The Myth of the Liberal Media (idea)
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The following material is derived from EXTRA! (July/August 1998), and was taken from Anarchy for Anybody, which can be found at www.radio4all.org/anarchy/ - comments in emphasis and prefaced with "a4a" are from the original Anarchy for Anybody post.
If there truly were a liberal bias in mainstream media, right-wing commentators would not dominate the three major opinion-shaping forums in our country: TV punditry, talk radio and syndicated columns.
Next time someone tells you that the right wing is unfairly treated in the mass media, start reading from this list. Challenge them to match these names with left-wing pundits who have equivalent access to the public debate -- not tepid centrists who rally 'round the status quo, but leaders of and advocates for progressive movements, as unabashed in their politics to the left as these conservative voices are to the right. Chances are, you'll soon be listening to dead air.
*(TV = television, P = print, R = radio)
*a4a: The purpose these folks serve is to "manufacture consent" in the classic fashion pointed out by Noam Chomsky; the views represented are center-right and hard-right (see above), with that comprising the "continuum" of acceptable discourse -- the left is entirely absent from this process, which allows considerable shaping and control of media content to suit the needs of the power elite in our society. Pay careful attention to what the following centrist or right-of-center "moderates" say, and gain an understanding that they're certainly not the leftists they're portrayed to be!*
MEET THE MYTH MAKERS
Right-wing media groups provide ammo for "Liberal Media" claims
While the main proponents of the liberal media myth are conservative commentators and talkshow hosts (who themselves are the dominant opinion voices in the media), the ammunition from such arguments usually comes from one of three well-funded groups.
Two of the groups -- Accuracy In Media (AIM) and the Media Research Center (MRC) -- are openly conservative, while the Center for Media & Public Affairs (CMPA) presents itself as an objective, nonpartisan research group. AIM does relatively little research, while the plentiful "research" produced by the two other groups is frequently marred by methodological flaws or unsupportable assumptions. Despite the weak foundations of their arguments, these groups have developed impressive media profiles.
Accuracy In Media
Accuracy In Media (AIM), launched in 1969, is closely associated with founder Reed Irvine. In AIM's first year, Irvine advocated that Students for a Democratic Society, the Black Panthers, and the Progressive Labor Party be charged with sedition during the Vietnam War. "If you're going to halt treason, you've got to do it while it's small," Irvine said at the time (Village Voice, 1/21/68).
Much of AIM's work is dedicated to getting those they disagree with fired. In 1982, AIM engaged in a campaign against Raymond Bonner of the New York Times, criticizing the Central America correspondent for reporting that U.S.-trained troops had massacred civilians at the Salvadoran village of El Mozote. AIM and its media allies (notably the Wall Street Journal editorial page) were successful in getting Bonner removed from his beat; years later, U.N. excavations at the site confirmed his story (Extra! 1-2/93).
This censorious attitude is linked to the group's disdain for the First Amendment: AIM used to offer as a premium the book Target America, by AIM board member James L. Tyson, which proposed that mandatory government "ombudsmen" be placed at each of the major networks to ensure "accuracy" and "fairness" when dealing with "large, difficult questions."
AIM has frequently criticized media coverage of its corporate backers (for example, oil and chemical interests), but much of Irvine's advocacy has little or nothing to do with media. In the 1990s, he urged the use of napalm against Salvadoran guerrillas (AIM Reports, 3/90), as well as encouraging the use of nuclear weapons against Iraq during the Persian Gulf crisis (Seattle Times, 1/16/91)....
Media Research Center
The Media Research Center is headed by L. Brent Bozell III, the former director of the National Conservative Political Action Committee. In 1992, he took a brief time-out from the MRC to serve as finance chair for Patrick Buchanan's primary challenge to George Bush....
The MRC's main publication is MediaWatch. It also publishes the MediaNomics newsletter, part of MRC's Free Market Project, devoted to explaining "what the media tell Americans about free enterprise." Notable Quotables is the MRC's "bi-weekly compilation of the most outrageous examples of bias," but it often reads more like a collection of statements the MRC does not agree with....
The Center's now defunct TV, Etc. newsletter tracked the allegedly leftist politics of entertainment industry figures-devoting considerable energy to publicizing the off-screen comments of people who make their living reading lines written by other people. (The project bore an uncomfortable resemblance to Red Channels, the McCarthy Era blacklisting journal.)... TV, Etc. seems to have been replaced by the Parents Television Council.
The PTC, launched in 1995...tracks programming content with its "Family Guide to Prime Time TV."
Center for Media and Public Affairs
The Center for Media and Public Affairs liked to tout its founders' academic credentials -- husband-and-wife team S. Robert Lichter and Linda Lichter were teaching at George Washington University and publishing in scholarly journals (often of the conservative variety, like AEI's Public Opinion) prior to the establishment of the CMPA.
But the main analytical technique used by the Center -- the counting of "thematic messages" -- is extremely dubious, eliminating all messages that fail to make an explicit statement of opinion...this technique often produces highly distorted findings....
While the CMPA is often described at "non-partisan," it certainly seems to be a conservative project. Fundraising letters for the launch of the Center contained endorsements from the likes of Ronald Reagan, Pat Buchanan, Ed Meese and Pat Robertson. Support for the group comes from the most prominent right-wing foundations, like Olin, Coors and Scaife. While Robert Lichter has said that "it's not in a scholar's blood to have an ideology," he's also criticized journalists like Peter Arnett for "seeming themselves as citizens of the world" rather than as patriotic Americans, according to an AP report (4/27/91).