I have considered myself a "liberal" most of my life (though my wife says I have changed.) Still, I find Robert Brake's complete rejection of a liberal media bias very odd for a couple of reasons.
When concerns are expressed about bias in the media, it is not usually about "opinion" pieces. Newspaper "op-ed pages," or any of the radio programs that Mr. Brake lists are, by definition, opinionated. The concern is that "news" coverage, which should be objective and factual, will be slanted toward the left. This takes several forms. Use of "scare" quotation marks, choice of specific language, selection of which stories to cover, arrangement of facts within an article, even headline writing. (Did you note the headline on the article I am responding to? "Conservatives are the problem."!)
The idea that the media has a bias to the left is embraced by almost everyone except the most visceral members of the left. The New York Times ombudsman recently asked in a headline "Is The New York Times a Liberal Newspaper?" The first line of the article read "Of course it is." (July 25, 2004)
More broadly, Dartmouth professor Jim Kuypers wrote a book entitled Press Bias and Politics: How the Media Frame Controversial Issues. Based on his "study of 116 mainstream papers, Kuypers found that the mainstream press in America operate within a narrow range of liberal beliefs. Those who expressed points of view further to the left were generally ignored, whereas those who expressed moderate or conservative points of view were actively denigrated or labeled as a minority point of view. In short, if a political leader, regardless of party, spoke within the press supported range of acceptable discourse, he or she would receive positive press coverage. If a politician, again regardless of party, were to speak outside of this range, he or she would receive negative press. Kuypers also found that the liberal points of view expressed in editorial and opinion pages were found in hard news coverage of the same issues." (http://en.wikipedia.org
/wiki/Media_bias accessed, Oct. 13, 2004)
But then Mr Brake assures us there is no liberal bias in the media.
More curious to me, however, was Mr. Brake's description of liberals and those they disagree with. "Liberals stand for equality, tolerance, magnanimity, community spirit, the defense of the weak against the powerful, love of learning, freedom of belief, protecting the environment, providing health care for everyone and preserving our Constitutional rights," he opines. He proudly claims to be a liberal, and says liberals "believe in decency."
Never mind that I always wonder about someone who tells me how wonderful he is in such glowing, vague terms. And never mind that the protection of constitutional rights by the left is selective at best. And since I am no fan of the Prophet Mohammad, also never mind that this man who "stand[s] for ... tolerance [and] ... freedom of belief" trashes one of the fundamental claims of Islam in his little opinion piece.
Let us rather consider his claim to "magnanimity." I looked this word up and found that it means a "generosity of spirit."
Consider the language Mr. Brake uses to describe conservatives in the media. He calls one an attack dog, mocks another's drug-addiction problem, says that the prerequisites for jobs in conservative media are to be not "too fat or ugly ... have the ability to speak in short sentences ... possess a willingness to speak knowingly about matters about which you know little or nothing", claims that "Ignorance is actually an advantage," and refers to them as "ignorant" and "conservative lummoxes."
Hmmmmm. The generosity of spirit and decency is simply overwhelming, eh?
This column contains a lot of mean-spirited, intolerant, ad hominem attacks on people with whom the author disagrees. Yet the author claims to be a magnanimous, tolerant liberal. Logically, one is forced to at least one of four conclusions. A) Mr. Brake is not a liberal. B) Liberals are in fact not tolerant or magnanimous. C) Mr. Brake lacks the ability to be introspective about his own writing. Or, d) he resembles his claims about the conservatives he attacks, seeming to lack the acumen to discuss these matters intelligently, and so should probably avoid public forums like newspapers.
Which of these four apply? I have my opinions. Let the reader form their own.