Brock's Content - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Brock’s Content
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Only because a friend reminded me did I even recall a hot journalistic project launched by Steven Brill back in the days of the high-tech bubble. Brill called it, with all due modesty, Brill’s Content. It was supposed to serve as a “media watchdog,” but instead became an attack dog, most famously in its inaugural issue smear of Kenneth Starr. Brill invested millions, his rag went nowhere fast, and some three years later it shut down, unread and unmourned. More interesting was that racy Salon had written it off long before as a “snooze.”

Now comes a successor of sorts to Brill’s, launched by a sort of Brill, David Brock. His most immediate problem will be to keep what readers he attracts to his new MediaMatters.org site awake. More on that in a moment.

Let’s deal with the exciting part first, namely the method of MediaMatters’ launch — via a well-placed story in Monday’s New York Times, much like Richard Clarke making his debut on “60 Minutes.” The gist of it is this: Brock’s site will monitor conservative media for bias and misrepresentation, he’s raised $2 million from liberal high rollers to underwrite this project, he’s hired a half-dozen researchers to do the actual work, and he hopes their tracking of Rush Limbaugh & Co. will provide “fodder for fledgling liberal radio talk shows being started across the country, including those of the comedians Al Franken and Janeane Garofalo.” Whether any of these remain in business the Times does not say.

More exciting still is word that Brock’s project came about with the help of former Clinton chief of staff John Podesta’s Center or American Progress, the political action think tank serving the interests of past and future Clinton presidencies. That’s what it’s all about. Even the Times acknowledges that Brock is a “liberal activist.” He’ll be playing politics, in other words, not practicing journalism. Which probably explains why it was the Times that broke the story. In happier days, Brock always went to Howard Kurtz with his exclusives. Strange how Kurtz’s Washington Post had not a word to say about the birth of MediaMatters.

The content of Brock’s content can only improve. Please don’t nod off while I walk you through some of the opening day’s high points. On the home page there’s a grand opening “Dear Friends” letter from David, who’s identified here as “Founder of Media Matters of America.” In the “About Us” he’s also listed as President and CEO, a spiffy title for someone heading what he describes as a “not-for-profit progressive research and information center…” It’s time to emulate another progressive and throw those medals away.

Along the left margin are some of the site’s bread and butter: regularly updated items challenging the veracity of conservative reports. The headlines alone are stunning in their witlessness. By Salon snooze standards, they are the stuff of a deep coma. The top item as I type reads, “Washington Times reporter wrote commentary accusing Kerry of proposing tax plan with loophole for wife’s family.” That’s followed by “Limbaugh accused liberals of hating the military.” Now I know the meaning of conundrum: I can’t decide if an earlier head “Limbaugh wrong on the minimum wage” was funnier. Whatever happened to “Worthwhile Canadian initiative”?

Brock claims his site will also monitor “marginal, right-wing websites that often serve as original sources of misinformation for well-known conservative and mainstream media outlets.” It’s not quite working out that way. One of the left-column items announces: “WorldNetDaily’s Kohn: ‘evidence’ suggests Kerry having an affair with New York Times reporter.” On the evidence it’s clearly a kooky report, one that would have gone nowhere if not for David, apparently up to his old ways. Now everyone in the mainstream will be acquainted with the claim. At the same time David ignores the salient aspect of the Kerry-N.Y. Times connection: that Kerry was once involved with the woman who is now the wife of that paper’s executive editor. David still has his work cut out for him.

One might also suspect that David is really motivated by ideological greed. Here we are, living through the most intense period of liberal media bias since Watergate, all in the name of ousting a man named George W. Bush. Yet David officially claims conservatives rule the roost. His upcoming book will make the same argument. If he has an ounce of intellectual discernment left, his site will go after Slate‘s Will Saletan, if only for speaking out of school.

In yesterday’s Washington Post, Saletan, who’s been skewering Bush, tells Howard Kurtz: “I’m not burdened like a lot of daily folks by having to appear objective.” (My emphasis.) He then says: “I feel at liberty to just say out loud what other reporters are saying under their breath.”

How lucky that Saletan is a free man. Whatever Brock is, it’s something else.

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