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September 23, 2005



controversial and polarizing presidents in our history

Any comparably successful conservative Republican president would be getting the same bum rap. The polarization they blame on W is really their own derangement brought about by disconnect from reality.

In a laughable effort to maintain that their delusional distopia is what's really real, they apply the assertivly ridiculous label "reality based" to their psychosis.

Seven Machos

What has Bush done that is controversial? Invaded Iraq? You could argue it was dumb and/or wrong, but not controversial. Getting rid of Saddam had been U.S. policy since at least 1991. Invading Afghanistan? That enjoyed at least 90 percent of U.S. support?

Lowering taxes? Education reform? What?

Boris is right. The Left is doing the polarizing, and paying a might political price for it as well.

Cecil Turner

"the netroots alone cannot generate the critical mass necessary . . ."

I think he's dead-on on this one. But they are able to leverage media outlets (especially if they can demonstrate the correctness of a position, which distributed net fact-checkers seem much better at than legacy media). There are always competitors, or media outlets of a particular political bent willing to take on a story once it's been vetted.

"With a well-developed echo chamber and superior top-down discipline, the right has a much easier time forming the triangle."

[chortle] Yeah, it couldn't have anything to do with the fact that the left-leaning MSM tends to "spike" stories the right wants aired (and hence there's a lot of material out there).


Democrats seem baffled by Republican "message discipline," as if it is something that is a function of the managerial genius of Karl Rove. In fact, the relative "message discipline" (or lack thereof) of right and left derives from the ideology and professional background of the two parties.

Republicans of national stature are usually executives or soldiers. Democrats of national stature are usually lawyers or academics. Executives and soldiers understand the importance of sublimating their own preferences to the objectives of the group. Neither lawyers nor professors are known for this tendancy.

It goes more deeply than that. Republican activists at the grass roots come from churches or small businesses. Democratic activists come from "social change" organizations, NGOs, and so forth. The former have no particular respect for "dissent," so even if they might disagree with a course of action, they will go along with it, perhaps after having expressed their disagreement. The heroes of the right are often authority figures. The left admires "dissent," and "speaking truth to power," and its heroes challenge authority. Who is going to have more message discipline?

The Democrats used to have message discipline, but this was when industrial labor unions were strong. Like corporate executives and military officers, union leaders understood the importance of organizational authority. With the decline of the influence of labor unions and the rise of anti-establishment professional "activists," the ranks of Democrats do not include large numbers of people who believe in following orders for their own sake. Without such people, "message discipline" is very hard to maintain.

Anonymous Liberal

I think Daou's description of the triangle effect is exactly right. You can take issue with his historical narrative of how the various parties have used this triangle, but it's hard to argue with his basic premise: that in order to shape conventional wisdom, you have to have the netroots, the mainstream media, and the party establishment all repeating the same general narrative or talking point. When that trifecta occurs, the narrative in question will invariably become a part of the public consciousness. It will become the conventional wisdom. I also think it's fair to say that conservatives have been far more successful in the last decade or so at completing the triangle and influencing conventional wisdom. Their political gains during that period is a testament to this success.

That being said, the conservative triangle seems to have broken down recently (especially post Katrina). The mainstream media has been fairly reluctant to repeat White House talking points, and, as you point out, conservative bloggers/commentators (to their credit) have been fairly open in expressing their dissatisfaction with various Bush policies (particularly spending and cronyism).

But the fact that conservatives have been openly critical of Bush lately doesn't undercut Daou's basic analysis. Indeed, it reaffirms it. It explains why the White House has been having such a hard time influencing public opinion of late. With a suddenly uncooperative media and blogosphere, Bush cannot complete the triangle. Not enough people are repeating White House talking points. (If anyone cares, I have a fairly lengthy post discussing Daou's piece at my own site.)


(If anyone cares, I have a fairly lengthy post discussing Daou's piece at my own site.)

This site was built on shameless self-promotion - here is the link to Anon Lib. Eventually, I am even going to have time to read it.


Here's bias:

Echo Chamber vs Sisyphean loop.

Besides, he's just wrong. The largest angle of that triangle is on approach to it's limit of 180 degrees, with the MSM at that angle. Then the figure will be a line connecting netroots to political establishment and gradually that line will shorten to a point. Poof, and a tip of the hat to Edwin A. Abbott.


"...the conservative triangle seems to have broken down recently..."

This is wishful thinking. It's human nature, I think, to see whatever is happening *now* as different from what was happening before. The media has always been reluctant to repeat White House talking points and the fact that they may not always be unfailingly critical is not an indication otherwise. Conservative bloggers (many of whom are actually libertarian or objectivist, but that's another story) have always freely criticized Bush. There's nothing "lately" about it.

This doesn't, however, change the fact that conservatives do have better message discipline. No one figures that Michelle Malkin is abandoning the conservative ship because she tears into Bush about border control at least once a day. So where is the message discipline? It's in the robust nature of the message. We're the good guys. Freedom is the goal we have for ourselves and others. The future is bright. None of those things is impacted by Glenn Reynolds expressing his disgust at Rebublican Porkers. If we're the good guys, criticisms are nothing more than the desire to be better. It's like the military... no one expects any action, ever, to go off flawlessly. The after action reports are to find out how to do it better next time.

None of this causes splintering or instability in the message. It does confuse a whole lot of liberals, though, who seem convinced that conservatives must be wearing blinders on the simple evidence of apparent loyalty.

It's all BS.


He's wrong not just because the MSM is not an inevitable part of the dialogue beween roots and tops, but because he has serously mischaracterized the blogospheres.

I see a uniform message from the left at least partly because that blogosphere has so many toeing the party line of the extremists. The other side of the blogosphere, plethoric with ideas and dissent, simply isn't all thinking in unison. I don't get out much so I may be seriously in error, but that is my experience.

Cecil Turner

"it's hard to argue with his basic premise: that in order to shape conventional wisdom, you have to have the netroots, the mainstream media, and the party establishment all repeating the same general narrative or talking point."

I'm having a hard time seeing the need for a trifecta. The mainstream media alone can very adequately shape conventional wisdom on any particular subject . . . especially in the absence of a credible alternative narrative. As above, I've little doubt the blogosphere, by virtue of the relatively limited readership of any particular blog, must leverage MSM assets in order to be effective. And perhaps the party establishment message must converge to in order to garner significant political advantage (though that link seems less critical), but it certainly doesn't appear necessary to shape public opinion.

"This site was built on shameless self-promotion - here is the link to Anon Lib. Eventually, I am even going to have time to read it."

More diversity in viewpoints is always welcome (and shameless promotion is key). But I have to admit disagreeing with every one of A.L.'s points, from the significance of the Katrina buzz to the main Democratic disadvantage in massaging blogospheric CW (in my opinion, the liberal slant of the MSM). This statement was noteworthy:

The obvious implication is that most DailyKos readers, like Kos himself, are practical and aware of political reality.
Might I proffer an alternate implication (bolstered, in my opinion, by last year's results): Kos and friends are so far out of the political mainstream that they can't spot a winner?


I think that it's abject failure of the imagination, Cecil. Not only can they not spot a winner, they can't even *imagine* how anyone could fail to love their guy. Even when people explained in painful detail they still could only imagine that, for instance, the Swift Vets were a calculated political lie because no one could *really* feel the way they said they felt about Kerry.


I haven't looked at Anonymous Liberal's blog yet, but he (she?) strikes me as a rational person. Disagreement does not a Kool Aid addict make, and diversity of viewpoints *must* be welcome.

It's important.


Obvious points missed by Daou (and he would no doubt argue vigorously against some of them):

(1) Reps already have their message machine of talk radio, etc - well, yes, and there is a reason it is called "alternative" media - we have Rush and Drudge, libs have NPR and the NY Times.

(2) Better message discipline on right - uh, huh, and Andrew Sullivan, once one of the top righty bloggers, never defected. Can anyone name a comparable defection from the left?

(3) Katrina showed the ability of a left triangle to affect the CW? How about, "reality" showed the ability of the media to affect the CW? Brian Williams, emblematic of newsman everywhere, was going to find a problem and howl for a government solution; Fox newsies were as critical of government and Washington as everyone else. In a crisis, journalists expect Washington to act - this is a standard element of the litany of lib media bias, was in effect during Katrina, and would have happened with or without the cheerleading of lefty blogs.

A better example for Daou would be the role of lefty blogs in the Soc Sec debate.

On katrina, if anything I would say that the righty blogs were the only successful aspect of the right push-back on Katrina. Who found those buses parked outside the Superdome? Not Karl Rove, and not Fox. Who busted that lying fool from Meet The Press (Broussard, whose aide's mother did *not* drown on Friday after FEMA faiked to come running) - not Rove, nor Fox.

(4) This point was devastatingly effective, but I have forgotten it...

(5) Eason Jordan is an interestring story which prompted speculation that blogs had transcended their reliance on the MSM - the *first* mention of the Jordan scandal in the Times was the story announcing his resignation.

That aside, the notion that blogs need to leverage through the MSM is hardly a new insight. Offhand, I would say a key goal of every blog crusade is to get the MSM to pick up the story.

Anonymous Liberal

"I'm having a hard time seeing the need for a trifecta. The mainstream media alone can very adequately shape conventional wisdom on any particular subject."

This is a good point, Cecil. I think you're right. I'd argue, however, that while mainstream journalists have the power to shape conventional wisdom on their own, they're generally not a very creative or reflective bunch. They're lazy. In most cases journalists simply repeat someone else's narrative or talking point. The key for both liberals and conservatives is getting the media to adopt your framing of a particular issue. That's where blogs come in. And when blogs and politicians are saying the same thing, the media is far more likely to listen.

As for my comment about Kos readers, I was not defending their substantive positions on all issues (that would be silly). My point was that most of them are conscious of the fact that much of the country does not share their liberal views and are therefore willing to support a candidate (e.g. Clark) who is far from a hardcore liberal. In other words, it's possible to have views that are outside of the mainstream and still have a good sense of what the mainstream is. For example, I can believe that marijuana should be legalized while at the same time understanding that it would be counterproductive to include such a position in the party platform. I think that despite their substantive views, most DailyKos readers are more attuned to political reality than people give them credit for. That being said, please don't lump me in with that crowd. :)

TM, thanks for the link.


Um, no.

Mr. Daou's problem, as well as those on the blogosphere-left, is their unending cognitive dissonance secondary to their ability to "see the issues more clearly," "feel more deeply," and to "understand the problems better," than the minions of Rush and Rove, but despite their superior attributes, they remain out of power.

Like, how can it be thus?


That's gotta hurt.

All that narcissistic injury.

And narcissistic rage.


The Left has become the Borderline Party.

No wait, the Histrionic Party.

No, the Grandiose Party.

The Dirty Axis-II Party

Sucks to be them.

What's more, the real failure of the Left has been it's metamorphosis into the Reactionary Party, totally unable to adapt to the world around them.

"The times they are a-changin'."

Mr. Daou's ideas here are all laughable nonsense.




Sorry, RovEvil just beamed some new talking points in. You know, top-down control, triangles and stuff.

OK, where were we?

Anonymous Lunatic

Kos’s willingness to attack the DLC is mocked on the right, but it is precisely the right’s fear that Kos will “close the triangle” that causes them to protest so loudly.

That's right! That's why I'm protesting! Please, please don't repudiate the group that gave the Democratic Party its only successful President in the last forty years. Those of us on the right don't want to run against a sucession of righteous liberals like Humphrey, McGovern, Carter, Mondale, Dukakis, and Kerry! They fill us with dread! We want to face genuinely tough opposition tickets, like the twice-victorious ticket of DLC Chair Bill Clinton and DLC co-founder Al Gore. Or like the popular-vote-winning ticket of DLC founding member Al Gore and DLC Chair Joe Lieberman!

Steven J.

(1) Reps already have their message machine of talk radio, etc - well, yes, and there is a reason it is called "alternative" media - we have Rush and Drudge, libs have NPR and the NY Times.

Oh please, stop "working the refs." Neither the Times nor NPR are liberal. OTOH, the Eggman is just another party operative and PigBoy was made an honorary Congressman by Newt Gingrich.

Steven J.

(2) Better message discipline on right

Yes, it is much, much better. Here's a bit on why:

"One afternoon late last month, I paid a visit to the offices of Americans for Tax Reform, the conservative lobbying outfit headed by Grover Norquist.
Each Wednesday morning, more than a hundred leading conservative activists, policy pundits, talk-show producers and journalists, joined by assorted Hill staff members and White House aides, gather in Americans for Tax Reform's conference room to discuss the issues of the day, from prescription drugs to school choice."

Breaking the Code

Published: January 16, 2005


NPR can't be liberal. It's reality-based.

It was a dark and stormy night. But don't worry, it's TUESDAY night and soon the gang of 100 will gather to make all the bad go away.


I think Katrina and journalism was untypical, so we shouldn't try to draw too much from it.

That event was a great big cry for Mama. Baby threw a tantrum when it found out that Mama wasn't hovering; she'd been blown away, too.

MSM is going to be in BlameBush mode for the next three years in an attempt to line the political cradle for its next annointee.


Bush is the worst president ever. All of my colleagues who have voted for him now agree that it was a horrible mistake.


My Bonnie flies over the ocean.
My Bonnie flies over the sea.
Her droplets of soft information,
Bedeck all our reality.


Bush is the worst president ever

If Iraq forms a workable democracy, history will record W as one of the all time greats.

Sorry to ruin your delusion.


Other posters have mentioned this, but it bears repeating:

The reason conservatives have a more consistent message is because we live on planet earth. We perceive the same world and our ideas and ideals are consistent with that world rather than the other way 'round.

OTOH no two schizophrenics even live in the same universe.

Cecil Turner

"In most cases journalists simply repeat someone else's narrative or talking point."

And in most cases stories start with a liberal slant, so any subsequent change is more likely to favor conservatives . . . which perhaps explains why the right is generally credited as being more effective in altering CW.

"The key for both liberals and conservatives is getting the media to adopt your framing of a particular issue."

Yes, and then it has to resonate with the public. But it doesn't have to be all the media . . . just enough to get the desired version "out there." And in fact, a weak competing story or denial probably helps keep the buzz alive (e.g., RatherGate).

"In other words, it's possible to have views that are outside of the mainstream and still have a good sense of what the mainstream is."

I'm sure that's true, but I doubt that's what's happening at DKos. On the specific point, I suspect they've correctly concluded that national security is the killer issue, and seek a candidate with military credentials as an inoculation. (And adoption of that tactical position is blinding them to the obvious downside: that he's a very weak candidate.)

"Neither the Times nor NPR are liberal."

It's all relative . . . so if you're looking at it from sufficiently far left, I'm sure that's true.


Neither the Times nor NPR are liberal.

Well, if you stand far enough to the left, everything is off to the right.

If I were offering constructive strategic advice to the left, this "no media bias" meme would be a great place to start.

I think we all understand the importance to the left of pretending that there is not a natural liberal tilt to the MSM - by pretending that there is no lib bias, they can justify screaming that the press needs to move even more to the left.

However, a consequence of this is that lefty media strategies become Copernician - by insisting on a faulty premise, they arrive at conclusions that make no sense.

For example, from Daou:

...left-leaning bloggers face the challenge of a mass media consumed by the shop-worn narrative of Bush the popular, plain-spoken leader,

Well. If you begin your media strategy with the premise that the Times, CBS, NBC, ABC, and NPR are locked into this vision of Bush, you might choose to implement Plan A.

OTOH, a reality based strategy would recognize that these outfits think Bush is even phonier than the absurd clowns coughed up by the Dems (the Times actually endorsed the comical Kerry).

Having recognized that the problem is not that the media loves Bush, but rather that the Dem message is incoherent, often insane, and articulated by painfully phony candidates, a different media strategy would suggest itself.

But I'm not suggesting it.


... incoherent, often insane

That merits a teeny bit of justification. My view is that the Streisand/Kos left would like to see a Dem candidate who favored higher taxes, immediate exit from Iraq, elimination of the death penalty, advocacy for gay marriage, abortion on demand, stricter gun control, and an expansion of welfare benefits.

However, many of the folks in that wing of the party also recognize that such a candidate is not exactly electable, at least nationally.

So we end up with these absurd candidates (like Kerry, or Clark) where there is a yawning chasm between the words coming out of their mouth and the words their supporters want to hear.

Incredibly, the press and public pick up on this phoniness. And we all wonder whether the supporters are cheering because they know something about the candidate that we don't.

Or rather than Kerry and Clark, we could even annoy Bob Somerby and go back to the Gore campaign for examples. Yes, some of the specific story lines picked by the press (invented the internet, Love Story, Love Canal) were distorted. But in the grand scheme of the campaign, we had Gore denouncing Bush's irresponsible tax cut proposals while offering his own tax cuts of around a trillion dollars. And that comes off as phony.

Well, as long as the Dems persist in believing that there problem is the media, they will fail to look in the right place for the problem. Which makes finding a solution less likely.


And last year we had the delicious spectacle of the MSM sensing the phoniness of Kerry and being absolutely struck mute at articulating any such suggestion.

Toby Petzold

I blogged on this article a few days ago.

Notice how Daou never mentions Rathergate?

richard mcenroe

"Suddenly" unccoperative MSM???


Daou's argument is the only sign I need to keep me comfortably smug that the Dems will remain in the dark for a long time--though not necessarily a good thing for America because we need a competitive political marketplace, too.

His commentary is symptomatic of Bush Derangement Syndrome, as a few examples demonstrate...

That "[Jon] Stewart...play[s] a pivotal role in shaping people’s political views."

Please, his show is about fake news on Comedy Central. His notoriety is emblematic of the msm's political agenda. I dare say that the only time I've seen him discussed on right-leaning blogs was following his appearance on CNN's Crossfire.

"Fox News, talk radio...and a lily-livered press corps takes care of the media side of the triangle."

That's right, the cowardly folks at ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, PBS/NPR, NYTimes, WaPo, Time, and Newsweek are pushovers for the Bush Administration, and roll over for conservative causes! (And Dan Rather's TANG memo was authentic, right?)

What flavor Kool-Aid does Daou prefer?

"[L]eft-leaning bloggers face the challenge of a mass media consumed by the shop-worn narrative of Bush the popular, plain-spoken leader."

No doubt the reason I stopped buying the NYTimes was due to their ever present shop-worn narrative of Bush the popular...ZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzz. LOL

No less than Howard Fineman suggested that the msm was an arm of the Democratic Party, and wasn't it Evan Thomas who suggested that the msm would deliver 15 points for Kerry?

Until Democrats learn that it's the substance, rather than the form, of their argument that matters most to voters, they'll continue to wander in the desert.

richard mcenroe

It's real simple. I blog to hear about things I NEVER get from television or newspapers here in LA.

I've NEVER heard ANYTHING at a lefty blog that I wasn't hearing from the LA Times, network news, or "my" Democratic Congressdrones. So why bother?

I think part of this swayve and nooanced theory of Daou's is that when all three legs of your triangle point the same way, it collapses...


Excellent, thoughtful commentary and discussion on this thread. At the risk of adding one additional simplist point, i believe Mr, Daou is "Stuck on stupid."

Old Grouch

I see "Steven J." has hauled out the Confessore story as one reason the right has more "message discipline": It gets weekly marching orders/talking points from Grover Norquist.

Well, I can write a story like that, too:

Every morning, all across the country, thousands of editors, journalists, pundits, politicians, academics, and activists open their copies of The New York Times. There they learn what events and issues are newsworthy and important, and, perhaps more significantly, how those events should be framed and interpreted.

And my account is probably just as true as Confessore's, too. ;-)

Steven J.

OKAY, here's some backup for my claim that there is NO liberal media bias:

"There were days and times and events we might have had some complaints [but] on balance I don't think we had anything to complain about." - James Baker, quoted in Mark Hertsgaard, On Bended Knee: The Press
and the Reagan Presidency, NY: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1988, page 4.

"The truth is, I've gotten fairer, more comprehensive coverage of my ideas than I ever imagined I would receive," Buchanan said. "I've gotten balanced coverage and broad coverage--all we could have asked." Buchanan says his rhetoric is not meant to stir hostilities toward the media. "For heaven sakes, we kid about the liberal media, but every Republican on Earth does that."
WASHINGTON INSIGHT / Campaign '96; [Home Edition]
Los Angeles Times (pre-1997 Fulltext). Los Angeles, Calif.: Mar 14, 1996. pg. 5

Steven J.

That's right, the cowardly folks at ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, PBS/NPR, NYTimes, WaPo, Time, and Newsweek are pushovers for the Bush Administration,

Correct. This is from NYT shill David Brooks:

Moreover, on the Matthews Show, Brooks disclosed that "from Day One," the Bush White House "decided our public relations is not going to be honest," and that "privately they admit mistakes all the time."
BROOKS: From Day One, they had decided that our public relations is not going to be honest. Privately, they admit mistakes all the time. Publicly -- and I've had this debate with them since Day One; I always say admit a mistake, people will give you credit --
BROOKS: Not with him, but they represent what he believes, which is, if you admit a mistake, you get no credit from your enemies, and then you open up another week's story, because the admission of a little mistake leads to the admission of big mistakes and another week's story. It's totally tactical and totally insincere.


Uh, Steven J., did you look at the dates on your citations? 1996? 1988? Two examples from almost ten and twenty years ago do not make a very compelling argument for a lack of liberal media bias in *this* century.

Rathergate, Swift Boat Vets, the claim that the MSM would give Kerry fifteen points - these are all from the last election alone.

Ian S.

The right doesn't have better "message discipline", they're just more tolerant of people who aren't in total lockstep on things that matter less. To recycle Synova's example, Michelle Malkin's views on immigration and the WW2 detention of Japanese-Americans are not universal and probably not even majority among the right, but she's in step on the important stuff. In other words, the right knows when it's OK to disagree.

Whereas if you post on Kos that you're not sure it's helpful to compare Bush to Hitler, you are completely and totally out, and will be jumped on by the other posters and probably banned within seconds.


The true left and the "right" are both correct about the media. It is reactionary both by the nature of its job (it reacts to things others are doing) and due to its corporate ownership.

The problem is that much of the "left" has itself become reactionary. Many true liberals have fled the left and now call themselves "right-wing", though they have little in common with the historical right. Such folks, who include among their number many of our best and brightest, rightly perceive the media to be hostile to their truly progressive interests. I incluse our current liberal president in this number.

My guess is the 20th century left fouled everything up when they decided to side with King John over Robin Hood, in hopes that their demographic strength would win them the crown.


Its pointless to argue with someone that is seriously asserting the media is not liberal.

Robin Roberts

Indeed, Steven J.'s delusions are only self-delusions.


Obviously the media is not liberal because they LOVE Republican John McCain. The MSM also luvs, luvs, luvs Independent Jim Jeffords. Well, they used to.

Who are you gonna believe? Me or your lying eyes?

No, I am not serious! As if a few isolated examples make any kind of convincing argument.


Bezuhov says something that I've said lately as well (commenting on Baldilock's blog) that it seems that liberal or progressive values are common on the "right" since the right is "conserving" the progressive cultural movement of the last decades (social justice, big spending, etc.) while the "left" is all into isolationalism, a traditionally conservative value (no American life is worth ending the horror Iraqi's live with). It's not a perfect flip, of course. And it's also true that the group so far left that they believe the media as collaborating with Bush isn't representative of liberals or Dems.


Anyone offering mediamatters.com as a reliable basis for a discussion of bias is so seriously deluded as to be in need of serious medication. Not that I personally believe that being backed by a Bush-hating billionaire currency speculator who has damaged literally millions of poor citizens in the countries whose currency he de-stabilized is an indicator of any bias, mind you.

Steve Poling

I think the Right-Wing Blogs as well as those voices Mr. Daou termed "noise" provide value by bring up inconvenient stories ignored by MSM. The Swift Boat vets and the Rather/Burkett forged memoranda jumped from Blogs to "noise" and made its way to so many watercooler conversations that the MSM had to take official notice.

This can work both ways, but the anti-Bush disclosures have sounded more like Vince Foster murder and Mena AK drug trafficking conspiracy theorizing.

The lefty blogs have so consistently repeated the message that chimpy bushitler is the DEVIL that when the more venal matters of cronyism and corruption may exist, they've already shot their wad.

Blogs have the power to take a single issue or scandal and flame it to life such as Rather's Memo-quiddick, but they do not suffice to take down Mr. Rather.

Frankly, the arguments of the Left seem old and tired. They just want more of what they got in the New Deal, Fair Deal, and Great Society. Same goes for Civil Rights. Has anybody told the Democratic Party that the Berlin Wall has fallen and Eurosocialism is quickly going bancrupt?

Conversely, the Republican coalition has a lot of people with good intentions toward the poor, but reject Socialist means of helping them. This has created creative policy proposals and novel approaches.

I think Mr. Daou misrepresented his candidate's Party incoherence versus stale message and his opponent's iron discipline. In terms of message, something beats nothing every time.

Steven J.

Anyone offering mediamatters.com as a reliable basis for a discussion of bias is so seriously deluded

That's just where the quotes come from. ABC does not provide free transcripts.

Steven J.

Uh, Steven J., did you look at the dates on your citations? 1996? 1988?

The GOP has been whining about liberal bias for decades so I merely pointed out that they have been lying for decades.

Here's a more recent quote from one of your own:

"We come with a strong point of view and people like point of view journalism. While all these hand-wringing Freedom forum types talk about objectivity, the conservative media likes to rap the liberal media on the knuckles for not being objective. We've created this cottage industry in which it pays to be un-objective. It pays to be subjective as much as possible. It's a great way to have your cake and eat it too. Criticize other people for not being objective. Be as subjective as you want. It's a great little racket. I'm glad we found it actually." Matt Labash, 32, is a senior writer with The Weekly Standard, Http://journalismjobs.com/matt_labash.cfm, Interview with Matt Labash, The Weekly Standard -- May

Steven J.

Not that I personally believe that being backed by a Bush-hating billionaire currency speculator

Do you have any proof that MediaMatters is backed by Soros?


I think the idea of a "triangle" vs "the echo chamber" is a good argument to explore. But while conservatives have argued (not unjustly) the various biases of the MSM which constituted an echo chamber of conventional (and liberal more often than not) opinion, they were always ignored as lone, fringe voices. This is before the popularization of cable and the internet which would allow them to organize and over time form their collective counter argument to the MSM.

Liberals were good at creating an echo chamber long before Karl Rove or conservative created their own "triangle" (talk radio, Fox, and to a lesser extent Drudge) and as a counter. What liberals were simply not good at was creating a counter triangle of their own political opinion. There have been many arguments as to why this is, but nevertheless the result has shaped the perception that the Left is out of ideas and only knows how to attack, which is the surest sign of a losing majority if ever there was one.

All this aside, while I think there's a limit to blogging in general, it's wrong to underestimate it's energies within the base. If you're trying to expand majorities however, blogging does not strike me as that kind of lifeblood medium. Such was the case with the last election: the Left's blogs proclaimed that it was they who had the momentum, but in reality it was simply the base talking to itself. If any minority, let alone the fanatical fringe of one, creates enough noise, delussion will swiftly follow.

That said, this was a sober article, but I still note that the rest of the blogosphere is less so as with each news paradigm, the Left transforms nearly anything into an attack of convenience on the president.

Harry Arthur

If the subject is bias, I'd recommend Bernie Goldberg's two excellent books: Bias and Arrogance both written by a news "insider".

Greg F
Do you have any proof that MediaMatters is backed by Soros?

See The Shadow Party by By David Horowitz and Richard Poe.

CAP helped launch Media Matters for America, a 501(c)(03) public charity better known for its Web site MediaMatters.org, which opened for business on May 3, 2004.

CAP (Center for American Progress) is one of Soros "seven sisters". The support is indirect.

Carlisle told Cybercast News Service, "While there is no evidence Soros gave directly to Brock and Media Matters, clearly Soros-funded groups have been instrumental in getting MMA started."

"...It pays to be subjective as much as possible. It's a great way to have your cake and eat it too. Criticize other people for not being objective." etc.

I do not think this means what you think it means.

Seriously, Steven. What point were you trying to prove? It's true that there are openly biased conservative media. They admit it. People know what they're getting going in. Why should they not enjoy being subjective while blasting liberal-leaning media for failing to be objective? Why not?

Suppose I chose to openly eat meat while most of those around me claim to be vegans but eat Jell-o. Should I not enjoy my meat while calling the proclaimed vegans on their animal product consumption? Depending on the obnoxiousness of the vegans, should I not enjoy it?

Personally, I doubt that most journalists are pre-meditated in their lack of objectivity. After seeing the cover of TIME today I decided that they are just too stupid to graduate from college with a challenging major and are therefore simply oblivious to history, relevance, consequences, context, and nearly everything but the compulsive need to portray themselves as knowing more than anyone else.

Provocative cover but I won't give them the satisfaction of buying it and feeding their delusion.


Steven J. -

Daniel Okrent, the former ombudsman for the NYT, wrote an article before he left which was titled "Is the NYT Liberal?". His answer in the first line - "Of course it is." Can you not take the word of someone who worked there, for heaven's sake? (Google it if you want.)

Try this test sometime - tally how many times the NYT op-ed page supports a liberal position in any given time frame. If you have trouble with identifying whether the position is "liberal", just determine if you agree with the editorial (that should give you a clue). Then look at how many gratuitous swipes at Bush you find in other articles and tally those (our local Austin-American Statesman was so bad during the last election that they even inserted a nasty dig in the illustration of an article about local street names!). The NYT fails with flying colors.

Steven J.

It's true that there are openly biased conservative media. They admit it.

They rarely admit it and they make a subsidized living by whining about non-existent liberal bias.

Steven J.

Sorry, I don't trust that freakshow Horowitz so I'd have to see some IRS data instead.

Steven J.

Cybercast News Service

Didn't these guys run Jeff Gannon articles?


The strength of the right bloggers, it seems to me, is that they already know what the conventional wisdom is--it's in the press and on tv and the chattering classes repeat it endlessly. When we want to make our case, we must consider that and rebut it clearly and cogently to be heard at all.

And in the course of doing that, we have a variety of bloggers and their disparate opinions and whoever makes the best case wins.

The weakness of the left is they don't have to think through their arguments,or defend them to be accepted.They need only repeat the party line. As a consequence their arguments are not fresh, tightly woven and do not stand up to any rigorous testing.And they miss the stuff that's percolating beneath the MSM screen.As it's a closed loop, if the MSM doesn't report bad news, it doesn't exist for them.Thus, Kerry with the major editorial boards in his pocket, ignored the Swiftie storm until it was too late to effectively deal with it. He'd already "reported for duty" and was stuck with a dead campaign theme. So stuck that when he piloted the boat across Boston Harbor to the Conventional Hall ,only he failed to realize the pose was already a joke that was sinking his candidacy.

It's the opposite of the top down "message" theory of the clueless author of this piece.

Much the same argument could be made about the financing of the two parties. For the Dems they need only to get to relatively few really high rollers to have enough to finance a campaign. The Republicans,however, in recent years have sought and received support from a much larger base most of whom contribute less--that means their message must have broader appeal.
The Dem weakness is compounded by the 527 dodge they mastered. They had the feckless, ill-run ACT (financed by Soros , et al)to get voters to the polls. The Reps relied on thousands of grassroots operations and beat them on the ground.The Dems shoveled millions of dollars to MoveOn which attracted a following not reflective of majority opinion and unskilled in effective political organization. They took the easy route of relying on Moore's crockumentary to rev up the base and succeeded only in turning off the essential middle.

In sum, Soros and Lear,Hollywood, and the NYT and Wash Post and Newsweek and Time and CBS are weakening the party as much as the Great Society weakened the poor.


"...Jeff Gannon..."










Ron Hardin

What survives in the media is soap opera. The media isn't so much biased as it is a business, and there's no survivable market for hard news.

People say they want hard news, but people don't tune in except for big stories, which are too rare to pay the bills. Think city council meetings. There's hard news, and nobody will watch.

The largest reliable audience, one that will come every day, news or not, is the soap opera audience. This audience (20% of the population, 40% of women) is big enough to pay the bills and can be sold to advertisers.

So the media will never report anything that doesn't fit the laws of soap opera. It's a minority, but it's the biggest reliable audience, and so that's the media business model.

If you want your sound bite to have legs in the media, it must be transformed to fit some soap opera narrative. Politicians know this, and so that's what you see, and every national debate must go through the medium of soap opera.

It's fair to say that the Democratic Party is the party of soap opera today ; and the Republican Party, which ought to split, is the party reluctant to engage in it. Its nods to soap opera are lame and feeble (``compassionate conservatism''). Explanations of how things work tend not to fit into soap opera, and so do not make it into the media ; there is nevertheless an audience for it, just not one big enough to pay the media bills.

But attracting votes is ultimately different from paying media bills, and so you get the soap opera minority winning the media battle, and the how-it-works audience winning elections.

The solution to the media dysfunction is ridicule of its audience, rather than ridicule of the media. The media are behaving rationally.


I like the irony of MediaMatters opening on nearly the same day that the Swifties started their vain search for MSM attention.


Very insightful. Thank you for the article.

Beth Donovan

Neither the Times nor NPR are liberal.

That is a ridiculous statement. The Times has no understanding of Americans who do not live in New York Ciy or Washington DC. Those of us in the 'fly-over States' do not exist in any real sense to the NYTimes.

NPR did have a period back in the Clinton days when it was fairly balanced - because Newt Gingrich threatened their funding if they did not change. But the liberals eventually took over again, and many conservatives, such as myself and my spouse, pulled our personal funding to NPR.

The biggest difference between the left bloggers and the right bloggers is the level of civility present in the comments.

Try to comment over at KOS. See what happens if you are not in lock step agreement with the writer of the post.

Personal insults will appear from nowhere - from people who have no understanding of what they speak. They are a true echo chamber, because they simply repeat a party line - and they seem to think that if you repeat something often enough, it becomes true.

Rather magical thinking, that.


(a) "but I don't recall ever hearing of Steve Clemons"

(i) You haven't lost much!

On July 16, 2005, Steve Clemons from the Washington Note wrote that "it seems easier to hijack and redirect the Democratic Party..."

(ii) he spent all his time and energey opposing Bolton from going to the UN. Of course, as every moonbat leftist loser, when Bolton was sent to the UN, he claimed victory, of sorts.

(b) Daou, conveniently, forgot Cindy Sheehan -
Who Led Code Pink Women For Peace To Rescue Wounded Soldiers Blogs - Dem. leaders (nowhere to be found) triangle. But then, you can't blame Daou, can you?

Steven Den Beste

(2) Better message discipline on right - uh, huh, and Andrew Sullivan, once one of the top righty bloggers, never defected. Can anyone name a comparable defection from the left?

Christopher Hitchens?


Once Bob Somerby discovers charter schools, I predict defection.


What did anyone expect from a former Kerry hack, insightful acurate analysis? This is like asking Ted Rall for his analysis of the Bush administration.

Peg C.

I always laugh when the left rants about the echo chamber of the right. There is no such thing, if by "echo chamber" we mean a closed loop of like-minded feedback without challenge from outside. We on the right cannot avoid hearing and reading the MSM, the conventional "wisdom," the abject hatred/bigotry/racism in the base of the Democrat Party, the overt disgust of Red State America in overseas media, etc. It is in our face all the time. It is exceedingly easy for liberals and lefties to avoid all righty blogs, TV, radio, and punditry. As a lefty Dem I spent decades in a cocoon of unchallenged dogma. I spent years despising Rush Limbaugh without ever hearing a word from his lips - simply because my party told me he was evil incarnate.

The echo chamber is on the left, not the right, and is the reason why the right is intellectually vigorous and the left is intellectually flaccid. The right has its ideas and philosophies challenged at every turn; most on the left refuse to hear or read challenges to their dogma. Hence, that dogma never becomes robust ideas that will withstand challenge and scrutiny but is greatly threatened by them. Thus the need to severely depress efforts to do so from within and without.

We on the right can avoid all TV news and boycott the NYT/Time/Newsweek/WaPo circle jerk, and yet read many righty blogs and read in detail of the ideas on the left. Not only do we know them by heart, but many of us once subscribed totally to them. Don't tell me the lefties locked in the circle jerk are reading ideas of the right on their blogs in anything like the number we on the right are reading theirs, much less understanding them or articulating them fairly.


Populist brainpower is feeling, seeing, and rejecting the failures of leftist thought. It is primarily the failure of the left to recognize the limitations of their ideology that has burdened them with their present strategic confusion. Listen to Etienne tout her liberal urban paradise, then look how she can't or won't talk about the disaster that urban public education is, especially in Blue America.


Steven J:

Judging by your citations, I think you might be missing the heart of the 'media bias' complaint.

No one is arguing that conservative voices are wholly absent -- whether it be David Brooks at the liberal Times or openly partisan writers at Weekly Standard -- even though the editorial pages of most major news papers lean decidedly Left.

Rather, it's the creeping editorialization of news coverage -- like selective reporting from Iraq, ignoring stories which don't fit a narrative, or spinning of this weekend's protests -- which forms the basis for the charge.


"Neither the Times nor NPR are liberal."

About ten years ago a senior person at WBEZ Chicago Public Radio person, in an unguarded moment, described the radio station as socialist (or did she say "left wing"?)

Cecil Turner

I doubt there's any way to measure media bias objectively, but the most recent Pew Report suggests the majority of Americans perceive political bias:

Six-in-ten see news organizations as politically biased, up from 53% two years ago. More than seven-in-ten (72%) say news organizations tend to favor one side, rather than treat all sides fairly; that is the largest number ever expressing that view.
They apparently didn't ask "which side?" in this survey, but in the previous one:
When it comes to describing the press, twice as many say news organizations are “liberal” (51%) as say they are “conservative” (26%), while 14% say neither phrase applies.

Circle of Yeaaagggh!

Take up the Triangle, brave Kos!

Complete the Circle of Yeeeaaagghh!


"...and a Democratic Party incapacitated (for the most part) by the focus-grouped fear of turning off "swing voters" by attacking Bush."

What planet is this person living on? The DNC (and it's supporters) has been in rabid, attack-dog mode since day one of Bush's presidency; Bush, the elder's presidency; Reagan's presidency.........


As someone formerly inside the liberal cocoon, I agree with Peg C 1000%.

I hop around different righty blogs and I can't tell who is who. There's isolationists, religious conservatives, fiscal conservatives, libertarian types, hawks, social liberals, military aficianados, law and order types, civil liberty types. Makes my head spin.

My main reason for heading to the right though still stands. Bush shook up the status quo in the arab world by going into Iraq.

I support that. I applaud that.

The arab world has been forced to confront its own problems.

Toby Petzold

Thanks for the link, Tom.

I think Daou's essay is almost as scatter-brained as my response to it, but omitting a reference to Rathergate when you're trying to make the argument that the blogs can't quite get it done on their own is pretty disingenuous. The blogosphere's overwhelming evidentiary and analytical impact on exposing the Killian Forgeries was, in itself, a newsmaking event.

I hear that Rather recently gave some speech in which he used the phrase "speaking truth to power." Ha! Wouldn't he know?


More like "speaking untruth to gain power'.

How did CJR justify that hack job that still tried to defend the memos?


"How did CJR justify that hack job that still tried to defend the memos?"

With Victor Navasky as editor who is nonplussed by that mess of a story on the memos?

Navasky believes the pumpkin papers were fake but that the TANG documents were real.

Prothonotary warbler anyone?



I think one of the problems with politicians, is that they get very wrapped up in their own ideas (this is a problem for leaders in general.- but politicians in particular.)

The issue I see with all politics is that there are a certain number of gradually changing political bases, and an effective party that changes its message too quickly (or in certain directions) will alienate its base.

In the past 6 or so years, Republicans have been more successful in -not- alienating political bases.

For instance, a populist base will buy communist ideas for awhile, but will certainly reject them if they find out that its really not about helping the common man.

There are lots of political bases out there, of varying sizes. It seems that what the left has been most successful at doing since the 60's is not so much moving the country to a more 'liberated' or 'progressive' mindset, but has instead generated a large number of diverse, microcosmic bases that demand appeasement and attention. What they have done, in fact, is over time seal their doom.

Glancing at an article on lgf (from zombie) I see that at a George Galloway event there are a variety of what would seem to be unrelated groups - ANSWER, codepink, sympathizers for palestine, recruiters for jihad...

What it reveals to me is that leftists are trying to hold on to all of their progressive groups while still straddling the center. What this really looks like is someone raving about how Bush is Hitler and then claiming that there is no media bias. Or, more to the point, it is very obvious that Democrats pander to the worst sort of extremists when they can- but try to hit in the center when they must. The end result is ineffective political clout, with a lot of sound and fury. Plus, as an added bonus, shaky support at best from larger, less demanding political bases.

This is why there is really such a weird collection of Democratic issues - gay marriage, welfare support, gun control, abortion, (and darker still...) unconditional anti-war sentiment, terrorist sympathizing, and so on. They don't match up really as a coherent whole, unless you hold a certain mindset. That means that in order to be supportive of leftist causes you have to be slightly (at least) out of touch with reality! In other words, the game is slanted against leftists. By themselves!

I know its very insulting, but that is the way I see it. I've found that there are definitely liberals out there that think quite clearly, but often they take certain things for granted which lead them astray. I'd give examples, but I'm too tired. Maybe if someone really is that interested, or something.

Right now I'm just irritated with national politics, so I'm not going to vote national in the next election. (I will vote for state and local.) As of late (what with the ridiculous spending and incompetence of both parties) I have come to the conclusion that if nobody voted national, someone would still get elected (and they would probably be a Democrat.) Dead people voted for him, you know!



It'd be nice if somebody came up with a unifying principle for the following policy positions:

For gun control
For broadest possible freedom of non-political speech (i.e., scatology etc. in art)
For McCain-Feingold
For gay activist agenda
For unlimited abortion rights
Aagainst the war in Iraq
For the welfare state
Against the war in AFG
Against capitalist
For massive foreign aid
Against free-trade agreements

I've come up with a commonality; they are held by significant numbers of activist Democrats and Democratic sympathizers. But that is not a principle.


"The key for both liberals and conservatives is getting the media to adopt your framing of a particular issue."

Funny that Daou bothered to use the term "liberal" in this statement when he uses "progressive" nearly everywhere else.

Liberals have been running from that description of them for years now. They are trying desperately to be known as "progressives" (as shown in Daou's piece).
Why? Because "progressive" automatically favorably positions the debate for liberals.

By using "progressive", instead of the honest term "liberal", Daou and others reveal themselves to be inherently dishonest.

Please, will a liberal (or a "progressive") please explain the difference between the two? Please explain the difference between these terms and "socialist".

If liberals/progressives/socialists cannot conjure up the courage to present themselves in a consistent, honest and open manner why would any reasonable person trust them?

The fact is liberals/progressives/Socialists know the vast majority of Americans want nothing to do with Socialism. That they lie about this fundamental fact speaks volumes about their character as well as their "cause".


Can anyone name a comparable defection from the left?

Christopher Hitchins?


You never struck me as a Den Beste reader TT. :)

Chairperson of the Progressive People's Party

"Progressive" has come to mean approximately the same thing as "Potemkin".

"Progressive" as in the fawning reportage of Walter Duranty, of healthy, happy Soviet farmers harvesting vast fields of the peoples' wheat to feed the progressive Soviet nation.

Or, more simply, when a liberal says "progressive" the rest of us hear "progressive[ly bigger government]".

Sexing up the language with doubleplusgood words like "progressive" doesn't make the ugly ideas of the left any prettier. If Marxist doublespeak actually worked we'd all be standing in line waiting for the Progressive People's Party to give us our coffee ration.

Anonymous Liberal


The reason the sentence you quoted uses the term "liberal" as opposed to "progressive" is because it was written by me, not by Daou. I never liked the term "progressive," because it is not clear to me what it means.

As for your suggestion that the terms "liberal" and "progressive" are synonymous with "socialist," that's just silly. There's never been a strong socialist movement in America, even on the left. If you want to know what socialists look like, go to Europe. American lefties are nothing like their European counterparts in that regard. Both parties in America are very pro-capitalism. The entire political debate in this country is confined to a very narrow bandwidth on the ideological spectrum. For instance, you don't see liberals/Democrats calling for the socialization of key industries, as is so often the case in Europe. True socialists view American liberals/Democrats as devout capitalists.

Harry Arthur

CPPP, progressive[ly bigger government unfortunately this describes Bush and the republicans of late, doesn't it?


Yes, but Bush and the Republicans don't describe themselves as "progressive".

They sure do walk and quack, though, don't they?


edit: waddle and quack



How the tongue twists the thought. 'Democrat', 'Liberal', 'Progressive'. Who can think ill of each label? But when 'Democrats' demagogue ignorant mobs, 'Liberals' sashay into dervishes of ideology, and 'Progressives' oppose any change, then the tetanic struggle of the party to breathe is apparent.

One can only watch open-mouthed.

Steven J.

ED: For unlimited abortion rights
Against the war in AFG

I can't think of any Democrat who's for either of these but you claim there are "significant numbers of activist Democrats and Democratic sympathizers"

Where is you proof?

Steven J.

like selective reporting from Iraq

LMFAO!!!! You folks don't understand that Iraq is WORSE than what is generally reported. Did you know that on June 24th, Jafaari asked Bush for a "Marshall Plan" for Iraq?


Steven J.

spinning of this weekend's protests

What spinning?

Steven J.

as much as the Great Society weakened the poor.Posted by: clarice

Yeah, it weakened the poor by reducing the poverty rate:

1964 19%
1965 17.3%
1966 15.7%
1967 14.2%
1968 12.8%


Steven J.

if you repeat something often enough, it becomes true.
Rather magical thinking, that.

I know EXACTLY what you mean:

"We know for a fact there are weapons there." - Ari Fleischer, Jan. 9, 2003

"We know that Saddam Hussein is determined to keep his weapons of mass destruction, is determined to make more." - Colin Powell, Feb. 5, 2003

VICE PRES. CHENEY: And we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons. I think Mr. ElBaradei frankly is wrong. MTP, March 16, 2003


Saddam certainly repeated that he had WMD often enough. Doing so doesn't make things true, but it makes people believe them. Shall I list the presently prominently anti-war people who used to think that Saddam had WMD? Including Joe(Politics of Truth) Wilson?

Please quit attributing the drop in the poverty level to the 'Great Society'. You've been taken apart on that before.

You are simply completely out of touch to claim what you do about Iraq. Strong-willed, confident, purple-fingered Iraqis are making a nation there. I am sorry that dismays you. You should be sorry, too.


It's kind of fun to hear a liberal defend 'The Great Society'. If it was so great, let's do it again.

This is part of the problem the left has today. Social Security is GREAT when it's obvious to anyone under 35 that it's a crapped out Ponzi scheme. The UN is GREAT when it's obviously the most gargantuous pile of political corruption in the entire history of man.

I could go on and on. They're running on empty.

Steven J.

Social Security is GREAT when it's obvious to anyone under 35 that it's a crapped out Ponzi scheme.

It's not a Ponzi scheme. It did help reduce seniors poverty rate dramatically.

Steven J.

Please quit attributing the drop in the poverty level to the 'Great Society'. You've been taken apart on that before

No I haven't and besides, there's no one here with the intelligence or knowledge to do so.

Steven J.

Strong-willed, confident, purple-fingered Iraqis are making a nation there.



It is a Ponzi scheme and it did decrease elderly poverty by income transfer. That income transfer is increasing exponentially and unsupportably. It is transferring now the poverty from the elder to the younger. Period.

I've long thought that civil war in Iraq was inevitable. I now think that Sistani, the Kurdish leaders and the Sunni tribal leadders will form a confederacy with Sunniland being paid to be a buffer zone with Syria, Saudiland, and Wahabbiland.


Better government enforced saving than government enforced income transfer. Get it?


Oh yes. I'll leave criticism of the 'Great Society' to someone more knowledgable about it, and, of course, more intelligent.

Bring Thomas, bring back,
Oh bring back my Patrick to me, to me.

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