While applauding the fact that NBC's "Meet the Press" did an hour-long special on climate change this past Sunday—which very well may be the first time the mainstream media has done such a thing—many progressives, green groups, and journalists were quick to point out that the conversation should have included a discussion of the rapidly growing Green New Deal campaign and “guests who acknowledge the scientific imperative of radical decarbonization over the next 12 years” such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Ayanna Presley, as Grist staff writer Eric Holthaus tweeted.
Perhaps more useful than Ocasio-Cortez getting a two-minute cut of billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s time, though, was the benchmark the show’s chosen lineup provided. Grassroots activism at current levels equals a baseline coherent discussion of climate change on cable airwaves via fifteen minute one-on-ones with a scientist, a centrist billionaire claiming that “all of the things to be done [on the crisis], or most of them, have been done by the private sector,” and a gaggle of politicians who aren’t leaders in the movement by any stretch of the imagination but aren’t sponsored by the Koch Foundation, either.
And how did we get here? What distinguishes the past few months from the countless years where the mainstream media neglected from discussing the climate crisis at all—is the push for a stimulus plan as economically dramatic as FDR’s original design. In the past two months we’ve seen activists conduct a highly public sit-in in Nancy Pelosi’s office demanding congressional Democrats back a Green New Deal. We’ve seen thousands of young people rush the offices of their Democratic lawmakers demanding the same. We’ve seen Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez bypass the mainstream media to host a national climate change town hall that produced conversations about the proposed program that have since gone viral. The Green New Deal may have been the gaping absence on Sunday’s show, but it was also the reason for Sunday’s show in the first place. We now have a gauge.
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We've been around long enough to know that the mainstream media will always fall short. But we don't acknowledge that so we can settle for less, but so we know just how bold future activism will have to be in order to advance the public conversation beyond what we saw on Sunday.
If activists were to again pack Pelosi’s office over the fact that corporate Democrats are gutting the Green New Deal committee of its power to subpoena oil and gas companies, Chuck Todd might have to actually explain what backers of the Green New Deal committee are demanding — and why. If progressives were to incite an organized campaign against all Democrats on climate-related committees who are also sponsored by oil and gas companies, Chuck Todd probably won’t book Ocasio-Cortez, but he may book those other lawmakers to come on and defend themselves.
For years, CNN and MSNBC have been tugged right by Republicans who claim liberal bias. Appropriately, through the rumblings of an FDR-inspired campaign, we’ve discovered how much it takes to tug them ever-so-slightly to the left.