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Is the Media Liberal?
Ahhh... the long standing debate...
This post on ABCNEWS The Note makes the case the the press IS liberal because of its stand on specific issues:
Like every other institution, the Washington and political press corps operate with a good number of biases and predilections.
My first response was to think "Did I miss when the press appointed ABCNEWS as their spokesperson"? My second response was "Is this some sort of joke"?
Who are "the media"? The ABCNEWS post refers to a very specific group, the Washington and political press corps but this hasn't stopped some people from saying "gotcha, see the media is liberal". The press consists of a wide variety of journalistic types from the "investigative, undercover, could get his throat cut if anybody catches on type", to the show pony anchors. So who are we talking about? Nobody ever defines who represents the media, though we are to assume "the media" consists of the talking head pundits and the Dan Rathers and Peter Jennings of the television world, as well as the Washington Posts and the New York Times of the newspaper world.
Are they (the people in the press) Liberal? I would not doubt that the individual members of the press are liberals. According to my understanding of the definition of the two positions (as defined by me!) I would have to say that being a liberal would more likely lead one into a career or journalism. Why should you go into a field that requires exploring issues from an objective point of view if you take the view that there is a knowable truth and that that truth comes from authoritative sources? While being a conservative doesn't preclude one from a career in the media, it does seem an odd fit. Sort of like being a liberal and a clergyman. I find that most conservatives in the media tend to view it as an outlet for promoting their truths rather than a forum to discuss all sides of an issue.
Is there a Liberal bias? Now you might conclude that since the members of the media are prone to be liberals themselves that they would carry that bias over into their reporting, and thus validate the claim that the media is "liberal". This is the hard question and the answer is Yes, Yes and No. The first yes, because the presentation of all sides of an issue for debate is liberal in nature. The second yes, because the media will react negatively to conservative issues that seek to end debate, and finally no, because, the conservatives have been very effective at using the biases of the media to their advantage.
How can the media be conservative?One of the inherent biases to the media is its increasing reliance on official sources. Anything that an authority from government or powerful interests says becomes newsworthy, and will be dutifully reported. The conservatives have become very adept at promoting their causes by issuing statements that have the effect of moving the media lips. The media outlets become ventriloquist dummies for official claims. So when the President of the United States says that his budget will cut the deficit in half in five years it will be reported as stated. Ironically, in this way, by relying on authorities for information the press are being conservative in nature. Reading through Eric Alterman's book "What Liberal Media" you get the idea that this is one of his main arguments. During the 2000 election the media was dutiful in reporting what was in effect a campaign of character destruction against Al Gore because it could not refuse reporting official statements. In addition, by always presenting "both sides" of an issue they give equal weight to what might otherwise be a lopsided debate. For example, even though the vast majority of the scientific community accepts climate change as a reality the media still feels compelled to present both sides, giving equal weight to a small minority of voices. This works for either side but it means that no matter what, the conservative message will always have a forum, no matter how "liberal" the media becomes. The conservatives have been very effective at taking advantage of these media biases and have created numerous Think Tanks to produce experts and data for the media consumption. By this method they have promoted their agenda with surprising efficiency.
And talk radio? I think its safe to say that talk radio has become the home field for conservative opinion. By and large what you hear on talk radio these days is a ritual of self affirmation. The liberals are wrong and here's why. The times I have listened to talk radio I have been amazed at the relative lack of discussion that takes place. Most often when a caller presents an opposing view they are quickly derided and the pre-writ truth is trotted out for proof of the host's righteousness. Its not by accident that Rush Limbaugh's fans are called Dittoheads. Listening to Rush is not an exercise is self examination. You know what Rush will say. He will bash liberals and confirm your faith that you are right and they are wrong. For that brief moment balance is restored and you are reassured that the world as you see it will be defended.
Conservative Liberals? What strikes me as the most amusing is when conservatives bash so called "liberals" who are really just conservatives on the left. This IS possible. These are strident lefties that cling to "liberal" causes but they do so as a matter of faith. What you get are lefties that believe they are right either because they feel a sense of group identity or they have faith in their cause because they follow some authority figure. As a liberal activist I can attest that this is fairly common. I run across people that can not form a coherent rationale for why they support a cause. I was once derided by fellow activists because I dared promote the idea that McDonalds may NOT be the worst evil in the world, because they provide low cost food to poor people who can't afford to drive across town to pay top dollar for organic produce. That McDonald's represents the very heart and soul of evil has become a item of faith amongst some in the lefty activist community. This holds true in many circles. You find anti-globalization activists that can't explain why subjecting the third world to a set of rules that will condemn them to ongoing poverty is wrong. Its a matter of faith that this is true. You find Palestinian activists that can't explain to you why the Israelis are evil, they just ARE. If this sounds like conservativism, that's because it is, as I define it. Just the same as when right wing conservatives accept as a matter of faith that capitalism is the best of all possible economic systems, or that their religion is the only true path to salvation. So it hardly offends me when conservatives of the right hold up conservatives of the left for ridicule. They are eating their own counterparts. Many of the strident Anti-Bush people also fall into this camp. Many of the Deaniacs came from this cabal of conservative "liberals" rallied there by Dean's Anti-Bush message. This turned off many of the true liberals that saw that kind of slavish devotion for what it was: conservatism. I still feel Dean is a liberal in the best sense of the word and he would have made a great president. But his campaign imploded under the weight of contradiction.
So is the media liberal damnit? I don't know. When I watch news programs I see a bias but I would not go so far to call it liberal. I see it as sensationalism mixed with journalistic "professionalism"; a strange system of "rules of behavior". For the most part I see the claims that the media leans liberal as an attempt by the GOP to shame the news media into giving their viewpoints and appointed mouthpieces favorable treatment, even to the point of letting them promote specious claims. This was evident during the buildup to the war where Bush Administration claims were constantly given air to the point of building a consensus for invasion where none existed prior. The voices that have since been proven right existed but were drowned out by the stampede of official propaganda.
So there's your answer. It proves what we always knew.. that making such hollow claims one way or the other ignores the complicated nature of this issue.
So yes, You're right, whoever you are. And yes, I know, I should read Goldberg's "Bias".
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