In the rich and varied landscape of important issues about which progressives care, there are many that currently stand out in the news: drilling, immigration reform, and foreign policy are just a few. One issue that has become a constant backdrop for all the others is misinformation in the media—and it doesn't get the attention it deserves. While some of you may know a lot about this topic and stay up to date on what right wing media is doing, many of you may have less information. We at Tides do not profess to be experts or have all the answers, but we do hope to highlight some resources for you.
Conservative misinformation in today's politicized media climate is being pushed into the mainstream more aggressively and easily because of prominence of new media and changes in journalistic integrity. Conservative media and Tea Party leaders spend thousands of hours pushing misinformation, smearing progressives, practicing "journalism of assertion" (presenting unsubstantiated opinion and rumor as fact) and talking to voters through their television and radio shows. They help change public opinion and they even influence the more credible media. Inaccurate Fox News reports have seeped into CNN, The New York Times, Washington Post, and others. These energetic efforts threaten the broader progressive agenda; in fact, you could even say it's a broad-ranging attack on the entire progressive community.
The list of progressive organizations assaulted by Fox News grows daily, and the right wing media is likely to be promoting falsehoods about the specific issue you work on or care about. Here are just a few links that highlight the misinformation influencing public perceptions about some key issues:
Fox News does its best to air the most fringe, radical, and oftentimes hateful rhetoric heard anywhere on the right. Demonizing people doing good work as communists or fascists who are trying to tear down capitalism is patently ridiculous. At Tides, we care that right wing media continues to attack social justice organizations. We believe government has a place in society and the Tea Party's anti-government views are nonsense. Why should you care, and what can you do? A few tips to get you started follow below.
Stay informed by credible sources and find accurate reporting. For example, check out Chris Matthew's MSNBC documentary, Rise of the New Right which premiered on June 17 and focuses on Tea Party activists' extraordinary rise in the last year.
Support organizations that are doing good work on these media issues, as well as those who are targets of the right so they can be better equipped to deal with the fallout. There are many out there doing great work, such as Media Matters with their excellent research and monitoring of conservative misinformation, and funders like Jewish Funds for Justice.
Lastly, but most importantly, get engaged and volunteer this election season to help counter the Tea Party numbers.
We at Tides are interested in knowing how important you think the issue of right wing media is. Please comment and let us know.
Also see: the June 2010 issue of Tidings: Media and the Progressive Agenda.