WHAT Liberal Media?
I keep hearing references to the "liberal
media" or the "ultra-liberal press"
and I wonder who they are talking about. Do they mean
the chain of papers founded by that famous
"liberal" William Randolph Hearst? Or maybe
the chain of papers owned by Dan Quayle's parents?
With the exception of the "Weekly Worker"
and a few others, most newspapers are owned by rich
people, and the rich tend to be pretty conservative.
One of the distinguishing characteristics of
conservatives is that they are generally intolerant
of any ideas that differ from their own. Liberals, on
the other hand, tend to hold that people have a right
to their own opinions, even if we don't particularly
The view of the media (both print and film) as
"liberal" appears to have begun with
McCarthyism and the Communist paranoia of the 50's.
Anyone who dared oppose Senator Joe and his fellow
inquisitors was immediately branded a "Communist
sympathizer" and found himself (or herself)
being investigated, harassed, blacklisted and
assassinated by innuendo. When the press started to
question the excesses of these witch hunts, they,
too, were branded. The attitude seems to have stuck,
at least in the minds of many conservatives.
Prior to the Vietnam war, the press pretty much
accepted as gospel anything the government said. Oh
sure, there were editorials deflating particular
politicians, but major decisions weren't questioned.
It wasn't until CIA staffer Daniel Ellsberg leaked
the Pentagon Papers (a Rand Corporation study of the
history of the Vietnam war, commissioned by the
Pentagon) to the press that they really started to
question what had been going on.
It seems that the Vietnamese simply wanted their
country back from the French and were willing to
fight for it. They had asked for our help in 1948,
thinking that since we have always declared ourselves
to be the defenders of democracy, we would help them.
They even modeled their declaration of independence
on ours. They were wrong. We felt we owed more
allegiance to our allies, the French, than to a
third-world people struggling to escape from colonial
It turned out that our own government had been
lying to us in a major way. And once that log had
been rolled over, all kinds of bugs started crawling
out. We found that counts of "Viet Cong
killed" often included anyone who happened to be
in the village. After all, any of them could be Viet
Cong. We found that "pacifying" a village
meant destroying it. And the counts of our own
fatalities often stopped when we ran out of body
bags. Couldn't let the folks back home get
discouraged about the war, now, could we? But it was
hard to ignore the footage of Buddhist monks setting
themselves on fire in protest.
Then Watergate hit. A couple of reporters got a
tip that there was more to this little break-in than
met the eye, and started to dig. They uncovered a
network of espionage, sabotage and coverup that
extended all the way to the President himself. Were
they "attacking" the President? When the
press uncovers evidence of welfare fraud, do the
conservatives accuse them of "attacking"
people on welfare?
Was it "liberal" of the press to report
all this? In the sense that the press was recognizing
and reporting on beliefs and opinions that differed
from this country's party line, I guess maybe it was.
I think it was just doing its job.
So the next time you hear someone complain about
the "liberal media," remember that the
first thing a totalitarian government does is to
suppress the expression of any differing opinions by
shutting down the free press. Just salute and say