By Bill Berkowitz
My one Nostradamus-esque column of the year.
A new book comes out later this month guaranteed to piss you off. While Oprah won't consider reconvening her book club over it and it won't be the publishing equivalent of Spiderman orStar Wars, it will become Number One on best seller lists. The author will be all over the tube and talk radio.
And, there's not a damn thing you can do about it!
How do I know this? Simple.
I've been scanning right-wing websites and they are salivating over the arrival in bookstores of Ann Coulter's new book, Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right.
If you think Bernard Goldberg's Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News had a conservative coming out party worthy of the late Malcolm Forbes, wait and see what happens when Crown Books rolls out Slander…
Moreover, if Coulter's cries are heard, she will have President Bush carrying her book around just as he did with Goldberg's. According to the New York Observer, at the White House Correspondents Dinner, Coulter tried to convince White House press secretary Ari Fleischer to have President Bush read and publicly carry her new book.
As with all her work, Coulter's book promises to pull no punches as it goes about skewering the so-called liberal media.
Matt Drudge recently previewed the book at his Drudge Report website claiming Slander is destined to become the blueprint for talk show hosts and conservative patriots for centuries to come. And a textbook for liberals on what to avoid."
According to Drudge, Coulter's book takes on liberals on TV, the radio, the Internet and in print. "Page after page," Drudge writes, "Coulter throws stink bombs with attitude back at the elite press - stink bombs of their own making; meanwhile thanking the entire staff of the NEW YORK TIMES [his caps], without whom 'this book would not have been possible.'"
But it's Ann Coulter, the woman that talk-radio king Rush Limbaugh calls "pundit extraordinaire," to the rescue. Thbookservice.com promises readers will "discover the unbelievable depths of liberal dishonesty, vindictiveness and hate-mongering as well as the appalling double-standard by which our 'watchdog' media let liberals get away with statements for which conservatives would have been vilified."
Coulter names names: Look for Katie Couric, Diane Sawyer, Lesley Stahl, Peter Jennings, Dan Rather, Howard Kurtz and several Washington Post, New York Times and Los Angeles Times reporters to be raked over the coals.
I have discussed Ann Coulter before. (See, "Cultivating Coulter The erratic odyssey of a conservative 'info-babe'" - http://www.workingforchange.com/article.cfm?ItemID=12381 )
At the time, I mistakenly thought she had peaked; in the wake of September 11, her columns were bitter, angry barely readable screeds. Her inevitable crash and burn seemed just around the corner. She didn't crash and hasn't burned. In fact, after her dismissal from the NationalReviewOnline, she found a home at David Horowitz's online Frontpage Magazine. In conservative circles, she's as big as ever.
Her new book will further seal the deal.
What's facts got to do with it
Ironically, the release of Coulter's book comes just a few weeks after the publication of a thorough study of the sources used on the three major television evening news programs - ABC World News Tonight, CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News (the "liberal" network evening news programs conservatives especially love to tee off on.)
According to Ina Howard, writing in the May/June 2002 edition of Extra!, the publication of FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting), the data for the study was compiled by Media Tenor Ltd., a non-partisan, German-based media analysis firm with an office in New York City.
The study found that in 2001, "92 percent of all U.S. sources interviewed were white, 85 percent were male and, where party affiliation was identifiable, 75 percent were Republican."
FAIR also reports the study noted: "Women made up only 15 percent of all sources (14 percent on ABC and CBS, and 18 percent on NBC), and were rarely featured as experts. Women were particularly poorly represented in the categories of professional and political sources, which were only 9 percent female. More than half of the women who appeared on the network news in 2001 were presented as ordinary Americans (as opposed to experts of some kind), versus 14 percent of male sources.
"Racial imbalances in sourcing were dramatic across the board. ABC, CBS and NBC each featured a lineup where 92 percent of U.S. sources were white and 7 percent were black. Other groups were even more strikingly underrepresented, with 0.6 percent of all sources being Latino, 0.6 percent Arab-American and 0.2 percent Asian-American. Out of a total of 14,632 sources, only one (on NBC) was identified as Native American." (For more, see "Power Sources: On party, gender, race and class, TV news looks to the most powerful groups" -- http://www.fair.org/extra/0205/power_sources.html
Studies like FAIR's will be fortunate if they receive one one-hundredth of the attention and publicity Coulter's book will get from the so-called liberal media. And, as media critics such as Norman Solomon frequently point out, too little major media attention is paid to a serious examination of media ownership, the trend toward monopoly and concentration, and how these developments affect the networks newscasts. (For more on this, see "Who Owns What," a website put together by Aaron Moore, Ph.D., a Publishing/Media writer, and maintained by the Columbia Journalism Review - http://www.cjr.org/owners/.)
He also noted: "I've gotten balanced coverage and broad coverage -- all we could have asked… For heaven sakes, we kid about the liberal media, but every Republican on earth does that." (For a thorough discussion of the "myth" of the liberal media, see "Myth: The U.S. has a liberal media" - http://www.huppi.com/kangaroo/L-liberalmedia.htm
Final prediction: None of these comments by conservatives will be heard as Coulter's Slander ascends the best seller lists.