Marie Therese shares her thoughts about the 10th anniversary of Outfoxed and NewsHounds - with some reminiscing about how we tried to warn John Kerry and the Democrats about the Swift Boat campaign.
When Ellen emailed to say that this month is the 10th anniversary of the inception of the NewsHounds blog, I have to admit it caught me by surprise. Ten years? It can’t be! After the shock wore off, I found myself reminiscing about the serendipity that eventually led eight dedicated women to first volunteer to do research for the documentary OUTFOXED and then to start a blog whose sole purpose was (and is) alerting the public to the fact the FOX News is anything but a news channel.
Our original group was comprised of eight women from all parts of the country. After our stint on OUTFOXED concluded, Jim Gilliam, who was Robert Greenwald’s second in command, suggested that the eight of us might think about starting a blog. None of us knew what a “blog” was. Gradually, with “blog-father” Jim’s indefatigable guidance, we launched NewsHounds in July 2004.
That was at a time when no one – least of all the mainstream media - was paying attention to the brilliant, warped Machiavellianism of Rupert Murdoch and his Mini-Me, Roger Ailes. More often than not, media outlets permitted themselves to be masterfully manipulated by FOX News on a regular basis. FOX produced overheated stories and the rest of the media dutifully passed on FOX’s fake news as real news. Voila! An obvious piece of GOP propaganda became hard news.
The eight of us learned pretty darned fast how to survive in the no-holds-barred blogosphere. With Jim’s assistance, we were soon able to bang out a story in a matter of hours (minutes in some cases); drop in basic HTML code; upload, crop and embed graphics; maintain lively conversations on multiple posts and ward off some pretty nasty trolls. Those were heady, intense times!
On incident in particular has always stayed with me.
In August 2004 our frustration level reached a boiling point. (Remember that in 2004 there was no Twitter or iPhone or iPad. MSNBC was struggling to stay afloat and access to Facebook was limited to the students at Harvard.)
Just after the 2004 Democratic Convention, we were pretty sure that there was a GOP plan afoot to attack John Kerry’s war record. Based on multiple FOX shows, we knew it would include Jerome Corsi, Paul Gallanti and other vets who had served in Vietnam. After many frantic emails and phone calls among ourselves, we tried calling the DNC only to repeatedly get an answering machine.
We went online and used the email contact form for the Kerry “rapid response” team, telling them that they needed to pay attention to FOX and its coterie of rabid Kerry-bashing vets. We quickly found out that the “rapid response” had nothing to do with soliciting instantaneous feedback from those of us on the front lines. Instead, it was a top-down means of disseminating information that the Kerry campaign wanted the public to know.
Finally, in an act of desperation, one of us contacted Robert Rubin whose unlisted phone number we had gotten through a source in his home town. The former Secretary of the Treasury under Clinton listened politely and then said he would forward our concerns to someone named “Dave” on the east coast. What a laugh! Cue the chirruping of crickets.
By the end of August the swiftboating of John Kerry erupted in full force. It was relentless, obscene and mendacious. Even though our efforts to alert the DNC had failed, the good news was that our readership and numbers were growing by leaps and bounds. Our voice was being heard and that felt really good! We were giddy with excitement!
For me, the next four years consisted of many nights getting two to four hours sleep. I was teaching piano six days a week, attending two classes a semester at the local college, overseeing a music scholarship program, watching five to seven FOX shows a week and writing the required blog posts. My fellow NewsHounds had similar demands on their time and attention. In addition, we all had to deal with trolls, respond to multiple blog comments and stay in touch with each other on a regular basis.
In the summer of 2008 my piano-teaching business took a major economic hit as a result of the global financial crisis. After the historic election of 2008, I was exhausted and quite simply could not face the thought of spending another minute of my time watching FOX News. Consequently, I retired from NewsHounds in December 2008. ChrisH, Judy and Melanie followed suit soon after leaving Ellen to hold down the fort as the sole representative of the original group.
Since then it has been gratifying to see that the work we started has borne fruit.
FOX News is no longer a political juggernaut. Yes, they still are a force to be reckoned with. But, no one (except their elderly low-information viewer base) believes that they are “fair and balanced” or that the swill they peddle is anything but GOP propaganda.
Today, social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter have joined with groups like Bold Progressives, Media Matters, Change.org, CREDO, MSNBC, MoveOn.org, The Colbert Report, The Daily Show, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Center for American Progress, the venerable Democracy Now, Democrats for America, Real Time with Bill Maher, the wonderful George Takei and many others. This is a coalition that, in time, will drown out the right-wing “echo chamber.”
Current liberal activism is deep, multi-faceted and far-reaching. Using Kickstarter, Lawrence Lessig just raised $5 million for MAYDAY, his SuperPAC dedicated to electing pro-campaign finance reform candidates. Bill Maher – who was unfairly vilified and penalized for telling the truth - is once more on TV and sponsoring a contest to “Flip a District” from Republican to Democratic.
Women (and the men who love them) will be imitating Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers as they boycott Hobby Lobby, Eden Foods and any other company that chooses to deny women contraceptive coverage.
Online petitions started by ordinary citizens have precipitated changes large and small, locally, nationally and internationally.
For every group of 50 disgruntled, dyspeptic old white people who shout hate-filled epithets at immigrant women and children, there are tens of thousands more who believe that refugees should be fed, clothed and given shelter from the horror from which they have fled.
It’s been a tumultuous decade and NewsHounds has been there every step of the way.
Happy 10th Anniversary!
Congratulations to one and all on a job well done!
Rather than more parties, what’s needed is for voters to have a sound fact-based grounding on the writings of the founding fathers themselves, e.g. their texts on the fundamental principles of good government by the people and for the people. Although rabid RWingers can be expected to put a spin on interpretation, some people will actually read the texts for themselves.
Education is what’s needed, not more parties.
You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. Hatred and ignorance is alive and festering, regardless.
Thank you for your time and energies for keeping on eye on our disease of a network.