Chris Matthews: Not Liberal, Not Conservative, Not Smart -

Chris Matthews: Not Liberal, Not Conservative, Not Smart


4-13 coverOne misleading meme that’s become popular in discussing TV news is the idea that MSNBC is the equivalent of Fox News, its liberal partisan counterpart. It’s not so, and not just because they give several hours of time to Joe Scarborough (imagine Fox giving the morning over to a liberal, even a squishy one). It’s that Chris Matthews, one of their star personalities, is loathed by liberals. And understandably so, as the liberal Matthews-hating blogger Digby explains. Matthews is not a conservative media figure, either; he just takes whatever position feels good to him at any moment. He demonstrates that when a TV pundit tries to get beyond ideology and present himself as a common-sense kind of guy, he winds up making no sense whatsoever.

(Matthews presumably thinks that since liberals and conservatives hate him equally, he must be doing something right. As I’ve said before, being hated equally by liberals and conservatives probably proves you’re not doing anything right.)

It’s true that MSNBC has a few openly liberal hosts, and the other networks don’t have any, and that puts them to the left of most cable news. But they’re simply not the equivalent of Fox News. The reason Fox News is very conservative is really not all that insidious: all their hosts, personalities and news anchors are conservative, with the exception of their loose cannon Shepard Smith. They don’t have to plot out a secret strategy to slant their coverage to the right: it happens naturally because conservatives tend to work from conservative assumptions in the way they assign and report the news. (Which is to say, when Megyn Kelly reports on last night’s pundit discussions as if they’re “news,” she’s serving the network’s agenda, but she’s also talking about the stuff she’s genuinely interested in. To her and most Fox anchors, the question “Is Obama a Socialist Communist Tyrant?” is self-evidently important news, and would be even if they weren’t hosting a news show.)

For there to be a liberal equivalent of Fox, a network would have to be staffed almost top to bottom not just by people who vote Democratic, but who are openly and ideologically liberal in their assumptions as only a few MSNBC personalities actually are. Olbermann is a liberal counterpart to Fox pundits because his way of looking at the news is based on certain assumptions about who the good guys are and who the bad guys are; Rachel Maddow is a liberal personality because she makes liberal assumptions about political and social policy. A network full of people who make those assumptions (and aren’t ashamed of them or trying to bend over backwards to accommodate the other point of view) would be a liberal news network. There isn’t one yet, but Fox News has demonstrated the rewards that can be reaped when a whole network has a consistent point of view. In a way, it’s the news equivalent of “branding.” MSNBC hasn’t even come close to branding itself that way, and probably doesn’t want to.

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Chris Matthews: Not Liberal, Not Conservative, Not Smart

  1. Chris Matthews has the unenviable position of being one of the first pundits who simply engaged in shouting while broadcasting. Now, everybody's shouting, and this guy just makes me yawn.

  2. I understand that about 60% of Fox staffers identify liberal or democratic, admittedly a long ways down from the 80-90% figures I've heard about the other networks. As always when I throw out statistics, I'll look for a source if asked.

    I've noticed a pretty similar attitude towards O'Reilly as to Matthews as well. O'Reilly loves to split the difference between the "ideological" viewpoints and arriving at the one and only correct answer of his own. Years ago I posted something about him at the infamous Free Republic conservative forum and there was just no one interested in taking his side.

    From my perspective Fox's single more definate viewpoint balances the more general slant of the other however many networks.

    • "As always when I throw out statistics, I'll look for a source if asked. "

      Ok, I'm asking.

      Tell me – what is Fox balancing when it actively organizes and promotes the Teabaggers? What other network openly engages in political activism?

      • While I go look (and I'm pretty tired so appreciate it!) I'll ask what Anderson Cooper was when he called them teabaggers on air no less.

        • Referring to them by the nickname they chose for themselves.

          I watched this thing closely from its early beginnings, had a good laugh at these peoples' ignorance of the meaning of the term, then gaped in shock when the networks used the term on the air.

          But it all started with the teabaggers, and their chosen title.

      • My comment is deleted or in moderation, probably because of links. Summary:

        2004 Pew poll found: “While most of the journalists, like many Americans, describe themselves as ‘moderate,' a far higher number are ‘liberal' than in the general population: 34 percent liberal, 12 percent conservative. At Web sites, 27 percent call themselves liberal, 13 percent conservatives.” (E&P Staff, “Pew Survey Finds Moderates, Liberals Dominate News Outlets,” May 23, 2004)

        Pew also found that, although most journalists in the survey consider themselves “moderate,” liberals at national outlets increased from 22 percent to 34 percent, “while conservatives have only inched up from 5 percent to 7 percent.”

        So that contradicts my numbers pretty dramatically, although it does show a vast difference between numbers of conservatives and liberals in national outlets. I suspect that the "80-90% liberal" numbers came from interpretations of polls of views on specific issues.

        • Thanks for looking that up.

          Of course, self-identifying as liberal or conservative doesn't mean a journalist's work is polluted by personal bias.

          • thanks, I definately appreciated learning from your challenge that as far as self-identification the 90% liberal number is dead wrong. I found a better article, ironically from MSNBC, that refers to the study on the Obama/McCain election that found that Fox's coverage was actually the most balanced of the major networks.

            ABC, NBC, and CBS were positive on Obama 65% of the time – double of that for McCain – while Brit Hume on Fox was 39% positive for McCain and 28% for Obama. Presumbably this is separating the opinion casts like O'Reilly from the news.

        • "I suspect that the "80-90% liberal" numbers came from interpretations of polls of views on specific issues."

          You didn't look hard enough. Follow the cash.

          " identified 143 journalists who made political contributions from 2004 through the start of the 2008 campaign, according to the public records of the Federal Election Commission. Most of the newsroom checkbooks leaned to the left: 125 journalists gave to Democrats and liberal causes. Only 16 gave to Republicans. Two gave to both parties." MSNBC, June '07

          "An analysis of federal election records shows that the amount of money journalists contributed so far this election cycle favors Democrats by a 15:1 margin over Republicans, with $225,563 going to Democrats, only $16,298 to Republicans .

          235 journalists donated to Democrats, just 20 gave to Republicans — a margin greater than 10:1. An even greater disparity, 20:1, exists between the number of journalists who donated to Barack Obama and John McCain." American Thinker, July '08

          I think of Matthews and all the others as entertainment, not news sources. I agree with Wells that these kind of shows should be enjoyed, not analyzed.

  3. Many years ago I upgraded to a higher cable package because CNBC was carrying Chris Matthews' show. Then he went MSNBC and I was wasting my money until Galactica showed up on Space. I forget what my point was. Oh yeah. I think Chris Matthews is good teevee. That thing where Zell Miller was shouting at him: gold! I think it's possible to fret too much about whether somebody's coming from the appropriate corner of the political spectrum. Matthews is just fun. Sure he sometimes says crazy things, sure he's ickily patronizing to women correspondents, but just the tempo of that show is breathtaking sometimes.

    • He originated the "tell me what I don't know" that Tom Clark, CTV uses.

      He also gets shivers up his leg…….hope Tom Clark doesn't start that too.

  4. It's funny how Obama's followers are like sheep. He goes after a media outlet, and then the sheep parrot his lead. I wonder if we'll see Obama go after the National Enquirer. It's funny how Fox gets by far the most viewers for all of its news and opinion shows, yet our friendly liberals prefer to pretend that somehow their insane ramblings about the network actually hold some weight.

    • It's funny how Obama's followers are like sheep…

      …and it's all downhill from there.

      It's funny how Fox gets by far the most viewers for all of its news and opinion shows…

      Yeah, Fox sure is popular. So is Ann Coulter. A lot of people buy her books. A lot of people buy toilet paper, too.

      It's incredible to recall that conservatism was once all about respect for excellence, for the rare–for those who stand above the mass– rather than for the lowest common denominator and those who kneel in order to service the mass. I would say that, as regards their attitudes to the mob, "conservatism" and communism are more or less interchangeable now. In both cases, their consciences, intellects and aesthetic instincts are "Peoples' Courts". What a shame.

      • Fox, in all its' glory , gets half the viewers of Oprah.

        • Keep trying – that's just one sentence, but if you really think hard, I truly believe someday you might be able to write as many as three sentences at once. No, I'm serious!

      • I think there's a lot to appreciate in Coulter's writing. I certainly haven't bought any of her books for the same purpose as toilet paper. I used to get this odd frisson while reading her caused by the opposition of my cognizance of the 'respectable' attitude towards her and my appreciation for the novelty and intelligence of a lot of the points she makes.

        I think that is a fine judgement you make on conservativism. Even looking at Ann, her first general political book was really good and the rest are more and more empty shells of controversy. Still, if you allow me to make out the choice to be between a conservative tendency to the lowest common denominator of the masses and a liberal tendency to the lowest common denominator of the elites, I prefer the conservative mistake.

        • My friend, North American élites become élite precisely by selling the masses their lowest common denominators–Ann Coulter being an excellent example. Limbaugh's another.

          Elites are, all of them, the People's Pimps. They have no ideology—only interests.

          • I could disagree more about Limbaugh, but not by much… my memory's a little mothy because I haven't rousted them out of my book stacks for a while, but I remember the book or two of his that I have as not only the funnest I've ever read but also very much about ideas. They were a delight! From what I've heard of his radio show, People's Pimp is an ok description if you take the far too patronizing view that he has some kind of trancendent influence over his listeners, but in any case it's quite the opposite in his books.

          • Did you have a good time with Prince Charles when he was here? Seems to me you're right up the same alley.

          • You're so right on this one.

            Also, anyone ever consider that lots of people watch FOX – Hannity/Beck, etc. so they can discuss their insanity? Morbid curiousity about what the wingnuts will say next.

      • I'm pretty sure that you don't use toilet paper.

        • Fox News gets more viewers because they report the news better.

          Absolutely, because popularity always equates with virtue. That's the message of the world's great religions, after all.

          I'll just assume that your favourite piece of Fox reportage occurred when they ridiculed Canada's mission in Afghanistan…

          • I agree that popularity and virtue are sometimes at odds. But I don't think you can apply that argument in this case.

            As far as the Afghanistan comments, I was the first to say that those comments were absolutely disrespectful, ignorant, arrogant, b*llsh*t. Anyway, that was from a show called Red Eye, I believe, which is not intended to be news nor even serious opinions, it is somewhat analogous to the Daily Show, and it is on really, really late-night. And not only that, I do believe the people who said the remarks apologized for it.

        • I'm pretty sure that you don't use toilet paper.

          It's a bit soon to bring out the big guns, isn't it? I would have thought your years of training at Hart House and the Oxford Union would have taught you to build an argument slowly, methodically, before slaying your foe with a final, fatal, unanswerable quip. You just couldn't resist exploiting the one weakness of my position by running it through immediately with a rhetorical death blow, could you? You impetuous genius, you…

          it seems to me that you define "excellence" as something that appeals to nobody but yourself.

          Yeah, I'm so totally alone in believing that Macbeth is more worthwhile than an episode of Laverne and Shirley and that intelligence is more worthy than idiocy. I guess the difference is that I actually hold to a hierarchy of value, and you don't: I'm a conservative; you're a nihilist–which you have every right to be (in fact, that's a very popular moral position these days, thus making it no doubt doubly attractive to you).

          • My toilet paper comment was a response to "A lot of people buy toilet paper". My death blow was nothing other than a simple retort.

            Nihilist? Wow, that's the first time I've been called a nihilist. That's actually rather funny, and so absurd that I feel no need to rebut.

  5. The reason for Fox's succes is that it is a network which doesn't start from the usual left/lib assumptions.

    A case in point, the recent Fort Hood massacre. Only Fox took an open view that this could be a terrorist attack. The other networks talked about pre-traumatic syndrome and other nonsense.

    • The other networks talked about pre-traumatic syndrome and other nonsense.

      …because American mass shootings–which occur bi-weekly–tend to be committed by Islamic jihadis, not psychopaths.

    • Fox always think things are terrorist attacks.

  6. More than any other host on US TV, Matthews strikes me as a guy who knows a lot about the wider world and about world history. E.g. his epic takedown of this jerk —

    [youtube sMMklhX74_w youtube]

    I agree with Paul that he's really entertaining. I used to come home from the library every night in time to watch the rerun of Hardball at 2am. Also, I think Matthews really knows grassroots politics, at least on the east coast — references the voting histories of particular counties, etc.

    • "…the professional liars at Fox are not."

      The Fort Hood massacre was indicative of how news is filtered in the U.S. and would be in Canada as well. Soldier goes berserk because of post-traumatic syndrome. Only they had to come up with pre-traumatic syndrome in the MSM. Only did FOX clue in that we likely had a jihadist on our hands. Turns out we did.

      You don't want to be informed Jack, you want to be soothed with comfortable, but unrealistic, left-wing nostrums.

    • Jarrid's example is one of many.

      Acorn's operations corrupt across the country, only one network willing to report.
      Van Jones turfed from the White House, only one network willing to report.

      The other networks are in the bag without the administration. Without Fox, the Americans would be unable to get all the news.

      • Obviously, you only watch FOX….I saw the Edwards story on every network. I think you are dillusional.

        Actually, I've heard many times CNN will bring up an issue but will only give details when they can confirm it.

        • "delusional", not "dillusional". And no, I am not.

          CNN will bring up an issue but will only give details when they can confirm it

          They won't even bother investigating, let only confirming, in cases like the ones I have used as examples, which were all true, all ignored.

          As for Edwards, none of CNN of the other networks investigated the obvious signs during the campaign, they turned a blind eye. Only after Obama won the presidency did they decide to show an interest.

          • LOL, you've got to be kidding. Fox jumps on any hint of scandal. At that point it was only rumour and was put out by "The Inquirer"……anyone with any brains would wait. The Inquirer was right on the Edwards affair…but they are usually wrong and have been sued many times.

            And, yes, you are diLLusional.

  7. The fact that some liberals (many others love him) detest Matthews does not disqualify him.

    What's interesting here how this fits part of a wider pattern among the academic elite and the left leaning media (the studies sited above are a sliver of those that show journalists are overwhelmingly liberal in their worldview),

    the radicals always seem to be on the right.

    I'll leave you with this parting query: ever hear of a "left wing" think tank from the media? There are many of them, holding radically leftist views.

    Funny how "right wing" think tanks are the only think tanks with wings.

    The answer is simple. If you're sitting on the left wing yourself, you view everything to the right. Hence, Fox can merely be impartial and they're viewed by the media as some radical right wing freak show.

    Funny how Fox's audience levels suggest they are the ones attracting the meaty portion of the bell curve.

    In other wholly unrelated news, AP assigned 11 (eleven) reporters to "fact check" Palin's book.

  8. The "right wing" CATO institute has a web video out demolishing the claims that Obamacare will cost as much as alleged. As part of it's "fact checking" it compares orgininal medicare and medicade projections to actual costs, showing exponential increases are typical of such programs.

    Interesting how the AP assigns eleven reporters to fact check a book by a private citizen, but we must rely on the CATO institute to fact check what could be the singularily most important issue facing the public vis. their elected leader's claims, on an issue that will dramitically alter their entire economic landscape.

    • …"the AP assigns eleven reporters to fact check a book by a private citizen"

      I must have missed that one. What was the book you are referring to?

      • Palin – Going Rogue

        It's link to AP story fact-checking Palin's book. There is one author of article and at bottom it lists 10 people who "contributed to this report." It is interesting that AP thinks its job is to assign a dozen of its employees to 'fact check' books.

        • Wow, that is rather crazy. The AP!!

    • This also reminds me of the time CNN fact-checked the Saturday Night Live skit. And people claim Fox is biased – CNN is both biased and nuts.

    • Heck, "Joe the Plumber" got his entire life fact checked.

  9. Matthews irked many on the left a decade ago with his over-infatuation with the Lewinsky scandal. I'd say over the past 10 years he's been a little more ideologically pure, but his habit of saying whatever pops into his head at the moment would be distressing to anyone wanting a little more thoughtful punditry (and Chris will never live down his "Thrill Up the Leg" comment about Obama).

    Olbermann's problem, compared to Fox's shows like O'Reilly or even talk radio shows like Limbaugh's is he resolutely refuses to have on anyone who disagrees with him — whatever shouting there is is a one-way dialogue between Keith and the viewer during one of his Special Comments. And his actions last week, ducking out of his announced 'live' 10 p.m. Eastern show after Corzine lost New Jersey to visit his sick father, and then showing up 20 hours later photographing Sean Hannity with his cellphone cam at Yankee Stadium just before Game 6 of the Series, was embarrassingly childish, since he also did no post-election show on Wednesday, even though he could have obsessed about the NY-23 results. At least Hannity pre-taped his show Wednesday night (and yes, since Colmes' departure it's unwatchable except for the panel segement, where there's at least one dissenting voice. Fox really should have given him another liberal partner already on payroll, like Bob Beckel or Kristen Powers).

  10. Hannity pre-tapes shows and "alters" them. He even had to admit it to Jon Stewart.

  11. It was not a rumour, the Enquirer had overwhelming evidence, which is why Edwards finally came clean about it. Any news network with brains would have investigated, and in fact they had not investigated before because they had no interest whatsoever in the obvious signs.

  12. Chris Matthews just tries to win arguments by shouting. I can’t take Keith Olbermann seriously as a sports commentator anymore. Sean Hannity is a weasel. Fortunately there is one man in America who pokes fun at all three plus all the rest on the cable op-ed networks: Stephen Colbert. His faux hero worship of Bill O’Reilly is the funniest thing of all. All I need to watch so I know what’s happening on the American news programs summarized by Jon Stewart Stephen Colbert.

    • I agree, and Greg Gutfeld for me too.

  13. Chris Matthews (my leg tingles when I see the Chosen One) is a fool and a sycophant. There isn't a liberal ass he will not kiss or lick. He reminds me of the Court Jester of old; anything to make my Master laugh.
    I can't believe anyone pays him for his opinion. Look up the term "boot licking toady" and you see matthews' picture.