How Liberals Censor Leftists

Myles Stanish Archives - New England Historical Society

            Just a few decades ago it was still possible for the left to find space on corporate-owned airwaves. Progressive talkers like Tom Leykis, Lynn Samuels and Phil Donahue found wide audiences until they got pushed off the air by the corporate powers that be. I worked talk radio in Los Angeles and San Francisco until 2007.

            The same applies to print. Until the 1990s the New York Times occasionally found space for the occasional progressive-minded op-ed; no more, not ever. A memorable turning point was former columnist Bob Herbert’s 2010 remembrance of radical historian Howard Zinn. Zinn’s passing, Herbert wrote about his friend, “should have drawn much more attention from a press corps that spends an inordinate amount of its time obsessing idiotically over the likes of Tiger Woods and John Edwards.” I was surprised that Zinn was friends with a prominent writer at the Times. The paper, Herbert included, rarely if ever mentioned him.

            Between the warmongering and essays by torture apologists, there wasn’t space.

            It’s their outlet so it’s their rules. They don’t have to broadcast or publish anyone or anything they don’t like. Problem is, they don’t want anyone else to broadcast or publish anyone or anything they don’t like.

            There are many shades of Republicanism but, for all the headline-grabbing scuffles between Liz Cheney and Donald Trump, the Republican Party remains a big tent embodied by the range of speakers at CPAC. Big-business Republicans like Mitch McConnell and small-government libertarian Republicans like Rand Paul refrain from criticizing the GOP’s allies on the far right, including white nationalists and other extremists whose ideas capture the imaginations of the rank-and-file, and whose raw numbers they need to win elections.

When an insurgent candidacy gathers momentum from outside the establishment, GOP leaders bow to the will of their voters, as when the California state party did— to the corporatists’ initial displeasure — when actor Arnold Schwarzenegger emerged as the frontrunner in a state gubernatorial recall election. Of course, national officials have fallen in line behind Trump.

            Top Democrats, on the other hand, would rather lose elections than yield control to their party’s progressive base. They deployed sleazy but legal tactics, as well as Nixon-style dirty tricks, to block Bernie Sanders in consecutive sets of primaries even though polls consistently showed him to be the strongest candidate while their chosen nominee, Hillary Clinton, lost. Sanders remains one of the most popular politicians in America yet party leaders and their media allies are still congratulating themselves for stopping him as they scramble for a viable presidential candidate for 2024: Joe Biden (going senile, approval rating 36%), Kamala Harris (unlikable, 26%) or maybe Pete Buttigieg (wet behind the ears, 37%).

            Democrats want progressive votes but only for free, nothing owed, and then on sufferance. One of the main ways party leaders announce their contempt for progressives is to demonize and marginalize progressive pundits and commentators. While their framing often falls flat and they’re weak in negotiations with Republicans, the Democrats’ censorship of the left is ruthless and cunning.

            Democrats represent half the country and progressives represent half the Democrats. In other words, progressive Bernie Sanders/Elizabeth Warren/Squad voters account for roughly a quarter of the electorate. But these one out of four voters have only token representation among politicians and zero representation in mainstream media.

            Anti-progressive censorship is so thorough that we had might as well be living in the Soviet Union. In the 2016 presidential primaries, only two major newspapers endorsed Sanders. None did in 2020. Sanders was blacklisted by cable news; MSNBC’s strict no-Bernie-coverage rule even led to the firing of a host, the late Ed Schultz. No major daily newspaper in the United States employs a progressive or other leftist on staff as an opinion columnist or editorial cartoonist—while hundreds of mainstream liberals and conservatives ply their trade.

            Reveling in brazen hypocrisy, corporate Democrats censor progressives and other leftists who criticize them from their left flank—then they discredit them using a fiendish tactic: guilt by forced association.

Since it’s impossible for a left-of-the-Democrats talk host to find work on either terrestrial or satellite radio or television, some manage to turn up either on foreign-owned or conservative media outlets that welcome criticism of the Democratic Party even if it comes from the left. And when they do, lefties get smacked down for the sin of trying to earn a living.

During the Bush years, English-language services of the Qatari-owned Al Jazeera website and cable TV provided a haven for Bush-bashers like yours truly, who by then had earned persona non grata status at places like CNN and MSNBC. Now Russia’s RT and Sputnik News employ a roster of progressives exiled from the walled garden of mainstream media.

Having thoroughly silenced every progressive voice, Democrats and their media allies resort to absurd victim-blaming: how, they ask, dare they work for foreigners? Especially foreigners who aren’t aligned with the U.S. government?

Conservative news outlets like The Wall Street Journal, Fox News and the New York Post give more space to progressives than do “liberal” media. The “enemy of my enemy” motivation is at work; if the left wants to beat up Democrats, who is the right to refuse? As a former frequent guest on Fox News, I took heat for legitimizing pigs like Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly. But I went on Fox because, for the left, it’s the only game in town. CNN or MSNBC won’t have us.

Nowadays center-left liberals are beating up lawyer-turned-pundit Glenn Greenwald, known for the Edward Snowden revelations and cofounding The Intercept. (Disclosure: My admiration of Greenwald dissipated after he slithered out of covering the L.A. Times firing me as a favor to the LAPD. He couldn’t even be bothered to fart out a supportive tweet.) Greenwald has become a regular guest of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson. Criticism ranges from Greenwald being too chummy with Carlson to legitimizing him to actively promoting him.

I can’t argue with Greenwald’s defense. “I used to go on MSNBC all the time at the beginning of the Rachel Maddow Show because I would go on and bash Bush and Cheney and I would argue even in the early Obama years that Bush and Cheney ought to be prosecuted,” he points out. MSNBC’s invitations ended as Obama turned right and Greenwald went after him on the same set of principles. “I know that the reason I go on Fox is because Tucker has a story that he thinks…I’m an important piece of and can tell.”

            As Greenwald says, “Every cable show uses people.”

If corporate liberal media outlets and their fans don’t want lefties like Greenwald to allow themselves to be “used” by Fox or Press TV or Al Jazeera, they can make it stop right now. All they have to do is invite us on.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of a new graphic novel about a journalist gone bad, “The Stringer.” Order one today. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)


2 Comments. Leave new

  • alex_the_tired
    December 1, 2021 2:40 PM

    Ted, for what it’s worth, you’re about to get the opportunity to serve the biggest heapingest helping of “I told you so.”
    Biden’s failure is like a contagion now. The Supreme Court is about to overturn Roe v. Wade. And Biden’s got nothing to fire up the crowd. He’s flubbed everything. Student loan repayments are starting back up. Right after the holidays. Yeah, that’s gonna fire up the young people (and those in their 30s, 40s, and 50s still paying) to go out and vote. And let’s not forget the inflation that’s going to ensure home ownership remains a dream for all except the wealthiest.
    I’ve already picked out the cheesecake I’m going to eat on Election Night as the midterms make the Red Wedding from Game of Thrones look like a high school shoving match. For the democrats, at least.
    Best stock up on those bibles and guns, kids. You’ll need ’em.

  • Actually, 3 justices are pro Roe v Wade. 3 are vehemently against. And 3 are in the middle, and no one knows which way they’ll go.

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