The Right’s “Liberal Media Bias” Crutch
Some days I get the sense that if a conservative were to play the classic board game, Clue, they would bypass all the likely suspects – Miss Scarlet, Colonel Mustard, Professor Plum, etc. – and name “the liberal media” as the guilty party every time.
The entire conservative conspiracy about the “liberal media” began as yet another outgrowth of the Bircher-infested origins of the modern right, a convenient scapegoat for why things like Barry Goldwater’s epic electoral loss occurred. Many of the conservative leaders then, like now, knew that the claim was largely bunk – but it was a convenient shiny thing to distract the rubes and led to multimillion dollar organizations like the Media Research Center.
But now the rote claim of liberal media bias has become yet another Frankenstein’s monster, outside of the control of the conservative establishment and Republican leadership. The convenient lizard-brain response of blaming the liberal media has now done the work of excusing away poor conservative performance, short-circuiting attempts to correct course.
Look at the 2008 and 2012 elections. In the conservative mind, Obama protected by what some loons have described as the “palace guard” media, was able to defeat obviously superior Republican candidates like Mitt Romney and John McCain (oddly, they often also blame the dastardly liberal media for sabotaging true conservatives in the Republican primaries and saddling them with characters like Romney and McCain – playing both sides!)
The idea that people were able to weigh both candidates in their mind and make a selection in favor of the dark-skinned man of Kenyan lineage is repulsive to them. The media bias storyline is far more believable, and their chosen news outlets amplify this world view. Rush said it, Fox confirmed and that’s all they need.
Now obviously, it isn’t as if liberals don’t critique the media. In fact, some of us liberals make a living doing just that. But aside from some who see the invisible hand of a faceless, evil corporation everywhere, it isn’t an article of mainstream progressive thought the way it is a cottage industry on the right (an average program from Rachel Maddow or Ed Schultz complains far more about Republican elected officials than an average episode of Limbaugh or Hannity whines about the liberal press.)
Take the case of Marco Rubio’s response to the State of the Union. As I’ve written ad nauseum, it is a thankless job and nobody basically ever gets it right. In fact, Rubio did as best as one can do when handed such a turkey of an opportunity. I’d certainly argue that his performance was better than the horrible tag team of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi from a few years ago (though nobody will probably do as poorly as Bobby Jindal in my lifetime.)
But then came Rubio’s water gymnastics. The attention paid to the moment confirms in the conservative mind the conspiracy of a liberal media out to “get” conservative figures. But those of us who rended our garments after hearing Gore’s 2000 sigh a million times and Howard Dean’s 2004 scream 70 trillion times know that the true bias of the media is towards triviality and stupidity.
Look at the way the press salivates over every utterance and appearance by Vice President Biden in the hopes that he’ll make a “gaffe.” It isn’t because they’re biased right wing haters (outside of Fox, of course) but rather that’s just how it rolls.
The liberal media thing has become a crutch, a convenient target of conservative ire that encourages their increasingly elderly base to shake their fists towards the heavens, expecting the clouds to react.