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Why Liberal Journalists are Joining the Obama Administration's Attack on Fox News

And while Weisberg does not support a boycott of Fox -- not that he or others could actually pull that off -- he asks liberal voices on the network to “stop appearing on its programs.” One would think that he would welcome voices that challenge the conservative hegemony of commentators like Fred Barnes and Bill Kristol. But no, he specially asks NPR’s Mara Liasson to leave. (Why, I wonder, does he leave out Juan Williams, who will often counter to official liberalism on the issues of race, but who vigorously defends liberal positions on most other issues?) Weisberg argues that by appearing on Fox, liberals -- of course he calls them “respectable journalists,” -- only “validate its propaganda values and help to undermine the role of legitimate news organizations.” You know, those legitimate news organizations that failed to reveal that Van Jones was an unreconstructed Communist radical or that the FCC “diversity” counsel Mark Lloyd is a fan of Hugo Chavez and his control of the Venezuelan media.

Indeed, Weisberg’s criticisms are not far removed from those of Eric Alterman, who regularly covers the media for the left-wing’s key organ of opinion, The Nation. Writing in their Nov.9th issue, Alterman praises the Obama administration for “doing more to maintain the honor of the [journalistic] profession than are many journalists.” He too agrees that Fox is not a “legitimate” news organization, and Alterman cannot distinguish between a news program like that of their 6 PM report hosted by Bret Baier or the 7 pm roundup hosted by Shepherd Smith. So attempting to destroy or close down an “opponent” is for Alterman a legitimate response to positions with which he disagrees. One wonders what he would think if a conservative administration sought to do to The Nation what the current one is seeking to do to Fox News.

No, Alterman finds the administration “right on the merits.” Fox is partisan, and its on air reporters are “diminishing the work of honest journalists who try to play fair.” (Looks to me like Alterman is applying for a position on MSNBC, where the honest journalists hang out.) After all, they are not a “propaganda outlet” like Fox News. Fox is a place where one can find “all the crazies in one place,” again not like MSNBC, since everyone knows that Maddow, Olbermann and Matthews are sane, responsible and objective newscasters.  Alterman is delighted that the libertarian John Stossel has left ABC for his “natural home at Fox.” Why, is he afraid that Stossel’s unorthodox and refreshing features might have influenced people to think who watched him on ABC, and now that he is at Fox, Alterman and others can now write him off too as a crazy extremist?

What really bothers him is that when some in the mainstream saw that there was actually a problem with a group like ACORN, they too started to give it attention. He is especially upset that George Stephanopoulos dared to ask President Obama about his views of the group. He likes Obama’s answer, that it “is not the biggest issue facing the country.” But he omits mentioning that Obama also claimed not to even know that the group ever got federal funds -- although the evidence is overwhelming that as a candidate and before, Obama had a close relationship with them.

Finally, writing in The New Yorker in the Nov.2nd issue, the brilliant academic literary intellectual Louis Menand argues that Fox has cornered “the market on anti-Administration animus,” and he is concerned that the administration’s opposition “is not likely to put a dent in the ratings.” Indeed, as recent polls have showed, it has done just the opposite. CNN is losing its viewers at a rapid pace, MSNBC is way behind them, and Fox alone stands far ahead of all the other news outlets.

Menand argues that when Fox people charge that they have filled the administration “with Nazis, Maoists, anarchists and Marxist revolutionaries,” they are revealing that they are only “the voice of the fringe.” Look at Menand’s language. We all know that in fact, no one at Fox has made such an argument. When and where has anyone said that they are filling the administration with Nazis, for example?  They reported that Anita Dunn told school children that she looked to Mao as an example. No one claimed that she was herself a Maoist. Can Menand name one person at Fox who has said that? Of course not. What he is trying to do with ridicule and made-up claims is to discredit Fox, since it successfully and accurately pointed to appointees who indeed do have a radical pedigree, and forced the most prominent of them, Van Jones, to resign.

Does Menand, I wonder, consider Marty Peretz, who took on Jones and his record at TNR’s website, to also be part of a “fringe” element?  Peretz in his blog told readers about Jones’ background, and argued that his endorsement of Communism was indeed something for concern when held by an administration appointee.  Is he too doing the job of Fox News? Peretz, I recall, was the man who once hired Menand to work as an editor and writer at TNR, before he became a distinguished professor and author. Since Peretz made essentially the same arguments as some on Fox did, does that mean Peretz is also wrong, or does it mean that those who made the case on Fox were correct? I would like Menand’s answer to that question.

Like Alterman, Menand too says that Fox “is a politically biased organization,” since it is run by Roger Ailes, an old Nixon aide who embodies partisan politics. I guess it is not like The New Yorker, whose objectivity is that of old fashioned left liberals like Hendrik Hertzberg, David Remnick and the other staple of conventional liberal editors at the magazine. They, of course, in his eyes are not “politically biased,” since bias is only the repository of conservative news organizations and journals. They are simply “objective,” as anyone who reads their continual paeans to Obama and their derogatory “Talk of the Town” comments on George W. Bush, neo-conservative villains and Republicans generally knows.

Menand, therefore, is tired of those who turn to places where they can get an “ideological fix.” He disdains “political spin.” Perhaps he should read Hertzberg’s report on J-Street, for example, in which he calls the group “the center-left alternative to AIPAC” and wishes it more power, or Hertzberg’s explanation that “everyone who studies the issue in good faith and believes that sick people who need medical care should have access to it without fear of impoverishment concludes that a single-payer system of some sort would be the way to go if our nutty eighteenth-century political system made that possible.” So if you don’t believe in a single-payer system, you are not acting or thinking in good faith. And this is just the truth, not “political spin.”  Oh, and Hertzberg knows in advance what will happen if this took place. It would lead to a “Fox News-talk radio-led war against fascist communist socialist European redistributionism.” And that, of course, would really be political spin.

To his credit, Menand is upset that the administration seems to be singling out speakers “for the purpose of intimidating them,” instead of just rebutting their claims, as is its right. “At the end of the day,” he writes, “you do not want your opponents to be able to say that they could not be heard.” So far, of course, Fox News is being heard---now more than ever. But many of us are upset that it appears that the administration does, in fact, wish that it could be shut down, and its commentators quieted. Menand knows that the First Amendment is inviolable and must be protected. Why I am not so certain that were Fox News in fact quieted or suppressed, Jacob Weisberg and Eric Alterman would not be upset?