It’s Time to Stop Yammering About Liberal Bias
This entire conversation is getting a little old—more than half a century old if we’re counting. Over the course of this 1966 episode of his show Firing Line, William F. Buckley, founder of National Review and contemporary American conservative movement broadly speaking, deploys just about every trope imaginable about liberal bias—not just in the press, but on campus and in concerns about extremism.
“The final problem really is whether a society can express itself democratically in any reliable way if the prevailing bias prevents it from the opportunity sufficiently to evaluate contrary ideas and contrary opinions,” Buckley says about midway through. At one point, his guest, the liberal talk show host David Susskind, suggests the topic of supposed liberal indoctrination on college campuses had been wrung dry since the publication in 1951 of God & Man at Yale, a book that recommended the banning of textbooks and firing of professors accused of committing transgressions against the doctrines of Christianity and capitalism.
Now, think about this for a minute. In 1951, the nation was in the throes of a second Red Scare, a moral panic that saw leftists and imagined leftists across America thrown out of their jobs, and professorships, and friend circles, and the good graces of polite society. Additionally, America was, obviously, vastly more socially conservative than it is today, so much so that conservatives today herald the mores of that time as values we should return to. And yet, even back then, conservatives insisted they were being persecuted.
This raises a few obvious questions that are, for whatever reason, rarely asked. If American institutions really were intolerably liberal in 1951 and in 1966, then what would a state of affairs that satisfied the conservative movement actually look like? If, as conservatives have insisted over decades of uninterrupted complaint, the American people really are being indoctrinated into liberalism in their formative years at our schools and colleges and in their adult years by an oppressively slanted press, how exactly does one explain the American political situation in 2018, with right-wing control of the presidency, the House, the Senate, the Supreme Court, 33 governorships, and 32 state legislatures?