Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World ReviewAugust 1, 2000 / 29Tamuz, 5760

Evan Gahr

JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
James Glassman
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Debbie Schlussel
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

The Visigoths are coming! The Visigoths are coming! ... Or so the media thinks -- DICK CHENEY is supposedly George W. Bush's "safe" choice for vice-president. Why then does the media suggest he's so dangerous?

If you believe the hype, Cheney, a Washington fixture since the Ford administration, is slightly to the right of Atilla the Hun. When Bush selected Cheney as his running mate this week, the press harped on the former Defense Secretary's "extremely conservative" record, with Bryant Gumbel citing Cheney's "hard right politics."

Cheney, who as a Wyoming Congressman voted against mandatory busing and federally-subsidized abortion, is undoubtedly conservative. But given the media's remarkable inability (or refusal) to properly label liberals as liberals, their fixation on Cheney's "hard right" credentials reflects an unfortunate double standard. It's a safe bet that even if Gore taps a McGovernite for vice president, the press won't call him "liberal" Usually, George McGovern himself isn’t called liberal, merely "counter-conventional."

In the media lexicon, only conservatives are ideological. Everyone else is just working for the greater good—i.e., protecting women and children from Right-wing meanies. Skewed labels allow reporters (intentionally or not) to color the debate. The rabidly feminist National Organization for Women is almost never called "liberal". But their ideological counterparts, such as Concerned Women for America, usually get tagged "conservative."

Of course, the subtle message is that NOW speaks for women; CWA only for "conservatives." In fact, both groups swear they speak for women. With just one simple label, the media chooses sides while still maintaining an objective façade.

The curious world view in which only conservatives are political hints an earlier era when liberalism—as critic Lionel Trilling argued—was America’s dominant ideology. Conservatives, at least in the liberal imagination, were either bigots or buffoons.

In the current presidential campaign the media's ideological blinders are most obvious in their coverage of Green Party candidate Ralph Nader. A self-described progressive, Nader has lobbied for big government since the 1960s. But each year you can literally count on your hand the number of stories in major papers which refer to him as a liberal.

When Judy Muller recently profiled Nader for ABC news, she cast Nader him as a non-ideological pragmatist. "Nader says it's important to talk about issues he believes are ignored by the two major parties: jobs going overseas, campaign finance reform, the environment."

But by what means, however, does he aim to tackle these "issues?" More government or less? It's a safe bet that news stories on the upcoming GOP convention in Philadelphia will obsess about how the once great party of Lincoln now rests in the clutches of the "religious right."

At the Democratic convention in Los Angeles next month, expect yet another fire and brimstone speech from Rev. Jesse Jackson. Remember how he compared Dan Quayle to King Herod at the 1992 Democratic convention (held just weeks after the GOP's notorious festival of hate in Houston)?

What is up for this year? Dick Cheney as Pharoh? Jackson has lashed into Cheney the day after Bush made his selection. Jackson told his flock to take heed of Cheney's true colors: "Jesus warned us to be aware of wolves in sheep clothing…Dick Cheney [as congressmen] voted against Head Start, he voted against equal rights for women, he voted against sanctions against South Africa," And so on. The good minister's "progressive" politics are in many respects the party's dominant ethos. But don't expect to hear much from the press regarding how the Democrats were captured by the "religious left." And don't expect any reporter to actually lump Jackson with the "religious left." According to the media, the only politically active clerics are conservative.

Don't expect that to change. Unless, of course, the press becomes the new focal point for one of consumer advocate Ralph Nader's favorite crusades: truth in labeling.

JWR contributor Evan Gahr is an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute. To comment click here.


07/12/00: Geraldo's Food for Thought
06/27/00: Time for To Execute a Murderer
06/20/00: Hillary and the Cop-bashers: Will the real Ms. Rodham please stand up?
06/08/00: For voting rights purposes, should criminal offenders be judged not by the content of their character but the color of their skin?
05/10/00: Feminist Majority Rule
05/02/00: The Tin Man's Doctor
03/07/00: Bob Jones hypocrisy: Liberals are lecturing Americans on "anti-Catholicism"?
02/03/00: The red and the Black: The Left-wing Extremist in Bill Bradley’s Camp
01/06/00: Looking backwards: An anchorman's version of the 20th Century
12/16/99: Yellow journalism for the Pink Lady?
12/07/99: How to make the American Psychological Association squirm

© 2000, Evan Gahr. This article first appeared at The American Spectator Online