I’ve always liked Bruce Bartlett, and I still do.
In addition to his service in the Reagan administration, he later wrote a superb book that I have referred to many times: Wrong on Race: The Democratic Party’s Buried Past.
But I have to say when I learned that Mr. Bartlett had appeared on CNN to say that conservatives were “self-brainwashing”? Well, I laughed. Here’s what he said:
Many conservatives live in a bubble where they watch only Fox News on television, they listen only to conservative talk radio — Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, many of the same people. When they go onto the Internet, they look at conservative websites like National Review, Newsmax, World Net Daily.
And so, they are completely in a universe in which they are hearing the same exact ideas, the same arguments, the same limited amount of data repeated over and over and over again. And that’s brainwashing.
Huh? Where to begin! And who exactly is really brainwashed here?
As a conservative someone who reads the New York Times, Washington Post and regularly reads or watches liberal outlets with names like Mediaite, MSNBC, CNN, ABC, CBS, and NBC I have to say I have no idea what Bruce Bartlett is talking about.
Even taking him at his word — if all I listened to were Fox, Rush Limbaugh, and Sean Hannity I would be getting exposure aplenty to liberals. Fox News is awash in liberal commentators who sit on the allegedly “conservative” network and regularly dispense the left-wing point of view. Rush and Sean regularly cite the latest from liberal A, B, or C, informing their listeners of liberal views that are easily findable on the web. I myself have been on both Sean Hannity’s television and radio shows discussing issues of the day with liberals Bob Beckel, Kirsten Powers, Juan Williams, and Chris Hahn (the last an ex-aide to New York’s Senator Chuck Schumer.) Not a one of them is conservative, as is perfectly plain if one is listening.
In the case of Fox itself? In addition to those named above the network has over the years — past and present — hosted liberals Tamara Holder, ( a progressive lawyer with ties to Jesse Jackson), Clintonite James Carville, Julie Roginsky (an ex-aide to the late New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg), Marc Lamont Hill, Santita Jackson (daughter of Jesse Jackson), Sally Kohn (like Mark Lamont Hill now at CNN), Jehmu Greene (an ex- Hillary Clinton, DNC aide), Bernard Whitman (an ex-Bill Clinton aide), Mark Hannah and Mary Ann Marsh (ex-John Kerry aides), and others. On and on goes the parade of seriously bona fide liberals at Fox.
Bartlett has apparently missed this piece over at that far-right site known as the Columbia Journalism Review headlined: “And from the left…Fox News.”
One can only wonder at Bartlett’s curious formulation. If, to use his premise, conservatives are brainwashed by watching Fox and listening to, in his formulation, Rush and Sean? What does this say about those who read or watch only the Times, Post, and all those alphabet soup liberal networks? Apparently they are all brainwashed too, except they have their washing cycle tilted leftward.
There is a reason for all the fury from the Left at Fox News, and surely Bruce Bartlett — who Rush Limbaugh has said has now gone over to “the dark side” — gets it. It is no newsflash to observe that once upon a time the Left had a monopoly on the media. No matter where one turned for news and comment whatever was being presented was coming through the liberal filter. And in today’s world, in spite of having lost that monopoly, the liberal media is doing its damnedest to do exactly what it has been doing for decades.
Over at Breitbart the other day, the astute John Nolte ran this story, which listed 48 REASONS TO DISTRUST & DESPISE THE MEDIA.
Among those scandals — spread well across the liberal media spectrum — are the falsified exploding of a GM truck (NBC), the attempted burying of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, CNN’s cover-up of Saddam Hussein’s human rights atrocities, the Times dance with the plagiarist Jayson Blair, faked Boston Globe photos of American soldiers raping Iraqi women and… well… and on and on and on.
The question Bartlett should really be puzzling on CNN is…why? Why in the world does the liberal media act like this? Are they…gulp…brainwashed? Well, in fact, yes in a way. As has been noted before in this space and certainly elsewhere as well, liberals — no matter their profession or station in life — are liberals first and whatever else second.
The reason behind that list of 48 stories Nolte exhibits as reason to distrust the liberal media is simply that in this case the liberals at hand are journalists. They are journalists — but they are liberals first. The reason Fox News has succeeded so well is because it has well established itself as a network that is the place to go for the facts of a story — leaving plenty of space for serious conservatives and liberals to then hassle over the news of the day.
Is that brainwashing? Well, maybe in a way it is. Maybe — just maybe — so many Americans have been subjected to a failed attempt at liberal brainwashing when it comes to understanding the basic truth of an issue that they are thirsty for an honest “just-the-facts-ma’am” presentation — followed by a vigorous left-right debate with real, genuine out-of-the-closet partisans.
Call it “brainwashing” if you will, as Bruce Bartlett is certainly free to do. But you would think that sitting on the set of one of several liberal media outlets he would at least ponder the question of who, exactly, is in the brainwashing business. And wondering for a just a moment at least — on a CNN show hosted by a liberal ex-Timesman — whether in fact the brain that has been taken for a trip through the spin cycle is his own.