Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Crashing the Gate

Slowly but surely, the corporate news media are beginning to back off some of their most reactionary and outrageous habits. They're having to clean up their act because of the pressure blogs are exerting on them, and because of the growing influence of the internet generally. Network pundits now know that when they say something stupid, they're going to get publicly called to account.

An example of what I'm talking about is provided by an incident involving MSNBC resident loudmouth Chris "Tweety" Matthews. On the January 17th edition of "Hardball," Matthews went on one of his trademarked MCP tirades against Hillary Clinton, saying "the reason she's a U.S. senator, the reason she's a candidate for president, the reason she may be a front-runner is her husband messed around. That's how she got to be senator from New York. We keep forgetting it. She didn't win there on her merit."

This was nothing new for Matthews. Jamison Foser of the blog Media Matters notes that Matthews has referred to Clinton as "She devil." He has repeatedly likened Clinton to "Nurse Ratched," referring to the scheming, manipulative character in One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest who "asserts arbitrary control simply because she can." He has called her "Madame Defarge." And he has described male politicians who have endorsed Clinton as "castratos in the eunuch chorus."

Left-leaning and Democratic blogs responded immediately to this gross personal attack dressed up as political criticism. Their outraged howls were loud enough to get picked up by newspapers and other news broadcasts. The upshot of this "blogswarm" was Matthews's on-air apology. There's a full account of the fallout from this incident at Media Matters.

Matthews being called to account and forced to apologize could never have happened even just a few years ago. It was due to the growing power of the internet, documented here in an excellent analysis by the Pew Research Center. The number of people who get significant portions of their news and information from the net has nearly tripled in the last severn years, and whether they're accessing mainly right-leaning or left-leaning sites, they're gaining access to viable alternatives to what until recently was a corporate media monopoly on information. Hundreds of thousands of people are blogging now, and hundreds of thousands more than just a few short months ago are visiting the most popular blogs daily. The internet now parallels the corporate media, which as a result is slowly being forced to curb its most pernicious excesses.

The Seattle blog Orcinus has an intelligent and insightful article on the positive changes the internet is exerting on the corporate media, at [url][/url]. I'd recommend it highly, if for no other reason than to learn why it's now possible to call Pat Buchanan a white supremacist to his face and get away with it.

Sooner or later, the truth will out. And it's about time.

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