Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Right-wing Media

In today's Washington Post, E.J. Dionne notices the double standard that has taken hold of the media, where radical right-wing views and opinions are treated as mainstream, whereas the left is represented only by moderates who are called to defend themselves against the charges levelled by this extreme right-wing elements:

If you doubt that there is a conservative inclination in the media, consider which arguments you hear regularly and which you don't. When Rush Limbaugh sneezes or Newt Gingrich tweets, their views ricochet from the Internet to cable television and into the traditional media. It is remarkable how successful they are in setting what passes for the news agenda.

The power of the Limbaugh-Gingrich axis means that Obama is regularly cast as somewhere on the far left end of a truncated political spectrum. He's the guy who nominates a "racist" to the Supreme Court (though Gingrich retreated from the word yesterday), wants to weaken America's defenses against terrorism and is proposing a massive government takeover of the private economy. Steve Forbes, writing for his magazine, recently went so far as to compare Obama's economic policies to those of Juan Peron's Argentina.

Democrats are complicit in building up Gingrich and Limbaugh as the main spokesmen for the Republican Party, since Obama polls so much better than either of them. But the media play an independent role by regularly treating far-right views as mainstream positions and by largely ignoring critiques of Obama that come from elected officials on the left.

Dionne is right to notice this, but he's waaaaaay late to the party. Media watchers have noted for years that extreme right-wing opinion is frequently given a prominent voice and respectable treatment that radical leftists can only dream of. Remember when Pat Robertson called for the assassination of Hugo Chavez or the bombing of the U.S. State Department? And yet he is still treated with respect and his on air opinions solicited by mainstream news networks. And studies of the run up to the Iraq war proved conclusively that pro-war opinon vastly outnumbered the war's critics, and that this was by design.

So it's wrong of Dionne to try to blame Democrats for "raising" Limbaugh and Gingrich. The mainstream media has done it for them for decades without any help.

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