SURE, IT'S LIKE SHOOTING FISH IN A BARREL, BUT I can't resist sharing some of the extraordinary examples of liberal press bias tossed my way. Masochism to read them, perhaps, but I'm a judge for the Media Research Center's 15th annual "awards for the year's worst reporting," and I want you, dear reader, to share some of the pain.
Let's look first at press paranoia. CNN's Judy Woodruff on May 16 talked of purported "news from the White House that President Bush knew that al-Qaeda was planning to hijack a U.S. airliner and he knew it before September the 11th." The next day on ABC's Good Morning America, Charles Gibson asked, "Was the president really surprised" by news of the 9/11 attacks?
Dan Rather, also without evidence but blurting out his suspicions to Don Imus on May 22, broadened the conspiracy: "The attorney general of the United States, just before September 11th, started inexplicably taking private aircraft to places where normally the attorney general wouldn't take private aircraft." Seymour Hersh, formerly of The New York Times and now writing for the New Yorker, called John Ashcroft "demented," but folks who think TeamBush planned or anticipated the destruction that occurred on Sept. 11 are conspiracy nuts.
Hatred of big corporations, particularly in the oil industry, has once again been a press theme. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote about "Mr. Bush and his oil-industry paymasters" and amplified that sneer in an Oct. 17 interview with Rolling Stone: "These guys are bought and paid by Big Oil in America." Time magazine on Nov. 4 stretched far to bring in other guilt by association: "The military-style gun used in the sniper attacks--named, unfortunately for the White House, Bushmaster XM15--was manufactured by a company owned by Richard Dyke, a Bush fundraiser."
Juggling of cause and effect has been common. The New York Times reported on Jan. 21, "Since the early 1970s, the number of state prisoners has increased 500 percent, growing each year in the 1990s even as crime fell." It seems more likely that crime has fallen because criminals have been locked up. CBS on July 16 offered investment advice based on two pieces of evidence: "Last week the president spoke, the market went down. Yesterday, the president spoke, the market went down. Should he be quiet for a while?"
Is a little knowledge a dangerous thing? Journalists know that the 1950s were "the McCarthy years," and that was bad. They don't understand the threat that prompted Sen. Joseph McCarthy's exaggerations and lies. The New York Times on Feb. 24 complained "that the war on terrorism was starting to look suspiciously like the great American campaign--against Communism.... The McCarthy years in some ways were eerily similar to the present moment.... Communists were often conceived as moral monsters whose deviousness and unwavering dedication to their faith made them capable of almost anything." Sadly, many Communists were highly dedicated moral monsters capable of almost anything.
Liberal journalists' defenses against charges of bias often show how deep the bias goes. NBC's Tom Brokaw said on July 25 that he didn't see "a liberal agenda. It happens that journalism will always be spending more time on issues that seem to be liberal to some people: the problem of civil rights and human rights, the problem of those people who don't have a place at the table with the powerful." But those issues are not liberal: Liberals have kept the poor on the government plantations, and compassionate conservatives are trying to free them.
I don't want to seem unduly critical of journalism in 2002. After all, CNN on Sept. 3 narrowed down for worried viewers the possibilities concerning Osama bin Laden: "Experts Agree: Al-Queda Leader Is Dead or Alive." And The Washington Post offered good news in its Oct. 4 front-page headline concerning the people of different races and ethnicities killed by the sniper in Montgomery County, Maryland: "County's Growing Diversity Reflected in Those Gunned Down."
I have to conclude, though, that some reporters are really weird. Time magazine's Joel Stein reported on July 29 his experience at a fundraising dance party for former Attorney General Janet Reno, who was trying to become governor of Florida. He wrote, "I leave my friends behind and rush the stage to try to dance with Reno, only to find myself in a small group of men living the same fantasy." Sorry, guys, I've never had that fantasy.