Please Reconsider, Mr. Soros.

10 comments July 25th, 2006at 10:25pm Posted by Eli

Well, the highlight of my weekend (aside from making a perfect throw from left field to home plate on the fly) was the firedoglake book salon with our paymaster, George Soros himself. Those of us who read his new book, The Age of Fallibility: Consequence of the War on Terror. Those of us who *cough* didn’t asked him why he hasn’t sunk any of his stupefying wealth into developing a liberal or at least objective media empire to counter Fox News and… almost everyone else.

He was… nonplussed to say the least. His first response was to say that if he built a liberal version of Fox, he “would be no better than Murdoch.” Okay, I can see that. Lies and propaganda do not become more noble simply because they’re on our side. But since it’s not every day I get to argue with a gazillionaire (and, quite frankly, my blogging paychecks have been pretty light lately), I pressed on:

Can you elaborate on this? What if you owned a network *different* from Fox, with controls in place to ensure fair and accurate (but aggressive) reporting? Even a nonpartisan, objective news network would be a powerful counterweight to Fox and all the rest, and I don’t think it would cost you your soul.

Or do you believe that such a beast is simply impossible to create?

His response (not just to me, there were a lot of people asking him about this):

I don’t have an answer to the many questions on the media but I know for sure that my owning media is not the answer.

I pretty much dropped the question at this point, as it seemed clear to me that he had given the idea some serious thought, had rejected it, and really did not care to discuss the matter any further. I’m not sure if he thinks media ownership is inherently dirty, or he simply believes his own involvement would be counterproductive or excruciating (i.e., that he would either suck at it, or make himself an even bigger target of the right-wing noise-and-harassment machine).

I know it’s hopeless, but I am hoping that Mr. Soros will think about it some more. Firstly, the need is too great to ignore. As I have harped on repeatedly, the media effectively control reality and even history for the large segment of the population that does not approach them skeptically or seek out alternatives. There are limits to how much they can shade the truth and muddy the waters without losing their all-important credibility (which is why Bush’s approval rating is down around 35%), but they have done a very effective job of blunting the impact of all of the Republicans’ incompetence, greed, and outright criminality.

And standing against them, we have… what? Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Keith Olbermann on the TV side (most important, IMO), Air America on the radio side, and a handful of reporters, columnists, and editorial pages on the newspaper side. And the liberal blogs, which are numerous and excellent (present company excepted), but simply not widely read by the general population.

Secondly, I think this is a wide-open market niche, just waiting to be filled. Consider all the stories that have gone underreported or misreported, like the dodgy pre-Iraq intelligence, the Plame case, shady election shenanigans, illegal wiretapping, straight hookers, gay hookers, corruption, corruption, corruption, just to name the ones I can think of off the top of my head. Now imagine a news network that aggressively investigates and reports on all of these stories. Think about how many people would say “Wow! I had no idea this was going on! Tell me more!” Imagine a network that balances conservatives with genuine, articulate progressives and lets them have their say. Imagine a network or newspaper that doesn’t uncritically repeat Republican talking points in the name of false balance. Not only would such a media enterprise get more information and liberal viewpoints widely disseminated, but it would also put a well-deserved dent in the credibility of the corporate media.

Please note that I am not advocating a liberal network, just a network that invites real liberals instead of moderates, fake liberals, and inarticulate milquetoasts to fill the left side of its talking head discussions. Reality is already kryptonite for Republicans, so why go overboard? The mechanisms for maintaining objectivity in reporting will be tricky, however: I’m envisioning a nonpartisan or bipartisan review panel, stocked with experienced, high-integrity journalists or journalism profs, and maybe some online media critics. The character of these individuals would be essential to the success of the enterprise.

Thirdly, Soros would not have to become a hands-on media mogul like a Murdoch or a Moon or a Scaife. If someone can come up with a workable business plan that just lacks money, Soros could infuse it with the needed cash to get it off the ground quickly, but distance himself from the actual operation – a silent partner, in other words. Perhaps this is easier said than done, but my suspicion is that there are a lot of smart people who are up to the job. (Question: I know there are liberal media projects out there; are there any objective ones?)

Granted, the logistical hurdles of getting Objective News Network off the ground are pretty daunting, but I don’t think they’re insurmountable; and given what’s at stake, I can’t think of any use of a few billion dollars that would have a more beneficial effect on democracy in this country. Well, okay, maybe establishing a massive “Endowment For Clean Elections” that provides competitive no-strings-attached financing to any legitimate candidate who agrees to forgo all other campaign contributions (or matching funds to candidates who spurn corporate money). Or perhaps a media fund to buy commercial airtime for candidates who agree to accept only individual contributions. Both would be dependent on FEC approval, of course…

So what do you say, Mr. Soros? Are you ready to help Reality reclaim its rightful place in American discourse? If some smart liberals (or non-liberals; I’m not picky) can concoct a workable plan for a nonpartisan, objective media entity, will you back it?

Entry Filed under: Democrats,Favorites,Media,Politics

10 Comments

  • 1. flory  |  July 25th, 2006 at 11:28 pm

    I don’t think George Soros is the kind of businessman who invests lots of money into a business and then turns it over to someone else to succeed or fail. If its his money, he prolly wants to have a major say in how its spent. And he may very well have investigated the media business — it was supposed to be *the* place to be back in the day — and decided it wasn’t a business he would be any good at. So he’s not going to invest a lot of money he’s at high risk of losing.

    He may be a philanthropist — but he’s a businessman first.

    But is was way kuhl you got to chat with him.

    Even if you’ve deserted Eshcaton for Jane……

  • 2. Eli  |  July 25th, 2006 at 11:49 pm

    Well, I think it depends on what kind of “return” he’s looking for. If he’s looking for a monetary return, then yes, he’d be justified in being extremely picky. But if he’s looking to actually make a dramatic change in our political system, and profit be damned, then all he has to worry about is finding people who know how to get their message out.

    And I suspect that the novelty of truth would make ONN viable (i.e., at least close to break-even) in the long run.

    I’ve tried to come back to Eschaton, really I have. But it just doesn’t click for me. I didn’t feel like I was part of the conversation when I left, and that hasn’t really changed. I might give the late shift a try here & there and see if it feels any different.

  • 3. Thers  |  July 26th, 2006 at 3:54 am

    I’d like to see Soros buy a network, but I agree, he won’t. The best option I’ve always thought though is to pester the non-Foxes to do their damn jobs. After all, one of the main reasons they suck so bad is that liberals did nothing about the conservative “movement” assault on the media, an onslaught that’s now at least 30 years old. The media have shown they can be intimidated. Right. Well, they have to be confronted, hard, from our side. Our advantage may be that we will not, in fact, be making stuff up.

    Eschaton goes through commenting cycles, and yes, this is a bad one. (Summers for some reason seem to be the worst.) The ratio of good posts and posters has gotten somewhat out of whack. These things have always balanced out eventually, though. So you may want to peek in from now and again.

    Anyway, wherever on the Internets you may roam, just remember this: The Kenosha Kid believes you must be stopped.

  • 4. Eli  |  July 26th, 2006 at 7:27 am

    Yeah, I know he probably won’t, and it’s a damn shame. I think pestering can have an effect, but I don’t think it’ll ever be as significant an effect as the right-wing pestering, simply because our demands our so out of synch with the corporate ownership’s objectives.

    I’ll peek in occasionally and see if I can get some traction somewhere.

  • 5. karmic_jay  |  July 26th, 2006 at 7:27 am

    Very well said. I am reading Lapdogs now, and I just realize what an uphill fight this is for progressives.
    The need for a vibrant media that actually does news has never been greater.
    I have gotten busier and find little time to comment at Eshcaton. Plus I am not sure I add to the discourse anyways.

  • 6. Eli  |  July 26th, 2006 at 7:44 am

    Thanks, jay!

    I doubt that (although I know the feeling), but I’m glad you have time to comment here, at least.

  • 7. Philip Shropshire  |  July 26th, 2006 at 5:29 pm

    He actually has owned media in other countries and he’s used it to make progressive changes. I think he ran a television station in Georgia…his reasons don’t make any sense to me. He could, if he wanted too, just fund an American Guardian that would solve the problem right there…

  • 8. spocko  |  July 26th, 2006 at 6:30 pm

    I blame Rune Arledge. He was put in charge of ABC News and said, ‘We can make a profit from this, just like I did Sports! The hell with that “the networks owe the public the truth crap.”

    Actually I’m sure there were more and earlier comments like that. In the movie “Good Night and Good Luck” they talk about sponsors and who pays and what they like and don’t like.’

    For karmic-j one thing that I don’t think there was enough of in Eric’s book (which is great btw) is stories of intimidation of the press. In all it’s forms.
    The official phone calls to editors and reporters. Maybe that would get people’s attention. He has one example in the book of the way the Irish reporter was intimidated by the WH and she reported on it.

    Another thing, good journalism can be hard work and over at Editor and Publisher they are discussing just how horrible the salaries are. The gifted journalists who want to eat sometimes leave because they can’t afford to keep working there. Especially if being a corporate pr person pays more.

    I do think that Soro’s helping Media Matters is a very important thing because otherwise people couldn’t afford to do this a hobby. The “media research center” has 100s of staffers and a multi-million dollar budget. If you KNOW that you are going to get hammered by 12 staffers from MRC, Heritage, AEI and FotF vs. that maybe two dedicated people on the left, they figure, why stir up the people whose job it is to come after me?
    I’ll just make the article “balanced” so they don’t squawk, and move on to the next story.

    And remember when you skip your commercials with Tivo, you’re stealing TV!

  • 9. Eli  |  July 26th, 2006 at 6:43 pm

    He actually has owned media in other countries and he’s used it to make progressive changes. I think he ran a television station in Georgia…his reasons don’t make any sense to me.

    A TV station in Georgia is a good bit smaller than a national American network, though. But I don’t know if he’s basing his decision on some past history where he got burned (someone in the FDL comments mentioned that he invested in a couple of alternative media enterprises in ’04 that were duds), or if it’s just some kind of visceral don’t-wanna.

    I do think that Soro’s helping Media Matters is a very important thing because otherwise people couldn’t afford to do this a hobby. The “media research center” has 100s of staffers and a multi-million dollar budget. If you KNOW that you are going to get hammered by 12 staffers from MRC, Heritage, AEI and FotF vs. that maybe two dedicated people on the left, they figure, why stir up the people whose job it is to come after me?
    I’ll just make the article “balanced” so they don’t squawk, and move on to the next story.

    I’m not sure just how much effect the hammering has when it’s opposite to the ownership’s goals, vs. in synch with. I think there’s good evidence that pressure and shaming from the blogosphere *has* had some effect, but it’s not nearly enough yet.

    Soros funding media watchdog groups could be a good compromise solution, although their influence would be a lot more indirect than a media outlet that goes straight to the people.

  • 10. Anonymous  |  July 26th, 2006 at 10:49 pm

    Do give the Eschalateshift a try. The pibbles there miss you.

    I haven’t been hanging around in the daytime as much lately either, so I know how you feel.

    As Thers sez “To everything there is a season”….

    …wait — was that Thers?


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