SOLOMON: Dole Reveals Much By Crying "Liberal Media"
Bob Dole deserves credit for doing more than any other American in history to damage the myth of "the liberal media." Like the boy who yelled "Wolf!" until the warning lost all credibility, Dole has undermined a key rallying cry of this nation's conservative flock.In late October, with his campaign nearly unglued, Dole opted to castigate the press for "liberal bias." Perhaps, like the fabled boy tending sheep, Dole craved some favorable attention. But his frantic, repeated outcry was clearly a desperate noise rather than any kind of plausible claim.It was all too transparent: After turning out to be an abysmal candidate, Dole had no one to blame but himself...or the news media.Dole was seeking applause from believers in the "liberal media" mythology. Many media venues -- from talk-radio programs to TV chat shows to opinion pages -- routinely feature commentators who denounce the media for being insufficiently conservative. But, if the media were really so liberal, why would those denunciations get so much air time and print space?Facts haven't seemed to matter much. For instance: In news coverage, the most widely quoted and sound-bitten think tank in the country is the fervently conservative Heritage Foundation. Nationwide, talk radio is dominated by hosts who go through a daily ritual of blaming America's ills on liberals. The big TV networks are owned by huge firms such as General Electric (NBC), Westinghouse (CBS), Disney (ABC) and Time Warner (CNN), hardly bastions of liberalism.Actually, what some people mean by "liberal media" is the profusion of TV offerings along the lines of Jerry Springer and Jenny Jones. But such shows are not liberal, they're libertine (and disgusting). Ironically, those salacious and degrading programs exist solely to maximize profits -- the central goal of the "free enterprise" system that Dole and fellow conservatives love to extol.What Bob Dole fails to explain is how the corporate setup he reveres could keep going so wrong. After all, Dole and most other politicians strive to serve the economic interests of the corporations that own the largest media outlets. Top execs at the major networks are as eager for an unbridled "free market" as Dole is.By attributing his difficulties to "the liberal media," Dole has unwittingly helped to expose the myth's scapegoating function. When right-wing forces run into problems with the public, the reflex is often to blame the media.Meanwhile, we're told about surveys showing that most reporters vote for Democrats. But what matters is the content of news reporting, not the personal views of journalists. And Republican charges of on-the-job bias are usually baseless.In the waning days of his campaign, Dole yielded to the media-bashing temptation: The New York Times, he complained, gave short shrift to evidence of improper contributions from Indonesian tycoons to the Democratic Party.By the time Dole launched his anti-Times diatribes, however, the newspaper had published 11 news stories about that scandal -- including three articles on the front page. What's more, the Times had already printed a pair of editorials criticizing the Indonesian donations, along with several very tough columns by William Safire on the issue.Rest assured that Dole won't have a single cross word for another Manhattan-based daily. The New York Post is a possession of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who owns many newspapers and magazines as well as book publishing houses, TV stations and the Fox network. Murdoch -- who may be the most powerful individual in the media world -- has donated $1 million to the California Republican Party this year.Certainly, the "liberal media" epithet will endure as a moldy canard. But from now on, the phrase is likely to give off a distinct aroma of very sour grapes.So, we should thank Bob Dole for doing this country a good turn. In the future, millions more Americans will roll their eyes and tune out the next time a politician starts to rant against "the liberal media."**********************************************Politics '96: The Power of Babble By Norman Solomon LAST GASPS OF HOT AIR "We will defend a vision of individual equality in Congress and the courts because individuals matter more than racial categories." -- Bob DoleIn other words: While claiming to revere individuals, we can shrug off the ongoing effects of discrimination on certain individuals with dark skin. That way, we can pander to white people who are comfortable with a status quo of huge racial disparities in higher education, employment and income.***"We have an enormous opportunity as we stand on the brink of this new century, to take advantage of scientific possibilities to help people live as long, as well as they can and to build stronger families in the process." -- Bill ClintonIn other words: I'm on message! Everything I say has been exquisitely poll-tested and focus-grouped.***"It's wrong to use quotas, set-asides and other preferences that serve only to pit one American against another American, or group against group. ...Give people an opportunity to make it in the private sector. They don't need quotas and preferences." -- Bob DoleIn other words: Sink or swim. The people I care about don't need life preservers.***"When I ran for president four years ago, no challenge loomed larger or seemed more difficult to solve than the deficit. ...We are moving toward a balanced budget. We are going to continue building prosperity and creating jobs." -- Bill ClintonIn other words: I've proven that I'm the best Republican candidate in this race.***"Double-talk has a bad name because of this group, this group of elitists in the White House who've never done anything, never done anything, and now they're running the country." -- Bob DoleIn other words: We need to get a different group of elitists into the White House who are better at double-talk.