What Liberal Media?

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Conventional wisdom holds that the news media are overwhelming liberal. Eric Alterman contends that the opposite is true: “You’re only as Liberal as the Man Who Owns You.” Corporate magnates and advertisers determine what reaches the public.

Early chapters of What Liberal Media?: The Truth About Bias and the News review the key figures in the creation of the myth of the liberal media: George Will and Bill O’Reilly, among others, in television; David Broder and Howard Kurtz for the press; Rush Limbaugh and Matt Drudge on radio; and the authors of conservative books, especially those who write about the liberal bias.

After arguing that there is no social bias and no economic bias among journalists, Alterman asks how a supposedly liberal press could attack President Clinton as savagely and unreasonably as it did. Not just because “Limbaugh is, to put it bluntly, deranged,” as he wrote earlier, but because “the media showed themselves to be in the grip of a smug, hypocritical Puritanism.”

This became more obvious in the 2000 election when the media missed few opportunities to undermine Al Gore (with some help from Gore’s own poorly organized campaign) and to turn George W. Bush from a lying dunce into an appealing candidate. A true Florida recount, he says, would have been won by Gore under any scenario proposed. But the election was stolen first by the Bush team’s badgering, money, and volunteers, then by the Supreme Court.

Who does control the media? Rupert Murdoch owns a media empire, Richard Scaife funds conservative causes, and flagship newspapers such as the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal provide leadership.