Author, Lecturer, Ethicist

The Myth of the Liberal Media


At the outset, let's begin by telling a blatant truth: that the myth that American society - its politics, culture and moral values - are being threatened - if not under lethal attack - by the so-called "liberal media" is just that . . . an utter myth.  Media (being the plural of medium) can be defined as the main means of mass communication (broadcasting, publishing and the Internet) regarded collectively.  By definition, it is neither liberal nor conservative; it is just media. However, as most of us know, the term "liberal media" has, over the past decade or so, become a phrase of damnation, an odious anathematization which instantly condemns the bearers of what may well be objective, fact-based truths, to an execrable fate. To blame something on "the liberal media" is, in essence, to declare Beelzebub the editor, and Mephistopheles the publisher. And where or where might the proof reside? In the mere fact that the published piece opposes, disagrees, or even, God forbid - disproves,  what your side knows to be  self-evident truth.

The truth is that contemporary American media itself is neither liberal nor conservative.  Rather, it is what it has long been: corporate.  American history is dotted with the names of corporate media barons: Hearst, Pulitzer, McCormick, Ochs, and Chandler in days of yore, and today, Murdoch, Bloomberg and Smith (the latter being the head of Sinclair Broadcast Group, which controls a hefty slice of America's evening news broadcasts from coast-to-coast.) Generally speaking, corporate America tends to be conservative  . . . unless there are greater profits to be realized in being liberal.  This is not meant to be snide; it is reality.  For that which drives big business is profit, and wherever profits are to be best realized, that is where corporate American will plant its flag.

Case in point: ever since the beginning of '45's administration, MSNBC''s and CNN's ratings have been on the rise.  And although Fox News  is still on top, the two "liberal cable outfits" are getting closer and closer.  As a result, NBC's (which oversees MSNBC) new Chairman Andy Lack started restaffing his lineup with conservatives like Nicole Wallace (a former spokeswoman for President George W. Bush and, later, the 2008 presidential campaign of John McCain and Sarah Palin); conservative activist and radio host Hugh Hewitt, and former Fox News anchor Greta Van Susteran.  (It should be noted that after a couple of months of occupying a late afternoon slot, Van Susteran was fired.)  In other words, NBC wanted to restock their shelves with conservatives.  By any stretch, this is not what a liberal media outlet would do.  What it is, is the activity of a corporate giant seeking to add conservative muscle.

For many, the definition of "liberal media" begins and ends with elitism; they see in the various "liberal" anchors men and women who look down their noses at John and Jane America.  Admittedly, it is true that the evening lineup of MSNBC is top-heavy with Ivy League-educated folks. Consider that:

  • 7:00-8:00 pm: Chris Matthews: B.A. Holy Cross; lecturer, Harvard University
  • 8:00-9:00: Christ Hayes: B.A Brown University
  • 9:00-10:00: Rachel Maddow: B.A. Stanford. Rhodes Scholar, D. Phil, Oxford Univ.
  • 10:00-11:00: Lawrence O'Donnell:  B.A. Harvard Univ. 
  • Legal Affairs: Ari Melber: B.A. Michigan; LLB Cornell Law

One may wish to compare this to the Fox News lineup:7:00-8:00:

  • 7:00-8:00: Martha MacCallum: B.A. St. Lawrence
  • 8:00-9:00: Tucker Carlson: B. Trinity College
  • 10:00-11:00: Sean Hannity: Dropped out of Adelphi Univ.

One can easily see how Fox-fans might connect an Ivy League education with being a liberal elitist. (It should be noted that one of MSNBC's in-house conservatives, the aforementioned Hugh Hewitt, has an A.B. from Harvard and a law degree from Michigan, and NIcolle Wallace earned her B.A. at Berkeley.)  But this is beside the point.  MSNBC, like CNN and Fox News, while definitely being part of the media, are not unbiased news organizations, although one can give points to CNN and especially MSNBC for doing some groundbreaking investigative reporting and having reporters stationed around the world. Having said this, if it's real, basically unbiased news you want, go to such outlets as the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and a handful of regional papers.  Even National Public Radio - despite its reputation for being stridently liberal - is a great source for objective news. This is not to say that these papers and media sources do not have their political bent. They do. However, to the greatest extent imaginable, they keep their opinions to their op-ed pages, while saturating their news pages with wire service and bureau news.  And regardless of what '45 may tweet, neither the Times nor the Post are failing and about to shut their doors. As for NPR (and PBS), which conservatives know for a fact are funded by the federal government (and their favorite Bête noire George Soros), and should go the way of the Dodo bird, their legions of small-contribution listeners and viewers are actually expanding.  

So far, we've only dealt with national media outlets.  Statistics show that a strong majority (57%) get their news and views from cable, local or nightly network news, compared to 38% online (social media, websites/apps), 25% radio and 20% print newspapers.  (Tellingly, many conservatives, libertarians and fans of talk radio would be predisposed to dismiss these statistics because they come from a recent Pew Research Center poll, which Limbaugh, Hannity, Savage et al consider to be latter-day Stalinists.)  As mentioned at the outset, media itself is neither liberal nor conservative; it is corporate.  And if a corporation with significant holdings in radio and television stations determines they can make more money by pushing conservatism and damning the opposition for presenting "fake news," so be it.  Got to keep those dollars rolling in; got to keep the shareholders happier than pigs in slop.  When Fox or OAN report that the POTUS has created a "Presidential Commission on Election Integrity" (PCEI) due to the "fact" that had not more than three million ineligible voters cast ballots last November, he would have easily won the popular vote, that's considered unbiased news (at least by those who tune in to Fox or OAN).  However, when The New York Times, Bloomberg or NPR report the same story - along with an interview or quotes from people who specialize in voter fraud and can prove that no such irregularities occurred - that is "fake news."  (By the way, Kansas Sec. of State Kris Kobach, the man who '45 appointed to head the PCEI earned his B.A. at Harvard, an M.A. and PhD from Brasenose College, Oxford, and his law degree at Yale.)  

Over the last several years, Sinclair Broadcasting Group (which is on the verge of a $3.9 billion merger with Tribune Media), has been supplying local TV news broadcasts with canned, conservative "news" videos which are seamlessly run on dozens upon dozens of stations across the country. Sinclair distributes news scripts to its stations, one of which suggested the FBI’s investigation into President Trump's former national security adviser Michael Flynn was politically or personally motivated. “Did the FBI have a personal vendetta in pursuing the Russian investigation against President Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn?” Sinclair anchors asked. In a devastating bit of satire, HBO's John Oliver pointed toward segments which prove that Sinclair media tells its stations they “must run,” which include right-wing video op-eds from Sinclair executive Mark Hyman and the station’s chief political analyst, former '45 campaign surrogate Boris Epshteyn.

In a recent email, my old college chum Jon Pearson shared the following thought about the "liberal media."

As Lawrence O'Donnell would say, "Let's give Jon the last word":

 I rarely watch FOX news. Perhaps I should. But every time I turn it on I see some good-looking blonde woman sitting on a couch with two or three men commiserating about how bad the Democrats, Obama, Hillary etc. are. Rarely do they talk about numbers…always values and visions. Twenty-two million Americans may be thrown off health care if the new Republican bill passes. The number is never mentioned on FOX…only the values “freedom of choice” for all Americans…vision…a country where you can choose. (Yeah, and your choices suck if you happen to be old, sick, or poor…How about: we ALL pay something…all of our rates go down…because it is INSURANCE…and any of us (young and healthy included) may get sick or hit by a bus. That principle is never brought up. Stay with a sterling value “Freedom” “Responsibility” (except for your responsibility to others)…”Independence”…etc. Also, if FOX doesn’t have the facts they fill them in. If CNN doesn’t have all the facts they “they can’t be sure.” “We can’t be sure at this point what Trump knew or when.” When not sure FOX simply floats a story they make up. This is neither “liberal” nor truly “conservative” it is BS.

179 days down, 1,278 to go.

Copyright©2017 Kurt F. Stone