The Television Thing

The Television Thing

It is by now a truism that television has usurped many of the traditional roles of political parties; more than that, it sometimes seems to have all but devoured the political process. Power flows to politicians and journalists who exploit the medium. The new “bosses” are the arbiters of visibility: Ted Koppel, Larry King, Phil Donahue. But if television is also, as right-wing media bashers have long insisted, a hotbed of liberalism, why have Republicans far outpaced Democrats in seizing the airwaves, with propaganda such as National Empowerment Television, the Christian Broadcasting Network, and the Republican Exchange Satellite Network? Why do right-wing voices predominate on so many talk shows? And why, in a televisiondominated culture, is liberalism in such sorry retreat, and a snarling, philistine conservatism rampant?

The left has certainly made its share of strategic mistakes. Rightly or wrongly, it has been identified with several policies and posture —welfare, affirmative action, political correctness—that

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Duggan | University of California Press Gardels