Thursday, May 01, 2008

Your Liberal Media

Atrios had a post up yesterday that was both intentionally AND unintentionally snarky.

The intentional snark had to do with the hiring, by the supposedly center-left Atlantic Monthly, of unrepentant war propagandist Jeffrey Goldberg" (that link also via Atrios) as their newest blogger. And indeed, the hiring of the fantastically discredited Goldberg is odious beyond measure for ANY publication, let alone a supposedly liberal-leaning one.

But the last sentence of the post caught my eye and got me to thinking. Atrios says "Still I look forward to to a lively discussion with fellow Atlantic blogger Yglesias."

Now, I like Matt Yglesias and I read his blog every day. But it's worth noting that Yglesias ALSO advocated for a war that led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. He's since repented, but he supported the war more or less unreservedly at the time.

In fact, if we look down the list of bloggers that are employed by the Atlantic, we find:

Andrew Sullivan, who supported the war but has since softened and is now an advocate of withdrawal (though he never really reversed himself on the original question of the Iraq invasion, relying primarily on what Yglesias and others have called "The Incompetence Dodge.")

Ross Douthat, who supported the war VERY enthusiastically and continues, as far as I know, to support it, but who has sort of forgotten that Iraq exists in recent months.

Megan McArdle, who supported the war very enthusiastically and continues, AFAIK, to support it, but who has sort of forgotten that Iraq exists in recent months.

Marc Ambinder, who supported the war but who has no clear position on it now that I can tell.

Clive Crook, who wrote for the Economist at the time and thus wasn't signing his work, but seems to be a former war supporter who has since repented.

Finally there's James Fallows, who opposed the Iraq invasion from the beginning, and of course Goldberg.

At this point the American population can be divided more or less into thirds on the question of the Iraq war. One third of Americans opposed the war from the beginning and still oppose it. One third of Americans supported the war at the time but have since changed their minds (or at least started advocating withdrawal) and one third supported the invasion but still support it.

So if they were trying to track with the attitudes the general population, the Atlantic's blog editors would fire Goldberg and Sullivan and replace them both with wooly-headed leftists. That's not going to happen, clearly.

One obvious (and shopworn, certainly) way of looking at this is just to note that it tells you something about the "liberal media" in the US that an actual liberal publication like the Atlantic is substantially to the right of the American population on this issue. But since economic status plays a big role in shaping political opinions, it's unavoidable that you elite opinion is going to be to the right of the general population, and that what's "centrist" to elites is actually pretty conservative to the electorate as a whole.

What's more peculiar to me is this. Where on the political commentary spectrum would you find a publication that actually tracks closely with US public opinion on Iraq? What publication is a third war opponents, a third supporters, and a third "regretful supporters?"

That publication, as far as I can tell, doesn't exist. You basically go straight from center-right establishment pubs like The Atlantic and The New Republic to true publications of the left such as Harper's, The Nation and Z Magazine.

It seems strange that the "publish opinions that apppeal to the widest possible readership" niche would be one that would be more or less vacant in the political commentary market.

I unfortunately have no substantive analysis to offer on this point other than to note that it is, in fact, odd.

1 comment:

Chris said...

Good to have your blogging self back, Raul.

I think, sadly, that the main reason for the lack of a publication with true diversity of opinion is rooted in psychology: people want to read stuff that confirms what they already thought. Or they want to read stuff they disagree with so they can get their dose of daily anger. They rarely are in the mood to do both. A publication that truly covered all of the common opinions would strike many readers as the literary equivalent of one of those "Best mix of classic rock, new rock" stations. Who would listen through the awful stuff to get to the good stuff?