Take It From Whom It Comes
UPDATE: This piece remains archived. But with regret, while I originally
gave the 'go-ahead' to watch FOX News (among other sources) at the time of
its writing, the cable news network would since become increaingly 'weird'
and angry on a near-patholigical level. A shame. As a liberal - one to be
open to the exchange of ideas, as true liberal idealogy - I'd welcome
a real news network with a conservative perspective (as suggested in the
piece). FOX News just isn't it. While it stands as a fine 'booster shot'
for the embittered malcontent, there's little left to commend for either
open-minded liberals, open to debate - or true and actual conservatives.
Now, the original piece as written ...
I would find a certain sense of amusement when I witnessed, on FOX News,
three conservative authors fighting among themselves over who had the highest
book sale figures.
It all began when Bill OReilly wished to forward a piece of advice
from Bernie Goldberg to Ann Coulter. Ann quipped that she would only take
advise from those who had sold more books than she had
OReilly then implied that she could take advise from him, as
he had outsold the Coulter Catalog.
Oh, no you havent, asserted Ann. From there, it then
degenerated into a cyclical round of, Did too
The following evening, Bernie Goldberg proclaimed that his tome,
Bias, had sold more copies than any of the Coulter offerings.
Of course, Ann was merely serving up a quick quip as a bitchy taunt, true
to personal form. But the boys were taking the matter very
Lets put aside the fact that book unit sales figures are most commonly
kept as confidential, proprietary information by large mainstream publishers,
whereby even the author can sometimes experience some degree of difficulty
in deciphering the convoluted figures presented to them as they endeavor
to calculate their royalties (even Neilsen BookScan is typically 30% off,
relative to actual sales). And, as such, none of the three
contestants would likely know the sale figures associated
with their competing contemporaries. The fact is, to put it in sobering
perspective, as it relates to the non-fiction genre, a
best-selling book typically represents less than 10% of the units
sales more commonly enjoyed by a top-selling, hit music CD. Yes, in 2009,
Beyonce would tower over Dick Morris. But who, after all,
The abbreviated and neckless, Dick Morris, first coming to the attention
of the American public by way of his villain cameo appearances as Dr. Loveless
in 'The Wild, Wild West' television series.
Of course, the more pertinent question would be, between Goldberg and Coulter,
who served up the more plausible arguments in support of a general thesis?
In that regard, the nod would have to go to Ann. And why? Simply because
as it relates to Goldbergs book, Bias, if I had
worked in a major, high-traffic newsroom for 28 years with its
wide-ranging assortment of peculiar characters and heterogeneous occurrences
I could cough up enough anecdotal evidence to support any claim
or premise. Enough to, say
fill a book.
This is not to say that Goldbergs general assessment of the media having
a liberal bias is necessarily incorrect. Rather, Goldbergs book should
be considered as a good read that invites consideration
of the premise, instead of providing any definitive proof of
concept. It, after all like most books of the genre is
an argument. And as arguments often go, it isnt always settled
In a related aside, at least Coulter and Goldberg write their own
books. But many associated with this book breed, in fact, dont
have much input into their
output. From Bill Bennett
(Book of Virtues) to Michael Savage (books of little virtue)
to Rush Limbaugh (The Way Things Ought To Be), the bulk of their
works are, indeed, farmed out. And not merely to a single ghost
writer, mind you. Rather, to an entire staff. These examples, among many
more, are essentially franchise operations
all while the hapless fan
base hangs on to every word of the ensemble production.
Sad, really. This isnt to say that the aforementioned
couldnt write their own books, necessarily. Rather, I merely
pass on what was relayed by conservative publisher, Judith Regan.
Be that as it may, pissing contests among authors be they real or
imagined, as writers are rather silly, in any event
less so as it relates to the boastful comparisons of cable news. Bill
OReilly claims to smoke MSNBC. And Keith Olbermann, in turn, continually
taunts OReilly with Bill-Os ratings
down-cycle. Meanwhile, CNN claims to be The Most Trusted
Name In News (which would seem to imply that, numerically, more people
prefer obtaining their news from sources less trustworthy)
sad truth much like books to pop music CDs more Americans get
their news from Entertainment Tonight than all three
cable news networks
combined. So much for boasting rights.
And, with this, do I really have to compare the circulation numbers
of The New York Times to that of People magazine? And yet
conservative pundits cite The Times as a conspiratorial,
mind-altering substance designed to corrupt the collective psyche of the
American people who, for the most part
dont read it. If true,
as described by the conservative alarmists, then The New York Times
oh, theyre good. Real good. 'The Times', as a virulent strain,
must be airborne.
Now, the people who hone and polish their world view by way of
Entertainment Tonight arent hanging over here at Left-Brain,
I know. This allows the elite among us to speak privately. You are
the ones who watch cable news, read a few newspapers whether online
or in old-school pulp form and further listen to talk radio. After
all, you get all of the juicy celebrity rehab bulletins interjected within
the cable news feed, anyway. Theres really no need for dedicated,
entertainment programming. And Greta Van Susteren can keep you up on all
of the missing and murdered children to complete your tabloidian infatuations.
But the issue that seems to garner the greatest attention isnt
among the issues, per se. Rather, its an
all-encompassing, umbrella topic: Media Bias. The news, itself, has become
subordinate to the matter of how its being delivered and whos
But do not complain, dear reader. For the news you get, and its presentation
no matter how seemingly biased it may be left or right, is
the very one that you yourselves have asked for. Every ratings
book and other objective media tools of measurement has said so. The days
of Journalism 101 with its mantra of who, what, when and
where has long since passed. And it was you who buried
it in your desire for confrontational and opinionated news analysis
with an attitude. As such, it makes Bernie Goldbergs book
irrelevant. Now live with it.
With that, the larger question or point to ponder is how to live with
Between my media room/recording space, kitchen and bedroom, I can freely
walk in on MSNBC, Fox News, or CNN (though the latter with less frequency).
The cable news networks are the standard default selections on all screens
in the house, and theyre all on at once at any moment,
though seldom switched to the same feed. I know, this isnt terribly
Green of me as it relates to power consumption. But any room
that doesnt have something on seems disturbingly still to me,
as well as empty. And the kitchen screen remains active, even in my
sleep just so it will be there when I get a slice of pizza
in the middle of the night. It also makes for an excellent night
light in that trek, incidentally. In addition, even a Mac computer
resides in the kitchen remaining only in the snooze mode (never
off), ready for a quick awakening with the jitter of a mouse. Summarily,
if shit happens at any moment I want to know about it ... and
right then, even as the microwave warms the pizza at 3 AM (or nominally about
30 minutes after I climb into the bed).
The point of this isnt to reveal my obsessive-compulsive news media
fetish (I do watch some other things, further performing additional
and unrelated tasks as the screens blaze). Rather, I wish it to be an indication
that Im not fixated on any one news source. They all
work for me and, with the cyclical encore rebroadcasts, I can see OReilly
and Olbermann, Chris Matthews and Sean Hannity. Theres little
need for either-or. They all have value and the who, what, when and
where of Journalism 101 can be plucked and extrapolated from any one
of them or the entire array.
Similarly, as it relates to the Internet, you could find me perusing a variety
of opinionated sources, from the Huffington Post to yes the
weekly column of Ann Coulter.
Theres an odd thought that one must maintain an exclusive accord with
the news sources that correspond, in near-perfect alignment, with ones
own political and philosophical perspectives. In fact, a plausible argument
could be made for the opposite. Why, after all, offer exclusivity
to those who serve up perspectives that youre already entirely
familiar with the very ones that currently reside in your own head?
Or are selective members of the media little more than your personal
cheerleaders? For many, they indeed are. And for those who take in their
news and opinions with such superficiality, youre doing yourself a
disservice at your own hand.
Yes, I understand that one often wishes to hear or read a common point of
view to see how others simply articulate a shared position. But to
do so with the complete dismissal of the opposing side only diminishes and
weakens you intellectually. Indeed, my more liberal-minded contemporaries
could potentially learn more with a look and listen to, say, Sean
even if its to better justify or solidify
your own opposing viewpoint. And yes, I know that Hannity often
comes across as a hopeless shill who uses hyper-selective reasoning to support
his generally predictable positions. But I also know that such is
the nature of his 'gig'. It's what he does ... what
he was hired to do not to suggest any lack of
general sincerity on his part. It's merely a matter of form.
Be that as it may, as it relates to 'openess', I would offer similar advice
to conservatives regarding, say, Keith Olbermann ... or Chris Matthews, perhaps,
if Olbermann only makes you want to open up a vein. In either case,
my conservative friends, neither one is always wrong, you know.
me, theres no danger of Drinking The Kool-Aid or being
subjected to a behavioral-modification regimen, akin to the
strapped-in Alex of A Clockwork Orange. And even
if there were such hazards, it would only indicate that youre, perhaps,
not as strong in your position, as thought. And this may not
necessarily be a bad thing no matter which side you
believe youre on, liberal or conservative.
It should be cautioned, however, that if you give the opposition a mere
perfunctory look-see, attended with arrant dismissal from the start, you
might as well not engage in the exercise at all. It would be quite pointless
Simply continue to tune out, as before. Its where
you would seemingly be the most comfortable, without challenge
But there seems to be a somewhat undue concentration, related to
slant. Yes, FOX News does have a decidedly conservative lean,
despite promotional credos. And MSNBC unabashedly tilts towards liberalism,
seemingly without apology. But in either case among others
this doesnt matter. Of greater significance and
personal importance is how you calibrate the news source. The
solution to this over-hyped problem is to find the null point
of the source, much as one may zero a meter or a simple bathroom
scale, prior to measurement. That is, consider
consideration, relative to the skew.
This should be obvious, it seems to me. So much so, my words read
back as something that borders on the trite. And yet
so many are seemingly
unable or unwilling to calibrate. They feel they shouldnt
have to work so hard, preferring expecting, even
the uninvolved spoon-feeding of content. But, in truth, the media
isnt actually responsible for the processing of its content
you are. And analysis, from any or all sides, should
be regarded as mere tools by which you tailor your own, proprietary
Finally, I feel somehow compelled to briefly address another form of
media that is frequently if oddly linked to the
news media, most commonly by my conservative friends, but I speak
to all groups
To pull a page from the conservatives own, Personal
If you go to the Hollywood film industry
for your history lessons, thats your fucking problem. Oliver
Stone isnt your teacher, lecturer, professor, instructor, school
master, or provost. Hes a film director. And, as a director,
he has one and only one responsibility: To engage
an audience. And, in that endeavor, he may rightfully lie,
cheat, twist, distort, and pull rabbits out of hats to secure that engagement
in a medium not a med-ia that is innately
illusionary, at its core. Dont blame any film director
even those with a purported 'agenda' for potentially
skewing public opinion. That fault would be in the public, themselves
This is not to say that theatrical film releases no matter
how imaginative cant be useful snippets of more
inclusive history lessons as a primer to generate an interest
in a topic to be further explored with additional readings.
It is the personal responsibility of the public not
the director to disallow a lesson to be terminated with the disposal
of the popcorn container at the lobbys trash disposal. Said another
way, dont blame the director for a lazy-ass public that willingly
volunteers for the Clockwork Orange treatment, without
resistance or objection.
And the same, my dear readers with your straightjacket and eyelid
clamps at the ready, can be said
of the news media.