Monday, October 9, 2000

Week of 10/09/2000

The Media Versus Libertarians?
- by David Matthews 2

"When watching men of power in action it must be always kept in mind that, whether they know it or not, their main purpose is the elimination or neutralization of the independent individual- the independent voter, consumer, worker, owner, thinker- and that every device they employ aims at turning men into a manipulable ‘animated instrument’ which is Aristotle's definition of a slave." - Eric Hoffer

I guess there’s no other way to say this, so I’m going to come out and say it…

What does the media have against Libertarians and libertarian ideas?

Open the newspaper to the letters to the editor section and you’ll catch a few Libertarians sounding off about whatever issue of the day. Turn to certain political columnists, and they’ll mention Libertarian candidates. Longtime Georgia political columnist Bill Shipp recently did a wonderful article about local third party candidates running for the US Senate.

And yet, Libertarians still get the cold shoulder from the rest of the media.

Libertarian-based Cato Institute is only recognized in the media as a "conservative" think-tank. Card-carrying Libertarian Neal Boortz is recognized in the media as a "conservative" radio talk show host. It is as if saying the word "Libertarian" was forbidden.

When USA Today wanted to show who would be competing against incumbent Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, did they turn to Libertarian Party candidate Carla Howell, whose earned the attention of the local newspapers, including the both the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald? NO! They turned to Jack Robinson III, the GOP candidate who couldn’t even get enough signatures to qualify to be on the ballot! In fact, the only reason that Robinson is on the ballot right now is because he went to court and had a judge order his name be put on the November ballot. But the USA Today article made it appear as thought Robinson was the ONLY alternative to Kennedy.

When Tim Russert, host of NBC’s "Meet The Press" wanted to have his own little "debate" involving third-party candidates, did he include Libertarian candidate Harry Browne? NO! He invited only Green Party’s Ralph Nader and Reform Party’s Pat Buchanan, even though poll after poll shows Browne either running neck-to-neck or beating Buchanan! But even when given those facts, did Russert and the people of NBC include Browne? NO! NBC’s people said that it, quote, "just wasn’t in the cards", unquote, to have Harry Browne on Russert’s show before the election.

Now let me point out that Tim Russert is more than just some political journalist who managed to finagle his way into the center chair of the long-running NBC Sunday morning show. Russert is also the head of the political journalism department for NBC News. If Tim Russert declares Harry Browne to be not worthy of his attention, then NBC News will run a twenty-minute feature on Boffo, the farting flying monkey, before they even think about mentioning Harry Browne’s name.

It’s not just NBC and USA Today either. A Lexis-Nexus search revealed that while so-called "impartial" polls have placed Browne either tied or beating the Reform candidate, media coverage of Buchanan has outnumbered the Libertarian candidate 60-1!

Browne isn’t just being under-appreciated.. he’s being deliberately ignored!

Let’s get brutally honest here. It’s high time we abandon all pretense about the media being "unbiased" and "impartial" when it comes to politics. They are about as fair and impartial as a Yugoslavian election being run by Slobodan Milosevic!

This is one of the dirty little secrets about journalism. It is conducted by very human people; men and women who create articles based on information that is first filtered through their own personal biases. Those articles are then filtered through by editors and directors, who look through each article with their own biases. The process is also supervised by publishers and producers, who can also kill or amend a story at a whim based on their own biases.

Try as they might, the media is no more "unbiased" than you or I. Even more so, however, because of the number of times any given story is processed and refined before we even see it.

Having understood that members of the media are far from the neutral observers they claim to be, we need to then ask just what it is members of the media have against Libertarians. What is it that they fear about us?

Quite possibly the members of the media simply see Libertarians as "conservatives" because they are still adherent to that out-dated two-dimensional political spectrum of liberal-moderate-conservative. If that is the case, then they can easily disqualify someone like Harry Browne under the pretense that they already have their "token" ultra-conservative in the form of Pat Buchanan. Problem being, though, if you were to find a place for Libertarians in that outdated spectrum, it would have to be plain in the middle, because the truest of libertarians are no more conservative than they are liberal. Then again, if that was the case, then the argument could be made that you need to focus on Libertarians to provide that "moderate" perspective.

It could quite easily also be a case of insider bias. After all, Ralph Nader has been a very public advocate for consumers for decades, and one of his chief cheerleaders is Phil Donahue, the father of modern-day talk shows. Both are well-known media mainstays. Pat Buchanan was Ronald Reagan’s communications director as well as the counterpoint voice for the Cable News Network’s "Crossfire" show. His views may not be liked by the more liberal members of the media, but at least they know him.

Libertarians, on the other hand, are virtual unknowns to journalists. Harry Browne is as close to a "name" candidate that the Libertarian Party has gotten, and even then the members of the media have to scratch their heads over who he is and what he stands for. If that is the case, then folks like Russert are simply supporting the devils they know over the angels they don’t know.

Or perhaps the members of the media are deliberately ignoring Libertarians out of fear.

Libertarians, after all, advocate people to think for themselves, and to question anyone that would take away their freedoms. Members of the media, though, relish the fact that there are millions of people that blindly depend on them for their news. They want the people to be like sheep; to be - as the Clinton Regime once so eloquently described Rush Limbaugh listeners - mind-numbed robots awaiting their marching orders. Having that kind of control over people is addictive.. just ask your local rabid minister.

If that is the case, and I suspect it is just as much as the "insider-outsider" theory, then it would explain why they would prefer to stick to that outdated political spectrum of liberal-conservative. Conservatives, after all, also advocate social control.. they just do so under the pretense of "less government".

What should surprise people, though, is how the libertarian movement has grown in spite of the media blackout. Slowly, but surely, people are hearing about libertarianism and their message about less government and more personal freedom. They are tired of hearing about "lesser of two evils" and failed government programs and how slanted the media is. They want change, the media is not offering them any.

If this is what’s going on in spite of the media, imagine the kind of political changes that could occur WITH help from the media!

In order for us to get there, though, we can’t simply rely on the members of the media to change on their own. We have to build even more public support to show the media just how powerful libertarian ideas can be. That in itself is not going to be easy because we are going against decades of institutionalized socialism that encompasses everything from cradle to grave. But if we want to free ourselves of it, we have to stick through with our principles, and not compromise. We must build on our base, and create the kind of force that will get the media’s attention.

We must also recruit more "big names" to speak on behalf of libertarians. Hey, don’t get me wrong.. it’s great to realize that there are some very big names who consider themselves to be libertarians. I get a thrill to know that Drew Carey, Kurt Russell, and Clint Eastwood all consider themselves to be libertarians. I would get an even bigger thrill if they would take the time to publicly support some Libertarian causes, or perhaps to run for office as a Libertarian.

I mean, come on, do you really think that Jesse Ventura got elected governor of Minnesota simply because he was with the Reform Party? Truth be told, it was his NAME that got him his political success more than the message that he gave.

If anything, libertarians need to understand that it is an uphill struggle to get the kind of attention that Democrats and Republicans have long enjoyed. They’ve been playing this game for well over a century. Libertarians only started thirty years ago. We must be patient, and we must be diligent.

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