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Conservative US media attack Edmonton website PDF Print E-mail
Justice News
Monday, 26 January 2004 11:24
G&M: As o­ne Canadian just discovered, news in the United States no longer breaks in cresting waves but increasingly strikes in a swarm of tiny stings, delivered by an expanding hive of conservative news-media outlets whose growing influence is set to dominate the coming presidential election campaign.

Conservative US media attack Edmonton website
Support for Democratic contender Clark brings almost a thousand hateful e-mails
http://www.globetechnology.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20031223.gttalon23/BNStory/Technology/

By DOUG SAUNDERS
Globe and Mail Update

As o­ne Canadian just discovered, news in the United States no longer breaks in cresting waves but increasingly strikes in a swarm of tiny stings, delivered by an expanding hive of conservative news-media outlets whose growing influence is set to dominate the coming presidential election campaign.

The new U.S. micromedia swept north of the border last week, and, as usual, its assault began as gossip.

Few Republican Party loyalists in the United States noticed that a young Edmonton man set up a website called Canadians for Wesley Clark, urging Canadians to support the popular retired general's bid to become the Democratic Party's presidential candidate.

Mr. Clark's official website links to the page.

Within hours, news of the Edmonton site was picked up by gossip gadfly Matt Drudge and became a top news story o­n the Texas-based website GOPUSA, a o­ne-man operation whose news stories often provide content for hundreds of phone-in radio shows across the United States.

Less than 12 hours later, the Canadian made headlines in the conservative New York Sun, which proclaimed: "Anti-Bush Foreigners Eye Web for Donations to Democrats."

By the end of the day o­n Friday, the Edmonton website had become part of the election: George W. Bush's campaign team sent millions of Republicans a fundraising letter that accuses Mr. Clark of "raising foreign cash to attack our president."

The whole thing was so unnerving for the Canadian student who runs the Wesley Clark site that he will identify himself o­nly by his first name, Rob.

"I knew something big was up when I checked my e-mail o­ne day and found over 200 of them, all of them hateful and quite ignorant," he said yesterday.

"I've received almost a thousand e-mails since then."

As news, there was not much to it.

The website informed visitors that foreigners cannot donate to U.S. political campaigns and urged them to give instead to non-partisan groups that produce ads opposing Mr. Bush.

After the story exploded south of the border, even that pitch was removed.

(Courts have not decided whether foreign donations to U.S. activist groups are legal.)

None of the major U.S. newspapers, magazines or TV networks considered it news, but the story is a perfect example of how small, ideologically driven media outlets are becoming part of U.S. politics, many observers said.

"There's no question that conservatives have built up a sophisticated echo chamber in which talk radio and cable help drive certain stories" that have their origins o­n the Internet, said Howard Kurtz, a Washington-based media analyst for CNN, as well as The Washington Post.

"One could argue that the so-called liberal media do the same thing, but the right, which sees itself as shut out of the mainstream media, has become awfully skilled at taking what might seem like a minor matter and blowing it up into the issue of the day," Mr. Kurtz said.

Left-wing and centrist websites and magazines are nowhere near as co-ordinated and organized as those of their Republican counterparts.

"What we do here is, we cater to a conservative audience.

"We know what is of interest to them, and we can react very fast, not just to day-to-day policy and politics but to what the Democrats are doing," said Bobby Eberle, who three years ago formed GOPUSA.com and Talon News and who runs both sites from his home near Houston.

Last week, Mr. Eberle's sites were part of a major news item, o­ne that would not have been considered "news" by most outlets.

Madeline Albright, who had been secretary of state in the Bill Clinton administration, appeared o­n Fox News to argue that deposed Iraqi president Saddam Hussein should be tried by an international tribunal rather than an Iraqi-U.S. court.

Her o­n-air argument was eclipsed by an off-air remark when a Fox News host announced o­n his show that Ms. Albright had asked him in the makeup room whether it was likely that Mr. Bush was holding Osama bin Laden for next year's election.

While Ms. Albright said that the comment was a joke, it was quickly picked up by Mr. Eberle's outlets and dozens of other news sites.

It dominated U.S. talk-radio shows last week, and o­n Thursday became the top headline o­n the front page of the conservative Washington Times.

Without having been an actual news story in any major media outlet, Ms. Albright's passing remark became the main political story for millions of Americans.

Many predict that such quick-hit stories soon will be a staple of U.S. politics.

"One reason this conservative message delivery system will probably play a role in the 2004 campaign is that news and opinion travel so much more quickly in the Internet age," Mr. Kurtz said, "and what used to become a story in a few days now happens in a few hours."

Last Updated on Monday, 26 January 2004 11:24
 

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