Friday, May 30, 2003

Conservative Journalists' Dirty Little Secret

Reposted - a conservative at The Weekly Standard came clean -

The interviewer asked, "Why have conservative media outlets like The Weekly Standard and Fox News Channel become more popular in the past few years?"

You might expect the answer to come back something about the popularity of President Bush or the rise of nationalism after 9/11. But Labash was honest enough not to spin.

Conservative news organizations are popular, he admitted, "because they feed the rage. We bring the pain to the liberal media. I say that mockingly, but it's true somewhat.... While these hand-wringing Freedom Forum types talk about objectivity, the conservative media likes to rap the liberal media on the knuckles for not being objective. We've created this cottage industry in which it pays to be un-objective.... It's a great way to have your cake and eat it too. Criticize other people for not being objective. Be as subjective as you want. It's a great little racket."

Disregard, for a moment, the post-modern ironic tone of those remarks; it masks their underlying seriousness. Instead, let's examine more closely what that quote really says about the motivations of the conservative press.

Let's feed the rage...

There are lots of pissed-off people out there, Labash admits, enough to support a weekly magazine or a cable news channel. Usually they're white men anxious about their socio-economic status in a country with rapidly changing demographics. Conservative journalists cater to these disgruntled types by stirring the pot. I suspect that liberals would rather calm angry passions than incite them, that they seek harmony rather than promote division, and as earnest as that may sound, I still think it's better.

While these hand-wringing Freedom Forum types talk about objectivity...
In Labash's construction, the media is triangulated between conservatives, liberals and handwringers who schlep along the sidelines and babble about ethics. The idea that there are any objective journalists, or even just journalists who try to be objective, is apparently a complete fiction. So much for fair and balanced.

It pays to be un-objective.... It's a great little racket.

Well, yes -- but give Labash points for admitting it. I've long thought that one reason conservatives have come to dominate the political media is because it pays better to be right-wing. Just look at David Brock, who made far more working for the American Spectator than he ever would have at The Nation. And back when The Weekly Standard started, new hires such as editors Fred Barnes and Bill Kristol were paid several hundred thousand dollars. That's about the sum total of the salaries of the entire New Republic. Which raises the question: Who wants to be the liberal Rupert Murchoch? Someone? Please?

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