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Media Matters in a Nutshell

John on December 10, 2010 at 9:35 am

Media Matters had their own wikileak the other day when someone at Fox forwarded them an e-mail sent out by news editor Bill Sammon:

From: Sammon, Bill
Sent: Tuesday, October 27, 2009 8:23 AM
To: 054 -FNSunday; 169 -SPECIAL REPORT; 069 -Politics; 030 -Root (FoxNews.Com); 036 -FOX.WHU; 050 -Senior Producers; 051 -Producers
Subject: friendly reminder: let’s not slip back into calling it the “public option”

1)      Please use the term “government-run health insurance” or, when brevity is a concern, “government option,” whenever possible.

2)      When it is necessary to use the term “public option” (which is, after all, firmly ensconced in the nation’s lexicon), use the qualifier “so-called,” as in “the so-called public option.”

3)      Here’s another way to phrase it: “The public option, which is the government-run plan.”

4)      When newsmakers and sources use the term “public option” in our stories, there’s not a lot we can do about it, since quotes are of course sacrosanct.

Media Matters is outraged, claiming “Sammon’s email gives credence to allegations that news from Fox’s Washington bureau is being deliberately distorted to benefit conservatives and the Republican Party.” Howard Kurtz took the bait–hook, line and sinker–and did a rewrite of the MM post at the Daily Beast. To his credit, he did contact Sammon and allowed him to dispute the charge that he was attempting to slant the news.

Over at Reason, Peter Suderman quickly cut to the core of the problem with Media Matters complaint:

Media Matters doesn’t even make any attempt to prove that Sammon’s preferred label is inaccurate. Granted, that would be hard to do, because in fact the public option is a form of government-run insurance. But obviously we can’t let anyone in the media actually say this.

Kate Pickert, writing for Time, points out that contemporaneous polling indicates the public didn’t know what the public option was. Indeed, she notes something which immediately caught my attention as well:

Even Kurtz doesn’t appear to understand this. In his Daily Beast column, he writes:

The public option—an alternative insurance exchange for those who could not get health coverage from their employers—would in fact have been run by the Health and Human Services Department.

Drink deep the irony. Kurtz has written this piece about Sammon daring to call the public option what it is (a government option) and in the process of doing so demonstrates that he still doesn’t know what the term means! The exchanges are still in the law. The public option is not. Perhaps if his alma mater, the Washington Post, had adopted Sammon’s terminology he’d have a clue what he is talking about.

And this really brings us back to Media Matters. They exist for one reason, to give liberals leverage in the media. They don’t care about what’s true, they care about what is effective in moving the ball. In this case, a phrase which was politically useful to the left specifically because it preserved public ignorance (and Howard Kurtz’ ignorance apparently), was discarded in favor a a phrase that was both more descriptive and more informative about what was at stake in the debate.

The assumptions at work should be clear enough, but let’s spell them out for posterity: Media Matters feels that liberals in the media have the right to spin and distort the debate for the  benefit of the progressive movement. Anyone who replaces this leftist cant with fact is thereby pushing the debate to the right. And of course this is true. If you get far enough out on the left, the only way to get back to the center is to move right. Labeling that move away from the far left conservative bias is absurd on its face. It’s also Media Matters in a nutshell.

Related: More hypocrisy from MM courtesy of the always excellent Yid with Lid.

[HT: Jim Treacher at the Daily Caller for all the links in this post.]

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