There is no escaping the fact that traditional mainstream media outlets have been trying to label recent conservative movements as racist, or tinged with racism. This has been the case from the town hall meetings and the Tea Party to Glenn Beck’s Restoring Honor rally. From the latest coverage of Beck’s rally, it is clear that the media has some very deep-seated stereotypes that it just can’t seem to excise from its coverage. A less charitable analysis would conclude that the media’s bigotry is showing.
The amount of anti-conservative vitriol wrapped in accusations of racism that make it into the reporting and commentary on the Tea Party movement or town hall meetings is shocking. The dinosaur press constantly uses an undertone of “Tea Party racism” to explain anti-big government sentiment. The examples are almost too numerous to list. Researching via the excellent
Newsbusters a media watchdog group, allows me to provide you with an abbreviated list of examples.
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When one compares how the media treats Tea Party protests or town hall meetings with the antiwar rallies, the difference is striking. These are the major grassroots movements of the last decade, and they are reported very differently.
Having witnessed a demonstration in San Francisco during the Bush years, and then having watched the news coverage, I was struck by a couple of items. The first was the amount of extreme hatred and viciousness directed at President Bush. It wasn’t just the war that was being protested, yet that fact never made it into the reporting. The second point was that the profane signs, which were everywhere, never made it to the news. There were a few scuffles with police, and the crowd was mostly young and overwhelmingly white. The media mentioned in passing the small number of arrests, but the age and race of the demonstrators never made it into the media reportage at all. Apparently that information wasn’t relevant.
Contrast the coverage of the anti-war rally to CNN, ABC, NPR, USAToday, and CBS reporting on Glenn Beck’s nonpolitical rally. All of those “news” agencies noted that the crowd at 8/28 was mostly older and white. The same news outlets that rarely if ever commented on the color or age of the antiwar demonstrators find those facts relevant here. The liberal media regurgitates those same facts about town hall “agitators” and Tea Party protesters. Why? The need to comment on race betrays an underlying stereotype and the need to reinforce it.
There are two reasons why the media feels compelled to report that people who don’t hold liberal viewpoints are racist. The first reason is that race and charges of racism and bigotry are simply a political battle tactic to smear a conservative idea or opponent or distract an audience. The second reason is a deep-seated belief among the media that there is something fundamentally wrong with or backwards about people who hold different opinions on government and policy. “Conservative” or “Republican” is synonymous with “stupid, racist, and backwards” in elite media circles.
It’s clear from reading comments from liberal members of the JournoList that using race to smear or distract your opponent is an acceptable strategy. In years past, charges of racism would cause people to distance themselves from the accused. That is surely what the congresspeople were hoping for when they levied the charge that racial slurs had been directed at them by Tea Party protesters. An alternative media, lots of cameras, and a $100,000 reward demonstrated to most of America that the charge was without merit. That didn’t stop the media from reporting the alleged incident over and over and over again. This type of media behavior has been going on for so long that the charge of racism is now expected by the American public. It no longer carries the sting it used to, and commentators are noticing that it seems to be the last refuge of a failed argument.
The second reason is the belief shared among the intelligentsia that people who think differently from liberal media types must be backwards, or that their motivations aren’t based on reason. The media stereotype of conservative or traditional Americans is on constant display. It’s most prominent when examining Barrack Obama and his big-government policies. Many liberals believe that the president’s policies and ideas aren’t just good, but they are “obviously” correct. Thus, any opposition of those policies must be based on not reason, but something else. This invariably leads the liberal writers to the “anger,” “fear,” and “racism” memes that consistently appear in media stories.
Examples of the media’s stereotypes leaking into their hard new reporting abound. If you went to an antiwar rally, you would have no doubt that the antiwar protesters were “angry,” but since the protesters’ worldview fits the media’s, they are described as “a peaceful protest” (not counting the few arrests). At the same time, the Tea Party protesters, whose views run counter to the media’s, are described as “very angry” (i.e., not rational) and “overwhelmingly white” (i.e., probably racist), and “there is a potential for violence” (even though no one was arrested).
The media’s hypocrisy and lack of fairness are on full display in the double standard apparent in current reporting. Bernard Goldberg’s excellent book Bias has more examples of liberal media stereotyping and demonstrates that the lack of fairness is not new. The need to make the news fit the media’s bias is actually an old phenomenon. Goldberg points out that it has been going on since before the media rolled out the great “homeless” epidemic that was used as “proof” that Ronald Reagan was heartless. The rise of the new media in an internet age has brought the media’s bias into sharp focus. Prior to the information revolution, the liberal media elite controlled most of the levers of information dissemination. No longer.
In today’s world, we have a freer, more competitive media environment. The liberal media’s reporting doesn’t exist in a vacuum of information anymore. A more informed media consumer is noticing the mainstream media’s bias. That bias demonstrates a peculiar type of intolerance that permeates traditional news coverage. How ironic that the media elite, who consider themselves bastions of fairness, tolerance, and reason, are exactly the opposite. From CBS to CNBC, the dying mainstream media demonstrate that they are intolerant of views other than their own and are unfair to people with whom they disagree. They report as fact the most outlandish smears (i.e., potential for violence), ignoring the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The rise of the internet and an alternate media provide enough evidence and competing views that the mainstream medias bias has become obvious to all, except the liberal media themselves.
Webster defined bigot as “a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially: one who regards or treats the members of a group with hatred and intolerance.” I think we can all agree that the mainstream media are intolerantly devoted to their own opinion. There also can be no doubt that hatred is involved after examining how Sarah Palin was treated. Regardless of why the press acts this way, when it comes to conservatives, the press is bigoted. Since 77% of the country self-identifies as conservative or moderate, the press is insulting a majority of its audience. Is it any wonder that the liberal leviathan media is going the way of the Dodo?