David Brock: Conservatives 'Willing to Lie' to Influence Media
By Marc Morano
CNSNews.com Senior Staff Writer
February 15, 2005
Washington, D.C. (CNSNews.com) - David Brock, a former investigative reporter for conservative publications before flipping his political ideology and writing a book titled, "Blinded by the Right," said Monday that the best way for liberals to expose the current conservative influence in the media is to show how conservatives are "simply willing to lie."
Brock is currently the president and CEO of Media Matters for America, a liberal media watchdog that takes on some of the biggest names in conservative media. In authoring the 2002 book, "Blinded by the Right, The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative," Brock not only distanced himself from the conservative movement, he disclosed his homosexuality.
Monday, he noted examples of how the "professional" or "mainstream media" are influenced by conservative talk radio, the Internet and think tanks. That influence, Brock said, will diminish as the conservative "lies" are exposed.
"The conservatives seem to be particularly vulnerable because the quality of their research is particularly low. There is typically self-interested money behind it and of course they are simply willing to lie," Brock told a group of interns at a luncheon at the Center for American Progress headquarters in Washington D.C.
Brock urged the young media activists to challenge what he views as the conservative media bias.
"I think that all of that has to be confronted in a systemic way. If you shine light on propaganda over time, it does cease to have an effect," Brock said. "Their words can be used against them. The fact that the claims that they make are often dubious can also be brought up in a very effective way," he added.
Brock told the interns that conservatives "bully" the media.
"We have seen the mainstream media increasingly accommodating conservatism and this is not an accident. This is the result of coordinated and financed effort by the right wing to pressure, push and bully the media to do that," Brock said. "The media today is a political issue. I believe it is conservatives that have politicized it," he added.
Brock identified what he considered the dominant conservative media outlets.
"It includes newspapers like the Washington Times and the New York Post, it includes the Fox News Channel, it includes talk radio and several highly trafficked Internet sites," Brock said.
He and fellow panelist Judd Legum, a writer for The Progress Report and ThinkProgress.org cited Cybercast News Service, Newsmax.com and WorldNetDaily.com as examples of the most influential websites.
'False and wrong article'
To illustrate how the conservative media generates a news story, Brock referred to his old employer, The Washington Times and how the newspaper has evolved.
"In 1986, the Washington Times only reached those 100,000 subscribers. Today what we have is a situation where a false and wrong article in the Washington Times is read by Rush Limbaugh on the air. It reaches 20 million people. The author of that article can go on "The O'Reilly Factor" and reach another 5-10 million people. Matt Drudge can post that article on his Internet site and reach another 6 million people," Brock explained.
"So the capacity and the reach for conservatives to communicate their messages, their propaganda and their attacks [have] really increased exponentially over that time," he said.
Brock also emphasized that the "right wing media" has an impact far beyond its conservative base.
"We ought not to dismiss the impact of specifically and explicitly right wing media. If you look at the demographics of the reach of a place like the Fox News Channel or talk radio, they are not simply speaking to the converted or the choir," Brock said.
"They are reaching middle of the road, independent voters and of course there is a huge echo effect of that right wing media into the mainstream media, so that even people who are not consuming right wing media are affected by its messaging and I think it's long overdue that we recognize that reality as well," he added.
Brock explained how conservatives can generate the news they desire. "Things can develop on rather obscure conservative websites that you may never even have heard of and then given a life," Brock said.
Fox News Channel "uses these conservative websites as kind of tip sheets to fill their content, their time on the air. The wall between that type of media and the mainstream media is just so porous today that you often see that it seeps through," he added.
'We are not there yet'
Brock lamented that conservatives have much more firepower in dispersing their ideas than do liberals.
"There is a conservative group called the Media Research Center (the parent organization of Cybercast News Service) which is run by a guy named Brent Bozell that does the kind of media watch-dogging and monitoring from the conservative side that we do. The difference is that Rush Limbaugh reads their material verbatim on the air," Brock said.
"Now I go on (liberal Air America Radio) Al Franken's show once a week -- every Wednesday -- which is a great means for us to be able to disseminate our material, but the fact is Limbaugh is still reaching 20 million people and we are not there yet. But I am encouraged,' he explained.
Brock also said that the "mainstream media" is not really on the side of liberals, as many conservatives contend. "As far as the mainstream media is concerned, know that it is not on your side as much as the conservatives will like to claim that the media is liberal," he said.
"My view is that the conservatives have been able to work, both with media and against the media at the same time and that is something that has really not been perfected on the progressive side," he explained.
Conservatives have created a "structural imbalance" in the media because of their organized efforts "proactively pitching (their point of view) to the media," according to Brock.
"The result of this is as anybody who watches, not just Fox, but CNN or MSNBC -- there is a structural imbalance across all of those political talk shows, where there is a severe under-representation of progressives, and part of that is the fault of progressives," he claimed.
Brock offered NBC's "Meet the Press" as an example of how progressives are under-represented.
"The lack of balance is just so apparent if you look at your composition of your typical Meet the Press roundtables, where they have [syndicated columnist] Bob Novak, a conservative ideologue debating John Harwood, a reporter from The Wall Street Journal and that's the debate," Brock said.
"Who goes in and sees [Meet the Press anchor] Tim Russert and says, 'Here is what you have done for the last 52 weeks and it's unacceptable.' That is the kind of aggressive approach that [conservatives] take and I do think they are being more bold about it lately," he added.
Conservatives also use their media power to push more than ideology, according to Brock. "Part of the conservative game plan is simply to confuse people, so that they are not necessarily trying to win these arguments on a factual level," Brock said.
Brock cited the Vietnam War record of Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry and the opposition to his campaign mounted by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth as an example of how conservatives seek to confuse Americans.
"If at the end of the day, the average consumer of news isn't sure what to think (about Kerry's Vietnam War record), [conservatives] have made progress because they have planted seeds of doubt that weren't there before and so it's very difficult to confront that kind of thing," Brock said.