Opinion

The liberal media is more fractured than you think

A National Journal article accuses progressive bloggers of mindlessly toeing the administration's line. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Last week, National Journal writer James Oliphant had a roundly mocked piece about liberal-leaning journalists who allegedly parrot the Obama administration's talking points. To give you a taste, the article boasted the subtitle, "This administration enjoys an advantage afforded no other: A partisan media that has its back, minute-by-minute." Oliphant went on to list all those who carried water for the White House on the latest "news" surrounding Benghazi:

[Press secretary Jay Carney] had The New Republic's Brian Beutler dismissing Benghazi as "nonsense." He had Slate's David Weigel, along with The Washington Post's Plum Line blog, debunking any claim that the new email was a "smoking gun." Media Matters for America labeled Benghazi a "hoax." Salon wrote that the GOP had a "demented Benghazi disease." [National Journal]

There are several gaping problems with this analysis. First, Dave Weigel is no liberal, and he doesn't attend the White House briefing sessions as Oliphant implies. Second, Oliphant doesn't even consider the possibility that these liberals could, in fact, be right about Benghazi. (Is the truth partisan, James?)

But most of all, he completely misses the actual splits between leftists and the Obama administration, as well as within the lefty media ecosystem itself. They really do exist!

Here is a rough list of the biggest issues that divide the Left in the age of Obama: Due-process-free drone strikes, especially on a 16-year-old American citizen; warrantless dragnet surveillance; total lack of accountability for both the CIA torture program and the spy agency's blatant attempts to undermine the democratic oversight of same; the colossal failure of HAMP, which was supposed to help struggling homeowners; the JPMorgan robo-signing scandal and a dozen other examples of grotesque financial sector malfeasance that have gone virtually unpunished; the Keystone XL pipeline; and, to a lesser extent, austerity at a time of deep economic insecurity.

On all these issues, the presidential line has differed from traditional lefty principles, sometimes shockingly so. Of course, there are plenty of left-leaning hacks who will reflexively defend the president no matter what. But there are plenty of others who have vociferously complained about his policies.

And these disputes aren't hard to uncover! Just scroll through Glenn Greenwald's Twitter feed for about five minutes for a start.

This is the problem with classic Beltway "analysis": It's completely devoid of principle and facts. Like his colleague Ron Fournier (who was beside himself with glee trumpeting this story), Oliphant obviously has no idea what lefties actually care about, or how liberal news organizations make decisions. Instead, politics has a left side and a right side, the content of each being entirely irrelevant because The Truth is to be found precisely between them. Therefore, if people are supporting President Obama on any issue, that means they're partisan hacks.

It makes no difference that the right-wing line on Benghazi is actually a crock. The fact that Oliphant can't say this for fear of sounding partisan is one of the prime ways that fetishizing nonpartisanship as an end in itself poisons one's mind and one's journalism.

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