Shut Up Everybody
Why conservatives and liberals are ratcheting up their monitoring of the media.
Nobody has explained this better, or confirmed the fears of Breitbart and his ilk, quite like Van Jones. Last September, a year after his White House exit, he gave a speech at the Facing Race conference that was captured—of course—by Breitbart.tv. In it, Jones bemoaned the fact that liberals "got 60 votes in the Senate" and "Speaker Pelosi, not some right-wing Democrat," yet still couldn't pass most of their agenda.
"There's other systems of power that we were not taking seriously," said Jones. "They have to do with the media. They have to do with the racial discourse in the media. That's the next frontier."
You can see why Breitbart would look at that, and the October 2010 campaign to get him off ABC, and this month's Huffington Post campaign, and accuse the left of a plot against conservatives with him as collateral damage.
"This has nothing to do with Breitbart's views or his language," says James Rucker, Color of Change's co-founder. "It's about a level of deceit from Breitbart that's basically anti-journalism. If you're a legitimate news outlet, you want folks that deal with facts. You don't want someone like Breitbart in your roster. And there are consequences to what he does, because he's able to take down Shirley Sherrod. ACORN, for all its faults, was the biggest registrar of low-income black voters, and he takes that down."
Breitbart, who tried and failed to resolve the Color of Change issue with the Huffington Post last week, says that the organization buckled because its editors were buckling. That's the dream. That's the bizarre version of what Media Research Center is able to do, and what its offshoot, the Parents Television Council, is able to do, when they hound the media for publishing left-wing opinion or flimsy stories that go easy on liberals.
This reality is becoming pretty transparent. We know that partisan stuff— controversial stuff—is good for ratings and good for clicks. We know who's working the refs to make the media pay a price for those ratings and those clicks. That doesn't mean we have to like it.
David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at email@example.com, or tweet at him @daveweigel.
Photograph of Andrew Breitbart by Win McNamee/Getty Images.