Topic: Media Research Center
In a column last week, Media Research Center chief Brent Bozell called the New York Times "shameless" for looking into Donald Trump's behavior with women (something the Ted Cruz-supporting Bozell and the MRC could have done when it mattered, but chose not to).
At the same time, Bozell was being unambiguously shameless in exploiting allegations of bias at Facebook in its "trending news" feed (a relatlvely tiny part of Facebook) for his own -- and, thus, the MRC's -- right-wing political agenda.
Bozell made sure to insert himself into the meeting between Facebook and conservatives, being self-aggrandizing in the process as he proclaimed his attendance there:
I look forward to sitting down with Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook because, as I’ll explain to them, no one knows more about liberal bias in the media than we do. We have been documenting and exposing it for almost 30 years. Facebook has a serious problem. Trust is everything and now conservatives don’t trust them. My hope is that today’s meeting will begin to put concerns to rest.
After the meeting, Bozell made sure to keep pressing conservatives' anti-media meme, even as he kinda conceded that Facebook isn't as evil as he has suggested:
I think this was a very productive first meeting. I think Facebook understands there is a problem. And I think that from the very top, there is a genuine desire to resolve it. There were good exchanges and overall, it was cordial. We’ll see how the investigation turns out. There has been a serious issue of trust within the conservative movement about this issue, but everyone in that room, on both sides, wants to see it restored.
But Bozell resorted to self-aggrandization in an appearance on Fox Business:
I explained from our standpoint between the Media Research Center and for America, my other organization we have some 19 million Facebook fans. You know, I think we're biggest out there and we’ve never had a problem, but there’s too much smoke to dismiss the lack of a there is a problem within Facebook[.]
Bozell also mocked Breitbart News for declining to take part in the Facebook meeting despite being invited, saying their attitude was kind of defeatist and angry and thoroughly unproductive," not to mention "silly."
But another attendee at the Facebook meeting, Glenn Beck, had a different view of the meeting, painting it as a attempt by conservatives to shake down Facebook:
I sat there looking around and heard things like:
1) Facebook has a very liberal workforce. Has Facebook considered diversity in their hiring practice? The country is 2% Mormon. Maybe Facebook’s company should better reflect that reality.
2) Maybe Facebook should consider a six-month training program to help their biased and liberal workforce understand and respect conservative opinions and values.
3) We need to see strong and specific steps to right this wrong.
It was like affirmative action for conservatives. When did conservatives start demanding quotas AND diversity training AND less people from Ivy League Colleges.
I sat there, looking around the room at ‘our side’ wondering, ‘Who are we?’ …
What happened to us? When did we become them?
The overall tenor, to me, felt like the Salem Witch Trial: ‘Facebook, you must admit that you are screwing us, because if not, it proves you are screwing us.’
Slate's Will Oremus adds:
Beck gets some important things right here. For the conservative politicians and talking heads who fanned this firestorm, it was never about “evidence.” (It rarely is.) It was about seizing an opportunity to stoke resentment and mistrust of the media. That resentment and mistrust is crucial to causes like convincing people that climate change is a hoax or that Donald Trump is qualified for the presidency.
That the controversy is largely the product of cynical conservative grandstanding is not Beck’s only insight. He also recognizes that it is very much in Facebook’s own business interests to appeal to conservatives every bit as much as liberals, and he sees that Facebook is smart enough to recognize that, too.
But the biggest thing Beck gets right, at least partly, is that bias is human and natural, and that the key is not to deny one’s biases but to acknowledge them.
Yes, Beck is a loon most of the time, but the fact that the MRC hasn't acknowledged his point of view on the Facebook meeting, and downplayed the fact he was even there, suggests he may be on to something. But the fervor with which the Federalist's publisher (who got that job despite his history of plagiarism) Ben Domenech went after Beck and conservative writer Erick Erickson for expressing this viewpoint ("Beck and Erickson can go to their rooms to play their hit song 'Alone in My Principles' and leave the media criticism fray to those of us who believe it is important and valuable, and have the spine to do it") also suggests an element of truth about the cynical, agenda-pushing exploitation of right-wing "media criticism" that Bozell and the MRC don't want to see getting out into the wider media.
UPDATE: Bozell continue to play up the controversy in an appearance on The Blaze TV, likening it to another right-wing conspiracy, the so-called IRS scandal: "For anyone to suggest that Facebook has a policy against conservatives, it's just simply unfounded. It's silly. The IRS didn't have a policy against conservatives. There were people within the IRS who had a policy against conservatives."
Oddly, there was no mention of Beck during the segment, even though he operates the The Blaze and Bozell brought up his affirmative-action plan to bring conservatives into Facebook that Beck was denouncing.