Letter from David Brock (7.20.04)

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

July 20, 2004

Dear Friends,

When Media Matters for America launched on May 3, I promised to report back soon on our plans to engage citizens in helping rid the media of conservative misinformation. But first, I want to thank you, our partners, supporters, and visitors, for putting Media Matters for America on the map in just a few short weeks. We're making headway in our campaign against conservative misinformation, but there's much more work to be done.

Today, MMFA is launching an Activism Network, which I believe will be extraordinarily important in helping Americans demand reliable and credible information from the media. Using MMFA's tools of engagement, members of the network may tap into a range of hands-on actions to combat the spread of conservative misinformation in the media, including online petitions, contact campaigns, and grassroots volunteer media monitoring through our online forums.

You've already been active, and your voices have been heard. Since May 25, more than 38,000 people have signed our online petition calling on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to remove right-wing radio show host Rush Limbaugh -- who likened the abuse and torture of Iraqis at Abu Ghraib to a college fraternity prank and suggested that the torture by U.S. military guards was a "brilliant maneuver" -- from the publicly funded American Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS).

Limbaugh is currently the only partisan radio show host offered a full hour every day on AFRTS, at taxpayer expense. Thanks to the efforts of Senator Tom Harkin, the Senate has unanimously called on AFRTS to abide by the requirement that it offer opposing views on the service. The House is expected to take up the AFRTS matter soon.

More than 1,000 people copied MMFA on e-mails sent to FOX News Channel's Bill O'Reilly, asking that MMFA be afforded the opportunity to appear on The Factor to correct the misinformation O'Reilly and a guest propagated about liberal philanthropist George Soros. Others have contacted PBS to question the value of conservative pundit Tucker Carlson's new PBS show, Unfiltered, and still others wrote The New York Times' ombudsman to protest a baseless allegation on the so-called Whitewater scandal made by book critic Michiko Kakutani in her front-page review of former President Bill Clinton's memoir, My Life.

On June 14, MMFA launched user discussion forums and is now hosting numerous posts in real time, in hundreds of ongoing discussion areas. Visitors to our website have already been making a significant contribution to our monitoring efforts by sending in tips to MMFA via feedback forms, e-mail, and discussion forums -- information that we have been integrating into our editorial process either to initiate or to bolster an item.

Building on this momentum, today MMFA launches an Activism Network designed to empower a community of activists to monitor the media and hold it accountable as never before. The keystone of our grassroots media monitoring efforts is a new suite of Internet tools integrated with the MMFA site.

Beginning today, visitors to the site may register to receive MMFA items via e-mail. Registered visitors may receive the items as they are posted to the site or in digest form at the end of the day. In addition, at the end of this week, MMFA will debut a new weekly e-publication, MEDIA MATTERS, highlighting conservative misinformation in the media. Registered visitors may opt to receive weekly issues of MEDIA MATTERS.

Also starting now, every appropriate MMFA item will include contact information for the offending media institution. We encourage you to use our research to hold specific broadcast, cable, print, and radio outlets accountable for their actions.

Another new feature of the MMFA site you'll find today is a user forum, where media monitors like you can post conservative misinformation as you find it. The MMFA staff needs your help in identifying, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation -- wherever you find it, every day.

Finally, our first Internet ad campaign is intended to cut through the misleading spin being injected into the media by conservatives who accuse "liberals" of being "wild-eyed," full of rage, and reckless in their vigorous political protestations. Our Flash animation reminds viewers who truly is guilty of hateful, angry, divisive rhetoric: conservatives like Rush Limbaugh, who recently said women "actually wish" to be sexually harassed; Michael Savage, who said lesbians are "jealous" of AIDS; and Bill O'Reilly, who said the poor are "irresponsible and lazy." MMFA's animated Flash ad, "The Right-Wing Squares," uses actual audio clips of conservative claims -- with a dash of humor mixed in -- to make the point.

At MMFA, we believe that a healthy democracy depends on public access to accurate and reliable information. We -- and you -- have the right and the obligation to demand it at this critical juncture in our history. In the spirit of our new Activism Network, we ask that you consider what you can do to help further this important work -- join the network, make a donation, tell a friend.

Thank you for your continued support. A special thanks to MoveOn.org, Common Cause, the Center for American Progress, People For the American Way, and Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting for helping us to spread the word.

David Brock

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