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Through a complex network of wealthy foundations, think tanks, and websites, the far left is creating a new media infrastructure with the ultimate goal of banishing conservative and libertarian thought to the nether regions of media and curbing the political power of the right.

The Internet has allowed left-wing grassroots activists to form a virtual army of amateur political campaigners ready to protest, write letters to the editor, fund candidates, and attend candidate rallies with minimal advance notice. Web-based networking is a highly effective way to communicate and interact socially at the click of a mouse. The old grassroots left has given way to today’s “netroots” left.

No longer isolated in urban blue state enclaves, leftists are using the Internet to communicate with one another. The left is mobilizing online through “Web 2.0,” the colloquial name for a continuing series of online innovations that is transforming the Internet. It includes blogs, YouTube and other web video-hosting sites, constantly updated news feeds, social networking services like Facebook and MySpace, and many other online innovations.

These new services are very useful in their own right for non-political purposes but they are especially valued by leftwing activists who regard them as alternatives to the “corporate media,” their pejorative term for the elite liberal media companies that, they say, freeze out truly progressive ideas.

The netroots have dramatically refined their techniques for media messaging. Earlier liberal websites like Raw Story, Common Dreams, and Alternet applied a top-down model to disseminate political information. By comparison, the Web 2.0 model looks to a variety of mechanisms to spread ideas quickly. Leftist online blogging communities like Daily Kos, MyDD, and Crooks and Liars have soared to the top of political web rankings.

Blogging makes everyone a pundit or an investigative reporter. With a blog, anyone can also post an opinion, annotate and forward a news item, and share his activist impulses with the entire world.

Blogs also are proving to be potent fundraisers. As of September 2008, blogs had collected over $21 million for Democratic candidates running in that year's federal elections. Meanwhile, ActBlue, which describes itself as “the online clearinghouse for Democratic action,” claimed to have raised more than $59 million online since 2004, dwarfing Republicans’ online fundraising.

Excerpted and adapted from "Inside the Disinformation Machine: A Look at the Left’s New Media Operation," by Matthew Sheffield and Noel Sheppard
(September 2008)


Inside the Disinformation Machine: A Look at the Left’s New Media Operation
By Matthew Sheffield and Noel Sheppard
September 2008

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