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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Thursday, April 26, 2007

What's So Bad About Media Matters?

by folkbum

Everyone from Rush Limbaugh to Bill O'Reilly to our own local cranks has been complaining about Media Matters for America, a left-wing media watchdog outfit. In a typical rant, the conservatives will claim that MMfA takes words out of context and then demands that conservative opinion and conservative voices be silenced, threatening First Amendment rights all over the place. (And there's some malarky about how a shadow conspiracy of Jews is funding the thing, but that's so silly I doubt any real people believe that.)

As someone who's been reading MMfA since it debuted, I can tell you that that's insane. I would like to point you to one recent example of MMfA's work, an expose of John Gibson calling the Iraqi people "knuckle-dragging savages from the 10th century." Go read it, study the page, then come back so we can talk about it.

Done? Good. Now, what did you see? You probably saw a big scary headline, sure, with the startling words of Gibson lit up like frat boy on a Saturday night. And if you stopped at the headline, you might be convinced that, perhaps, Media Matters was doctoring something or trying to make an innocent Gibson look bad. But you probably also saw a whole lot of other things on the page, including at the bottom the complete and unedited transcript of Gibson's show, so you could judge for yourself what Gibson may have intended in context. You probably also saw the link in the upper right that told you that if you wanted, you could listen to the audio recording of Gibson's show, again so that you yourself could get the proper context and make your own judgments.

What did you not see? Well, you didn't see anywhere a link to sign a petition demanding his ouster, or any information about starting a boycott, or Gibson's home phone number, or any other thing. If Media Matters is trying to silence John Gibson's conservative opinions here, they're doing a really crappy job at it. There is a link to MMfA's "Action Center," which, were you to visit, provides hints on the following: "What you can do," "Communicating with journalists," "How to write a great letter to the editor," "How to call in to a talk radio show," and "Get a Media Matters for America news box for your website or blog."

That's it. Nothing in there about silencing anyone or any campaigns to cut anyone's microphone. So I have no idea why the conservatives are so afraid--or so angry--about MMfA, and if anyone would like to explain it, using actual facts and reason if at all possible, I'd like to hear it. My only hypothesis (admittedly, untested) is that conservatives are so scared of letting the outside world see the actual words and hear the actual speech of these media figures that they want desperately to shut down or discredit MMfA.

Although it really seems to me like it would be much easier just to stop saying offensive or innaccurate things that, later, you're embarrassed by. Much easier.

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