We were, in the President's words, shellacked. It has happened at least eight times in my lifetime but within a few years of each defeat we were again the ones doing the shellacking. I fear that it won't be so easy this time. Today progressives are facing forces we have never faced before, at least not in such a concentration and combination.
First there is the weight and power of corporate money unleashed by the Supreme Court Citizens United ruling. Any chance to deal with its ramifications through something like the disclosure act will expire with the 111th Congress and may never return. The last election cycle was possibly only a warm-up as corporations have time to develop a strategy for distributing their money free of the consequences Target suffered and the Chamber of Commerce becomes even more emboldened.
Second, the press is firmly and openly embedded in the right wing while conservatives still successfully accuse the media of being unacceptably liberal. From the President on down, progressives have been totally ineffectual in getting our message across to moderates and reasonable conservatives, partially because a skewed media limits our ability to preach beyond the choir and partially because we are facing an electorate basically uninformed about economics, government, or its own self interest.
Finally, the post census reapportionment will be overwhelmingly in the hands of Republican statehouses and governors, who, be assured, will gerrymander the hell out of any remaining Democratic districts.
So restoring power and furthering a progressive agenda in 2012 and beyond will be a formidable task indeed. Let's face the reality that we can do little to stop the flood of corporate money and the process of reapportionment in the short term, but we can do something about the right-wing control of information. If we do that right, perhaps we can begin to reach and reason with low-information voters.
The key is to delegitimize the radical right media. Progressives have tried to fight Fox and friends with ridicule and advertiser pressure. The first is counterproductive and the second opens us up to hysterical charges that liberals don't believe in freedom of speech. There is a more effective weapon. Ignore them.
When asked for a response to Rush Limbaugh's wish that he fail, the President made his first big mistake; he responded. Imagine the victory he would have achieved had he simply said, "Who?" "Who," a dismissive laugh, or a shrug should be the operative response of every liberal to right wing attacks.
Next we must use the media itself to take Rupert Murdoch and his empire, Clear Channel and other propaganda tools off any list of reputable news sources. Progressives should begin to pressure the main stream media, responsible cable channels, and the cable/satellite distributors to achieve each of the following goals.
We no longer want to have Fox News on basic cable/satellite unless the competition, i.e. MSNBC is similarly available. We should not be forced to subsidize Fox's drivel or required to pay extra for an opposing view.
Networks must stop covering Fox stories as though they are news. If Fox lies, as they have been complicit in doing this week regarding the cost of the President's India trip, note that this is information circulating from (unnamed) unreliable sources and present the facts. If it is indeed a legitimate news story, fact check it and rewrite it as you would any press release; if you must attribute it, name News Corporation of America as the source rather than Fox. Ask the media if they would, as serious journalists, run a press release from Proctor and Gamble about the miracles possible from using its newest product. Of course not. A good journalist would either shred it or check out the claims and rewrite out the hype. Remember, Fox is a propaganda mill and one gigantic 24-hour press release machine for the Republican Party. All of the above applies equally to anything coming from Andrew Breitbart or the Drudge Report.
We do not want to see reporters from Fox News or Fox Business News sitting with George Will, Doris Kearns Goodwin, or other REAL news people, economists, or historians on the Sunday morning programs or other legitimate news panels. Meet the Press, and This Week are news programs; these propagandists have no place at the table. At the same time, make it clear to those Democrats WE put in office that they can get all of the airtime they need elsewhere and we do not approve of their pandering to Fox.Stop focusing on dysfunctional on-air personnel. If Beck bursts into tears or misspells "oligarchy" on his chalkboard, it is a cross for his viewers to bear. Do not react, do not ridicule, and please, please do not endlessly loop the tapes. He and Limbaugh and the rest are entertainers and no more worthy of note than Lindsey and Charley Sheen. (Yeah, well we can fight that battle later.)
Attention, positive or negative, merely reinforces bad behavior. If Fox
finds itself cut out of the news, treated like the propaganda machine it truly
is, it will turn to temper tantrums and other outrageous behavior, alienating all
but the most extreme members of their audience.
I see some hope that this has already begun. Although he himself has now been suspended, last week Keith Olbermann temporarily eliminated his "Worst People in the World" feature which frequently speared Fox news personalities and both Thursday and Friday Rachel Maddow devoted much of her show to a discussion of the right wing noise machine, its self perpetuating cycle of bunk and open support of the Republican Party. She gets it, now we have to help her stop it.
(A last minute aside. While they claim no involvement in Friday's suspension of Olbermann, there is very little time left for Americans to speak up about Comcast's purchase of NBC. We can see the terrible effects of consolidation of the media and this proposed marriage will give what is arguably the worst company in America even more power than Rupert Murdoch holds. For more information see http://www.freepress.net.)