JONATHAN CHAIT JULY 28, 2010
Conservative talk-show host Dennis Prager writes that liberals hate conservatives, but not vice versa:
Every one of us on the right has seen this hatred. I am not referring to leftist bloggers or to anonymous comments by angry leftists on conservative blogs — such things exist on the right as well — but to mainstream, elite liberal journalists. There is simply nothing analogous among elite conservative journalists. Yes, nearly all conservatives believe that the Left is leading America to ruin. But while there is plenty of conservative anger over this fact, there is little or nothing on the right to match the Left’s hatred of conservative individuals.
Hmm. This is hard to prove either way and Prager makes no real attempt to justify it. But I do note that Eric Boehlert chronicles the way in which one of Glenn Beck's tirades very nearly led, except for an extremely lucky break, to a mass murder:
On his Monday radio show, Glenn Beck highlighted claims that before he started targeting a little-known, left-leaning organization called the Tides Foundation on his Fox News TV show, "nobody knew" what the non-profit was.
Indeed, for more than a year Beck has been portraying the progressive organization as a central player in a larger, nefarious cabal of Marxist/socialist/Nazi Obama-loving outlets determined to destroy democracy in America. Beck has routinely smeared the low-profile entity for being staffed by "thugs" and "bullies" and involved in "the nasty of the nastiest," like indoctrinating schoolchildren and creating a "mass organization to seize power."
As Media Matters reported, the conspiratorial host had mentioned (read: attacked) the little-known progressive organization nearly 30 times on his Fox program alone since it premiered in 2009, including several mentions in the last month. (Beck's the only TV talker who regularly references the foundation, according to our Nexis searches.)
So yes, Beck has done all he can to scare the hell out of people about the Tides Foundation and "turn the light of day" onto an organization that actually facilitates non-profit giving.
And guess what? Everybody in America would have found out about the Tides Foundation last week if Byron Williams had had his way. He's the right-wing, government-hating, gun-toting nut who strapped on his body armor, stocked a pickup truck with guns and ammo, and set off up the California coast to San Francisco in order to start killing employees at the previously obscure Tides Foundation in hopes of sparking a political revolution.
Thankfully, the planned domestic terrorist attack never came to pass because California Highway Patrol officers pulled Williams over for drunk driving on his way to his killing spree. Williams quickly opened fire, wounding two officers during a lengthy shootout.
Technically, this does not rebut Prager's point -- this is a case of conservative hatred of a liberal institution, not an individual. Still, it's not as if conservative journalists like Beck are lacking in hatred for liberal individuals, either.
A recent Pew Survey found that Republicans think Democrats are far more extreme than vice versa. In other words, both Republicans and Democrats have a similar view as to how far right the Republican Party is. But while Democrats think the Democratic Party is just a bit left of center, Republicans think it's way, way left of center:
Of course, exactly what's "radical" is a matter of opinion, not fact. But certainly relative to where things stood three or four decades ago, the GOP has moved much further from the center than the Democratic Party has:
So why are Republicans so much more convinced of Democratic radicalism than vice versa? Paul Waldman notes that this probably results from the fact that Democrats tend to get their news from sources that strive for balance -- sources that portray the political debate as revolving around two essentially parallel parties. Republicans, on the other hand, increasingly get their news from sources mostly or totally unconstrained by traditional journalistic standards and which portray Democrats in hysterical, apocalyptic terms:
So why is this? It's hard to say, but my nominee would be the differing media systems partisans are drawn to. Conservatives are more likely to seek out highly partisan information sources -- Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, etc. -- than Democrats are. The latter may take in the occasional episode of Keith Olbermann or Rachel Maddow, but they're getting most of their news from more neutral places like NPR and CNN. What makes the difference is that the idea that the Democratic Party is a bunch of socialists with a radical leftist agenda is a core component of the rhetoric on Fox, Limbaugh, et al.
It's fashionable to draw a parallel between MSNBC and Fox News. But MSNBC's liberal commentary occupies just a couple hours of its evening lineup. It is intended as a supplement to the news, not a substitute for it. The premise of Fox News, Limbaugh etc. is that the mainstream media is totally corrupt and should be completely ignored in favor of news sources controlled by the conservative movement. That premise has no parallel on the left.