The Internet and talk radio have brought with their rise a new
kind of media democracy, where privilege and education do not make kings.
For the past decade, a growing number of citizens have tuned in to Rush
Limbaugh or logged on to the Drudge Report for their news. And the left
doesn't like it one bit.
It is becoming increasingly obvious that the information
superhighway can help shape global values. That is why China now bars minors
from Internet cafes and forces cafes to close by midnight, as well as
prohibiting their location within 124 feet of schools. China's leaders are
afraid that young people will find new ideas on the Internet about democracy
and human rights and begin agitating for change.
The American left can't restrict Internet usage or ban talk
radio, so it de-legitimizes these news sources. Ripping alternative news
sources as illegitimate is the left's only remaining option -- it cannot
compete with the right wing in the new media.
Not that the left hasn't tried. Mario Cuomo attempted to parlay
his political fame into a talk-radio gig; he was so badly received that his
show was pulled off the air. Jerry Brown met with the same fate, as did Alan
Dershowitz. Jim Hightower, a self-described progressive populist, passed
through the talk-radio world without notice.
On the 'Net, liberal failure has been just as complete. While
Matt Drudge's Web site receives nearly 5 million hits per day, liberal news
sites are virtually non-existent. Salon.com is going the way of the
dinosaurs, and Slate.com is a mere facade. The only liberal Web sites that
get any hits are established television channels like BBC, CNN and ABC News.
There are no major leftist commentary sites to compete with conservative
monsters like Freerepublic.com and lucianne.com, where normal news followers
can post their opinions on the story du jour. The left has been left behind
on the Web.
It's the inability to compete that has the liberals so angry.
They don't understand why people won't listen to elite intelligentsia dither
about politics but gladly tune in to hosts like Sean Hannity, a former
construction worker with no college degree. They rant and rave over the
newest phenomenon -- weblogs, or bloggers, where ordinary folks comment on
the news in real time, allowing true Rousseau-ian democracy to flourish.
Why, they ask, do more people visit libertarian/conservative bloggers Andrew
Sullivan and Glenn Reynolds than the soon-to-be-extinct American Prospect
Here's the answer: The left cannot survive criticism. It is easy
for liberals to air their views when the audience cannot challenge them.
Network news is a perfect example -- when Peter Jennings sympathizes with
Palestinian suicide bombers, viewers can kick their televisions and scream
at Jennings, but Jennings cannot hear them. If Jennings had a talk show,
though, he'd have to deal with the views of his audience. Print media is
similar. Maureen Dowd can write nasty things about President Bush but would
be hard pressed to respond to a reader's challenge.
Since it can't compete, the left turns to degrading the
opposition. NBC's Lisa Meyers attributes the success of conservative
talk-radio hosts to their portrayal of the world as "black and white -- and
revolving around them." The left demonizes Rush Limbaugh, calling him an
extremist and hoping that his popularity will diminish. His audience numbers
continue to climb. They call Matt Drudge a muckraker and a yellow
journalist. His hit count continues to rise.
At universities, professors and faculty are scared to death of
the Internet, since it provides a challenge to their monopoly over student
minds. Take, for example, the intellectuals' opposition to Daniel Pipes'
campus-watch.org, a site where anti-Israel professorial bias is revealed and
examined. University of Chicago historian Rashid Khalidi derides the Web
site as "slimy" and "McCarthyite." "(T)hey're simply trying to intimidate
people by creating a witch-hunt atmosphere," accuses Professor Joel Beinin
of Stanford. "These are guys on the lunatic fringe." Apparently, it's all
right for professors to brainwash students in the privacy of their
classrooms, but when their bias is revealed, it's a witch hunt.
The left will continue in its attempt to tear down the
alternative media that the right has championed. If it can't control or
compete, it wishes to destroy. But the tide has turned toward true
democratization of the media. The growth of the Internet and talk radio has
the left scared and on the run. And short of China-like restrictions, the
trend will continue unabated.