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8 March 2002

Our current howler (part I): And it counts!

Synopsis: The Washington Times is wracked with liberal bias—and Andrew Sullivan knows how you can prove it.

Freedom From the Press
Frank Rich, The New York Times, 3/2/02

He likes to start you off with some lying. Over at our most hapless dotcom, the nonsense got started like this:

LIBERAL MEDIA BIAS WATCH: Frank Rich recently described the notion of liberal media bias, as documented by Bernie Goldberg as "ludicrous." That’s the kind of remark one simply cannot find an adequate response to. [sic]

According to Sullivan, Rich "described the notion of liberal media bias…as ludicrous." But here’s what the New York Times scribe actually said; incredibly, Sully linked to his column:

RICH: The night before the world got the news of Daniel Pearl’s death, you could hear another reporter describing the perils of his profession in a talk carried on C-Span. The journalist was Bernard Goldberg, formerly of CBS News and author of the best-selling "Bias," and his story was tragic.

Mr. Goldberg, you see, had once written an op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal criticizing his network for what he saw as its liberal bias, and the price he paid for this act of courage was steep. His fellow employees considered him radioactive. They treated him like a pariah. And then came the ultimate indignity: Dan Rather stopped talking to him!

Mr. Goldberg might still be telling his tale of woe, had not terrorism intervened and rendered his tale of self-martyrdom on behalf of Mr. Pearl’s newspaper ludicrous. [emphasis added]

We’ve asked you before—can Sullivan read? Those who can will note what Rich said; he said that Goldberg’s "tale of self-martyrdom" was ludicrous, not the notion of liberal bias. Those who can read will note that Rich didn’t state his view on that topic.

But this is fairly standard stuff at America’s most ludicrous dotcom. Routinely, Sullivan misreps op-ed pieces to which he provides direct links. Translation: Sullivan is so sure that the cattle can’t read that he’s willing to lie in their unblinking faces. Does anyone at this oddball dotcom ever link—and give up on its host?

But with Sully, the lies are just foreplay. Yesterday, he quickly "defer[red] to a young and fearless blogger," Patrick Ruffini, who had done "a quick statistical analysis of the use of the term ‘right-wing’ in a couple of major papers." Trembling over his acolyte’s brilliance, Sullivan quoted at length:

RUFFINI, AS QUOTED BY SULLIVAN: Since 1996, the Washington Post has used this loaded term ["right-wing"] more than twice as frequently as "left-wing"…This disparity was even more palpable at the New York Times, where 80.2% of the left-right mentions on the national news pages since 1996 have spotlighted the right. The research also found that the more loaded and derogatory the phrase, the more likely it was to be associated with the political right. The term "conservative" outpolled "liberal" by 66-34% in New York Times news page mentions, while the aforementioned "right-wing" clocked in at 80% in a similar measure. However, the term "right-wing extremist" was used at least six times as frequently than "left-wing extremist" (at 87.4% since ’96 in the Times). [emphasis added]

If that didn’t prove it, nothing would. At the New York Times, "right-wing extremist" was used much more often than "left-wing extremist." Case closed.

But duh. Does unequal usage of those terms show a liberal bias? We were dubious, so we did a test—we checked out the use of these terms at the Washington Times. How many times did the Wes Pruden rag use those terms in the last five years? Our finding? The Washington Times reeks of liberal bias! In fact, its liberal bias is even worse than that found in the Times of New York!

That’s right, folks. Over the past five years, NEXIS says that "left-wing extremist" has appeared in the Washington Times all of eight times total. But the term "right-wing extremist" has appeared there 72 times, exactly nine times as often. Surely this fact doesn’t mean that the paper is full of liberal bias. But that’s the conclusion that Sullivan’s method would force us to reach. There’s a word for such a dude. It’s "poseur."

Alas! Ruffini simply counted the use of certain expressions, then leaped to conclusions about liberal bias. There are so many problems with this technique that it would take a whole book to explain them. But no matter. The Brainy Brit quickly bought his method, and soon was broadcasting drek to the planet.

That’s right, gang. If you buy the Brainy Brit’s latest researched technique, the Washington Times is swimming in liberal bias. Count Ruffini will live to research again. But where in the world—where on earth—did we find his hapless promoter?

Next: Motive mavens

The Times, D.C. and Gotham: Ruffini charted the usage of his selected expressions "since 1996." According to NEXIS, if you start your search at 1/1/96, here’s how the Times Two stack up:

The Washington Times:
Right-wing extremist: 86 uses
Left-wing extremist: 9 uses

The New York Times:
Right-wing extremist: 75 uses
Left-wing extremist: 9 uses

According to Sullivan’s brilliant technique, the WashTimes has slightly more liberal bias. Question: Where in the world—where on earth—did we ever come up with this dud?


The Daily update (3/8/02)

In a word, disgusting: It only gets worse at the Washington Times. As if its suffocating "liberal bias" weren’t bad enough, the paper now has begun to undermine the commander at chief at time of war. On Thursday, the paper’s page one lead headline read "Military officers criticize rush to use ground troops/Rumsfeld rejects Somalia comparison." Rowan Scarborough was giving aid and comfort:

SCARBOROUGH (pgh 1): Military officers are privately criticizing U.S. tactics in the battle of Gardez, saying war commanders should have used air strikes for days or weeks before sending ground forces against 800 enemy troops in Afghanistan.

(2) "The way we lost those seven guys was a repeat of Somalia," said a senior Air Force officer, comparing Monday’s clash south of the city of Gardez to the 1993 Mogadishu mission.

First Tom Daschle—then this guy Scarborough! How dare he criticize our commanders while we are fighting our war on terrorism, especially when we have troops in the field? We think we’ll run over to and watch a patriot tear the guy limb from limb.