Rush Limbaugh seems to be taking credit for a media revolution, suggesting in a National Review article that he laid the groundwork for the success of conservative talk radio and the emergence of Fox News. Describing himself as “the only conservative voice in national broadcast media” at the time, Limbaugh fails to acknowledge the role of the legendary Reed Irvine, who founded Accuracy in Media (AIM) in 1969 and began the necessary process of undermining the credibility of the liberal print and broadcast media outlets. Reed is the pioneer who convinced the public to seek and accept alternatives to the national narrative that was being set by such figures as Walter Cronkite, the discredited former CBS Evening News anchorman.
What Limbaugh calls “the destruction of the Left’s national-media monopoly” can be traced directly to the work of Reed Irvine and AIM.
But with the credibility of the liberal media in tatters, another threat to the public’s right to know has emerged—foreign television channels invading the U.S. media market with propaganda and disinformation.
While conservatives have made progress, the Russian and Chinese governments, as well as the Muslim Brotherhood, are buying their way into Western media markets, in order to confuse people and whitewash their own aggressive policies. They have become as much of a force to contend with as the old liberal media.
Even books and Hollywood films sold as entertainment are not immune. I was shocked to see Chinese government propaganda in the new Matt Damon film, “The Martian,” in which incompetent NASA administrators have to seek Chinese help to rescue one of their astronauts.
As Limbaugh notes, his national radio program began in New York City 28 years ago. By that point, Reed Irvine had been fighting liberal media bias for more than a decade. Under Reed Irvine, AIM used every vehicle to get the word out. These included the AIM Report, columns, “Media Monitor” radio commentaries, letters to the editor, national newspaper advertisements, films, television shows, and other projects. Reed popularized the idea of buying stock in media companies and attending their annual meetings to propose resolutions and ask questions that would embarrass the top brass. Reed conducted a multifaceted assault on liberal media bias.
Reed was the original media watchdog and AIM was the first national conservative-oriented media watchdog organization. I was fortunate to start working with Reed in 1978, when I became an AIM intern after college and was hired full-time, until his death in 2004.
When Reed passed away, I noted in a column that because of his work, the Big Media had lost much of their stature “and do not seem so big anymore.” Their loss of credibility was a testament to Reed’s successful efforts to tell the truth about them. It was this loss of credibility that led to the public demand for alternative sources of news and information. Rush Limbaugh, Fox News and others filled that void.
I joined AIM after graduating from college and completing a journalism training program at the National Journalism Center under conservative author and commentator M. Stanton Evans. Stan is another figure who has made the conservative media revolution possible. The National Journalism Center continues under the sponsorship of Young America’s Foundation, and its website features a quote from Sean Hannity about how the program continues to raise up a “new generation of conservative journalists.”
Limbaugh was in the right place at the right time, offering opinion and entertainment after the Fairness Doctrine had been eliminated, giving conservatives on the radio the opportunity to reflect and respond to the conservatives around the country who had been without a voice in the media. I salute Limbaugh’s success, even though I have had my own disagreements with his approach to certain matters over the years. Reed was always concerned about getting the facts right. He challenged conservative media when they were wrong, too.
Today, with the liberal media in decline, America’s foreign enemies have filled the void. It is an issue that is growing in importance.
Thanks go to the Reuters News Agency for conducting an investigation of a Communist Chinese radio network that spans four continents. The news agency has identified at least 34 radio stations, in more than a dozen countries, that are part of three networks controlled by what Reuters describes as a powerful but silent partner—state-run China Radio International (CRI). Fifteen of the stations are in the United States. Overall, Reuters determined that nearly three dozen stations were broadcasting content controlled by CRI.
Reuters reports that the stations run pro-China news segments on a range of topics. “The networks are structured in ways that cloak the Chinese government broadcaster’s involvement, which includes ownership interests,” Reuters reports. Their investigation examines the Chinese proxies behind the stations, and focuses on one of the stations, WCRW-AM, whose signal blankets Washington D.C.
Vladimir Putin’s television channel, Russia Today (RT), is also taking advantage of the media revolution. So is the Muslim Brotherhood channel, Al Jazeera. These foreign propaganda channels, in addition to another entity, China Central Television (CCTV), are saturating the U.S. media market with sophisticated English-language broadcasts.
Russia Today has published an unusual story featuring a string of ridiculous allegations against this writer. To cite one example, it points to a photo on a YouTube channel of my videos, explaining, “Cliff is pictured with three young people, two of whom are, like himself, armed with rifles, on its front page. Posed in what looks like an urban park, it’s unclear what exact message this is supposed to convey.” The photo is of my sons and me with shotguns at a shooting range. I considered it a nice family photo. Since the story is described as originating with “a team of authors working at RT,” this strange hit piece has to be something approved by the Kremlin.
RT is clearly concerned about my stories exposing Russian propaganda, but the blog posting also attacks my work exposing Al Jazeera. So it seems as though the foreign propaganda channels have to stick together. The story does note my continuing work for Accuracy in Media, “an influential press watchdog.”
From a legal standpoint, as we have reported on several different occasions, these foreign propaganda channels are evading the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) requirements that their broadcasts be labeled on the air in the United States as foreign propaganda. FARA was originally passed to expose and label Nazi propaganda in the U.S. The Obama administration has not enforced the law, a decision that suggests that the foreign propaganda is viewed by some in the administration as welcome in the U.S. media market. Perhaps the administration views American media properties as things to be sold to the highest foreign bidder.
But with Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) now filing legislation to formally designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, Al Jazeera in particular could come in for more scrutiny. AIM has been calling for Congressional investigations of Al Jazeera’s links to the Muslim Brotherhood for years, but Congress has so far done nothing. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, refused to even respond to a letter from journalists, academics, Middle East experts and others asking for a hearing into the Al Gore sale of Current TV to Al Jazeera.
Action was taken, however, in Egypt. After the Obama administration and Al Jazeera helped foist a Muslim Brotherhood government on that Middle Eastern nation, anti-Al Jazeera posters appeared on the streets, saying, “A bullet kills a man, a lying camera kills a nation.” The Muslim Brotherhood government was overthrown by a popular military general, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who is today the president of Egypt and fighting the terrorist menace. Al Jazeera has been outlawed as subversive.
Like Al Jazeera, Russia Today television represents a “lying camera,” which through such shows as “The Big Picture with Thom Hartmann,” promotes socialist presidential candidate Bernie Sanders to millions of Americans. I am convinced it was our decision to expose their alliance with “Bolshevik Bernie” that caused RT to turn its attention to the activities of AIM. It appears that RT doesn’t like to have its activities in the U.S. political process scrutinized.
Isn’t it newsworthy that Vladimir Putin’s TV channel is using a prominent “progressive” commentator like Thom Hartmann to promote a socialist for president of the U.S.? Hartmann describes himself as the number one progressive radio talk-show host in the U.S. His RT show reaches a potential audience of millions in this country.
While conservatives pursue a media revolution by building their audiences among grass-roots Americans fed up with the liberal media, liberals like Hartmann accept rubles from a regime known for murdering journalists who expose the KGB cabal running Russia. Putin, whose forces or surrogates shot down Malaysia Airline Flight MH17, killing nearly 300 people, is suspected of a role in the 2010 crash of a jetliner carrying Polish President Lech Kaczy?ski, who was leading a delegation of 94 Polish government officials, at Smolensk, Russia.
It’s fascinating that as the liberal media have begun to decline in importance and influence, the anti-American foreign propaganda channels have picked up the slack. The liberals were formidable opponents, but they were Americans. RT and Al Jazeera represent bloodthirsty enemies of everything in America that liberals and conservatives hold dear.
This is no time to pound our chests in pride over the media revolution. The battle has just begun.