Its a truism that ideologues from the opposite end of the political spectrum are more conspicuous than those whose beliefs are closer to ones own, but I dont really feel the need to second-guess myself when I align with those observers who find risible the notion that liberal bias in the media is all-pervasive and needs to be defied by a plucky band of straight-talking iconoclasts.
Regardless of where one comes down in this "debate," one aspect seems to have gone unnoticed. Advocates of the liberal bias theory have cited several instances where the appellation "conservative" has been attributed to speakers where their no-less-ideologically-driven opponents have been unlabeled, giving the impression that the liberal view is "normal" and the conservative view is "extreme." What I find at best curious and at worst disingenuous about these critics is their failure to recognize that this persistent labeling is the result of conservatives enormous success at branding themselves.
As liberals cast about for self-flattering explanations for the dearth of lefty equivalents of Rush Limbaugh and Bill OReilly, they would do better to attend to the astonishing discipline of Conservatives to stay "on message." Like all other political movements, conservatives vary in their degree of zealousness and orthodoxy. Just as some liberals disagree over fundamental issues, thoughtful conservatives differ over tactics, goals, and philosophies. Yet these conservative schisms rarely appear in national debate (a refreshing exception has been occasioned by the recent Supreme Court decision in Lawrence).
It didnt used to be this way, but in the last ten years or so (ever since a certain Presidential election), the Conservatives have aggressively expanded their brand awareness. In listening to the same Conservative pundits on panel shows over several months, I have been amazed that ostensibly intellectual people could maintain the same degree of passion in defending Conservative positions on every issue. This is not to say that there are no rigidly dogmatic liberals, or even that they are few in number. They just dont get booked on talk shows. Liberal pundits seem to care more about exhaustively qualifying their own positions than focusing on the core of contemporary media advocacy: disparaging the opponents position.
In an age of increasing media saturation, producers need reliable product to reach target demographics. Whether a conservative actually shares the Conservative positions in all instances is irrelevant; when he appears on Fox or Clear Channel, he puts on his game face and Exposes More Liberal Folly. A liberal pundit is more likely to try to demonstrate that he is still the Smartest Kid in the Class. Chris Kattans parody of Paul Begala on Hardball accurately (if hilariously) illustrates the fecklessness of liberals who agree to appear opposite Conservatives apparently without understanding how contemporary political discourse is presented. This trend has become so pronounced and liberals have become so outgunned that for a conservative to break into the Conservative big-time these days she has to recognize that her frontal lobes are professional liabilities and to adopt hindbrain positions.
In analyzing the effects of Conservative influence upon political media and of political medias influence upon the electorate, liberal journalists have let themselves become so bullied by charges of "liberal media bias" that they
appear to believe that criticism of Conservative statements must be muted in the name of maintaining "objectivity." This fails to recognize that political punditry has fallen into a Prisoners Dilemma, and the Conservatives have clearly defected. To paraphrase Justice Robert Jackson, objectivity is not a suicide pact. No censorship is so oppressive as self-censorship.
Update: Um, yeah.