Updated Greenwaldian style below.
Over here in Western Blogtopia (TM Skippy), we're used to treating the phrase "the Liberal Media" as a bad joke. If they were ever liberally "biased," the Media Elites went to work curing themselves of that bias early in the Reagan Administration. By the time of the Impeachment/Attempted Coup in 1998, they had mostly signed on with the Right Wing Noise Machine. After 9/11, they turned themselves into Pravda on the Potomac and haven't looked back. Mostly they look forward to when their embarrassing former hero, George Bush, is gone and they can lavish their fawning attention on their once and future king, the Maverick and Commander, John McCain.
So it's laughable---when it is not infuriating---to hear the Right Wing attack poodles yapping and snapping and yipping about the Liberal Media. We can hardly believe they believe it. We can only surmise that they think that Liberal is a synonym for anybody who does not repeat to them their own opinions word for word, with a great big smile.
What's hard to fathom is that many of the more highly (self-)regarded hacks in our National Press Corps believe themselves to be Liberals and biased ones, to boot. Often it's the hacks most openly hostile to Liberalism who conceive of themselves as most liberally biased and work hardest to "correct" their bias by turning themselves into spokespersons for the Republican Right. (Chris Matthews, Joe Klein, Maureen Dowd, for example.) But as Adrian Monk likes to say, Here's the thing.
The Media is liberal and unabashedly and unapologetically biased.
At least on some subjects.
And if by liberal we mean accepting the general progressive and democratic trends of the last 220 years of American history as good things that ought to be continued and even expanded upon. And on the whole the Media, which, by the way, includes all of what's on television, not just what's on the news, and the movies, and magazines, and books, and advertising, and music, does accept that.
Despite the attempts of the chattering classes to deny it, despite the attempts by editors, media owners, and many journalists not to report it, the Media presents as factual, because it is factual, a picture of a country that is essentially liberal.
I've put together a list of subjects the Media covers with what the Right correctly sees as a "liberal" bias. Here it is.
War: It kills people.
This War: It's not been a cakewalk.
Gay people: Not scary.
Black people: Also not scary.
Women: They have jobs. Some of those jobs are high-status, high-pressure, seemingly glamorous jobs at which these women work hard, excel, and make way more money than you.
Immigrants: Hard-working, and they have families. Want to be Americans. Many of them speak Spanish which is a beautiful language.
Poverty: Not fun for poor people.
Cops: Not always right.
Lawyers: Not always wrong.
The Environment: Precious, fragile, polluted and threatened all over the world, mostly as a result of industrial development.
Sex; Not dirty and shameful.
Abortion: Not the end of the world.
Religion: A vaguely good thing in the abstract. In practice, a quaint, folksy form of entertainment for the yokels, like state fairs, except for Catholicism and Judaism. See below.
The Catholic Church: Not the Whore of Babylon.
Catholicism: Source of endless nostalgia and good-natured jokes about nuns. Practiced by a lot of Irish people and people whose last names end in vowels and live in big cities.
Judaism: Mostly practiced by Jewish people, many of whom live in New York City and aren't sorry about it. Few feel the need to convert to Christianity, so what?
Islam: An actual religion.
Muslims: Many of them are not actually terrorists.
The American Civil War: Fought to end slavery, which was a bad thing. The North won, which was probably a good thing.
Communism: Often mentioned without groveling apologies from liberals some of whose intellectual great-great-grandparents may not have been quick enough to condemn Stalin.
Franklin Roosevelt: A great President.
Ronald Reagan: A charming President.
Bill Clinton: A President.
George W. Bush: Probably not the second coming of Teddy Roosevelt. Faring poorly in the polls.
Republicans: Not saints, except for John McCain.
Democrats: Still there, sort of.
That's as far as I've gotten today. There's more to add.
Now, a lot of you are thinking, Lance, most of the items on your list are not evidence of the Media's liberal bias at all. They're evidence of the Media's occasional habit of reporting on reality.
I see your point. But you have to remember that one of Liberalism's virtues is that it is pragmatic not ideological or even idealistic. Liberalism is and has been about recognizing and adapting to, and when called for making corrections to, reality, that is to the world as it actually is and to people as they actually are. Most of Liberalism's successes over time have required making people see what is really going on, as opposed to what they wish was going on or what they are being told by the ruling class is going on.
Liberalism is first and foremost an insistence on freeing people from their own deluded and demented thinking. It is a demand that people give up their prejudices and their vain and self-centered illusions and deal with the facts of life.
One of the facts of life is that times change. Conservativism is based on the belief that this is always a bad thing and must be resisted when it can't be ignored. In other words, conservativism is a lot of wishful thinking.
But the American Right is not conservative. It is reactionary. It doesn't want to deny that times change. It wants to turn back time. Conservativism is a mild delusion. Reaction is an outright madness.
The politics of Reaction is a two-pronged assault on reality. The first prong is the promulgation of the belief that there was a better America, located in the past, that we can return to. The second is the insistence that any acceptance of present realities is a result not of realism but of "liberal bias," which is to say an insistence that what is real is not in fact real.
I don't know exactly why the News Media Elites have decided to treat this madness as a legitimate point of view, but they have, and since they have they have put themselves in the bind of sounding "liberal" every time an actual fact escapes their lips.
Consequently, they have trained themselves not to actually report facts, but to ascribe them. Facts are always things some people are saying. Other people are saying other things. Squaring off spokespersons for reality against spokespersons for an anti-reality is "balance" and "balance" has now become the professional virtue. Once upon a time the professional virtue was getting the facts and getting them straight. But that's now proof of "liberal bias."
So whenever the chatterers make the mistake of actually stating a fact as a fact, they must immediately self-correct---"balance"---themselves by dismissing the fact as a fact or by turning to one of the spokespeople for anti-reality they keep on hand to maintain "balance."
I'm not sure what to do about this, except to keep pointing out to the Media Elites that there is such a thing as reality. But then reality itself has a way of doing that on its own behalf.
Somehow, despite all the "balance" they've been subjected to over the last seven years, more than two-thirds of the American people have figured out that George W. Bush is not a very good President.
Update I: Important to remember. We have essentially two national press corps. There's Pravda on the Potomac and then there are the great many reporters, editors, and producers who do their jobs. The two press corps often work for the same publications or networks and their stories compete for space and attention. The big problem for the reporters who do their jobs is that their editors and/or the editors' bosses often work for Pravda or are intimidated by its CW. So we have reporters like Eric Lichtbau and James Risen of the New York Times, who got the story on the Bush Leaguers' Let's use terrorism as an excuse to spy on all Americans Program but had to wait a year for it to see the light while the higher-ups at the Times worked up the nerve to run it.
dday has an excerpt from Lichtbau's book, Bush's Law: The Remaking of American Justice.