Thunder on the Left

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 21, 2006; 12:42 PM

In an online chat the other day, someone got mad at me for saying that there was as much anger toward the media on the left these days as there has always been on the right.

After all, haven't a couple of conservative bomb-throwers said that journalists should be tried, convicted, hung, shot and otherwise disrespected for spilling national security secrets?

True, and I haven't come across any liberal opinion-mongers wishing quite the same fate on card-carrying journalists. But let's not make the mistake of confusing the views of a few extremists with those of everyone on their side of the spectrum.

Trust me when I say that many liberals are really ticked off at the MSM, even though the nature of their criticism is very different from their rivals on the right. The anger that liberals feel over media coverage of President Bush and the war is tinged with deep disappointment over journalistic shortcomings and a hope, however vain, that things can be improved. Why aren't you on our side? The anger among conservatives is fed by decades of feeling that the MSM is a bastion of bias, and a sense of futility that things will ever change. Why can't we get an even break?

Now my view has been echoed, in no less liberal a journal than the Nation, by Lakshmi Chaudhry :

"The media rage on the left--at least among those politically active online--now matches that on the right."

What insight this writer has!

"In one sense, all political bloggers, conservative or liberal, define themselves in opposition to mainstream journalists, who are viewed as elitists determined to marginalize the true will of the American people as represented by the bloggers themselves.

"But where the right-wing blogosphere accuses journalists of ideological bias, the progressive netroots view them as corrupt and compromised.

"Journalists have therefore been assigned a very specific role in the netroots narrative about the ascendance of the right, which in turn enabled the wrongs of the Bush administration. They're marked as 'collaborators' who either because of cowardice or greed delivered this country into the hands of right-wing tyranny.

"Progressives therefore face a more difficult challenge than the one confronting conservative media-bashers: to advocate for a strong independent press able to do its job effectively and without partisan favor, while pushing its members to represent progressive issues and views. What this suggests is that in the area of media activism, borrowing from the Republican playbook--a favored strategy among progressive leaders these days--may not be quite as easy or desirable."

American Prospect's Greg Sargent had criticized a lengthy Washington Post article by David Broder and Dan Balz on the rise in partisanship after 9/11. When he said the story was useless because it didn't blame the GOP for pushing polarization, I wrote: "The piece is useless because they didn't slam the Republicans?"


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