Monday, August 25, 2008

Netroots Seeks Leftward Shift in Media Coverage

Just this weekend American Power was dismissed as a "random, arcane, nearly useless professorial blog" by Professor Russell Burgos at UCLA.

I'm not familiar with Burgos' work, but a quick
Google search indicates he's apparently a frequent contributor to hard-left blog comment threads, and he spends time writing progressive letters to the editor. Burgos is also an Army veteran, so perhaps that background informs his left-wing perspective, something like an Apocalypse Now syndrome.

In light of all this, it's not surprising Burgos would dismiss American Power as "nearly useless," although my feeling is that Burgos wouldn't say the same thing of the lefty blogs he frequents, like Washinton Monthly's "
Political Animal."

I mention all of this while contemplating this morning's piece at the Politico, "
Netroots Push Back Against MSM 'Bias'." The article suggests left-wing bloggers hardly agree with the notion of the "liberal media," and they're out to do something about it:

If you asked a random sample of progressive Democrats and liberal bloggers to describe the current state of political media, from CNN to The New York Times, there’s one word that’s unlikely to come up: “liberal.”

For those on the left, the more operative words these days are “mainstream,” “establishment,” or “traditional.” And if one is feeling particularly aggrieved, the description of choice is increasingly — and surprisingly — “conservative.”

Gone are the days when only the right howled about bias and malice from network anchors and star political reporters. What began roughly a decade ago as frustration from Democrats over coverage of President Bill Clinton’s impeachment and adulterous escapades has morphed into an informally organized rapid response network, ready to pounce on any and all perceived media slights against Barack Obama.

Clearly, bloggers aren’t a monolithic group. But it’s fair to say that liberal bloggers — and the more activist-oriented members of the Netroots within that group — have been calling out the media’s campaign coverage with far more regularity than just four years ago. And it’s not simply because there are more activists who know how Moveable Type works.

Pushback against the media has been aided by the growth of more sophisticated liberal news sites, such as Talking Points Memo and The Huffington Post. In 2004, TPM founder Josh Marshall didn’t have any paid staffers; this year he has nine. And Arianna Huffington’s arsenal of nearly 2,000 bloggers didn’t exist until President Bush was already six months into his second term. Not to mention, liberal watchdog group Media Matters — which provides ammo to many bloggers — has grown in that time from about 20 staffers to near 100, according to a source familiar with the organization.

Criticism from the left can take a variety of forms, including fact-checking, aggregating links and sometimes original reporting. Also, similar to the right’s strategy over decades of “working the refs,” there are left-leaning bloggers who provide a knee-jerk dismissal of whatever’s on the front page of the Times or making the rounds on Sunday chat shows.

Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas, who co-authored with Jerome Armstrong the seminal Netroots tract, “Crashing the Gates,” said in an e-mail that he’s found political coverage to be “utterly vapid, devoid of context, frequently wrong, and wedded to narratives that defy all logic and reality.”

Trolling a handful of the top liberal blogs, it’s obvious that Moulitsas’ critique isn’t isolated.

Liberal bloggers often raise the issue of how Al Gore and John Kerry were treated by the press and have adopted a “never again” approach to the 2008 race. Bloggers raise a ruckus when they believe the media is focusing too heavily on superficial issues rather than policy. Some examples: bloggers cried foul when the national press kept writing about whether Obama wore a flag lapel pin, as well as the various narratives discussed as clouding his chances in November — inexperience, overly eloquent, arrogant, too skinny, too black or not black enough. And don’t mention Bittergate, Obama’s now infamous thoughts about Americans who own guns and go to church, to a left-of-center blogger, either.

“Liberals believe that they can’t get a fair shake from the media anymore,” said Eric Alterman, media critic and author of the 2003 book “What Liberal Media?”

So when liberals feel the media is misrepresenting something important, Alterman said, they respond quickly. “That’s an exact mirror of what the right did with talk radio,” he added.

Alterman, like several liberal writers interviewed, said that he considers the majority of Beltway journalists to be socially liberal but “corrupted by their need to be part of the establishment.”
Read the whole thing, here.

The basic academic consensus, a point the Politico touches on, is that journalists are mostly left-wing Democrats, but they seek to practice the objective professionalism that is the standard of non-biased journalism. Hence, the leftoshere's outrage is now basically transplanting 1990s-era talk radio as the grassroots movement du jour seeking to eviscerate views that don't align with their own.

Netroots practices are often totalitarian, seen, for example, in
Jane Hamsher's latest atttempt to smother journalists who are friendly with Republicans.

To borrow from
Megan McArdle, the netroots' anger at the establishment media power structure seems to be rapidly transmuting into anger at the non-netroots media power structure.

No doubt
Russell Burgos approves. Perhaps he can redirect some of that anger at C-SPAN.