Time Magazine: the liberal bias of facts

Refusing to resolve competing claims about reality is the staple of journalistic "balance"

Published September 17, 2009 2:18PM (EDT)

 Just released Time Magazine article on Glenn Beck:

On Sept. 12, a large crowd gathered in Washington to protest ... what? The goals of Congress and the Obama Administration, mainly — the cost, the scale, the perceived leftist intent. The crowd's agenda was wide-ranging, so it's hard to be more specific. "End the Fed," a sign read. A schoolboy's placard denounced "Obama's Nazi Youth Militia." Another poster declared, "We the People for Capitalism Not Socialism." If you get your information from liberal sources, the crowd numbered about 70,000, many of them greedy racists. If you get your information from conservative sources, the crowd was hundreds of thousands strong, perhaps as many as a million, and the tenor was peaceful and patriotic. Either way, you may not be inclined to believe what we say about numbers, according to a recent poll that found record-low levels of public trust of the mainstream media.

Washington Post chat with reporter Michael Fletcher, yesterday:

9/12 crowds: Hello, Michael. Thanks for taking questions. What is the best and most educated guess about the size of the crowds in DC on Sept. 12? There is quite a discrepancy between 60,000 and 2 million. Why is it so hard to get a good estimate?

Michael A. Fletcher: Both of those sound high, and clearly the second number is way, way high. My colleagues say it was in the tens of thousands, probably around 20,00 or 30,000 although it is hard to tell and police did not release an estimate.

Eric Boehlert has masterfully documented how right-wing claims about the number of protesters was literally invented out of whole cloth -- Michelle Malkin simply made up a number (2 million) that was repeated by right-wing sources far and wide, and Glenn Beck then did the same (1.7 million) -- and bears no relationship whatsoever to reality.  But either way, the reports of tens of thousands came not from "liberal sources" but from the establishment media.  Just yesterday, the Post's Fletcher reported that his journalist colleagues - not Daily Kos -- "say it was in the tens of thousands, probably around 20,00 or 30,000."

But Time isn't allowed to critique right-wing claims even when they're totally false.  Doing that would make Rush Limbaugh and Fox News angry.  So rather than pointing out what actually happened -- that right-wing claims about march attendance were false and debunked by news organizations -- they have to pretend that this is, as always, nothing more than an irreconcilable dispute about reality between the Right and the Left, and it's not up to Time to tell their readers what the truth is, because that's not their role, since they're objective and unbiased.  According to the rules of establishment journalism, there is no truth and no facts -- only competing, irreconcilable claims from "the Right and the Left," and their only job is to mindlessly repeat those claims (note this New York Times article on Jon Kraukauer's new book on the military-created, right-wing-exploited, media-enabled fraud surrounding the death of Pat Tillman, a Chomsky-reading Iraq war opponent, which claims that "the book rescues Tillman from both the spin doctors on the right, who tried to make him into an advertisement for Republican values, and cynics on the left, who dismissed him as a mindless, knee-jerk patriot," even though the only "cynic on the left" ever to do any such thing was a single cartoonist; but "balance" is needed and thus the two sides must be posited as equal even though it was the military, the Bush administration and the pro-war Right that repeatedly lied about Tillman).

Here, the reality -- that the 9/12 crowd numbered in the "tens of thousands" -- has to be dismissed as coming from "liberal sources" because, as Stephen Colbert famously pointed out, "reality has a liberal bias."  Time's readers are thus kept in the dark about the actual facts of this matter, and are actively deceived into believing that reports from establishment journalists that debunked right-wing hyperbole are nothing more than "information from liberal sources" that should be deemed every bit as paritsan and suspect as the blatant right-wing falsehoods.  That's how American journalism typically functions.

By Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

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