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Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Attacking the So-Called "Liberal" Media


A potent and powerful article by Godfrey Hodgson laments conservative attacks on the media.  A taste:

For a start, conservative critics relentlessly deride and accuse them of the one fault they have always tried to avoid: bias, in this case systematic liberal bias. Indignantly as they deny the charge, and hard as they genuinely strive to avoid it, there is no getting away from the fact that the tone of the most influential pieces of the news media industry – the New York Times and the Washington Post, Newsweek and Time, CBS and NBC and even CNN – has been set for decades by people, the great majority of whom see themselves as progressive, who vote Democrat and belong unmistakably to what conservatives see as the liberal elite.

It is also true that, far more even than in the 1950s, and certainly more than in the 1960s and 1970s, any such liberal bias is now aggressively challenged by institutions and journalists that do not bother to deny that they too have a bias. The most successful television news provider, Fox News, is unashamedly conservative. Talk radio is dominated by coarse, often abusive rightwing voices.

The supposedly liberal mainstream, moreover, increasingly offers a guaranteed outlet to professional conservatives. The New York Times, presumably in an effort to offset the charge of liberal bias, employs avowedly conservative columnists such as John Tierney (successor to a fellow conservative, William Safire) and David Brooks, while the Washington Post has Robert Novak and Charles Krauthammer, predictable champions of the right.

On television talk shows, a whole menagerie of shrill voices denounce liberalism with all the fervour of the "bawl and jump" preachers of the southern boondocks, coated with the accents and smooth vocabulary of the Ivy League. The once supposedly liberal mainstream mirrors the political scene: conservatives without an ideological doubt in their heads confront progressives who, with few exceptions, seem timid and hesitant. . . .

The alarming thing is that both CBS and Newsweek were disgraced for reporting that was inaccurate in detail but may well have been substantially true. The president did avoid going to Vietnam, however bogus the supposed proofs CBS cited. Qur’ans, it turned out, were indeed kicked in the direction of toilets, and splashed with urine by insouciant guards. Ideologues of the right, it seems, may write what they please: their opponents on the left are to be pilloried if they make the smallest mistake.

Posted by Daniel Solove on June 14, 2005 at 01:42 PM in Current Affairs, Daniel Solove | Permalink


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"[R]eporting that was inaccurate in detail but may well have been substantially true."

That is such a terrifically Orwelian line. Here's another one: "Fake, but accurate."

Posted by: MJ | Jun 15, 2005 11:17:17 AM

As a liberal, I must admit that I still do think that, given the current political climate, the majority of the MSM is slightly biased towards the liberal side of things. However, I think two important facts make this slight bias more understandable. First, the MSM is dominated by people who came of age in a different political climate, in which modern-style conservatism was more of a fringe movement, and what we would today call liberalism dominated the mainstream of political thought.

Second, it is more accurate to call the MSM bias "urban" rather than "liberal." Many supposedly "liberal" papers take stances that are at odds with pre-Clinton liberalism; the NYTimes recently came out with an op-ed favoring CAFTA passage, for example. Since most of the MSM is based in NYC, LA, DC, or Chicago, it is understandeable that the MSM has an urban bias.

Posted by: Jeff V. | Jun 14, 2005 2:40:29 PM

Why is this article potent and powerful? It suggests to me that if you are a liberal, and see your liberal political views as profound truths about the world, then the MSM usually appears perfectly reasonable and accurate -- and, if anything, sometimes seems distressingly conservative. The problem is that if you don't start with liberalism, the general orientation of the MSM on particular issues is pretty clear.

Re the New York Times, Tierney and Brooks are the wimpiest, mushiest possible "conservatives" the Times could find. They are moderates in a national sense, and in a red state they would be downright liberal.

Posted by: Chris C. | Jun 14, 2005 1:55:56 PM

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