There is some strategy to it [bashing the "liberal" media] . . . . If you watch any great coach, what they try to do is "work the refs". Maybe the ref will cut you a little slack on the next one.
Rich Bond, Deputy Chief of Staff to Vice President George H.W. Bush, several positions
at the Republican National Committee under Presidents Ford, Reagan, and George H.W. Bush,
Chairman of the Republican Party (1992-1993) (Washington Post, August 20, 1992, page C1)
There were days and times and events we might have had some complaints [but] on balance I don't think we had anything to complain about.
James Baker, White House Chief of Staff and Secretary of the Treasury under
President Reagan, and White House Chief of Staff and Secretary of State under
President George H.W. Bush (On Bended Knee: The Press and the Reagan Presidency,
by Mark Hertsgaard (1998), page 4)
I've gotten balanced coverage, and broad coverage – all we could have asked. For heaven sakes, we kid about the "liberal media", but every Republican on earth does that.
Patrick Buchanan, White House Communications Director under President Reagan,
assistant and special consultant to Presidents Nixon, Ford, and Reagan,
Republican presidential candidate in 1992 and 1996, Reform Party presidential candidate
in 2000, an original host of CNN's Crossfire (Interview with Los Angeles Times,
March 14, 1996)
I admit it. The liberal media were never that powerful, and the whole thing was often used as an excuse by conservatives for conservative failures.
William Kristol, Chief of Staff to Vice President Quayle, founder and editor-at-large
of The Weekly Standard, current editor-at-large of The Bulwark, founder and director
of Defending Democracy Together, associated with several conservative think tanks,
New Citizenship Project (Chairman, 1997-2005) and the Project for the New American
Century (Co-founder) (The New Yorker, May 22, 1995)
Kristol proved his point six years later.
In a subscription mailing for The Weekly Standard, his Rupert Murdock-funded magazine, Kristol wrote:
The trouble with politics and political coverage today is that there's too much liberal bias. . . . There's too much tilt toward the left-wing agenda. Too much apology for liberal policy failures. Too much pandering to liberal candidates and causes.
Eric Alterman received this subscription mailing in June 2001 and mentioned it in his 2003 book What Liberal Media? The Truth About Bias and the News.
Kristol, 1995: "The liberal media . . . was often used as an excuse by conservatives for conservative failures."
Kristol, 2001: "The trouble with politics . . . is that there's too much liberal bias. . . . Too much apology for liberal policy failures."
* * *
Matt Taibbi, an author and journalist who had written about politics and media, describes Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media, published in 1988 by Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky as "a dazzling book . . . intellectually flamboyant, wild even".
The book's central idea was that censorship in the United States was not overt, but covert. The stage-managing of public opinion was "normally not accomplished by crude intervention" but by the keeping of "dissent and inconvenient information" outside permitted mental parameters: "within bounds and at the margins."
The key to this deception is that Americans, every day, see vigorous debate going on in the press. This deceives them into thinking propaganda is absent. Manufacturing Consent explains that the debate you're watching is choreographed. The range of argument has been artificially narrowed long before you get to hear it.
This careful sham is accomplished through the constant, arduous policing of a whole range of internal pressure points within the media business. It's a subtle, highly idiosyncratic process that you can stare at for a lifetime and not see. . . .
[I]n a process that is almost 100% unconscious, news companies simply avoid promoting rabble-rousing voices. Advancement is meanwhile strongly encouraged among the credulous, the intellectually unadventurous, and the obedient. . . .
Young reporters learn early on what is and is not permitted behavior. They learn to recognize, almost more by smell than reason, what is and is not a "good story."
Chomsky and Herman described this policing mechanism using the term "flak." Flak was defined as "negative responses to a media statement or program." . . .
What Herman and Chomsky described was a system of informal social control, in which the propaganda aims of the state were constantly reinforced among audiences, using a quantity-over-quality approach.
Here and there you might see a dissenting voice, but the overwhelming institutional power of the media (and the infrastructure of think-tanks and politicians behind the private firms) carried audiences along safely down the middle of a surprisingly narrow political and intellectual canal. . . .
As it turns out, there is a utility in keeping us divided. As people, the more separate we are, the more politically impotent we become.
This is the second stage of the mass media deception originally described in Manufacturing Consent.
First, we're taught to stay within certain bounds, intellectually. Then, we're all herded into separate demographic pens, located along different patches of real estate on the spectrum of permissible thought. . . .
Fake controversies of increasing absurdity have been deployed over and over to keep our audiences from seeing larger problems.
We manufactured fake dissent, to prevent real dissent.
* * *
Matthew Sheffield launched the conservative website NewsBusters in 2005, which complained about "media elites being 'unfair' to conservative views". Sheffield now understands he was not living in journalistic reality and he says that most conservatives believe the purpose of journalism is to wage partisan political warfare, and they fight on a battlefield where facts and reality are irrelevant.
As Jon Ward, Chief National Correspondent at Yahoo, wrote in December 2020:
This dynamic is at play most recently in the move by many Trump supporters to stop watching Fox News because, while it is conservative, it is not slavish enough toward the president. Instead, many Trump supporters are moving toward channels that repeat the president's lies about a stolen election without any scrutiny or standards for fact checking.
Sheffield, in an interview on "The Long Game", a Yahoo News podcast:
If you go to and look at the history of conservative media enterprises that are large scale and exist presently, every single one of them was created to propagate and propagandize for a particular political viewpoint, literally without exception. And that is not the case for just so many mainstream outlets.
Seven of Sheffield's tweets from November 6, 2020:
What I did not realize until I began expanding my work into creating actual media and reporting institutions such as the Washington Examiner (I was the founding online editor) was that U.S. conservatives do not understand the purpose of journalism.
I eventually realized that most people who run right-dominated media outlets see it as their DUTY to be unfair and to favor Republicans because doing so would somehow counteract perceived liberal bias.
While I was enmeshed in the conservative media tradition, I viewed lefty media thinkers . . . as arguing that journalism was supposed to be liberally biased. I was wrong. I realized later that I didn't understand that journalism is supposed to portray reality.
I also discovered as I rose through the right-wing media ranks that most conservative media figures have no journalism training or desire to fact-check their own side.[C]onservative-dominated media outlets were MUCH more biased than outlets run by liberals.Truth for conservative journalists is anything that harms "the left." It doesn't even have to be a fact. Trump's numerous lies about any subject under the sun are thus justified because his deceptions point to a larger truth: that liberals are evil.
Conservatives are willing to believe them [specious claims of voter fraud] even if there is no evidence, simply because anything negative about liberals is true. This mentality extends to the very highest ranks.