Welcome to Louisiana Lefty, a podcast about politics and community in Louisiana, where we make the case that the health of the state requires a strong progressive movement fueled by the critical work of organizing on the ground. Our goal is to democratize information, demystify party politics, and empower you to join the mission because victory for Louisiana requires you. I'm your host Lynda Woolard. On this episode, I speak with Brian Hansbury, co founder of the Media and Democracy Project. This is an active group that both watchdogs the media and organizes volunteers to push back against misinformation, false equivalencies, and bad framing that shrouds the truth from the public. They offer regular Zoom meetings with occasional movie screenings, but more often focused on sharing information and holding strategy sessions, so that people who want to engage have a connection to the team, and so they're prepared for rapid response when the need arises. The Media and Democracy Project and their partner Fix Media Now are a rare, possibly only volunteer-led communications network with this mission. They're doing essential work towards holding the powerful accountable, and ensuring we can have a functioning democracy by demanding a press that shares accurate information with the voting public. If this sounds like a project that suits your interests, find links in our Episode Notes to join their team and dive into the work. Brian Hansbury, thank you so much for joining me on the Louisiana Lefty today.
Oh, thank you so much for having me.
I always start the podcast with how I know my guest. And we're just really meeting for the first time today, though, we've emailed a few times. I've seen you on the Media and Democracy Project Zooms that y'all have fairly regularly. So I've seen you, but we're really just meeting today. So it's nice to meet you.
Very nice to meet you.
Can you tell me, before we talk about the Media and Democracy Project, a little bit about yourself? How did you first get interested and involved in politics?
Yeah, so I... I was always planning I guess, on being a political person. I remember being a highschooler growing up, and, you know, when I was 17 I was looking forward to voting for the first time. And I thought about this, I guess, you know, I started, you know, participating in politics, I guess, when I first started going to a couple Iraq War protests during my senior year of college on the streets of New York City, I ended up being an American history major in college. And so obviously, there I learned more about, you know, the amazing power that, you know, governments and corporations and their monopolies and other seats of power, what power they can have. And then in college, I also took a mass media and politics class. And I would say that probably was what, through a lot of twists and turns until the last few years, set me on the trajectory to care deeply about these types of issues. About how we're informed. About how we take in information. And about how that affects our political outcomes and our you know, realities and our ability to pursue life, liberty, and happiness.
So before the Media and Democracy Project, were you actually working in a career in politics or media?
No, absolutely not. I have never worked in any paid fashion in politics at all.
Like, what's it... What's your, what's your day job, I guess is what I should ask?
I'm an actor.
Oh, okay. You did mention earlier that you do voiceover work. Okay. But you're also the co founder of the Media and Democracy Project, correct?
How did that get started?
The Media and Democracy Project was born of folks who were doing, you know, political canvassing during the 2016 election, and we were members of a group called Brooklyn For Warren. And so a few of our original members were Warren supporters, and we met doing, you know, just canvassing and that kind of a thing. And then it sort of built out to be just a group of people who would get together in Zooms and talk about, you know, how media distortions were affecting our politics and our outcomes. And eventually, we all decided to, you know, try to build something and so we originally had a much smaller group, and would just meet and talk about these things. And then we thought, "Well, let's be active, let's make things happen." And so now we are, you know, our core group, our strategy group is just people that we've picked up along the way, who just care about these issues from across the country, from both coasts and the spaces in between.
And what is the mission of Media and Democracy?
Sure. So the Media and Democracy project's mission is, I think, first and foremost, to get Americans to care about these issues, to care about issues of media and media reform. The way that we're wired as humans is such that we just sort of receive information, often without thinking about how we received it, or who it is who's telling it to us. And we also have this availability bias, right? Where if we don't see certain things covered, we don't know that maybe they should be covered, right? Like, most of us are laborers and employees in this country. But from our most, you know, prestigious news outlets, we do not see any type of labor coverage or labor movement coverage that is on par with the reality that so many of us are actually workers, right? So it's concepts like that of just like, "What are we receiving from our news, and how do those things shape our political outcomes?" So we do things like organize people to write letters to the editor, we organize people to make phone calls to their senators to demand a functioning FCC, we are daily out there on our social media platforms like our Twitter accounts, you know, pushing people to engage with the people who make our news, right? To ask more of reporters, and hopefully their editors, although editors are very shrouded and hard to reach. But we basically see an information landscape in our country that is rife with disinformation, purposeful disinformation, strategic disinformation from extreme partisans, and then we see our mainstream outlets or mainstream media, laundering those extreme positions and carrying the weight of those extreme positions, such that they actually then start to have an effect on our outcomes and our politics. And so we just fight for people to understand these issues. And we fight for people to begin to engage with these issues. No positive change in our country has ever resulted without people fighting really hard for that change. And I just want to touch on this, this quote, that's very core to our whole process. Whatever is your first priority, whether it is women's rights or saving wildlife, your second priority has to be media reform. With it, you at least have a chance of accomplishing your first priority. Without it, you don't have a prayer. So you know, the most intersectional thing anybody can be doing to advance their own cause in this country, is to take on media and to engage with media and to reform media, such that it's offering a diverse range of views instead of the views of, most often in our day and age, corporations and their agendas.
I think that's right. I know MAD also is sort of an umbrella organization for several different projects. You've got partnerships, you've got all these offshoot projects that are going on. Can you tell me sort of the range of things? I know there's, like, Fox protests that happen a lot up in New York. And you've got different Twitter accounts?..
Our two main social media arms are the Media and Democracy Project Twitter account, which is @mad_project, and Fixed Media Now, which is @fixmedianow. Fixe Media Now is something that I run, primarily, and that is every single day, taking on, you know, abuses and failures by the national political press, and just pointing out, you know, sort of all manner of things related to media issues, right? So we might post a bunch of stuff about, you know, the FCC and how we're lacking a fully functioning FCC. For a long time we were using our account to push for Gigi Sohn to be confirmed. Gigi Sohn has since removed herself from the nomination process to be the tie breaking commissioner on the FCC. When it comes to the other things that you mentioned, like the Fox protests, that's actually something from another group, a really amazing sort of local protest group, Rise and Resist. And born of Rise and Resist is something called Truth Tuesdays, which this really cool lady Julie started. And, yes, we have started to work with Truth Tuesdays to promote their protests. Obviously, with the revelations of the Dominion lawsuit coming to the fore, there's a lot more focus and attention being paid to the issue of Fox News, and that it is, in fact, not news. It will willingly lie to achieve the aims of the Republican Party. And that's all becoming known publicly in the lawsuit. And so we're partnering to sort of build out the website and help and just assist the Truth Tuesday's effort, so that we can do something about the toxicity of Fox and how it pumps propaganda into the homes of so many Americans.
And you just had a screening recently with Andrea Chalupa. Her movie Mr. Jones, which was phenomenal and huge attendance to that, I thought that was great. And then she sat around afterwards for, I don't know, an hour or two answering questions.
Yes, I was traveling, so I wasn't able to be at that event. But then I did hear that she was just involved, which was great. She was ready to answer questions for for quite a long time, which I think is amazing. And it was a great event.
Yeah, I know her through the Gaslit Nation podcast. I'm sure there are several other spaces that folks will know her from. But the movie is... I recommend highly. But often when I'm on your Zooms, it certainly was mentioned that night, Jen Senko was actually there, on that Zoom, where we watched the movie together. But I think one of the early things y'all did was air "The Brainwashing Of My Dad," which Jen Senko was a documentarian on that.
Yes, that was one of our early events. Jen is amazing, and her movie is amazing. You know, as I was building up sort of my side career here as a lay media critic, it was very influential and informative to me, and it was so nice to see, while watching that movie, that the people she consulted with were, you know, people that I was really growing an appreciation and respect for, right? She has the late Eric Boehlert, who's, like, really was a wonderful voice of media criticism that we really needed, and it's so sad that he's gone. And also in her movie, she also interviews Rick Perlstein a lot, who is I think, like, you know, the historian of our time, and the way that he's documenting the rise of the right since the 1960s. But yeah, so she did an excellent job with that documentary. And I highly recommend anyone listening to this, go and find "The Brainwashing Of My Dad." It's a really excellent, excellent documentary.
It's really important. I recommend it all the time. It's on our website, the louisianalefty.rocks website, as an extra resource. So folks can find it that way. If you go to the Additional Resources page, I linked to it there because I think for folks to understand the media, and the space that the Conservatives are coming from and have been coming from for decades. That movie really frames it really well.
Yeah, absolutely. And I think one of the things that I've been thinking about and I've been wanting to use in some of the activism that we're doing right now around Fox, and that I first encountered in her movie is, you know, I recently saw some video of Roger Ailes at the creation of Fox, right? Giving a little press conference and saying that, you know, he wanted fair and balanced, he wanted objective journalism. And that's what Fox was going to do, and that he was not partisan at all. Meanwhile... like his entire career, leading up to the founding of Fox News, was in Republican politics as a consultant for Republican presidents. And in the 1970s, he specifically wrote a memo that was titled something like How to Get the GOP on TV (A Plan For Putting the GOP on TV News), how to get the Republicans on TV, right? This has been, like, a 30... that by the time Fox was founded, it was a 20-year mission of his to create a hypepartisan, pro Republican Party news organization, right? So I just think there's a lot of great stuff in that movie. Absolutely.
Yeah. So that's a good one. Are you all volunteer-run?
Yeah, we are. We are 100% volunteer run. We do not get paid by anybody or, you know, we have a website, we pay for the website account. It's really just people who just came together and are passionate about this and want to want to make something happen. I wish we had all the funding of, you know, right-wing activism groups that are propped up by, you know, the Kochs and the Scaifes and stuff like that. Like, that'd be great.
You don't have any Soros money. Okay.
No, no, we also very much dislike that trip. Yeah,
Of course, of course, like any protest, or whatever. It's like, "Oh, they're all cashing their Soros. paychecks." It's wild.
But it really does... It's an important point to discuss a little further because all that it is so often from the right is projection, right? And so it's projection, it's also antisemitism. But it's also projection when they talk about George Soros because the Kochs and Scaifes and the Mercers and the DeVos's actually are what they call Soros right? Like, they have created a massive network that has allowed them to put Supreme Court, extremely conservative Supreme Court justices onto the Supreme Court, right? That has allowed our politics to be undermined, and so deeply influenced by them for decades. And you know, there's a ton of books I could recommend, but all of that stuff is projection. And the Soros one is especially nefarious because it also, you know, leans into, or bashes over the head, all of these antisemitic tropes that also emerge from the right.
That's true. So you're a volunteer-run. And so you're recruiting volunteers all the time? Correct?
We're always recruiting volunteers. Sure. I mean, it's basically come to one of our meetings, keep coming to one of our meetings. And if you want to help us with our projects, that's awesome. You know, we've done projects in the past, like, we did a study of all of the Sunday show guests of the top, like, four or five Sunday shows for the year of 2021. And that was just led by someone who had come to our meetings, and is now part of our team. And he did an amazing effort of compiling all these 806 guests, and who they were and what they were an expert on, or not an expert on. And the result of that effort was that we learned that the Sunday shows do not really inform, right? Like, they barely talk about issues, and a wide set of issues they certainly don't talk about. And when they do bring on people to discuss issues of the day, they are more often than not politicians, and not experts in any of the topics that they're discussing. So again, that, yeah, was born of just the people who come to our meetings eventually become part of our team, and we make these projects happen.
And you do Zoom meetings how often? Is that weekly, or?..
Zoom meetings every other week. So twice a month we have meetings on Monday. We have a website where you can go and sign up for our newsletter, which comes out about every two weeks, you can sign up to attend our meetings. You can also find all of our socials there. And you can also engage with with the projects that we've done. And maybe we'll talk about our Local Journalism Directory later, but that's also on our website.
Oh yeah, that's great. So yeah, I can link to all of that in the Episode Notes for folks that want easy access to that. Let's talk about your local journalism. I know several of our local publications are in that. You did a really good job including Louisiana!
Yeah, thank you. So you know, that effort is born of just the fact that, again, we just want people to engage with media, we want people to engage with journalism, care about journalism. And one thing we find ourselves doing all of the time, you know, via our Twitter accounts, is complaining about journalism, right? We complain, we critique national political journalism and how it fails us. But in those moments, where we sort of send off that tweet, we thought, you know, "Well, what can we give people to do about this? What can anyone do about any of these things?" And so we want people to take their money that they're spending on the news that's sort of failing all of us... Like, you can find out that Trump was indicted from, you know, USA Today or whatever, right? You don't need to find out from necessarily the New York Times for The Washington Post. But so take that money that you're spending there and actually invest it in local journalism because local journalists are the frontline workers of democracy. They are democracy's essential workers, right? They contribute so much to the communities in which they're working. And we wanted to figure out a way to get people to recognize that and to start paying for local journalism. So we put together a page, it exists on our website, it talks about all of the ways that local journalism actually is good investment in that it can pay you back. There are studies that show that investigative journalism, on the local level, ends up paying back to the taxpayers all this money because all of a sudden, when people are watching and investigating and reporting, there is less waste, there is less government corruption. And so there's an economic benefit. Not only that, there's also a health benefit, right? Like, for instance, The Philadelphia Inquirer did a huge investigation of the health of the schools in the Philly school system. And they found, you know, things like asbestos and lead and those kinds of things. And only by shining that light, can things improve. And so journalists are doing such important work, you know, we use the broad term democracy, but they're doing it. They're doing work that impacts our health and our happiness, and our success. And so we built out this thing, we also accompanied with a directory. So you can go to the website, you can find a map of the United States, you can click on your state, and then you can find a list of all of the local journalism outlets, mostly nonprofits, that are operating in your area, and you can subscribe to them. And then there's also just amazing benefits to democracy, truly. And most people don't like... most people might hear about the problems with journalism. Or when they're encountering a news article about how journalism is dying. It's all doom and gloom. But we wanted to show people that, you know, local journalism protects kids from harm, it uncovers corporate greed, it saves lives by exposing negligence. But then you also might hear, "Oh, well, you know, local journalism is essential to democracy." And you may not, like, understand what that means. And that's okay because nobody's really explaining that. So in our directory, there's a little section that talks about how, you know, civic engagement increases where Local News is strong. More people vote, where there's more local news. Elected officials are more engaged in their districts, they're more attentive to their constituents because they know that someone's watching. So there's all of these benefits. And it also decreases polarization. Because when we're consulting our local journalism outlets that have less incentive to be sensational, to drive these massive corporate profits, we're actually, you know, learning about the issues, as opposed to the horse race, in our local community. And we're going to make choices based on information about the candidates and their policy proposals, as opposed to some sensationalized attacks, or false equivalence that we see in more international media.
Are y'all involved with the Fox Action Project?
Yeah, the fox Action Project is something that is run by one of our members. Carolyn runs the fox Action Project. And, you know, that group meets, I think, twice weekly, as well. And they discuss everything that's going on with Fox and different actions that can be taken. And yeah, so that's great.
And you have a meme team. Is that right?
Well, we do have, yes, we have a meme team, but the meme team is actually being rolled off. Some of our members, you know, want to pursue the meme team in a more, you know, sort of electoral politics direction. Whereas we are, you know, laser focused on issues of Media and Democracy. You know, while a lot of our work can appear, you know, partisan, we really find that there's an extremist party in the country, the Republican Party, that we don't really think anyone should be supporting. After they staged a coup, and several other things. But so we do have a memes team. We did have a meme team, but the meme team is off
Branching off to a different thing.
Branching off to a different thing. Yeah.
Okay. But there's a Slack channel, right? Where y'all communicate?
Yeah, we have a Slack channel. You know, which is like if you come to our meetings and you want to just in between the bi-monthly meetings, you want to discuss these issues, be involved in our projects, you can, you know, join our Slack and get involved that way.
So anyone can come they just need to show up at one of your meetings, right?
Oh, yeah, absolutely. Yeah, come to our meetings we talk about, you know, our heroes and zeros of the last two weeks. We talk about, you know, sort of what the stories that are being held aloft nationally, what the narratives, what the agenda is, what the current news cycle has been saying. And we track that, and we discuss it as a group. And at the end of our meetings, for the most part, we usually take action as well. So until Gigi Sohn removed herself from consideration, we would take a moment at the end of our meetings to make a quick phone call to each of our senators and demand that they do everything they can to confirm her and, now in the future, confirm whoever else gets nominated because most Americans don't pay attention to it, but the FCC is wildly important. A lot of our disinformation society is the result of the rollback of cross ownership rules, going back decades. And so we have people will take action like that.
What do you think is the bigger challenge, disinformation or media not framing things in a way that's really being truthful?
Yeah, that's interesting. I don't know, I think disinformation, true disinformation, to someone who really does the work of taking in different sources, and, you know, stepping back and out of the fray of the so called, you know, culture wars or whatever, is like, more recognizable. And so maybe less of a problem than, what I would say, is the insidious way in which right-wing disinformation has been laundered into the mainstream.That's a phrase that I like to use a lot. So I made the CRT example earlier.
Please make it again, because that was on a video that not everyone may watch.
Sure, absolutely. So CRT is just the brainchild of someone at a, you know, right-wing think tank, right? This guy, Chris Rufo, sitting around all day thinking about, you know, "How can I... How can I disrupt society basically, for the benefit of the people who pay me?" And he landed on this CRT thing. And so now, if Chris Rufo is just, you know, blogging in obscurity, about, you know, CRT, nothing's really going to happen, right? And then now, if, you know, right-wingers keep talking about it, and then maybe if Republican politicians keep talking about it, well, that's one thing. And it's obviously a strategy. It's something that they want everyone to be talking about. But then the most nefarious part is when those bs, red herring, moral panic creations of the right are then treated in our mainstream news as if they have merit, right? As if they are not something that's been spun up by a group of people sitting in a room thinking "How can we organize discontent?" Right? There's a... I'm reading a Rick Perlstein book right now, :Reagan Land." And in it he quotes this guy, Howard Phillips, who's one of the, you know, forefathers of the right-wing, you know, movement. And he said, "We organize discontent." And that's really stuck with me because that's still the program all these decades later. And so, when you have Washington Post articles and reporters there, and their editors, who then write an entire article about this CRT debate and they quote a bunch of Republicans saying a bunch of stuff, but then they never once, in that article... because then they can't write the article. Right? If they say at the top of the article, "CRT is not taught in K through 12 schools". The entire ruse is up, right? And so that is what we should be most on the lookout for. And it's hard to be on the lookout for that in our society because it's so hard to know, with so much bs being placed into our discourse, what's true, what's real, what's not. And so another one that I was going to give as an example, an example of this, is the astroturfing, right? Like we think of astroturfs, like, the Tea Party, right? The Tea Party eventually did become something that was glommed on to by people who did not spin it up in a right-wing think tank room. But those are the origins, the Koch funded origins of the Tea Party. And so nowadays, we have Parents Defending Education. We have Moms for Liberty. We have another thing called the National Parents Union. And all of those things are, like... I'm talking to you from a true grassroots position. I am just a guy who cares about this, and I'm working with my girlfriend on a website, right? But these people who founded Moms for Liberty, for example, right? Moms for Liberty was founded by a woman named Bridget Ziegler and two other women. Bridget Ziegler has been a Republican operative. And her husband is the chair of the Florida Republican Party. Now, how many articles about Moms for Liberty discuss that at all? And if they did discuss it, did they sort of lie about the truth that it was funding from billionaires that got them, you know, instantly, like a national presence, right? They have chapter heads, and all of these things that, you know, are really hard for grassroots to organize. And so when you have in the Washington Post a Tim Craig article where they show the two other founders, besides Ziegler, from Moms for Liberty, and they're wearing their shirts with their messaging on it, and they're pulling their blazers apart to show the message, and their chin is tilted up toward the sky. And they have a series of all of these glamorous, you know, like powerful shots of these moms, quote-unquote, who are just grassroots moms. And when they just carry that into the mainstream, you end up with what is, like, to me, this amazing piece of video. And now I'm conflating the two examples that I've got. But when Youngkin was running for governor, these guys, I think they're The Good Liars guys, who are comedians who go almost like Jordan, you know, the guy from The Daily Show, they go to these events, and they interview people. There was an older man, he was going to vote in Virginia for governor. And he was asked, "So what are you out here... Like, what are you here voting for today? What's motivated you to vote?" And he goes CRT, like, immediately. And the guy goes, "Okay, so what is CRT?" And the man said, "I don't know. But I know I don't like it." Right? So that is the full arc of how from, you know, Christopher Rufo sitting in his office, organizing discontent,right, all the way to someone who is going and placing a vote specifically because they have been worked up by a bunch of bs. And so our mainstream media is the last part of that, right? Because if it only exists in the right-wing ecosystem, it can kind of die there a little bit. But when you are a regular American who may, you know, put yourself in front of Fox propaganda, may read The New York Post, or the Washington Examiner or whatever it is, or be on all the other sites. And then you see the Washington Post, The New York Times, CNN, also covering that story... It lends credulity to it, and it makes it real, and it makes it something that I guess we're supposed to be paying attention to.
Yeah. And I listened to Kara Swisher's talk about media quite a bit. And she makes the point that the amount of coverage that the mainstream media is giving stuff amplifies it. So whether it's CRT or some of the trans issues, the fact that they cover it so frequently, to your point, makes it seem to people like "Oh, these are the issues we should be paying attention to." Rather than some of the issues that they're not talking about nearly enough or at all,
The frequency of coverage, what is chosen as something worthy of being covered, all of those things are hyper important. And there are decisions that are made by newsrooms every single day. And we often as news consumers don't apply a critical lens, and we just say, "Well, I guess that's the news." But there's so many things that go into the making of news and the manipulation of news and, you know... You could just study how police and police rhetoric is reported on. Just if you wanted to, you know, delve deeply into something and have your mind blown. But yeah, those are all important choices, and they are choices.
And if folks wanted to hear what you said about that as well as... We were talking about the Trump indictment on the video that I call Left Lagniappe that'll be on Facebook and on YouTube. If folks want to go look that up, they can go there for more content. So I know I've been on some of your Zooms, Milo usually does a presentation, and then towards the end you really do kind of have an interactive segment where you essentially invite the volunteers in to participate in creating what your actions are going to be. So is there anything else folks should expect if they get on a Zoom with y'all? Is there something they should be looking for?
I think people who come to a Media and Democracy Project Zoom should expect to, you know, encounter a different way of looking at the media and looking at our news. I think they can expect to maybe just learn some skills for how to understand and take in news media. And I think they can also expect, hopefully, yea, to be inspired. I mean, we have one member who has just started writing letters to the editor, like, with with a pretty decent frequency, and she has quite a success rate of having those letters to the editor, you know, being published, and that is being part of the conversation. Like, I don't think we should, not that anyone here is but like, we shouldn't downplay that. Like, that's such an amazing thing is to use your voice to communicate via your local media to everyone in your community. That's powerful. And so hopefully, we can inspire people to do things like that. And, yes, usually, we will also take some kind of action in the actual meeting. So that's good, too.
How do you decide what issues you're going to work on?
Yeah, so we are pretty pleased with the fact that we think we're nimble, right? And so that means that we may have had a meeting where we discuss, you know, what project we're gonna do for the next two months, and then, all of a sudden, you know, Trump is indicted, or "Oh, we didn't realize that the 2022 election was coming up so fast, let's pivot to how we're already seeing such bad horse race coverage of of the election, right?" So we sort of respond to what's happening in the world because we're looking at how what's happening in the world is being covered. So you know, now that the Fox Dominion revelations have come out, you know... Fox is such a scourge on our society, and we believe we have this opportunity to really get more people energized to do something about it. And so, you know, after Gigi Sohn took away her nomination, maybe we were going to make a big full push on whether we really need to get a new FCC commissioner nominee, which we still care about, we still want to push on, but now, you know, some of us are moving our focus to taking on Fox. So it's really just responding to what's happening out there.
Sort of a rapid response situation.
Yeah, absolutely. You know, I can remember when we withdrew troops from Afghanistan. All of a sudden, like, overnight, the rhetoric and national media got hyper negative about Biden. And again, I just want to say, like, you know, I want every single person in power to be held accountable. But what happened with the coverage of the Afghanistan withdrawal was just so ridiculous, and how it left out all of the context of how Trump and Pompeo had spent the previous year, the last of their year in office, sabotaging an eventual effort to withdraw troops... It left so much of that out. It was really wild. So I pivoted there, and we started doing some work around that. And we did some digging, and we tried to make messaging about how this was such an outsized attempt to, you know, attack Biden without the context that those attacks could be equally or more harshly levied at, you know, Trump and Pompeo.
100%. So if someone comes and joins you and decides to take action on doing something like writing a letter to the editor, and they need support because they aren't quite able to do it, do you have a system where you can help folks with stuff like that?
For anyone who's listening, I would say, anytime you read a newspaper and you see something that you take issue with in terms of the coverage, maybe they've left something out, maybe they have done something great, write a letter to the editor. Get involved, share your voice, be a part of the media that is sent to you every single day, that is delivered to you. Be part of that delivery system and you talk back and influence. There was a few meetings in a row where we talked about writing letters to the editor. We have materials on that, again, it's something that, of course, we would love to put up on our website, but we're just... we're just, you know, proverbially putting our thumbs in all the holes.
Sure, sure, sure. And so therefore, that sort of makes the point that you really could use some more support from volunteers and folks who actually want to take active roles and ownership of certain parts of what you're doing, I would think.
Absolutely, you know, we definitely would love help from people who, you know, care about these things, and who want to have the patience to work with us to bring projects to fruition. Yeah. You know, the more minds involved, the better.
Well, I'll definitely link to the website, y'all are more structured then you're making it sound. So...
Well, yes. It's just in response to like, "Well, have you tried this project or that project?" It's like, well, actually, yeah, we've thought about most of those things, but we just haven't been able to get to them.
But yeah, y'all have an actually pretty good infrastructure already going. So I'll link to it. And hopefully, people will go check it out. People who... particularly those who are interested in doing more communications type work and more journalism type work, because we talk a lot about folks doing field work and different kinds of organizing, and this is a piece of the puzzle that there really aren't that many places to plug into. So it actually is a really nice service that you're offering to folks who want to play in that space and haven't found a place to plug in yet.
We are pretty sure that we are one of very few if not the only, like, grassroots media reform efforts. We haven't been able to find too many others,
And very dedicated people because I see the same people on for whatever I join. Well, let me pivot to the last three questions. What's the biggest obstacle to a media that supports democracy?
Biggest obstacle to a media that supports democracy is the lack of ownership rules from the FCC, and the commercialized, corporatized dominance of our media system. Such that, you know, their interest is in profit and power manipulation and outcomes that serve them. And it is not in the information needs of the public. It starts with our addiction to low quality information. And that is just sort of, you know, the makers and producers of media understanding human psychology and using it to their benefit, right? So we click on clickbait, and our eyes go to sensationalism. And that is that psychology is at the core of so many problems when it comes to what we're talking about, and when it comes to, obviously, social media and algorithms. And we all know about that, right? And YouTube will send you, you know, really violent stuff and really toxic stuff, like, if you just click on a few things, right? So we're addicted to low quality information, but there's also a lack of robust public media. And so just the thing I like to always point out is that, you know, there's rankings of the healthiest democracies in the world. And those healthiest democracies, those that rank the highest on those rankings, they spend between 80 and 120 US dollars per capita on public media. And in the United States, we spend $3.16 per capita. So that's another huge issue, right? it speaks to part of that hurdle being that we live in a commercialized system for informing the public. And a commercialized system is always going to give precedence to corporate agendas and corporate narratives, and not make as its main function informing the public in a way that we need and that is in the public interest. And then, I would say, another hurdle... These are three big hurdles. The third biggest hurdle is corporate ownership, like I was alluding to, and the partisan ownership that prevents quality journalism. So you know, you have something like the Washington Examiner, and the Washington Examiner is owned by right-wing billionaire Phil Anschutz, and I don't think most people treat it as, like, a legitimate, you know, straightforward, objective, quote-unquote newsroom, right? But then you have the Washington Post. And that's run by Fred Ryan, who is a Ronald Reagan accolade. Fred Ryan has... he runs the Reagan Library, he was Reagan's post presidency Chief of Staff. He is a conservative. And when we don't know who owns our media, we may not know the agendas that are being pushed on us. When we see Washington Post reporting on, you know, voter suppression and Republican efforts the minute that the Voting Rights Act was done away with, right? For years now, we've seen these both sides, false equivalence, euphemistic articles that cover voter suppression. And one reason that may be is because the man at the top is probably cool with voter suppression.
And what's the biggest opportunity for a media that supports democracy,
The biggest opportunity is all of the sort of individual and small efforts happening in local journalism. There is amazing local media out there if you start to look, which we did as part of building our Journalism Directory Project. There are so many cool things happening, there is City Bureau, which trains local people in the basics of journalism so that they can go to the school board meeting, they can go to the city council meeting and report back to their communities, right? There's all of these amazing efforts on the ground to build journalism infrastructure that really serves the needs of everyone in every community. Now, is it going to be enough to overcome, you know, the 50% of all newspaper jobs that have been lost since 2000? Maybe not. But you know, it's the beginning, and it's really exciting. And then the other biggest opportunity that we see is this Dominion lawsuit against Fox and all of the revelations that have been coming out, you know. Because of the power of Fox's rhetoric and propaganda, to debate with someone who has plugged themselves into that system has always been quite difficult because they will always deny that, you know... people who watch Fox, quote-unquote, news believe that it is news because they spend time on air discrediting other sources of news and telling you that they are news, even when they, as we have learned, know that behind the scenes they are lying and making decisions based on profit and power. So we see as a huge opportunity. Since the Fox Dominion revelations have come out 21% of Fox News viewers trust the network less after the text revealed all the lies. That's from Variety. And then there's also the fact that two out five Republicans want Fox to be held accountable for the false 2020 election lies. So I mean, I think that is just a huge sea change, or at least the beginning of one. And if we can capitalize on that, we can start to build a better information ecosystem in this country.
That's great. And Brian, who's your favorite superhero?
Maybe it's the history major in me... but truly, it really is... anyone who has ever decided that they care about something and have taken action to affect change. I mean, one of the things I think about, and maybe this will help you and your listeners, is about how we didn't used to have weekends in this country, right? And nowadays, we have all of this energy that would have so many people who appreciate weekends in this country now, would have loathed and despised and attacked those people who were agitating for weekends 100 years ago, right? And so this mindset that somehow activism is fringe or devious or something that's not incredible... activists are superheroes. They're the ones who have made meaningful change, who have gotten us civil rights, who have gotten us workers rights, who have made society just that much better by grinding away all the time. For me, an amazing quote that I like to use a lot in activism is "We make the road by walking." That was said by this guy, Myles Horton, who did a bunch of organizing in Appalachia a long time ago. And he was part of a conversation, a book in conversation, with Paulo Freire who wrote the "Pedagogy of the Oppressed." And yeah, we make the road by walking. And so everything that we look to as ways that we can improve society, we have to just put on our shoes and walk towards that goal. So people who do that are my superheroes.
That's a legit answer, Brian, so I like it. Well, thank you so much for taking some time and talking to us about the Media and Democracy Project.
Thank you very much for having me. I mean, this literally is the best opportunity for someone like me to be able to talk about what we're doing and have other people maybe get inspired by it.
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