Remember the facile, early-'90s notion that Michael Moore was the left wing's answer to Rush Limbaugh? True, both used humor to attack their political adversaries, and both were fat, and...well, that was pretty much it. Still, the comparison was popular for a while, at least until Rush lost a lot of weight at about the same time that Al Franken started to make Limbaugh-bashing a cottage industry.
Whatever lefty author/columnist/blogger Eric Alterman thought of the old Moore-Limbaugh formulation back in the day, he certainly doesn't care for it now. As far as he's concerned, the leftist counterparts to the likes of mainstream conservative figures such as Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and Jonah Goldberg aren't Moore or Noam Chomsky, but rather hardcore, fringe ideologues. From Alterman's Tuesday MSNBC.com blog post (emphasis added):
It appears that the leftist investigative-reporting duo of Donald Barlett and James Steele now will publish its numbingly long articles in Vanity Fair. Katharine Seelye writes in Monday's New York Times that B&S "have accepted an offer from Graydon Carter, [VF's] editor, to sign a multiyear contract, agreeing to write two articles a year. Both will have the title of contributing editor at the glossy monthly."
Barlett and Steele have been a reporting team since 1971, first at the Philadelphia Inquirer and then at Time magazine. They probably are best known for their 1992 book, America: What Went Wrong? The book, based on a series of stories the two had written for the Inquirer, sought to portray the economic boom of the 1980s as a case of the rich prospering at the expense of the middle class and the poor. (Brent Baker explores B&S's methodology here.)
According to a newspaper story this past weekend, the Los Angeles Times, which the Tribune Company has owned since 2000, is not for sale. One must assume the report is accurate, given that it appeared in the Times itself, under the byline of two of the paper's staff writers.
The story also indicates, however, that Tribune's position on unloading the Times may have changed from "no" to "not yet." Moreover, it states that three longtime Democratic moneybags -- David Geffen, Ron Burkle, and Eli Broad, each of whom lives in the L.A. area -- have asked Tribune if it might sell the Times. (Forbes magazine estimates the combined wealth of the three at $12.6 billion.)
The July 31 issue of the Nation includes Lakshmi Chaudhry's piece, pegged to last month's Yearly Kos shindig in Las Vegas, asserting that "the media rage on the left--at least among those politically active online--now matches that on the right."
To her credit, Chaudhry provides some valid insights regarding left-wing critics of the MSM, e.g.:
At least part of [lefty bloggers'] rhetoric is less about the press itself than about bolstering the bloggers' self-identity as outsiders, which offers the emotional comfort of victimhood. "The notion of the press being in the pocket of the Bush Administration is definitely overdrawn, but it feels good," says [NYU journalism professor Jay] Rosen. "This way you can feel even more marginalized."
Philadelphia Inquirer TV columnist Gail Shister notes today that Dan Rather, the new public face of HDNet's news coverage, will be a panelist for the next two installments of Chris Matthews' syndicated half-hour weekend show. (Hat tip: Romenesko.)
Not a few NewsBusters readers probably will salivate over the liberal bias to come after reading the following from Shister's column:
"We assume he'll be fabulous," says Matthews, who's been looking to book Rather for months. "Now that he's not constrained by the anchor role, he can say what he thinks. We don't know how far he's going to go."
First topic: the role of presidential power. "I'm sure he has an opinion on the rise of President Bush," Matthews says. "The topic will provoke his passions."
In a piece posted Thursday night, Jack Shafer, media critic for the Washington Post-owned online magazine Slate, ponders the current tension between the Bush administration and the press over the latter's reporting of some of the former's anti-terrorist methods. Shafer posits that Bush and company's angry reaction to said reporting
signal[s] the breakdown of the traditional comity—I wouldn't call it "trust"—that has existed between the White House and the press. Since the end of WWII, the press has sought White House input whenever its reporters bumped up against issues of national security, and if the press has erred it's mostly erred in favor of the government position. For a good summary of recent instances in which the [New York Times and Los Angeles Times] and the Washington Post have held stories or deleted sensitive information at the administration's request, see [NYT editor Bill] Keller and [LAT editor Dean] Baquet's joint op-ed...defending publication of their SWIFT stories.
David Remnick, the editor of the New Yorker and a Washington Post reporter from the early 1980s until the early '90s, has written a commentary for his magazine's July 10 issue in which he asserts that the Bush administration's criticism of stories such as Dana Priest's secret-prisons piece in the Washington Post and the New York Times' recent terror-finance-tracking story is insincere and politically calculated. Excerpts (emphasis added):
...More than any other White House in history, Bush’s has tried to starve, mock, weaken, bypass, devalue, intimidate, and deceive the press, using tactics far more toxic than any prose devised in the name of Spiro Agnew.
Q: Where is approximately 380,000 votes "the narrowest of leads" in an election?
A: In the New York Times, but only when the leftist candidate is trailing.
From James C. McKinley Jr. and Ginger Thompson's dispatch on the Mexican presidential race (emphasis added):
MEXICO CITY, July 4 — The Mexican electoral crisis deepened Tuesday, as the leftist candidate demanded a vote-by-vote recount and election officials acknowledged that up to three million votes had not been tallied in the preliminary results.
The ballots counted so far showed the conservative, Felipe Calderón, with the narrowest of leads, fewer than 400,000 votes, over his leftist opponent, Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
The uproar over last week's New York Times expose' of the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program still isn't cacophonous enough for National Journal media columnist William Powers:
Watching the story play out, I've found myself hoping...that the conflict will get hotter and uglier and eventually wind up in court...Why? Because this country needs to have a great, big, loud, come-to-Jesus argument about the role of the press in a time of war, terror, and secrecy.
...A poll...conducted by the McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum in Chicago recently found that Americans know more about The Simpsons than they do about the First Amendment -- a lot more.
The first clause of one sentence in a Tuesday MSNBC.com blog entry: "Folks, we need to pause here and really examine just how derelict the MSM has become..."
That certainly sounds promising, but, alas, here's the second clause: "...and just how entrenched the entire corporate media enterprise is in terms of allowing the Republican party to dictate coverage on key political issues." The blogger in question, who's specifically talking about last week's Iraq debate in the Senate, is Eric (Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush) Boehlert, filling in for Eric (What Liberal Media?) Alterman.
Boehlert goes on: "The fact that the lapdog press allows it to happen on behalf of a historically unpopular president just boggles the mind. (And yes, the USA Today poll confirmed Bush's much-anticipated June bounce was non-existent.)" You'd think that if the media really were in the tank for Bush, they'd rig the poll in his favor, thereby manufacturing a bounce, but...whatever.
The primary goal of the Daily Show is, of course, to entertain, but it's safe to say that Jon Stewart and company also would like to push (or is it pull?) American politics to the left.
A new study, however, indicates that the program may in that sense be at odds with itself. Specifically, it suggests that the mocking, condescending tone of the Daily Show may result in diminished voter turnout among its viewers -- almost all of whom, as you probably assumed, are non-conservatives.
Richard Morin, in today's Washington Post, reports:
Two political scientists [have] found that young people who watch Stewart's faux news program...develop cynical views about politics and politicians that could lead them to just say no to voting.
It's not especially newsworthy that Connie Chung and Maury Povich's Saturday program on MSNBC, which debuted in January, has been canceled. Perhaps no more newsworthy, but definitely more amusing, is that on the show's final episode this past weekend, Chung, as she danced on top of and around a piano, bade her audience farewell in song, to the tune of "Thanks for the Memories." (Hat tips: Drudge and NRO's The Corner.)
To be fair, Chung sings better than Elaine Benes danced. That said, watch this and you'll appreciate Bob Hope (not to mention Michelle Pfeiffer in The Fabulous Baker Boys) more than you ever did before. (Monday's New York Post printed some of her lyrics.)
Here's one of those stories that sounds weird but may make perfect sense. According to Saturday's New York Times, Dan Rather is "seriously mulling" an offer to "develop and be the host of a weekly interview program on a high-definition television channel known as HDNet."
The Times' Jacques Steinberg also reports that "in addition to the one-hour interview program, which could eventually include '60 Minutes'-style investigative reports that he would prepare, Mr. Rather said he had been asked to commit to deliver at least two documentaries a year to HDNet."
Rather told Steinberg that the offer to join HDNet came from none other than the channel's co-founder Mark Cuban, who's been on TV quite a bit himself lately during ABC's coverage of the NBA finals between the Cuban-owned Dallas Mavericks and the Miami Heat.
Dan Bobkoff, who covers Massachusetts for Albany, N.Y.-based WAMC/Northeast Public Radio, has written a piece for CBS News's Public Eye blog in which he offers ideas for reform of the broadcast networks' evening newscasts. (Hat tip: Romenesko.) Bobkoff, a former intern for ABC's World News Tonight, opines:
...I think the shows should try to become as different from one another as possible.
The first step toward originality would be to turn off all the TV's in the newsroom. Producers love watching the "competition" on a row of monitors while they work, and will note with glee if they air an important story five minutes before another network. But watching each other doesn't create a better product; it creates sameness.
After they turn off the TV’s, they should cancel their subscriptions to The New York Times. The paper's great, but it shouldn't be TV's job to read the paper and then steal the feature stories for that evening’s newscast (unusual baby names, ABC?)
With nothing to copy off the TV or from the papers, the newscasts then could think about broadening what they cover...
The political and cultural coverage in "alternative" weeklies such as the Village Voice tends to be even more left-leaning than that of the MSM, but the Voice, probably America's best known alt-weekly, is likely to become less tendentious under its incoming editor, Erik Wemple.
Wemple, who takes the helm at the Voice in late July, has been the editor of Washington City Paper since early 2002. (The politically eclectic City Paper long has been one of the exceptions to the left-wing alt-weekly rule.) He recently told the New York Times, "My ideology...preaches loyalty to the great story. I really don't care if a story begins with leftist sympathies, and I really don't care if a story begins from a more conservative set of sympathies. If it's a great story, we're going to report it out."
A book about the semi-retired Dan Rather (remember him?) would seem to be a tough sell at this point, even if it carried a catchy title like The Da Rather Code. That said, a biography to be published right around the time Katie Couric takes over the CBS Evening News does juicily report that Rather endorsed the bumping-off of a prominent CBS colleague.
Here's part of today's New York Post Page Six item on the book:
In "Lone Star," an unauthorized bio of Rather out this September, Alan Weisman writes that [Morley] Safer "has not been a friend of Rather's for years, since their days in Vietnam." The final straw came when Rather took over for Safer not long after Safer's jolting report about the burning of a Vietnam village by a platoon of U.S. Marines.
In his cover story on Oprah Winfrey in the June 12 New Republic, Lee Siegel asserts that Oprah, whose TV show is syndicated by CBS-owned King World, is somewhat of a kingmaker in the political world:
In 1986, human nature in America started to change. That year, "The Oprah Winfrey Show," based in Chicago, became nationally syndicated, and the country entered the beginning stages of a quiet cultural revolution. It took awhile for the transformation to take hold, but, four years later, the effects were unmistakable. Do you really think George H.W. Bush, who presided over the spectacularly successful Gulf war, lost to Bill Clinton in 1992 because of a sagging economy? It was Oprah, stupid. It was Oprah behind Clinton in 1992 and also in 1996; and it was Oprah behind George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004, electoral shenanigans notwithstanding.
It's safe to say that, with her parade of afflicted guests, Oprah helped along the perception of Clinton's childhood wounds as evidence of authentic character. With her emphasis on imperfect self-presentation as proof of genuine intention--she has appeared on the air in her bathrobe, without makeup--she also helped create an atmosphere that turned Al Gore, and then John Kerry, into fabricated con men who were too handsome (Kerry had his lanky Jimmy Stewart allure), articulate, and privileged to be trusted or true. Bush, on the other hand, was so inarticulate, awkward, and funny-looking that, when you thought of his own super-privileged background, you felt that at least he had something going for him. And all that unconcealed imperfection made him real--or at least electable.
The monthly magazine Vanity Fair is still a Hollywood-crazed chronicler of the rich and famous, but in the past few years it's also become an increasingly shrill anti-Bush voice -- sort of a more elegantly written, hard-copy version of the Huffington Post.
Writer Marie Brenner, a frequent contributor to VF, sounded a little shrill herself this past weekend, claiming that "the atmosphere against the press right now is as onerous as I can ever remember it," and that judicial demands for reporters to reveal confidential sources may result in a comeback for "the anti-press hysteria of the Nixon years."
Brenner, whose 1996 VF piece on Jeffrey Wigand was the basis for the 1999 movie The Insider, spoke at a journalism conference in San Antonio. Excerpts from a story by Sheila Hotchkin in the San Antonio Express-News:
In a piece for last Monday’s Washington Post, the paper's culture critic, Philip Kennicott, noted that this past week, the Katzen Arts Center at American University in Washington simultaneously hosted two events. One was the National Endowment for the Arts’ fortieth-anniversary celebration; the other was a non-NEA-funded exhibition that featured “art as provocation, political commentary, utopian imagination, protest and, sometimes, pure unmitigated rage. It deals with gender, race, war and imperialism.”
Left-wing author and columnist Eric Alterman (likely best known to NewsBusters readers for his book What Liberal Media?) blogs at MSNBC’s web site. There, Alterman frequently, intemperately, and sometimes bizarrely blasts the current president of the United States. Last summer, for example, he stated that “no person in the world, save Osama bin Laden, has done as much damage to New York City as George W. Bush.” In parts of Blogville, of course, that qualifies as a moderate viewpoint.
This past week, Alterman hosted several guest bloggers, at least one of whom, Eric Boehlert, shares Alterman’s distaste for the idea that the MSM lean left. (Boehlert’s new book is called Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush.) This past Friday on Alterman’s blog, Boehlert sniped at Bush more subtly, but with no greater sense of perspective or proportion, than Alterman usually does, claiming that a certain recent
Earlier this week, Media Bistro's TVNewser blog reported that Lucia Newman, who's reported from Latin America for CNN for twenty years and has run the network's Havana bureau since 1997, will become a Buenos Aires-based correspondent for Al-Jazeera's English-language channel.
The MRC has noticed a leftward slant in many of Newman's reports. The March 1990 issue of MediaWatch observed that, two days before an election that Nicaragua's Marxist dictator, Daniel Ortega, would go on to lose, Newman "burnished Ortega's reputation, reporting on February 23: 'The last time he went on the campaign trail, he looked like the serious and shy revolutionary that, according to friends, he's always been.' Newman found an old neighbor who told her how 'the Ortega boys had their father's patriotism in their blood.' Newman continued: 'No one has ever called Ortega charismatic, but his unquestionable dedication to his revolutionary principles, and enviable work capacity, has won him admiration of his friends and even some of his foes.'"
Washington Post book critic Michael Dirda may know more about novels than anyone else who lives or works inside the Beltway, but that doesn't mean his take on Communism isn't straight out of pulp fiction (granted, some of it high-level pulp fiction like Zola's Germinal). In a Monday online chat, a reader asked about the Communist beliefs of the Nobel Prize-winning novelist Jose Saramago. Specifically, the reader wondered "how...someone so attuned to the absurdity, corruption, and abuse of power by the State [could] be an advocate of the most statist form of government available."
The Communist ideal is a noble one, it just doesn't seem to work in our fallen world. How can anyone believe it right for people to inherit vast wealth and privilege simply because they were lucky enough to be born into a family named Rockefeller or Kennedy? Why should a man cough his lungs out in a coal mine to barely support his children, while drones around him live like kings? It is easy to be in sympathy with communist ideals. But as Kant and Isaiah Berlin used to say: Out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made.
In Washington Post humor columnist Gene Weingarten's weekly online chat this past Tuesday, a poster asked Gene to assess "the George Will [column that] made the claim that conservatives have happier lives than liberals."
I think [Will] was right, though I wouldn't have quite as smug about it as he was.
I think it is easier to be a conservative. You do not have to think as much, beause issues are more black and white. That delivers a sense of general contentment, because the world seems more orderly.
On Tuesday afternoon, Brian Montopoli of the CBS News blog Public Eye posted an item regarding a global-warming story that aired this past Sunday on 60 Minutes. (Hat tip: Romenesko.) Take it away, Brian:
...The piece, which featured correspondent Scott Pelley, largely took the existence of global warming as a given. But there are those who claim that global warming – and, specifically, the notion that humans are responsible for it – is a myth. I asked Pelley why the voices of the skeptics were not heard in the piece.
"There is virtually no disagreement in the scientific community any longer about global warming," he says. "The science that has been done in the last three to five years has been conclusive...There's just no longer any credible evidence that suggests that, a, the earth is not warming or, b, that greenhouse gasses [sic] are not the cause...
"It would be irresponsible of us to go find some scientist somewhere who is not thought of as being eminent in the field and put him on television with these other guys to cast doubt on what they're saying," he continues. "It would be difficult to find a scientist worth his salt in this subject who would suggest this wasn't happening. It would probably be someone whose grant has been funded by someone who finds reducing fossil fuel emissions detrimental to their own interests." [Emphasis added.]
According to the website of the Media Giraffe Project -- "a non-partisan, interdisciplinary research initiative housed with the Journalism program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst" -- former New York Times ombudsman (or as they call it, "Public Editor") Daniel Okrent stated Monday night that "the general rolling over on the part of the American press allowed the [Iraq] war to happen." (Hat tip: Romenesko.)
John Dickerson of the Washington Post-owned webzine Slate wrote a piece, posted Monday night, about the Dick Cheney shooting incident. Here's one of Dickerson's paragraphs:
And at some point Cheney's starchy behavior is also insulting. Shouldn't there be some minimum level of explanation he's willing to offer as the second-highest ranking public official? When you nearly commit manslaughter as a public official shouldn't the honor of your office compel you to stand up and explain yourself in some fashion, at least say something in a press release and not just whisper it to a Texas rancher? [Emphasis added.]
In his web chat today, Washington Post humor columnist Gene Weingarten stated that there was "nothing wrong" with Tom Toles' now (in)famous amputee cartoon -- a cartoon which, in Weingarten's words, "is deeply critical of a callous administration that deserves deep criticism."
Here's the Q&A from the chat:
Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.: Gene - You are the arbiter of all that is funny. What are your thoughts on the recent controversy over Tom Toles' cartoon depicting a soldier who had lost both arms and legs in Iraq? Does it cross the line, as the Joint Chiefs of Staff are claiming?
Granted, this doesn't necessarily mean that one of the most beloved actresses in the history of television is a conservative Republican. Nonetheless, check out this exchange from a brief interview with Mary Tyler Moore in the February 6 Newsweek:
What do you watch on TV these days?
A lot of Fox News. I also watch "Two and a Half Men" and "Lost."
Of course, there's at least a pretty good chance that Moore's plug for FNC will annoy her former co-star, the outspokenly left-wing Ed Asner.
Garrett Graff, one of the editors of fishbowlDC -- "a gossip blog about Washington, D.C. media" that’s part of the MediaBistro.com mini-empire – has joined those who’ve stated hopefully that something or other will prove to be a “Cronkite moment” regarding the Iraq war.
(Some background for the youngsters: The term derives from Walter Cronkite’s February 1968 on-air declaration that the Vietnam War was “mired in stalemate” – i.e., the U.S. and its ally, South Vietnam, could not win. Supposedly, President Lyndon Johnson’s response to that remark was to tell an aide, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost middle America.”)
Hugh Hewitt thinks highly of Nicholas Lemann, dean of Columbia University's graduate school of journalism and a staff writer for the New Yorker. Last year, Lemann wrote a New Yorker profile of Hewitt which the subject considered “complete and fair.” Hewitt also was “impressed with [Lemann’s New Yorker] profiles of Dick Cheney and Karl Rove. (The Cheney profile earned Lemann some animosity among colleagues, who thought him too gentle with the only man the left fears as much as Rove.)” Apparently, though, it’s possible to both write evenhandedly about right-of-center figures, and run one of the best journalism schools in the country, and still be clueless regarding basic conservative arguments on liberal media bias.