The New York Times really loathes Rupert Murdoch. The Gray Lady almost achieved nirvana on the front page the other day when a group of laborites in the British Parliament asserted in a "damning report" that Murdoch was "not fit" for major media ownership. Bill Keller, recently the paper's executive editor, devoted his latest column to Fox News with the headline "Murdoch's Pride Is America's Poison."
The man who edited The New York Times is blunt: "I would argue that -- at least for Americans -- Fox News is Murdoch's most toxic legacy." If that's not ridiculous enough, try this: He claims the problem is not that Fox is conservative, but because ... wait for it ... Fox pretends to be objective instead of openly admitting it's partisan. Unlike, say, The New York Times.
"My complaint is that Fox pretends very hard to be something it is not, and in the process, contributes to the corrosive cynicism that has polarized our public discourse," he declares. Whether he was giggling uncontrollably as he typed this was unclear.
Can these liberals be more clueless? Actually, yes. Keller is smart enough to understand why the American people believe the media elite is shamelessly slanted to the left and is presently huckstering for President Obama like he's a struggling brand, a political new Coke. Keller concedes his media critics "probably are convinced that what they have created is the conservative counterweight to a media elite long marinated in liberal bias."
But then comes another passage that really deserves its very own laugh track. Keller insists the conservatives are wrong. They're not biased at The New York Times because "we try to live by a code, a discipline, that tells us to set aside our personal biases, to test not only facts but the way they add up, to seek out the dissenters and let them make their best case, to show our work. We write unsparing articles about public figures of every stripe -- even, sometimes, about ourselves."
Quick, let's disprove Keller in a sentence or less. (It can be done.) Here's Bill Keller reporting from Moscow in 1989: "Watching the Supreme Soviet invent itself is a little like speed-reading the Federalist Papers." In 1996, he asserted that dissenter-murdering Mikhail Gorbachev was "a man of impeccable character."
Unlike Rupert Murdoch or Roger Ailes, they poison America.
Anyone who reads The New York Times can easily disprove Keller. In stories about global warming, does the Times "seek out the dissenters and let them make their best case"? What about gay marriage? Abortion? Waterboarding? Dick Cheney?
Keller concedes the Times has "often been condescending to those who don't share our secular urban vantage point" on the social issues, but then insists, "It's also true that we have sometimes been too evenhanded, giving equal time to arguments that fail a simple fact-check." There's not a single conservative anywhere fishing in the deep end of the sanity pond who would agree with that.
Keller tut-tutted that Fox can't really believe its shows are "fair and balanced," because "that's just a slogan for suckers." And "All The News That's Fit to Print" is for scholars? Isn't the "fair and balanced" just as implied when Keller talks of how the media elites have a "code" where we "set aside our personal biases"?
But think of that Times slogan for a minute. The key words for Keller are "fit to print." In the glory days of pre-Fox journalism, if the Times insisted a story -- let's just guess a story that gores the liberal ox -- was not "fit to print," the story was deep-sixed. Spiked. Axed.
The real reason Fox is somehow "America's Poison" is because of its willingness to go around the liberal censorship wish list and define what is "fit to print" in a different way. If Keller really liked "seeking out the dissenters," wouldn't he applaud Fox instead of comparing it to metaphorical cyanide?
Instead, Keller unspools the classic liberal complaint that what's wrong with "news" consumers these days is they often seek "an information diet that simply confirms your prejudices." The elitists in "traditional news organizations ... see it as their mission see it as their mission to provide -- and test -- the information you need to form intelligent opinions. We aim to challenge lazy assumptions. Fox panders to them."
Ah, those insufferable elites. But here's what really, truly gets them: We don't have to suffer them any more. We don't have to rip up our morning papers daily. Only the subscription notices, once.
Now conservatives have choices. Now we can insist that it's liberal twits such as Arthur Sulzberger who are "not fit" for media ownership, at least not the kind we want to bankroll. The republic will survive without having its information diet loaded with the empty calories of The New York Times.