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Nov 25, 2010

Is the media leftist or statist?

Radley Balco at Reason has a theory that the media which tends to support the left of politics is not so much leftist, but statist. This is a plausible proposition considering the point that the left are inherently inclined towards big government, there is the possibility we are simply confusing the issue. It could be that a disposition towards big government solutions shared by both gives that impression.

He argues that a survey of the largest dailies in California showed that they were all opposed to Proposition 19, which was the ballot measure to legalize the recreational use of Marijuana. He states:

This puts the state's papers at odds with nearly all of California's left-leaning interest groups, including the Green Party, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Service Employees International Union, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; progressive publications such The Nation, Salon, and The Huffington Post; and a host of prominent liberal bloggers. According to a CNN/Time poll released last week, it also pits the state's newspapers against 76 percent of California voters who identify themselves as "liberal."
On this issue, the state's dailies are also to the right of conservative publications such as The Economist and National Review, prominent Republicans such as former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, a growing portion of the Tea Party movement, and even Fox News personality Glenn Beck. …
He points out that newspapers supported the federal government on its right to prosecute medical marijuana users even in states that allowed it. They argued that overturning this would undermine the Commerce Clause. The press also endorsed the Kelo decision.

He raises support for the TSA here and points out an article in Cato involving a Washington Post/ABC push poll on the issue. The questions were designed to favor a response toward preference for safety over Privacy:

I have some doubts as to Balco’s conclusion here although he is generally pretty good on most issues, and one of the reasonably sane left libertarians. From my experience, yes, they definitely are statists. Where we part company is that from my experience they are also blatantly leftist. Only the most optimistic Republican with the rosiest of rose-colored glasses could say that the party has not been one of big government, even though the rhetoric differs.

Even though Bush expanded the size, cost, and scope of government exponentially during his tenure, it can hardly be argued that the press endorsed him or cheered him on. There was some support in the aftermath of 9/11 and so on but the press generally took an opposing perspective. They are definitely more approving of the Patriot Act and Guantanamo Bay now than they were during the previous administration. Bush would never have had favorable editorials on strip searches, naked body scans, or TSA feel ups.

If the complaints of abuses had been raised under Bush the press would be baying for blood. In a post during the last Presidential election I raised the issue of the NYT having not endorsed a Republican since Eisenhower in 1956, - 54 years. Admittedly Eisenhower was a statist to the point that Goldwater referred to his administration as, “A dime store New Deal.” The interesting part though was the reasons they gave for their following endorsements:

LBJ: In his frenetic dashing about the country, President Johnson stuck mainly to the safety of pious platitudes, interlaced with cloudy visions of the “Great Society.”

Jimmy Carter: Again and again Jimmy Carter seemed to be all sail and no boat, what did he do when his popularity sank in 1979? He fired half his cabinet and blamed the public for succumbing to malaise. … Mr. Carter’s economic policy amounts to nothing more than muddling through. But (heres the good part, probably written by their finance editor) isn’t muddling through just where economics is today?

Mondale: Mondale has all the dramatic flair of a trigonometry teacher. His Nordic upbringing makes it hard for him to brag.

Dukakis: Michael Dukakis is not the unfocused incompetent his late and lame response made him seem.

They are both statist and lefties Radley, it’s just that both coincide on most points that causes the confusion.

Radley Balco is a senior editor at Reason Magazine, and does a number of columns elsewhere and blogs as “The Agitator.”

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