In case you missed this week's top story, I half-agreed with something a New York Times editor wrote in a "Letter to the Editor" of his own paper. If nothing else, at least Bill Keller now knows how it feels to have to write an angry letter to the editors of the New York Times.
I wouldn't have mentioned it, but now that Keller has opened the door, Judge Posner did write a ridiculous review.
Reviewing a spate of books about the media last month, federal appellate court judge Richard Posner argued that all the complaints about the media from the right and left simply reflected how market forces are changing the news business. He says the mainstream media are "more liberal than they used to be" and attributes that to "the rise of new media ... pushing the already liberal media farther left."
His premise is obviously true – no industry can remain immune from the laws of supply and demand as long as there is competition. After a century of running an oligopoly, media chieftains are now facing competition for the first time – from the Internet, radio and cable TV. The Internet alone ensures that the supply will not abate.
But the result Posner sees doesn't correspond with either the laws of capitalism or my TV screen.
The old media aren't moving left: They already were left. If anything, they are moving to the right. (This can be hard to detect inasmuch as Pravda was their starting point.) When they resist, they lose customers.
That was precisely Keller's complaint with Posner. He objected to the idea that the august New York Times is subject to the laws of capitalism, blathering about reporters' "idealism" and their commitment to the craft of journalism, blah, blah, blah. Of course, if I were losing readers as fast as the New York Times, I might want to believe I was immune to the laws of the market, too.
Posner's description of the media, then and now, leaves the impression that he does not himself consume the news. Contrary to evidence, he says: "The rise of the conservative Fox News Channel caused CNN to shift to the left. CNN was going to lose many of its conservative viewers to Fox anyway, so it made sense to increase its appeal to its remaining viewers by catering more assiduously to their political preferences."
Now that's what I call a business model: American news consumers are moving to the right. Quick, let's move to the left!
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