The supposedly liberal media are out to thwart Chris Christie's presidential bid, according to conservative critics. Please.
This bilge is the latest in a long line of silly attempts to paint journalists as partisan firebrands. The detractors' evidence of this leftie persecution is that, well, the media run negative stories about conservatives and Republicans. Conveniently overlooked is the bad press that liberals and Democrats receive.
Typical of the persecution narrative is a post on Breitbart.com that "media outlets" are "gearing up to dismantle the popular image of Chris Christie." Noah Rothman, writing on Mediaite.com, charges that the New York Times was getting ready to "make a Mitt Romney out of Chris Christie," by dwelling on the New Jersey governor's "bullying." Radio talker Rush Limbaugh claims the media "has just glommed onto that like bees in a honeycomb so that they don't have to talk about the Gates book," which knocked some of President Barack Obama's policies.
Missing from these complaints is proof that the New York Times and other news providers are scheming to undermine Republican pols and support Dems. Do the critics have transcripts from editorial meetings? Inside sources who report on newsroom plots? Likely not. Just assumptions that journalists are out to get 'em.
In reality, Democrats suffer loads of negative coverage when they get into a jam. As New York's governor, Eliot Spitzer received plenty of it for his arrogant handling of the state legislature, especially using the state police to spy on the Senate majority leader. Then the Times broke the story that Spitzer patronized a prostitution ring, and he resigned in disgrace. News stories about Rod Blagojevich's corruption were legion, culminating in his ouster as Illinois governor and 14-year prison sentence. During the 1998 Monica Lewinsky scandal, Bill Clinton was a media piñata, so much so that some criticized the media for over-doing it.
Media detractors on the right contend that their side gets disproportionately bad press. That's highly questionable. Let's look at the Media Research Center, a conservative organization dedicated to denigrating journalists, and its complaint that coverage of Christie's bridge scandal was far higher than of the Internal Revenue Service's scrutiny of Tea Party groups.
If this is true, bias has nothing to do with it. Christie is a potential presidential contender, and the three-day traffic jam in Fort Lee, N.J., that his aides engineered is an outrage everyone can understand. The targeting of Tea Party groups postponed their receiving tax-exempt status. Creepy, yes, but that's not on the same scale as a three-day traffic snarl that blocked school buses and ambulances from moving. And besides, the IRS also targeted some left-wing groups. Moreover, shouldn't the alleged liberal advocates in the media have given the IRS story zero coverage?
Regardless of its dubious merits, anti-media complaining is part of conservative orthodoxy. And it makes for very effective propaganda, relentlessly delivered, which has seeped into the popular culture -- to the point that a Gallup survey last fall found that 46 percent of the American people think the media are biased toward the left (37 percent believe that news folk play it down the middle).
That flies in the face of a Pew Research Center poll showing that most journalists are moderates. Moreover, it ignores the realities of newsroom culture, where finding doctrinaire believers in any cause is very hard. Even news people who say they are conservative or liberal emerge, when you talk to them, as wishy-washy about their ideological leanings. The truth is that, whether in the media or the public as a whole, not everybody is political.
Anti-media propaganda is very helpful to the right, uniting its followers against a powerful perceived enemy and giving its politicians cover if they run into trouble. By and large, the mainstream media let them get away with such baloney, seldom issuing correctives.
Some conservatives' media hatred is palpable. In 2011, Limbaugh said on his show that "it was being breathlessly reported" that Egyptian soldiers were arresting foreign reporters, including two from the Times: "Are we supposed to feel outrage - I don't feel any outrage over it. Are we supposed to feel anger - I don't feel anger over this. Do we feel happy? Well, do we feel kinda going like: Nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah."
So here was a pundit, sitting in the comfort and safety of his studio, mocking brave journalists who put their lives on the line trying to find out what was happening in riot-torn Egypt and inform the public. To the haters, it is evidently inconceivable that journalists are simply working to discover what is going on.
A favorite anti-media technique is to project ideological motives onto reporters' work. Thus, Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan, a former Reagan speechwriter, writes that Bill Clinton's chiding of Barack Obama over the botched health law rollout was marching orders for the servile Fifth Estate to do critical stories on the president.
Hmmm, isn't that the same media who hounded Clinton over Lewinsky? Why didn't they take orders from him in 1998?
The Drudge Report wrote that, after the screwed-up Oct. 1 launch of Obamacare, "the media tried to cover it up for over a week" and bought the White House's line that problems were solely due to a popular surge.
Um, not quite. The MSM chronicling of the train wreck was extensive and immediate. On launch day, the account in the Times did include the Obama Administration's popular-surge excuse (as it should have) and the Republicans' assessment of disaster (as it should have). But the story also recounted numerous anecdotes of snags that pointed to the unfolding mess ahead.
Leading up to the launch, the Times had a spate of articles about the law's shortcomings, such as its forcing municipal workers out of their generous plans, about how Democratic aides who drafted Obamacare were cashing in on their backgrounds and that many consumers faced fewer choices of doctors and hospitals.
Trouble is, when an entire profession occupies a prominent place in the right's roster of demons, disabusing conservatives of their illusions is next to impossible.