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Alterman_what_liberal_media_ch01_introduction

Alterman_what_liberal_media_ch01_introduction - 1 W HAT L...

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WHAT LIBERAL MEDIA? The Truth About Bias and the News Eric Alterman B BOOKS A Member of the Perseus Books Group New York 2004 1 I ntrod uction Bias) Slande1; and BS ONLY A LIBERAL would be dumb enough to title a book, What Liberal Media? Listen to just about anyone and the answer is obvious: "What, are you stupid? Just pick up a newspaper or turn on your TV:" Should that fail to convince, bemusement can turn to anger, or at best, pity, as in "There are none so blind as those who will not see." America's argument about media bias features just two points of view. The right argues that the media is biased toward leftists. The other side responds, to quote David Broder, "dean" of the Washington press corps, "There just isn't enough ideol- ogy in the average reporter to fill a thimble."l The idea that the media might, for rea - sons of ownership, economics, class, or outside pressure, actually be more sympa- thetic to conservative causes than to liberal ones is widely considered to be simply beyond the pale. Social scientists talk about "useful myths," stories we all know are not necessarily true, but that we choose to believe anyway because they seem to offer confirmation of what we already know (which raises the question, if we: already know it, why the story?). Think of the wholly fictitious but illustrative story about little George Washington and his inability to lie about that cherry tree. For conservatives, and even more many journalists, the "liberal media" is just that: a myth, to be certain, but a useful one. If only it were true, we might have a more humane, open-minded, and ultimately effective public debate on the issues facing the nation. Alas, if pigs could fly .... Republicans of all stripes have done quite well for themselves during the last five decades fulminating about the liberal cabal/progressive thought-police who spin, sup..: plant, and sometimes suppress the news we all consume. Indeed, it's not only con- servatives who find this whipping boy to be an irresistible target. Dwight David Eisenhower received one of the biggest ovations of his life when, at the 1964 Republican convention, he derided the "sensation-seeking columnists and commen- tators" who sought to undermine the Republican Party's efforts to improve the 1
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2 WHAT LIBERAL MEDIA? nation. 2 The most colorful example of this art form, however, is probably a toss-up between two quips penned by William Safire when he was a White House speech- writer for Vice President Spiro Agnew, who denounced both the "nattering nabobs of negativism" and the "effete corps of impudent snobs" seeking to sink the nation's morale. 3 His boss, Richard Nixon (who had been Ike's VP), usually held his tongue in public, but complained obsessively in private to the evangelist Billy Graham of "a terrible liberal Jewish clique" that "totally dominates the media" and "erodes our con- fidence, our strength."4 Just about everyone wants to get in on the fun. Even Bill Clinton whined to Rolling Stone that he did not get "one damn bit of credit from the knee-jerk liberal press."5 The
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