What Liberal Media? That Liberal Media

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.

3 thoughts on “What Liberal Media? That Liberal Media

  1. Mark:

    I’ve been reading your replies to Jay for quite some time now. You have had your hits and misses.

    But this one was absolutely noxious. “As long as one Jew exists on the NYT…?”

    Indeed. Accusations of anti-semitism are the cheapest, most inflammatory strawmen around.

    By the way, there is nothing about “corporate ownership” whatsoever that presupposes conservatism. Merely “establishment” – and some establishments are conservative, while many (indeed, many in the media) are most definitely left of center.

    And yes, Mark, I worked in the news media, and I know whereof I speak both empirically and personally.

  2. The Jewish comment was probably in poor taste, but is indicative of the long established association of Jews and the media. Since Jews tend to be more liberal than non-Jews, my statement was meant to infer conservatives despise them for their politics, not their religion.

    Beyond that, don’t you see a fundamental divide between the premise of corporate ownership and liberal populist dogma? I work in journalism as well, and am aware that there’s a certain tightrope walk in the business where interesting and provocative stories must be produced to enhance readership, but at the same time, the advertisers must remain happy to pay the bills. The more that the media and the nation’s largest corporations become joined at the hip, the greater the likelihood that keeping the advertisers happy will be the prevailing motivation for those controlling the business. The fact that the new FCC deregulations will likely mean less competition relaying the news to consumers is even less incentive for them to take any risks and keep corporate wrongdoers on their toes since theirs is one of the only troughs the news-hungry public has to feed itself from.

    The fact that Republicans are so busy defending these deregulations that will admittedly entrench the alleged “liberal media elite” they constantly spew venom about should be highly suspect to anyone who can add two and two and come up with four. There’s a method to their madness, and it involves diluting journalism to an institution that’s merely another stooge for a society run by corporations for corporate benefit.

  3. Oh please, this neo-Marxist rhetoric grows so tiring. If corporations were all conservatives than why is AOL/TimeWarner one of the biggest contributors to the Democrats? Why do they maintain a system in which 90% of journalists are self-identified as liberals? Why do they run stories which constantly harp on the latest corporate scandals? Why is it that the Olin and Scaife Foundation is such a threat to democracy while the Ford Foundation is not?

    No, the whole idea that the media runs to conservatism isn’t about the whole media. It’s about attacking the few niche markets where conservative is taking hold such as talk radio, FoxNews, and the Internet. For all their bluster about freedom of speech, these attacks against conservative outlets are just more examples of leftists hypocrisy. It’s only the conservatives who harm political discourse. The incessent attacks against Bush from The Nation, Mother Jones, NPR, and liberal interest groups are just fine.

    If the left can’t grow up and accept that there are people who don’t want to be force-fed statist leftism then they’re simply unprepared to compete in a fair marketplace of ideas.

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