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Sunday, January 30, 2005

Mr. Surly's Book Report

As an antidote to the insightful commentary on Star Trek conventions, Mr. Surly brings you a book review of the timely Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News by Bernard Goldberg, a 28 year veteran of CBS News. You can now see him on Real Sports on HBO, as his views regarding media bias did not go over particularly well with Dan Rather. Rather's current disgrace, brought on by his and CBS News' attempt to discredit George W. Bush's National Guard service during Vietnam, lends support to the central thesis of Goldberg's book.

Goldberg explains that most news outlets, but in particular ABC, NBC and CBS, have a liberal bias, which most Americans are generally aware of on some level. However, Goldberg gets behind the reason for this bias. Liberal bias is not the result of any conscious conspiracy to manipulate the news, but rather the root of the problem is that network news is dominated by liberals who are simply convinced of the righteousness of their beliefs.

Liberal views are simply thought of as "correct." Such views are not challenged because of the homogeneous nature of most newsrooms. Goldberg reminds us of the great anecdote about Pauline Kael and her comments about the landslide victory of Richard Nixon. Kael is said to have complained "I don't know how he won. I don't know anyone that voted for him."

Liberal stances on causes such as affirmative action, gay rights, abortion rights, and feminism are presumed to be the norm. The news is tilted to reflect and support such views as correct. Conservative voices are thus marginalized on network news if included at all in the news. If there is a story on a women's issue, you go to the liberal National Organization for Women for a reaction, as one reporter is quoted in the book. It didn't even occur to the reporter to also get a reaction from a conservative group. Why go to a conservative group that opposes abortion to talk about abortion? That just doesn't fit the liberal politically correct view of the world.

Goldberg examines the many different ways liberal bias has affected the way the news is brought to viewers. Ever notice how conservative commentators are labeled as such, but you never see someone on the news introduced as a "noted liberal commentator." Ever notice the phrase "right wing" is commonly used to describe conservatives, but when was the last time you heard a politician described as "left wing"?

One of the more interesting, to me in particular, examples of liberal bias Goldberg cites is an instance where a producer criticizes a story he worked on about an Alabama prison chain gang. The producer was critical because almost all the prisoners interviewed for the story were black. Coincidentally almost all the prisoners were black, but this did not deter the producer from giving a warning to Goldberg's cameraman to shoot more white faces next time. The producer's actions are not based on any valid concern, such as perhaps the Alabama justice system unfairly targets blacks. Apparently, it's just "insensitive" to show blacks in chains in prison even if that's the reality.

The veracity of this story is apparent to me. I worked in television news for a few years as well, and when I selected videotape for a story about crime, I was told to find more images of whites getting arrested for the story. It just wasn't politically correct to show too many blacks being arrested in a story about crime.

Goldberg's analysis is a devastaing indictment of how liberal bias and political correctness has destroyed the integrity of network news. The book is recommended reading for anyone who wants to understand how CBS screwed up its expose on George Bush's National Guard records.


At Sunday, January 30, 2005 at 8:47:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found it interesting that everything that Bernard Goldberg said about Dan Rather in 2001 turned out to be absolutely true as demonstrated by Dan's pitiful handling of the forgerd documents issue. Back when the book was first published, the talking heads at the networks rushed to the talk shows to depict Goldberg as a disgruntled CBS employee with a "right wing" agenda.

Good book, indeed.
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