What Liberal Media? | Eric Alterman

Summary of: What Liberal Media?: The Truth about Bias and the News
By: Eric Alterman


Embark on a journey exploring the intricate dynamics of the U.S. media landscape with Eric Alterman’s eye-opening book, “What Liberal Media?: The Truth about Bias and the News.” Delve into the allegations of liberal bias in the media and discover the complex layers that define liberalism. Refuting the idea of a coordinated liberal media propaganda, this book examines the role of conservative political commentators, think tanks, book publishers, and columnists in shaping public policy debate and challenging notions of objectivity. Unearth the driving forces behind prominent conservative media personalities and their impact on the American media narrative.

The Myth of Liberal Media

Many people accuse the U.S. media of having a liberal bias, but this claim is difficult to prove since everyone has their own definition of “liberal.” There is no coordinated effort to re-write news stories, but some journalists have been accused of suspending critical thinking in the face of conservative accusations. Changes in journalistic practices have enabled these accusations, leading some media professionals to admit to a liberal-leaning. Conservative media personalities, think tanks, and publishers play a significant role in perpetuating this myth.

The Power of Conservative Pundits in American Media

This book summary explores how conservative pundits dominate American media and shape public opinion. Pundits, who lack journalistic qualifications, are selected based on their TV appeal and ability to sound authoritative. They often promote conservative agendas, while avoiding objective discussions of the issues. The few liberal pundits who present balanced arguments are weakened by their traditional journalistic responsibility. The media frenzy over the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal further exposed the media’s deep polarization. While conservative pundits pushed for Clinton’s resignation despite his public approval, the public forgave Clinton. This book summary highlights the media’s disconnect from the electorate and the role of money in determining news content.

Rise of Conservative Think Tanks

In the mid-1970s, conservative policy makers established think tanks as safe-havens for conservative thought amidst the overwhelming reforms resulting from Vietnam, Watergate and the social revolution. With funding from billionaires like the Hunt brothers, Richard Mellon Scaife, Joseph Coors and the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, think tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute, the Cato Institute and Heritage Foundation started to reshape political analysis and inject conservative policies at the grassroots level. Today, over 300 similar conservative groups have opened in Washington D.C. region alone, which is a testament to their fundraising success. The Heritage Foundation holds the most power among these foundations using its large budget for political activism. It develops conservative government members and media and builds consensus on legislation benefiting conservative causes. The foundation communicates with a wider audience through self-run TV and radio studios, an editorial service and provides talking points to conservative speakers. In a country where most high school students lack basic knowledge of U.S. history, reasoned and intelligent contextual views of events are crucial, and hence think tanks play an important role.

Conservative Publishing

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation spent $3.5 million in the late 1990s to fund a conservative publishing house, which produced over 400 books attacking social practices such as affirmative action, tort reform, and civil justice. Henry Regnery, one of the publishers, put out seven sensational titles about Clinton and his former business associates. Charles Murray’s Losing Ground, funded by Olin Foundation, received praise from the so-called liberal media despite the book’s poor data, unsubstantiated claims, and illogical conclusions. This led to the foundation giving Murray a $100,000 grant to write The Bell Curve, which claimed that the average IQ of blacks was 15% lower than that of whites and being on welfare was a sign of lower intelligence. Dinesh D’Souza’s The End of Racism also backed these claims using The Bell Curve’s data. These conservative-sponsored books gave racism a higher level of acceptance in some circles.

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