Media bias and dishonest journalism today seem worse than ever. Hollywood is embracing more and more explicit content, and even pushing it on our kids. And conservatives can’t catch a break with Big Tech, which has resorted to censoring and suppressing content at an alarming rate.
For 35 years, Brent Bozell has taken on the elites in media, Hollywood, and Big Tech. He’s built the Media Research Center into a powerhouse, created the Parents Television Council, aided grassroots activists with ForAmerica, and is now championing the First Amendment with the Free Speech Alliance.
Bozell joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to talk about the media, Big Tech, and his new book “Stops Along the Way: A Catholic Soul, a Conservative Heart, an Irish Temper, and a Love of Life.” Watch, listen, or read a lightly edited transcript below.
Bluey: You and I first met 20 years ago when I was a reporter for CNSNews.com. Thank you for taking a chance on me back then. It was a remarkable experience, and really my introduction to the conservative movement. It’s hard to fathom, though, how much has changed in those past two decades, particularly with the media landscape. As you survey the way things are today, what are your observations, what alarms you, what do you think our audience needs to know about the media?
Bozell: The first thing they need to know is something about Rob Bluey. I don’t know why—well, you’re modest and you’re humble, but you don’t go around telling people a singular accomplishment.
When the [Rathergate] story came out on CBS that said that George Bush had been doing nefarious things when he was in the National Guard, and … that being a story designed to derail his presidential reelection bid. …
It turns out that the documents were false, and it was not a typewritten report, as it should have been in that year. It was in fact a computer printout. And it was Rob Bluey who came out with the very first printed report exposing that.
And Rush Limbaugh went all over the air, Sean Hannity went all over the air. Everybody was on it that night. The next day, everybody started peeling away from CBS. And ultimately, the producer lost her job and Dan Rather lost his, as he should have.
But it was you, you had the very first printed report on that. So, I start by commending you.
Bluey: Thank you, Brent.
Bozell: To your question, what’s happened? Someone contacted me yesterday and pointed out that in the book we wrote about 10, 15 years ago, Tim Graham and I predicted this. We predicted the coming meltdown of the media.
And I warned about it because I said, and Limbaugh and I talked about this, because I told Rush, “Watch out, they’re going to do this. They’re going to come after you.” That the media were like cornered rats. We had so exposed them, and so peeled off the veneer of supposed objectivity, that they weren’t going to take it. They were going to do what cornered rats do, they were going to go for the jugular, and here you go.
The thing we didn’t predict, Rob, was just how far to the left the Democratic Party would go. And they are the tipping point of it, they are the tip of the spear of this uber-radicalism. We didn’t see that coming.
So, that’s where they are today. It makes you rue the good old days of Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw. That’s how bad they’ve become.
Bluey: Take us back to 1987. It looked different then. And one of the biggest changes that I have observed, and you have been part of this, is the growth of conservative media. Starting with CNSNews.com in 1998, one of the first digital-only conservative platforms. But today, if you’re coming out of college as a conservative journalist, you have so many options that you can go to.
Bozell: So, going back to 1987, what did we have? You had ABC, NBC, CBS. There was this upstart, CNN, but it still just wasn’t a blip on the scene. You had The Washington Post, you had The New York Times, the LA Times, you had AP, you had UPI. The magazines were Time, Newsweek, U.S. Business, World Report.
What did every single one have in common? Every single one was left wing. There wasn’t a single conservative outlet out there.
If you wanted to tell your story, had to do it, you could do it one of three ways, four ways. You could give a story to Human Events, with a circulation of about 35,000 that came out once a week. So by the time they published it, the story was come and gone.
You could give it to National Review, which had a bigger audience, maybe 65,000, but it published once every two weeks. So … the story was way gone.
The third one was Paul Harvey, who would do a commentary from Chicago, and he was fantastic. But there was just Paul Harvey by himself.
The fourth one, I guess, is you could roll up a piece of paper and put it in a bottle, and throw it in the ocean, and hope that it made its way. Or you did direct mail. …
It’s kind of freaky to think, back then, how could a conservative have been elected to anything when we had no form of communication?
So Rush Limbaugh, up until the point he died, gave us credit for his show, which is silly. Rush Limbaugh, I think, gets 100% credit for his show.
But this is what he meant, and this is where he was right. I was asked when we started the organization by a potential donor—there were three of us meeting in this old beat-up townhouse, and we had seven employees. We had two desks, but we did have seven phones, and we had a black and white TV and a rented computer. And she said, “Who do you think you are?” Good question. We were going up against a multibillion-dollar industry.
And I suggested that there were two reasons she needed to support us. One was because the media played a role with everybody and every issue. And so long as our movement had prime steak ideas, but it went through the grinder and came out raw sewage on the other end to the American people, we weren’t going to win the public policy debate. So, we had to do something about that.
Secondly, that I believe that the media had an Achilles’ Heel, and that was credibility. If we could get the American people to understand what the media were doing, then if we believe in market economics, we would create an opportunity for others.
At that time when we started, Rob, 75% of the American people believed the media were objective. And by the way, objectivity doesn’t exist, but they believed it.
So Rush pointed to that, that because we were able to expose the media, there was a market demand for an alternative to Dan Rather. And I used to tease him that, “Every night you need to get on your knees and pray to Peter Jennings, to the ghost of Peter Jennings, for thanking him for getting you a job.”
But we helped create an atmosphere. But then others took over, and the Rob Blueys took over, and the Rush Limbaughs took over. And it’s been tremendous from that standpoint.
Bluey: How can conservatives today hold the media accountable? And where should they go to get truthful information?
Bozell: OK, let’s start with the latter first. I don’t think there’s one single place to go. I worry so much about our bifurcated society today. With social media and the internet and Google, there’s more information at our fingertips than at any time in human history. All you have to do is ask a question … with one click of Google, and there’s your answer.
But the paradox is that we are now dumber than ever, because we don’t seek new information. We simply look for Cliffs Notes of Cliffs Notes. We go on Google, we press the first thing, we read the first paragraph, boom, we’re wise. No, we’re not. That’s all we know.
And the problem on that score is that we are dumbed down, we instinctively, conservatives will instinctively go to Fox. A liberal will instinctively go to MSNBC. And I think that where conservatives are concerned, do that, but then go to the BBC, go to CNN. Go to enemy occupied territory, find out what the other side believes and what the other side is saying.
Every once in a while, I like BBC, as left wing as they are—and they are. But they do cover more news than anybody stateside. And I do recommend go to those kind of sites, get a deeper understanding of the news, instead of the meatball surgery forensic knowledge. We have to go deeper.
So, what do you do about media bias? Everyone needs to expose them in their human interaction at all times, and it can be done. If you’re on Facebook, you have lots of people that you connect with. Remember, most people that you connect with don’t feel the way you do about the world, but they respect your opinion on the world.
There’s a study that was done that showed that if you are an American corporation and you advertise on Facebook, you have about a 14% believability rate. Only 14% believe in that Ford truck. The rest really don’t care, don’t pay attention. If you put that exact same commercial on Facebook, the believability goes up to 76%. Why? Because it’s peers sharing information.
If I send you that—if it’s just out there, no. But if Brent Bozell sends it to a cousin who may be a left-winger, he’s my cousin, and … he may not agree, but he’s going to pay attention to it.
So social media is a great way, if you’re not censored, which is another huge problem, maybe a bigger problem, but you try to get that story out. So we have to be storytellers, all of us. When the media are distorting things—look at this transgenderism issue, look what they’re doing to it—talk about it, don’t be afraid, talk about it. Remember at all times, overwhelmingly, the American people on almost virtually every single issue are with us.
Bluey: Thank you for bringing up the importance of social media. You and I have sat in meetings with Mark Zuckerberg and we have been strong advocates for free expression and free speech on these platforms. I think we’ve seen how conservatives have been able to expand their reach as a result of social media. However, it seems that the social media companies have decided that their embrace of free speech is now secondary to their desire to control the narrative, to control and censor and suppress conservative voices. What was the turning point for Big Tech when they turned against us as conservatives?
Bozell: I think I know when it was. The last four presidential elections have been decided by social media. That’s the power of social media. Barack Obama used Facebook to great success in 2008. In 2012, he doubled down, spent even more resources on Facebook, on reelection.
2016, Donald Trump won the presidential election using Twitter. And that was the point where they said in the best Roberto Duran voice, “No mas.” They were not going to allow him to win reelection. And that’s when you saw the censorship begin.
The key point being, Rob, if you can censor the president of the United States, you can censor anybody. … He was officially censored. What people don’t realize is before being officially censored, he’d been censored 265 times. And we looked to see how many times Joe Biden was censored in that time period, not once.
So, what is it that makes them think that they can do this? And Rob, this is key. People have to understand, they believe their censorship is a virtuous thing. These are companies that do not see themselves as American, they call themselves members of the global community at all times.
So, what does this global community believe in? They believe in a European form of socialism. In this form of socialism, you put virtue first, freedom second. In our society, we have the Constitution first and then virtue of the application of it, second. They see it just the other way around. They see virtue better, more important than freedom.
What’s virtue? Virtue to them is everything we’re against. They see it as a virtuous thing. The Constitution to them is irrelevant, it does not exist. Hence, banning guns is a good thing because they don’t believe in the Second Amendment. And more importantly, Rob, free speech. Censorship is a good thing in their minds because they don’t believe in the First Amendment. And that’s the secret sauce here.
So, you’ve got an entire industry, … it is more powerful, Rob, than any corporate industry in the history of man. Think about the robber barons, think about the railroads, all that stuff, that’s tiddlywinks compared to the power of Silicon Valley. Three companies are sitting on a trillion dollars of cash. Where’s the market competition? Apple wants something, it eats it. You don’t eat an Apple, Apple eats you. They’re that big, you can’t compete against them.
Bluey: Let’s talk about one of the real-life consequences of that. So, one of the most egregious cases of censorship came another October surprise, if you will, ahead of the 2020 election. The New York Post has a major scoop on Hunter Biden, and the corruption, and the laptop, and everything that was associated with that. Twitter and Facebook and other platforms immediately decided that the story needed to be suppressed. Their audiences couldn’t couldn’t see it. … And you have polling to suggest that this could have influenced the outcome of the election.
Bozell: It absolutely did.
Bluey: So, what is your take? In recent days, The New York Times and other news outlets have come out and now acknowledge that it’s true. Are you surprised by this acknowledgement? And what are your general thoughts on the Hunter Biden story at this point?
Bozell: OK, so, the Hunter Biden story comes up. … You just asked the obvious, if this had been Don Jr. with a laptop, what would the media do? If in there, they’re talking about all these deals, and he’s done cocaine, and he talks about cutting a deal with the Chinese government, with the communists, and they’re going to hide 10% for “The big guy”—and if this had been Don Jr., there would have been no question who “the big guy” was.
Well, you have all of this come out. And here’s the key, Rob, no one in the Biden campaign ever denied it. No one in the Biden family ever said this wasn’t true. That tells you everything you need to know.
So, what was the media’s reaction? What was social media’s reaction? Facebook, these people do all this underhanded stuff and they get caught all the time. In this case, Facebook announced they were suppressing it. Twitter just shut down the account for the New York Post and then started shutting down people who would talk about the story, so they suppressed it. The media had nothing to say. I think there was seconds that they applied to it, and that was it.
So, what was the real-world consequence of this? We took a survey after the elections. It was a fascinating and disturbing survey. It was 1,750 people, so about as accurate as a poll as you can take. We went into seven battleground states—Nevada, Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan. Those were the battleground states. We put a series of questions to Biden’s voters. “Did you know?” And then we asked them, … to those who did not know, “Had you known, would you have voted for Biden?”
Rob, it was frightening. On every single issue, it was 35%, 45%, 50.5% of Biden’s voters had no idea that America had become energy independent, 49% had no idea that Trump had been nominated for three Pulitzer Prizes.
In every case, we then took the 4%, whatever the number might be of percent who said they wouldn’t have voted for Biden, we put it across those states. And Trump over and over and over again won six of the seven states, 295 votes.
Then we got to Hunter Biden. We asked, “Did you know about Hunter Biden?” Now, every conservative knows everything about Hunter Biden. We asked Biden’s voters. Rob, I think it’s 47%, thereabouts, of Biden’s voters had never heard of Hunter Biden.
If you go to CBS, it was never reported. If you go on Facebook, it wasn’t allowed. So, that was suppressed. Almost 50% of Biden’s voters had never heard about it.
So then we said, “This is the story.” Not passing judgment, “This is the story. Would you have voted for Biden had you known?” 9.4%, almost 10% of Biden’s voters in the swing states said they wouldn’t have voted for him.
We then put that 9.4% across every state, the seven states. Again—Nevada, Arizona, North Carolina, Georgia, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania. Donald Trump would have won with ease, every single state, 311 electoral votes, a landslide. That is what was the consequence of censoring a story.
And so, The New York Times comes out a year and a half later. Well, whoop-de-do, thank you so much, New York Times.
And yet, even when the Gray Lady, that font of wisdom where the rest of the media are concerned, comes out and says it is true—and there’s some incredible scandal here that is a thousand times worse than Watergate, a thousand times worse than anything else you’ve seen. … You’ve got the son piggybacking on Air Force Two rides and making billion dollar deals with the Communist Chinese, with 10% of it going to “the big guy.”
The last we checked, as of several days ago, it’s been 265 days since ABC, NBC, or CBS have mentioned the words Hunter Biden. They still aren’t covering it.
Bluey: That’s why it’s so critical, the work that you do—not only at the Media Research Center, but the Free Speech Alliance—to bring these issues to the forefront.
Brent, one last question for you before we wrap, you’ve written several books over the decades, all of which have really exposed media bias and brought the spotlight on issues that too often don’t get the attention they deserve. But your most recent book is quite different. It’s called “Stops Along the Way: A Catholic Soul, a Conservative Heart, an Irish Temper, and a Love of Life.” It’s a personal story about your own life. Tell us what inspired you to write this most recent book.
Bozell: Well, I had some good stories to tell, first. But they were different stories. And it’s not a memoir, it’s not my autobiography. It is a series of true stories. But what I’m hoping to do is to take the reader back, not just to the good old days, but to an extraordinary world of possibilities.
I think, Rob, we’re not dreamers anymore. We are so concerned with the here and now, as we should be, because I think this country is very much teeter-tottering, and I think we’re very much at an existential moment, but yet we need to be dreamers, too. We need to think about the world of possibilities. And I take you to a world of possibilities.
People have read it, and I cannot tell you how many comments I’ve gotten back. People are writing from all over the country, either telling their story or telling something that affected them.
The second part of the book’s more political, telling stories there. And I do tell a story, for example, of a person who I imagine 99 out of 100 conservatives have never heard of. And yet without him, arguably there would have been no Reagan revolution, and you’ve never heard the name. And I worked for the guy.
How many people know the story of John T. Terry Dolan? I tell that story. And when you read the story, and it ends tragically and beautifully, but when you read that story, you’re going to say to yourself, if you’re a conservative, “OMG, I had no idea.” True stories.
Bluey: Brent, thank you so much for sending me a copy of the book. I do appreciate it. We’ll be sure to leave a link in the transcript as well as the show notes for today’s episode. Thank you for what you’ve been doing, not only as a conservative leader, but exposing what’s going on in Big Tech and the media. We are certainly grateful for it and look forward to keeping in touch.
Bozell: Rob, thank you for everything you’re doing.
Rob Bluey serves as executive editor of The Heritage Foundation's The Daily Signal and was formerly a CNSNews reporter.
Editor's Note: This piece originally appeared on The Daily Signal.