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Media Frame, Media Circus

There is a tremendous range of right-wing information exchange taking place within traditional and alternative media throughout the US. Mainstream analysts discount much of this massive information network when calculating political clout.206

Secular conservatives have long molded public opinion in major traditional corporate media--large-circulation publications such as Reader's Digest, conservative commentators on radio and TV, and even through TV drama programs such as "I Led Three Lives," and "The FBI." There is an important dynamic relationship between right-wing alternative media and the corporate media. Many of the conceptual frameworks and arguments used to marginalize left and liberal ideas in the media are first developed at think tanks funded by right-wing foundations and corporations. After these ideas are sharpened through feedback at conferences and other meetings, they are cooperatively field-tested within right-wing alternative media such as small-circulation newsletters and journals, and also by tracking responses to rhetoric in direct mail appeals. As popular themes that resonate with conservative audiences emerge, they are moved into more mainstream corporate media through columns by conservative luminaries, press releases picked up as articles in the print media, conversations on radio talk shows, and discussions on TV news roundtables.

As the increasingly-refined arguments reach a broader audience, they help mobilize mass constituencies for rightist ideas. This in turn adds to the impression that all fresh ideas are coming from the right, as there is no comparable left infrastructure for the refinement and distribution of ideas.207 For example, between 1990 and 1993 four influential conservative magazines (National Interest, Public Interest, The New Criterion, and American Spectator) received a total of $2.7 million in grants, while the four major progressive magazines (The Nation, The Progressive, In These Times, and Mother Jones) received less than 10 percent of that amount, under $270 thousand.208

The National Council for Research on Women documented a good example of this process in an analysis of how the false idea that campuses were under siege by radical "PC Police" was constructed.209 The topic of how foundation-funded conservative think tanks dominate political discourse with claims that are frequently open to challenge on a factual or logical basis is a topic explored by Ellen Messer-Davidow.210 The increased demand for packaged information by reporters with diminishing resources to conduct their own thorough research and investigations has amplified this dynamic. As Lawrence Soley concluded in his article on right-wing foundations and think tanks:

    While the research of conservative think tanks isn't serious, their lobbying efforts on behalf of corporate contributors are....Although information on the shallowness of [conservative] think tank research is available to the news media, reporters appear to have turned their backs on it in order to get easy access to a soundbite or quote. Rather than asking think tank representatives hard questions about their funding and their lobbying efforts, reporters turn to them for their ideologically prefabricated opinions on domestic and foreign affairs. And that's the way the news gets made.211

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