Jonah Goldberg does a guest piece in the WSJ that deftly skewers Eric Alterman’s What Liberal Media?. Goldberg raises some very good points about the whole notion that the media somehow conveys a conservative bias.
Alterman’s book (and I actually slogged through it and lived to tell the tale) is a giant Fallacy of Composition. Basically Alterman takes a sample of National Review, FoxNews, and the American Enterprise Institute and concludes that the media is really part of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy(tm).
By that logic, I could take a look at The Nation, NPR, and the Public Interest Research Group and conclude that the media was actually tilted towards European-style socialism.
Alterman is essentially arguing that the media should be a one-party system, and that liberals aren’t really liberal unless they meet his particular definition of liberal. Given his shifty definition of "liberal" it’s natural he’d find evidence of conservative bias. If I defined conservative as being somewhere to the right of Ayn Rand I could easily say that there are no conservatives in the media today with the possible exception of Pat Buchanan.
Indeed, if I were teaching a class in media criticism, I’d use Alterman’s book as the perfect example of how narrowly defining terms and selectively using evidence can make an argument appear to be airtight despite the fact that it has little evidence to support it. Those wishing to actually have a balanced view of the media should look elsewhere.