The following material is derived from EXTRA! (July/August 1998), and was taken from Anarchy for Anybody.


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!*


Right-wing media groups provide ammo for "Liberal Media" claims
by Peter Hart and Steve Rendall

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."

a4a: In the Soviet Union's heyday, such people were called Commissars, sort of like thought police.

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).

I think the liberal media thing primarily addresses how regular reporters ask questions and write articles. I agree with you that when it comes to over the top unabashed opinions being expressed, conservatives dominate the market. When it comes to supposedly unbiased interviews and articles, however, I do think there is a bit of a leftist leaning. I don't think it is as pronounced as a lot of conservatives make it out to be, however. Routinely, I hear liberal politicians making assertions which go unchallenged, whereas there will be followup questions challenging conservatives. That's what sells, though. Conservatives railing against the system. You can't sell that POV without something to rail against.

Addendum 09-15-2005

The actions of the media in more recent times, along with the continuing redrawing of ideological lines has made me rethink a few things. The reality is that in the media, the liberals have won. They won a long time ago. What we have in the media are warring liberal factions. Both camps believe in government control over people's lives, though they each have their own agendas regarding emphasis. All the popular parties believe in using the government as a force to redesign the world as they see fit. They only differ in the details. The old conservative movement, as espoused by Robert Taft is dead. I think that conservatism really morphed into something different following World War II. That war changed a lot of people's minds about what government should and should not do. No real small government conservatives served as President after that, though they did still speak the rhetoric for a while. With George W. Bush, we finally have an end to the rhetoric. He doesn't even speak small government. He is the most effectively liberal President ever to occupy the office. That's one of the reason he gets a pass on so many things from the media.

The media loves government programs. Perhaps this is because big stories are made bigger by government. Oppressive governments cause famine and war quite frequently, and these are exciting stories to watch. I don't think this is a conscious thought on the part of journalists. I don't think they say to themselves "I hope a lot of people die horribly today," but I think there is a small part of them which does, just so they can be in the middle of the action, sort of like how a part of a lot of people wants to see a disaster happen, just to see it. Just like a lot of people watch NASCAR for the wrecks.

The corporate American media is not liberal. Just think of how quickly their news outlets began to beat the drum of war when it became clear George W. Bush's eyes were set on invading Iraq. The absence of rational debate about whether or not a war should take place, the lack of coverage of the anti-war movement, and the media's reliance on journalists embedded with the US military shows where the bias lay.

The people who own media outlets want their political views to be reflected in the coverage of those media outlets. It's no coincidence that Fox News, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch, a staunch conservative, is conservative as well. If you own something, you can make it say what you want, and you can make it leave out what you want.

In this respect, the liberal media in America is a myth: although there exist individual reporters who are certainly left wing, the ownership is conservative.

In another way, the liberal media is very much alive. It is a media that is not necessarily left wing, but that is free of corporate control.

You just have to look and listen a little harder for it. Alternative news outlets, such as those run out of local campus and cooperative radio stations, public access televison, and independent newspapers, can offer an ideological counter to the coverage offered by corporate media outlets. Pacifica radio, NPR, radio shows such as Democracy Now! and Free Speech Radio News and the web-based Independent Media Center all offer various "degrees" of independent coverage for newsies seeking different viewpoints.

I use two rules when I get news. I remember that all media are biased, and I try to gather information from a variety of sources with varied ownership.

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