Man Without Qualities

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

Now That Everything Glows So Brightly

Why did the mainstream liberal media, especially the New York Times, miss the Trent Lott story so badly for so long, while by the admission of the New York Times the more conservative Wall Street Journal, for example, did not?

The same cannot be said of liberal bloggers. After giving due credit to the Note, Kausfiles reports: It was a string of pro-Democrat bloggers -- Atrios, Josh Marshall, Tim Noah, to name three -- who immediately started whaling on Lott. (The conservative bloggers -- Sullivan, Frum, and Goldberg -- began pummeling Lott a day or two later).

The main significance of the Lott remarks was and is their adverse reflection on the Republican Party, and liberal blogs as a group report and comment on just about everything that could have even the most modest (often even less) adverse reflection on the Republican Party. So it makes sense that some liberal Blogs would comment on the Lott remarks. But what about the timing?

To Kausfiles DemBlogs-First is evidence of a possibly centralized e-mail distribution calling attention to Lott's gaffe - and that's a good point. But I think it's more likely that like-minded bloggers read each others blogs more than others do, and also e-mail each other. So once one of the DemBlogs read the Note piece and posted and/or e-mailed on it, the rest were more likely to follow. No central distribution was needed - a daisy chain would do quite well. And it is not necessary to assume all the DemBloggers saw and understood the Note squib on Friday - only that one of them did.

But I believe that the New York Times is also correct to point out that it was conservative Blogs and media - especially Andrew Sullivan - that really got this story play and gave it teeth.

Why is that? Why would Howell Raines, who Andrew Sullivan says hates him and has barred him from writing for the Times, pay more attention to the story after Mr. Sullivan had his say than Mr. Raines did after Atrios, Josh Marshall and Tim Noah had their says - and even after receiving Kausfiles' hypothetical e-mail from some Sidney Blumenthal or a simulacrum thereof? Well, to begin with, unlike DemBlogs, any mainstream media outlet has to make a serious evaluation of the news significance of any item - and in this case that meant making a serious evaluation of the anti-Republican consequences of the Lott remarks. Why would liberal media outlets be bad at making that evaluation?

A suggestion: Could the New York Times (including Mr. Raines) and other liberal mainstream media be developing an ingrained discounting of the relentless "anti-Republican" spin given by liberal news outlets - bloggers and mainstream media? Could such a discounting have caused the liberal mainstream media to fail to recognize the significance of the Lott story being covered or passed along by DemBloggers (perhaps stimulated or induced by the hypothetical Kausfiles e-mail)?

But, why would this effect not have happened to conservatives, too? Most conservatives believe that much of the liberal media (including the New York Times) has allowed editorialization and liberal political bias to seriously distort ordinary news reporting - there is nothing new in such accusations. That belief seems to be even stronger applied to liberal blogs.

But one consequence of that belief is that conservatives have grown accustomed to discounting the "anti-Republican" spin given to reported facts in liberal outlets until they have been independently evaluated - and then conservatives do independently evaluate those reports. That's what Andrew Sullivan did, for example. Ira Stoll used to do it wholesale on the now-passed-on "Smarter Times" blog. Lots of conservatives are doing that kind of independent evaluation all the time now, and have been for quite some time.

The liberal media - especially the mainstream liberal media - relentlessly deny that reported facts in the liberal media are spun. Could it be that all that denial has led to a condition in which the mainstream liberal media is discounting anti-Republican spin (political music of the spheres)? When one sees and gives anti-Republican significance to many, many things, isn't one more likely to miss the real thing (such as the Lott story) when it comes along? For example, the refusal of the Augusta National golf club to admit women seems to have as much anti-Republican significance to the Times (or, at least, Howell Raines) as, say, the unemployment rate.

Now that everything glows so brightly, how does one see the stars?

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