Contextualizing the Fox News Fight
by Matt Stoller, Wed Mar 07, 2007 at 06:28:27 AM EST
It looks like the Nevada Democratic Party's house of cards, and particularly Harry Reid's stonewalling, is collapsing. Local Democrats are frustrated. John Edwards stepped up big time, and made a choice of refusing to validate a right-wing institution over staying silent to placate various Nevada leaders that he needs to win the nomination. Reid's office is getting slammed with calls.
Most significantly, Fox News is losing their brand. They may and probably will try to negotiate another Democratic Presidential debate (with either the CBC or other state parties). They have to in fact do so in order to validate their status as a news channel. But there's now an obvious cost to Democratic leaders who betray Democrats, and that's what happened here when someone in Nevada booked Fox News to host the debate.
Progress feels very slow in politics, but this is a serious step forward. In 2000, and even today, activist Democrats made jokes about Al Gore inventing the internet without recognizing they have been conned by a media system. The right-wing critique of media is as old as Spiro Agnew (or earlier), so a core attack on journalism has been a part of their political philosophy for some time. They recognize that information is power, and how you distribute information is a key piece to fight over. Democrats didn't acknowledge this, thinking that just putting the facts 'out there' was enough. This beating back of the Reid machine, headed by one of the most powerful men in the country, and the Nevada Democratic Party's rapid withdrawal on Fox News simply could not have happened without tremendous frustration among Democratic activists at how media power is used against us.
Media is now a core part of politics for Democratic activists. We are now finally recognizing the power of information, and that putting 'the facts out there' represents a core set of values that must be defended. To contextualize this, the Iraq war really created the mass basis for a media reform movement that had been simmering since the 1970s. When progressives finally realized that the lack of debate in the press had led to the strategic and moral error of Iraq, a mass movement began to organize against powerful interests. That's where the net neutrality fight, among others, came from. It's also where the grassroots pressure to not ratify Fox News as a legitimate news source is coming from.
I was frankly surprised that Edwards dropped out of the debate, and that we've gotten as far as we have in so little time. It's a huge step forward in so many ways.