MoveOn's Media Action getting way smart
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Post-Alito fiasco, the next great battle of the frames will be focused on Bush's approval of potentially illegal domestic spying via the NSA. The Bushies are already working hard on twisting the language to frame the scandal in their direction. They think they can get spying to work for them. But MoveOn's Media Action is trying hard to prevent that.
What often happens is that the press buys Bush language, hook, line and sinker, and repeats it, so that it becomes the frame. For example, in last year's State of the Union Address, President Bush used the poll-tested words "personal savings accounts" to describe what he had formerly called "privatizing" Social Security. Many news outlets then adopted Bush's language without question.
On January 22, the White House Press press office released a backgrounder-called 'Setting the Record Straight' on the NSA spy program, in which the term 'terrorist surveillance program' appeared 10 times... Not long after the Bush administration adopted new rhetoric to describe its warrantless domestic surveillance program, Fox News reporters and anchors began using the White House's terminology... Beginning on January 25 -- during a week that saw the administration go on the offensive to promote its practice of spying on U.S. residents without obtaining warrants -- Fox News began slipping the term, without qualification, into its news reports and commentary..."
MoveOn's Media Action is asking its members to contact Washington DC reporters:
"[T]o make sure that every media outlet covering the president's speech tonight points out that various people have called it: 'illegal eavesdropping on Americans,' 'illegal domestic wiretapping, 'domestic spy program,' 'warrantless wiretapping,' and 'NSA domestic surveillance program,' among others. It would be irresponsible journalism for reporters to use Bush's language without question and without rebuttal. Our second point to reporters is that the words 'terrorist surveillance program' assume that the scope of the program is known and bestow the aura of legality on it. Both the scope and legality of Bush's wiretapping are in question."
This is superb media organizing on MoveOn's part. Fighting the right-wing frame requires vigilance and discipline. It is easy to fall in Bush-Speak traps, as we have many times in the past, and the media usually buys in with out much thought. Now with thousands of citizen media monitors watching their language and frames, reporters will think twice or feel the heat in the blogs, letter to the editor page, and with their ombudspeople.
Don Hazen is the executive editor of AlterNet.