CNN's Captive Audience and the Battle for Context
Later today, I'm going to a Pajamas Media panel discussion on partisanship and blogs (how much is too much?). Moderator and Instapundit.com blogger Glenn Reynolds came into town yesterday but not before being subjected to several hours' worth of CNN in the airport.
John Hinderaker of Power Line points out the broader implications of CNN being foisted upon Glenn and many other travelers:
This has become my major issue with air travel, worse even than having to throw away my shaving cream and toothpaste. (Want a stock tip? Invest in a company that makes really, really small toiletries.) The airports of America--as far as I can tell, there aren't any exceptions--have entered into a contract with CNN whereby CNN's outrageously one-sided coverage blares non-stop at every airline gate in the U.S. Talk about a captive audience! You really don't have any choice but to sit at the gate, waiting for your plane to load, and the volume is turned up so loud that you can't miss a single snarky attack on the Bush administration. Frankly, I think I'd rather be waterboarded. Do you suppose John McCain can do something about this?
This is just one of many manifestations of the fact that the Democratic Party is the "home team" of American politics. CNN is the "official" news network, viewed by corporate America as neutral and unobjectionable even though, in fact, it is relentlessly liberal. If anyone proposed that they shift the contract over to Fox, for the sake of more competent news coverage if nothing else, the reaction would be: we can't do that, Fox is conservative! It isn't, actually, for the most part. But occasional moments of conservatism will drive a network more or less underground, while constant liberalism is considered middle of the road, and suitable for infliction--like it or not--on the air travelers of America.
I've had the same experience, most airport TVs I've run across show CNN. But CNN is not only the channel of most major airports, it's also the channel in most public spaces where ESPN isn't being shown, simply because liberalism is the default political viewpoint set up for Americans. It's not the raving, Bush-is-Hitler bile that left-wing blogs and Air America pine for, but it's there nonetheless, surrounding us all like a comforting political amniotic fluid, helping us know what's right, who's evil, and what's sensible and moderate. It's also probably one of the bigger reasons why liberal media bias exists.
It's been like this probably since the Depression when the Republican
party collapsed at the national level through a combination of
ineffective PR and presidential mismanagement. The wave of socialism in
post-WWII Europe also didn't help much as advocates for economic
liberalism (the original kind) fell into a funk and professors
everywhere got taken in by the fad that the war had somehow changed
human nature or the market. Socialism, we were told was not only
inevitable, it was also probably the best course for the future of
humanity. A similar wave of thinking swept the country during the 60s
when Republicans once again failed to take credit for advancing the
cause of civil rights, the environment, and ending the Vietnam fiasco.
In the years since, conservatives have made remarkable progress starting from scratch, constructing a new ideology, winning elections, and establishing a powerful public voice in the national dialogue. Liberalism, or socialism lite, is still the default, though.
It's not just conservatives who say this. While covering the 1980 Democratic convention in her years as a correspondent at CBS, Lesley Stahl had one Democratic operative explicitly state how nice it was that she would be softer on President Carter than his challenger Ronald Reagan. The many troubles FNC has had getting cable distribution (in the beginning Fox actually had to pay operators and many still refused to carry it), Bill Clinton's blowup over being asked a question that is routinely asked of Republicans, the vicious censorship campaign that was mounted against ABC's "Path to 9/11," and the fact that left-wing extremist groups like FAIR and Media Matters routinely misidentify the Clintonite-headed Brookings Institution as "moderate" are further examples of liberals expecting the press to assume its natural position as a courtier for the left.
Things have changed to some degree since the Reagan years. Nowadays aside from a few raving Olbermann types who think of themselves as the journalistic equivalent of the twelfth imam, Americans aren't subjected to daily rants about how conservatism is a pernicious force that must be eradicated. Blogs, forums, and radio "truth detectors" like Rush Limbaugh now routinely expose distortions and falsehoods in the media. Still, conservatives are far away from toppling the left's cultural hegemony. More needs to be done, though. The battle for context is only just beginning. The battle for the rights to "moderate" hasn't even started.
Update 09-27: Ed Driscoll makes an interesting observation: "Ironically, in American Airlines' Admirals' Clubs, where I often chill out before taking off, and presumably, other airport locales where people are given a choice of what to view, much more often than not, Fox News is on. But at the gates, there is no escape from CNN."