” ‘Darling, you are a silly old Oxfordndon, it is only a word.’n’Only a word?~s,otry. No, this wholenthing is all about language.’ “nIn this terrible qtaagmire of abused andnbloodied language, there seems to benno way out. Jake has no “strong barriersnof moral conviction [that] can be raisednagainst mischief.” Like Alice, he isntrapped by the magisterial tyranny ofnour Humpty Dumpty world wearing itsnmost contemptuous smile.n” ‘But glory doesn’t mean A nicenknockdown argument, ‘Alice objected.n’When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumptynsaid in a rather scornful tone, ‘it meansnjust what I choose i t to mean—neithernmorenorless.'”nK ingsley Amis has written a brightnand clever satire on the sexual habitsnand hang-ups of our troubled society.nDeciding What’s BiasnHerbert J. Gans: Deciding What’snNews: A Study of CBS EveningnNews, NBC Nightly News, Newsweeknand Time; Pantheon Books;nNew York.nby James HitchcocknImagine getting an ample grant tonstudy the news media and being givennfairly open access to the news staffs ofnthe major networks and magazines. Anleading publisher then produces a thicknpresentation of your findings. Thenthought of the possibilities in such anwindfall makes the mouth water.nIt must be reported that exactly thisngood fortune fell to the sociologistnJames Hitchcock is Professor of Historynat St. Louis University. His most recentnbook is Catholicism and Modernity:nConfrontation or Capitulation?n16 inChronicles of CulturenThat is no longer easy to do, since thensubject has already been parodied bynthe grotesque behavior of people whonare supposed to be real. Reaching a goodndeal deeper, he has touched on thenunderlying case of society’s moral insolvency.nHe has done this using a castnof inherently uninteresting characters,nwhile managing to persuade us to pretendnotherwise for the fun (and terror)nof watching them work out destinies wenhope to avoid. Only one problem, notna small one, remains. Having given Jakenthe dominant point of view, Amis isnstuck with the ambivalence towardnwomen which results. A point of viewnmore comprehensive than Jake’s is notnapparent often enough to the reader,ncausing him to confuse Amis and Jake.nI would have preferred firmer auctorialncontrol, especially for such a delicateninstrument as satire.nA final irony too delicious to omit:nJake’s Thing was selected for its membershipnby the Playboy Book Club. DnHerbert Gans. How did he celebratenhis good fortune? He has served up sonmany fat, slow pitches that apologistsnfor the media will have no trouble hittingnthem anywhere they want. Whatnstarted out as a promise of a trenchant,nfair-minded critique ends up mainly asnmild praise. If Gans can be said to havena thesis, it is that the media are notn•'(/.ms li;is sLiccLvded. and the rest ot ii-in.iiid vil•^^•r^ -are in his dchl. “npredicted with certitude that medianapologists will point to his book thennext time they are accused of such bias:n”If we are getting criticized from bothnsides, we must be doing things right.”nAs a sociologist Gans should at leastnbe praised for avoiding technical jargon.nFor a work of sociology this is mostlynreadable. In addition, sections of thenbook are mildly interesting, such as hisndiscussion of the bureaucratic processesnby which news stories are chosen andnrefined, which somehow makes us suspectnthat the book is not totally withoutnredeeming social value. As to its centralnconcern with the mental assumptionsnwhich govern news coverage, however,nit is useful mainly for what it tells usnabout Herbert Gans. The light it shedsnon the ideology of the news industry isnminimal.nOne of Gans’ favorite theses is thatnreporters and editors are innocent ofnideology, and like to think they don’tnhave any. Gans identifies himself as an”left-liberal” and seems to think that byndoing so he absolves himself of the samencriticism. But ideological bias distortsnhis entire coverage, and it is not alwaysnclear how conscious it is. Astoundingly,nfor example, Gans mentions the BlacknPanthers at least four times and in onenplace uses them as an example of radicalngroups treated unfairly in the media.nYet, although he cites some of the worknof Edward Jay Epstein, he nowhere evennmentions Epstein’s famous article innwhich he showed how the media keptnrepeating the charge that the Panthersnioiirii:ihM’> .;•< well as ui-.r reader^n— Cowuinmi-ealn•.An cxicUcni jnirchase lor both public and acaiicmic I’lrariis.n— Library Jaurtiulnliberal enough in their politics and arentoo respectful of conventional moralnbeliefs. Don’t rub your eyes; you readnthat correctly. While you might thinknthat liberal bias permeates the media,nGans can’t seem to find it. It can bennnwere being systematically wiped out bynthe police even though the charge was,non examination, clearly false.nSimilarly, there are at least five referencesnto the Tet offensive during thenVietnam War, and in a footnote theren