Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Book Review: South Park Conservatives - The Revolt Against Liberal Media Bias by Brian C. Anderson

Brian C. Anderson’s new book, “South Park Conservatives” (Regnery) is not a tale about four foul-mouthed eight-year-old Coloradoans wandering through the 2004 Republican National Convention. I was a little disappointed by this as I was hoping for a graphic description of Michael Moore being driven hopelessly insane by a logical and popular political agenda and, in a fit of apoplectic fury, becoming the bastard that eventually killed Kenny. Fortunately, the absence of that narrative was about the only part of the book that I was disappointed with. Overall, “South Park Conservatives” proved to be a very informative, thought-provoking and entertaining read that I would highly recommend to anyone moderately right of or at the center of the political spectrum.

What “South Park Conservatives” is actually about is the stranglehold the left has had upon traditional media outlets over the past few decades and the effect this liberal bias has had not only upon the objectivity of mainstream journalism, but upon its credibility as a reliable source of information as perceived by the viewing public. The “media elite” of today, the senior editors, correspondents, and the first string news anchors of ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN are people that cut their journalistic teeth during the counter-culture explosion of the Vietnam era. Now having risen through the ranks to positions of influence, they have virtually overwhelmed the traditional news networks that, until recently, it has become virtually impossible for even the most moderate of conservative viewpoints to emerge. This pervasive liberal bias has done to Mainstream Media (MSM) credibility what my father’s propensity to down six bottles of Guinness, a double serving of sauerkraut, two pickled eggs and a compliment of White Castle hamburgers in a single setting did to the interior air quality of the 1,000 sq. ft. house I grew up in.

This left-leaning persuasion has had the same effect on moderately conservative and centrist information consumers as my father’s flatulence-friendly table fare had on my olfactorily abused family. They are leaving the scene of the suffocating stench in a desperate quest for fresh air and causing, as Mr. Anderson maintains, an unprecedented explosion of alternative information sources such as Fox News, the internet, right-of-center print publications, and the blogosphere. This has also spawned the increased visibility of a corps of conservatives that do not fit the traditional stereotype Main Street America has of the typical Republican: the South Park Conservative.
Though I was unaware of the term “South Park Conservative” until I was contacted by Mr. Anderson last week, I think I can safely say that I am one. I had always considered myself a Republican Party Reptile, a reference to the 1987 book by P.J. O’Rourke that predated Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s hilariously crude cartoon creation, but at almost two decades old, I guess that moniker has become slightly dated. Though my personal political views on many social issues routinely conflict with the Republican Party line, I remain firmly behind them on Foreign Policy, National Security, Social Security, Affirmative Action and most economic platforms. Though not always a resolute adherent to traditional points of conservative dogma, I have always found myself unflinchingly contrarian to liberal ideals. I find their disdain for western culture and its values hypocritical at best and seditious at worst. I blame them for the pervasive rise of “political correctness” which, in my eyes, has amounted to little more than a publicly acceptable label for a particularly dangerous form of social censorship. I resent their resorting to invective rather than informed debate when confronted with a point of view that deviates from their own. I find their condescension insulting to the intelligence of the general public and take great pleasure in witnessing the general migration away from the principles that they hold sacrosanct, a migration that, like Mr. Anderson, I believe is expedited by the rise of the new media and the ready availability of alternative sources of information to the general layman.

It is these alternative news mediums that are at the heart of “South Park Conservatives”. Mr. Anderson, after establishing the liberal bias in traditional media and chronicling the liberal aversion to free expression when the views expressed conflict with their own (the illiberal liberal), narrates the rise of the new media. He starts with the success of conservative radio and continues with the prolific ascension of Fox News. His observations on the effect Fox has had are startling. According to “South Park Conservatives” Fox News has managed, in less than a decade, to capture 51 percent of the cable news market share. The effect upon the network media has been spectacular. Of the 60 percent of Americans that used to regularly watch the network news, only 34% of them still do today. There is no greater indicator of the loss in confidence in the traditional media or the thirst for an alternative means of information than a market share slide of nearly 50 percent in under a decade.

I personally do not find Fox to be any more or less “fair and balanced” than any other cable news outlet, but I definitely believe that their presence makes the news industry much more fair and balanced as a whole. Once one weeds through the Fox sensationalism and showmanship they will find, what I believe to be, reporting as good or better than anything found on CNN with an emphasis on stories of interest to right-of-center individuals that are presented with significantly less of a condescending “we-will-tell-you-only-what-we-feel-you-need-to-know” attitude that I feel I often get from traditional news outlets. Fox seems to connect with the common man, headlining events that other networks do not seem to deem news-worthy (such as the Kofi Annan connection to the oil-for-food scandal and articles of the Duelfer report that may have justified the Iraq invasion without evidence of a WMD stockpile) until their hand is forced by the competition. This is one of the scenarios that Mr. Anderson brilliantly analyzes in his book.

Mr. Anderson also pays tribute to the importance of the blogosphere. He calls it for what is: a significant component to the news, not normally a first-hand source of it. The bloggers have proven themselves (most notably in the Rathergate scandal) to have the desire and the means to hold the networks accountable for malicious or heinously incompetent reporting. He also allows that the blogosphere contains considerable amounts of unresearched, unsubstantiated and unreliable information. As a blogger myself, I am particularly sensitive to this situation. I often randomly peruse the blogosphere and have rarely found anything of real interest to me unless I was directed there by an established blog site. Most blogs are of the “personal diary” variety, of no value to anyone but a few dozen people closely associated with the author and rife with terrible writing, abysmal punctuation, a complete lack of subject matter focus or discipline, unrestrained subjectivity and a complete ignorance of the concept of proofreading. In short, they are almost identical to The JEP Report. Luckily, in Mr. Anderson’s coverage of the trend he cites a myriad of reliable resources that a centrist surfer can start at to find information they may consider to be relevant.

After expertly documenting the ongoing paradigm shift in contemporary media, Mr. Anderson goes on to explain the effect it has had on other aspects of popular culture. He cites the popularity of such unapologetic pillars of political incorrectness as Dennis Miller, Colin Quinn and the cartoon “South Park”. He touches upon the emerging popularity of centrist and conservative political commentary within the book publishing industry. Finally he documents the rapidly growing conservative movement on the nation’s universities which, though still incredibly rare among the faculty, has made considerable progress among members of the student body. Of particular note is the proliferation of the non-traditional conservative student who may be more receptive to the concept of abortion or same-sex unions but remain staunchly aligned with the GOP when it comes to national security and US foreign policy.

South Park Conservatives is a very thought provoking look at the current revolution of media dynamics. It is thoroughly researched, well written and worth the while of anyone interested in learning about the impact the emergence of new informational mediums have had upon the journalistic establishment. It also serves as a source of optimism to anyone frustrated by the previously unchecked hold the liberal media elite has had on the network news and how interactive news forums have started to the pull the inherent bias of journalism slowly back to center, where it should be.

In my opinion, the liberal media elite have been at the helm for far too long and I have tired of being bombarded with defeatist stories threatening an imminent Iraqi “quagmire” while stories of progress in the Fertile Crescent, such as the recent elections there, have been de-emphasized or ignored. I am sick of constantly hearing about the abuses at Abu Ghraib while the beheading of foreign prisoners at the hands of Baghdadi brigands has gone largely forgotten. I am disgusted by the incessant vilification of Israel, a staunch and unwavering ally of the US, as heavy handed fascists by our media machine while they seem to sympathize with radical Palestinians, organizations of the same ilk as al Qaeda whose idea of meaningful political debate is to punctuate their points of view with exploding teenagers. As far as I am concerned, the liberal bias of the American media reeks of a stench so overpowering that I have come to suspect that, at least among the traditional news networks, industrial strength laxatives must have replaced the vodka martini as the recreational drug of choice within the mainstream journalism juggernaut. The explosion of conservative-friendly news outlets at the expense of the established media assures me that I am not alone in my aversions, either. Fortunately, Brian Anderson’s “South Park Conservatives” has assured me that a big batch of air freshener is on its way.


Blogger Sacto Ritch said...

Sir,first and formost, I wish to commend you on most,if not all, of your quotes on how boring most blogs are. Especially the puncuation and spelling. That is precicely why I don't write my own.
I usually tend to not read anything longer than a menu, but because of your description of it I may pick up this book and take a look.(and maybe learn to cook)sorry. I felt a need to rhyme there.
All I can say about your political rant is "yeah! What he said!" because I am not nearly as eloquent as are you sir.
Hopefully people like you and Mr.Anderson will keep uncovering the bias in the media for there are millions of dumb-ass people like me out here who are not too good at talking like you fancy tounged fellas. Keep up the good work!

9:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A Frank Rich op-ed on the book, and some other stuff:

9:04 PM  
Blogger JEP said...

Thanks for the tip, but already saw the article on Blue State Conservatives. I appreciate the input though. Please feel free to forward suggestions to me any time. It helps overcome writer’s block.

7:06 PM  

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