The Dow Jones / News Corp. deal has entered the 2008 Democratic primary, with Fox News as the new Willie Horton. In an e-mail to supporters, John Edwards called on Democrats to speak out against the merger and “take the necessary steps” to stop it.
Regular readers know that I’m pretty libertarian on media-and-government issues. (Though I’m not so naive as to believe that the government should just allow out-and-out monopolies.) That’s not my issue with Edwards here, though. It’s the rhetoric of his argument: that the sale should be stopped because it’s Murdoch. It’s true that Edwards’ e-mail calls for stopping “this merger and other forms of media consolidation.” But it also says that “the basis of a strong democracy begins and ends with a strong, unbiased and fair mediaâ€”all qualities which are pretty hard to subscribe to Fox News and News Corp.” Whether that’s true or not, if the deal is bad, the dealmaker is irrelevant. The last thing any of us need is the precedent of the government trying harder to scuttle the deals of media institutions it doesn’t like.
I’m guessing, anyway, that Edwards’ rhetoric has mostly to do with the politics of News Corp., since he’s campaigning for the votes of a Democratic base who are not known for punishing anyone for bashing Fox News. (It also, the New York Times’ DealBook blog notes, lets him contrast himself with Hillary Clinton, Murdoch’s strange-bedfellow beneficiary.)
Edwards, incidentally, was also the first of the Democratic candidates to refuse to take part in debates on Fox News. If we have any Swamplanders here, a serious question: what good does that do? Why not have the debate, use your response time to knock Murdoch and Bill O’Reilly all you like and maybe have your arguments reach a few people who don’t ordinarily listen to you? Does refusing to take part in a Fox News debate really delegitimize the channel in the minds of anyone, except those who never thought it was legitimate in the first place?
Update: By the way, it’s kind of unfair for me to bring this last point up without mentioning the Republicans who have considered squirming out of the YouTube debate. (In fact, why hasn’t anyone nailed me for that in the comments yet? What, they don’t have wifi at YearlyKos?) Anyway, yes, the Reps are total wusses if they skip out on it. So there.