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May 14, 2007

Media, Finally, Begins Responding To Bloggers' Charges of Bias

The catch: They continue their I-shall-not-dignify-that-with-a-response attitude towards charges of bias coming from the right.

They react rather vigorously to such charges from the left, of course.

By way of background, part one: Right-leaning bloggers have been critiquing the media -- not just in terms of opinion, but in baldly mistating easily-verified facts, for years.

By way of background, part two: Left-leaning bloggers began doing this fairly recently in order to "work the refs" a bit and push reporters back towards their natural left-leaning state.

By way of background, part three: Recently the left-leaning Radar Online quoted Thomas Edsall as saying boring, useless David Broder represented "the voice of the people." Left-wing bloggers went apeshit over the story, as they dislike Broder for speaking ill of Harry Reid and speaking in favor of caution on the part of the Democrats. (Caution is of course a dirty word among the nutroots.) Liberal reporters like Joe Klein immediately sprung to Broder's defense, even engaging in blogfeud type back and forths with the noxious Glenn Greenwald. Left-liberal Jonathan Alter continues the overreaction, stating that Edsall didn't even say that at all.*

My point -- and I do have one -- is that straight MSM types have been reacting to this rather minor and trivial incident for going on a week now. The left of the blogosphere speaks, and the MSM responds.

They almost never respond to even caught-dead-to-rights-criticism from the right. Instapundit has been correcting -- sometimes several times a week -- the media's constant mistatement of George W. Bush's "famous sixteen words," words so famous the media cannot remember them at all and always claim he stated that Saddam was seeking uranium from Niger specifically. Not only has no MSM type never responded to Instapundit regarding this, they apparently are entirely unaware of the constant corrections, as they continue misstating the "sixteen words so famous we have no idea what they are" virtually every time they "report" them.

My point here isn't to whine that the MSM pays us no mind. My point is simpler: the media claims to be neutral politically, and yet, it seems, while they have all the time in the world to read left-wing blogs and respond to them, they don't even bother to read the biggest of the right-leaning bloggers.

Glenn Greenwald they have bookmarked. Instapundit, it seems, they've never heard of. How else to explain why not a single editor or reporter in all of the MSM seems aware that Bush did not mention Niger at all in his "famous sixteen words"?

Consider the fact that, as far as "right-leaning bloggers" go, not only is Instapundit rather famously moderate in tone, he's also very moderate in politics. Indeed, he's not even a conservative -- he's a libertarian, somewhat passionate on two issues that skew to the right (war, guns), nearly as passionate on a passel of other issues that skew to the left (gay marriage, decriminization of drugs), and many issues that skew neither way in particular, but are more "goo goo" (good government) concerns (earmarks). Overall, sure, he's right-leaning, and everyone (including himself, I'd imagine) would say so. But overall, he's a very moderate sort of right-leaning blogger.

And the biggest blogger there is on the right.

So how on earth could it be that while the MSM, supposedly politically neutral, has never read Instapundit, while it clicks on Firedoglake, Glenn Greenwald, Atrios, and the Daily Kos all the doo-dah day?

It's a truism that you are what you eat. Politically and intellectually, you are what you read. If you're not even reading the most moderate and most famous of right-leaning bloggers, obviously you have absolutely no interest whatsoever in any argument coming from the even the soft, moderate right, and consider all such criticisms and corrections coming from such quarters to be, per se, beneath contempt and not worth the dignity of a response.

And if you're scanning the very immoderate leftwing blogs -- furiously immoderate in tone, and often as furiously immoderate in actual politics -- it seems fairly obvious that you consider such blogs to be reasonable, worth reading, worth keeping tabs on.

The criticisms of left-wing blogs need to be addressed, even when they're of a particularly trivial and shrill nature. Even the most substantive and basic criticism from the right -- the word "Niger" was not mentioned in those "famous sixteen words," nor even in that "famous State of the Union address" in its entirety -- are not merely ignored by the media. They're unknown to the media.

I knew as soon as I heard Steven Colbert's criticism of the media at that White House press dinner two years back it would reverberate in the media, and would have results. Despite the fact the criticism was coming from a TV clown. Because the media is always willing to consider the proposition that they're biased politically -- biased, of course, too far to the right.

The left is the media's constituency -- they address the concerns of the left, respond to the criticisms of the left, feel wounded by the attacks from the left. And yet the hundreds of thousands of words of criticism from the right have been entirely ignored for thirty or forty years running.

And yet they're "neutral" in terms of politics. Sure.

The left's assault on the media has produced dramatic results. The NYT fired Judith Miller for her supposedly bad reporting on Saddam's WMD. The entire media is determined to "question the timing" as well as the seriousnes of each and every terror bust. Chastened by the left's charge that the media acted as the Bush Administration's dupes on Saddam's WMD program, they are now "correcting" that past bias by underplaying and undermining reports about Iran's quest for nukes.

Despite the fact that Iran has all but admitted they're seeking nukes. But perhaps they were put up to that by Karl Rove. Who knows.

If the media is determined to pay pennance for bad reporting -- for questions that went unasked, for stories that went unwritten, lapses that ultimately led to foreign policy blunder of historic consequence -- perhaps they should re-examine their pre-9/11 coverage of terrorism and Al Qaeda in the same self-flagellating, let-us-never-sin-again way they're treating their coverage of Saddam's WMDs.

Was the media overly credulous as to Bush's statements about WMDs? Did its "supine posture" on WMDs help lead the country into war?

Fair questions. But how about these questions: Was the media overly credulous as to the Clinton Administration's assertions that the original WTC bombing was a small conspiracy with little connection to world terrorism? Was the media "intellectually incurious" as to whether law enforcement and indictments could stop a well-organized terrorist organization with a global reach? Did the media help permit 9/11 to happen by refusing to strongly question Clinton as to whether ineffectual pinprick missile strikes on empty shacks and camel hitching-posts had really dissauded bin Ladin from coommiting further terrorist actions against the US, or in any way degraded his ability to do so?

As long as the media is the mood for searching self-examination as to what role their negligence and credulity led to the Iraq War -- well, perhaps they should also take time to reflect on what role their negligence and credulity led to 9/11.

They're big on "accountability" now, for both themselves and the government, but only if "accountability" for themselves suggests they move more leftward, and only if "accountability" for the government is restricted to exposing the Bush Administration's miskates.

Of course not a single MSM type will read this, nor respond to it.

But they will continue to addressing every criticism from Glenn Greenwald jot-by-tittle.

Because that's what an objective, neutral, fair and balanced media does, of course -- it addresses, responds to, and incorporates only those criticisms laid by the left.

* Jonathan Alter's Beautiful Mind: Curiously, though Alter was a witness to the statement, he claims Edsall didn't say it, but if he did say it, he said it with an air of irony:

I don't remember him calling Broder "the voice of the people," but if he did, it was said with a pleasantly arch tone, neither serious nor sarcastic.

FWIW, Edsall is a good reporter (and one who admits liberal bias, to boot), and I take Alter's basic point that journalists tend to be cynical, or at least posture as cynics, and thus would be unlikely to call anyone "the voice of the people" with anything but an ironic air.

But Alter's "reportage" on this is bizarre -- he can't remember Edsall saying it, but is very clear in his recollecting that if Edsall did say the thing he can't remember him saying then he remembers him saying it "with a pleasantly arch tone, neither serious nor sarcastic." It seems strange for him to have such a strong memory of how the phrase was said, given that he doesn't remember Edsall saying it at all.)

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posted by Ace at 04:48 PM

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