Prominent conservative lawmakers weighed in on the importance of new media during a discussion hosted by TheBlaze in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.
Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) were on hand to discuss the confluence of news and politics in an Internet-driven world.
Blackburn said connecting with her constituents is now about “meeting people where they are” — whether that’s Facebook, Twitter, email newsletters or her congressional website.
“It allows people to build their news,” Blackburn said. “Individuals like to know what is going on, but they don’t want a lot of the network commentary that goes with that. It’s why people are watching [congressional] hearings directly.”
“They don’t want that filter, they want to be their own filter,” she said.
Cruz said the explosion of new media has led to a “phenomenal democratization of information.”
“Anybody with a cell phone can be Dan Rather, hopefully with a greater propensity for truth,” the Texas Republican said.
Cruz said he witnessed that power firsthand last month when immigration activists protested him online using the Twitter hashtag “YouCruzYouLose.” Within hours, a counter-protest erupted under the hashtag “#CruztoVictory.”
It was “an organic demonstration of the hunger that is there for leaders in either party to stand up,” Cruz said.
Beck said the world of cable alone is changing — and TheBlaze is ahead of it.
“[TheBlaze is] not even a news network. Ours is a culture, ours is a lifestyle. We find the people that are like-minded that want to live their lives in a certain way,” he said. “Our audience is different and we recognize it.”
Lee blamed the preexisting media culture in part for allowing the U.S. government’s secret monitoring programs to flourish.
“It’s because people don’t understand the limited role of their government” in part because there “have been limited conduits for information,” he said.
“During the founding era there were, in every city in America, many, many newspapers, a number of conduits for people to get information about what was happening in their town, what was happening nationally,” Lee said.
He continued, “We’ve lost a lot of that in recent years. We’ve had a lot of consolidation in media outlets that give us our news. That fortunately is starting to change. We’ve got more alternatives out there for people to listen to. When people can have access to the truth and that truth can be checked and cross-checked because of the availability of multiple sources of media, we can all get better answers.”
Praising Beck, Lee said “not everyone in the news business has the same attention to detail as Glenn Beck.”
“The more Glenn Becks that are out there — and I hope there will be many one day — the greater the opportunity there will be for people to know the truth,” Lee said. “The thing about the American people is they will make the right choice when they are given the opportunity.”
Lee said he witnessed Beck’s influence firsthand after he heard himself discussed when he was still a Senate candidate on Beck’s radio show.
“Glenn Beck is a force to be reckoned with anywhere,” he said. “I knew when I was first discussed on their show…within a few days I noticed the impact…that point is not lost on me.”
Paul, speaking about last week’s revelations about the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs, joked that he was going to be leaving his cell phone with Beck to avoid monitoring.
He also performed a dramatic interpretation of Beck’s wordless cue card monologue. Watch for video on TheBlaze tomorrow.