Ranting at the Press

One of the sillier myths to have widespread acceptance in our culture is that the mainstream media, especially The New York Times, has a liberal bias. Anyone who actually reads the Times knows better. After all, these are the folks who kept the worthless Whitewater story alive during the Clinton administration, who published every phony anti-Gore story the Republicans fed them in the 2000 campaign, and who shamelessly parroted the Bush Administration’s completely fallacious talking points in the run-up to the Iraq War.

Completely unchastened by this recent history, the Times has now taken to covering the 2008 Presidential campaign. Let us see how their liberal bias manifests itself.

Yesterday’s edition contained a fawning story, sadly only available by subscrption today, about Rudy Giuliani’s marvelous record on race relations as New York’s mayor. The highlight was when they described as “eloquent” Giuliani’s condemnation of the police officers who raped Abner Louima with a plunger. Well, I’m certainly pleased that he is on the right side of the controversial plunger rape issue. The fact remains, however, that the story ran because it played into the standard story line on Giuliani. Specifically, that he’s a tough, square-jawed problem-solver not afraid to stand up to whomever is standing in his way.

Contrast that with their coverage of the Democratic candidates. John Edwards has been spending much of his time discussing poverty lately. In covering the story the Times, along with most other major media outlets, either tried to make him out to be a hypocrite (for living in great opulence while urging that more be done about the problem of poverty), or as shady in some vague way (in suggesting that his anti-poverty foundation was not handling its money properly).

You see this over and over again. In covering the Democratic candidates the press writes dishonest hit pieces. In covering the Republicans it is all fawning obsequity. That is how you get ridiculous, made-up stories about Al Gore (say, did you hear the one about him eating endangered Chilean Sea Bass at his daughter’s wedding? Turns out it was all made up. Surprise!) You can file it right alongside the inventing the internet story, the Love Canal story, the Earth tones story and all the other phony baloney nonsense the press used to help Bush get elected in 2000). That is how one of the most prominent and respected (God knows why) Washington journalists, Tim Russert, can blatantly distort basic facts about Hillary Clinton and not be called on it. And on and on it goes.

This is all the more frustrating when you consider the fact that the Republicans have been wrong on key issue after key issue during the Bush Administration. No one has done more than they do make it impossible to trust the government about anything. The war in Iraq comes especially to mind. The adminsitration lied about the intelligence, did everything in their considerable power to smear anyone who dissented from their line, showed no comprehension of the realities on the ground in Iraq, filled key positions in the reconstruction effort with people whose sole qualification was a fanatical loyalty to the Republican Party, and continues to preside over a steady, daily trickle of American deaths while showing no inclination to change course in the slightest degree. And that’s just on Iraq! But rather than hammer them for these facts, the same media lickspittles who report for days on Edwards’ expensive haircuts do little more than stage polite interviews with administration flaks and hold roundtable discussions with conservative writers (and a handful of ineffective liberal quislings) to explain how the Democrats are messing everything up.

I grow vexed.


  1. #1 realpc
    July 23, 2007

    No wonder you’re vexed Jason; you fail to understand the structure of American political discourse.

    Let’s say, for simplification, that the terms “liberal” and “conservative” have agreed on meanings, and that they correspond to the terms “left” and “right.” Let’s say the NYT is somewhere between the two extremes, maybe leaning slightly left. Let’s say you fall into the liberal category (a safe assumption, since you agree with every single item on the current liberal agenda).

    From your relatively leftist perspective, you will naturally perceive anything towards your right as rightist/conservative. Someone with a relatively rightist perspective would perceive exactly the same thing as leftist/liberal.

    If you don’t see my point yet, consider how a 15-year-old sees a 30-year-old as ancient, and an 80-year-old sees a 60-year-old as youthful.

    It all depends on perspective. So you will never ever convince a right-leaning person that the NYT is conservative. Because from their perspective the NYT is liberal. And the more conservative a person is, the more liberal the NYT will seem to them. And the same in reverse for liberals.

    This could be called the theory of relativity for political discourse.

  2. #2 IanR
    July 23, 2007

    I think you misunderstood Jason’s point totally. Publishing fauning stories about Giuliani (on race relations, of all things, where he is especially weak) while calling Edwards a hypocrite for talking about poverty isn’t a matter of opinion and interpretation – it’s a matter of biased coverage. If the NYT were “liberal” (or even centrist) they would give the right a harder time than the left. They are doing the exact opposite…which shows the right-of-centre bias they have always had.

  3. #3 realpc
    July 23, 2007

    My point was that it SEEMS they are fauning over the right and criticizing the left, if you are a leftist. Your perspective determines what you notice. To a rightist, praising Guiliani would not be fauning, because it would seem more or less accurate. And to a rightist, criticizing Edwards would seem reasonable.

    I am not left or right. I can see some good in Guiliani and some bad in Edwards. No one is a perfect saint, and hardly anyone is a complete devil.

    And yes I do think Edwards is a hypocrite (aren’t we all??) One proven route to fame and fortune is to be an advocate for the poor. Yes, I’m sure Edwards cares about the poor. But if caring about the poor meant giving up his fame and fortune, he would start caring about something else.

  4. #4 Stanton
    July 23, 2007

    A) Next on FoxNews! “Do Democrats Cause Cancer?”
    B) So, realpc, you’re saying that in order for Edwards to stop being hypocritical is for him to give up the entirety of his wealth and take a vow poverty?

  5. #5 Pieter B
    July 23, 2007

    these are the folks who kept the worthless Whitewater story alive during the Clinton administration

    Kept it alive? Hell, they started it. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3613/is_199609/ai_n8752630

  6. #6 realpc
    July 23, 2007

    “you’re saying that in order for Edwards to stop being hypocritical is for him to give up the entirety of his wealth and take a vow poverty?”

    No, I’m saying that in order to stop being hypocritical he would have to stop being human.

    It makes sense to be a little skeptical about people who promote themselves as saintly. Especially if they are rich politicians.

    Politicians, in general, love helping people almost as much as they love being admired. Which comes first, the altruism or the narcissism?

  7. #7 Kevin
    July 23, 2007

    “It makes sense to be a little skeptical about people who promote themselves as saintly. ”

    well said pc clone, well said.

    except not about Mr. Edwards who is at least trying to do something but about you. you and your so smug so sure facist attitude.

  8. #8 CRM-114
    July 23, 2007

    There is a liberal bias, but it is put in by the conservatives, and for a sound reason.

    Every rightwing publication that doesn’t cloak itself runs in the red because nobody will read pure rightwing screed. Not even rightwingers.

    To make their copy palatable to enough of the public that their advertisers can reach their markets, the editors have to ‘liberalize’ the slant, moving it leftward a couple notches from its original full-scale, banging-the-peg, deflection. If the original screed is 100 on a scale from 0 (neutral) to 100 (cristofascist), then dialing down the slant to a 90 or even an 80 would be adding a liberal bias.

    The effect of that liberal bias is to slightly attenuate the extremism, but only to maximize profits.

  9. #9 Alan Kellogg
    July 23, 2007

    Jason, just because somebody or something is to the right of you… 🙂

  10. #10 Explicit Atheist
    July 23, 2007

    While what Jason says about the two articles he is comparing is true, a comparison of the full collection of articles during the entire campaign may prove to more balanced. The NY Times has run critical articles about Giuliana. See http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/g/rudolph_w_giuliani/index.html for a sample of articles.

  11. #11 DuWayne
    July 23, 2007

    realpc –

    Certainly, it is a matter of perspective, but fairly consistently, the Times is a bit to the right of center. The perspective that they are a liberal rag, comes from the hard right, who would consider Mccain a liberal, or even accuse Buckley or Tucker Carlson of being liberals. Hell, their support of Guiliani is probably indicative of their liberal bias to some people. Perspective indeed.

  12. #12 Tyler DiPietro
    July 23, 2007

    “Well, I’m certainly pleased that he is on the right side of the controversial plunger rape issue.”

    I don’t know, Jason. I’m gonna have to wait to see where he stands on the controversial freezing babies to death and tossing kittens into wood-chippers issues. We can only hope for the best. 😉

  13. #13 Tyler DiPietro
    July 23, 2007

    Springboarding from DuWayne’s post, I think it’s interesting to note that a lot of what is considered “left” in America has tilted rightward gradually. Liberals in America are dead-ringers for center-right parties in many European countries (e.g., France, Scandinavia and the Netherlands). Its amazing how a very noisy and motivated minority can shift the political center of gravity so far beyond it’s proper point. Progressives in this country should learn from it.

  14. #14 Caledonian
    July 23, 2007

    America has been more conservative than most of the rest of the world since living memory and before. It hasn’t “gradually” tilted to its current state at all.

  15. #15 Tyler DiPietro
    July 24, 2007

    “America has been more conservative than most of the rest of the world since living memory and before. It hasn’t “gradually” tilted to its current state at all.”

    On social issues that is certainly true. Economically I think it’s fair to say we’ve tilted rightward. 30-50 years ago things like progressive taxation, labor unions and other social programs were far less controversial.

  16. #16 Caledonian
    July 24, 2007

    Would it kill you to stop using the word ‘progressive’ to describe policies you favor?

    Economically speaking, the US has *still* been more conservative than the rest of the world. There’s no special tilting due to recent events.

  17. This is so true. The MSM (including the media usually referred to as having a liberal bias) is by and large conservative. Why? Because they are bought and paid for by corporations.

    Sure MSNBC lets Keith Olbermann rant… There’s some liberals in the MSM – but by and large… no.

  18. #18 Tyler DiPietro
    July 24, 2007

    “Would it kill you to stop using the word ‘progressive’ to describe policies you favor?”

    I meant progressive graduated taxation, which is typically how the policy is referred to. Sorry if you find that offensive.

  19. #19 matt
    July 26, 2007

    Jeez, Caledonian, I thought you were simply a Libertarian goon, but I’m starting to wonder if you’re really a parody aimed at undermining that ostensible position. Even if there were any reason for Tyler to temper his language to pander to your beliefs — which I don’t believe you would stand for anyone asserting with respect to anything you say ever — this is simply a matter of correct terminology. If you want to campaign to change the whole vocabulary of taxation you’ve picked a particularly useless place to start.

  20. #20 Caledonian
    July 26, 2007

    Perhaps the word started with taxation, but I hear it more and more used to refer to political philosophies that the users think represents social progress. The more it’s used that way, the more the word will take on those implications.

    My apologizes if you were merely using the tax-specific term.

  21. #21 matt
    July 27, 2007

    “Perhaps the word started with taxation…”? For crying out loud. Perhaps you are unfamiliar with the notion of words having contextually distinct meanings?

    In the context of taxation there is a technical denotation, which is to say: the percentage tax is a monotonically increasing function of the taxable quantity. This is obviously arranged such that the net value of any sum X is always greater than the net value of sum Y for any X > Y, but taxation nevertheless progresses.

    There is also the quite reasonable sense of “progressive” relating to social progress. Is it reasonable to complain about that, etymologically? Of course it fucking isn’t.

    Now, is the fact that both meanings are in use — even that they may be confused on occasion — justification for complaining about someone correctly using the term in either sense? Again, no. It’s equivalent to homophobes whingeing about how the word “gay” used to be so nice.

    Perhaps you’d like to take on statistical regression next?

    Language is no hostage to your witless ideology. Learn to contextualise or — please — pretty please — sod off.

  22. #22 Caledonian
    July 27, 2007

    I didn’t recognize the context – sheesh, what do you want from me, blood? Here, open my wrists.

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