Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Narrow Spectrum and “The Obama Dividend”


New York Times Columnists
and the Limits of Acceptable Debate
on the 2008 Presidential Election

By Paul Street

As Noam Chomsky has noted, the best way to see the narrow state-capitalist nature of the spectrum of acceptable debate in U.S. political and media culture is to examine content at the "leftmost" margins of what passes for "mainstream" opinion. It's one thing to see and/or hear privilege-friendly coverage and commentary at the openly business-oriented Wall Street Journal, Business Week, FOX News, "conservative" talk radio or The Weekly Standard. That's what one is told to expect in such venues.

It's another and more revealing thing to see and/or hear such coverage and commentary in places like the New York Times, the Washington Post, MSNBC and National "Public" Radio.

These are the more officially "liberal" and even "left" segments of dominant media, where popular interests, progressive values, and critical thinking are accorded some greater measure of respect.

Look, for example, at the opinions voiced by the regular Opinion-Editorial columnists* at the "liberal" (many on the right even call it "left-wing") New York Times in relation to the recent election of the frankly corporate-imperial candidate Barack Obama to the U.S. presidency.

Those columnists are not monolithically liberal at all. They include two open Republicans: the neoconservative William Kristol (of the Weekly Standard) and the "moderate" David Brooks. In the middle the Times' columnist stable includes Nicholas Kristof, globalization enthusiast Thomas Friedman, Gail Collins, and Roger Cohen. On the "left" we have the clever liberal Sunday columnist Frank Rich, left-liberal Princeton economist Paul Krugman, and left-liberal black writer and U.S. Army veteran Bob Herbert.

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