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.
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.
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.