Washington Post television critic Tom Shales conducts an online discussion on Tuesdays. Today's session featured this exchange:
Dunn Loring, Va.: Re your column disparaging Liz Cheney's style, what was the last column you wrote so harshly criticizing a liberal pundit?
Tom Shales: Ah yes, it's our dear old Dunn Loringite. Dunn Loringer. Whatever. You have an ideological axe to grind and it's awfully predictable. Where do you get the idea that if someone criticizes a conservative they must also criticize a liberal? Is there some kind of "equal time" law or "fairness doctrine" that applies to everybody who says anything that is broadcast or cablecast? That's absurd. CONSERVATIVES DOMINATE THE BROADCAST AND CABLE MEDIA IN THIS COUNTRY. They have very little to complain about in terms of access to an audience. When was the last time you criticized a conservative? It's a meaningless question whichever way it is asked.
Shales disparages the questioner for having an ideological axe to grind, something he no doubt has never been accused of himself . Later, there's a follow up question:
Reston, Va.: Tom, I'll give you that conservatives have got the radio all sewn up (mostly because nobody listens to liberal radio shows so they die), but how do conservatives dominate cable media? FOX is only one channel, up against CNN, MSNBC, and don't forget ABC, NBC, CBS, and PBS. Sure FOX's ratings beat MSNBC and CNN and PBS put together, but that's about viewer choice. Clearly on TV, liberals have more voices, but like radio, less people watch them. . ..
Tom Shales: MSNBC as a "liberal" soap box is a somewhat recent development. Frankly I don't like ideology-based channels no matter what they're selling. They're mostly preach-to-the-choir things anyway, so I shouldn't let them bother me. Maybe there are more liberal voices on TV but that didn't stop America from electing Ronald Reagan and not by a Bush mini-margin either.
So in a matter of minutes, Shales goes from all caps certainty to "Maybe there are more liberal voices on TV. . ." His certitude is challenged by another participant:
Atlanta, Ga.: Tom, I'm a big fan, but can you explain this sentence?
CONSERVATIVES DOMINATE THE BROADCAST AND CABLE MEDIA IN THIS COUNTRY
I think you meant to write that Liberals dominate the broadcast and cable media in the country. True, Fox News has the highest cable ratings, but other left-leaning outlets on cable and, certainly, network television are more numerous than right-leaning.
Do you have examples of the conservative dominance?
Tom Shales: Well now let me see. The networks are all owned by Big Business and Big Businessmen certainly tend to be conservatives. The Fox News Channel isn't a minor detail to be lumped in with other networks; it is a 24-hour-a-day conservative propaganda machine; MSNBC is liberal only during prime-time and late-night, don't you think? Phil Donahue is off the air and has been for years; he was too "liberal." Perhaps with a liberal in the White House, the pendulum WILL swing the other way for a while. . .
So then he's reverting to his first assertion, with a mild slap at those businessmen, like George Soros and Jeffrey Immelt probably, who tend to be conservative.
Shales appears to be confused. That condition likely is a great credential in the mainstream media.