Are Liberals Ruining The Liberal Media?
by L. Brent Bozell III
January 25, 2000
Two recent media controversies in the news -- the AOL-Time Warner merger and the discovery of White House-funded anti-drug message placement within prime time network sitcoms and dramas -- suggest that the liberals' greatest problem with the major media is with... the liberals who run it.
The AOL-Time Warner merger caused great hue and cry from liberals claiming the impending media monopoly threatens to leave only the voices of the so-called media moguls. Left-wing critics always automatically assume that these powerful plutocrats are some sort of proto-capitalist Steve Forbes supporters. In this merger, the biggest financial player is Ted Turner, the billionaire United Nations backer/abortion supporter/self-styled "socialist." And the Internet's biggest player is Bill Gates, known in philanthropic circles as the wind beneath Planned Parenthood's wings.
So if diversity of voices is are threatened, one would assume the commentators denouncing the approaching unanimity would be conservative. Yet in the frenzy of corporate liberal guilt surrounding coverage of the AOL merger, you couldn't find a single conservative or libertarian scholar of the media or antitrust law. You did witness, however, the whole roster of socialist sob sisters -- Ben Bagdikian, Jeff Cohen, Ralph Nader, and Robert McChesney -- and their doom- saying scenarios about the end of socialist speech.
Time covered their own merger with two "opposing" opinions: leftist Victor Navasky, and liberal Michael Kinsley, who joked about how the whole corporate media is too interconnected to comprehend: "What's worse, GE has direct links, via co-ownership of CNBC, with Dow Jones, which publishes The Wall Street Journal, whose editorial page is a leading cause of heart attacks among sane people."
For unanimity, see "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" on PBS. On January 10, they invited two technology experts, and leftists James Ledbetter and Norman Solomon. On January 19, they had their panel of liberal regulars -- historians Doris Kearns Goodwin and Michael Beschloss, and reporter Haynes Johnson -- and for diversity, added, you guessed it, liberal Michael Kinsley, who made this incredible claim: "AOL would be out of their minds to try and bias Time magazine, not because of any high-minded reason, but simply because it would lose its value as a brand. Brand is the great buzzword in sign space, if it was perceived as biased."
Let's face it. Despite all their talk of declining democracy, liberals don't care about diversity of voices. Allegiance to that principle would dictate that they denounce the increasingly strident liberal structure of America's top media corporations and the threat that poses to conservative voices. But mum's the word on that, as it is with another sacred tenet of liberalism -- that the money's never too good to stand on principle.
The liberal Web site Salon broke a story which should have the Hollywood left marching in the streets. To honor parts of a massive billion-dollar government ad buy of anti-drug commercials, the networks made a quiet deal with the White House to place anti-drug messages directly into the scripts of their sitcoms and dramas.
If the networks had made this deal when Nancy Reagan was leading the War on Drugs, Hollywood would have exploded with fury. What about our artistic integrity! What about free speech! How dare you submit scripts and videotapes directly to the White House! It's cultural dictatorship!
But this deal happened at a time the entertainment industry loves hanging out with Bill Clinton at state dinners and Hollywood fundraisers, so the liberal mantra of artistic freedom is taking a holiday.
The network news divisions weren't any more outraged than their entertainment division cousins. Dan, Tom, and Peter are always at the barricades suggesting that private money corrupts the business of government. But it's relegated to a one-day story when the shoe is on the other foot, and the appearance problem is government money corrupting private business.
Notice how the same TV producers who hated a government-prodded ratings system rolled over for the White House ad campaign? "It's a slow news day story, a boondoggle," Dick Wolf, producer of "Law & Order,"dismissed it to Variety. Nor did Wolf have a problem with submitting tapes of existing shows to the White House for editorial review since "they're not subliminal messages. They're entertainment programs that carry a positive social message." Perhaps the funniest part of Wolf's new collaboration with the government anti-drug campaign is its stark contrast to the January 30, 1997 episode of his Fox series "New York Undercover" in which the "positive social message" was the wild claim that the government -- specifically the CIA -- was importing crack to the inner cities.
It all goes to show the vacuous nature of liberal "principles" that are championed rhetorically, but instantly abandoned when the right officials are seeking political advantage.
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