Self-Evident

The Excellent 'McArdle/Hinderaker Rule': Bring Your Own Camera to MSM Appearances

While these outlets are by no means dead and sold for parts, the networks and print referred to by conservatives as “the MSM” have been bleeding audience share for almost two decades. However, they haven’t been marginalized to a size commensurate with America’s poor opinion of them, and for a while I’ve felt this is a fault of certain “content providers” who should, by now, have a better grasp of these outlets’ practices, intentions, and greatly diminished influence.

(Even Gob gets it.)

Conservatives, or their handlers, should also better understand the tools now available, and the changing cost-benefit analysis those tools have nudged. For example: a camera, Twitter, and a colleague with a steady hand on retainer sure beats having that “crisis management” PR firm on retainer.

Yesterday, John Hinderaker of Powerline wrote of his recent experience considering whether or not to appear with Bill Maher:

Bill will head up a panel that includes two conservatives, one old and one young, and two demographically similar liberals. The producer told me that they have already lined up my old friend Ana Marie Cox as the senior liberal, and they very much wanted me to participate as the senior conservative. The event will not be televised live, but it will be filmed. The producer told me that Maher will use clips from the program on his television show and will post them on YouTube.

I had misgivings — the last thing I want to do is act as a foil for the likes of Bill Maher — but she argued persuasively that it would be helpful for me to take part, and that we conservatives would get an even break. I said I would think about it overnight and call her back in the morning.

Think rationally about why New Media — such as PJM and Powerline — even exist, and why studies have confirmed what Twitter users generally observe, which is that conservatives dominate liberals in trending topics on that medium: there is an audience that understands conservatives simply do not get a fair shake in the MSM, stretching back to the New York Times of the early 20th century, pre-television.

So our new products filled the vacancy, and further, that’s where all the market share the MSM bled has gone. People didn’t tune out altogether — instead, they tuned in to Fox News and Roger L. Simon and John Hinderaker.

The truth regarding the media landscape is self-evident. So why would a conservative ever agree to have his or her message strained through an MSM colander? Rationally, what are the pros of appearing taped on an outlet or with a specific host known to distort conservatism in general and individual messages in particular? Through a Maher producer’s eyes, what are the pros for them in extending you an invitation?

Here’s what Hinderaker did:

I decided to participate in the event and do my best to support John’s candidacy, but on one condition: that I be given a copy of the video promptly after the event so that I, too, can post clips on Power Line and on YouTube. After all, if you have an hour or two of video to work with, and you want a 15 second clip that will make you look good or the other guy look dumb, you will surely find it. If I had a copy of the video, not only could I post useful footage, but I could also–to some degree–keep Maher honest. I also intended to promote the event and try to get Power Line readers and others to attend so that the crowd reaction would be balanced.

The next morning, I called the producer and conveyed that offer. It got a rather icy reaction. The producer said that giving me a copy of the video could be a problem; she would look into it and get back to me by the end of the day. The day came and went with no call from her, as did the day after. Finally, at 5:19 on Friday, I received this email:

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Conservative punditry and politicians have the pros and cons entirely wrong while considering why they might agree to appear on these outlets. It might be bravery, but it is misguided: you aren’t doing Americans of opposing viewpoints a favor by exposing them to conservatism through an MSM filter. Instead, you do Americans of all viewpoints a disservice, because all are best served by the truth, and you are lending additional credence to these truth filters.

You hurt your own cause, that cause which drives you to spend 12 hours a day away from your family, and you hurt the audience by allowing these corrupted outlets to hang on to market share — share which your unfiltered viewpoint has proven over the past 20 years that it can destroy.

That the internet is a democratizer is old news by now: you get to be an outlet of one, yada yada. You get to disseminate the truth, or at least your entire message, from beginning to end. You get to strike back at a lie immediately and devastatingly — on Twitter, your truth pushback is halfway around the world before the lie stops smirking. You know this already.

Conservatives are now the content and the delivery method, and there is no damned reason left to give up your fate to an untrustworthy hand. Starve the bullies their punching bags, and let the MSM shrink down to its appropriate size.

In his article, HInderaker points out that Megan McArdle of Bloomberg View recently came to the exact conclusion with her article “Don’t Ever Appear on ‘The Daily Show‘”:

… here’s a guide for people who do not share the show’s politics but are considering going on it anyway:

1. Don’t.

2. If you must, bring two tape recorders, a video camera and a witness. Announce at the beginning that you are going to record this and reserve the right to release the entire recording to the public. When they tell you that they will not do the interview under those conditions, prepare to leave. There is no ethical reason that a reporter requires the ability to ask you questions without having those questions recorded. The reason they don’t want unedited audio is that you might release it and be revealed as a normal decent person, rather than a horrible fool.

3.They may attempt to get you to stay by explaining that recording will interfere with their equipment. This is the point where you whip the video camera out of your bag and helpfully offer to videotape the interview instead. Do not, under any circumstances, allow yourself to be alone in a room with the producers and no recording device.

4. Seriously, don’t go on “The Daily Show.” They control the format, the questions and the editing process. There is no way you can win. Your purpose is to look like an idiot on the show, and they have all the tools they need to make sure you fulfill that purpose. There is a reason that you have never seen a video clip of someone who “beat” Jon Stewart — or Bill O’Reilly, or any other host of a show that pits professional interviewers against ordinary subjects.

She adds Bill O’Reilly, and I can’t speak to his record on this, but that’s fine, too. If O’Reilly opposes you on your topic, by all means follow the same advice. McArdle is of course correct with her statement that there is no ethical reason for a journalist to insist on controlling the only recording of an interview’s content. There are only self-interested reasons for that.

Pay attention, Priebus: strongly recommend that your caucus insist on the McArdle/Hinderaker rule, for the most important reason: you can. It’s a different era, one in which you never again need to rely on the goodwill of your adversaries.