Commentary Magazine


Contentions

Media Bias, Liberal Cluelessness

Ross Douthat writes:

A month ago, a U.C.L.A. graduate student named Emily Ekins spent hours roaming a Tea Party rally on the Washington Mall, photographing every sign she saw.

Ekins, a former CATO Institute intern, was examining the liberal conceit that Tea Party marches are rife with racism and conspiracy theorizing. Last week, The Washington Post reported on her findings: just 5 percent of the 250 signs referenced Barack Obama’s race or religion, and 1 percent brought up his birth certificate. The majority focused on bailouts, deficits and spending — exactly the issues the Tea Partiers claim inspired their movement in the first place.

On one level, as Douthat points out, this is a lesson about desperate liberals making up comforting myths. (“The Democrats are weeks away from a midterm thumping that wasn’t supposed to happen, and the liberal mind is desperate for a narrative, a storyline, something to ease the pain of losing to a ragtag band of right-wing populists.”) But it is also a cautionary tale about the willful ineptitude and outright laziness of the mainstream media.

A single intern did what not a single mainstream outlet, with collectively thousands of cameramen and reporters, refused to do: get the facts. The mainstream media eagerly recited false accounts of racial epithets but could not be bothered to do a systematic report on the Tea Partiers’ actual message.

The media and elected liberals reinforce their own contrived narrative. Liberal leaders proclaim that the Tea Partiers are racists. The media dutifully report the accusations and search out the isolated Obama = Hitler signs. The liberals breathe a sigh of relief as they read the New York Times or watch MSNBC, which confirms that, yes, these people are wackos and racists. The cycle repeats. The only thing missing are facts.

While the mainstream media’s bias rankles conservatives, the latter should be pleased that the willful indifference to reality repeatedly deprives liberal officialdom of warning signals and essential feedback on the public reaction to their agenda. It is maddening for conservatives, but it is dangerous for liberals to operate in a world of fabrication.