In 1996, Bill Clinton, signed the Telecommunications Act.
This was a dream bill conjured up by a special interest group made up of large media entities who wanted to get larger. The Internet and broadband media had been born a decade before, and were waiting to explode onto the scene. The argument for this Act, according to its proponents, was that viewers had a lot of choices now, and that a little consolidation wouldn’t hurt, and in fact, would help independent media get its foot into the door via cable broadband stations. The media lobbyists pushing for the act pointed to CNN, founded in 1980 by a brazen enterprising Ted Turner, and made their case based on his success and CNN’s fierce independence, that this act would better encourage superior news reporting, by giving the old Network some real competition.
There was a lot of opposition to this bill, by those who understood that competition usually ends up with the larger ones eating up the smaller ones, but so it was enacted. What Bill Clinton didn’t figure, on that fateful day in 1996, while penning his John Hancock to the Act, was that he was also signing away his own legacy, as well as the health of the Democratic Party to the media giants for years to come.
Just two short years and one O.J. Trial later, Bill Clinton would be relentlessly attacked and pursued by the same mega media who had gotten larger through acquisition. Cable rating shares had increased to an unprecedented level over expectation. Business was good, people were buying dish and subscribing to Cable, and Political Distraction by way of Personal Destruction was to become par for the course in the world of politics.
We Democrats knew how this sort of disgusting politics worked. First, the Republicans would write up their dirt in the GOP “newspapers” and “magazines”, then take it to the radio via Rush Limbaugh, and in short order, the cable media (like Fox) would catch hold of it and spread it to its two main competitors (CNN & MSNBC) and finally the Networks (owned by some of the same) would have their “breaking news”. Soon (by the next issue) the weekly glossy periodicals owned by the same corporations (Newsweek NBC/WaPO and Times CNN/Time Warner) would write about the subject, and the independent Newspaper Chains would soon follow. The Times reporter would appear on CNN alongside a Newsweek reporter vowing for the authenticity of the matter, and then Newsweek would write about what CNN had reported in its interview with the Times writer. Some called it the spin cycle.
Democrats took the high road, and proclaimed themselves different from the Republicans. They used their time with the press to promote the issues that Americans cared about; Social Security, Health Care, Education, defending Woman’s Choice, protecting the Environment, and conducting a rational foreign policy focused on Diplomacy and not on saber rattling and war. We were for the People and Good Government, and the GOP were the evil ones knee deep alongside big business, working to get rid of as much government as possible.
Instead, Democrats watched in horror as Bill Clinton was impeached by those who owned the pulpit practicing the distraction of personal destruction.
As Democrats, we believe that we were better than this sort of politics that we witnessed, and we mainly agreed that it needed to go. We knew one thing; we hated Political Distraction by way of Personal Destruction of our candidates and our ideals, and any person or thing remotely associated to it.
Democratic activists were the most incensed, and due to a deep feeling of anger and helplessness, Move.On.org was founded by the most disgusted of us. What started as a small group of left leaning liberals via the way of the Internet started to catch on. Those Democrats understood clearly that the newly consolidated media was a deadly culprit interested only in keeping certain elements in power, and getting their tax breaks and favorable regulation, or better yet, no regulation. Huge ratings were a plus.
As this form of politics matured to ripeness, we were nevertheless shocked when the Republican Noise Machine and George Bush attacked Sen. McCain, his opponent, via a whisper campaign in where McCain was rumored and trashed for having a Black child. We were more-so appalled when our Democratic nominee, Al Gore, a brilliant man, was portrayed as an exaggerating pompous wooden politician in what we believed to be a despicable maneuver. We fought valiantly for our votes to be counted in 2000, but to no avail; the media was not on our side.
Then 9/11 happened, which they said changed everything; changed how a country could now go to war with the wrong nation. Boy, were we totally pissed at that! Indeed we prayed and despaired. This was impossible! Couldn’t happen here, we though......but it did.
Via the Internet, marches were organized, petitions and letters were generated and sent to congress and the media. On-line organization bloomed everywhere with the goal of fighting the “bad guys” who so revolted us. At some point, progressives rejoiced in realizing that they had the upper hand in Internet organization compared to the “freepers”, and although we were still weak, we were getting stronger, and certainly, we were kept busy.
Three years later, we held our breaths and lashed out in scorn without result as John Kerry received similar treatment. Democrats couldn’t believe that a genuine War Hero could be taken down so effortlessly, and that enough stupid dumbass American voters would buy into it. But yes, the same dumbass Americans that had bought into the war, bought the same ol' political warfare unloaded again by the Right onto the Left.
And so, we continued to organize ourselves on the Internet vowing to fight against these media conglamorates and the ultra crazy and dangerous GOP and their media fronts. We were encouraged when Air America was born, and felt a bit stronger in fighting those who would wage scorch earth politics. We considered the Internet ours, and the battle line was drawn in the sand.