowledge is power. Which means that those with incomplete knowledge have less power, and powerlessness is still the default condition that I have with respect to the actions of my government and the world. This blog, and the list, are ways in which I am able to regain power. And I am sure that other bloggers feel the same about their own sub-Creations[1].

Which is why this must-read[2] editorial at Consortium News, about "media-homeless liberals", struck a resonant chord with me. The article explains the leverage that the conservative media infrastructure gives to conservatives[3] :

Conservatives anywhere can tune in Fox News, Rush Limbaugh or a host of other broadcast outlets. They can open the pages of the Wall Street Journal editorial section, the Washington Times, the Weekly Standard or dozens of other print or Internet publications. There, they will find their interests addressed, their outlook validated, their enemies unmasked.

In other words, conservatives are given a comfort zone by their national media, which in turn gives them a political cohesion. They are part of a team with shared goals. But what makes this conservative media such a potent political force is the lack of anything comparable on the liberal side of the U.S. political divide.

this echoes comments by Jonathan Chait in TNR:

The fact of the matter is the Republican Party enjoys certain basic advantages when it comes to getting its message across. One is that it has substantially more money for TV advertising. (Republicans touted this advantage while talking up their prospects prior to the election. Now that they've won, they ignore the impact of money completely.) The GOP also enjoys allied media outlets like Fox News and talk radio, which disseminate its message to its base in a way that Democrats can't duplicate.

Both of these phenomena are relatively recent. Ten years ago, pro-GOP mass media lacked its current breadth. And, before 1994, Democratic control of Congress assured some semblance of financial parity--business interests wanted to curry favor with the party that wrote the laws as well as with the party they felt represented their political viewpoint. Since Republicans took Congress, however, they began to gain a decisive advantage in fund-raising, and that disparity has only grown since Bush took office. (In the last cycle, Republicans out-raised Democrats by some $200 million, not including tens of millions spent by affiliated business interests such as the drug industry.) During the Clinton presidency, Democrats were able to offset the GOP's financial and media advantages because they had the bully pulpit of the presidency. Now that Republicans also hold the White House, they enjoy almost unfettered capacity to set the political agenda.

There is no comparable "media home" for liberals. One or two newspapers does not an infrastructure make, and the editorial rightly points out that "mainstream news outlets � that conservatives incorrectly label the 'liberal media' � studiously avoid tilting to the liberal side and increasingly compete for conservative viewers and readers." The myth of the liberal media - propagandized by books such as
and Slander - lends itself to systematic and rigorous refutation4.

The important thing is that the solution is NOT to construct an equally distorted ideological infrastructure on the left! While I greatly respect and rely on Atrios and Hesiod, for example, their approach reflects an ideological rather than a journalistic motivation. The strength of liberal ideas should be manifest if they are given a chance to compete on their own merits, not solely because they are liberal. There are some issues on which liberals are simply wrong[5] and they need to be willing to face up to this. This is why I also respect Glenn Reynolds - as I wrote to him recently[6]:

...you have done more than any other single person to promote blogging as a forum for political DEBATE. Note that I said debate, not propaganda or partisanship - you have consistently linked to those you disagree with, you have always made a point of having a diverse blogroll, and you have been willing to promote the parts of the blogsphere and outright critiques of your own content. In doing so, people like myself have been able to find other bloggers who are of common mind, helped me find allies of opinion as well as critics, and helped correct the right-shift tendency of the early blogsphere simply due to your volume. Kudos to you on this :) Every blogger I read today is at most one or two links away from you.

But of course, Glenn is not a liberal, and a media home for liberals is not his problem. The authors of the editorial are thorough in their description of the problem, but do not follow through and provide a solution.

I have a solution, however. The liberal media home that liberals (Democrats and otherwise) need to embrace, is the Blogsphere. (continued in part 2)

[1] a reference to JRR Tolkien's famous essay, "On Fairy Stories". You can read it and the accompanying metaphoric short story, Leaf by Niggle, in the The Tolkien Reader.
[2] the article has also been posted to the UNMEDIA mailing list, you can browse the public archives without subscribing.
[3] "conservative" is almost completely synonymous to "Republican" nowadays. The non-overlap of these groups is far smaller than the overlap between "liberal" and "Democrat". For example, myself - I am a liberal moderate, but I am not a Democrat, and I shed few tears for the "future of the party" or interest in "fixing the party" in the aftermath of the 2002 midterms.
[4] Ann Coulter's book is an especially egregious offender. Scoobie Davis has a list of links that debunk the errors in the book, including Slanderman and Spinsanity.
[5] CAFE standards for light trucks and gun control are two easy examples (I will address CAFE standards in an upcoming installment of my Love my SUV series. Go read ESR for gun control). And liberals need to be more skeptical of global warming (which I do buy into), and look for more balanced solutions than the Kyoto treaty (which I don't)
[6] I urge all liberal bloggers to write to Glenn and express your appreciation for all he has done to nurture the nascent blogsphere - on both right and left.

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