Man Without Qualities

Monday, May 24, 2004

More Overt?

"Moderate" is a much-abused term. For example, many commenters - led, I believe, by James Taranto - have noted that for most of the liberal media there are no surviving "liberal" Republicans. To the liberal media there are only "conservative" (sometime "arch-conservative" or "ultra-conservative") and "moderate" Republicans. Even such worthies as Arlen Spector (left-wing Republican senator from Pennsylvania) and other such Republicans furthest to the left, even Republicans with voting records comparable to liberal Democrats, and even Republicans who launch crusades against conservative Republicans and their causes, are "moderate." The most aggressive RINO (meaning "Republican in name only," of course) is a "moderate" in the bizarre quasi-Newspeak of the mainstream liberal media.

And the generally liberal functionaries of such media employ its quasi-Newspeak to christen themselves "moderates" when responding to the Pew poll and the like, as a kind of extreme example of the tendency noted by this Washington Post item:

Hans Noel, a political scientist at the University of California at Los Angeles, is the author of a paper called "The Road to Red and Blue America." In an interview, he said, "Most people say they are 'moderate,' but in fact the country is polarized around strong conservative and liberal positions." For the first time in generations, he said, those philosophical lines correspond to party lines. The once-hardy species of conservative Democrats -- so numerous in the 1980s they had a name, "Reagan Democrats" -- is now on the endangered list, along with the liberal "Rockefeller Republicans."

Professor Noel overstates the case with respect to the public (in my opinion), but he is deadly accurate in identifying the tendency of liberal media representatives to hide behind the term "moderate."

The media trade paper Editor and Publisher runs this article concerning a Pew Research poll again confirming that the nations reporters and media staff are far to the left of the American people (link from DRUDGE). That much is not news - except, perhaps, to the more intellectually dishonest denialists on the left such as Eric Alterman and his ilk.

But there is another development noted by the poll that is interesting:

While it's important to remember that most journalists in this survey continue to call themselves moderate, the ranks of self-described liberals have grown in recent years, according to Pew. For example, since 1995, Pew found at national outlets that the liberal segment has climbed from 22% to 34% while conservatives have only inched up from 5% to 7%.

The number of actual liberals in the media is almost certainly not increasing, at least not this rapidly. What is probably increasing is the number of media representatives who are willing to admit their actual political orientation. In other words, the Per Research poll suggests that media liberals are fast becoming more overt. That would be consistent with the tendency observed by some brighter commenters (such as Mickey Kaus) that the skewing of mainstream liberal media campaign coverage has fast become much more overtly skewed liberal and much more overtly hostile to George Bush and Republicans generally.

The effects of the increasingly obvious mainstream leftward skew is sometimes bizarre. Just by way of example, the Los Angeles Times assured its readers almost up to Recall Day that Governor Davis had a good chance of survival. That such media representatives are increasingly shameless can be seen, for example, in the fact that the man who presided over that particular Times journalistic travesty, Los Angeles Times Editor John S. Carroll, went on to deliver an unintentionally hilarious and ironic speech claiming that the media industry has been "infested" by the rise of pseudo-journalists who go against journalism's "long tradition to serve the public with accurate information." Catherine Seipp delivered a brilliant fisking of Mr. Carroll's pretensions and evasions.

Taken together, Mr. Carroll's speech and the Pew poll give an interesting snapshot: Media operatives are increasingly willing to admit to their own relatively extreme personal political orientation, but insist on retaining the fig leaf of the unbiased accuracy of their own media institution, while simultaneously slamming the few less liberally biased media outlets for "pseudo-journalism" (Fox News, in particular, which is clearly hitting a nerve).

The current state of mainstream liberal media political coverage is substantively Gonzo, written by people who (by the Pew poll) increasingly admit their orientation but (by the Carroll speech) still cling to the fiction of their professional and institutional accuracy. The next step, of course, is full-fledged, overt, out-of-the-closet liberal Gonzo journalism in the currently accepted meaning (not the Thompson original meaning) of that term: inaccurate, crazy, essentially a license for liberal journalists to write anything they want. Already some of the more self-satisfied media representatives on the left, especially those who feel secure and are closer to retirement, like Dan Rather, have begun to hint at more. A full scale outbreak seems imminent.

It is also inexpensive for a media outlet to fill time or space with the outpourings of a reporter's personal political biases - at least compared to actually gathering and editing real news. Maybe that has something to do with another development in journalism:

Many journalists believe that increased financial pressure is "seriously hurting" the quality of news coverage -- 66% of national newspeople and 57% of local journalists see it this way. That percentage is climbing when compared to past surveys. In 1995, for example, 41% of national and 33% of local journalists expressed this view. Not surprisingly, those national and local journalists -- about 75% -- who have witnessed newsroom cuts firsthand are among the most worried about the effects of bottom-line pressures, the study said.

Of course, at some point people may just stop watching, reading and listening.

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