Myth of the Liberal Media

Right-wing partisans holler about liberal bias, even as they wield great influence in TV, radio, and the press

| July / August 2003

Sure, you’ve heard of the story behind the story, but what about the powerful narratives that run so deep beneath mainstream journalism you don’t realize you’re hearing them? Like the idea that all American wars are just. Or that every kid in the land has the same chance to succeed. For independent-minded journalists seeking to convey something closer to reality than this, the first step is to master what many conservative communicators already seem to know: A story belongs to the one who tells it best. —The Editors

Republicans of all stripes have done quite well for themselves during the past five decades fulminating about the “liberal media”—the progressive thought police who spin, supplant, and sometimes suppress the news we all consume. But while some conservatives actually believe their own grumbles, the smart ones don’t. They know mau-mauing the other side is just a good way to get their own ideas across—or perhaps prevent the other side from getting a fair hearing for theirs. On occasion, honest conservatives admit this. Rich Bond, then chair of the Republican Party, explained during the 1992 election, “There is some strategy to [bashing the ‘liberal’ media]. . . . If you watch any great coach, what they try to do is ‘work the refs.’ Maybe the ref will cut you a little slack on the next one.”