Politics & Policy

Alterman V. Bozell: Are The Media Liberal? Round III.

(To read Round II, click here.)


I thank Brent for responding to me directly yesterday and I’m sorry to say that I won’t be able to do the same today. Again, my plan here is not really to win converts in the space of 500 words, but to whet your appetite for all 336 pages, through which I most certainly hope and expect to win many converts. I’ve chosen another short excerpt dealing with Brent again. I did this, as I chose yesterday’s, to demonstrate that if you pick almost any well-known media conservative, you will find that he or she is a great deal more powerful and influential than conservatives are willing to admit. The point of the anecdote below is to twofold. I’ll spell it out just in case.

1) The so-called “liberal media” is completely cowed by the conservative onslaught it continually receives.

2) Conservatives do not really want an “objective” media. They want one biased in their favor.

Enjoy, and thanks again, Brent.

The case of David Westin, the president of ABC News, is instructive. On October 23, 2001, Westin spoke to a class at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Asked if the Pentagon were a legitimate target for attack by America’s enemies, he said, “I actually don’t have an opinion on that . . . as a journalist I feel strongly that’s something I should not be taking a position on.” Four days later, the Westin speech was shown on C-SPAN, where a member of the Media Research Center caught it, and put excerpts from the news in the Center’s daily “CyberAlert.” (The Center was apparently undertaking what Brent Bozell, its chief explained in a fundraising letter would be its “new and vital mission” of “training our guns on any media outlet or any reporter interfering with America’s war on terrorism or trying to undermine President Bush.”) Meanwhile, Fox’s Brit Hume spotted the item and mentioned it on Special Report the same evening. The New York Post then picked it up together with the Drudge Report. It then caught the attention of Rush Limbaugh, who devoted over an hour to voicing his outrage about it on his radio program. With Limbaugh’s show still in progress, Baker got a call from ABC informing him that a reply would be e-mailed to him soon. “I was wrong,” the network president explained. “Under any interpretation, the attack on the Pentagon was criminal and entirely without justification.”

Westin’s capitulation was particularly dispiriting to those who look to the network media to defend freedom of speech in this country, given the inanity of his alleged defense. The answer to the question he was asked is obviously “yes.” There are millions of people all over the world whose interpretations of the attack lead them to believe it was justified, however wrong they may have been. But even leaving that aside, the question is a no-brainer. How can anyone say the Pentagon is not a legitimate target for an attack in case of war? War is the Pentagon’s entire reason the building exists. By what conceivable definition of war could it be excluded as a potential target? The shock of the 9/11 attack derived from the fact that most of us were not even aware that we were at war with al Qaeda. Once we did, we fought back on their turf, seeking to destroy their would-be Pentagons. What was most depressing about Westin’s answer was his willingness to drop any pretext of objectivity upon having his patriotism questioned by conservative ideologues. It was more evidence — if any was necessary-of just how effective the right-wing assault on the U.S. media and free speech had become.

For more, go to www.whatliberalmedia.com.

— Eric Alterman is author of the new book What Liberal Media? The Truth About Bias and the News.

I’m not quite sure how to proceed. The question before us is “Are the Media Liberal?” to which Mr. Alterman’s response is “Brent and Other Conservatives Do Not Understand Gay People,” which is meant to indicate, I suppose, that the media aren’t liberal.

Do you see what I mean by the noise?

Alterman takes a column I wrote criticizing the gay agenda being promoted at the New York Times and by deliberately omitting any mention of the evidence I presented — that nettlesome, bothersome evidence — he feels free to suggest I am intolerant, ignorant and, of course, a homophobe.

Last night I filed a column blasting the walking freak show known as Michael Jackson. I wonder if by this morning Mr. Alterman has accused me of bigotry.

Wednesday night I was also on CNN’s Crossfire where Tucker Carlson did the unthinkable, quoting Alterman directly: “The vast majority [of reporters] are pro-choice, pro-gun control, pro separation of church and state, pro-feminism, pro-affirmative action, and” — yes, Alterman wrote this — “supportive of gay rights.”

Using Altermanlogic we can deduce that Mr. Alterman is now an ignorant gay basher, just like me.

Having openly conceded the existence of a liberal bias, how does Alterman now deny it? He falls back to yet another wall of defense: “While I admit and agree that most elite reporters are socially liberal,” he claimed last night on national TV, “it’s not up to reporters what gets on the news.” That, he proceeded to state, is being decided by …(insert Phantom of the Opera soundtrack here) …”the owners.”

Leaving us with what? Alterman’s argument is reduced to this: There is no liberal media bias except O.K., reporters are liberal, but on social issues, not economic ones, and who cares, because it’s really “owners” who are reporting news, not reporters, don’t you know. And Bozell is a homophobe.

It’s at this point that a conservative reaches for the aspirin, his head having crashed into his keyboard as he dissolves in laughter.

— L. Brent Bozell III is president of the Media Research Center.



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