The Media Wars

( – promoted by buhdydharma )

It’s pretty well accepted that to participate on the grand stage in the 21st century (and this was obviously true of the 20th century as well) requires a media strategy and that the major players will, of course, have competing media strategies that seek to further their own goals and impede those of their ideological opponents.

It’s interesting to consider two recent multi-day stories in this light.

First off, just this afternoon, over at Talking Points Memo, I saw what is evidently a new development in the the whole “Rush Limbaugh is the leader of the Republican Party” imbroglio.

Just to backtrack a little – it’s certainly been interesting to watch the whole Michael Steele/Rush Limbaugh fiasco especially in light of the power that Limbaugh unquestionably holds in the party.  Back at the end of January President Obama reportedly told Republican congressional leaders “You can’t just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done.”

Limbaugh responded to this on his radio show then Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) stepped up and said

I think that our leadership, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, are taking the right approach,”…

“I mean, it’s easy if you’re Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh or even sometimes Newt Gingrich to stand back and throw bricks. You don’t have to try to do what’s best for your people and your party.You know you’re just on these talk shows and you’re living well and plus you stir up a bit of controversy and gin the base and that sort of thing. But when it comes to true leadership, not that these people couldn’t be or wouldn’t be good leaders, they’re not in that position of John Boehner or Mitch McConnell,” Gingrey said.

followed 24 hours later with

“Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Newt Gingrich, and other conservative giants are the voices of the conservative movement’s conscience. Everyday, millions and millions of Americans-myself included-turn on their radios and televisions to listen to what they have to say, and we are inspired by their words and by their determination,”

So, this battle for ideological control of the commanding heights of the Republican Party (such as it is) seems to be slanting in favor of Limbaugh.  Good.

The rabid 20% of the electorate that follows Limbaugh and the other knuckle-draggers of his ilk should be enough to change the Republican party beyond recognition.  What will come out of this is unclear, which is why many people both in the media and in the country are interested in the story.

Evidently, Michael Scherer at Time Magazine doesn’t see it this way.  The battle for the still-beating heart of the Republican Party, I guess is not news unless there is some nefarious plot by President Obama and his minions

As Jonathan Martin makes clear in the Politico today, this entire controversy has been cooked up and force fed to the American people by Obama’s advisers.*

* By advisers here I am including the outside Democratic strategists and supporters discussed above who have influenced the White House line on Limbaugh.

The only problem with this, as Greg Sargent points out is that the Politico article doesn’t really “make that clear.”  The Politico piece is a much more even-handed presentation of the situation.

Greg Sargent

But come on: None of this is really true. Or at least, it’s a grotesque exaggeration.

First of all, the Politico piece just doesn’t say this. If anything, the reporting in there proves the opposite. The piece says that the “strategy took shape” after Dem strategists James Carville and Stan Greenberg polled on Rush and found him to be deeply unpopular. But as Steve Benen notes, Carville and Greenberg aren’t Obama advisers, let alone White House advisers.

That’s not all. The piece explicitly says that groups outside the White House – the DCCC, the Center for American Progress, and the labor-backed Americans United for Change – were the first to push the strategy.

I think that the Republican Party will splinter – I see Limbaugh holding a large portion of his audience and whichever policy makers come along for the ride.  I’m actually not surprised that Ron Paul seems to be mostly keeping his head down and ducking the mud slinging, but I think that there will be a substantial number of people who gravitate around the ideas that he was propounding this past year.

Just today, I also read a Michael Wolff piece about the women of the Republican Party – specifically – Meg Whitman, Carly Fiorina and – YES – Sarah Palin.


This past weekend, I noticed a post over at The Big Picture about the much publicized Rick Santelli CNBC rant over President Obama’s (sorry, I just love typing that) mortgage plan.  The post linked to an article (yes, article) at Playboy’s website allegedly detailing the astroturf support that the Tea Party organizers were getting from the Koch family.

I followed this to see whether the big newspapers and broadcast networks would pick up on it – after all, CNBC is one of their own – it would be interesting to see how the other big boys reacted.

It seemed to die an ignominious and quiet death

Today, NY Mag reported that Playboy pulled the piece (insert your own bad pun here). The Daily Bail also had a few words to on the subject: We Stand Accused Of Having Fake Boobs. Megan McArdle at The Atlantic had the most persuasive fisking of the original piece I’ve seen.

I emailed Santelli earlier about Playboy dropping the post, but haven’t heard back yet.

The dropping of the accusatory piece suggests at best, the author could not back up their assertions. At worst, their accusations were false. Regardless, as the screen grab above shows, its now down.

The IMs are abuzz that CNBC’s legal team barked at Playboy, threatening litigation and Playboy quickly folded.

Fascinating development . . .

Tonight I was drifting around the net and found an article over at Alternet that addresses the situation and moves it forward a few steps.

From the original article

What we discovered is that Santelli’s “rant” was not at all spontaneous as his alleged fans claim, but rather it was a carefully-planned trigger for the anti-Obama campaign. In PR terms, his February 19th call for a “Chicago Tea Party” was the launch event of a carefully organized and sophisticated PR campaign, one in which Santelli served as a frontman, using the CNBC airwaves for publicity, for the some of the craziest and sleaziest rightwing oligarch clans this country has ever produced. Namely, the Koch family, the multibilllionaire owners of the largest private corporation in America, and funders of scores of rightwing thinktanks and advocacy groups, from the Cato Institute and Reason Magazine to FreedomWorks. The scion of the Koch family, Fred Koch, was a co-founder of the notorious extremist-rightwing John Birch Society.

The original story itself, as far as I can tell, does document a loose connection of right-wing money and websites, but does not conclusively tie Santelli and CNBC to Koch and the establishment of the Tea Party web sites prior to Santelli’s “spontaneous” rant.

This is probably one of the things that prompted Playboy to take the story off of its website.

The Alternet piece is worth reading – it has a good summary of the situation as well as the original article.  Here are the last few paragraphs before the original text kicks in

In a statement on the controversy, sent to me in the afternoon on March 3, Ames and Levine write:

“There has been a lot of speculation as to why Playboy removed our original article from its site. Let us put it this way: When you look at the fallout from our article — FreedomWorks admits its role in the teaparty, Santelli issues a giant lawyer-penned opus about how he loves Obama, and CNBC (whose parent company is the megaconglomerate General Electric) frightens a bunch of Astroturfing Web sites into dropping Santelli’s name and into revealing their own PAC sponsors — then it’s clear we hit the bull’s-eye and stirred up the wrath of a very scary monster.

“Given all of this, it would not be unreasonable for one to consider the possibility (as many have) that the multigazilliondollar megabeast GE threatened the much smaller independent media company Playboy with a terrifying and expensive lawsuit, which, given the current financial crisis, is not something anyone but another GE-sized megabeast could cope with. ‘Nuf said on that.”

Ames and Levine summarize the controversy on their site:

   “We publish an investigation into the fake-grassroots “Tea Party” protest campaign underwritten by rich Republican right-wing interests, exposing Rick Santelli’s role as the launch event MC, and three days later, Santelli is bitch-slapped down by his bosses, he’s canceled from the Daily Show, forced to issue a Bukharin-like confession, FreedomWorks confesses that it was behind it from the start, as we wrote, and every media outlet in the country from the New York Times on down is writing up the scandal.

   “Yes, it’s a victory for us and for the forces of independent journalism. Sure, we’re doing a dirty chicken dance in the end zone now. But the truth is, it’s a bitter victory, because we’ve also been forced to confront the awfully familiar face of America’s own version of the Soviet Union at work: Giant scary corporations threatening and scaring smaller fish into censorship, while their bought-off minions in the media do their dirty work to try to protect the megaconglomerate’s brand.”

Ames’ and Levine’s story has also highlighted the various media conflicts of interest caused by overlapping business ties between the companies involved and reporting on the controversy. It also revealed that apparent critics of Ames’ and Levine’s report are tied to the subjects of the controversy. For example, Playboy has a deal in the works with NBC Universal, CNBC’s corporate parent, for an upcoming film titled Playboy. The New York Times had to disclose that it has a content-sharing agreement with CNBC in its story on Santelli. While attacking the overall credibility of the original story, Atlantic Monthly blogger Megan McArdle — who confirmed from FreedomWorks that it has indeed been involved in organizing the Tea Parties as Ames and Levine alleged in their story — disclosed that she lived with a man who used to work for FreedomWorks and that he had engaged in the same kind of Astroturf PR stunts for the group that Ames and Levine reported on in their article. — Jan Frel, AlterNet Senior Editor

Don’t know what it all means, but it sure is interesting…


  1. I’m teaching 18 credits and have a lot of grading to get done before this quarter ends…

    • RUKind on March 5, 2009 at 5:15 am

    You just saved me a lot of typing and showed a few back story of which I wasn’t aware.

    … and Playboy quickly folded.

    Since when? 😉

    I just watched AC 360 and Begala was on vs a really cute former WH professional liar. AC kept trying to get the meme of “it’s an Obama WH directed strategy” to puff up Limbaugh. The TPM piece did a good job of pointing out just how organic (their word – and a great choice) this whole Rush thing is.  Begala didn’t bite and the cute head ended up admitting that the GOP has no leaders right now. She compared it to the beginning of an American Idol season when all the contestants are bit players. She is sure, however, that a true star will emerge.

    Meanwhile, the rump (TPM) Republican Party is imploding. Every few days one of them has to eat their words and publicly genuflect before Rush and apologize and then praise him. Do they think no one notices this? In nature, this is the equivalent of a snake eating its tail and an elephant blowing sunshine up its own ass. After a while, the nothing that is left will explode in a bullshit supernova.

    Grover Norquist likes to say the right-sized government should be small enough to drown in a bathtub. I say when the rump GOP is smaller than Rush’s rump then it can disappear up his asshole along with his head. And Obama’s clever plot will have won the day.

    These people should not be allowed to breed.


    “If I’d only listened to CNBC I’d have $1 million…

    provided that I’d started with $100 million!”

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