May 09, 2007

The “Great” Republican Defection

As has been much bandied about in the news, media mogul Rupert Murdoch recently made an attempt to buy The Wall Street Journal. Quite naturally, this has sent many lefties into paroxysms of rage. The conservative Mr. Murdoch, they think, will force the news reporters at the Journal to follow the ideological line of the paper’s right-wing editorial page.

In the minds of many left-wingers, Murdoch’s bid was just a small part of this devious “neoconservative’s” attempt to take control of the entire world’s media. If we’re not careful, Bill Kristol will be the world’s only reporter. Or so thinks Eric Alterman, we’d imagine.

Quite frankly, dear reader, we consider this largely nonsense. We suppose we’re not delighted that the Journal’s ownership may change hands. After all, we believe that its news coverage is the best written in the country, and so we’re nervous about any potential changes.

But we hardly think that Murdoch ownership will turn the news department at The Wall Street Journal into an unofficial propaganda unit for Dick Cheney. If one takes a look at Murdoch’s most prestigious newspaper in England—the Times of London—you won’t find it chock-a-block with rip-roaring conservatism. And the same is true of Murdoch’s British tabloid The Sun, which has regularly plumped for New Labor in past elections.

Perhaps a recent article in the Murdoch-owned Times of London offers the best example of the sort of anti-conservative argument that its purportedly deeply conservative proprietor can miraculously stomach. Someone named Sarah Baxter, a Times reporter in Washington, penned a piece called “Republicans Defect to the Obama Camp.”

Frankly, it should be read by all as a dramatic example of the poor use of anecdotal evidence to build a shoddy argument. To the cranially-challenged Ms. Baxter, Republicans are flocking to presidential aspirant Barack Obama in droves. Obama Mania is lighting up the Republican Party, and American conservatives are swept away by Obama’s genius.

Ms. Baxter’s evidence? Well, she has cobbled together the names of four former Bush supporters who have taken a shine to Obama. Actually, make that three: Ms. Baxter notes that Robert Kagan enjoyed one of Obama’s recent speeches, yet she never claims that Kagan is part of the Obama camp. In fact, given that Kagan is an informal policy advisor to John McCain, it’s unlikely that he’s going to wind up a diehard Obama supporter.

Okay, so that leaves us with three Republicans who thus far fancy Barack Obama. That is to say, if Ms. Baxter found two fewer pro-Obama Republicans she would have to change the title of her article to read “Republican Defects to the Obama Camp.” Wow: Talk about a landslide-in-the-making.

Obama, after all, must be the first presidential contender to win votes from those of other American political parties. You’d be hard pressed to find three Democrats who voted for Reagan, or as many Republicans who voted for Clinton. That’s just setting the bar too high.

Naturally, Ms. Baxter’s piece is a pathetic example of wishful thinking and ably demonstrates a journalist’s typical sloppy use of evidence. If this kind of anti-Republican fluff doesn’t trouble Mr. Murdoch, we don’t think you’ll have to worry that he’ll turn The Wall Street Journal into the Republican Party’s Pravda.

Posted at May 9, 2007 12:01 AM | TrackBack