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CONTEMPT (PART 6)! For Bernie Goldberg, there’s only one rule. All roads must lead to lib bias:


ALL ROADS LEAD TO BIAS: Is the press corps driven by liberal bias—a Bias their Arrogance won’t let them confront? Bernie Goldberg has said so in two major books. But the general thesis is hard to support—unless you’re willing to swim in denial. And Bernie keeps getting all wet.

Is the press corps driven by liberal bias? Given the way they trashed Clinton, then Gore, the thesis may seem a bit shaky. But Bernie knows how to wish such problems away. Here’s an early passage from Arrogance where he tries to explain this small detail:

GOLDBERG (page 13): “Then what about the mainstream media’s treatment of Clinton? You can’t possibly think they went easy on him, can you?” is what liberals always ask.

It’s a fair question. And the answer is, no, they didn’t go easy on Clinton. The truth is, reporters will go after any politician—liberal or conservative—if the story is big enough and the politician is powerful enough.

Strange, isn’t it? The press corps is swimming in liberal bias—but they “didn’t go easy on Clinton,” this generation’s most important liberal pol! (Bernie doesn’t mention the trashing of Gore.) But then, Bernie can talk his way out of anything. Here’s the way he gets around the media’s coverage of Bush:
GOLDBERG (pages 10-11): Perhaps the charge liberals have been making most often to back their claim of conservative bias is that the media have given George W. Bush a free ride on some very important issues involving foreign policy and national security. For a while you could hardly open up a liberal magazine or go to a liberal Web site without finding some bitter screed about how the press was sucking up to the president on everything from the war in Iraq to supposed civil liberties abuses at home. But the truth is, all the media were doing was what the media always do in times of war: They were rallying round the flag.
Can’t you see? There’s an answer for everything! In BernieVille, the media can “go after Clinton” and give Bush “a free ride,” but they’re still thick with that rank liberal bias! Indeed, the liberal media can dump on blacks too. That doesn’t mean they’re not liberal:
GOLDBERG (pages 88-89): Now, let’s be perfectly honest about this. The bias on race cuts more than one way, meaning that a very different segment of the population—upper-middle-class white people—also often gets a free ride from the media. Reporters, local and national, have done a lot more stories about drugs in poor black neighborhoods than stories about drugs on college campuses, where most of the users are middle- and upper-middle-class white kids, to use one example.
Meanwhile, just as he did in Bias, Bernie mentions the way TV magazines try to keep black people out of their stories. But that doesn’t mean that these news orgs aren’t liberal; it just means that they’re hypocrites, too. “This is white media liberalism at its most hypocritical,” Bernie thunders. “I spent a lot of years with these people, and you have no idea what major-league phonies they can be.”

But what makes Bernie a major-league phony? In the two years since Bias appeared, a number of writers have offered critiques of the book’s major claims. For example, Eric Alterman challenged Bias in What Liberal Media; incomparably citing our own critiques, Alterman took on some of Bernie’s assertions right in his opening chapter. Indeed, Alterman did what real writers do; he repeated claims which Bernie had made, and then he offered contradictory evidence. In the rest of his book, Alterman sketched a nuanced theory about the press corps’ varying tendencies. Why, it tells you that right on the dust jacket: “Alterman finds the media to be far more conservative than liberal, though it is possible to find evidence for both views.”

But how did Bernie respond to such work? Simple! He simply ignored it! Alterman doesn’t appear in Arrogance; the research he cited is MIA too. Instead, Bernie offers clipped accounts of what liberals have said about media bias. He starts with Al Gore’s claim, in November 2002, that a group of conservative news orgs were “injecting the daily Republican talking points into the definition of what’s objective as stated by the news media as a whole.” Quickly, Bernie swung into action. We quote at length for a reason:

GOLDBERG (page 7): Once Al Gore spoke the gospel of conservative bias, it took only seconds for left-of-center journalists to start hopping on board the bandwagon.

“Al Gore said the obvious,” wrote the left-wing New York Times columnist Paul Krugman.

“The legend of the liberal media is finally dead,” proclaimed Joe Conason, the liberal columnist of the New York Observer.

“Sooner or later, I think we’re all going to have to acknowledge that the myth of liberal bias in the press is just that, it’s a myth,” according to Jack White, one of TIME magazine’s liberal columnists.

The true “new bias,” according to E. J. Dionne Jr., one of the many liberal columnists at the Washington Post, “adds up to [a] media heavily biased toward conservative politics and conservative politicians.”

All nuance is gone from what these writers have said, and Goldberg makes no attempt to produce or refute their real arguments. Instead, he overstates what they have alleged, and ridicules them for their “culture of denial.” “Deny! Deny! Deny!” he writes, as if repetition could replace a real argument. But it isn’t as if he presents no rebuttal. On page 9, Bernie quotes a joke by Jay Leno—a joke which implied that liberal bias exists. “The joke got a great big laugh,” Bernie says, “which ought to tell us something.” To Bernie, if Leno’s audience thinks that it’s true, that’s pretty much good enough.

But then, Goldberg is the consummate lightweight—the king of cut-and-paste pseudo-journalism. Did the media trash Clinton, then trash Gore? In Arrogance, that doesn’t matter. Bernie says that the media are liberal all the same—and later, he tries to claim that the New York Times pandered to Clinton and Gore (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/18/03). Howell Raines loved Clinton, he plainly implies—and he doesn’t tell his conservative readers that Raines trashed Clinton for year after year. The Times pandered to Candidate Gore, he implies. That too is major-league hooey, of course, as Alterman details in one whole chapter. But did we mention that Alterman didn’t make Bernie’s book? Neither does Campaign 2000! Incredibly, Bernie has written two full books about the corps’ liberal bias without mentioning the way they trashed Gore.

But then, Bernie’s book is just Pleasantville for pseudo-conservatives; all roads must lead to liberal bias. Did the press corps trash Clinton? So what? They’re still liberal! Reality—common sense; simple logic—can’t intrude. Which leads us to our final question: Why does Tim Russert love Bernie?

TOMORROW: Our “Days of Bernie” come to an end. And we cringe at his chapter on Russert.

LIVE BY THE CUT-AND-PASTE, DIE BY THE CUT-AND-PASTE: Are you surprised that Bernie peddles such pap? Don’t be. For the most part, he just cuts-and-pastes from other lightweights who have made such a joke of your discourse. For example, where did he get the parade of quotes we listed above—the quotes he placed on page 7 of Arrogance? He cut-and-pasted from the late Michael Kelly, who wrote two columns about media bias in the wake of Gore’s troubling remarks. In his first column, Kelly quoted what Gore had said. Then he wrote part of Bernie’s book for him:

KELLY (12/11/02): What Gore believes, it has become clear, is a new liberal group wisdom: The liberal media are no more; the national press, wittingly or not, now presents the news with a conservative slant.

“The legend of the liberal media is finally dead,” announces liberal New York Observer columnist Joe Conason.

“Sooner or later, I think we’re all going to have to acknowledge that the myth of the liberal bias in the press is just that, it’s a myth,” affirms liberal Time magazine columnist Jack White.

The true “new bias” of the media, reports liberal Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne Jr., “adds up to [a] media heavily biased toward conservative politics and conservative politicians.”

Indeed, agrees Democratic National Committee official Ann Lewis, “the idea of a ‘liberal media is a myth, and any of us could explode that myth in many ways.”

“Al Gore said the obvious,” writes the liberal New York Times columnist Paul Krugman.

Bernie only omitted Lewis. If you assume that he read the columns in question, you give him more credit than we do. But then, his books are largely cut-and-pasted—and so are his vacuous arguments.

Bernie just loves cut-and-pasting. In Bias, he cut-and-pasted from the MRC—and ended up slandering Natalie Angier for her thoughts about insect reproduction. In Arrogance, he cut-and-pasted from the same lousy source, this time slandering Howell Raines, for something a fishing guide said. And just for the record, when he cut-and-pasted from Michael Kelly, he fell into factual error again. Did Time’s Jack White “hop on board the bandwagon” after Gore’s comments about the media? That’s what Bernie clearly said, but once again, the scribe was all wet. White’s statement was made on November 15, 2002, on C-SPAN—several weeks before Gore’s comments. The error is trivial, but the method is not. Goldberg’s books are endlessly cut-and-pasted—and endlessly, Bernie makes no attempt to check out the work he has borrowed.

By the way, Goldberg showed a bit of discretion as he cut-and-pasted from Kelly. How weird was Kelly’s second column on media bias? Even Bernie wouldn’t cut-and-paste it! See THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/19/02; scroll down to the final report. At the time, we asked why the Post would publish such nonsense. That question still looks good today.