Liberals wage many
battles, but have you heard which one is the major struggle now?
Brace yourselves: It's the campaign "against the established
media and its bizarre relationship with the right wing and the
truth." That's from the Daily Kos, a popular liberal blog.
No, it's not a satire. Just when conservatives thought they were
getting somewhere against the entrenched liberalism of the newsroom
culture, it turns out that the newsroom has been reactionary all
along. The real lonely insurgents fighting for media balance and
truth are liberals. The mind reels.
on the left -- media columnist Eric Alterman, for one -- acknowledge
that journalists tend to be reflexively liberal on social issues,
but not on economic matters, where the values of the media's corporate
ownership usually prevail. Maybe so, but that is not what is being
said now. In its anger and frustration, the left, led by its Deaniac
base, is loudly arguing that the news media reliably reflect the
values of Washington Republicans. Rem Rieder, editor of the American
Journalism Review, summed it up: "The left has the MSM
(mainstream media) squarely in its sights."
skirmishes are under way, one against The Washington Post
and its ombudsman, Deborah Howell, the other against Chris Matthews
of MSNBC's "Hardball." Howell's offense was writing
that the sleazy Jack Abramoff had given money to Democrats as
well as Republicans. That was inaccurate. A tide of angry and
exceptionally abusive complaints flooded into the Post.
Howell then corrected herself, writing that she should have said
that Abramoff "directed" a considerable amount of his
clients' money to Democrats, though he never gave any himself.
That was correct, but vicious and amazingly obscene e-mail kept
pouring in, so the Post shut down its Web site. (Not
a good idea, in my opinion. It would have been better, though
more expensive, to let readers vent, while editing out obscenities.)
The campaign against
Chris Matthews has escalated into talk of a boycott, though the
would-be boycotters prefer to call it an "appeal to advertisers."
Matthews is accused of being soft on Republicans in general, and
in particular, of comparing Michael Moore to Osama bin Laden.
On Jan. 19, Matthews said on "Hardball" that in his
new audio message, bin Laden "sounds like an over-the-top
Michael Moore." Matthews was citing bin Laden's mention of
"the flow of hundreds of billions of dollars to the influential
people and war merchants in America." The next night, Matthews
suggested that bin Laden was picking up the lingo of the American
anti-war left, and asked, "Why would he start to talk like
Moore?" Bloggers turned quickly against Matthews, a Democrat,
calling him "a broadcasting neo-con," "stupid Bush
lover" and "man whore for the GOP."
press criticism goes well beyond Howell and Matthews. Cable personalities
are under attack, particularly Wolf Blitzer of CNN. Two or three
New York Times reporters are catching flak. Two Times
staffers made one left blogger's 2005 list of the 50 most loathsome
people in America. Many critics seem less angry with Bill O'Reilly
and Rush Limbaugh than they are at mainstream journalists. Salon
ran a testy article arguing that "the traditional media,
the trusted media, the 'neutral' media have become the chief delivery
mechanism of potent anti-Democratic and pro-Bush story lines."
Many on the left are
clearly frustrated and baffled that they haven't been able to
stop Samuel Alito, or to make the Republicans pay a political
price for the many corporate and lobbying scandals. (That one
is a mystery to me too.) The argument is that the press is accepting
pro-Republican story lines, for example that John Murtha wants
to "cut and run" from Iraq, while Bush is "steadfast."
Since the public doesn't accept Democratic talking points on many
issues, or so the argument goes, it must be the media's fault
for presenting the stories or narrative lines incorrectly.
So left and right
may be reaching some sort of consensus at last: Many on both sides
think the news media are screwing up. Some on the left are now
arguing that big-time reporters are overpaid and remote from the
lives of ordinary Americans -- a familiar criticism on the right.
The conventional double-standard argument of the right now seems
at home on the left, too.
Joe Conason thinks it's unfair that photos of Bill Clinton's coffee
meetings were forced into the open, whereas photos of Bush with
Abramoff are unreleased so far, while the media yawn. Some complain
that the press took arguments for Clinton's impeachment seriously
but not arguments for Bush's impeachment today.
Look for more of this.
The mainstream media, already unpopular, are now catching it from
2006 John Leo
by Universal Press Syndicate