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Shoddy opinion writing fuels T-P liberal bias

A day after my last post came out, which analyzed a column written by Mark Lorando that discussed and denied the presence of liberal bias at the newspaper he edits, the New Orleans Times-Picayune, he followed up with another on the topic that in some ways addressed points I had made. Yet accompanying his that day was a piece that served to subvert his mission.

My post pointed out the ways that the T-P transmitted liberal bias, largely in story selection, while Lorando defended against that mainly along the lines that content remained neutral, at least on the news pages. I demonstrated that’s not necessarily the case, more because of the liberal smog enveloping the industry of journalism than in any intent. He also pledged for greater balance in the opinion pages, where one may expect biased commentary.

But the one thing that he did not, and could not, promise in trying to divest the T-P of liberal bias that he at least conceded was perceived was to provide more informed commentary. Liberalism often festers and grows because its adherents tend to be less informed about politics (which carries over into partisan differences as well with the typical Republican more informed and open-minded than his Democrat counterpart). Liberals also more likely mythologize and caricature conservatism than vice versa, a logical consequence as liberalism relies more on emotive referents to sustain belief in it while conservativism places greater emphasis on fact and logic.

Given these conditions, comparatively liberal opinion writing often tends to come off as less factually-based, either through selective use of fact or simple ignorance of the facts. Either could explain the piece appearing next to Lorando’s, by the paper’s deputy opinions editor Jarvis DeBerry, a stuck-pig-squealing response to Sen. Ted Cruz’s reminder that Democrats historically backed the Ku Klux Klan in his accurate criticism of Democrats for making “demonstrably false … slanderous” statements about new Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions.

DeBerry begins on solid ground, arguing that the century-old fascination Democrats in the south had with the KKK has dissipated (he implies 60 years ago, but it really was more like 40), opining Cruz’s statement as “tiresome. It's hard to believe that people are still falling for this. But they must be falling for it because Republicans keep saying it.” Had he stopped there, he would have produced a workable, if short and entirely dull, piece. Instead, he launched into a campaign of misinformation and argumentation that, for those who have more than a passing knowledge of the issue, proceeds to blow up in his face.

Because he next alleges that “[y]esterday's Democrats are today's Republicans. The Democrats became the party of civil rights, and that … drove most of the white South into it” – a demonstrably false statement. While a number of academic sources have debunked this myth, its most elegant and comprehensive refutation came in a 2006 work by political scientists Richard Johnston and Byron Shafer, convincingly demonstrating that most of the Republican surge in the south came from natives understanding the party better reflected their economic values and from transplants who brought such values with them. That’s consistent with polling data from the 1930s on, which shows the only “conservatism” marking southern whites was on issues of morality based in religion and on Second Amendment rights; otherwise, they were more liberal (counting isolationism in foreign affairs), especially on economics, that residents in all other regions of the country.

By and large, white Democrats consumed with animus towards the civil rights movement and improved realization of rights for blacks and who agreed with its big government nationalism stayed within the party as the 1960s and 1970s unfolded. This and the complicity of Democrat politicians well into the 1970s in opposing civil rights are widely known and makes DeBerry’s statement tiresome. It's hard to believe that people are still falling for this. But they must be falling for it because DeBerry and his ideological fellow travelers keep saying it.

To makes matters worse, to buttress his allegation DeBerry embarks on a strategy of guilt by association that, once again to those who know better, collapses if not becomes comical in how thoroughly he sabotages his own argument. He trots out the statement of former GOP Sen. Trent Lott, former political leader of the chamber, musing that Dixiecrat former Sen. Strom Thurmond would have made for a better president than former Pres. Harry Truman, thus taking the absurdly reductionist position that “we can infer from that that Lott considered the Dixiecrats' beliefs similar to his own,” making the same error in imputation that he made in regards to southern party identification and beliefs of those identifiers in general.

He also conveniently forgets to mention a genuine, celebrated racist among Democrats whose career in Congress ended with his death just a few years ago: Sen. Robert Byrd, whose extensive involvement with the KKK well into his elected career is unquestioned historically. So, by DeBerry’s own reasoning that Lott’s view of Thurmond’s candidacy tells us about Republican views today, then today’s Democrats, who made Byrd at one time the official Senate leader, are just as racist, if not more so, than Republicans. (Both Democrat-turned-Republican Thurmond and consistent Democrat Byrd publicly recanted any racist views some way into their congressional careers.)

And, just to make sure he shoots himself in both feet, DeBerry plays the David Duke card, explaining that as the former high-ranking KKK official’s recent Louisiana Senate candidacy came as a Republican this must tell us something about the Republican Party. OK, then I guess Duke’s endorsement of anti-Semitic Democrat Rep. Keith Ellison for chairman of his party tells us something about Democrats generally.

People who don’t know much about politics might fall for DeBerry’s dreck, but those who do recognize how insipid and unconvincing it is. In this example it’s so obviously misinformed and poorly argued that, as a representation of liberal opinion, it only adds to the perception of liberal bias. Conservatives respect opinion that challenges their viewpoints, but with such poor quality as shown by DeBerry’s latest effort, it comes across as little more than hackery designed to facilitate a liberal agenda.

If Lorando wants to dispel perceptions of liberal bias at the T-P, he needs to discourage ill-informed writing by house liberals on his editorial page.

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