The ACLU and Media Hysteria

by on May 21, 2008 · 36 comments

Over at Techdirt I channel Adam Thierer and take the ACLU to task for its inexplicable decision to weigh in on the media ownership fight. I would think that if anything, as a civil liberties organization they would be on the side of opposing government regulation of private media outlets, but what do I know?

The opinion of the Techdirt readership is almost unanimous in their disagreement with me, but a lot of the comments don’t make a lot of sense. I focused on one specific claim in the ACLU’s press release: that the media universe is controlled by six media companies. This isn’t even close to true, which I documented in some detail. But this seems to have totally gone over the heads of Techdirt’s readers. The commenters either (1) changed the subject to some other media ownership pet peeve (Clear Channel sucks, local news is too concentrated, the media are too liberal, the media are too conservative) or (2) ignored what I wrote altogether, writing as if it were an established fact that 6 companies controlled all media outlets. One representative commenter wrote “having 6 or so conglomerates control the information the non-Techdirt reading elite see is bad.” But as I pointed out, this pseudo-statistic isn’t even close to being right. Even leaving aside Internet sources, there are a lot more than six companies controlling significant media outlets. Maybe the industry is still too concentrated, but the first step is to at least get the facts right.

For reasons I don’t really understand, this seems to be an issue on which peoples’ opinions are particularly impervious to facts and rational argument. For whatever reason, people really hate the media, and so they’ve somehow managed to convince themselves that one of the most fiercely competitive industries around is in fact a cozy oligopoly. It’s not true, but it seems to make people happy to believe it is, and no amount of contrary evidence seems to make an impression on them.

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