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Bias Attacks: Bernard Goldberg Bites Back at His Critics
NY Press ^ | 3-20 | Celia Farber

Posted on 03/26/2002 6:47:38 AM PST by The Old Hoosier

Bias Attacks
Bernard Goldberg Bites Back at His Critics

Something has always eluded me about the deep emotional connection Americans supposedly have with the Big Three tv networks and their three mighty evening news anchors. When I think of Dan Rather, for instance, all I see is that empty chair–that astonishing moment of broadcast anarchy when he got peeved enough to walk off the set. That was great television. That eruption of emotion was fascinating to me, since network culture is nothing but a gigantic organ of psychic repression (kind of like the British royal family).

There are are two common criticisms of network tv–one lateral, one vertical. There’s the battle between the dumbers-down and dumbers-up, and the far more complex one about whether network tv slants news to what is somewhat erroneously called the "left.’’ I think it’s very simple: The nearly two-decade-long phenomenon known as Political Correctness created a rigid template for the mass homogenization and banalization of all discourse and thought in America. Every story–poltical, economic, medical, social–was pressed through this warping ideology that eliminated complexity and shattered the very principle of fact-based reportage. Every story took on the same familiar gloss of a fixed set of emotions–an ideology–that wasn’t so much "left’’ as it was centrist, or Correct.

The runaway success lately of CBS veteran Bernard Goldberg’s book Bias has galvanized a roiling disaffection with mainstream media, and in so doing hastened an already momentous movement to cleave media into two essential blocks: Insider and Outsider. Another, less commented-on book documenting the same critique (from a conservative’s viewpoint) is William McGowan’s Coloring the News: How Crusading for Diversity Has Corrupted American Journalism. Both argue the tremendous cost of politicizing news, and the triumph of p.c. groupthink.

Goldberg’s indictment of tv news, a culture he spent 28 years working in, is not limited to his core thesis that network news has a systemic "liberal" slant. The real dynamite is the way he documents and describes the mindset of network newspeople, painting a disturbing and often hilarious portrait of network culture that is every bit as smug, elitist, pseudo-left and ultimately racist as media bashers on the right have always claimed. Because the critique had always been dominated by the right, it never had any real potency outside the growing conservative wing of new media. Goldberg, by virtue of his staunch Democrat credentials, has provided a new space for media disaffection to rush in. In so doing, he has removed the most effective barrier that protected mainstream media from criticism–that only right-wing zealots had a problem with "them."

Published by Regnery books in December, as of March 24, Bias has spent 14 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list, and occupied the number-one spot for seven weeks. Goldberg has been on more than 400 radio shows and dozens of (perhaps too many) cable tv shows. He’s been interviewed from Brazil to Sweden to China.

He has not been invited to do a single interview on any of the three networks.

I interviewed him by telephone last week from his home in Miami.


Celia Farber: What was your reaction to Frank Rich’s attack on you in the Saturday, March 2, New York Times?

Bernard Goldberg: Get your hands on a piece that just came out. The guy writes for New York Press.

CF: Russ Smith ["MUGGER," March 6]. That’s the paper I’m doing this interview for.

BG: Really! Give me his number. I have to call him and thank him personally... I am so grateful that somebody came to my defense, because I’m tired of coming to my own defense. It just gets a little old. But about Frank Rich…I’m ambivalent. On the one hand I thought what Frank Rich did was despicable. On the other hand, I almost want to write him a thank-you note and say, "You know, Frank, there are a couple of you out there who are so vicious, who are so nasty, who are so meanspirited, that I can’t thank you enough, because you are making people wonder what is in this book, and they’re flocking to it."

I think Frank Rich is very intelligent and very corrupt. I think he’s the kind of guy who is very ideological and works for an institution that’s very ideological. The New York Times is an excellent newspaper. I want to make that clear. Excellent newspaper with bureaus all over the world. But it’s a very ideological newspaper. And Frank Rich is the kind of guy who has always been a slave to his master, willingly. And he knows that this is the kind of thing that may get him points at the Times, and if that’s not why he did it, it was someplace lurking in the back of his mind. That’s why I say he’s smart, and he’s corrupt, and he doesn’t have an ounce of courage. And he omitted something important, by the way–namely, that he is criticized by name in my book. He also neglected to mention that he is very very good friends with [CBS News president] Andrew Heyward.

CF: What was the scene like in your living room the day Rich’s column came out?

BG: I received a ton of e-mails and phone calls from media people who said, "This is so foul. This is so wrong. This is so terrible." I didn’t ask them but…not one of them volunteered to say so publicly, like in a letter or something.

CF: Isn’t it weird the way they’re all so afraid of each other?

BG: Everybody is afraid. It’s beyond weird. It’s pathetic. But I did get a lot of calls from media people, saying that they thought this was so far over the line, so unfair, and they all said don’t worry about it, it makes him look much worse than it makes you look.

CF: Are there others in the media besides Frank Rich you would describe as corrupt?

BG: There are others who I think are very smart, but they just can’t let their emotions get in the way of their intelligence. So that’s different from corrupt... There are some people who are undeniably intelligent, but when it comes to media bias you’d never know it because their emotions are always getting in the way. Michael Kinsley–a self-described liberal. I would put Jonathan Chiat of The New Republic in that. I assume that Tom Shales is intelligent, but he is so nasty that… How intelligent can you be when you’re that nasty, you know what I mean?

CF: Don Imus attacked you as well?

BG: Oh yeah. I’ve done 400 radio programs and he was by far the worst. By far. And yet he told me on the air that he agrees with my premise.

CF: Why the animosity then?

BG: Because he’s friends with Dan Rather and he’s friends with Bob Schiefer and he has these other people on. You see, Don Imus is really the anti-Imus. Don Imus presents himself as the tough guy who takes no prisoners. But he’s a pansy. He’s a semi-senile pansy. And what I mean by pansy is…because he’s got these friends who come on, almost every one of them who kisses ass shamelessly on the air, he’s going to take off after me to show them what a good guy he is.

CF: What was your gut reaction to the Koppel-Letterman shakeup?

BG: Do you have the Barbara Walters quote? She said that journalists deserve more respect. Is that something like what she said?

CF: Yeah.

BG: She ought to think about that the next time she decides to interview Anne Heche and ask her whether she’s crazy, and about her sex life with Ellen DeGeneres. Part of the reason journalists don’t have respect is because of what Barbara Walters does for a living.

CF: But did you come down on the side that said it’s despicable that they would mess with Nightline, or on the side that said–

BG: I have a different point of view, a new and original one. I think Nightline is an excellent program. I think Ted Koppel is one of the five top journalists in the business. I think it would be a great loss if Nightline went away. Having said that, Ted Koppel sat by as journalism became more tawdry, more sensational, more irrelevant. The newsmagazines started basically doing murders-of-the-week, many of them. And then he sits there and says, "But we’re relevant.’’ Well, he may be one that’s relevant. But he’d be a lot better off if all those other shows were relevant also, because then nobody’d ever think about fooling with Nightline.

The networks… It’s not a men’s club or a women’s club. It’s a little boys’ club and a little girls’ club. Because these people aren’t men–the males. They’re little boys. They don’t criticize anybody. And they don’t like when I criticize them. So here comes Barbara Walters, who once interviewed Anwar Sadat, and now she’s interviewing Anne Heche in the most embarrassing interview in recent times. Ted Koppel? He doesn’t say anything. He doesn’t say anything when any of the other shows become more and more like entertainment. If all those other shows were more relevant, then news in general would be more important and have more respect. But when they squander their respect, voluntarily squander their respect, then all of news is taken less seriously, including Nightline. Then Nightline is easy to pick off. They figure, hey, we’ve turned all these other shows into entertainment, now we’ll pick off Koppel, who cares? Koppel could have prevented, or at least helped the situation, if he had been a vocal critic of the marginalization of news by newspeople. He wasn’t. The reason he wasn’t is because like all the other good boys and girls at the networks, he doesn’t like criticizing anybody else by name.

CF: What do you think it is about you that gave you the courage to do this? Was it courage?

BG:You know what, I’ve heard that word and I’m flattered by it, but I don’t know that that was it. I really think that it was either stupidity at worst or naivete at best. Because I believed the big lie. I mean I honestly at the time never thought, not for a second, that one editorial in The Wall Street Journal in 1996 was going to lead to everything it’s led to, the bad and the good. Because I really believed that I was only writing about journalism... I mean, even as I say it now it sounds incredibly stupid, but that’s what I really thought at the time.

CF: Your book touched off not so much a debate as a divide. It was a lightning rod for all these currents of feeling that had never really been exorcized before. Tell me about the after-life of the book–after it got published and started selling.

BG: That’s even more interesting, you’re right. Several things happened, simultaneously, that were very similar to what happened after The Wall Street Journal article. One thing is that I started hearing from regular people, whether they were people I knew in life–and almost of them liberal people–or people who sent e-mails to me through the publisher. Or letters to the publisher. Those were uniformly favorable.

Then the second thing was the media response. That was broken down into two groups also. People who in my view got it, and said nice things. And people who said not-nice things. But even the not-nice things are fair game. I’m not complaining about that. I’m not even saying they were wrong, but their observations were different from the civilians’, from the non-journalists’. They were looking at very, very focused things, and they may have been right on any particular point. But the civilians didn’t care about that. They saw the big picture–they got it.

And then there was a little third thing, but that was a sliver. The sliver was truly vicious, nasty people in the media.

CF: Who got truly hysterical.

BG: I mean I could have written and called these guys racist. I could have probably written and called them child molesters, and the reaction wouldn’t have been as ugly and as nasty as it was in some circles.

CF: Don’t you think it’s not so much the charge of liberal bias itself, which is actually a sort of benign charge, as the temerity of them being looked at, much less criticized, much less publicly criticized? Because I think they do have a really totalitarian mindset that they are above scrutiny.

BG: That’s a great point. Here’s what I think happened. It’s not healthy for human beings–forget about what job you’re in, this has nothing to do with television or journalism–to have too much power, because in some way the old line is right about how power corrupts. When you have the tv studios and the cameras and the microphones and all that, and in the back of your mind you know that the most anybody can do is write a letter that you could either read or not read or take seriously or not take seriously, something happens to you. I’m not a psychologist or psychiatrist, and I’m not going to even attempt to figure out what it is that happens, but it has something to do with getting real arrogant. And then, out of the blue, here comes somebody, not from one of the usual groups, you know, not some academia crap...or the usual suspects from the right, which are easily dismissable by the media elite. Here comes somebody who is absolutely, literally, one of them for 28 years. And here’s where your argument comes in. They say, "Wait a second. We refuse to respond to this." Which, incidentally, is the response from the very highest level. The presidents and the anchors of the three major news divisions. I mean that’s not like they just haven’t. They’ve been asked and won’t. Time magazine called me a while back and they were writing like three lines, and they said that they went to the three network anchors for response and they all said no comment. My point is that they are so unused to this kind of criticism, it makes them feel real uneasy.

CF: It’s interesting to watch how they react.

BG: The other fascinating point is that I’ve heard from people at all three networks who agree with what I’ve said. They’ve been feeling threatened for a while now. Here comes Fox, and 20 other cable operations. They’re not what they used to be. Dan Rather is not Walter Cronkite, and Tom Brokaw’s not Huntley or Brinkley. And maybe in some respect they see it crumbling. They realize that the evening news is not the institution it once was, and that bothers them. They don’t have the control they used to. Now the idea of a network newscast at 6:30 at night is sort of quaint. If I hung up right now, I could find out what’s going on in the world on CNN, on Fox, on MSNBC, on the Internet and probably a couple of more places if I thought about it.

CF: It raises the question of why are they in business at all.

BG: Well, don’t underestimate the power of habit. 60 Minutes makes money for CBS. 48 Hours makes money. Dateline and 20/20 make money. So we understand why those are on. We even understand why the morning shows are on, because they make money. God knows how that works, but they make money.

But the evening newscasts are sort of there because they’ve always been there. Now, when Sept. 11 happened, you want a news division. But I don’t think we’re going to see it in five years the way we see it now. There’s got to be some mergers. I mean, if CNN is in business to cover news all over the world, then you can’t bet against one of the three networks actually merging with them and losing their evening newspeople and using CNN, which is probably going to be cheaper. There’s got to be some change. Economically I can’t figure out how this continues to work.


CF: Let’s back up a bit. You say in your book that you traced the phenomenon of liberal bias to the beginning of the Reagan administration.

BG: That’s where I noticed it. I want to make clear that this isn’t a history book.

CF: And what you’re talking about is getting to the truth about a particular matter, a particular story. I think what characterizes the major media is a contempt for facts, actually. For truth as having an intrinsic value.

BG: But it’s a contempt for fact when the facts don’t meet this liberal vision. I mean, let’s say we had a fact that the NRA was made up of a bunch of people who are mentally incompetent and escaped from lunatic asylums. That fact they would have no problem with. So it’s only certain kinds of facts they have contempt for–and having contempt gives it a little too much credence. It’s like they just don’t want to get into it.

And let’s not underestimate the power of ratings. The reason they put on the wrong [experts speaking about] homeless people and the wrong AIDS people for a very long time had a lot to do with ratings. Even before we get to the bias part.

And here’s the bulletin: the people I’m calling liberals aren’t real liberals. Real liberals are people I personally admire. I admire people who put it on the line for something they believe in. Lliberals in our history, in the 1960s for instance, put their lives on the line. I admire that.

CF: Didn’t you coin the term "liberals of convenience" in this book?

BG: I never heard it before. I don’t know if anybody else has said it. I didn’t check. Before you give me credit for it, just punch it [online] and see if anybody’s said it before me... These are people who, while they can spot a bigot a mile away–liberals do that so well–when it comes to their careers and their perks and their lifestyles, which stem from their ratings, they’ll throw a black person over the side. Right over the side. Now, of course the top people will deny this, but everybody else who works there...they all know it’s true.

CF: That raises the question also of accountability, and that’s I think the thing that the American public is also so angry about, that there’s no accountability in the media. There’s accountability in the government, in the police force. With the possible exception of the IRS, or the CIA, all of our other institutions are accountable. Isn’t it true that the media is the only institution that is totally unchecked?

BG: Well, the only accountability in the end is with your remote control device. Where you can say, "You know, I’ve had it with this, and I’m not going to watch it anymore." Journalists hate to admit they’re wrong. They just hate it. More than any other people hate it. Because, first of all, they made the mistake in front of millions of people. Second of all, how the hell are we going to fix this? There’s no mechanism for it in television. Let’s say you made a mistake on a magazine show. If you have to go on the air the next week and say we were wrong... "Jeez, do we want to do that?"

CF: The networks do have a few renegade characters whom I wonder about. Like John Stossel. How does one explain a phenomenon like John Stossel in the context of your critique?

BG: Because he’s successful. He tries something and it works. And Roone Arledge, before the guy that they’ve got at ABC now, says hey, this works. He’s connecting with our viewers. Let’s do more of this. That doesn’t mean that John Stossel isn’t given funny looks at ABC News parties.

CF: Is there anybody in tv news besides Stossel who you really like?

BG: I would say Tim Russert. Mike and Morley at 60 Minutes...and Stossel. That’s basically it. I mean, there are a lot of people I like, but if I told you some name who’s got five years on the job it wouldn’t mean anything. So, of the major players, I like those four guys.

CF: Stossel’s success raises the possibility that the networks could change their spots altogether. If we got into a new paradigm whereby they realized the real market is this new set of ideas.

BG: You would think that they’d be thinking about it, but they haven’t even made a move in that direction yet. But I don’t want them to pander to the audience. I don’t want them to do a poll and say, Oh, the audience wants this, we’ll give it to them. But you’d think that there might be a whole new thing that’s hot. Because what they are is as cold as can be. You’d think that maybe they’d say, "Why don’t we find people who resonate with the audience?" But they continue to amaze, don’t they?

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Front Page News; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: bias; interviewwgoldberg
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Did a search and couldn't find this posted earlier.
1 posted on 03/26/2002 6:47:38 AM PST by The Old Hoosier
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To: The Old Hoosier
A typical interview regarding this book:

Sam: You're Biased(tm)!
Mo: Am Not! You're Biased(tm)
Sam: Am Not! You're Biased(tm)
Mo: Am Not! You're Biased(tm)
Sam: Am Not! You're Biased(tm)
Mo: Am Not! You're Biased(tm)
Sam: Am Not! You're Biased(tm)
Mo: Am Not! You're Biased(tm)
Sam: Am Not! You're Biased(tm)
[repeat 50 or so times]


2 posted on 03/26/2002 6:52:15 AM PST by Vladiator
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To: The Old Hoosier
Before this makes a ton of sense I gotta find the Frank Rich article, anyone have it or should I just waste time on google?
3 posted on 03/26/2002 6:56:19 AM PST by Drango
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To: The Old Hoosier
He's absolutely right about the network news shows. They are increasingly irrelevant, and their future is bleak. The bias that permeates the network news will never go away, but it may not matter if nobody watches them.
4 posted on 03/26/2002 6:58:35 AM PST by Dog Gone
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To: The Old Hoosier
Bump for courage.
5 posted on 03/26/2002 6:59:39 AM PST by KC Burke
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To: The Old Hoosier
Bias attacks
6 posted on 03/26/2002 7:03:05 AM PST by SMEDLEYBUTLER
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To: The Old Hoosier
7 posted on 03/26/2002 7:07:07 AM PST by Valin
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To: Drango
Oh go ahead, it's not like you(or I for that matter) have a life. :-)
8 posted on 03/26/2002 7:08:40 AM PST by Valin
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To: The Old Hoosier
I saw Mr. Goldberg speak in Miami last weak to a capacity crowd of mostly symphathetic readers. I was a bit PO's that there weren't any angry liberals in the audience though.
9 posted on 03/26/2002 7:18:18 AM PST by Clemenza
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To: The Old Hoosier
A tempest in a teapot.
No one who is informed can be indoctrinated.

The Talking Heads deliver opinion, and not very informed at that; I haven't wasted my time there for years.
Those who watch the big 3 networks are no worse off than if they didn't. They get to vote no matter how ignorant or ill-informed they are.
Until that is "fixed", what does it matter?

10 posted on 03/26/2002 7:28:33 AM PST by Publius6961
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To: The Old Hoosier
Courage? Yes. But the best quality he has is honesty. The man is just flat honest.
11 posted on 03/26/2002 7:34:29 AM PST by RAT Patrol
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To: The Old Hoosier
in the most embarrassing interview in recent times

Actually, my vote for most embarrassing interview, as well as for blatant mismatch between the intellectual abilities of interviewer and interviewed, has to be Deborah Norville interviewing Margaret Thatcher.

It would have been high comedy, were it not so embarrassing...

12 posted on 03/26/2002 7:39:58 AM PST by LouD
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Comment #13 Removed by Moderator

To: The Old Hoosier
CF: Stossel’s success raises the possibility that the networks could change their spots altogether. If we got into a new paradigm whereby they realized the real market is this new set of ideas.

The concept of limited government is now a "new idea."

14 posted on 03/26/2002 8:00:32 AM PST by FlyVet
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To: bright_paper_werewolves
A long time ago, when she was on GMA. It was painful to watch...
15 posted on 03/26/2002 8:06:10 AM PST by LouD
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To: The Old Hoosier
BG: Because he’s friends with Dan Rather and he’s friends with Bob Schiefer and he has these other people on. You see, Don Imus is really the anti-Imus. Don Imus presents himself as the tough guy who takes no prisoners. But he’s a pansy. He’s a semi-senile pansy. And what I mean by pansy is…because he’s got these friends who come on, almost every one of them who kisses ass shamelessly on the air, he’s going to take off after me to show them what a good guy he is.

exactly right.

and then he'll bring on an insect like Lieberman and i simply want to hurl.

16 posted on 03/26/2002 8:28:17 AM PST by tomkat
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To: FlyVet
The concept of limited government is now a "new idea."

For those with their heads up their butts, yes!

17 posted on 03/26/2002 8:47:41 AM PST by JAWs
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To: The Old Hoosier
Good find. Thanks. bttt
18 posted on 03/26/2002 9:16:27 AM PST by lodwick
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To: pollwatcher; 3catsanadog; mdittmar; verboten; braDíS GRAMMA; IM2PHAT4U; LARRYLIED; CAGEY...
This is a great interview.
19 posted on 03/26/2002 11:45:22 AM PST by Diago
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To: Diago
Good interview. The reason his book is such a hit is because it is so true.
20 posted on 03/26/2002 11:58:02 AM PST by tiki
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