It's War. Media War.

August 10, 2009

It's war.

Hundreds of protesters are turning Democratic Town Hall meetings into combat zones in a battle over health care. They are angry, really angry. Barack Obama's healthcare plan, they believe, is going to euthanize Grandma.

I would be angry, too, if they were going to kill my grandmother, wouldn't you? Except, of course, the government is not going to euthanize anybody; the Obama adminstration, like most family doctors, just want people to prepare advance directives, statements which give people control over their own end of life issues.

But the protesters don't know that. They really believe that the government is going to kill their grandparents.

So mad as hell, they soldier into town halls ready to fight, into forums like the one Rep. Lloyd Doggett held in South Austin, Texas. Elise Hu of KVUE News reported that Doggett's "opponents have become a vocal, viral army."

They are vocal, and they are an army. But their "viral" campaign is aided by a giant radio and TV cheerleading squad. As with the "Tea Parties," Fox News and AM Radio are promoting both the town halls and the lies to tens of millions of unwitting people. No wonder people are upset; trusted voices are scaring them to death. Voices like Rush Limbaugh, on 600 radio outlets, telling them, "as Obama said, they'll give 'em some pain killers, and let 'em loop out until they die." Laura Ingraham, on 300 stations, "Some will call them death camps." Glenn Beck, on 400 more, "Why is there no more discussion than there is on Sarah Palin, and what she said over the weekend that there would be a death panel for her son, Trig? That’s quite a statement. I believe it to be true..."

So, average people, shut out of the facts and terrified of the Obama plan, storm into town halls to shout down their elected representatives.

Here's where it gets good: this irate army creates just the kind of spectacle news loves to cover, so the "real" news amplifies the falsehoods way beyond the walls of the hall. The mainstream news no longer takes the time to clarify the facts, but instead becomes an effective PR machine for the right wing war of words. (See more on this phenomena in my Tea Party Story here at

Meanwhile, President Obama starts a new website, to counter the propaganda. But does he really think a website, any website, can stand up to the daily barrage on the battlefield of Talk Radio, an attack mounted on thousands of different fronts in every corner of the country? An arena where right wing mouthpieces dominate their opponents by ten to one? Can any internet action combat the giant corporate-financed microphones which, 24-7, since 1996, have been using Democrats as target practice, and which now martial hate and lies to attack Obama's plan, presidency, and even his citizenship? Where true believers number in the tens of millions, and warriors can be influenced and recruited simply by people turning on their radios?

(Think it's a coincidence that places where we've seen the most anger, like Michigan, Arkansas, Missouri, Philladelphia, and Austin also get zero progressive talk radio?)

There's a war, that much is certain. But the "healthscare" debate is just a skirmish. The real war Conservatives have been waging and winning is over facts and truth. It is a war they have been fighting for decades, and the Democrats have not yet figured out there's even a battle, so they keep losing.

Pew Research shows fewer than half of Americans believe news organizations get their facts right. That's way fewer than in 1985.

Maybe that's because the war on truth and truth tellers started much earlier. David Brock, former Conservative writer and founder of Media Matters, in an interview for Broadcast Blues, told me "the conservative movement going back to 1969, has had a coordinated and well financed attack on journalism in this country. …While they claim that the complaint is one of liberal bias… the real goal is to disable journalism from being able to do its job independently and neutrally." Worse, he says, "A lot of the falsehood and misinformation that's coming out of the conservative media is coming out intentionally . In other words, they know they're misinforming people, and that's a significant problem."

The Right has been piling up major victories in this war over the control of information for dozens of years. Dateline 1987: Ronald Reagan dismantles the Fairness Doctrine. 1996: Conservatives rewrite Telecommunications law so they can control the message on almost all the nation's radio stations. 2003: Fox News gets a court ruling in the "Akre/Wilson vs. WTVT" case that stations can legally lie to the public.

In USA TODAY, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-CA and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-MD write, “Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American. Drowning out the facts is how we failed at this task for decades.”

Wake up, Democratic Leadership, we have been at war over facts for decades, and our democracy is suffering because of it. Thomas Jefferson said, "A democracy cannot be both ignorant and free." Only you can save us, and it's about time you get into the fight.

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