TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 25, 2003
ALL ROADS LEAD TO BIAS: Is the press corps driven by liberal biasa Bias their Arrogance wont let them confront? Bernie Goldberg has said so in two major books. But the general thesis is hard to supportunless youre willing to swim in denial. And Bernie keeps getting all wet.
Is the press corps driven by liberal bias? Given the way they trashed Clinton, then Gore, the thesis may seem a bit shaky. But Bernie knows how to wish such problems away. Heres an early passage from Arrogance where he tries to explain this small detail:
GOLDBERG (page 13): Then what about the mainstream medias treatment of Clinton? You cant possibly think they went easy on him, can you? is what liberals always ask.Strange, isnt it? The press corps is swimming in liberal biasbut they didnt go easy on Clinton, this generations most important liberal pol! (Bernie doesnt mention the trashing of Gore.) But then, Bernie can talk his way out of anything. Heres the way he gets around the medias coverage of Bush:
GOLDBERG (pages 10-11): Perhaps the charge liberals have been making most often to back their claim of conservative bias is that the media have given George W. Bush a free ride on some very important issues involving foreign policy and national security. For a while you could hardly open up a liberal magazine or go to a liberal Web site without finding some bitter screed about how the press was sucking up to the president on everything from the war in Iraq to supposed civil liberties abuses at home. But the truth is, all the media were doing was what the media always do in times of war: They were rallying round the flag.Cant you see? Theres an answer for everything! In BernieVille, the media can go after Clinton and give Bush a free ride, but theyre still thick with that rank liberal bias! Indeed, the liberal media can dump on blacks too. That doesnt mean theyre not liberal:
GOLDBERG (pages 88-89): Now, lets be perfectly honest about this. The bias on race cuts more than one way, meaning that a very different segment of the populationupper-middle-class white peoplealso often gets a free ride from the media. Reporters, local and national, have done a lot more stories about drugs in poor black neighborhoods than stories about drugs on college campuses, where most of the users are middle- and upper-middle-class white kids, to use one example.Meanwhile, just as he did in Bias, Bernie mentions the way TV magazines try to keep black people out of their stories. But that doesnt mean that these news orgs arent liberal; it just means that theyre hypocrites, too. This is white media liberalism at its most hypocritical, Bernie thunders. I spent a lot of years with these people, and you have no idea what major-league phonies they can be.
But what makes Bernie a major-league phony? In the two years since Bias appeared, a number of writers have offered critiques of the books major claims. For example, Eric Alterman challenged Bias in What Liberal Media; incomparably citing our own critiques, Alterman took on some of Bernies assertions right in his opening chapter. Indeed, Alterman did what real writers do; he repeated claims which Bernie had made, and then he offered contradictory evidence. In the rest of his book, Alterman sketched a nuanced theory about the press corps varying tendencies. Why, it tells you that right on the dust jacket: Alterman finds the media to be far more conservative than liberal, though it is possible to find evidence for both views.
But how did Bernie respond to such work? Simple! He simply ignored it! Alterman doesnt appear in Arrogance; the research he cited is MIA too. Instead, Bernie offers clipped accounts of what liberals have said about media bias. He starts with Al Gores claim, in November 2002, that a group of conservative news orgs were injecting the daily Republican talking points into the definition of whats objective as stated by the news media as a whole. Quickly, Bernie swung into action. We quote at length for a reason:
GOLDBERG (page 7): Once Al Gore spoke the gospel of conservative bias, it took only seconds for left-of-center journalists to start hopping on board the bandwagon.All nuance is gone from what these writers have said, and Goldberg makes no attempt to produce or refute their real arguments. Instead, he overstates what they have alleged, and ridicules them for their culture of denial. Deny! Deny! Deny! he writes, as if repetition could replace a real argument. But it isnt as if he presents no rebuttal. On page 9, Bernie quotes a joke by Jay Lenoa joke which implied that liberal bias exists. The joke got a great big laugh, Bernie says, which ought to tell us something. To Bernie, if Lenos audience thinks that its true, thats pretty much good enough.
But then, Goldberg is the consummate lightweightthe king of cut-and-paste pseudo-journalism. Did the media trash Clinton, then trash Gore? In Arrogance, that doesnt matter. Bernie says that the media are liberal all the sameand later, he tries to claim that the New York Times pandered to Clinton and Gore (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/18/03). Howell Raines loved Clinton, he plainly impliesand he doesnt tell his conservative readers that Raines trashed Clinton for year after year. The Times pandered to Candidate Gore, he implies. That too is major-league hooey, of course, as Alterman details in one whole chapter. But did we mention that Alterman didnt make Bernies book? Neither does Campaign 2000! Incredibly, Bernie has written two full books about the corps liberal bias without mentioning the way they trashed Gore.
But then, Bernies book is just Pleasantville for pseudo-conservatives; all roads must lead to liberal bias. Did the press corps trash Clinton? So what? Theyre still liberal! Realitycommon sense; simple logiccant intrude. Which leads us to our final question: Why does Tim Russert love Bernie?
TOMORROW: Our Days of Bernie come to an end. And we cringe at his chapter on Russert.
LIVE BY THE CUT-AND-PASTE, DIE BY THE CUT-AND-PASTE: Are you surprised that Bernie peddles such pap? Dont be. For the most part, he just cuts-and-pastes from other lightweights who have made such a joke of your discourse. For example, where did he get the parade of quotes we listed abovethe quotes he placed on page 7 of Arrogance? He cut-and-pasted from the late Michael Kelly, who wrote two columns about media bias in the wake of Gores troubling remarks. In his first column, Kelly quoted what Gore had said. Then he wrote part of Bernies book for him:
KELLY (12/11/02): What Gore believes, it has become clear, is a new liberal group wisdom: The liberal media are no more; the national press, wittingly or not, now presents the news with a conservative slant.Bernie only omitted Lewis. If you assume that he read the columns in question, you give him more credit than we do. But then, his books are largely cut-and-pastedand so are his vacuous arguments.
Bernie just loves cut-and-pasting. In Bias, he cut-and-pasted from the MRCand ended up slandering Natalie Angier for her thoughts about insect reproduction. In Arrogance, he cut-and-pasted from the same lousy source, this time slandering Howell Raines, for something a fishing guide said. And just for the record, when he cut-and-pasted from Michael Kelly, he fell into factual error again. Did Times Jack White hop on board the bandwagon after Gores comments about the media? Thats what Bernie clearly said, but once again, the scribe was all wet. Whites statement was made on November 15, 2002, on C-SPANseveral weeks before Gores comments. The error is trivial, but the method is not. Goldbergs books are endlessly cut-and-pastedand endlessly, Bernie makes no attempt to check out the work he has borrowed.
By the way, Goldberg showed a bit of discretion as he cut-and-pasted from Kelly. How weird was Kellys second column on media bias? Even Bernie wouldnt cut-and-paste it! See THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/19/02; scroll down to the final report. At the time, we asked why the Post would publish such nonsense. That question still looks good today.