The Liberal Media and False Dichotomies

The Liberal Media and False Dichotomies December 5, 2012

Politico has an article that details the allegedly terrible choice faced by liberals in the media now that Obama has been reelected. Should they keep being a mindless attack dog or should they start going after Obama on the many ways he has failed, or even betrayed, a progressive agenda?

For the better part of four years, progressive media has had President Barack Obama’s back.

Now that he’s won re-election, it is faced with a choice: Should the left continue always to play the loyal attack dog against the GOP, blaming the opposition at all hours of the news cycle for intransigence? Or, should it redirect some of that energy on the president, holding him to his promises and encouraging him to be a more outspoken champion of liberal causes?

But this is a false choice, as it has been for four years, and I think it only partially applies to progressives in the media (I’m thinking of many of the MSNBC hosts and liberal columnists). Certainly it’s true that many of them have advanced criticisms that benefit Obama and the Democrats politically, like the absurd blowup over Romney’s “I like being able to fire people” comment (which was actually a perfectly reasonable statement ripped out of context to make it look like he was saying something entirely different — and yes, Republicans did the same thing with Obama’s “you didn’t build that” statement). That’s just basic political tribalism and few of us avoid it entirely.

But I also saw many liberal commentators — Rachel Maddow, Glenn Greenwald and many others — rightly hammering Obama over a whole range of important issues, including indefinite detention, the use of drones, the state secrets privilege and much more. That did not prevent them from also criticizing the innumerable crazy criticisms offered by the right (mostly because they couldn’t make the same criticisms that the left was making of Obama). So this is a false choice — a good commentator should criticize Obama for his many failures and criticize the right for their mostly fact-free and irrational arguments against him.

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