Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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November 12, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

LIBERAL MEDIA BIAS....Bob Somerby notes that when Time magazine wrote a series of articles a couple of years ago about premillennial Christians and the Left Behind books, their findings sank without a trace:

Blubbering pseudo-cons will weep and moan, claiming this shows the mainstream press corps contempt for that old-time religion. But we would suggest that it shows something different. We would suggest that it reflects a decision made long agoa decision to avoid discussion of heartland religious views, especially views which might seem to be kooky. In our society, the beliefs of every other sector get discussed, dissected and challenged. But when Time presented these remarkable facts, mainstream pundits knew not to notice. Everyone elses views get critiquedexcept those of the heartland religious.

How's this for a coincidence: I was making much the same point to my mother just a few minutes ago on the phone. It's part of a broader problem that doesn't get much attention.

Whether or not the national press has a liberal bias in its actual reporting, it's indisputable that most of the reporters themselves are standard issue social liberals. Thus, while they may or may not approve of, say, radical environmentalists, they write about them anyway. Why? Because they're aware of them. They are, roughly speaking, part of their social circle. They are comprehensible. They make good copy.

For the most part, though, they don't write about radical Bible Belt Christians. Sure, there's an occasional piece when a judge smacks a two-ton monument of the Ten Commandments on his courthouse lawn, but that's about it. Why? I don't think it's so much a conscious decision, as Bob suggests, but rather that most reporters are barely aware they exist. Christian extremists are decidedly not part of their social circle, and writing about them is more akin to anthropology than reporting.

But there's a bit more to it than that. Lefty extremists actively crave attention. They organize marches in cities, they chain themselves to redwood trees, they toss buckets of blood on women in fur coats. They want the national press to write about them.

Bible Belt Christians, by contrast, don't. For the most part, they are an insular group, sending their newsletters to each others, attending each others' conferences, and mobilizing voters in their own churches.

The result of all this is that most Americans are well aware of lefty extremism, even though the actual number of lefty extremists is fairly small. And to a lot of people, they look pretty scary.

But most Americans aren't well aware of Christian extremism. Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson occasionally show up on morning chat shows, and sometimes they slip up and say something scary, but not often. Thus, when something like this screed by Frank Pastore shows up in the LA Times, readers are shocked. What they don't realize is that within their own fire and brimstone circles, this kind of talk is commonplace among Bible Belt Christians. And there are way more of them than there are members of the Earth Liberation Front.

If more people knew about this really knew about it they'd find it scarier than a few isolated nutballs who drive nails into old growth trees. But they don't. And the reason they don't is because our media really does have a liberal bias. Unfortunately, it's not one that does liberals any favors.

Kevin Drum 2:56 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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