April 15, 2004
Angry Left vs. Angry Right

After looking at yet another batch of vituperative letters in the Seattle Times, I am reminded yet again of how the media portrays the Republicans as "the party of hate". I don't think so.

I lived in a relatively conservative city (San Diego) from 1987 to 2002. From 1987-1992, the area had four congressmen; from 1992 onward, it was five. During that period, San Diego never had fewer than three GOP congressmen, and from 1990-1992, all four were Republicans, so it is fairly safe to say that the area was right of center.

Despite San Diego's rightward tilt, the letters to the editor in the San Diego Union-Tribune, while somewhat critical of Bill Clinton (during his time in office, and afterward), never reached the visceral, primal hatred expressed in the letters to the Seattle Times. This leads me to believe that one of the following is true:

1. The San Diego Union-Tribune had a policy that restricted the publication of hateful letters.

2. The Seattle Times has a policy of printing the most spiteful letters.

3. Seattle is filled with left-wing extremists, or San Diego is packed with moderates.

4. The left is more consumed with hate towards Bush than the right was with Clinton.

Sure, Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter and other assorted pundits were lobbing salvo after salvo at the Clintons. Now it's Robert Scheer and Michael Moore sniping at Bush. However, I'm not talking about columnists and commentators; I'm talking about John and Betty Citizen. The letters to the editor are filled with the same sneering condescension every day, except on the days when they exhibit naked hostility to Bush and anyone who supports him or his agenda. It was rare to see conservatives attack Clinton as viciously and relentlessly as the writers here in Seattle attack Bush. (The letters page of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer is just as bad, if not worse, than that of the Times.)

posted on April 15, 2004 10:36 PM


So we have the makings of a civil war here. The only parallel of this sort of collective visceral group hatred characterized and articulated by a sectional divide in American history occurred in the 1850s. Nough said.

posted by Michael McCanles on April 18, 2004 06:31 PM

Letters to the editor are not examples of how the media portray the Bush administration. They are examples of how readers respond to the way the media portray the Bush administration. You have a case only if you can demonstrate that No. 1 or No. 2 above is accurate.

posted by David Crisp on April 21, 2004 07:33 AM

The line in the first paragraph was an admittedly gratuitous swipe at the media in general (although I still consider it valid when leveled against television). However, I thought I made it clear in the last paragraph that I was talking about newspaper readers, rather than the media coverage. Number 1 and number 2 were both intended to be obvious falsehoods; although I take issue with some of the positions and coverage of the Seattle Times, I am quite certain that they don't have an absurd policy such as I suggested.

Seattle is well known as a hotbed of left-of-center citizens. The letters to the editor will reflect that. However, I stand by my assertion that Seattle's liberals are much nastier and personally insulting to George Bush than the conservatives of San Diego ever were towards Bill Clinton. That was my point.

posted by timekeeper on April 21, 2004 10:14 AM

The old Timekeeper seems to assume that media columnists of either the left or right persuasion cancel each other out by attacking presidential incumbents of opposing parties, while the criticism of hoi polloi alone, published in letters columns, is the real thing.

I suggest the criterion should be a matter of truth, of accuracy regarding the facts, however published. If the behaviour of Clinton, who has been mentioned, is shown to be more culpable--that is,lying under oath to the public [via the media], lying to congressional committee of investigation into his behaviour, proven to have had sexual relations with an intern and demonstrated to have been less than attentive to the major responsibilities of his office--then the notion of media "balance" is irrelevant. The critical consensus rightly should come down on his shoulders.

Anne Coulter and other critics of this egregious president are after him not so much for his flavour of politics [although it certainly enters into it] but for his deleterious behaviour while in office, his blatant incompetence and shameful private behaviour as the national leader.

The evidence will always favour one side or the other. By evidence I mean the facts, however the word 'if' is defined. The notion of everyone being equally culpable is idealist nonsense, meant to favour the rogues of this world. Whether intentionally or not, it discrimminates against those who behave well in favour of those who get away with whatever they can. In this case Clinton is the villain, and all his own doing.

Criticism of such creatures should be severe and unrelenting, in contemporary terms and in the annals of history.

As for Demos, as for old Hoi Polloi,surely as members of that body we should know better than to expect ideal democratic behavour from this lot. The way to effective government is for the informed minority among the voting public to elect leaders competent to operate the country according to the law and democratic principles.

And it is always touch and go, as Clinton--and Jimmy Carter and others in the office--have so clearly demonstrated.

posted by Bennett on April 22, 2004 12:40 AM

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