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April 17, 2005

'Bout Time

Time to feature Ann Coulter on its cover.

I hate to be a one-note Charlie, but this is, yes, proof of media bias. The woman should have had a big cover story on Time -- and all the rest of the glossies -- years ago.

Not simply because, love her or hate her or love her while wishing she'd eschew her more gratuitously-provocative remarks, but because she will sell magazines. This will be one of the highest-selling issues of Time in years, and they know that. And they've known such an issue would sell very well for a long, long time.

So why did they avoid doing this previously? Why did they avoid giving Coulter her richly deserved props while simultaneously selling a boatload of magazines -- which is, in case they've forgotten, sort of the business they're in?

Because, of course, they'd rather make less money doing cover stories on, say, "Barney Frank's Secret Pain" or whatever than lower themselves to giving a conservative exposure.

Coulter herself has complained about this mentality of the liberal-dominated print media. Which is, I think, more prone to use its power to advance liberal causes than even Hollywood-- on this point, liberal as it is, Hollywood is more mercenary and money-driven and will occasionally, despite its antipathy for conservatism, make conservative-themed movies just to make a buck.

Coulter's various books have been passed on by many (if not most or all) of the big New York publishing firms, before getting published by the smallish-but-growing conservative imprint Regnery. It was perfectly predictable that this lady would move books -- big time, as the man says -- and various editors who passed on her books knew that, the same as they know the sun will rise again tomorrow. But they deliberately chose to put their politics, or at least their sense of what doing "good work" means, over making a profit for their companies and their shareholders.

Economists have debated why, for example, one of the big three networks haven't decided to emulate Fox and attempt a conservative-centrist broadcast, rather than the liberal-centrist broadcasts all three currently offer. From a pure dollars and cents standpoint, it's a no-brainer-- why continue chasing a smaller audience, with two other competitors vying for that smaller audience, when one can simply decide to chase a slightly bigger audience without any major broadcast competetitors whatsoever?

According to pure economic wealth-maximizing analysis, this should have come to pass a decade ago. And yet it didn't.

So some economists adjusted their theory. Media companies are not, in fact, driven only by the profit motive, or the motive to capture as large an audience as possible, as their first analyses assumed. Those who work for the media have goods they desire as much as, or maybe more, than money. And one of those goods is the ability to shape the public discourse in the way they believe is "best" for society. They are willing to make less money in order to help the liberal cause because the liberal cause is personally important to them, and, in economic terms, represents an intangible value to them.

This isn't necessarily a horrible thing. It is nice to hear that anyone puts a value on principle and is willing to make less money in order to vindicate that principle.

But it is pretty strong evidence against their constant claims of being "neutral" and "objective" and "just going where the stories are, and where the stories may take" them.

Ann Coulter has been a story -- a big story, a compelling story, and important political story, and, yes, a sexy story that's pretty damn easy on the eyes -- for years. But it's only after years of studiously ignoring her that someone in the media finally realizes, "Hey, maybe I don't like this woman's politics, but millions of Americans do; perhaps it's time to actually, you know, acknowledge she in fact exists."

The way they... surround a story, as the NYT ad puts it. As always, the worse form of media bias isn't skewed and biased articles. It's their power -- and their inclination -- to simply not report on compelling news, to embargo it almost completely, if it does not advance their preferred political agenda.

Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, anyone? Remember them? Our fair and balanced media is still trying to forget.

Caveat: This screed is based on the assumption that it was the media refusing to prominently expose Ms. Coulter, rather than Ms. Coulter refusing to grant any of the big glossies an interview or a cover-worthy picture.

I can't prove this assumption, but I will just say -- not to be insulting -- that Coulter hasn't exactly eschewed the spotlight or attempted to maintain a low profile. She's given loads of interviews, including to liberal-ish rags like the New York Observer and full-on leftist rags like the Guardian UK. And those papers are pretty small. Well, the Guardian UK may be huge in England for all I know, but it's not exactly a major rag here in the States.

So I really can't imagine that she has been, all these years, spurning Time's diligent pursuit of her.

If I'm wrong, I'm wrong. But I kinda doubt I am.

Adolf Hitler, the Ayatollah Kholmeini, Osama bin Ladin, and Ann Coulter Update: Time famously made Hitler and Kholmeini it's "Men of the Year" when those men were engaged in warfare (conventional or unconventional) with the United States. And they debated making OBL the Man of the Year, before getting chickenshit about it.

As they define "Man of the Year" (please, enough with the "Person of the Year" crap), those were defensible decisions (or, in OBL's case, a defensible notion that was scrapped). The Man of the Year, they say, isn't necessarily a good man, but the man who has made the most impact on the world that year, whether for good or for ill. And they knew that their decisions would be highly controversial -- but controversy, of course, isn't necessarily a bad thing when you're in the media.

Now of course I'm not suggesting that Ann Coulter should be "Woman of the Year" for any year. She's an important polemicist, but she's not actually shaping world events as other Men of the Year have done.

But I do think it's a bit telling that Time went with Hitler and Kholmeini and dallied with the idea of OBL as Men of the Year and yet they've resisted, until now, giving Ann Coulter a simple cover story.

Sort of puts into perspective the mindset of the editors of Time -- and Coulter's precise position, as they estimate it, in the Heirarchy of Devils.


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posted by Ace at 11:22 AM

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