First of all, I’d like to welcome Tucker and The Daily Caller team to the digital neighborhood.
Predictably, your site has been positioned in the media as “the conservative answer to The Huffington Post,” just as, when we launched, we were positioned as “the progressive answer to Drudge.”
When you asked me to write something for your opening day, I was particularly glad to do it — and not just because you told the Wall Street Journal you read HuffPost every day. But because I’d read that you are “trying to think through what comes next in journalism.” As you are thinking that through, I hope you’ll keep in mind that one of the greatest contributions the digital media can make is to counter the traditional media’s obsession with looking at every issue through the cobweb-covered lens of right vs. left.
Last year at CPAC, you said that journalists “need to get out, find out what’s going on, and not just analyze things based on what the mainstream media has reported.” That’s particularly true when the mainstream media are reporting and analyzing the news of the day in terms of right vs. left — the fallback canard of lazy journalism everywhere.
Anyone looking at today’s political landscape with clear eyes can see that on issue after issue — the war in Afghanistan, the bailout, health care, the war on drugs, etc., etc. — the binary division of the debate into right vs. left obscures more than it reveals.
John McCain and Maria Cantwell are joining forces to bring back Glass-Steagall-type banking regulations. Ron Paul and Alan Grayson are pushing through legislation to audit the Fed. George Will agrees with Russ Feingold that we should not escalate in Afghanistan. Howard Dean and Michael Bloomberg are both down on the health care bill. And on and on it goes.
The outrageous news last week that the New York Fed under Tim Geithner told AIG to withhold from the public key details about payments that put billions of dollars into the coffers of major Wall Street players, including Goldman Sachs, offers a perfect example of just how archaic the right vs. left framing is.
Many progressives, including me, have been very critical of the administration’s coddling of Wall Street. Indeed, I called for Geithner’s resignation back in March. But, as of late, the loudest calls for further investigation of the AIG bailout — and Geithner’s role in it — have come from Republican lawmakers including Rep. Darrell Issa (who blogged about it on HuffPost) and Sen. Charles Grassley.
Yet, afflicted with a kind of mental Tourette’s, the traditional media just can’t help shouting “Right!” or “Left!” any time a contentious issue arises.
Take Ron Brownstein. Writing about the fight over health care in the National Journal, he declared that those who oppose the bill — which he admits “bears all the scars and imperfections of its arduous advance” — are either members of a furious right or of what he dubs, by turns, the “aggrieved left” and the “Internet-based left.”
Sounds pretty extreme. And fringe-y.
But according to a Quinnipiac poll taken last month, 53 percent of the country disapproves of the health care bill. So, is over half the country furious right-wingers or aggrieved lefties? Or are they, y’know, the majority of the American people?
Of course, it’s so much easier for the mainstream media to designate themselves as being in the center and assign anyone who disagrees with them to the fringe — the fringe right or the fringe left. Even if that’s over half the country.
We should be used to this — after all, for years now most of the country has been opposed to the war in Iraq yet, in the traditional media, that opposition is assigned only to the left.
In the New York Times, Adam Nagourney writes of “a time of strains between Mr. Obama and the left. Mr. Obama has come under fire on several fronts, like health care [and the] escalation of the war in Afghanistan.”
According to a CNN poll, 55 percent of the country opposes the war in Afghanistan, but the strain is only between Obama and “the left”?
Or does the left now include George Will, who recently chided “Obama’s halfhearted embrace of a half-baked non-strategy” in Afghanistan or former Bush State Department official Richard Haass, who says, “If Afghanistan were a war of necessity, it would justify any level of effort. It is not and does not.”?
Tucker originally supported the war in Iraq. But a year after the invasion, he told the New York Observer: “I think it’s a total nightmare and disaster, and I’m ashamed that I went against my own instincts in supporting it. It’s something I’ll never do again. Never.”
Does this make him part of “the left”? The “aggrieved left”? Or, given his new endeavor, “the Internet-based left”? Or does it just show how ridiculous this framing is?
I have no doubt that there will be many things on The Daily Caller that I disagree with, just as I am sure there are many things on HuffPost that Tucker disagrees with. But I hope that there will also be many things that we can agree on — the kind of things we file on HuffPost as “Beyond Left and Right.” Like the Move Your Money campaign we launched, in which we encourage people to take action to change a broken financial system by moving their money out of too-big-to-fail banks and into local community banks and credit unions. It’s neither left nor right. It is populism at its best, appealing to the bedrock American values of community and competition.
Good luck, Tucker and The Daily Caller Team. And happy linking!
Arianna Huffington is the founder of The Huffington Post.