Written by Cliff Kincaid
June 9, 2008
By Cliff Kincaid
Minneapolis: Dropping any pretense of objectivity and non-partisanship, the "National Conference for Media Reform" on Saturday night turned into a Barack Obama-for-President rally, as left-wing media figure Arianna Huffington denounced Senator and presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain as a "Trojan horse for the right" who had "sold his soul" to become president.
Several speakers, including Federal Communications Commissioner Michael Copps, used the Obama campaign slogan, “Yes, we can,” as they urged the thousands of “progressives” in the audience to bring “change” to Washington, D.C.
One speaker, Sylvia Rivera, who runs a Mexican art museum, had the audience saying “Yes, we can” in Spanish. “Forty years from now,” she said, “we will marvel at how we elected our first black president.”
Huffington, who runs the far-left Huffington Post website, said that Obama would win the White House in November as long as “the fear-mongering of the right” on national security affairs was kept in check and “zero tolerance” was practiced for attacks on Obama’s patriotism and loyalty to the U.S. Another problem, she stated, was that “the media are still in love with John McCain” and it is imperative to make sure the media “fall out of love” with him.
If all of this is done, she predicted a “landslide” for Democrats in November.
Meanwhile, a Canadian, Naomi Klein, who writes for the British Guardian and The Nation magazine, told the conference that Hillary Clinton’s endorsement of Obama was “a partial victory for the forum gathered here tonight.” She said that Clinton was the candidate of the establishment and that her “coronation” had been derailed.
It was only a partial victory, she explained, because pressure has to continue to be placed on Obama as he campaigns and then as president to endorse and carry out a detailed plan for completely withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq. She said, “Iraq was the decisive issue of the campaign. Clinton supported it. Obama didn’t.”
Referring to Clinton’s loss, Klein said, “Somebody paid a price [for Iraq] at last.”
She said that Obama has to “earn the incredible trust he has been given” and warned that “the establishment” will try to “assert control” over him.
Klein, a critic of what she calls “disaster capitalism,” said that Obama’s support from Wall Street financial interests was a problem and griped that Democrats, rather than Republicans, were now getting more campaign dollars from the “arms industry.”
Nevertheless, under pressure from a “radicalized” populace, Klein said, that Obama could not only get the U.S. out of Iraq but carry out a “Green New Deal” and transform the U.S. economy. But she cautioned that Obama hasn’t yet articulated a “green agenda” that “is a match for our climate crisis.”
Klein received a standing ovation from the conference participants.
By comparison to Huffington and Klein, the speeches of Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan and disgraced former CBS Evening News anchorman Dan Rather, which were delivered as part of the same “Media Reform Begins With Me” Saturday evening program, seemed mild and almost dull.
Dorgan wants the federal government to decide who shall own media properties and whether they are serving the “public interest.” He is the “progressive” point man for “media reform” in the Senate and bragged about how he had gotten Republican Senator Trent Lott to go along with his efforts. Lott recently resigned to become a lobbyist.
Rather, who left CBS News after he used forged documents in an effort to smear President Bush before the 2004 election, portrayed himself as one of the crowd, saying that we have to “take back the press for the American people.” But only about half the crowd gave his lackluster speech a standing ovation.
Rather, who now anchors a show on the obscure HDNet channnel, talked about the failings of the press, without alluding to his own journalistic scandal. He said that he had just interviewed former Bush press secretary Scott McClellan, who charges in his new book, What Happened, that the media were “overly deferential” to the White House in the run-up to the Iraq War. “He’s right, and we didn’t need Scott McClellan telling us so,” said Rather.
Indeed, some “progressives” in the audience told this columnist that they consider Rather to have been one of those “deferential” news people and wondered why he had even been invited to the conference.
The answer apparently lies in Rather’s tendency, since he was forced out of CBS News, to take pot shots at the owners of what are called the “corporate media.” This fits nicely in line with what the conference sponsor, the Free Press, wants people to believe about the sources of all of our media problems today. These are problems that can only be solved, speakers repeatedly said, with more and bigger government.
The “media reform“ movement has been funded by Democratic moneybags George Soros, a billionaire and convicted inside trader, and liberal foundations such as the Wallace Global Fund, named for FDR’s pro-communist Vice President Henry Wallace.
Earlier in the day, Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), who sits on a House committee with jurisdiction over the Federal Communications Commission, told this columnist that he favors the return of the so-called Fairness Doctrine, in order to restore “balance” to the airwaves. Such a measure was used under the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations to intimidate and regulate the content of conservative commentators and broadcasters.
Return of the Fairness Doctrine or other measures to limit and control conservative speech could come about because Doyle predicted that the November elections will result in Democrats in the House increasing their numbers from 235 to 265 and in the Senate to close to 60, in addition to Obama‘s predicted win.
“It’s time to put a cop back on the beat,” demanded Democratic FCC commissioner Copps, in framing the “media reform” debate. With Obama in the White House, Democrats would also have a majority. The other current Democrat on the FCC is Jonathan Adelstein, another speaker at the “media reform” conference and the one who introduced Dorgan. A President Obama would appoint the FCC chairman, giving Democrats a 3-2 edge.
As they see it, of course, the “cop” on the beat is going to be the FCC, regulating and dictating media ownership rules, enforcing broadcaster compliance with the “public interest,” and control over the flow of news and information over the Internet. The latter is euphemistically and misleadingly called “net neutrality” or “Internet freedom.”
As explained by Tim Wu, a Columbia Law School Professor who coined the term “net neutrality” and is chairman of Free Press, the U.S. Constitution is flawed because the founders did not anticipate the problem of “the abuse of private power.” The Bill of Rights was merely designed to protect people against government and the founders were concerned about the exercise of “public power,” he explained to the conference.
This is their rationale for using the powers of the federal government, through the FCC and Congress, to control the media. It is significant and telling that the Broadcaster Freedom Act, which would prevent the return of the Fairness Doctrine, was not endorsed by any speaker at the conference. The obvious reason is that the conference organizers want to use the government to silence voices objecting to their vision of what America should be.
The proof was in the lineup of speakers at conference events, panels, and workshops, which prompted even some participants to question why conservatives had been deliberately excluded. The slant was so dramatic that this columnist was singled out for daring to ask a critical question during the question-and-answer session following a panel on the dangers of “hate speech.” This panel featured attacks on such media figures as Lou Dobbs of CNN, a critic of illegal immigration.
One panel member, John TrasviÃ±a of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education, said in an interview that his group was considering various legal and legislative options against “hate speech,” including the return of the federal Fairness Doctrine.
The panel also featured a Department of Justice official, Mark Kappelhoff, who had previously served as legislative counsel for the ACLU. He described federal prosecution of those who perpetrate hate crimes. Asked if he had ever uncovered hoaxes by those claiming to have been victimized by alleged hate crimes, Kappelhoff said that he couldn’t comment.
The one-sided panels reflect the kind of media coverage that the Free Press is seeking for the rest of us.
Arianna Stassinopoulos Huffington, who inherited her wealth from her homosexual ex-husband Michael Huffington and once traveled in Republican circles, is now a leading light in the “progressive” movement and boasted of hiring former Washington Post reporter Thomas Edsall to do “investigative” stories for her.
But she has a strange view of the role of the media. She denounced “equal time for lies,” which is apparently the basis for two chapters in her new book, and decried the tendency of some in the media to cover both sides of issues like man-made global warming. The debate on this controversy has gone on for too long, she said.
Her new book concerns the “lunatic fringe,” which is how she now regards the right. But lunatics were all over this conference. Compact discs were for sale featuring the views of communist Angela Davis (on the topic of “How the Change Happens”) and members of the Revolutionary Communist Party distributed their newspaper, Revolution, to participants. A Planned Parenthood booth distributed condoms.
In a dramatic development, one panel featured a homosexual blogger, Mike Rogers, who charged that Florida Republican governor and possible McCain running mate Charlie Crist was a closeted homosexual. Asked for proof, he said it was on his website, BlogActive.com (Crist has denied the accusation but pro-family organizations, including Peter LaBarbera’s Americans for Truth, take the allegation seriously).
After Huffington’s partisan attack on McCain and plea for a Democratic Party takeover of the White House, emcee Lizz Winstead declared that the Free Press did not endorse or oppose any candidate for public office. She apparently made the statement in order to protect the legal non-profit status of the organization.
But Winstead, co-creator of The Daily Show, made the claim while laughing and smiling throughout. Indeed, by this point it had become quite clear, if it was not already apparent, that the “National Conference for Media Reform” had become an arm of the Obama-for-President campaign and was probably designed that way.
The only major policy criticisms of Obama concerned his recent pro-Israel speech before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). This contradicted his previous support for individuals and groups associated with the Arab and Palestinian cause.
In this context, some audience members at a panel titled “Corporate Media Confidential,” complained that “nothing negative about Israel” appears in the press. “We need to weaken the power of AIPAC,” said one, to strong applause. Another decried “our obsession with Israel.”
Panel member Cliff Schecter, author of the anti-McCain book, The Real McCain, urged Jewish groups to “come out for peace.” Another panel member, Jeff Cohen, who founded Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, said that he was labeled “the PLO Jew” when he worked in the media. Cohen had been a producer for Phil Donahue’s political talk show on MSNBC.
Asked if any pro-Israel views were going to be represented on any of the panels at the conference, panel moderator and Free Press official Craig Aaron insisted that everybody was pro-Israel.
As the conference was concluding on Sunday, with panels on such topics as “Holding local broadcast stations accountable at the FCC,” it had also become absolutely clear that the “media reform” movement has emerged as a critical part of the partisan political effort to help the Democratic Party gain absolute and total political power on the federal level and use that power to silence conservative and Republican voices in the media.