Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Worst. List. Ever.

Apparently blogging once a year is the new thing. That and working on your master's thesis is not conducive to blogging, especially when you are married with a 10 month old.  Poor, poor me.

To the issue at hand.  Recently, as part of a larger conversation about the Right Wing media's latest panty wadding exercise over President Obama playing golf, I was forwarded the Western Center For Journalism's "The Top 50 Liberal Media Bias Examples."   I am not just slinging false magnanimity when I say that I really want to see the other side of an argument, to subject my ideology to rigorous testing.  I think that is an important thing for anyone to do.  I rather like following the conservative press and I find that most people I know on the Left  have some interest in what is being discussed in other circles.  This list, however, is so exceptionally ridiculous and so ill-conceived that I am astonished that anyone saw fit to press the 'publish' button on it.  I know that is naive.  It is almost like they have stopped even trying.

One of my main problems with the Right is that, lately, they only exist in a bubble, which if any contrary information enters, it can't be processed so every effort is made to exclude it.  This list can only exist inside of that bubble.  It can't stand up to even the slightest evaluation.  At its best it is petty  slander.  At its worst it is abhorrent fantasy.  This sounds like an apology before the fact, but I regret that I am locked in a studio working on thesis right now so my overview of this list will be only cursory.  I wish I could go further into it but I don't have the time.  I think I will go through five points a post.  Maybe my time constraints will serve to show how easily someone could have checked their facts  before committing to these falsehoods.  Maybe they just didn't care, as long as the misinformation got out there.

The important thing to understand about how this list functions is that it never establishes what the media is or demonstrates the , presumed, fact that has a liberal bias.  It assumes that the media is whatever is useful for the particular point in question and that the bias is understood.  This type of thinking also relies on using the term 'liberal' in a very plastic way.  Anyone who is a Democrat is a liberal.  Anyone who is further to the left  than the Democratic Party is also a liberal.  Any socialist or communist can be a liberal.  In fact, anyone who is not a part of contemporary movement conservatism can be a liberal if that is what is called for.  The list is so egregious in this aspect of assigning identity at will that it could make an argument that Korean's are Italian because pizza is a well known Italian food and there are pizza restaurants in Korea.  It is that intellectually meticulous.

On to the list:

1. "Better Red Than Informed"  

Here it is insisted that the liberal media refused to report on the atrocities of the Stalin regime.  The proof?  Walter Duranty, a British-American journalist who covered the Soviet Union for the New York Times in the 1930s .  Was Walter Duranty a liberal?  Did his controversial famine denial serve any liberal cause?  There is scholarship on whether he was a bad reporter or not.  I certainly have never heard him being praised by the Left, but hey, New York Times and Stalin in one sentence.  That should be good enough.  Also, can a claim like this be made with out pointing out that this reporting was done in the 1930s and that Stalin would go on to be our ally in the 1940s?  Would that then make the entirety of the Allied Nations 'liberal.'  When Churchill and Roosevelt met with Stalin in Tehran in 1943 were they then 'Reds'?  That would require the writer of this article to think about something a little complicated, so the discussion doesn't happen.  I am sure that there were conflicting reports on Stalin's reign in the early years.  I am sure some liberal journalists did not cover themselves in glory on this account.  I am sure that many conservative and neutral journalists as well had trouble reading what would become of Stalin.  The author alludes to other instances of the 'liberal media' covering for the Soviets, but doesn't bother to tell us about them, so we will just assume that it is a general feeling that he has about the subject.

2.  "Castro's Cheerleaders"

The author, Warner Todd Huston, for those that are interested, assures us here that the 'liberal media establishment' support the Castro regime in Cuba.  Having recently returned from Cuba I was interested to see  if this section would discuss the heady early years of a populist revolution giving way to a repressive dictatorship and what that did to the spirit of the people of Cuba and whether or not Western journalists were able to negotiate this critical change and understand the disappointment of many participants in the revolution.  Sadly, no.  There is a link to a Media Watch article which tells us such startling things as the fact that Peter Jennings said in a broadcast from Cuba in 1989
 "Medical care was once for the privileged few. Today it is available to every Cuban and it is free. Some of Cuba’s health care is world class. In heart disease, for example, in brain surgery. Health and education are the revolution’s great success stories."
 And that Jennings relayed the words of a Cuban woman, "For me, he [Castro] is God. I love him very much." 
 The rest of the media atrocities cited continue very much in this vein.  It never does much to explain what it finds wrong with the quotes.  I guess we are supposed to assume that health care in Cuba being decent is completely absurd and that some people in Cuba love Fidel Castro is only propaganda.  It would seem that there is very little meat on the bones here.  Maybe Mr. Huston is used to this style of writing and assumes that appealing to a kind of general feeling amongst his readers is just as good as making any kind of argument and providing even the scantest of evidence.  
I went to Cuba.  I rather enjoyed it.  I loved the people there and think that the government is quite good at doing certain things and terrible at others.  I think the country is complicated and that all people deserve human rights and the ability to decide their own leaders.  Did I just cheerlead for Castro?  No, I think he is a terrible human being.  That doesn't mean that there aren't positive things in Cuba.

3. "The Vietnam War"

Finally a simple, little topic that doesn't require much discussion.  Or at least that is how Mr. Huston treats it.  He gives us an extended quote from "Discover the Networks: A Guide to the Political Left."  Which contends that the liberal media was, "spreading the idea that the U.S. was not only losing the war, but was also routinely committing the most barbaric atrocities against the Vietnamese population."
So, and here is where some of those tricky mental gymnastics come in,  if a war started by President Kennedy, who was a Democrat and escalated by his successor President Johnson, also a Democrat is reported on in a way that makes it sound as if it is not being won, that makes the media liberal.  Do you understand yet?  I am guessing that the assumption being made here, amongst many, is that war, in and of itself belongs to the Right, certainly winning at a war belongs to the Right, so if someone on the Left starts a war and someone else on the Left continues that war, then being critical of that war makes one a leftist.  See?
As to 'barbaric atrocities' , I suppose one is to pretend that Hugh Thompson jr. never received the Distinguished Flying Cross for intervening in the massacre at My Lai.  Maybe we can pretend that no atrocities were ever committed and we can close our eyes and sleep better at night and pretend that everything bad that happened in that war was at the behest of Ho Chi Minh and not William L Calley.  It would be easier if things weren't so complicated in a war were young kids are asked to go fight for their lives in near impossible circumstances.  In any case, to report on something awful happening makes one liberal.  Understand?

4.  "DDT Ban"

To quote Huston, "The biggest example of the media coming to the aid of environmentalism is, of course, is the worldwide ban of DDT."  I'll give you a few moments to see if you can figure out where the flaw in this sentence is.   Got it?  There is no 'worldwide ban of DDT.'  In fact, public health uses are exempt from the Stockholm Treaty of 2004 .  So if the initial premise of the argument isn't true, and it took me less then five minutes to find out that is isn't, does the rest even matter? It is apparent, if you consult page 257 of Silent Spring that Ms. Carson herself didn't even support a ban on all pesticides, she supported it where it made sense.  There are many who feel that her advice to use pesticides as sparingly as possible helped their effectiveness in slowing mosquitoes ability to adapt.  There is a lot of interesting facets of the DDT issue to discuss, I have read several conservative and libertarian critiques which bring up relevant arguments, Mr. Huston apparently did not have the intellectual curiosity to dig into them however.

5. "Edward Kennedy"

This is always a strange one for me because I think that Ted Kennedy is far more important to conservatives in America than to liberals.  Make no mistake I think he was correct on most policies and spoke well about them, but I don't care about Ted Kennedy.  He was in a position of power because he came from a family of power.  He was complicit in the death of a young woman and didn't conduct himself appropriately in the aftermath of an accident that he was responsible for. How all of this has anything to do with a liberal media, I am not certain.  I guess the theory is that if the media were fair, he would have been hounded out of his job.  But Senator Kennedy was reelected multiple times while the story of his accident was well known.  We hardly see as much handwringing about Laura Bush's unfortunate role in the death of a classmate, but then again she was not an elected official and didn't report the accident late.  Nor do we have much of an uproar about  the staffer for Joe Scarborough's who died in his office.
I would reason that another argument could be made that our media is so invested in power and class that it gives the wealthy and connected passes on pretty much anything.  But that doesn't follow the story line here.  As someone on the Left, I really care little about Ted Kennedy's political career outside of the policies he advanced,  and another liberal senator could have advocated for the same causes so he is not really necessary to me.

Well, there are the first five.  I took a brief break from working on my thesis this afternoon to crank this out and it might be a bit incomplete, but I still feel I put more energy into it than Warner Todd Huston who seems to care very little for making actual inquiries and more for parading about thumbing his nose at whomever happens to look in his direction with anything less than the patronizing approval of a lazy, doting parent.


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