March 24, 2003

Oh, That Explains it: L.A. ...

Oh, That Explains it: L.A. Times media critic David Shaw, on those persistent rumors about the media being liberal:

[J]ournalists are skeptical, confrontational and iconoclastic, which means they challenge the establishment, while conservatives want to conserve it.

So the better journalists do their job, the more likely conservatives are to see them as liberal.

Discuss.

Also, in the same column, here's a typically open-minded quote from Eric Alterman:

I personally don't know ... well, I don't have to my house for dinner anyone who's not pro-choice, pro-gun control ... pro-campaign finance reform.

Posted by at March 24, 2003 01:25 AM
Comments

Thanks for some chuckles.

Discussion:
The problem with the media isn't that most of them are liberals, or leftists. The problem is so many are arrogant fools. If they were skeptical, confrontational, and iconoclastic, they wouldn't make fools of themselves nearly so often.

Posted by: Stephen M. St. Onge at March 24, 2003 03:53 AM

Funny how journalistic skepticism only goes in one direction so much of the time, even if that direction is occasionally reversed.

There are journalists that challenge from all sides, but not very many.

Posted by: Craig at March 24, 2003 03:55 AM

"...they challenge the establishment, while conservatives want to conserve it."

Well, that explains why American conservatives worked so hard to undermine--errr, conserve--the UN's authority. And why conservatives are willing to risk unsettling the world politically to rid us of perceived threats...

In politics, "conservative" hasn't meant "keeping the status quo" since I was in grade school, and yet an alleged media critic still thinks that that definition applies?

Posted by: Steve Gigl at March 24, 2003 06:02 AM

Without getting into ideological hairsplitting I will just say that since I started reading blogs so obsessively my newspaper has become nearly useless. Anything that's in it I knew days ago, any commentary seems desperately stale, full of tired unexamined ideas (NATO is threatened by this war! Well, since it's certainly not threatened by the USSR any more, who gives a flying F?) and arguments that I've already read deconstructed 500 times (according to last Sunday's Chicago Tribune, this war may increase Muslim resentment of the US). It has much less to do with my wanting a particular ideological stripe than with the fact that the paper is just dumbed down and kind of boring.

Posted by: Mike G at March 24, 2003 06:28 AM

You have to remember that tele journalists and big name commentators are mostly careerists and the successful ones make megabucks. There's always that spot on CNN for the token conservative or on FOX for the token liberal but there are oh so many spots for the company line guys and gals. There are no spots for ambiguous, undefinable types who seem to go go one way on one issue and another way on the next, or God forbid, actually have different priorities than what's currently in the headlines.

Posted by: Jack Tanner at March 24, 2003 06:54 AM

I love Alterman--anyone recall Pauline Kael and her famous Nixon observation. Maybe if these folks got out of their comfort zones, to use the psychobabble phrase, once in a while, they might learn something!

Posted by: KC at March 24, 2003 07:35 AM

"conservatives want to conserve it"

What a god damn piece of trite tripe.

Some of the most confrontational, skeptical people I've known have been conservatives.

Hell, I can't stand Pat Buchanan, but like most paleos, he's endemically confrtonational and skeptical.

Shaw just showed how liberal he is -- he hasn't the faintist clue what conservatives are about ... he obviously thinks we're all a bunch of robots pre-programmed to all think alike, question nothing and suck up the party line.

What bullshit.

Posted by: Howard Owens at March 24, 2003 08:24 AM

I've got not to much to add to this brilliant commentary. I will second the notion that regardless of a journalist's ideological predisposition, it would seem to me that a ceratain openness and appreciation of the opposing point of view would seem to be in order. As a conservative, this sort of idiotic thinking really doesn't bother me any more with the availability of alternate outlets. Quite the opposite in fact since the more clueless one's enemies the better so far as I'm concerned. Now, as a media critic, or better yet as a media competitor, I would either be appalled or licking my chops.

Posted by: Lloyd at March 24, 2003 08:52 AM

I believe the Alterman quote is related to a passage in his book, where he explains that the "liberalism" of the media isn't a myth when it comes to social issues like gun control, abortion, etc. He uses his relations with others in NYC and the Beltway as a metaphor, and the reference to dinner parties is clearly intended to be tongue-in-cheek. As far as Shaw's larger point, the issue isn't whether there aren't confrontational conservatives, or whether journalists, are, in fact, "skeptical, confrontational and iconoclastic," but why the myth of a "liberal media" has developed, in the absence of any reliable evidence, among the right.

Posted by: Steve Smith at March 24, 2003 09:45 AM

not going to start the liberal media fight... though i did see a good analysis saying taht it really depends on what the definition of "liberal" is, and by alterman's he is right, but by colloquial definitions (upon which he is relying through his title) it isn't quite embued in luminous veracity!

see from the other side, you do have to have people who disagree over, as doctors, lawyers, and wives sometimes stray from the VRWC.. and relations oy vey!

i do love how conservatism == troglodytism and a lack of intellectual capacity...

must be really stupid to go to b school rather than MPhil... i did see a thread at vault talking about how only idiots went to B-School! HAHAHAHA I love how liberal-arts majors can't do math! Bill 2500 hours, get like 30 dollars a worked hour (if you're lucky) for the first few yeas.. max out at take home of like 150 an hour worked, whereas in b-school you don't have to account for your time, have no cap on salary, and big success can lead to very very large numbers...

Posted by: libertarian uber alles at March 24, 2003 10:50 AM

Here's something that puts the lie (most recently) to the David Shaw/Eric Alterman self-congratulation fest about how the media really aren't all that liberal: Michael Moore's anti-Bush outburst at last night's Oscars was booed by the stagehands, as well as some of the audience. But when Moore entered the pressroom a few minutes later, he was cheered.

Posted by: Cathy Seipp at March 24, 2003 11:52 AM

Well, I guess that proves it.

Posted by: Steve Smith at March 24, 2003 12:57 PM

And Alterman would describe himself as a "liberal", no doubt. Funny how that word has lost its original meaning in the political arena.

Posted by: Emily at March 24, 2003 03:01 PM

"skeptical, confrontational and iconoclastic, which means they challenge the establishment" sounds like talk radio and the blogs to me

Posted by: Timmy the Wonder Dog at March 24, 2003 04:48 PM

Alterman has a good idea. Next time I have a dinner party I make sure all my guests and their dates fill out a political view vetting form. For added assurances I'll ask that I can okay their clothing, just in-case some goof tries to show up on jean shorts.

Posted by: Scott at March 24, 2003 04:54 PM

If, like Alterman, you define "liberal" as a committed socialist with a soft spot for the Comintern, then it's probably true that the media is not overtly liberal. But if you define "liberal" as populist, hostile to business, hostile to capitalism, sympathetic to claims of "rights" at taxpayer expense to food, clothing, housing, medical care, education, transpoENTIRE establishment... You are left with a libertarian state, not a bigger-government, higher-tax one.

Conservatives don't want to "conserve" the establishment. We want to get rid of most of it. We'll keep the cops and military around, and maybe the SEC.

The establishment is defended by liberals, those who made it get this big in the first place.

Posted by: Stephen W. Stanton at March 24, 2003 05:37 PM

David Shaw is obviously someone who's dinner habits are very similar to Alterman's - it's clear that he's completely unfamiliar with the modern Conservative movement which more often finds itself in the position of challenging "establishment" organs than defending them (while the modern media, especially the LA Times, defends those institutions and is rarely skeptical of them).

But this is part of the Left's self-image; even while they run institutions (media, universities, bureaucracies, city schoolboards, city councils, the entire State government of California, Hollywood culture-forming institutions, etc, etc) they must, for their own belief-system, portray themselves as an embattled band of disenfranchized proletarians fighting The System.

Reality? They're impervious to it.

Posted by: Porphyrogenitus at March 24, 2003 05:41 PM

Why am I not surprised that Alterman lives in such an air-tight echo chamber?

Posted by: David Mercer at March 24, 2003 06:03 PM

Doug Levene writes:

"If, like Alterman, you define "liberal" as a committed socialist with a soft spot for the Comintern, then it's probably true that the media is not overtly liberal. But if you define "liberal" as populist, hostile to business, hostile to capitalism, sympathetic to claims of "rights" at taxpayer expense to food, clothing, housing, medical care, education, transportation, etc., etc., hostile to traditional morality, consumed by guilt over personal success in particular and the success of Western Civilization in general, then it's pretty hard to make the case that the media is not liberal."

You go dude. Nailed it.

Posted by: Robert Light at March 24, 2003 06:08 PM

But this is part of the Left's self-image; even while they run institutions (media, universities, bureaucracies, city schoolboards, city councils, the entire State government of California, Hollywood culture-forming institutions, etc, etc) they must, for their own belief-system, portray themselves as an embattled band of disenfranchized proletarians fighting The System.

*Jaw hits the floor*

*Looks at the White House*

*Looks at Fox News*

*Looks at Big Pharma*

*Looks at every school board in the midwest and the South*

*Looks shocked again*

The left runs everything? What fucking planet are you on?

The left has some things. The right has some things. Like, say, the government, atm. And all the money. Unless you live in the alta-verse where Democrats just outspend the Repubs every election cycle.

Posted by: Andrew Edwards at March 24, 2003 06:32 PM

Yeah running the institutions which mold the minds of future leaders isn't all that important...

Posted by: HH at March 24, 2003 06:59 PM

Yeah, like Fox News, Clear Channel, the Washington Post, etc.

Posted by: Steve Smith at March 24, 2003 07:48 PM

>Here's something that puts the lie (most recently) to the David
>Shaw/Eric Alterman self-congratulation fest about how the media
>really aren't all that liberal...when Moore entered the pressroom a few
>minutes later, he was cheered.

Pat O'Brien, Joan Rivers, A.J. Benza, Mary Hart, Bob Goen - they're all flaming liberals, and they're all ruining this country with their progressive propaganda disguised as celebrity puff pieces!

Posted by: greg at March 24, 2003 07:52 PM

Man, Fox News gets mentioned a lot in some circles! Lest we forget, until a few years ago, there was only CNN,NBC,CBS,ABC,PBS. I think they have been pretty liberal-leaning for the last few decades, and along comes just one network, FOX News, and the Libs go ape!

Posted by: eric at March 24, 2003 08:21 PM

Translation: "liberalism is the result of a level-headed, objective, rational analysis of the facts of the world, good journalism is as well, therefore good journalism will appear liberal because both are right."

From Eric Alterman, no less. Perhaps someone should ask him why people think journalists are also pompous, self-important, and disconnected from reality.

Posted by: Robin Goodfellow at March 24, 2003 09:22 PM

"From Eric Alterman, no less. Perhaps someone should ask him why people think journalists are also pompous, self-important, and disconnected from reality."

He'd look at you contemptuously and reply something like, "What do you mean? Journalists are just like me." Proving your point, though the arrogant twit wouldn't have a clue he had.

Posted by: M. Scott Eiland at March 24, 2003 10:30 PM

But this is part of the Left's self-image; even while they run institutions (media, universities, bureaucracies, city schoolboards, city councils, the entire State government of California

Yes, and look at how well they're run. The schools, particularly in the liberal-run inner cities, fail to graduate half their students and fail to provide many graduates with basic knowledge, while providing sinecures to incompetent teachers and union parasites. Liberal-run big cities like San Francisco are hellishly expensive to live in, have decrepit infrastructure, and urine-soaked vagrants harassing people in the streets while the liberal city government worries about giving subsidies for sex change operations. Meanwhile, the People's Republic of California faces a $35 Billion deficit, and the liberal solution is for the taxpayers of more fiscally responsible states to fund a federal bailout.

Liberal philosophy in a nutshell: reward the irresponsible at the expense of the productive.

Posted by: Spunky MG at March 25, 2003 07:04 AM

Meanwhile, the People's Republic of California faces a $35 Billion deficit

Which is about half of what it pays out to places like South Carolina, Alambama, and Mississippi. Leeches.

[Liberal cities are] hellishly expensive to live in.

So there's this thing called the market economy, right? In it, places that are attractive to live in will see a higher demand for property and other goods, and thus higher prices. I wonder why people are willing to pay more to live in places that "have decrepit infrastructure, and urine-soaked vagrants harassing people in the streets"?

Must be because they're stupid. Yeah, that's it. All the smart people live in inexpensive places, like the boondocks of Louisiana.

Principle of reasonable poltics #1: When your best explanation for why people disagree with you is that you're smarter or more virtuous than them, you're probably wrong.

Corrolary: When your best explanation for why people disagree with you is that they, unlike you, have been indoctrinated by a [liberal or conservative] media, you're probably wrong.

You'll notice the principle and corrollary are equally useful against Ann Coulter and Noam Chomsky.

Posted by: Andrew Edwards at March 25, 2003 07:17 AM

Like Eric Alterman, I don't have to my house for dinner anyone who's not pro-choice, pro-gun control, pro-campaign finance reform. Except when I invite my conservative friends over. Then dinner conversations can get pretty "skeptical, confrontational and iconoclastic". But living in a leftist echo-chamber is hardly confrontational, certainly not iconoclastic, and demonstrates a vast credulity that nearly boggles the imagination.

Shaw's theory is simplistic and cute, yet it's simplistic and cute.

Welfare reform, tax reduction, missile defense, SS reform...status quo from whom, 1980 Reagan?

Bernie Goldberg's theory relied upon a premise of most media being of a cosmopolitan elitist clan. I've seen nothing to deny, in majority, that idea.

Posted by: MoronWatch at March 25, 2003 07:58 AM

Andrew Edawrds,

That table you link to, while interesting, does not show what you think it does.

1. The AVERAGE is -5.8 billion. Why is that? Because we spend money on other stuff.

2. Surplus/deficit correlates rather well to population, which makes sense. (Example - thre is a fixed cost of military protection, yet more populous states benefit more from that protection, as they have more people being protected)

In short, so what? What you refenced is not really relevant to the point about California (though some of the other stuff is).

The Principle and Corollary are particularly good, by the way (while it may be true that you are smarter to name-calling).

Posted by: Deoxy at March 25, 2003 08:24 AM

Thanks Deoxy.

I agree with you that the table doesn't show only what I said. It's obviously a complex issue. But I still think it shows at least a bit what I said. The numbers, for instance, do correlate partly to population, but not entirely.

Texas has 21M people, and was -$23B.
New Jersey has 9M people, and was -$27B.

Alabama has 4M people, and was +$7B.
Conn. has 3M people, and was -$14B.

(See this table for poplation numbers)

It correlates reasonably well with population 'liberalness', to my mind. Better than with population size.

As well, I understand that the money California pays out does not come directly from its state coffers, and therefore isn't a direct cause of the state budget problems. However, I think those numbers do go some length to repudiating the larger point, which was that liberal states (and not conservative states) are selfish and irresponsible, and dependant on federal handouts.

For the record, I consider myself a fiscally conservative liberal. Like Howard Dean without the retrograde ideas on trade policy.

Cheers. Good to see reasonable people, by the way.

Posted by: Andrew Edwards at March 25, 2003 08:39 AM

Now that I think about it, you can actually do the analysis. Run a correlation between "balance of payments between state and federal government", per the first table and "population size", per the second table. Compare it to a correlation between "balance of payments" and "% vote Democratic" (as a proxy for 'liberalness').

If I get a chance I'll run a multivariate analysis tonight. I'll post the results here if I can get them.

Posted by: Andrew Edwards at March 25, 2003 08:49 AM

Sure, conservative "journalists" are skeptical, confrontational, and iconoclastic, but only in a limited way. They are skeptical of anything antithetical to their myopic viewpoint, willing to confront anyone who dares to question their ideas, and of course are more than willing to attack settled beliefs and institutions--as long as these beliefs and institutions don't belong to them.

Conservatives seem to be confused about the difference between journalism and polemics, between information and propaganda.

Journalism works best when it is as self-critical as it is critical of everything else. And that is--lacking a better way of putting it--a "liberal" ideal dating back to Voltaire. So Shaw is correct, more or less.

Posted by: Mat at March 25, 2003 08:33 PM

Brilliant parody on multiple levels, Mat!

Er, uh, that was a parody, right?

Posted by: Drop By Drop at March 26, 2003 10:47 AM

Er, uh, that was a parody, right?

After reading many of the comments in this thread, I began to think that many of the posters were crossing the line from serious commentary to bawdy and campy parody; some of the arguments are the intellectual equivalent of a rubber chicken, fake poo, and making fart noises by flapping ones underarm on an open hand--silly, bawdy comedy. So I am not sure why you'd say that about my comments. Frankly, I think many of the comments above mine more or less prove my point about the difference between journalism and polemics.

Posted by: Mat at March 26, 2003 02:09 PM

Biased? Not us! We're just better and smarter than you!
Laramie - In reporting America's war with Iraq, most news agencies have been centered in their coverage, leaning neither too far to the left nor the right, says Conrad Smith, a journalism professor at the University of Wyoming.

"I think the idea of any kind of media conspiracy on the right or the left is silly," said Smith, who teaches courses in television, the sociology of news and science journalism. "I think that most good journalists try to lean over backwards to avoid letting their own biases interfere with a story."

Smith agrees that organizations like Fox News, which often hire correspondents whose personal views tend to be more conservative, is more likely to cover stories from that perspective.

But he doesn't think Fox News is too far right.

"Fox is conservative. And I think that the major national print and television news organizations would be a little bit left of center," said Smith. "The majority of news media organizations are a little left of center because a majority of journalists probably are and, of course, my bias is that a majority of educated people probably are." [Emphasis added]

Posted by: Swen at March 26, 2003 07:49 PM

In response to Andrew Edwards' "Principle/Corollary" argument:
A. Just to be annoying, you spelled corollary wrong in both places.
B. The argument can, of course, be used against Chomsky.
C. It can't for Coulter. Her point is that the liberal media "bias" does not accurately present the conservative side. In other words, people cannot disagree with her, because they haven't even heard her arguments.

Posted by: Chase at March 27, 2003 02:31 AM

would not the majority of educated be rich
and thus mostly republican?

Posted by: Michael at March 27, 2003 09:55 PM
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ch 26, 2003 02:09 PM

Biased? Not us! We're just better and smarter than you!
Laramie - In reporting America's war with Iraq, most news agencies have been centered in their coverage, leaning neither too far to the left nor the right, says Conrad Smith, a journalism professor at the University of Wyoming.

"I think the idea of any kind of media conspiracy on the right or the left is silly," said Smith, who teaches courses in television, the sociology of news and science journalism. "I think that most good journalists try to lean over backwards to avoid letting their own biases interfere with a story."

Smith agrees that organizations like Fox News, which often hire correspondents whose personal views tend to be more conservative, is more likely to cover stories from that perspective.

But he doesn't think Fox News is too far right.

"Fox is conservative. And I think that the major national print and television news organizations would be a little bit left of center," said Smith. "The majority of news media organizations are a little left of center because a majority of journalists probably are and, of course, my bias is that a majority of educated people probably are." [Emphasis added]

Posted by: Swen at March 26, 2003 07:49 PM

In response to Andrew Edwards' "Principle/Corollary" argument:
A. Just to be annoying, you spelled corollary wrong in both places.
B. The argument can, of course, be used against Chomsky.
C. It can't for Coulter. Her point is that the liberal media "bias" does not accurately present the conservative side. In other words, people cannot disagree with her, because they haven't even heard her arguments.

Posted by: Chase at March 27, 2003 02:31 AM

would not the majority of educated be rich
and thus mostly republican?

Posted by: Michael at March 27, 2003 09:55 PM
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