As some of you may know, I am one of those left-wing crazies who really wants to see Al Gore run for president again in 2008. Of course, I'm only rooting for "Angry Gore" - the fierce straight-talker that Al Gore has become as he has grown more comfortable as a political outsider. My biggest fear about a second (okay, third) Gore campaign is that once he starts to feel the pressure of the public eye upon him, he will revert to being Cautious Focus-Group Gore (HRRN!! Angry Gore hate puny Focus-Group Gore!). But for the sake of argument, let's say that he snaps Bob Shrum's neck like a rotten twig the first time he tells Big Angry Al to tone it down for Heartland America, and just lets it all hang out.
For us Angry Gore fans, it goes without saying that a bracing jolt of straight talk about the magnitude of the Republicans' crimes would have a galvanizing effect on the Democratic and Dissatisfied Independent electorate, but I'm hoping that Angry Gore would actually go beyond merely trashing the Republicans. What I am fervently wishing for is that Gore hires some liberal media critics like Peter Daou or Atrios or the Media Matters folks to staff a "media war room." It is high time that the Democrats acknowledge that the mainstream media is every bit as much their enemy as the Republicans are, and start alerting the American people to it as well.
Why Gore, and why 2008? Gore, because I think he has the best understanding of the media out of all the presumptive candidates (I'm assuming that Dean stays put as DNC Chair). And 2008, because I believe that the only way a Democrat can get significant media coverage of media factchecking or anything else is if they're the Democratic candidate for president, or if they kill someone (Note to Gore: Not that Angry).
Of course, the risk here is that the media would spin any such criticisms into a "Gore's a whiny crybaby who can't bear the intense scrutiny of a presidential campaign" narrative. Certainly it would behoove them to do everything in their vast reality-controlling power to discredit anyone who shines an unflattering light on them. I believe that the key would be the focus and talent in Gore's media war room. They shouldn't cry foul every time the media says anything merely unflattering about Gore, but instead limit themselves to conclusively debunking blatant falsehoods, i.e., "Al Gore claims he invented the internet," or pointing out any occasions where a media outlet contradicts itself or demonstrates a clear IOKIYAR (It's Okay If You're A Republican) double standard. The practical difficulty here lies in presenting the case in a way that is both definitive and sound-bite compact, as well as the risk that every time they let an unflattering-but-not-flagrantly-inaccurate story pass unchallenged, it would be spun as a plea of no-contest. They would also need to work out where to draw the line between major, Swift-Boat-level lies that Gore should address personally, vs. smaller fibs that could be handled by a spokesperson ("Al Gore said he and Tipper were the inspiration for Love Story!").
I understand that the risk in confronting the media head-on is enormous, but they have so much control over our perception of reality and history, that it is suicidal to allow them to continue infusing that reality with Republican narratives and outright lies. Ultimately, the media must be forced to choose between either taking their journalistic, watchdog responsibilities seriously, or else become a Pravda-esque laughingstock that everyone knows is just right-wing propaganda. My preference is for the former, as more Republican crimes would be exposed that way. I will also observe that the media crisis could also be brought about by some form of media scandal, wherein it is discovered that the media conspired to cover up some sort of major Republican wrongdoing. (But who would report it?) Finally, note that there may be no other way to reform the media - I believe that the Fairness Doctrine could be easily gamed and used as a figleaf, and reform of ownership rules would just kind of nibble around the edges. Any serious media reform would have to come from within, and would require some pretty intense motivation.
What about the bloggers? some of you may ask. I don't want to sell my more-talented bloggy brethren short, but I think the sad truth is that there just aren't enough people reading them to make much of a difference, and most of the people who are reading them are already convinced. It's possible that this could change, or that the left builds a noise machine of its own by the time 2008 rolls around, in which case Nominee Angry Gore probably wouldn't need a dedicated anti-media strikeforce (no elite motorcycle commandos, please), but I'm not counting on it. As my Cliche-A-Day calendar says, Hope for the best, plan for the worst.