Liberal Bias

I am breaking a rule here. Usually, I just cover sports media. If sports media stray into non-sports topics, as happened with John Amaechi and Don Imus, for example, that’s fine. The focus is still on sports media. But, today, I am going to violate that rule (sort of) by talking about Newsbusters, a non-sports website devoted to exposing what it believes to be liberal media bias. Their topic: Keith Olbermann, and NBC”s announcement last week that it was hiring him to co-host its Sunday night football studio show – Football Night in America. The Newsbusters headline: Liberal Bias Invades NFL.

Sports Media Watch covered the story when it broke, noting that the reaction was generally positive but also flagging some of the criticism, particularly from right-wing sources that dislike Olbermann’s politics.

Among those sources is Newsbusters, which begins by warning that “football
fans can probably expect some liberal bias in the upcoming NFL season.”

Newsbusters complained that, back in 2000, when ABC was considering putting Rush Limbaugh in the booth for Monday Night Football, that possibility “horrified the Washington Post and other Liberal Media outlets.” I should stop and note that it’s a measure of the state of our discourse that the Washington Post, which strongly supported the invasion of Iraq and has repeatedly written dishonest editorials advocating social security privatization could be reflexively called “liberal,” but this is a label readily applied to any media outlet that is not a reliable mouthpiece for Republican talking points. But, Newsbusters focuses on the comments of Tom Boswell, longtime sports columnist for the Post, who did disparage Limbaugh when ABC was considering hiring him. Newsbusters then suggests that one need look no farther than the comments of “well known leftist” Bryant Gumbel, when he criticized the 2006 Winter Olympics for its lack of Black athletes, for a likely taste of what football fans would get from Olbermann.

Newsbusters also pointedly (it thinks) asks whether the Post and other “liberal media outlets” will decry Olbermann’s selection.

Newsbusters frequently relies on the use of labels as substitutes for actual arguments on
the merits. So, calling someone a liberal or leftist, and then repeating what they said,
without actually explaining the presumptive flaws in the arguments they’re “exposing” is
typical of the website. Therefore, once the labels are affixed (however accurate), all
that’s left for Newsbusters to do is to find some limp comparisons and call it a column.

There was, of course, strongly negative reaction to Gumbel’s comments in much of the
media but, more to the point, Gumbel’s comments came on his own show on HBO, where he obviously has a degree of editorial latitude that one would simply not find on something like a network football telecast. So, as a guide to what Olbermann might say on NBC, this example is all but worthless, unless you think that calling Olbermann a liberal and Gumbel a “leftist” is the only conceivably relevant information from which to draw such a conclusion.

Given the demographic realities of who consumes sports media in America, including
football, a network is making a better bet to pick a political conservative than a
political liberal. That’s just a simple, inescapable fact. It follows from that
inescapable fact that NBC, though clearly interested in Olbermann because he has become a multi-platform celebrity, has little to gain by having Olbermann talk his brand of
politics during football broadcasts. And, Olbermann has made clear that he expects to
talk football, not politics, on Sunday nights.

Furthermore, it’s striking that Newsbusters dodges the most obvious flaw in their
ridiculous little expose – Olbermann was an acclaimed sportscaster for many years,
regarded by many as one of the most talented men ESPN has ever hired. And, Olbermann had that reputation long before he became known for his political views. In other words, though Olbermann’s current profile is undoubtedly appealing to NBC, the hire is a no-brainer because of his obvious talent as a sports guy. By contrast, when ABC considered hiring Limbaugh (and ESPN eventually did, a fact that, curiously, Newsbusters never mentions) it did so not because it had reason to believe that Limbaugh would be a great sportscaster.

Limbaugh earned his fame and reputation talking politics, not sports. And, ABC thought
that it could cash in on his general celebrity. Yes, Limbaugh’s a sports fan. No, he’s
not a professional sportscaster. Disney liked the demographic profile it thought Limbaugh
could appeal to and hoped that his football knowledge would be sufficient. That’s a very
different kind of calculation than the one NBC is making.

Newsbusters, by the way, also neglects to mention that Dennis Miller, whose political
views have clearly tacked right the past few years, was in the Monday Night football
booth not so long ago. But, such omissions are necessary to maintain the trope about
liberal bias. As an aside, Sports Media Watch noted Al Michaels’ political contributions
to the Republican party in 2004. What SMW did not mention, but is of relevance here, is
that Michaels made a snide reference to John Kerry as a flip-flopper in the Fall of 2004.
I wouldn’t argue that this is the end of the world and Michaels is, of course, entitled
to his opinion. But, given that the flip-flopper charge was probably talking point number
one for the Bush campaign that Fall, it’s noteworthy that the play-by-play announcer for
the number one regular sports broadcast in America repeated the charge.

This is classic stuff – the sports world is, of course, a predominantly conservative
place, and football is, without a doubt, a predominantly conservative world. But
newsbusters thinks politics is only an issue in that world when one well-known liberal -
whose sports qualifications are beyond reproach – gets hired for a sports media job for
which he’s obviously far more qualified than Rush Limbaugh ever was. (And, yes, I know
that Limbaugh had a job, almost thirty years ago, in media relations with the Kansas City
Royals. Sorry, I’m not impressed).

As an aside, I have never been a big fan of Olbermann as a sportscaster. His too-clever-by-half attitude isn’t my cup of tea and I don’t like his style any more now when he’s on the Big Show with Dan Patrick than I did when he was a sportscenter anchor a decade ago. But, what’s the bias exactly: that NBC would hire an obviously highly qualified sportscaster to do sports coverage and who happens to be liberal (which is of dubious value given their target demographic)? Or, is it that criticisms of Limbaugh, however valid, are presumptively out of bounds? Either way, that liberal bias sure has run amok.

About these ads

19 Responses to “Liberal Bias”

  1. It’s the victimization attitude — the only way to keep the outrage that fueled the movement to begin with is to keep implying that even though you have all the power, you’re being persecuted.

    I like Olbermann in both capacities. I think he’ll be able to separate his news and sports work — he already does so on the radio with Dan Patrick. What bothered me more about the whole response to his hiring was talk of him being an “intellectual snob” and how that wouldn’t fly with football fans, as if we were complete morons. That criticism always notes “the heartland of America” or some such as the group who would be turned off by Keith.

    To keep the tropes going, the conservatives have to insult the people they consider their own, indirectly calling them too stupid for someone like Olbermann to host their program. I’m so tired of anti-intellectualism being a badge of pride to people.

  2. S2N-
    Agreed. And the comment, “I’m so tired of anti-intellectualism being a badge of pride to people,” is a shared feeling.

    Ironically, Jeff Chadiha and Skip Bayless addressed that very topic briefly yesterday when discussing David Halberstam. Chadiha especially lamented the lack of thoughtful sports journalism – Bayless agreed. Then Dana Jacobson looked at them both and said, “Well you two are a part of that,” which shut them down totally.

    Hopefully here at TSF we’re all filling that void to some degree (and yeah, I’m tooting our collective horn just a peep).

    Thanks for the post J-Dub.

  3. You guys do fill that void to some degree. Great post.

  4. As a vegan pacifist leftist NFL fan, I get to seethe through obligatory glorifications of warfare almost weekly. Military flyovers, military ceremony for the National Anthem, and commercial featuring troops overseas are a staple of NFL programming.

    Now, obviously glorification of war goes beyond a left/right split. However, if we’re going to really examine the politicization of sport, it’s not useful to criticize a single announcer for his political views when he may or may not express those views on the air. It would be much more useful to look at all the overt and covert politicization that is taken as a mere matter of course.

    It goes further than promoting war–let’s examine some of the social and political assumptions inherent in an NFL broadcast (for example, why does “woman” equal “sideline reporter”?).

  5. I get to seethe through obligatory glorifications of warfare almost weekly. Military flyovers, military ceremony for the National Anthem, and commercial featuring troops overseas are a staple of NFL programming.

    What you would call “obligatory glorifications,” others would simply term, gratitude toward our troops. I know it’s tough for a lefty to actually appreciate the sacrifices of our military personnel, but you should try it sometimes. They deserve it more than they do your constant yammering to undercut their efforts.

  6. Keefer, what bothers me is the intent and effect. I don’t like that “Support the Troops” has in the past five years become covert for “Support the War”–such a shift makes it difficult to actually oppose a war. I don’t like that “Support the Troops” has become the new political correctness (even though nobody would call it that).

    When I see those features glorifying the military, I wonder if they are asking us to appreciate the military’s sacrifice, or if they are using the symbols of the military (and the sacrifice of the soldiers) to create support for war.

    Of course, since you would refer to my comments as an attempt ot “undercut their efforts,” I doubt you’re interested in reasonable discourse on the issue.

  7. I oppose warfare. If you define opposing warfare as an attempt to undercut the soldiers’ efforts, you’re probably more interested in talking points than discourse.

    And if you believe my “yammering” can actually do anything to “undercut their efforts,” your a fool. I’m not putting a single weapon into an enemy’s hand. I’m making any legislation on the war. I’m just “yammering,” the only thing I feel I can do.

  8. Forgive the typos and grammar errors of the previous post–it was written in haste. And forgive any anger in the tone. I am simply frustrated at the ways that legitimate opposition to warfare get labeled.

  9. such a shift makes it difficult to actually oppose a war.

    You cannot support one without supporting the other. You may not think we are there for the right reasons, but we are there — so you either support a US victory, or you support our defeat. Sometimes, it’s that simple.

    or if they are using the symbols of the military (and the sacrifice of the soldiers) to create support for war.

    Or maybe they’re just saying — hey guys, thanks for your efforts, we really appreciate them. Just because you as a liberal cannot appreciate their efforts does not mean that others can’t as well. You are looking for “propaganda” where none exists.

    I doubt you’re interested in reasonable discourse on the issue

    And yet one could argue you are the unreasonable one, implying right off the bat that planes flying over a football stadium = evil Republican drum-up for the war.

    I oppose warfare

    That’s fantastic. Unfortunately, the people we are fighting do not. So, what are you gonna do? Run to a mosque and say your prayers like a good little Muslim, or do something about it?

    And if you believe my “yammering” can actually do anything to “undercut their efforts,” your a fool.

    Ever been to littlegreenfootballs.com before? Check it out. They expose the al-Queda type propaganda over there. It sounds eerily similar to liberal “talking points”, something I would not be very proud of.

  10. Lest I be thought to oppose troops, let me illustrate.

    Yesterday, Jessica Lynch and the family of Pat Tillman spoke to congress about how the military lied about the sacrifices of Lynch and Tillman, and used their sacrifices to gain support for the war.

    I don’t think you could accuse Lynch or Tillman of opposing the troops–however, they have serious concerns about how the troops are used to gain favor of the American people and support a war.

    But in your next comment, you use all sorts of logical fallacies (a false dichotomy–forcing a choice where there isn’t one. A straw man–claiming I said things I didn’t and arguing against that. And the implication that because people fighting a war support the war, I must support the war). Those logical fallacies are so obvious, I won’t waste my time refuting them further.

  11. Keefer, you’ve actually just helped me make a decision. From now on, when a person makes a comparison between liberals and al-Queda, I’m just going to consider that person not worth arguing with. I hope you understand. As a pacifist, I have no more sympathy for terrorism than I have for war, and not that liberal = anti-war (many Democrats voted for this war), but if you equate liberal “talking points” with Al-Queda propaganda, you just aren’t worth discussing this with.

  12. Read this “speech” re: the VaTech killings and tell me you don’t see similarities to leftist thought re: this country.

    http://tinyurl.com/2yarlf

  13. I like this post. This is what I want in a critical sports blog. You really can’t get this type of analysis on this topic (with this quality and quantity) elsewhere on the intrawebs.

    Pacifist Viking, keep up the good fight.

    As for littlegreenfootballs (dot) com, that place is scary. If TSF gets zero hits from them, good.

    And newsbusters is a joke. It is the product of a bizzaro political world where “balance” trumps objective reality. If I’m a talk show host who is going to discuss the holocaust, do I need to invite a guest who denies that it existed for “balance”?

    There is a market for this blog: continuous content, good analysis, critical thinking…

  14. “Little green footballs” is definitely not a favorite of mine (or TSF). However, I included on my political news feeder along with other conservative sites so that I had different perspectives on political events – until it got too outlandish in its claims, so I nixed it.

  15. I don’t have a problem with conservative sites. Echo chambers are dangerous for both right and left.

    But, [I think] political sites should operate on basic principles, not partisan hackery. Establish a principle, apply it equally, and let the chips fall where they may.

    LGF is just a den of doughie white men who are perpetually pissed off at anyone who has the gall to take a piece of their pie.

  16. Keefer, you’ve actually just helped me make a decision. From now on, when a person makes a comparison between liberals and al-Queda, I’m just going to consider that person not worth arguing with.

    Sounds like you would have done well to take that attitude with Keefer much sooner. You’re never going to get back the time you spent arguing with him. OTOH, perhaps I’m too rash. The argument helped you come to a principle which you can live with for a long time. And that’s worth a great deal.

  17. Thanks for this, dwil:

    “Ironically, Jeff Chadiha and Skip Bayless addressed that very topic briefly yesterday when discussing David Halberstam. Chadiha especially lamented the lack of thoughtful sports journalism – Bayless agreed. Then Dana Jacobson looked at them both and said, ‘Well you two are a part of that,’ which shut them down totally.”

    I just became a huge Dana Jacobson fan…

    As for Olbermann, it will be interesting to see if this story gains more traction as the NFL season draws near…

  18. On the other hand, dwil, did you see the interview? Could Jacobson have meant that Bayless and Chadiha were a part of the “thoughtful sports journalism”? Just re-reading the quote, it’s possible to interpret it in different ways…

  19. Internet Business Make money at home…

    [...]Liberal Bias « The Starting Five[...]…

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 33 other followers

%d bloggers like this: