That Liberal Media

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conservatism, liberalism and progressivism, News Media

There are some must-read items on the web today — let’s start with Digby’s “Dispatches From The Fever Swamp.

The president’s approval rating is stuck at around 40% and I think it’s pretty clear that it isn’t the reporting in the mainstream media or by the “reasonable” Democrats at the New Republican that brought that about. If left up to them the Republicans would be coasting to another easy re-election.

I don’t say this because I think that liberal blogs are taking over the world and have changed the face of politics as we know it. I say it because I know that without us there would have been virtually no critical voices during the long period between 2001 and the presidential primary campaign during 2003. We were it. The media were overt, enthusiastic Bush boosters for well over two years and created an environment in which Democratic dissent (never welcome) was non-existent to the average American viewer. In fact, it took Bush’s approval rating falling to below 40% before they would admit that he was in trouble.

I believe that if it had not been for the constant underground drumbeat from the fever swamps over the past five years, when the incompetence, malfeasance and corruption finally hit critical mass last summer with the bad news from Iraq, oil prices and Katrina, Bush would not have sunk as precipitously as he did and stayed there. It literally took two catastrophes of epic proportions to break the media from its narrative of Bush’s powerful leadership. And this after two extremely close elections —- and the lack of any WMD in Iraq.

It’s a beautiful thing to see reality crystallized into a few concise sentences. Makes me want to cry. But this is why I started blogging. What was being reported as “news” on television and in newspapers was such obvious propaganda, such nonsense, I had to speak up.

Among the few negative emails I got after the recent C-SPAN gig were from gentlemen (why always men?) who patiently lectured me that news media is overwhelmingly liberal and for me to say otherwise was a self-evident lie. And I think, who am I supposed to believe — the Republican Noise Machine or my own lying eyes? And there’s no use arguing with them, you know. They’ve been told all their lives that the media is “liberal.” If you go back to the early 1950s you find Joe McCarthy saying it. Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew declared all-out war on media in the early 1970s. Rightie talk radio, Faux News, and the rest of the echo chamber pour this lie into the ears of millions of non-thinking listeners, who accept “liberal media bias” as gospel.

That excellent resource Media Matters has a new study out called “If It’s Sunday, It’s Conservative: An analysis of the Sunday talk show guests on ABC, CBS, and NBC, 1997 – 2005.” The executive summary is here; the full report in PDF format is here. And the report tells us what any viewer with a usable brain surely has noticed — the guest lists of the Sunday television political programs are lopsidedly right-wing. “Panel discussions” also tilt right. In the crucial period leading up to the Iraq invasion, congressional opponents of the Iraq invasion were largely absent from the Sunday shows.

What’s particularly galling to me are the phony liberals — people who don’t speak for us liberals and progressives at all, yet they represent us on television. For example, take Christopher Hitchens and Joe Klein. Please.

Kevin Drum discusses the Media Matters report and also links to an article by Paul Waldman in the current Washington Monthly:

This ideological imbalance isn’t only evident in the “official” sources that are interviewed: the elected officials, candidates, and administration officials who make up most of the shows’ guests. It is even clearer in the roundtable discussions with featured journalists, [where] it has been a frequent practice for a roundtable to consist of a right-wing columnist or two supposedly “balanced” by journalists from major newspapers.

….The consequence of all this is that in every year since 1997, conservative journalists have dramatically outnumbered liberal journalists, in some years by two-to-one or more. Why would the producers of the shows believe that a William Safire (56 appearances since 1997) or Bob Novak (37 appearances) is somehow “balanced” by a Gwen Ifill (27) or Dan Balz (22)? It suggests that some may have internalized the conservative critique of the media, which assumes that daily journalists are “liberal” almost by definition, and thus can provide a counterpoint to highly partisan conservative pundits.

Kevin says,

The result is that genuinely liberal pundits get almost no exposure on these shows. You get conservative guests, super-conservative guests, moderate liberals, and journalists. And though it’s not part of this study, they’re almost all men. Only 10% of the guests on Sunday talk shows are women.

Some balance.

And this is particularly strange when you consider that the right-wingers are to the right of the majority of Americans on many issues. For example, 62 percent of adults recently polled by CBS News and the New York Times said that the “federal government should guarantee health insurance for all Americans.” If you listen to “mainstream” political talk shows, however, you’d think the only people supporting this view are the far-left Marxist fringe.

The right-wing agenda is presented incessantly on mainstream media; genuinely progressive policy ideas are rarely presented at all. Yet the media has a “liberal” bias. Uh-huh.

While you’re at Hullabaloo reading Digby, see also this post by Tristero. Excellent. For example:

The genuine major voices opposed to war weren’t permitted anywhere near an effective microphone, but they were known. When Jessica Mathews of Carnegie Endowment – as sober an American as one could ask for and certainly known within the media – started to make a convincing case on NPR that democracy by invasion was a crazy pipe dream, even that relatively unimportant network was too big. William Kristol personally called up and horned in on her time with ludicrous assertions designed to prevent the conversation from touching upon the substantive issues at stake.

We can’t return America to the people without straightening out the problems in media, IMO. Democracy can’t work unless the people are truthfully informed. And when they aren’t seeing their real concerns being addressed by the political psychobabblers on television, most people will just tune out politics as being kind of pointless. And the Wingnuts will continue to run our beautiful country into the ground, because people don’t even know they might have had another choice.

The Democratic Party seems largely unable to pull itself together and push back. There are individual Democrats who are terrific people. But any Democrat who sticks his neck out is instantly, and visciously, smeared throughout news media, and the Dem Party won’t provide cover.

So it’s left to the Blogosphere to push back. It’s not much, but it’s all we’ve got.

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26 Comments

26 Comments

  1. Rick  •  Feb 14, 2006 @6:47 pm

    Carefule what you ask for…by the time we do have a say,it will be when this whole mess is handed over to us(U.S.) Then, by the time it is fixed, the rightwing will again attempt a coup and run it back into the ground.

  2. Swami  •  Feb 14, 2006 @6:49 pm
  3. Bonnie  •  Feb 14, 2006 @6:50 pm

    Great commentary. I agree wholeheartedly with every thing you say. I agree with the solution; but, don’t know how we go about getting the solution.

  4. Rick  •  Feb 14, 2006 @6:58 pm

    Ps. Yours is my first regular blog to visit Maha, I really appreciate the way you can put things into context. Gotta recomend checking out Tristero’s post on Hullabaloo though; “Laziness Doesn’t Begin To Explain It”. Well put and all news to me.

  5. Mike G.  •  Feb 14, 2006 @7:02 pm

    I love that postage stamp!

    Awesome post, btw! The press is now in the entertainment business. The only way a message can be delivered is if it’s fun, or naughty enough to be sensational!

  6. alyosha  •  Feb 14, 2006 @7:05 pm

    Everyone has to learn how to rebut this meme from the right, if we have any hope of taking our country back.

    I’m pleased that Media Matters finally ran a study to try and objectively show what we’ve known all along.

    Having put up with wingnuts for a couple decades now, I’ve observed that they regularly confuse facts with opinion. Their cry of “Liberal Media”, until the Media Matters study came along, is really just an opinion posing as a fact. It says much more about the speaker’s lack of exposure to the larger world than it says anything about the media.

    I’ve learned to confront wingnuts over this type of confusion of fact vs opinion, and on a higher level, ideology vs truth. The more narrowly educated the wingnut, the more lacking in critical thinking skills, the more susceptible they are to this kind of brainwashing.

    It’s unfortunate that it took a formal study of this by Media Matters to try and bring some objective data to the table, when all that’s really needed is to point out to wingnuts that their speech reflects their ignorance.

  7. maha  •  Feb 14, 2006 @7:11 pm

    What strikes me about a lot of claims of “media bias” is that a lot of righties consider any news reports that put Bush or the Republican Party in a bad light are “biased,” even if the reports are true. They seem to think that the only way to be “fair” is to either not publish bad news about Republicans or to state something bad about Democrats, true or relevant or not, for “balance.”

  8. spearNmagicHelmet  •  Feb 14, 2006 @7:38 pm

    how do you call the largest special interest group in washington liberal?

  9. alyosha  •  Feb 14, 2006 @8:18 pm

    What strikes me about a lot of claims of “media bias” is that a lot of righties consider any news reports that put Bush or the Republican Party in a bad light are “biased,” even if the reports are true.

    This is an instance of confusing ideology with truth, or more specifically, of not having the moral courage to be committed to truth, wherever it may lead. I heard this type of “thinking” (bleating actually) over and over from wingnuts. They’re used to having “truth” fed to them, so they don’t have to think.

    You get this a lot with authoritarians, people who are in awe of a father figure, and who have been trained to believe anything Father says. They lack the both the critical thinking skills to evaluate what is being said, in other words to be able to recognize truth from bullshit, and they also lack the courage to stand up for what is true.

    I’ve had the experience many times with wingnuts, who, if Rush told them the sky was green, they’d believe it. Up is down. Left is right.

    What you’re citing, the defense of Bush in the face of any and all facts, is a special and important case of what I’m talking about. I experienced the willful confusion of ideology with truth, long before the cult of Bush became popular.

  10. Samiam  •  Feb 14, 2006 @10:25 pm

    I think that what Alyosha writes has a lot of merit. Very wise. I’ve come to the conclusion that what we ourselves need to do is to develop a better “parent persona.” We need to exhibit strength and confidence and patience. (You really impressed me in this way, Maha) It’s not easy for some of us because the world is a complex place and it requires thought – and regard for the feelings of others and we end up seeming weak. But we need to understand that many of the people we dismiss truly are frightened. We forget that some of them went through a truly terrifying childhood experience in WWII – and 911 really pushed them over the edge. Making snide comments and screaming at them won’t help – it only pushes them away and then we all sound like brats fighting in the school yard. We can do better than that. Inclusion is best. Show some maturity. Gentle understanding. Listen and look at things from their side no matter how ridiculous it seems. I’ve walked this tightrope all my life (my parents, and some in this little town I live in) and I know that when the world seems to be slipping at the helm, their childish bravado comes out and they’re ready to fight the commies or the illegal immigrants or even those little green men. (My little old lady friend, who’s Russian, thinks it’s the Jews) You get enough of that sort of mentality and that’s when the bully boys are invited in. As far as the opportunistic wolves among them are concerned (sorry, wolves) – I don’t know what to do. I don’t have the capabilities to deal with that. That’s where information and a truly free press come in, I guess – if it survives. That’s when our side feels panic – when our checks and balances seem to be crumbling down around us and no one seems to notice or care. I think we can expect things to get more strident, though, the closer this administration gets to meltdown, don’t you? I’m just trying to keep the bridges intact because, ultimately, we’re all in this together.

  11. Swami  •  Feb 14, 2006 @10:50 pm

    They lack the both the critical thinking skills to evaluate what is being said, in other words to be able to recognize truth from bullshit

    I’ll plead guilty to this offense. If it wasn’t for the blogosphere where I could find writers who could explain how I was being taken in by the bullshit.. I’d still be lost. In the begining( with MSM) I was suckered by Bush and his political machine because I didn’t understand the dynamics of rhetoric and how it is capable of leading you where it wants you to go. Yeah, I was making what I thought were sound judgements, but didn’t realize the arguement had already been framed so that my “pride” in right thinking would lead me to the conclusions that had been pre- set for me. The Blogosphere has been a blessing and a learning experience for me.

  12. ken melvin  •  Feb 14, 2006 @10:53 pm

    Since Ronnie: If you’re poor it’s your fault, if you’re unemployed it’s your fault, if you’re homeless it’s your fault, … if the vice preisident shoots you it’s your own damned fault.

  13. Swami  •  Feb 14, 2006 @11:02 pm

    Oh, I’m not sure if ths could be considered a liberal bias, but I just read a headline on MSN that says: Cheney’s victim suffers mild heart attack.

  14. Lynne  •  Feb 15, 2006 @6:07 am

    I know this is not a solution of any kind, but I stopped listening to news on TV (I do listen to Public Radio still), stopped reading Time, Newsweek. I rarely read political articles on the rare times I look at a newspaper.
    I only get my news off the (admittedly unreliable – but how much more unreliable than others?) ‘Net and from reading journals whose political foundations i understand. This doesn’t mean that I read only liberal literature, but the discourse has to be civil and reasoned.
    And yes, it’s hard this way to understand what is going on, sometimes, but I think no harder than discerning the truth behind the lies and twisted viewpoints of other sources.

  15. PJ ODonovan  •  Feb 15, 2006 @7:48 am

    February 14, 2006
    That Liberal Media
    Filed under: conservatism, liberalism and progressivism, News Media — maha @ 5:43 pm

    Interesting follow-up:

    Differing Media Outrage: Hillary’s 2001 Car Accident Was Totally Ignored
    Published February 15, 2006 – 00:08.

    “America’s media have been falling all over themselves with outrage concerning this weekend’s quail hunting accident involving the vice president. Yet, when a van containing Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) rolled through a checkpoint at the Westchester County airport in 2001 injuring a policeman, the press paid virtually no attention. A LexisNexis search identified only six reports on this subject in the two weeks after it happened, with one being an October 16, 2001 Journal News (Westchester County, N.Y.) article:

    “A Westchester County police officer was treated for a minor injury after a Secret Service agent with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s motorcade tried to cruise past a security checkpoint at the county airport. The incident – which police and Secret Service chalked up to miscommunication – happened at 10:30 a.m. Sunday as Clinton was headed to an airport hangar to catch a flight for a Democratic rally in Syracuse.”

    The article continued:

    “County police Detective William Rehm said the Secret Service called the police that morning to arrange for an escort through a newly installed terminal checkpoint. The police told the Secret Service, which oversees security for the former first lady, to meet an officer in a marked patrol car at the airport entrance on Route 120, and to follow that officer through the checkpoint.

    “But when the two-car convoy arrived, the Secret Service drivers blew past the officer and headed down the airport’s access road. Seconds later, when the motorcade came upon the checkpoint, the Secret Service drivers continued through, ignoring signs and several officers gesturing for the vehicles to stop.”

    According to a Washington Times report the same day:

    “Officer Dymond, 47, said Mrs. Clinton’s van approached the checkpoint at about 35 mph. The driver, he said, was talking on a cell phone as he yelled for him to stop, but only after the police officer threw his shoulder into the van while banging on its side did the vehicle come to a halt about 100 yards beyond the checkpoint. He described the agent driving as ‘quite agitated’ when asked to show his identification. The officer was taken to a hospital for treatment of bruises.”

    The incident was determined to be an accident, and a misunderstanding. However, besides the Journal News and Washington Times, according to LexisNexis, only the Boston Herald, the National Journal, the Bulletin’s Frontrunner, and the Hotline did reports on this incident.

    Compare that with the furor over a hunting accident this weekend: though an imprecise measurement, LexisNexis identified 649 reports since Monday containing the name “Whittington.”

    As an aside, according to Monday’s NewsMax report on this issue, neither Hillary nor anyone from her office bothered to apologize to the officer, or check in to see how he was doing.”

  16. PRM  •  Feb 15, 2006 @8:23 am

    Funny how Hillary’s 2001 motorcade accident could be compared with the Cheney shooting and used as evidence of Librul Media bias, as if a senator’s five-year-old minor traffic accident (where the politician was not even driving) should be considered as newsworthy as a drunken “vice president” nearly killing someone with a shotgun. (And who knows, the lawyer might yet die, as his 78-year-old body is riddled with over 200 lead-shot pellets, some of which are imbedded near vital organs–although I wouldn’t count on the Bushies being forthcoming with any real information about that poor sucker’s condition.) Oh, and I LOVE how NewsMax wanted to let everyone know that Hillary DIDN’T EVEN APOLOGIZE! Yeah. NewsMax is credible. Cheney and his ruthless gang are destroying the very fabric of our existence, but let’s hoot and holler about Hillary. Yikes.

    One other thing: Robert Parry’s consortiumnews.com archive has some excellent reporting about how right wing forces invested huge money in building their alt media infrastructure over the past couple of decades, while lefties were content with investing more in grassroots activities that turned out to be not as massively effective as the right’s media building enterprises.

    Thanks, Maha.

  17. Swami  •  Feb 15, 2006 @8:26 am

    America’s media have been falling all over themselves with outrage concerning this weekend’s quail hunting accident involving the vice president

    Falling all over themselves?….No need to read further, the author has already tainted the story.. within the first 8 words.

  18. maha  •  Feb 15, 2006 @9:23 am

    Comment #15 by PJ ODonovan — Classic. The “they do it too” defense. Like I’ve said before, this is the foundation of all morality in rightieworld.

  19. PJ ODonovan  •  Feb 15, 2006 @9:53 am

    “Comment #15 by PJ ODonovan — Classic. The “they do it too” defense. Like I’ve said before, this is the foundation of all morality in rightieworld.”

    Nice try Maha but no cigar.

    Two wrongs never make a right.

    The point in the article is about the “selective outrage” by your left wing propaganda machine that would be the envy of a Goebbels.

  20. maha  •  Feb 15, 2006 @9:58 am

    The point in the article is about the “selective outrage” by your left wing propaganda machine that would be the envy of a Goebbels.

    If you think the Hillary episode comes anywhere close to being comparable to the Vice President shooting someone and trying to cover it up, you are one sick puppy.

  21. Kate ODonovan  •  Feb 15, 2006 @10:36 am

    Maha:

    …unlike Teddy and Hillary, Cheney first made sure his “victim” got immediate medical care. To the disappointment of you left wing wackos Cheney’s “victim” will likely survive , whereas Teddy’s died.

    Thanks for allowing me to point that out.

  22. maha  •  Feb 15, 2006 @11:02 am

    Thanks for allowing me to point that out.

    Like I said, the “they do it too” excuse.

    Cheney first made sure his “victim” got immediate medical care.

    We don’t know what Cheney did. Ted was alone with Mary Jo; Dick was not alone with Harry. There were lots of others around to get Harry to the hospital. For all we know as soon as Harry went down Dick climbed a tree and sang the “Largo al factotum” aria from Rossini’s “Il Barbiere di Siviglia.”

    Second, getting Harry medical help and confirming a prognosis would have taken, what, an hour? Two hours? What’s the rest of the veep’s excuse?

  23. joanr16  •  Feb 15, 2006 @12:05 pm

    Lord, maha, don’t waste any more breath on those kindergarten babies. Hillary wasn’t driving. Chappaquiddick was 1969. Cheney SHOT SOMEONE, a few days ago. His behavior after this incident is in keeping with his behavior all the time– secretive, arrogant, insensitive. Puts me in mind of Ron Reagan Jr’s comment following his father’s funeral, paraphrased: “I wonder whether Cheney has any basic human feeling.” At the funeral, Cheney was supposed to take Nancy Reagan’s arm and escort her up some steps to the casket. Instead he left her at the bottom of the steps (her eyesight is failing, Ron Jr reminds us), and went up alone. The guy’s a shit, by any decent person’s standard, and that’s what we’re talking about here.

  24. Erin  •  Feb 15, 2006 @1:03 pm

    So is that the only justification for Cheney’s behavior on the right? Chappaquiddick? Hillary did it too? So, if I shoot my neighbor and then stand trial, can I say, “My other neighbor shot a man, too,” and expect to be acquitted? Good to know.

  25. Mariann  •  Feb 15, 2006 @1:05 pm

    I think there is daylight ahead…I live in a rural area (I was afriad to put a Hillary for senator sign in front of my house)…I recently bought xm radio so I could hear something besides Rush, Hannity o’Reilly et al. Then SURPRISE!!!…while scanning my am dial in the company van…I found 1520 out of Buffalo. It seems they have abandoned the oldies for Left Talk radio! How I wish they had been there 10 years ago when we might have been able to discredit some of the current liars on air. It’s not too late to fight back…people should find out if there are such stations in their area and call, find out who the sponsors are, and buy. Thanks to the bloggers as well…and Keith Oberman on MSNBC…we are starting something!!!

  26. cspanjunky  •  Feb 16, 2006 @9:41 am

    http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=2764

    Extra! November/December 2005

    Failing at Its “No. 1 Goal”
    Lack of balance at C-SPAN’s Washington Journal

    By Steve Rendall

    Since 1979, C-SPAN has provided an invaluable service to viewers with its no-frills coverage of congressional hearings, press briefings, demonstrations, book readings and other political events. By presenting public affairs with a minimal intrusion by hosts or reporters, C-SPAN has gained a reputation as a frictionless conveyer of raw political information to the public.

    In 2005, C-SPAN celebrated the 25th anniversary of the first-ever nationally televised viewer call-in shows, a format that it introduced in October 1980. By January 1995, it launched Washington Journal, a political talkshow that C-SPAN now describes as its “flagship viewer call-in program.”

    Airing seven mornings a week, usually three hours per day, Washington Journal generally features a host, guests and viewer calls. Guests usually appear one at a time, though they are occasionally paired. C-SPAN’s “open phone” segments also allow callers a chance to voice a broad spectrum of opinions with no guests present.



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