Call me paranoid, but I smell a growing move afoot among the declining liberal media oligopoly to push for government intervention to rescue them from their waning influence. They are merely laying the foundation now, but I suspect more will follow in the relatively near future.
Only close-minded liberals would deny that liberals enjoyed a virtual monopoly in the major media, say, from the sixties until fairly recently. But they have watched it slip away since the advent of conservative talk radio, the Internet and now Fox News, and they're beginning to panic.
They dominated (and still do) the editorial boards of most of the nation's influential daily newspapers. They controlled (and still do) the three major television networks, including their news departments and anchors. Check the voluminous data provided at mediaresearch.org under "Media Bias Basics." No space here to set it all out, but the objective evidence is powerful and unarguable.
Their bias is palpable, permeating their news selection and content so seamlessly they might not even realize it's there. Indeed the eeriest revelation of Bernard Goldberg's Bias <read review> was the elite media's obliviousness to their bias. They don't see their liberalism as bias, but objectivity. To them the only ones guilty of bias are those who deviate from their objective norm, namely conservatives. (By the way, how can people so devoid of self-criticism operate as watchdogs over anything, much less themselves?)
The media elite are not used to competition. Liberal politicians, pre-Rush, were not used to much media accountability. But all that has changed. The jig is up, and they don't like it. (Remember Bill Clinton's pathetic complaint from the bowels of Air Force One that it was unfair there was no "truth detector" to compete with Rush Limbaugh's three hours a day? Transparency didn't suit him too well.)
Rush started and continues to power an avalanche. Strong Conservative voices, like Sean Hannity, are emerging all over -- and they're succeeding in the marketplace of ideas. Meanwhile, liberals have made excuses for their failures. Their first one was that talk show audiences consist of angry white guys and liberals just don't fit that description. Actually they do, but that's beside the point. In fact, Rush's listeners and those of many other conservative hosts are intelligent, informed and of good cheer.
Their next excuse is more serious. They say there is institutional resistance to liberal expression. Here they pull out all the tired cliches. Big business conservatives, they say, control talk radio and TV, and are blocking liberals from entry. That is absurd. No one has kept liberals off the talk show airwaves or cable TV shows. No one, that is, except an unreceptive public.
Even admitting, for discussion's sake, that Fox News is conservative, so what? Roger Ailes can't force you to watch Fox over the other cable networks. Yes, Fox provides a refreshing alternative to the monolithic viewpoint previously inhabiting the networks and cable, but there are no barriers to entry. People are voting with their remote controls.
But liberal whining is increasing and on multiple fronts. A coincidence? Possibly, but regardless, it's gathering steam and will soon demand action. Just consider:
- Liberals first demonized talk radio, then realized they couldn't beat conservatives so decided to join them. Al Franken is waiting on the diving board -- or should I say "the plank"?
- Liberal Eric Alterman came out with What Liberal Media? in an effort to counter Goldberg's Bias <read review> and Ann Coulter's Slander <read review>.
- Liberals are talking about resurrecting the Fairness Doctrine -- they always fall back on government for their solutions, this time to bail themselves out.
- Liberals are ratcheting up their broadsides against Rupert Murdoch, Fox News and Clear Channel Communications -- distorting critical information about each in the process, incidentally.
- Liberal columnists are grumbling with increasing frequency about the conservative influence. (See, for two of many examples, Richard Cohen's April 22 Washington Post Column "A Media Empire's Injustices" and Ian Masters' May 1 commentary in the Los Angeles Times, "Media Monopolies Have Muzzled Dissent.")
The bottom line is that liberals are not going to take this whipping lying down. They will try to invoke the power of the state to rectify the "injustice" of their drubbing in the marketplace; it's just a matter of time. When they do they'll have some euphemistic excuse to conceal their assault on free speech. They'll say controls are necessary to protect the public interest, or to muzzle hate speech, or something equally lame. Mark my words. And be prepared.