The other day I was in the bookstore and saw that Bernard Goldberg has a new book, Crazies to the Left of Me, Wimps to the Right: How One Side Lost Its Mind and the Other Lost Its Nerve. Let me first let you know that although I consider Goldberg a sad specimen and a complete fraud, I have to have to give grudging kudos to him. Goldberg inspired me to start this blog in 2002 (I mentioned Goldberg as an inspiration in my interview with journalist John C. Cotey). Let me elaborate: in 2002, I saw Goldberg's book Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News in the bookstore and read it. Before I started this blog, I wrote a review of Bias for Amazon.com and placed it in the addendum of this post.
Back to Goldberg's new book. When I checked it out, I noticed Goldberg devoted an entire chapter asking why liberals don't like Fox News. If you're familiar with Goldberg, you won't be surprised by his answers. Since Goldberg asked the reader, "Why do liberals hate Fox News?" I thought I would give him some answers. In fact, I reprinted the entire chapter in Goldberg's book devoted to Goldberg's "analysis." I answer that it's not just people on the left who don't like Fox News; there are others (namely people concerned with journalistic integrity) who view FNC with the contempt it deserves. The chapter is patronizing, insulting to the intelligence of any informed reader, and--most important--it is intellectually dishonest.
Anyone familiar with Goldberg won't be surprised that the title of the chapter is "Fox Derangement Syndrome." I put Goldberg's words in red followed by my analysis of what he wrote.
"Fox Derangement Syndrome" by Bernard Goldberg
I've been contemplating some very weighty matters of late. Is there a God? What is the meaning of life? Why do liberals hate Fox News?
ANALYSIS: Goldberg lamely uses the comedy rule of threes to get a chuckle from his readers.
Let's leave the small stuff to smaller minds and get to what is truly important: Why, indeed, do liberals detest Fox News with such a burning passion?
ANALYSIS: I can speak only for myself and will answer why I detest Fox News. My reasons are based on content analysis of the channel, personal observations, revelations of former FNC employees, as well as common sense.
There are many legitimate reasons why many people--not just liberals--have contempt for FNC. For one thing, it is not because FNC has a "conservative bent" as Goldberg concedes. Rather it is because Fox News is more of a political operation--a GOP party organ--than it is a legitimate journalistic outlet. Fox News is to journalism what the anti-think tank, the Heritage Foundation is to scholarship (the Heritage Foundation's Burton Pines, in a moment of candor, explained, "We're not here to be some kind of Ph.D. committee giving equal time. Our role is to provide conservative public-policymakers with arguments to bolster our side").
Why do they hate Bill O'Reilly more than Osama bin Laden and almost as much as Dick Cheney?
ANALYSIS: Goldberg is taking a little swipe at liberals using the right-wing talking point that liberals hate Bush et al. more than bin Laden (Dinesh D'Souza recently used this lame tack).
Why, in places like the Upper West Side of Manhattan, do their eyes roll reflexively at the mere mention of the words "Fox News" in much the same way as your leg jerks when the doctor hits your knee with a rubber hammer?
ANALYSIS: 1)Goldberg engages in some phony populism for the Red State readers of the book--the view that liberals are out-of-touch wine-swilling snobs who live on the Upper West Side or Beverly Hills. Goldberg did the same thing in Bias. 2)Goldberg tries to portray opposition to Fox News as visceral and not based in reality.
Why, in other words does Fox News loom so large in the fevered liberal imagination? Why do they see it as a fire-breathing monster with frightening powers aimed at destroying the Democratic Party?
ANALYSIS: Quick answer is here. Throughout the rest of this post, I will provide more details.
Why, especially when you consider that there are 300 million people living in this country and on any given night only about 2 million are watching Fox News, would any rational person think Fox News is the Evil Empire?
1) Although Fox News' viewership is small compared to the population of the US, its impact is larger than the numbers suggest. For one thing, FNC is an important cog in the right's media apparatus. Along with hate radio and pseudo-newspapers like the Moonie-owned Washington Times, FNC is very effective in spreading right-wing disinformation and GOP talking points. For instance, right after 9/11, Bill Clinton gave a serious speech. An operative for Moon's Washington Times wrote a libelous story that falsely gave the impression that Clinton said that America deserved what it got. The Drudge Report, hate radio, Sean Hannity, and Fox News picked up the phony story. As a result, tens of millions of Americans were misinformed. This is just one example.
2) Although its numbers are relatively small compared to the US population, it has very high cable ratings (largely because it attracts the wing-nuts and the audience for real news channels is split by CNN, MSNBC, and PBS). This has led to a situation in which, in recent years, the legitimate cable news channels have attempted to imitate Fox News.
3) The effect that Fox News' slant has on viewer ideology is not theoretical.
4) Let me throw a question back to Goldberg, Why, especially when you consider that there are 300 million people living in this country and on any given day Media Matters receives fewer than a million hits a day, would any rational person think Media Matters is the Evil Empire? Why would Fox News Analyst Tammy Bruce (who is supposed to provide the liberal balance on FNC--more on her later) compare MMFA to the Brown shirts and the Gestapo? Why would Goldberg's friend Bill O'Reilly compare Media Matters' David Brock to Joseph Goebbels?
The key word, my friends, is "rational." After much study and consideration, I have come to the conclusion that there is nothing even remotely rational about the fear and loathing of Fox News. I have come to the conclusion that liberals who hate Fox news are sick. They suffer from a mental disorder that some of have called. . .drumroll, please. . ."Fox derangement syndrome" (FDS).
ANALYSIS:This is a favorite tack of the radical right. Rather than debate the arguments of opponents, they try to smear their opponents as mentally unbalanced. Typical Fox News. For instance, Al Gore gave an impassioned speech denouncing Bush's ill-conceived plans for war and instead of arguing the merits of the speech, the Fox News crowd went into action.
I have personally encountered this from Goldberg's friend, Bill O'Reilly. When I confronted O'Reilly about the tactics of his boss Roger Ailes, O'Reilly potted down my audio and called me "a nut" rather that debate the issue.
Since those who are afflicted with Fox derangement syndrome are irrational, and unable to decipher the root causes of their hatred, let me try to unravel the mystery. First, more than a few liberals with chronic FDS don't watch Fox News. They don't have to. Everyone they know inside the liberal bubble hates Fox news, so, naturally they hate it, too. I've spoken to people who detest Rush Limbaugh, and when I ask how often they listen to him they say, "Well. . .never." For many on the left, it's the same with Fox.
ANALYSIS:While it is true that many people who despise Limbaugh aren't listeners to his show, that doesn't mean that they don't have legitimate reasons for detesting Limbaugh. Perhaps they saw the news coverage that showed Limbaugh mockingly imitating Michael J. Fox's Parkinson symptoms. Perhaps they read the about Limbaugh's racist statements and, more recently, his racist songs. Perhaps they read my blog post about Limbaugh's lies and hatemongering. One doesn't have to listen to the man fifteen hours a week to have an intelligent opinion about him.
Still, there are some tidbits about Fox they have managed to pick up. One is that some evil son of a bitch named Roger Ailes, who used to work for Ronald Reagan, runs the place. Check please! Case closed! What more do they need to know, for crying out loud?
ANALYSIS: Goldberg set up a liberal straw man who is against Roger Ailes because had worked for Reagan. In fact, There are many reasons to question Ailes' fitness to run a news organization. Let me give just a few reasons:
1) throughout Ailes' adult life, he had had the reputation of being a ruthless GOP operative. That isn't just my view: that's the view of his allies--such as the late Lee Atwater who said that Ailes had "two speeds: attack and destroy." More recently, Bill O'Reilly said that Ailes had people who would use violence against his opponents (O'Reilly also noted that Bush and Cheney were watching Ailes' back for all the help he had given them).
2) When Ailes was the head of an alleged journalistic entity (Fox news), he gave political advice to the Bush administration.
3) Giving advice to the Bush administration wouldn't have been so bad had it not for the fact that when Bill Clinton was president, Ailes was circulating rumors that Clinton was possibly responsible for murdering people and was touting Christopher Ruddy's laughable Vince Foster conspiracy theories.
4) Ailes is a bully, a libeler, and a hypocrite. Empirical studies confirm that the more people watch Fox News, the more ignorant they become regarding important foreign policy issues--specifically on issues regarding the Iraq War. Peer-reviewed survey research by the University of Maryland's prestigious Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) found that Fox News viewers were less informed about the Iraq War than those who received their news from other sources. On the question of whether weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq, the study found that those who watched Fox News very closely had a higher rate of misconception than more casual Fox News viewers! The upshot is that as people watch more Fox News programming, they become more ignorant--hardly the goal of any journalistic outlet.
To compound the egregiousness of the study's findings, Ailes' response was nothing short of libel. Ailes referred to the PIPA study as "an old push poll." This is astounding. First, the poll's questionnaire is available to the public and there is not even the faintest resemblance of it to a push poll. Ailes knew this. Having been a colleague of Republican operative Lee Atwater (who is largely credited with developing the push poll as a political dirty trick), Ailes could not have used the term out of naivete. The PIPA study was conducted by highly-regarded researchers whose research does not even faintly resemble a push poll; had the researchers engaged in push-polling, it would have been a serious breach of professional ethics. Ailes' accusation is knowingly false, defamatory, and a serious breach of the code of ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists.
To top it off, when Democratic presidential candidates decided not to participate in the Fox News debate, Ailes instituted a Fox News push poll--a real push poll (click here and scroll down to the conversation with Rachel Maddow).
5) When Ailes was first hired by Fox News, he told then-president of FNC Joe Peyronnin that he was going to find out who on the staff was liberal and then he was going to get rid of them.
If people like Goldberg had their way, when a sleazebag like Ailes proclaims that Fox News is "fair and balanced," we would all sit around like Colmes-bots and say "Sure, whatever you say." The heck with that, Bernie.
UPDATE: Former president George H. W. Bush referred to Ailes as "our man Ailes."
What about Fox's conservative bent--the fact that it's not just one more liberal TV news outfit? Does that make liberals angry? Of course it does--just as the other networks' liberal bent make conservatives.
ANALYSIS:Goldberg is engaging in the Fox News tactic that the problem is not that FNC is a right-wing political operation but that the other networks have a liberal bias. This is wrong for many reasons, here are just a couple:
1) The PIPA study I cited.
2) The Fox News memos. More recently, a memo consoled FNC members about the loss of Congress to the Democrats (the election and Rumsfeld's resignation were "not the end of the world). It also exhorted FNC "journalists" to "be on the lookout for any statements from the Iraqi insurgents, who must be thrilled at the prospect of a Dem-controlled Congress."
But if you actually watched Fox, you soon discover that they have tons of smart liberals debating the issues of the day. Tons. There's Susan Estrich, who ran Michael Dukakis' presidential campaign.
ANALYSIS: Oh please. It was precisely that Estrich was Dukakis' campaign manager that Roger Ailes, who worked on Bush the Elder's 1988 campaign, clubbed Estrich like a baby seal in 1988. Ailes knew that Estrich was an untelegenic lightweight with a grating personality. Nobody on the right is afraid of Estrich.
And Lanny Davis, who used to work for Bill Clinton.
ANALYSIS: Let me cite a couple anecdotes to explain why the people at Fox News like liberals like Lanny Davis. Once after Al Gore appeared on a MoveOn.org event, Davis appeared on Hannity & Colmes. Hannity asked Davis why Gore would appear at an organization that "sponsored" a commercial that compared George W. Bush to a Nazi (this is an old canard of the right). Davis let Hannity get away with the lie. More recently, Davis appeared on O'Reilly show. O'Reilly compared MoveOn.org's tactics to that of Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels and Davis didn't call O'Reilly on it. Let me summarize: Lanny Davis acted like a palooka when Hannity lied in his face that MoveOn.org sponsored a Bush/Nazi commercial. He acted like a palooka when O'Reilly smeared MoveOn.org as Nazi-like. Nobody on the right is afraid of Davis. (UPDATE: Paul Krugman has more on Davis. Also, here is a more recent article on Davis). UPDATE II: Here's a YouTube video of Davis regarding Fox News.
There's Eleanor "Rodham" Clift who works for Newsweek and sounds like a flack employed by the Democratic National Party.
ANALYSIS: Clift is just another whiny, weak, untelegenic debater. Nobody on the right is afraid of her.
There's always some left-wing civil liberties lawyer on, complaining how bad conservatives are. And the Prince of the Leftistan, Michael Moore, was even on one night.
ANALYSIS: Over 80 percent of Democrats voted for John Kerry in 2004. why is it that a high percentage of the supposed "balance" on FNC are Fox News analysts who are Democrats who voted for Bush (e.g., Tammy Bruce and Zell Miller) or Democrats who have very little to say nice about the Democrat such as Pat Caddell (who claimed that the Democratic Party "has been hijacked by a confederacy of gangsters"). It seems that in order to get a job being part of the Democratic "balance" on Fox News, one either has to be 1)openly hostile to one's own party (e.g., alleged "liberal Democrat" Tammy Bruce uses the pejorative term "Democrat Party") or 2) an untelegenic pushover in debates. Quick note: I have a post on the nature of Fox News Democrats.
What is insidious is that some debates on Fox News on the surface appear to be balanced. For example, I have a post on a Hannity & Colmes debate in which it appeared on the surface to be a discussion between with two partisans on the right, two on the left, and an impartial journalist but was in reality a scenario in which one partisan and Colmes (who's hardly any help) on the left had to go up against three right-wing operatives.
The simple fact is that accomplished debaters like Cliff Schecter or Joe Conason will never be invited to debate on Fox News.
All those lefties getting so much face time on Fox should make your run-of-the mill liberals very happy, right? But it doesn't. Why? Two reasons: First, they don't ever notice the liberals on Fox, in much the same way that a fish doesn't notice the water he's swimming in. Seeing liberals on the news seems so natural to liberals that it doesn't register as any big deal.
ANALYSIS: This is sophistry. Not only are the members of the left who are invited to debate on Fox News either Tammy Bruce types or weak debaters, they tend to be outnumbered. Media Matters did a content analysis of the Hannity & Colmes show and found that right-wingers outnumber those on the left two to one. It's a stacked deck.
Second, they do notice the conservatives who are debating the liberals. They stick out like the proverbial sore thumb. And their very presence--actually, their very existence--makes liberals mad. This anger leads to a debilitating disorientation. Liberals, remember, are used to getting their news from CBS, PBS, NBC, and ABC. They aren't used to seeing conservatives on television.
ANALYSIS:Goldberg's claim that TV news is dominated by liberals, of course, is wrong. Here is one study out of many that show that people on the right outnumber people on the left on mainstream media news shows. Even National Public Radio--long touted as the left's answer to right-wing talk radio--has had a pattern of having more GOP/right-wing guests than Democratic/progressive guests.
Can you imagine how they must feel, the poor darlings--the ones who actually watch Fox, that is--when they tune in to Hannity & Colmes? They hate Colmes, the liberal, because he isn't crazy enough for them.
ANALYSIS: Alan Colmes is an untelegenic, weak debater. That's precisely why Roger Ailes chose him. Salon's David Talbot:
Years earlier, when hunting for a liberal punching bag to pair with Sean Hannity, Ailes had tried out a tough Salon writer. He apparently punched back so effectively in his audition that Fox picked bespectacled milquetoast Alan Colmes instead. Fox likes its liberals soft and chewy, the better to eat them, my dear.Charlie Reina paraphrased a Fox News executive, "You know who the perfect anchor is here? Alan Colmes. Because he knows what his role is--he knows that he's there to set Hannity up, and that Hannity's the star of the show."
And they hate Hannity because, well, because he's conservative. The agony must be unbearable.
ANALYSIS: I don't hate Hannity. I have contempt for him for the following reasons:
1) Hannity is a pathological liar and a smear merchant--click here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.
2) Hannity is a chicken. Hannity talks a good game and he does a good job with Fox News Democrats (i.e., paid punching bags) like Colmes and Lanny Davis. However, if offered the chance to debate someone who knows the score like Ed Schultz, Hannity chickened out. Also, on his radio program, Hannity has the calls screened so that he doesn't get any good debaters who disagree with him. Hell, when I approached Hannity and tried to ask him why he chickened out of the debate with Schultz, he had me thrown off an aircraft carrier rather than answer my question.
And you know what else drives them bonkers? Fox's "Fair and Balanced" slogan.
Oh, how they hate it! It's like a sharp stick in their eye. How, they scram, can a news operation be "fair and balanced" when it has the gall to present both sides of the argument!
ANALYSIS: Fox's "Fair and Balanced" slogan is straight out of Rove's playbook. Take your greatest weakness (FNC's lack of journalistic integrity) and through sheer audacity, bring it front-and-center and turn it on its head--claim it is a strength; then label your opponents as possessing that weakness.
But as much as liberals detest the slogan, there's something--make that someone--they detest even more. And that would be the anti-Christ himself. Yes, Bill O'Reilly! True-blue liberals despise him more than anyone else on the network, combined.
ANALYSIS: I only speak for myself: O'Reilly is no worse than Ailes or Hannity.
Yes, Bill can be overbearing and even toplofty. (look it up as Bill might say.) But that's not really why they hate him. they hate O'Reilly because he's not one of them. They hate him because he's got lots and lots of fans who love him--ordinary Americans who don't live in New York City, who don't hang on every sarcastic word that Frank Rich or Maureen Dowd write in the New York Times, who don't go to incredibly boring foreign films because that's what sophisticated people are supposed to do, and don't think France is a beacon of light in an otherwise dark and dreary world.
ANALYSIS:Goldberg, once again, does the phony populism routine for the choir.
But here's a bulletin that liberals managed to miss: Bill O'Reilly is one of the few anchors on cable TV who have uttered the words "That's a good point" to someone they otherwise disagree with. When was the last time one of their heroes, like Michael Moore or Dan Rather (who even in exile is still standing by his Memogate story), said something like that?
ANALYSIS: O'Reilly has admitted that he's been wrong and he isn't a movement right-winger like Hannity. However, when groups like Media Matters expose his mendacity, he not only doesn't fess up but he compares them to Nazis.
But nothing you say about Fox News to someone with FDS ever makes a tiny dent. Their minds are made up. As far as they're concerned, anyone who has anything to do with Fox, first and foremost, is a moron. This is their great certainty in life, that Fox is a network for boobs, hayseeds, and bigots.
ANALYSIS: I think if you are a regular Fox News viewer and you heard about the PIPA study (as well as a more recent study) that found that the more people watch Fox, the more ignorant they become, then you fit one of two categories: 1) A sheep; 2) Someone who knows that Fox is a sham but that it's a great vehicle to stick it to Democrats and progressives.
But even though this gives libs with Fox derangement syndrome delusions of grandeur, oddly, it doesn't give them comfort. It just makes them angrier.
So, in the end, this isn't about Bill O'Reilly, or Sean Hannity, or Brit Hume, or Roger Ailes, or anyone else at Fox. In the end, this is about liberals themselves and the serious psychological problem they're having adapting to a changing world. That's what this is really about--adapting!
ANALYSIS:Once again, Goldberg attacks the sanity of people who know what the score is.
They like it when the New York Times and the other so-called mainstream media had a lock on the news. It made them feel safe and comfortable, like a baby with his blanket. But now that Fox has taken away their blanket, they are understandably confused. And they're throwing a tantrum--just like the one Bill Clinton threw when he went on Fox with Chris Wallace.
ANALYSIS: Yeah, right. Anyone who is insulted by the audience-insulting mindrot that Ailes puts out is childish. Quick note: Fox News, of course, edited the Clinton video with Wallace in a manner unfavorable to Clinton. Surprise. Surprise.
To be fair, conservatives didn't like it when, in the days before Fox, the liberal media had no competition. But conservatives know how to deal with stuff like that--mostly because they've alway had to. Conservatives had to learn to live in a liberal media culture; hence, the confusion, the anger, and ultimately. . . Fox derangement syndrome.
Because this is no laughing matter, I went to a psychologist I know and asked if there's a genuine scientific diagnosis for this condition that has left so many liberal Fox-hates so disoriented. "Yes," she said, "it's called crazy!"
CONCLUSION: Goldberg knows what he's doing: he's lying. This man obviously knows he's not telling the truth. Sadly, Goldberg isn't the only person with an impressive journalistic career who threw it away for whatever reason. Another recent example is Carlton Sherwood, who shared a Pulitzer Prize and who then threw away his credibility by posing as an independent journalist and shilling for criminal predator Sun Myung Moon (I confronted Fox News Democrat Tammy Bruce about Sherwood's film that libeled John Kerry; Bruce, of course, was defending Sherwood and his libels).
What makes Bernard Goldberg run? Why would someone with such a distinguished career in journalism throw it all away to be a flack for a bottom-feeder like Roger Ailes? I can only guess his motivation. How sad.
Addendum: My Amazon.com review of Bernard Goldberg's Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News. Note: I added hyperlinks.
This book is a joke January 8, 2002
Bernard Goldberg apparently saw the success of Bill O'Reilly's books and realized that populist rhetoric sells books. Hence, in Bias, Goldberg's attempt at slumming, he badmouths New York and Los Angeles at every turn and uses words like "elite" whenever possible. Space prevents a thorough critique of Bias, so I'll focus on some of the labored and unintentionally funny parts of Goldberg's pseudo-populist diatribe.
Although Goldberg's ostensible purpose is to critique bias in mainstream reporting, he spends a large portion of his thin book attacking opinion pieces (which, duh, are supposed to be opinionated). For instance, Goldberg spends an entire page attacking the "media elites" at the Los Angeles Times for publishing an op-ed containing the following opinion: "...whenever I hear [Republican Senate majority leader] Trent Lott speak, I immediately think of nooses decorating trees. Big trees, with black bodies swinging from the business end of the nooses." Goldberg responds: "This is vile. Maybe it went over big with what they call 'the creative community' in Los Angeles, but this is vile hate speech no matter how you cut it." Vile hate speech? What planet is Goldberg living on? Apparently, Goldberg doesn't know about Lott's long-running association with and unqualified endorsement of virulently racist groups such as the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), a successor to the old White Citizens Councils (if Goldberg wants to witness authentic "vile hate speech," he should read CCC's newsletter--which featured Lott's column for several years). Goldberg also seems unfamiliar with Lott's deep-rooted nostalgia for the old Confederacy (e.g., Lott gushingly reaffirmed his embrace of the "spirit of [Confederate President] Jefferson Davis" in an interview with the white supremacist magazine, the Southern Partisan). Yuck. If anything indicates bias, it is how the mainstream media largely accepted Lott's laughable excuse-against all evidence-that he had "no firsthand knowledge" of the CCC's racist philosophy. The media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) did an excellent analysis of how Lott misled a largely docile mainstream media regarding his white supremacist associations and views.
Bias is full of nitpicking. Goldberg twice informs the reader about the media's alleged unfairness for referring to Rush Limbaugh as a "conservative radio talk show host" but not mentioning talk show host Rosie O'Donnell's political orientation when describing her. I'll take Goldberg's word that O'Donnell shares her liberal opinions with her audience, but on the few dozen times I've seen O'Donnell's show, she devoted the entire time to entertainment topics. Limbaugh, on the other hand, devotes his entire show to right-wing rhetoric. A content analysis of O'Donnell's and Limbaugh's shows would clearly illustrate the speciousness of Goldberg's redundant (and whiny) criticism.
Finally, if Goldberg were sincerely concerned about journalistic integrity, the first thing he would do would be to repudiate Washington Times reporter and fellow Regnery author, Bill Sammon. [Note: the hardcover edition of Bias was published by Regnery] In his book At Any Cost, Sammon deliberately misrepresented the content of a Washington Post story in order to attack Al Gore's integrity and patriotism. The media watchdog, The Daily Howler, exposed Sammon's duplicity, but few of the liberal "media elite" that Goldberg bemoans have taken notice. If Goldberg can become indignant enough to complain twice in one book about reporters not referring to Rosie O'Donnell as a "liberal talk show host", then he should jump at a chance to denounce Sammon's egregious journalistic misconduct. I'm not holding my breath.
UPDATE: One more reason not to trust Fox News.