To Leftists, the Press Is 'Vital,' Whereas 'Right Assaults Journalism'

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."

The [left-wing] media critique, in its tendency to rely on implicit or explicit accusations of bad faith on the part of the reporter, sometimes reflects a poor understanding of journalism...

To her discredit, however, Chaudhry comes off as fairly clueless about the beliefs and motivations of conservative media critics (emphasis added to the silliest parts):

[W]here the right-wing blogosphere accuses journalists of ideological bias, the progressive netroots view them as corrupt and compromised...

As progressive bloggers are quick to point out, there is a vital difference between them and their right-wing counterparts when it comes to goals. Kicking off a panel titled "Political Journalism: Problems and Solutions," Matt Stoller declared, "One of the things that differentiates what we do from the right-wing echo chamber is that they are, in my opinion, trying to destroy journalism as an institution, and we are trying to remedy its failures."

Whereas progressives view the press as vital to a healthy democracy, the right assaults journalism, aiming to undermine its legitimacy and watchdog role. Under the Bush Administration the steady drumbeat of accusations of bias reached a new crescendo, accompanied by an all-out effort to essentially decertify the press as irrelevant to politics. As White House Chief of Staff Andy Card told The New Yorker, the media "don't represent the public any more than other people do. In our democracy, the people who represent the public stood for election."

First of all, Card has a point. In terms of who MSMers cast their votes for, they obviously don't represent the public as a whole.

Second, even though to much of the left, it might seem that it's been several decades since George W. Bush took office, it's really been only five and a half years. Is Chaudhry's memory so bad that she now thinks conservatives opposed a "watchdog role" for the media during the Clinton years? In fact, they would have preferred far more media scrutiny of the Billary administration.

To be fair, though, that era must seem like a long time ago to much of the right as well. Remember when conservatives liked Maureen Dowd?

Tom Johnson
Tom Johnson
Tom Johnson is a contributing writer for NewsBusters