Now comes the National Guard story, the most blindingly partisan bungle in recent journalistic history, and the august investigative panel, CBS News and most of the mainstream media do not have a clue. The bungle is attributed to haste and sloppiness. Haste, yes. To get the story out in time to damage, perhaps fatally, the president's chances of reelection.
This is not an isolated case. In fact the case is a perfect illustration of an utterly commonplace phenomenon: the mainstream media's obliviousness to its own liberal bias.
I do not attribute this to bad faith. I attribute it to (as Marx would say) false consciousness -- contracted by living in the liberal media cocoons of New York, Washington and Los Angeles, in which any other worldview is simply and truly inconceivable. This myopia was most perfectly captured by Pauline Kael's famous remark after Nixon's 1972 landslide: "I don't know how Richard Nixon could have won. I don't know anybody who voted for him."
Multiple polls of the media elite have confirmed Kael's inadvertent sociological insight. One particularly impartial poll, taken by the Freedom Forum in 1996, found that of 139 Washington bureau chiefs and congressional correspondents, 89 percent supported Bill Clinton in the previous election, vs. 7 percent for George H.W. Bush. The rest of America went 43 percent to 37 percent.
Some argue that personal allegiance does not matter because it is possible to be partisan at home and yet consciously bias-free at work.
Possible, yes. Actual? The Project for Excellence in Journalism did a careful study of mainstream media stories in September and October. The numbers are stunning.
To take one example, Oct. 1-14, 2004: Percent of stories about Bush that are negative -- 59 percent. Percent of stories about Kerry that are negative -- 25 percent. Stories favorable to Bush? 14 percent. Favorable to Kerry? 34 percent.
That is not a difference. That is a chasm. And you do not have to be a weatherman to ascertain wind direction. When, in February 2003, Gallup asked Americans their perception of media bias, 45 percent said the media were too liberal, 15 percent said they were too conservative. That's 3 to 1.
Bias spectacularly, if redundantly, confirmed by Rathergate. All that is missing is a signed confession.
Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.
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