Alexander joins the band: Andrew Alexander is the Washington Posts new ombudsman. A wonderful piece of unintentional irony crept into Sundays column.
Alexander was wondering why mainstream press organs, like the Post, didnt cover the Van Jones and ACORN stories more aggressively. Puzzling about that failure, he offered a hoary old idea: As the Church Lady might have asked, Could it be the Posts liberal bias?
ALEXANDER (9/20/09): One explanation may be that traditional news outlets like The Post simply don't pay sufficient attention to conservative media or viewpoints.
It can't be discounted, said Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. Complaints by conservatives are slower to be picked up by non-ideological media because there are not enough conservatives and too many liberals in most newsrooms.
"They just don't see the resonance of these issues. They don't hear about them as fast [and] they're not naturally watching as much," he added.
Post Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli said he worries that we are not well-enough informed about conservative issues. It's particularly a problem in a town so dominated by Democrats and the Democratic point of view.
Why didnt the Post cover these stories earlier? Alexander devoted the bulk of his column to a famous old theory: It may be the Posts liberal bias! It may be the dominance of the Democratic point of view!
The unintentional irony appears when we look at Brauchlis statement. Washington is dominated by...the Democratic point of view, he says. In saying that, he is of course giving voice the worlds oldest Republican talking-point! In talking about Democratic dominance, he exhibits Republican rule!
In what way is Washington dominated by the Democratic point of view? Democrats control the Congress and hold the White House, of course. But until recently, Republicans held both distinctions. During that period, did any official at the Post say that Washington was therefore dominated by the Republican point of view? That this dominance may explain the Posts failure to cover important issues? Wed be surprised if such statements can be found.
Too perfect! Brauchli expressed the Republican view when he swore to the force of the Democratic counterpoint. But then, this hoary old notion has played a key role in establishment Washingtons official GroupThink for a very long time now.
Was the Post slow to these stories due to liberal bias? Might we suggest a different theory? The Post was slow to cover these stories because these stories werent all that important. To his credit, Alexander at least considered this notion, early in his column:
ALEXANDER: Fox News, joined by right-leaning talk radio and bloggers, often hypes stories to apocalyptic proportions while casting competitors as too liberal or too lazy to report the truth.
But they're also occasionally pumping legitimate stories. I thought that was the case with ACORN and, before it, the Fox-fueled controversy that led to the resignation of White House environmental adviser Van Jones.
Alexander at least understands a key fact: Fox News and right-leaning radio often hype ridiculous stories. Here at THE HOWLER, wed describe the problem in stronger terms. But lets be candid. A guy who describes talkers like Hannity and Limbaugh as right-leaning is a guy whos too scared to speak straight.
Just a guess: Republican dominance put that silly, milquetoast term in this ombudsmans mouth.
Right-leaning! Too funny!
These are all matters of judgment, of course. But whatever a person may think of Van Jones, he simply wasnt a major White House player. Glenn Beck ran a largely crackpot crusade against Jones, often disinforming millions of viewers in the process. Jones went to prison and became a communist, Beck would constantly say. (That clip comes from his August 4 show.) Cracker, please! Thats apocalyptic junk. And guess what? When millions of people get disinformed in such ways, that might qualify as news too!
The Post didnt report that disinformationthe process by which millions of people were told that Obama had an important czar who went to prison and became a communist. But it didnt occur to Alexander to ask why the Post was silent about that. Wed say there are two likely reasons:
First, Alexander has absorbed a Republican point of view about whose outlook dominates Washington.
Second, there is no countervailing Democratic point of view! There is no narrative which might have made Alexander think twice before he joined a famous old band. For decades now, conservatives have spread the idea that liberal notions dominate Washington.
The notion was silly by the mid-1990s, of course. But when have Democrats spoken?
Special report: Liberals [HEART] race!
PART 2ACCUSATION IN BULK: Pseudo-liberals love the smell of racism in the morning. We love to attribute the trait to otherspromiscuously, by the millions, where possible. After that, we love to pretend that weve done no such thing. Gene Robinson deftly performed this move in last Fridays column, as many others have deftly done in the past few weeks:
ROBINSON (9/18/09): "The president does not believe that criticism comes based on the color of his skin," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs Wednesday. Obama is the most garrulous president in many years, but when a reporter asked him about Carter's remarks, he had not a word to say.
Nor do many other leading Democrats outside of the Congressional Black Caucuswant to touch this explosive subject. As a matter of political strategy, I don't blame them. The minute you observe that some of Obama's critics seem to be motivated by race, the critics howl that they're all being smeared as racists simply because they disagree with Obama's policies. This is not true.
Cracker, please! Of course we liberals have been suggesting that anyone who disagrees with Obama is doing so for racial reasons. In comment sections, unschooled liberals come out and say it. Skilled professionals, like Jonathan Alter, play the game like this:
MADDOW (9/15/09): The implication being, from President Carter, you know Sure, presidents all face opposition. A lot of them face unhinged opposition. But for President Obama, its different because of race. What did you think about that comment and what the reaction to it will be?
ALTER: Well, I think hes right. Not in every case. Its very important to say that many, maybe most people who oppose President Obama do not do so on the basis of race.
So fairand so balanced! And so in love with the smell of racism! Its isnt true in every case, Massah Jonathan grandly said. Indeed: Maybe most of Obamas critics arent racists, Ole Massah has grandly allowed. (Maybe!) But please! When someone makes such a sweeping statement, yesall critics are of course being tainted. And this is what President Carter had said. Maddow had just played the clip:
CARTER (9/14/09): I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity towards President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that hes African-American. And I think its bubbled up to the surface because of the belief among many white peoplenot just in the South but around the countrythat African-Americans are not qualified to lead this great country. Its an abominable circumstance and grieves me and concerns me very deeply.
Technically, it all depends on what the meaning of many is. In a nation of three hundred million souls, Carters statementabout many white peopleis surely technically accurate. But please. Carter made a vast, sweeping statementand in the past week or so, every liberal has been talking about the racism of Obamas critics. And we dont just focus on people like Limbaughpowerful individual players who are visibly playing race cards. We love to trash racists in bulk.
Duh. When so many people push this topicwhen we make it our central focusthen of course Obamas critics are being tainted, if you prefer to avoid the word smeared. But thats what we pseudo-liberals are like! We love to make or imply the mass accusation. After that, we love to deny that we ever did any such thing.
Just to recall, this was Democratic strategist Todd Websters skillful way of failing to smear Obamas critics last Thursday:
WEBSTER (9/17/09): Look, there are still crackers in this country. And its unfortunate. But its what it ishold on a second! But this is the base of the Republican party. Whether its the tea-baggers or the birthers or these other efforts to undermine the legitimacy of Barack Obama as president because hes a black man.
No attempt to smear wide groups of critics there! On Friday, Robinson was appalled to think that someone would take such words the wrong way.
Crackers, please! We liberals are quite promiscuous in our accusations of racism. We love the way the lovely charge feels as it rolls off the tongue. We say we take the subject seriously. If that were true, would we perhaps be a bit more careful in the way we toss such claims around?
Would we perhaps focus on the powerful public people who are clearly playing race cards? Would we perhaps rein in our desire to accuse people by the million?
Indeed, we liberals so love the smell of racism that we at THE HOWLER sometimes wonder if the word still has any meaning. Were so old that we can recall when racists would turn dogs and hoses on children, then murder their parents that night. Today, our definition has broadened considerably. We toss the term at everything that moves. It seems to bring joy to our lives.
We seem to love the feel of the word. We seem to love its smell in the morningand on MSNBC, through the night.
Tomorrowpart 3: Liberally defined.
Birbiglias spawn: Incomparably, were borrowing Cracker, please! from Mike Birbiglia, who once served as our lowly doorman (or something). The experience served him quite well. Just click here.