Unmasking Media Matters
As Casey Luskin pointed out yesterday, the activist group Media Matters for America (MMA) has turned its guns on Discovery Institute. Writer Simon Maloy takes the occasion of Tennessee's newly enacted academic freedom law to spin his version of a familiar conspiracy theory. Yes, you've heard it all before. In short, so goes the claim, laws that allow teachers to expose students to a variety of scientific views on Darwinian evolution are really a ploy to "inject religion" in the science classroom.
The idea is obviously absurd: Maloy never even tries to show how a law that expressly forbids teaching religion could serve as a platform for introducing religious doctrines in science curricula. Beyond that, let's take a moment to appreciate the irony here.
Media Matters, which claims that Discovery Institute cloaks a scheme to advance religion in public-school education, itself purports to be a media "watchdog" -- a public-spirited purveyor of facts, with no agenda other than to unmask nefarious right-wing bias. Talk about masks! In fact, the group is hardly more than a propagator of extremist agitation and advocacy. An influential one, too -- tightly connected with powerful politicians and feeding propaganda to likeminded media outlets.
You don't have to take our word for it. The Daily Caller, in particular, has done tireless work in exposing MMA. In its application with the IRS for tax-exempt status, Media Matters was surprisingly frank about its concerns: "It is common for news and commentary by the press to present viewpoints that tend to overly promote corporate interests, the rights of the wealthy, and a conservative, Christian-influenced ideology."
Hostility to these bogeyman -- corporations, the "wealthy," and Christianity -- has driven MMA since it was launched in 2004. More recently, the group has embraced an extreme hostility to Israel that, according Harvard Law School's Alan Dershowitz, goes "over the line from anti-Zionism to anti-Semitism."
MMA's former senior foreign policy fellow, M.J. Rosenberg, was accustomed to speaking against Israel supporters as "Israel-firsters," a locution familiar from candidly anti-Semitic forums, intended to imply disloyalty to the United States. His writing was featured on the Al-Jazeera website.
This goes well beyond garden-variety liberalism, and indeed, MMA is the sort of group that would make fair-minded liberals cringe. According to the Daily Caller, MMA founder David Brock and his colleagues keep an enemies list, highlighted by media figures from the Fox News Channel and well-known conservative funders and elected officials. An internal memo circulated at Media Matters argued for investigating the personal lives of Fox News employees.
Brock, a colorful character, reportedly was subject to an $850,000 blackmailing scheme by a former associate who threatened to peddle inside dirt about Media Matters. Other accounts picture him as attended by bodyguards and in fear of being assassinated by right-wing snipers, leading "an organization roiled by its leader's volatile and erratic behavior and struggles with mental illness, and an office where Brock's executive assistant carried a handgun to public events in order to defend his boss from unseen threats." We trust that employees at MMA are keeping their personal notebooks updated for the delicious tell-all novel that someone from the organization will surely write before long.
It may sound like this is describing some shoestring loony fringe group -- but in terms of influence, in media and government, and funding, that's one thing you cannot say about Media Matters. The Daily Caller analyzed some $28.8 million that MMA took in from donors since 2003 -- about half of its total fundraising in that period -- and lists the honor roll of top givers, led by the notorious Tides Foundation which contributed $4,384,702.
This has all been reported before -- I'm not breaking any news here. The point of interest, or amusement, or outrage, is as Casey noted: the extraordinary hypocrisy of an organization that retails conspiracy theories about us even while dissembling about its own aims, concealed under a harmless, do-gooding "watchdog" image.