Bernie's Baffling Broadside

Goldberg writes the book on one-sidedness


Bernard Goldberg, the former CBS News correspondent who has found a new calling as a critic of liberal media bias, has a new best-seller: 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America. Goldberg's list includes politicians, activists, journalists, entertainers, academics, lawyers, business people, and other assorted baddies.

It's only fair to mention that I'm in the book, too—as one of the "good guys": Goldberg cites my criticism of feminists who make outlandish claims about the oppression of American women. That's fine with me; actually, I agree with much of Goldberg's lambasting of radical feminists, America-bashers, racial demagogues, radical-chic professors, corporate vultures, celebrity-worshipping journalists, and peddlers of shock-oriented reality shows. (Admittedly, some of his choices are rather odd: An obscure Vassar College dean who said some 14 years ago that men falsely accused of rape could benefit from their ordeal is on the list—but there is no mention of a far more influential gender-war feminist, law professor Catharine MacKinnon.)

Unfortunately, Goldberg's indictment is so lacking in any semblance of being—pardon the expression—fair and balanced that it could have been titled, "90-plus Leftists and Liberals—and a Few Token Right-Wingers—Who Are Screwing Up America."

If Goldberg wants to blast liberals, that's his prerogative. However, while admitting that his targets are mostly left of center, he denies taking political sides and claims that he is simply telling it like it is. Ironically, this mirrors Goldberg's charge in his earlier book, Bias, that the media tend to see the liberal perspective on things as simply reality.

For instance, Goldberg is very tough on "haters on the left" who demonize their political opponents as "not just wrong but morally repugnant": talk show host and satirist Al Franken, pundit Paul Begala, "Boondocks" comic strip artist Aaron McGruder, and quite a few more. He also comes up with a single example of similar viciousness on the other side: right-wing shock jock Michael Savage, who once infamously told a gay caller he should die of AIDS. Yet Ann Coulter, the warrior queen of political hate speech, is mentioned only in passing—when she is favorably compared to Savage. You see, "Coulter always has that twinkle in her eye when she calls some liberal 'pond scum' " (and presumably when she brands the entire Democratic Party treasonous). Well, that makes all the difference! Of course, when it comes to Franken, Goldberg scoffs at the claim that nastiness is OK if it's labeled satire.

In a similar vein, if Democratic Senators Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts and Robert Byrd of Virginia are "screwing up America," hasn't Representative Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) contributed at least a little? What about Representative Dan Burton (R-Ind.), the far-right conspiracy buff who once shot a pumpkin in his backyard to reenact the supposed murder of Clinton aide Vince Foster—and has joined forces with the loony left to propagate the dangerous canard that vaccines cause autism?

And if Goldberg is going to throw the book at leftist academics, writers, and pundits who were quick to blame America for the terrorist attacks of September 11, it's odd that evangelical ministers Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, who asserted that we brought it on ourselves by angering God with secularism, feminism, abortion, and gay rights, are let off the hook. So heavy-handed is Goldberg's bias that when he rightly indicts former Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger for his obsessive prosecutorial zeal in the sexual abuse case against the Amirault family, one can't help suspecting that this pick might have something to do with Harshbarger's liberal political activism. (There is no mention of zealots such as Tom Coleman, the lawman who railroaded 38 innocent people on drug charges in 1999 in Tulia, Texas.)

When Goldberg goes after targets on the right, they are almost invariably "safe" ones. Televangelist Jimmy Swaggart, who has no influence on the Christian right, gets slammed for a vile gay-bashing remark—but Gerald Allen, the Alabama state legislator who wants all gay-themed books banned from public libraries, gets a pass. A "pro-life" terrorist who killed an abortion doctor makes the list, but not Operation Rescue's fanatical leader Randall Terry.

There are other problems: Goldberg's selections are heavily skewed toward intellectuals and entertainers, but overzealous or corrupt government regulators are missing from his list. But the book's main flaw is its one-sidedness. Instead of an insight into the ways both the left and the right are failing the American people today, Goldberg's tract is little more than red meat for the true believers.