Hi 86 / Lo 72
|Volume 70, Issue 46,
Tuesday, October 26, 2004
Myth of 'liberal media' debunked by Fox
"The terrorists are trying to make the situation look bad so Americans will vote for John Kerry." When FoxNews' "military analyst" Major Bob Bevelacqua made this statement -- referring to the bombing of a hotel in Baghdad -- I assumed that he had misspoken. A few seconds later he clarified: "The terrorists would vote for John Kerry tomorrow." This statement would have made sense were it coming from Rush Limbaugh or Robert Novak -- they can make such outlandish statements with complete impunity. Instead, this was presented as news, and by a "military expert," on a station that carries the slogan "fair and balanced." For me, it was at this moment, watching this ludicrous insult to journalistic integrity, that the notion of a "liberal media" collapsed.
Ironically, Bill O'Reilly soon took to the pulpit to denounce CNN's James Carville as partisan for advising the Kerry campaign pro bono. Unlike Bevelacqua, Carville is not presented as an objective expert, and instead speaks "from the left" on CNN's debate forum Crossfire where he is opposed by two die-hard conservatives.
Comparing the two incidents creates a very different view from the commonly accepted interpretation of the "liberal media." If, for example, a network were to run a story about the al-Qaida affiliates who were quoted as saying, "Mr. Bush, we choose you," there could be no doubt that conservatives all over America would crucify the author and the network involved as prophets of the heathen doctrine of liberalism.
Certainly stations carry some bias in their reporting. For example, FoxNews has an extremely conservative bias. On the other side of the coin, Pacifica Radio, thismodernworld.com, the Boondocks comic strip and even Comedy Central's The Daily Show proudly display leftist ideas. While these four liberal media sources are very heavy in their anger against the Bush administration, all four are direct and open about their one-sidedness. In any situation, the plurality of extreme voices nullifies or reifies the pre-established views of persons who are decidedly left or right.
This leaves us with the purportedly unbiased media outlets. It is tempting to claim that Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation and its subsidiaries such as FoxNews have great influence in the media world and are able to spread radical conservative thought without external checks. Instead, we should realize that they, like most businesses in the American economy, have something to sell and are bound by the same law of supply and demand that applies to any vendor.
Consider for example the CBS memo fiasco. Certainly CBS exercised horrible judgment in rushing those questionable documents to publication. Many took this as more than bad judgment, and instead saw some vast liberal conspiracy. The infatuation with which these same "liberal conspirators" decimated the image of former President Bill Clinton immediately before the election of a far less charismatic Al Gore was forgotten. Instead of pandering to the political needs of vulnerable Democrats, the media eagerly lunged on every salacious detail of President Clinton's behavior. Unlike far more politically relevant scandals like Iran-Contra, the Clinton scandal attracted massive media attention because the American people were eager to listen to the lurid details that fed a cultural obsession with oral sex.
At the same time, the Lewinsky scandal, like the Bush memo scandal, involved easily recognized names being humbled by their hubris against commoners. Today, 18 in 20 people asked at random could not recognize the names Oliver North and John Negroponte.
Despite the potent "liberal" stories that lie in these characters -- the new U.S. ambassador to Iraq participated in a scheme to sell weapons to a terrorist nation that is also the cultural enemy of Iraq for the purpose of subverting democracy -- none of these "liberal" media outlets have taken the opportunity. Instead, colorful murders, celebrity weddings and car giveaways saturate the airwaves, which coincidentally is exactly what the American public loves to watch.
The other popular subject of media attention has been violence in Iraq. Many ideologues like to claim that the media's obsessive coverage of the violence in small areas instead of the peace in large areas somehow proves media bias. This claim is weak because no news organization, even the ultra-conservative FoxNews, enjoys covering peace. They cover graphic instances of violence without context or followup, instead preferring to go look for more disastrous pornography to attract the attention of their audience, who desires it. In fact, many instances of highly relevant violence have been completely overlooked because of the problematic context of the violence. For example, shortly after the invasion the third largest city in Iraq, Mosul, was conquered by the Kurdish minority, which increased the likelihood of a Kurdish independence movement erupting in the Kurdish areas of Iraq and Turkey. Similarly, smaller bombings all over Iraq have been overlooked in favor of more appealing news.
The media isn't the villain here, and it's time that we as Americans started to realize that. Instead of the media trying to force anything down our throats, it's just stocking the shelves with what America wants to buy.
Domask, a columnist for The Daily Cougar, can be
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