More troubling than the leverage it wields over left-wing outlets and columnists is the influence that Media Matters seems to exert on the White House. The Daily Caller reports that Media Matters has “regular contact with political operatives” inside the Obama White House. In June 2010, for instance, David Brock and former Media Matters president Eric Burns had a meeting at the White House with Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett and now former communications director Anita Dunn. Dunn in particular seemed to welcome Media Matters, even parroting its claim that Fox News is “more a wing of the Republican Party.” For its part, Media Matters became one of Dunn’s most determined defenders. In a typical series of over-the-top posts, Media Matters attacked Fox News host Glenn Beck for what it called a “ridiculous smear of Anita Dunn.” The alleged “smear” turned out to be nothing more than Beck’s accurate highlighting of Dunn’s professed admiration for Mao Zedong, who, along with Mother Teresa, she called “two of my favorite political philosophers” before insisting that she was being ironic. Although Dunn has since left the administration, Media Matters, joined by the Center for American Progress, continues to enjoy a “weekly strategy call with the White House.”
One likely subject of conversation at these strategy sessions is the $20 million spending spree that Media Matters plans to undertake to influence media coverage prior to the 2012 election – double the organization’s reported $10 million annual budget. How that money will be spent is not clear, but one possible clue comes from David Brock’s pledge last spring that he plans to enlist Media Matters into a campaign of “guerilla warfare and sabotage” against Fox News. Some Media Matters staffers interpreted the statement as a sign of Brock’s well-known paranoia and mental instability, but it may also have been a statement of intent. According to the Daily Caller, Brock’s animus against Fox was so extreme that Media Matters considered harassing individual Fox News employees at their homes, hiring private investigators to look into their private lives and hiring a law firm to pursue law suits against the network. Brock shows no sign of abandoning his obsession with Fox. Next week, he and co-author Ari Rabin-Havt are releasing a book that sounds a standard Media Matters theme: The Fox Effect: How Roger Ailes Turned a Network into a Propaganda Machine.
The irony is that, with its outsize influence on the mainstream media and its direct access to the White House, Media Matters is arguably more influential than its nemesis network. As the 2012 election begins in earnest, Media Matters will try to use that leverage to fashion a media landscape favorable to its brand of partisan opposition research disguised as media criticism.
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