Stumbling On Astroturf
Here at Public Eye, we've gotten more than 400 emails complaining about Jeff Greenfield's Friday piece on the film "Sicko." Why so many? Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), Common Dreams, and Reclaim The Media have all posted FAIR's "Action Alert" complaining about the piece.
(AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
The action alert ends by telling readers to "Tell CBS Evening News to correct Jeff Greenfield's assertions about public opinion and single-payer health coverage. You could also point out that Dennis Kucinich—a proponent of such a system—is in fact a presidential candidate." It includes our email address as well as that of the "Evening News."
Almost immediately after the FAIR alert was posted, I contacted Greenfield for his thoughts. He quickly responded to FAIR's critique. I posted the critique and Greenfield's response yesterday at 5:00 PM with hopes that it would start the kind of dialogue in our comments section that Public Eye was created to foster.
The results have been disappointing. The Greenfield post has elicted just seven comments thus far, a drop in the bucket when compared to the number of complaints we've gotten about this issue in our now bulging inbox. Most of the e-mailers have clearly not seen or considered Greenfield's comments, opting instead to simply parrot the line of the FAIR piece. Some just pasted the FAIR piece into the body of their email.
I'm not taking sides here. I am, however, pointing out that an awful lot of people seem more interested in registering their outrage when directed to do so than in engaging in a discussion of the issues at hand.
I sent Greenfield's comments to FAIR's Peter Hart, as well as to FAIR's general inbox, immediately after I posted them. As of this writing, they have not been posted on FAIR's Web site.
If people are really interested in improving the mainstream media, the first step is to engage it – and folks like Greenfield, as well as institutions like Public Eye, have made that easier to do than ever. But most of those who have contacted us have neglected to take that step – and FAIR has not pointed them towards the opportunity.
I can see the appeal of sending an outraged email when told to do so: It makes you feel like an engaged citizen who is doing something to make things right. But making a difference sometimes takes more than a point and a click.