Media bashing is lots of fun, but I think it's getting a little bit out of hand. Exhibit A: The latest issue of AIM Report, the newsletter of the conservative media watchdog group Accuracy in Media. When it started out in the early 1970s, AIM -- when you brushed aside all the invective -- had a reasonably intelligent critique of liberal tilt in the elite news media: the broadcast networks, the New York Times and Washington Post, and a few others. Even if you didn't buy AIM's theory of an overarching liberal bias, most of the specific examples it cited were pretty indefensible. (That's probably why the Post's Ben Bradlee preferred to answer AIM's criticisms with increasingly bizarre insults rather than reasoned answers. My favorite was when he called AIM founder Reed Irvine "retromingent," which at the time I had to look up in an actual paper-and-ink dictionary, since dictionary.com didn't exist yet.)
In recent times, though, AIM -- like a lot of other people who criticize the news media -- has gotten pretty loose in flinging around accusations of bias. These days, any tough question is likely to trigger a tirade about "media bias," as Chris Wallace discovered a couple of months ago when he asked President Clinton a perfectly reasonable question about Sept. 11 only to trigger a red-faced rant about conservative bias at Fox News.
Too bad there was nobody in the studio that morning to inform Clinton that Fox News is actually a commie front. The AIM Report blames the Republicans' loss of Congress at least in part on Fox News. "Its anchors, even the conservative ones, relentlessly promoted the candidacy of liberal Democrat Harold Ford in Tennessee," the AIM Report says. "It is as if a corporate decision had been made to support Ford for the Senate and misrepresent his record." Worse yet, the newsletter adds, Fox News has gone soft on Hillary Clinton, and Bill O'Reilly is now a champion of John Kerry. "Scrutiny of Fox News can, therefore, not be avoided on grounds that it is 'conservative,'" the AIM Report concludes darkly.
I'm no expert on Fox News coverage of Harold Ford or even Hillary Clinton. It's entirely possible that somebody muffed a story or lobbed some softball questions -- mistakes are bound to happen at any news organization, especially a 24/7 cable news network with its boundless demand for material. But the idea of Fox News as a liberal mole strikes me as more than a little daft. What's next? Was Roger Ailes spotted hanging around the grassy knoll that day in Dallas? For decades we had way too little examination of political colorization of the news media; now we're getting way too much. My nominee for the next Nobel Prize for medicine will go to the guy who invents a national chill pill for media critics.