Tale of Two Enemies Lists
Howls of protests erupted in 1973 news media when it was revealed that President Nixon aides Charles ("Chuck") Colson and John Dean had assembled an "enemies list" of persons they'd like to "take down," to besmirch or otherwise trash. It was the stuff of front page news, and led nearly every network's newscast.
Today that tawdry practice carries a euphemistic covering name, lending it a smidgen of respectability. It is called "opposition research." One sullen purpose is to pinpoint ideological foes, such as in the recent case of Media Matters, a hard-edged, well-financed left-liberal -- whoops, make that "progressive" -- website, making up its own enemies list. Outside the conservative blogosphere and Fox News, the story has received little publicity.
Fully tax-exempt, like ACORN, Media Matters (MM) put together a list of President Obama's presumed enemies and furthermore, suggested ways to smear or harass them. The organization was in regular communication with the Obama White House, suggesting it was acting as a proxy for the Obama machine. The ugly plot was exposed by the Daily Caller, run by pundit Tucker Carlson, formerly of CNN (co-host of "Crossfire"), now a Fox News contributor.
The boys and girls at Media Matters -- not, certainly, grownups -- targeted mainly, but not exclusively, Fox News and its parent company, News Corporation, plus its major executives, its senior producers and on-air talents, specifically Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity, for what amounted to dirty tricks, a la the Nixon era.
Internal Media Matters memos copped by the Daily Caller suggested hiring private detectives to dig dirt on conservative "enemies," to injury them somehow, maybe financially, even erecting yard signs in their neighborhoods to demean them. (No kidding!) Oh yes, and to hire nasty-thinking lawyers to bring messy lawsuits against the enemies, all Nixon-style tricks. All in a day's work?
What has been the response of mainstream news media to MM's skulduggery? Only silence. Only the targeted Fox News rips MM's wretched excesses; it is joined by no one else. The silence of the mainstream media is, once again, deafening. Is it conspiratorial, too?
Contrast the expose of the MM hit list by the Daily Caller, that of Nixon's enemies as exposed by John Dean in a 1973 Senate Watergate hearing. Wow! News media went nuts, splashing the news on front pages, going into writhing paroxysms of angst about it, decrying it, and rightly so, in editorial fits of outrage, That was then. Today, nary a word --- let alone a discouraging one -- about MM's low-life transgressions.
Why the stone-cold silence? For one thing, prominent news media actually used MM's partisan drivel as a source for their drumbeat of reporting pro-Obama, anti-conservative themed "news" items. Shocking, huh? Like, there's no gambling at Rick's Cafe American in "Casablanca"?
So the storyline goes like this: MM dishes out slanted partisan stuff, personal dirt if possible, to willing mass media reporters, such as at liberals' iconic Washington Post, while portraying itself as a bunch of innocent political fact-checkers -- watchdogs if you will. Ha! That's a bunch of party-line propaganda. Who would fall for it, except if predisposed?
White House counsel John Dean described the Nixon White House's list was meant to "do harm." Same as now by the in-part George Soros-financed outfit, MM, up to no damn good, doing the Left's dirty work, sort of Goebbels-like without the racial animus. Back in 1973, doing due diligence, the Fourth Estate screamed bloody murder. Not today. (Que sera, sera? Accept the wrongs, and move on?) .
Nixon's enemies list numbered (fittingly) in the hundreds, in and out of politics, including newsman Daniel Schorr, actor Paul Newman and a senator named Mondale. (They wore their Nixon list inclusion as an honor. To be slammed by such a tacky outfit as the Nixon White House was a bloody badge of pride.)
According to John Dean, the Nixon era list was made to "screw the opposition." Simply that, and nothing more. As for MM's enemies list, comprising, not only News Corporation people, but also Richard Mellon Scaife, Clintonites' favorite target, (Remember the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy?) Also making Media Matters' to-hit list were House Speaker John Boehner (R-IN), firebrand Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and Sen. "Mitch" McConnell, Jr. (R-KY). Please note the party designation.
Naturally, one supposes, the MM list had to include the whipping boys of the Left, the much-vilified Koch Brothers, oil-rich you know, and (gasp!) conservative. (Note: Still another target on MM's exposed hit list was now-defunct John F. Olin Foundation. It folded years ago. So much for the crack accuracy of Media Matters' fact-checking.)
Jeffrey Lord, of the American Spectator, has made a close comparison of the role Anthony Ulasewicz played in Watergate, asking, "Is Media Matters Obama's Watergate?
Call what Media Matters did sophomoric. Call it stupid. Call it paranoid, purveying partisan propaganda to willing newsfolks to pass along, as facts, to unaware, uncritical masses. Unlike Nixon's chicanery, disclosure by the Daily Caller of MM's foul deeds is met today by stone-cold silence. No headlines, no hand-wringing, no scathing editorials.
Could it be, alas, "elite" and overtly partisan media people view the peddler of such partisan trash as a credible source? Ah, well, it takes a believer to believe? When reporters at the Washington Post and New York Times take the bait and publish it, hey!, who's to know the source?
Incredibly, but quite true, MM staffers bragged about the gullibility of their friends in news media, easy pushovers for their partisan slants, ready at the drop of an email or a phone call to pick up their partisan party lines and recite. Birds of a feather? .
Just think. News media willingly take handouts from a partisan propaganda mill, treating them as hard news, reciting it as "truth." Boggles the mind, such mud-against-the-wall flinging, met upon its exposure with silence. Mainstream news media thus shirks their public duty. .
Who will blow the whistle on such ideological hooliganism? Who will tell the people?
Larson is a retired newspaper and magazine editor. He is not the retired cartoonist of the same name. Larson edited newspapers in North Carolina, Missouri, Bangkok (Thailand), and in his native Minnesota, and a business magazine in New York City. He is a graduate of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota.