Thursday, June 23, 2005

More Fact...Less Opinion?

By Robert Parry
June 21, 2005


Back in the 1970s, the situation was quite different. Then, the Left had a clear advantage in media, especially from the so-called “underground press” of the Vietnam War-era. These newspapers and magazines were read by legions of young people.

Many Americans got news, too, from independent investigative sources, such as Seymour Hersh’s Dispatch News which broke the My Lai massacre story. Progressives also produced video documentaries and presented anti-war news on rock music radio stations.

To avoid losing credibility with these young audiences, the mainstream press felt compelled toward more skeptical journalism. That dynamic created openings for major newspapers to challenge serious government wrongdoing, as in the Watergate scandal, or to disclose government lies, as in the Pentagon Papers history of the Vietnam War.

But Left funders made a number of fateful decisions at this turning point, essentially forsaking the national media advantage for a strategy of “grassroots organizing” or direct action, such as buying up endangered wetlands or feeding the hungry.

Simultaneously, the Right’s funders began investing heavily in media, launching what conservatives called the “war of ideas,” which was actually a struggle to control the flow of information to the American people.

The Vietnam-era dynamic was reversed. Progressive media shriveled into near irrelevance, while the conservative media expanded rapidly, with well-financed outlets in magazines, newspapers, radio, books, television and eventually the Internet. [For details on this process, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq.]

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