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Wednesday, November 27, 2002
Politics not media criticism explain Al Gore’s comments
It is a mistake to treat Al Gore’s recent claim that certain media outlets are biased to the right as media criticism because Gore’s comments aren’t going to have any effect in media change and he has to know it. What the comments could do, and what the calculating Al Gore presumably is attempting to do, is start a change in the public’s perception of the media that is favorable to Democrats.
It has been an article of faith amongst Republicans for quite some time that the “mainstream media” is biased to the left, hence the catch phrase “liberal media.” Regardless of whether or not they are right on the matter, this belief is a powerful tool for the GOP since it gives their members and supporters a convenient all-purpose excuse to ignore information they don’t like.
Nothing makes this clearer than a look at the site of the Media Research Center. If Andy Rooney says he’s surprised at how well the Republicans did on November 5, it must be because he is a leftist according to them. Peter Jennings acknowledges that many Saudi Arabians oppose further escalation of the U.S. war against Iraq and the MRC implies that this represents “hostility toward Bush’s Iraq policy.” The November 25 edition of the group’s “Notable Quotables” features a number of left and liberal quotes from the mainstream media. The MRC doesn’t bother to respond or debunk any of these quotes but rather just puts them out there with the understanding that their readers will know that such statements being to the left and in the mainstream media already makes them something to discarded as propaganda. Of course it the “mainstream media” reports something Republicans like, such as opinion polls showing that a majority of Americans disapprove of how the media has covered President George W. Bush’s “war on terror,” then it is true and to be believed.
This is a case of only acknowledging information that they like and disregarded the rest for reasons that have nothing to do with facts. It must pain flawed Democrats like Bill Clinton and Gore that their base is less likely to do this. But if the Democrats could alter this, it would change things dramatically and undoubtedly help Democrats win elections and get legislation passed. It is my belief that Gore’s comments about media outlets tilting to the right is an attempt to move things in this direction. Admittedly I don’t have any insider information that indicates this is the case but it is hardly worth saying that the Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and The Washington Times tilt to the right. Everybody who has thought about this issue and is honest will have to conclude that those outlets don’t lean to the left and are not, as Fox News claims so often that it becomes clear they are trying to convince themselves, “fair and balanced.” They lean to the right and, even more noticeably, to Republicans. Gore it appears is just trying to demonize these outlets so as to fire up his base and get them to only acknowledge information that they like just as the Republican’s do.
I’m doubtful that it will work but who knows? A recent discussion I was in about Bush, Democrats, Gore, Nader and Greens shows that there are some Democrats and people who lean to the Democrats who just accept as a matter of faith that Republicans are evil and Democrats are good, and that's exactly the type of logic needed to pull off such a leap of logic.