Several speakers, including Senator Bernie Sanders and Rep. Maurice Hinchey, declared that they think Congress should use a new federal â€œfairness doctrineâ€ to target conservative speech on television and radio.
But while conservatives are not ashamed to be conservatives, because of the popularity of their ideas about freedom, a strong military, economic growth and traditional values, the liberals at this conference wanted desperately to avoid the use of the term â€œliberal,â€ apparently because of its association with failed domestic, social and foreign policies. They described themselves and their causes as â€œprogressive.â€
If this conference has an impact, and the participants were called upon to put pressure on the media and Congress, we should expect increasing references to the term â€œprogressiveâ€ in coverage of controversial liberal initiatives, including the proposed agenda for â€œmedia reform.â€ The only question is when congressional liberals get enough nerve to aggressively push this authoritarian attempt to muzzle their political opponents.
The Soros Connection
Sponsored by Free Press, a Massachusetts-based organization that is generously subsidized by pro-Democratic Party billionaire George Soros, the â€œNational Conference on Media Reformâ€ featured Bill Moyers and Jesse Jackson and Hollywood celebrities such as Danny Glover, Geena Davis and Jane Fonda.
Soros, portrayed by the major media and â€œprogressivesâ€ funded by him as a humanitarian and philanthropist, has made billions of dollars through international financial manipulations conducted through secretive off-shore hedge funds. He was convicted of insider trading in France, one of many countries to have borne the brunt of his global financial schemes.
He spent over $26 million in the 2004 presidential campaign trying to defeat Bush and also contributed to groups that have brought Democrats to power in Congress.
His â€œmedia reformâ€ agenda is being pursued primarily though Free Press, which has received at least $400,000 over the last several years from the Soros-funded Open Society Institute. But Soros has also poured money into groups like the Center for Investigative Reporting, the Fund for Investigative Journalism, and Investigative Reporters & Editors.
One obvious purpose of such grants is to steer the media away from investigating Soros himself. However, during one media appearance, on the CBS 60 Minutes program, Soros acknowledged that as a 14-year-old Jewish boy in Hungary, his identity was protected and that he actually assisted in confiscating property from Jews as they were being shipped off to death camps. As an adult, he shuns pro-Israel causes and believes in accommodating the Iranian regime.
The Free Press co-founder, John Nichols, has edited such books as Against the Beast, a critique of the â€œAmerican Empire,â€ and shares Sorosâ€™s opposition to a U.S. foreign policy that targets emerging threats in the Arab/Muslim world.
In addition to the creation of what he calls a â€œNew World Orderâ€ under U.N. auspices, Sorosâ€™s causes include abortion, drug legalization, and special rights for immigrants, homosexuals, felons, and prostitutes. An atheist, Soros is promoting the complete breakdown of traditional values and morality in America.
In the official conference program, however, there was no mention of the Soros role in funding Free Press. However, thanks were extended to the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Overbrook Foundation, Quixote Foundation, Glaser Progress Foundation, and the Haas Trusts.
â€œWe are grateful also for the generosity and support of many other public charities, private foundations and individual donors,â€ the conference program said, carefully concealing their identities.
Publications and organizations given credit for promoting the event included The American Prospect magazine, The Washington Monthly, The Nation, and MoveOn.org
Reds Not Under Beds
The Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), which opposes the Chinese communist government as too capitalist, was one of the official exhibitors. Also on hand, displaying banners calling for the impeachment of President Bush, was the so-called 9/11 truth movement, which holds that Muslims were blamed for the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York City and the Pentagon when U.S. officials actually carried them out.
Other exhibitors included the Newspaper Guild, Consumers Union, Mother Jones magazine, Pacifica Radio, and Amy Goodman, host of â€œDemocracy Now.â€
While the Democratic Party and its political leaders were embraced by most of the participants and usually met with standing ovations, the official conference bookstore didnâ€™t offer any books by or about Hillary Clinton. I was told by the bookstore owner that that she was perceived as too conservative by this crowd and that those books wouldnâ€™t sell.
On the other hand, books by Senator Barack Obama and Al Gore were prominently featured. Books by Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Mikhail Gorbachev, former White House reporter Helen Thomas, and Webster Tarpley, a former associate of Lyndon LaRouche, were also available. Tarpley, an â€œexpertâ€ on how 9/11 was a U.S. plot, was a featured guest for two hours on Air America, the liberal radio network now in bankruptcy because of bad management and dismal ratings.
A special screening of the film â€œReel Bad Arabsâ€ was held, in order to argue that Arabs and Muslims deserve more favorable coverage from the media and Hollywood. The film is narrated by Jack Shaheen, who recently appeared on Al-Jazeera English making charges of anti-Arab media bias.
Very little was said during various panels about the Islamic terrorists who killed almost 3,000 Americans on 9/11 and are currently killing American soldiers and innocent civilians, most of them Muslims, in Iraq. Instead, Bush was blamed for the violence there.
Showing where conference participants stood on the matter of maintaining a U.S. military to defend America against the global Jihad, one of the books on sale at the official conference bookstore was titled, 10 Excellent Reasons Not To Join The Military.
Former conservative David Brock, of another Soros-funded group, Media Matters, labeled the Bush foreign policy of liberating Arab lands as â€œcriminally insane.â€ On the same panel with Brock, Norman Solomon of the Institute for Public Accuracy suggested that U.S. foreign policy was immoral and that the media were working hand-in-glove with the Bush Administration to prepare a military attack on Iran, just as they had done with Iraq.
Reaching new levels of hysteria, Rep. Maurice Hinchey said the survival of America was itself at stake because â€œneo-fascistâ€ and â€œneo-conâ€ talk-show hosts led by Rush Limbaugh had facilitated the â€œillegalâ€ war in Iraq and were complicit in President Bushâ€™s repeated violations of the Constitution, such as by detaining terrorists. He warned that the â€œright-wing oriented mediaâ€ were now preparing the way for Bush to wage war on Iran and Syria.
His answer, a bill titled the â€œMedia Ownership Reform Act,â€ would reinstate the federal fairness doctrine and authorize bureaucrats at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to monitor and alter the content of radio and television programs.
Hinchey, chairman of the â€œFuture of American Media Caucusâ€ in the House, was introduced as the new chairman of a subcommittee with jurisdiction over the FCC. For Hinchey and the vast majority at the conference, there was a pressing need for more, not less, regulation of what they call the â€œcorporate media.â€
With passage of his bill, Hinchey said that â€œprogressivesâ€ would be able to demand and get â€œequal accessâ€ to programs hosted by conservatives and rebut the â€œbaloneyâ€ of people like Limbaugh. â€œAll of that stuff will end,â€ Hinchey said about the influence of conservative media. By name, he also denounced Fox News and Sinclair Broadcasting.
Hinchey praised Democratic FCC commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein, who appeared at the conference, and indicated that with the election of a Democratic President in 2008, the FCC could be openly used to frustrate the growing popularity of conservative ideas, perhaps under the cover of resisting â€œmedia consolidation.â€
Later, Hinchey was seen preparing for an appearance on Air America, which had a make-shift studio set up on the premises of the conference.
Protecting Public Broadcasting
Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen, who was just elected to Congress from Memphis, assured the audience that Democrats would protect and possibly increase funding for public broadcasting, which he noted is on the â€œleft hand side of the dialâ€ but has been having problems generating listeners and viewers.
One of the cries of some participants was to â€œput the public back into public broadcasting,â€ apparently a plea for even more â€œpublicâ€ money from Congress.
Public broadcastingâ€™s Bill Moyers, who spoke to the conference about the â€œravenousâ€ nature of â€œBig Media,â€ was obviously not referring to public TV or radioâ€™s appetite for U.S. tax dollars, even though AIM has documented how these entities have received over $8 billion from the taxpayers since their creation. The far-left Pacifica Radio, another taxpayer-supported network, had a heavy presence at the â€œmedia reformâ€ conference.
The appearance of Moyers, who served as White House press secretary in the Lyndon Johnson Administration before he worked for CBS News and public TV, was curious, at least at this conference in Memphis, because he had been aware at the time of his service to LBJ of secret surveillance of Martin Luther King, Jr.
King was assassinated in Memphis in 1968 and his birthday celebration on January 15 was mentioned by several speakers, most notably Jesse Jackson, a former King aide.
One 9/11 truth movement booth featured a poster claiming that King was murdered as the result of a U.S. Government conspiracy, even though James Earl Ray was convicted of the crime and sentenced to prison. Ray died in 1998.
Continuing this fascination with conspiracy theories about the deaths of prominent people, a book for sale at the conference bookstore, titled, American Assassination: The Strange Death of Paul Wellstone, claims that the airplane accident that took the life of the liberal Senator from Minnesota was actually deliberate murder. The book claims Wellstoneâ€™s â€œprogressiveâ€ stands made him a target.
Senator Sanders, the only open socialist in Congress, accused the media of covering up Kingâ€™s opposition to the Vietnam War. He did not mention that King took that approach because he had come under the influence of identified top members of the Soviet-funded Communist Party USA, who had become his close advisers. This is one of the reasons why the Johnson Administrationâ€”and then Attorney General Bobby Kennedyâ€”approved FBI surveillance of him.Â
Kingâ€™s radical turn to the left, which detracts from the good work that he did, should not be a taboo topic but it is one of many issues that â€œprogressivesâ€ want censored from the media. Another King controversy that is off the table for â€œprogressivesâ€ is his well-documented plagiarism.
Socialist Urges One-Sided Coverage
Sanders, who votes with the Democrats in the Senate despite his official status as an independent socialist, claimed conservatives were 99 percent in control of talk radio and that it was time â€œto open the question of the fairness doctrine againâ€ to restrict what they say and how they say it.
He faulted the media for covering two sides of the global warming debate â€œwhen there is no debate in the scientific community.â€
Clearly, therefore, the purpose in proposing a â€œfairness doctrineâ€ is not to offer different points of view but to silence viewpoints liberals regard as unsound or unpopular.
Sanders indicated he would introduce a Senate version of the Hinchey bill.
A similar bill, the â€œFairness in Broadcasting Act,â€ was sponsored by Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter, the chairman of the House Rules Committee that has enormous influence over what bills are brought up for votes.Â
The Rev. Jesse Jackson, the object of fawning media coverage despite the scandal of producing a child from an extramarital affair, argued before the conference for â€œthe right to be heardâ€ and insisted that the major media were not telling the real story of pain and suffering in George Bushâ€™s America.
Despite claiming to be for open debate and discussion, he recently urged consumers to boycott DVDs of the Seinfeld comedy show because the actor who plays one of the characters had been caught making racist comments in a night club. Jackson had the actor, Michael Richards, on his radio show to apologize for the remarks.
Suggesting the real agenda behind â€œmedia reform,â€ Jackson said that the key to Democrats winning â€œis more access to the media.â€
That may depend, however, on how the â€œprogressivesâ€ market their unpopular ideas, especially when they actively begin their congressional campaign of suppressing viewpoints in opposition to their own.Â
Making himself out to be a victim, Jackson said that he should be called by the media for comments on foreign policy issues like Iraq, rather than just racial controversies like the Duke rape case.
Clearly staking out a position on the far-left fringe, Jackson accused Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of taking â€œbaby stepsâ€ legislatively when she should be exercising â€œbold leadership.â€ On Iraq, he said, â€œyou canâ€™t be against the war and for the war budget.â€ Rather than just raise the minimum wage, he said Pelosi should introduce a massive new jobs program. He concluded his remarks by asking people to watch his TV program on the Word television network and to tune into his â€œKeep Hope Aliveâ€ radio show on 50 stations.Â
Republicans as Thieves
At a panel moderated by Paul Waldman of Media Matters, Steve Freeman of the University of Pennsylvania argued that the 2004 presidential election was stolen on behalf of George W. Bush. His associate, Jonathan Simon of the Election Defense Alliance, took to the microphone during the question-and-answer period to argue that the 2006 elections were rigged as well and that the Republicans are preparing to steal the 2008 presidential election. Waldman, who claimed to be dedicated to factual accuracy in covering current events, didnâ€™t dispute any of this. In fact, he stated his belief that Al Gore had won the 2000 election and that the media knew it.
Another panelist, Cornell Belcher, the official pollster for the Democratic National Committee, seemed to be taken aback by the conspiracy theories and pointed out that the Democrats had, in fact, made substantial gains on the federal and state levels in 2006.
However, during a conversation over breakfast, Freeman reiterated his belief that the Democrats had won far more seats than they were given credit for in 2006. Asked why they wouldnâ€™t protest the stealing of votes, he said, â€œDemocrats are in on it.â€ He described Republicans and Democrats as the A team and B team, and that when one team makes too many mistakes, the other goes in for relief. Asked for his opinion on the 9/11 truth movement, he said, â€œNothing would surprise me.â€
A panel on â€œMedia, War, and Impeachmentâ€ featured Jeff Cohen, founder of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, whose December 2006 magazine features Hugo Chavez of Venezuela on the cover as he addressed the U.N. holding up a copy of Noam Chomskyâ€™s book on the dangers of American â€œhegemony.â€ That was the appearance in which Chavez labeled Bush the devil.
The article inside the magazine by FAIRâ€™s Steve Rendall accused the American media of unfairly criticizing Chavez for â€œchallenging the U.S.,â€ not because he makes absurd charges, chums around with people such as the anti-Semitic and anti-American Iranian president, and threatens press freedom in his own country. Promising â€œSocialism or death,â€ Chavez was just sworn in for another presidential term.
On Saturday night, as participants prepared for an event featuring Jane Fonda, they were given copies of a four-page flier advertising Bob Avakianâ€™s book, From Ike to Mao and Beyond. The flier said that Avakian, the leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party, has been described by Cornell West of Princeton University as â€œa long distance runner in the freedom struggle against imperialism, racism and capitalism.â€
Scott Lee, an RCP â€œhelperâ€ passing out the fliers, told me that he thought the conference was worthwhile but too heavily titled in favor of the Democratic Party. He said he wasnâ€™t aware that global capitalist George Soros had funded the left-wing conference organizers but that the money had gone for a good cause.
This is what passes for â€œprogressivismâ€ these days. It is a clear danger to freedom at home and abroad.
Cliff Kincaid is Editor of Accuracy in Media.Â