Friday, May 04, 2007


I’ve been watching Tucker Carlson this morning filling in the Imus time slot. If you didn’t follow politics and parties and you had to form an opinion about things from watching MSNBC, the conservative commentators Tucker Carlson, Joe Scarborough and Pat Buchanan would convince you that the Iraq war was begun by a liberal because they all see it as a disaster and they see the President as a bungler.

I’ll admit that I’ve never liked Carlson and enjoyed that moment where Jon Stewart ragged on him about Crossfire. I would have rather seen him do that to James Carville, but you can’t have everything. It does say a lot about the state of the media when a liberal goes on a liberal network to attack a token conservative about being a punching bag on a liberal network.

Scarborough no doubt sees opportunism in his criticism of Bush. He’s always been that way. It’s hard to know what his true convictions are in general. I’m sure he could have been elected to Congress in a liberal district had he run there instead of Pensacola. Having met him on three different occasions when he was running the first time back in 1994, he was nothing but pure ambition. He was a lot like Bill Clinton and there were many a rumor that he would only be able to go so far in politics because of Clinton-like bimbo eruptions that would dog him at some point. The ambition had to take him in a different direction and it did. If Keith Obermann can stay on the air with his dismal ratings, Scarborough doesn’t mind playing into the same prejudices.

There is no doubt that if Scarborough and Carlson were on Fox they would be singing a different tune. They know they’re marginal characters on MSNBC with no constituency among the news executives. By taking the PC route on the war they make themselves palatable. Identifying with your captors gets you a warm meal and makes you feel a part of something.

Pat Buchanan is a different story. He’s a man of real conviction that was against the war from the beginning. That has certainly helped his airtime, but it’s not why he espouses what he does.

Fox found a way to differentiate itself in the marketplace and all of the other outlets can’t compete because they cannot get beyond their world views. For instance, Dan Rather wants in his heart to be the most objective journalist that he can be. But he’s predisposed to see conservatives as people of privilege and when documents surface that show Bush in this light he cannot see that it’s too good to be true, because it confirms truth as he knows it. How else could someone remark, “fake but accurate”?

Chris Mathews hated the Swift Boat Veterans and wouldn’t give them the time of day. He would go on about what a hero Kerry was and how patriotic his service was, but didn’t see the contradiction of how the same could be said of all the Swfites that he discounted. That he wouldn’t even give these veterans time on his show to debate the matter shows a worldview again. Do you think the media would have taken the same approach had a group of oilmen come forward to say that Bush was a terrible driller who overstated his business acumen? Or more currently, do you think that Mathews will eschew people who take issue with the “America’s Mayor” reputation of Guliani? Do you think people who come forward with examples of how Guiliani embellished his importance in NYC will be banned from the Mathews show?

What it demonstrates is the problem that other news networks have in gaining a foothold on Fox. They thought that they could mitigate the popularity of the conservative approach by adding token conservatives to their lineup, but in practice it has been like adding a cup of hot water to the polar ice caps. At first it feels a little different and then the new water is assimilated with little effect.

Fox is in the enviable position of being the only alternate to the Eastern Establishment view of the country and world. Fox welcomes more liberal dissent on their network than conservative dissent that you are likely to see all day on the other networks combined. Mara Liason, Juan Williams, Morton Kondracke, Susan Estrich, Alan Colmes, Greta Van Susteren, Harold Ford, Bob Beckel, Jeff Birnbaum, Gerladine Ferraro, Eleanor Clift and Geraldo Rivera are all paid Fox News contributors. It actually helps the channel quite a bit because it’s cathartic to hear conservatives finally get to refute liberals after being helpless for so many years. I don’t think the channel would work nearly as well if it were merely bobbleheads. We tune in to hear the calm ACLU man get yelled at by O’Reilly.

It’s harder to enjoy the channel as a liberal not because their side doesn’t get a dog in the fight, but that they hate to hear the other side getting equal footing in the discussion, think the Swifties. To them it’s like a step back in time before they had all of these issues worked out for themselves. To liberals debate is whether the government should control the price of gasoline or just give it away free to people who make less than a certain amount of money. The idea that some wildcatter is risking everything to find oil would never occur to them. Or that the money that Exxon makes is dwarfed by the amount of taxes that gasoline brings the government is insignificant to them.

Without the premise of corporate evil and sectarian overreach much of the major media would not even know how to write a news story and the liberal audiences wouldn’t even think they were hearing actual news. And we’re the simpletons.


E said...

Quite right, Tom, and well said.

Mrs. E and I were talking last night about whether to put our kids in private Christian school last night. There is a school nearby that teaches the trivium in the medieval tradition where kids are encouraged to examine both sides of issues, see patterns and parallels, evaluate current thought and events in light of history, and form thoughtful, personal opinions. Many public school teachers, by contrast, and by parallel many media talking heads, could not present both sides of an issue if they wanted to, because they cannot see, cannot understand, cannot value, cannot comprehend the other side's view. I want my kids to be able to think for themselves, to make informed decisions, to understand that life is a complex web of influences and decisions but with simple ground rules, that their decisions matter, that gathering information is both fun and necessary, and that their individuality is a treasure. I don't get that from the media and the only reason I got it from public school is that I did a lot of reading outside of class and I had a personality that never assumed the teacher was right.

Tom said...

Interesting, E. You hit upon an important deficiency in public education. Those schools seem to put no value on teaching kids to think. You’re not going to remember much of what you learned in the third grade, but the way you’re taught to process information at that age will be with you forever.

I made this point to a friend who said that they do teach kids to think in the gifted program. The implications of that appear somewhat sinister. It’s almost as if they are intentionally teaching most children to be sheep but grooming the gifted kids to be the leaders of tomorrow. Such a strategy is most beneficial to keeping government doing business as usual with minimal interference from the populace while still creating enough replacements to run the beast.

I know bureaucracies are too inefficient to do this on purpose, but the structure of public education has been perfect for the growth and sustainability of the behemoth government. Maybe that’s why something popular like school choice has very little constituency among the ruling classes who can afford it on their own.

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