Why Can't Media Acknowledge That Rolling Stone Is On the Radical Left?

One of the more annoying tics in the current bubble of national media coverage of Gen. Stanley McChrystal's truly bizarre granting of access to Rolling Stone magazine was the utter lack of any description of the magazine -- neither its ideology (hard-left) or its central focus (rock and pop music). Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz provided a little depth with an article on Thursday, which began:

In the summer of 2008, Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner ended an interview with Barack Obama -- whose campaign he financially supported -- by saying, "Good luck. We are following you daily with great hope and admiration."

So Kurtz pronounced it "surprising" when the magazine was "assailing Obama from the left." But in fact, we pointed out in February 2008 that venomous Rolling Stone political writer Matt Taibbi was trashing both Obama and Hillary Clinton as "superficial, posturing conservatives." So why couldn't reporters acknowledge this was a left-wing, anti-war magazine? Wouldn't that color how people saw a "Runaway General" controversy?

Surely, if Gen. McChrystal had given this kind of interview to The Washington Times, the result might have been the same, but it's very likely the word "conservative" would have been routinely attached, unlike in this case. Reporters also would have pondered if there was some sort of conservative agenda at work, which they didn't seem to ponder in this case. (Does Rolling Stone want to win in Afghanistan? Or withdraw immediately?)

Kurtz was also rare in noticing "the cover of the current issue is devoted not to 'The Runaway General' but to Lady Gaga, wielding a pair of automatic weapons attached to her bra." But the media's treating Rolling Stone like it was a prestigious academic journal on military policy, not the place where you see if Miley Cyrus drew three stars for her latest CD. 

Kurtz mentioned Taibbi's "angry, profanity-laced pieces follow in the footsteps of Hunter Thompson." He didn't reprise some of Taibbi's more colorful conservative woman-trashing rants for the magazine, such as graphically describing Michelle Malkin "teabagging," or calling Ann Coulter a "skanky b---h whore."

You would think the press might remember Taibbi's infamous rants in the alternative New York Press, especially that one in 2003 where he wrote “The entire White House press corps should be herded into a cargo plane, flown to an altitude of 30,000 feet, and pushed out, kicking and screaming, over the North Atlantic.” Here's more of Kurtz:

Taibbi says he lost friends in the administration after a December piece headlined "Obama's Big Sellout," in which he questioned whether the president is "the vacillating, ineffectual servant of banking interests." In March, just before the health care bill passed, Taibbi wrote that Obama "did everything wrong," along with "his team of two-faced creeps like Rahm Emanuel. . . . willing to sell out every inch of the body politic to the pharmaceutical and insurance industries."

These were surely more surprising pieces for the magazine than Sean Wilentz's 2006 cover story on George W. Bush, titled "The Worst President in History?" Conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg once wrote that "Rolling Stone has essentially become the house organ of the Democratic National Committee." So it's worth noting that the magazine -- which Wenner says has a "mission" to promote "social justice" -- is assailing Obama from the left.

Wenner says he is "disappointed" by much of Obama's White House record and "disturbed that some pattern is emerging. It's naive to think you're going to change American policy by compromising on a lot of stuff." He says Interior Secretary Ken Salazar should have been fired over the BP debacle and that the administration's financial regulation bill "gets weaker and weaker" over time.

Wenner says he is still "rooting" for Obama but hasn't been invited to the White House: "I'm not part of the gentleman's club."

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis