I agree with liberal political strategist and talking head James Carville that listening and reading only to those who agree with you is a colossal bore. My reaction to such a prospect is the same as his. Rather than suffer such a fate, “just shoot me.” But Carville’s analysis of the polarization in the media illustrates the same fallacy that is at the heart of the trend he laments. Writing in The Hill yesterday, Carville says that what’s wrong is that:
Conservatives never seem to tire of one another. They love to reinforce their beliefs, day after day.
In other words, liberals are open to all points of view and read, listen and watch conservative outlets while it is only conservatives who insulate themselves from opposing points of view. Perhaps that is true on some other planet in the universe, but here on Earth, liberals are just as guilty of this fault as anyone on the right, as evidence by the loyalty to a wide array of liberal newspapers, radio and TV outlets while shunning conservative publications, Fox News and conservative radio talkers as if they had the plague. If anything, they are worse since they think those who tell them what they want to hear are objective while those who disagree are not. Nothing better illustrates the dialogue of the deaf on this issue than attitudes such as those illustrated by Carville.
Carville’s motivation for writing was the same as that of David Carr, the New York Times media columnist whose column on the issue was discussed here on Sunday. Both were flabbergasted to learn that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia avoided liberal newspapers like the Times and the Washington Post as well as NPR Radio, choosing instead to read the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times and to listen to talk radio with special mention to William Bennett’s morning show.
I wrote then that the problem with Carr’s article was that he failed to note his own newspaper’s well-known liberal bias or to acknowledge that prior to the advent of Fox News and conservative talk radio, liberals had a virtual monopoly on the mainstream media in terms of major daily newspapers and television networks.
But Carville’s failing here is even worse than Carr’s omissions. He seems to actually believe that liberals are willing to expose themselves to different viewpoints but that it is only conservatives that don’t.
Is he serious?
Does he think liberals check conservative publications like editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, National Review, the Weekly Standard or even Commentary to get a different perspective from that of the Times? Or those who watch MSNBC are frequently clicking over to Fox to find out what the other side is saying? That NPR listeners tune in even once in a blue moon to Rush Limbaugh or anyone with a conservative frame of reference? Not a chance.
The liberal problem with the proliferation of media outlets that has provided both sides of the political divide with a diverse set of choices that enable them to avoid opinions that upset them is primarily based in their dismay that there is a choice nowadays other than the ones they endorse.
As Carville’s piece indicates, what liberals want is to force conservatives to listen to them. Fair enough. We sometimes learn a lot more from our opponents than our friends. I know I do. But that is not matched by a liberal commitment to listen to conservatives. Media partisanship is a problem. But, contrary to Carville’s spin, it is a bipartisan problem.