Former CBS Reporter Critiques Media at PA Leadership Conference
That was the core of her speech to the Keystone’s State conservative gathering, the PA Leadership Conference.
She identified three issues that affect the news media: political pressure, corporate influences and astroturf propaganda.
Concerning political pressure, Attkisson cited the Obama Administration freezing out of C-SPAN since 2010.
Apparently the White House didn’t appreciate the network using video of the President saying he had held off from large-scale changes to the Oval Office. Pres. Obama cited the country’s economic conditions as the reason for the delay but a few weeks later it was revealed the office was being renovated.
It is important to point out, though, that the interview was for a program that was intended to air later in the year but the network decided to release that footage early when the news came out.
Attkisson then transitioned to corporate influences, specifically advertisers.
She detailed how companies would complain about stories that she did for CBS’s news programs. For instance, pharmaceutical corporations were often vocal about segments concerning certain medications.
“I’m told we must do no more stories to upset our corporate partners,” a bureau manager once told Attkisson when she pushed as to why certain stories faced resistance.
Third, she compared the ancient art of political astroturfing to propaganda.
For example, she contended that the controversy over the Washington Redskins name was being ginned up by special interests groups.
She went on to call Wikipedia “astroturf’s dream come true” because anonymous editors can take over various pages.
Attkisson also denounced the influence of Media Matters, a group run by a former conservative writer David Brock, who made his name writing negative pieces on the Clintons but now seeks to fight the conservative bias he sees in news. She went on to describe Media Matters as basically an arm of the Hillary Clinton campaign.
One intriguing aspect of her comments was her contention that there is a kind of left-wing pipeline that carries Media Matters talking points to certain websites and ultimately into the mainstream media.
What makes that assertion so interesting is that it mirrors an often expressed belief among liberals that conservatives infiltrate mainstream media through their own pipeline that carries stories from the Drudge Report to talk radio to Fox News.
After her speech, Attkisson took written questions from the audience. They asked about trends in reporting, where she gets her news and who she admires in the news business.
“We’ve allowed ourselves to controversize Christianity,” she said while asserting that she’s not coming at it from any religious viewpoint. “But this campaign has vilified Christianity specifically. And I’ve said to myself as a logician, that’s interesting because Christians aren’t alone in being opposed to gay marriage, there’s a big chunk of society that does.”
“Not all Christians oppose gay marriage, so you can’t goad them all together. You can’t stereotype them,” she continued. “Many non-Christians oppose gay marriage. By the way, many Muslims oppose gay marriage and many Muslims oppose being gay and would like to kill gay people. I’ve been in Muslim countries where they’ve said that to me so I know that’s true. And yet only the Christians have been villainized or targeted.”
She also discussed her belief that she was being monitored by the government because of her reporting on Benghazi, a claim that Media Matters has furiously contested (and may explain her negative feelings towards that organization).
Finally, when asked about the tea party Attkisson said that they were another example of a group hurt by astroturf sabotage. She referred to polling that showed over 70% agree with “some of the values or agenda of the tea party”.
Concerning this claim, the latest Gallup poll shows a record-low 19% of respondents consider themselves a supporter of the tea party. Of course, policy proposals advocated by the tea party like reducing the budget deficit, are very popular.
This example emphasizes a key point of Attkisson’s speech. How we view the news is a result of how we choose to view the news.
Like that great philosopher Obi-Wan Kenobi once said, “many of the truths we cling to, depend greatly on our own point of view.”