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As anyone who has followed politics for a long time knows, the Washington Post (or WaPo, as it is known to many people here) has a reputation for liberal bias.  Conservatives have long referred to it as "Pravda on the Potomac."  If that reputation was ever deserved, it isn't now, because the Post has been moving to the right for many years now.  Most famously, the Post editorialists supported the Iraq war, and still find ways to rationalize that support now that the war has been totally discredited.  This is actually only the tip of the iceberg; whenever you hear the "so-called 'liberal' media" (or SCLM) repeating right-wing talking points, or regurgitating nonsense from the right-wing media like Rush or Fox News, you can count on the Post to join in.  (The rant continues below the fold.)

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EXHIBIT A:  The Post hedges every criticism it makes of the Bush administration, and always tries to find a way to give Bush credit, no matter how preposterous that way may be.  Recently, in a series of masthead editorials about the Social Security "crisis," the Post gave Bush plaudits for "starting a dialogue" on Social Security (I guess that means that when I tell a lie about something, I'm "starting a dialogue" on it), and then, on Friday, gave credence to Bush administration actuarial figures.  (Jonathan Weiler of the Gadflyer wrote an excellent rebuttal to the Post's idiotic editorial on Friday; you can read it at http://gadflyer.com/flytrap/index.php?Week=200506#1496 .)  

EXHIBIT B:  The Post editorial page, supposedly a Grand Central of liberalism, actually prints weekly op-eds by a wide variety of right-wingers (listed here in ascending order of annoyance:  Sebastian Mallaby, Jim Hoagland, Robert Kagan, Robert Samuelson, George Will, Charles Krauthammer, and the worst of them all, Robert Novak).  Still more editorial space is taken up by centrist or pseudo-liberal writers who can never go more than a week or two without a scorching critique of some Democrat or liberal (Anne Applebaum, Richard Cohen, and sometimes Will Raspberry).  There are a few days a week (Thursday is the worst) when conservatism essentially dominates the page.  Supposedly, the Post does all this in the name of "balance," but the other well-known newspaper in the District (the Washington Times) prints only right-wingers on the op-ed page, and has no interest in any kind of balance.  Cohen does attack Bush harshly from time to time, and Raspberry is still a thoughtful writer, but if anyone goes to the op-ed page expecting a good dose of liberalism, they're bound to be disappointed.    

EXHIBIT C:  The Post's regular news coverage can lean remarkably  to the right  as well.  The Post hates Al Gore, and eagerly repeated every right-wing lie about him.  Even to this day, they still find a way to insert Al Gore putdowns into the occasional Style section article, years after Gore left office.  (Before that, of course, they eagerly followed every twist and turn of the  Monicagate and Whitewater "scandals;" they haven't shown as large an appetite for the many real Bush scandals.) More generally, the Post, like many others in the SCLM, worships "bipartisanship" and lavishes praise on people who are supposedly centrist party-questioners, like John McCain and Joe Lieberman.  In practice, of course, the enshrining of "bipartisanship" as a great end in and of itself and in all circumstances means criticizing one party (you can guess which one) much more than the other for the egregious sin of "partisanship."      

EXHIBIT D:  The Post finds other, more apolitical ways to be annoying.  The once-innovative "Style" section is often given over to stupid celebrity pablum and repetitions of the conventional wisdom of the moment.  The advice columnist, Carolyn Hax, is smarmy, condescending, and not at all entertaining (the cartoon that accompanies her column is always much better than the column itself).  The Post's latest marketing gambit to attract younger people, the "Post Express" tabloid handout, is free--and, as the old saying goes, worth every penny.  (Interestingly, one of the people that the Post pays to hand out the Express stopped me at a Post machine and told me that everything that was in the regular paper was also in the Express, in an effort to get me to take one.  The fact that this statement was a complete and blatant lie makes me wonder if the Post pays the distributors according to the number of Expresses they hand out.)

One interesting piece of hackdom appeared the other day in an otherwise-fine Metro (the local section) article about exurban growth in Faquier county, a municipality on the outer border of the Washington area.  In it, the writer quoted an editor of a country-living magazine as saying that there is a "trend" of people moving to rural and semi-rural places like Faquier, in order to escape the "stress" of the city.  Some actual reporting (instead of just repeating a quote from someone with an obvious personal stake in the issue) would have uncovered US Census data showing that that much-ballyhooed trend is much exaggerated, and that large US cities actually stopped, and sometimes began to reverse, the population declines that most of them suffered in the 1960's, 70's, and 80's.  I cite this example not because it's one of the worst (it isn't), but because it's a very typical and recent one.  

EXHIBIT E:  The Post's local columnist, Marc Fisher, deserves an exhibit all his own.  He's not all THAT bad a guy, actually; he fancies himself an angry muckraker, he uncovers various bad things that the local governments have done  (many of them actually outrageous), and he's one of the few journalists of any kind that cares at all about the terrible injustice of Washington's 572,000 residents not having voting representation in Congress (something I hope to write a diary about later on).  He's also much more willing to answer email than many other journalists.  All that said, he also epitomizes much that is wrong about the Post.  He'd rather write the 800th article about the DC government than the first article about the much worse perfidy of the Bush administration (and he can't claim that that's not his beat, since he didn't hesitate to write about the Clintons), and even the mild criticisms he made of Bush shortly before the election were carefully hedged with unfair and ludicrous criticisms of Kerry (I'm proud to say that I confronted him about this in an email).  Worst of all, he actually wrote a column advocating that overweight people should be charged extra when they fly on an airplane, something that forced me to stop reading him altogether (and something that badly undermined his claim to be a seeker of justice and fairness).

Of course, the inevitable question is this:  Does all this mean that I boycott the Post?  This may surprise you, but I have a hard time totally boycotting it.  The weekend section is still a lot of fun to read, once you get past the usual front-page-article puffery, and it has an "alternative" cartoon, Tom the Dancing Bug, which has helped keep me sane in the Bush years.  More importantly, the Post is still the home of my favorite opinion writer, E. J. Dionne, and I will never be able to totally trash any place that Dionne calls home.  (Dionne is so fantastic that I will have to write a diary solely about him; I hope to do it in the next few days.)  What this means is that I avoid the Post every day except Tuesday and Friday, when I get it from the machines, go straight to Dionne, the weekend section, and the occasional well-written front page article (the Post still has some good news coverage), and throw the rest into the recycle bin.  This has helped me feel better in the morning, and it's given me the time to read many more books.

Originally posted to Lungfish on Thu Feb 17, 2005 at 08:57 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Exhibit F: Howie Kurtz (4.00)
    the WaPo's media reporter.

    He's lazy and self-satisfied, but also anxiously territorial in his attacks on the blogosphere, which aren't "real" media.

    •  Yes, that's an excellent example (4.00)
      In a recent column, he tried to argue that the real "issue" in the Gannon/Guckert case wasn't Guckert's misdeeds and easy access to the White House, but the fact that the sordid, evil "bloggers" were out to ruin a journalist's career.  
    •  Heck even Dr. Gridlock has gotten more Red (4.00)
      Has anyone else noticed how old and tired Dr. Gridlock as become?  He's way to pro-car and keeps harping on the same old tired issues -- like column after column on teen driving without anything new to add to the subject.  And he was quite idiotic about the "support the troops" car stickers, claiming they were more important to soldiers than anything else.  If you check out the chat archives on TWP's website you'll see a guy whose usual answer to questions is "I don't know". Even for questions that could easily be found with less than a minute of googling.

      If you hold yourself out to be a transportation columnist, don't you think you should actually bone up on the issues before hosting chats?

      But like so many I still subscribe because the good still outweighs the bad -- there are still some great columnists like Dionne and the new guy Eugene Robinson isn't so bad either.  But Fred Hiatt has got to go!!!!!!!

      •  Absoultely right about Dr. G... (none)
        I dislike the way he'll lecture deaf people about how they shouldn't sign while they're driving (it's a "distraction"), but he dislikes being asked to use his bully pulpit against all the reckless, me-first drivers in this area (what he does do, in fairness, is print many of the letters readers send in on the subject).  Also, he's very pro-SUV.
  •  So what's new (none)
    Even the New York Times, bastion of pinko-commie-socialist thinking, makes sure it gives credit to Bush at times.

    The difference between conservative papers and "liberal" ones is that the "liberal" ones get their feeligns hurt if they are criticised for being biased and go out of their way to be "fair", even if it means distorting things.

    Conservative ones say "Screw you" to anyone who criticizes them and go right one spewing their POV, even if it means distorting things.

    Bush, so incompetent, he can't even do the wrong things right.

    by JAPA21 on Thu Feb 17, 2005 at 09:03:34 AM PST

  •  Excellent Work (4.00)
    Dionne is really a treasure.  But I recommend reading it online and not giving them any money unless they change their ways.  That's what I'm doing with the NYT.  I read my Krugman, Herbert and Dowd all online.
  •  Katherine Graham must be spinning in her grave (none)
    The Post used to question authority, now with the Bushies in power they kneel before it like a cowering puppy.
  •  WaPo also (none)
    had anti-gay inserts late last year which claimed that gays were trying to steal civil rights from blacks, that MLK hated gays, and that all gays die at age 40.

    They also had a highly annoying and manipulatie op-ed from some hack, Ruth Marcus, who said that people should not make fun of James Dobson and his fear of the evil agenda forced on the kiddies, because her kids were told about incest and transgender in their local private school. Therefore, Dobson has a point and those out of touch liberals who make fun out of him are not thiking of the general. Oh, and the homos are no better than people who pounce on their nephews and nieces.

  •  Apple Annie (none)
    I first became aware of Anne Applebaum when she was writing for Slate.  In fact, she was one of the main reasons I decided I'd remove that site from my daily browsing habits.  I'd classify her as conservative.  Her website bio page lists a number of right-of-center Brit publications she's worked for (The Economist, The Spectator, The Daily and Sunday Torygraphs).  I have noted in reading her occasionally that she also has a good deal of respect and admiration for such Ulster politicos as David Trimble and the Rev. Ian Paisley.

    Actually, reading through all that I have a suspicion that she's also a spook, though perhaps not a full time one.

    "L'enfer, c'est les autres." - Jean Paul Sartre, Huis Clos

    by JJB on Thu Feb 17, 2005 at 09:47:33 AM PST

  •  Feeling your frustration (none)
    and I'm still a subscriber.

    What about the Danas? Good reporting there, don't you think?

    You missed an extremely egregious example of the WaPo's long slide--I refer you to the FAIRFAX section in today's paper. Page 4. Virginia Notebook by Michael D. Shear. This is not supposed to be an editorial, but it sure as hell reads like opinion, and NOT "fair and balanced" reporting:

    "The Virginia Legislatuyre operates these days on principles of basic fairness, principles which were all but nonexsistent decades ago, when the Democrats held huge majorities and ruled the General Assembly."

    I was at the General Assembly on Tuesday. I was there last week. I spend a fair amount of time in Richmond during our short legislative season every year and the ONE priniciple that is NOT in operation is one of "basic fairness" unless the definition of "fairness" has changed to "do what we want and screw everybody else." When I was there last week I watched the members of the Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee treat several law enforcement officers extremely rudely--they all but called them nazi pigs. I can't say I was completely shocked by their treatment of our first responders--they are rude and unfair and just plain stinky to ANYONE who isn't on their side of an issue. Been there and have the scars to prove it.

    And that is why I'm feeling the hatred towards the WaPo. But where else are we going to go?

  •  One more thing (none)
    One of the Post's movie critics, Stephen Hunter, is a hard-core, gun-loving right winger, and never hides the fact that he is that.  This makes him annoying quite often, although he's also witty and engaging enough to be worth the occasional glance.  The fact that his very existence proves that the entertainment world is not totally dominated by liberals is the kind of thing he rarely stops to think about.  (Interestingly enough, he is actually well-connected in the conservative world; Newt Gingrich has written positive reviews of his hack war novels on Amazon.com.)  

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