What Liberal Media? | Eric Alterman

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

Introduction

Embark on a thought-provoking journey as we delve into the book summary of ‘What Liberal Media?: The Truth about Bias and the News’ by Eric Alterman. Explore the controversial debate surrounding the so-called liberal bias in the U.S. media, while uncovering the complexities of proving such bias. Delve into the claim of liberal media falsehoods, conservative pundits’ influence, the role of think tanks, and the ideological agenda of certain book publishers. This summary will offer a critical investigation of media practices and the political consequences that arise when the media fails to critically challenge certain narratives.

The Myth of Liberal Bias in the Media

While many believe in the liberal bias of the media, it is challenging to prove as the label “liberal” is subjective. Some media professionals admit to a liberal lean, but the idea of a coordinated effort to push liberal propaganda is unfounded. Conservative accusations of bias have led to journalists suspending their critical capabilities, making it easier for these claims to be enabled. The conservative media-driven maelstrom relies on right-learning pundits, think tanks, book publishers, columnists, and broadcasters. Overall, the belief in “liberal” bias in the media is a useful but unsupported myth.

Pundits and the Media

The book reveals how conservative views dominate American media. These views are disseminated by TV and radio commentators and on opinion pages and websites. Pundits do not require any specific qualifications but should sound authoritative and be photogenic. The book suggests that the media is obsessed with sensational content, and many media outlets succumb to groupthink, resulting in biased and unbalanced reporting. The book also reveals that conservative pundits push their ideology as part of a team effort, while liberal pundits try to present balanced arguments, which weakens their pundit position. The media’s attempt to create scandals, such as the President Clinton-Monica Lewinsky story, also demonstrated how disconnected it was from the public. Despite the conservatives’ calls for Clinton’s impeachment, he remained popular, and the scandal did not produce a Republican victory in the mid-term elections.

Think Tanks and the Rise of Conservative Thought

The Origin and Influence of Conservative Think Tanks

In the midst of social revolution and political reform in the mid-1970s, conservative policy makers found themselves at a loss for safe-havens for their ideologies. This led to the birth and proliferation of think tanks, which began to change their role as a platform for conservative thought. By the aid of financial support from several powerful billionaires, think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute, Cato Institute, and Heritage Foundation mobilized a concerted effort to elect conservative politicians and spread conservative policy from the grass roots level. With the staggering number of conservative groups that followed this shift, research shows that the Heritage Foundation continues to wield the most power by using its large budget in political activism.

Think tanks play a crucial role in providing a reasoned and intelligent contextual view of significant events in a nation where basic knowledge of the country’s history is poor. With think tanks’ fundraising prosperity, it is clear that their influence is widespread and significant. The study from the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy showed that conservative groups raised $210 million while liberal groups raised only $18.6 million. The impact of conservative think tanks is undeniable, and the reshaping of their role has contributed to the rise of conservative thought in America.

Conservative Funding of Controversial Literature

Conservatives have invested millions of dollars in funding publishing houses that promote ideologies aligned with conservative views. Over 400 books have been underwritten by the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, with publishers like Henry Regnery releasing titles attacking various social practices, including political liberalism and affirmative action. These books often lack academic credibility and have been criticized for using poor data and logic to back their claims. Despite this, books like Charles Murray’s Losing Ground became popular and influenced policy changes like welfare reform. Similar books were later funded by the conservative Olin Foundation, including Murray’s The Bell Curve, which was later debunked for its unscientific methods. Dinesh D’Souza’s The End of Racism also relied on controversial data and led to the normalization of racism in some circles. Conservatives continue to fund publishers to promote their ideology, often with questionable results.

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