“What Liberal Media?”

The myth of the liberal media empowers conservatives to control debate in the United States.

  • Editors' Pick
  1. Only a liberal would be dumb enough to title a book, What Liberal Media? Listen to just about anyone and the answer is obvious: “What, are you stupid? Just pick up a newspaper or turn on your TV.” Should that fail to convince, bemusement can turn to anger, or at best, pity, as in “There are none so blind as those who will not see.” America’s argument about media bias features just two points of view. The right argues that the media is biased toward leftists. The other side responds, to quote David Broder, “dean” of the Washington press corps, “There just isn’t enough ideology in the average reporter to fill a thimble.” The idea that the media might, for reasons of ownership, economics, class, or outside pressure, actually be more sympathetic to conservative causes than to liberal ones is widely considered to be simply beyond the pale.

    Social scientists talk about “useful myths,” stories we all know are not necessarily true, but that we choose to believe anyway because they seem to offer confirmation of what we already know (which raises the question, if we already know it, why the story?). Think of the wholly fictitious but illustrative story about little George Washington and his inability to lie about that cherry tree. For conservatives, and even more many journalists, the “liberal media” is just that: a myth, to be certain, but a useful one. If only it were true, we might have a more humane, open-minded, and ultimately effective public debate on the issues facing the nat...