The Orientalism of Big-City Journamalists

I have this theory about the Liberal Media.  I believe that they roll over for conservatives, while taking any chance they can to slag the Democrats, and that they do it because they are, in fact, liberals.

Specifically, they’re rich, urban, usually white liberals who don’t listen to country music, are baffled by NASCAR, don’t shop at Wal-Mart, and don’t understand [insert pop-conservative shibboleth here].  In fact, I bet they don’t even know very many people who do, if any.  I believe that they reflexively regard the culture of people who do all those things as distasteful.  (They feel the same way about black people.)

But since they’re liberals, they feel guilty about that (about the black people, too, but that’s tangential).  So when they’re abused by conservative commentators for “liberal bias” in their reporting, they see their personal, cultural liberal bias, and assume that liberal bias is creeping into their political reporting without their noticing. 

All this bullshit about soccer moms and NASCAR dads and calling homophobes “values voters” is Orientalism.  The Orientalism of rich white Manhattanites (or Bostonians, or Angelenos, or whatever) trying to understand the working class and bourgeoisie of the South and the Midwest, and, hell, Naugatuck, CT.

So when the conservatives tell you, the big-city journalist, that hatred, fear, and venality is what the People want, who are you to disagree?  You’re a liberal with your liberal bias, so you’d better just print what they say without examination, because you’re unqualified to judge it (which the conservatives also told you).  Besides, you’re pretty sure that Those People all do want hatred, fear, and venality, Not That There’s Anything Wrong With That.  And since you can’t pick on or even examine the claims of conservatives, which in the case of politics means Republicans, and you have to pick on someone in order to be objective, it looks like the Democrats are in for it.  Serves ’em right, too – they’re pretty boring.

I instinctively think this explanation, or something like it, is right (obviously), but it’s kinda half-formed, and this is my first attempt at writing it down.  Feel free to suggest refinements, roll your eyes, or react as the spirit moves you.

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8 thoughts on “The Orientalism of Big-City Journamalists

  1. Jennifer

    Good first draft – I want to clarify your use of the word “Orientalism.”

    I think what you are actually talking about is cultural relativism, the idea that each culture should be judged only on its own ethical standards. So the people who think “We liberal Westerners have no right to say that female genital mutilation is flat out wrong – we need to consider and respect the culture” are also only able to judge “Conservative culture” as a monolith and on the surface. Which, as you and I know, is malarkey.

    I can see where you are going with Orientalism as a comparison – the certainty that Conservatives are “other”, that they are inferior, and that they are all the same in thinking would be a parallel to Orientalism.

    You also made me feel a bit guilty. I slag the Democrats all the time. Collectively, I dub them “Fredo.” i want the party to go the way of the Whigs and the Know-Nothings because I think the two current parties have become so corrupt and entrenched that it would be better for the country if they died out. I was hoping the Republicans would implode first but I’ll take what I can get. It’s unfortunate because I know there are good ones in the party. I don’t think John Kerry is a good one. Or Hillary. Or Joe “The Original Fredo” Lieberman. But they’re better than the Ivory Snow alternative, right?

  2. Ananth

    I think that it’s funny that you in the same post deny liberal bias in the mainstream media, and blame it on them being too liberal.

    It’s almost without a doubt the 75-90% of journalist are liberal and vote democratic. I don’t think that the actual news they report is biased in so much as the facts they present aren’t biased, but the angles they pursue have bias. Now before you go off and say that just because they vote democratic doesn’t mean they aren’t fair, if the situation were reversed and the media was 80% republican, you and your brothers and sisters of the left would be screaming bloody murder (ie your hatred of all things Fox News).

    As far a cultural relatism is concerned I am down with what Jenifer says. Cultural relativism is a dumb as moral relativism. However just I agree that just because bible thumping is in one’s culture doesn’t mean it makes sense or should be respected on it’s face, but it also goes the other way too. Things like the gay pride parade in San Francisco or whatever it is that has most of the gay community prancing around naked or in bondage gear in public is also just as culturally stupid, yet, I feel you would have more empathy for that particular culture.

  3. Herschel Numbers

    I think that it’s funny that you in the same post deny liberal bias in the mainstream media, and blame it on them being too liberal.

    It’s interesting you picked up on that, as I’d cleverly hidden it in the topic sentence.

    Now before you go off and say that just because they vote democratic doesn’t mean they aren’t fair,

    The whole point of the cocksucking post is that they aren’t fair.

    I demand that you read for comprehension.

  4. Herschel Numbers

    I think what you are actually talking about is cultural relativism, the idea that each culture should be judged only on its own ethical standards. So the people who think “We liberal Westerners have no right to say that female genital mutilation is flat out wrong – we need to consider and respect the culture” are also only able to judge “Conservative culture” as a monolith and on the surface. Which, as you and I know, is malarkey.

    I can see where you are going with Orientalism as a comparison – the certainty that Conservatives are “other”, that they are inferior, and that they are all the same in thinking would be a parallel to Orientalism.

    Yeah, you’re right, I think what I should say is that it’s cultural relativism stemming from a kind of Orientalism in the way rich journalists regard “red-state America.”

  5. Ananth

    Just because it’s your topic, it doesn’t mean I can find the topic funny or odd.

    Secondly, you don’t think it’s fair because it apparently not baised enough for you, and in the direction you want. There are plenty of examples of the media showing some bias on the left ( I would say far less cow towing to the right) but you would consider that simply being fair. Examples in recent news, there have been many articles regarding the data mining program claiming the NSA is ‘easedropping’ on calls, which is patently untrue, and a biased word. I don’t want to get into a discussion about Data Mining and pattern recognition algorithms, I am simply pointing out media bias. Also post under your own name. I was confused by the Hershel Numbers thing.

  6. Herschel Numbers

    Just because it’s your topic, it doesn’t mean I can find the topic funny or odd.

    That’s not what you said. Here, I’ll quote you again:

    I think that it’s funny that you in the same post deny liberal bias in the mainstream media, and blame it on them being too liberal.

    I inferred that you meant, “Look at you, you don’t even realize that you’re denying liberal bias on the one hand, and acknowledging it on the other.” When in fact, again, the point is that there’s a slant toward making excuses for – and reporting the unexamined spin of – Republicans in what the press writes, and this is because they are reacting against their own rich-white-liberalism in the name of “objectivity.”

    Secondly, you don’t think it’s fair because it apparently not baised enough for you, and in the direction you want.

    No. No. Honest to fuck, given all your writings on these subjects in the comments here, I’m going to have to call “projection” on you. It is true that when reporters decline to publish unaltered White House spin, the conservative press mau-mauing project yells “liberal bias.” But that’s not me. What I want is, to borrow an illustration from The Shrill Paul Krugman, when the Republicans say the Earth is flat and the Democrats say it’s round, for the Times not to print the headline “Opinions On Shape of Earth Differ.”

  7. Jennifer

    See, this “What I want is, to borrow an illustration from The Shrill Paul Krugman, when the Republicans say the Earth is flat and the Democrats say it’s round, for the Times not to print the headline “Opinions On Shape of Earth Differ.” sums it up nicely.

    There is a horrible trend in journalism these days to let two sides fight it out in an article and not have any synthesis or analysis by the reporter. Think of the Swift Boat Veterans in the last election. They were…wrong. Just wrong. Incorrect! A big flashing buzzing red *x* over them. But their claims were reported as if they had equal weight with Kerry’s claims, and that gave the story legs.

    Ananath brings up gay pride vs. Christian fundamentalism, which is valid to a point – I don’t have respect Christian fundamentalism and they don’t have to respect leatherdaddies rubbing sunscreen on each other. However, the main difference between the two, and where I do in fact take more issue with the Christian Right than with the left, is that the leatherdaddies want the right to exist – to form marriage contracts where they choose, to enjoy the same rights that I could enjoy if I married the next guy off the street, like say, Herschel Numbers here. The Christian Right wants to use the political process to cut off the rights of Gay people – they want to encode their particular religious prejudices in the United States Constitution. And I will always side with the people who say “Live and let live” over the people who say “Everyone should do what I say.”

  8. Ananth

    For the record I am all for live and let live.

    Gay marriage is an odd subject. I don’t buy into the slippery slope argument at all, but the point is that everyone agrees that government has some right/duty to regulate relationships that society has deemed inappropriate(incest,polygamy,etc), and the question is where is appropriate. Because it is based on what society as a whole will accept, it is perhaps a slower process than some might hope.

    Its interesting that you bring up the swifties. A little history lesson on that. The mainstream media wanted to completely ignore that story, because as you said they felt it was false, and had no substance to it. It was the blogosphere and talk radio that made the ads into a story that eventually had to be covered by all the news outlets. Now let us contrast that to Bush’s National Guard Service. To date, there is not any shred of evidence (besides Microsoft word documents) that Bush received any preferential treatment, failed to fulfill is obligations, or anything else of that nature, yet it didn’t stop newspapers and television from running with the story.

    I don’t think that your argument about Opinions on Earth Shape is entirely accurate, but there is a point. The thing is most things we discuss in the political arena do not have scientific and quantitative answers. There is no way to prove what the economy and deficit would be like if the Bush tax cuts were never in acted. No one knows how the middle east would have played itself out if we hadn’t removed Saddam. So for the liberals to claim the have a strangle hold on the facts and truth is a little disingenuous. Just because Al Gore makes a movie about global warming doesn’t mean he knows what the actual causes of if are. And no I am not suggesting that the earth’s climate isn’t changing, I am suggesting that we don’t know the cause, and we don’t know the exact contribution that hydrocarbon emissions have on it, and what if any effect things like Kyoto will actually have if they were to actually be in acted, without of course crippling our economy.

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