Is MoveOn Less Progressive Than the New York Times Editorial Board?

The New York Times is hardly a progressive newspaper — but when it comes to the surveillance state and ongoing militarism of the Obama White House, the establishment’s “paper of record” puts to shame.

New York Times building in NYC. Photo: Haxorjoe (CC)

New York Times building in NYC. Photo: Haxorjoe (CC)

And so, the same day that the Times editorialized to excoriate President Obama for his latest betrayal of civil liberties, MoveOn sent out a huge email blast sucking up to Obama.

The Times was blunt in its Saturday editorial: “By the time President Obama gave his news conference on Friday, there was really only one course to take on surveillance policy from an ethical, moral, constitutional and even political point of view. And that was to embrace the recommendations of his handpicked panel on government spying — and bills pending in Congress — to end the obvious excesses. He could have started by suspending the constitutionally questionable (and evidently pointless) collection of data on every phone call and email that Americans make.”

But, the newspaper added: “He did not do any of that.”

As the Times editorial went on to say, “any actions that Mr. Obama may announce next month would certainly not be adequate. Congress has to rewrite the relevant passage in the Patriot Act that George W. Bush and then Mr. Obama claimed — in secret — as the justification for the data vacuuming.”

Let’s reiterate that the Times is far from a progressive outlet. It serves as a highly important megaphone for key sectors of corporate/political elites. Voicing the newspaper’s official stance, its editorials are often deferential to spin and half-truths from favored political figures. And much of the paper’s news coverage feeds off the kind of newspeak that spews out of the Executive Branch and Congress.

But on crucial matters of foreign policy, militarism and surveillance, the contrast between Times editorials and MoveOn is stunning. The “progressive” netroots organization has rarely managed to clear a low bar of independence from reprehensible Obama policies.

Instead, millions of people on MoveOn’s list are continually deluged with emails pretending that Republicans are the only major problem in Washington — while nearly always ignoring Obama administration policies that are antithetical to basic progressive values.

And so, on the same day the New York Times was ripping into Obama’s latest affront to civil liberties and privacy rights, MoveOn was sending out a mass email that began by quoting from Obama’s 2008 convention acceptance speech — as though his five-year record as president still makes him an apt source of inspiration: “The change we need doesn’t come from Washington. Change comes to Washington.”

After five years, MoveOn seems not to have noticed what the New York Times editorial board has often pointed out: that some of the change Obama has brought to Washington has not been in a progressive direction. As the Times put it in a follow-up editorial Sunday, at his latest news conference Obama “insisted that there was no evidence that the phone surveillance program was being abused — a truly disturbing assessment given all the revelations since June.”

As usual, the MoveOn email did not include a single word of criticism, much less challenge, of Obama. Instead, the email blamed Congress for all the political obstacles to needed “change.”

This is typical. Year after year of the Obama presidency, MoveOn has been routinely silent on such crucial matters as U.S. drone and cruise missile strikes across borders, war in Afghanistan, assaults on press freedom and whistleblowers, and methodical undermining of precious civil liberties.

The intertwined warfare state and surveillance state have little to fear from MoveOn. And that’s tragic.


Norman Solomon is co-founder of and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” Information about the documentary based on the book is at

Norman Solomon

Co-Founder at RootsAction
Norman Solomon is the author of “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” He is the executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and co-founder of

12 Comments on "Is MoveOn Less Progressive Than the New York Times Editorial Board?"

  1. moremisinformation | Dec 23, 2013 at 11:05 am |

    This just in…organizations funded by George Soros – not that ‘progressive’.

  2. Liam_McGonagle | Dec 23, 2013 at 11:30 am |

    Succumbing to the pragmatism of power politics, but without the power.

    I know: Let’s send a petition ’round!

  3. mannyfurious | Dec 23, 2013 at 3:51 pm |

    MoveOn was never progressive. They were cheerleaders and apologists for the democratic party, nothing more or less. I joined their emailing list back when I was a freshman or sophomore in college and I thought the democratic party were the good guys in a never ending biblical-lite battle with Dick Cheney and his cronies. And I’m still receiving emails even though they disgust me,simply because I’m to lazy to block them or whatever.

    • gustave courbet | Dec 25, 2013 at 6:45 pm |

      You should do yourself the favor of following their ‘unsubscribe’ link. I wrote them an angry letter and unsubscribed in under 5 minutes, and my inbox is all the better for it (they were soliciting positive stories about Obama Care. That set me off, because the only tangible thing I’ve seen Obama Care do was cause retail outlets like the one I worked at at the time to cut part-time employees’ hours to avoid the federally mandated requirements.)

      • DJBabyBuster | Dec 26, 2013 at 11:38 am |

        I’m become increasingly disillusioned by the Democratic Party in the past five years, but I will say I’ve successfully signed up for Obamacare (with relative ease), and my coverage is significantly better and less expensive than before. I also have a zero dollar deductible under the silver plan. Doesn’t get much better.

        • gustave courbet | Dec 27, 2013 at 1:50 pm |

          Noted. I look forward to having health care for the first time in a long time as well, but my point was that an immediate negative effect on people living on the edge of financial disaster is not a health care solution. It’s politically expedient class war on people who don’t register on the radar of the Democratic party. While I have the education and resources to work around such problems, my former coworkers did not, and only had the option to take on a second or third low-paying no-benifits job, just to pay for food and rent, not to mention healthcare.

  4. InfvoCuernos | Dec 23, 2013 at 5:52 pm |

    Please. Of course the MSM is swinging to the right, its the right’s turn to sit in the big chair. After that last front-man the right put in there, I shudder with anticipation what foolishness will be foisted off on us. As the setup gets more obvious, it gets more absurd.

    • gustave courbet | Dec 25, 2013 at 6:47 pm |

      I would guess that the swing to to right has been caused by media consolidation over the last few years that allows more managerial control over editorial and journalistic decisions.

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