Sunday, October 2, 2011

Bias, or By Us?

I have had an interesting last few of days in the blogosphere, mainly due to a couple of stories I posted that generated some comments – thank you for that. Sadly, it seems like only my stories involving politics seem to generate a bunch of interest. Which is too bad, since I think it is kind of cool that Sam Snead never won a U.S. Open.

Anyway, I have been debating about a phrase that has been tossed around for years – “Liberal Media Bias.” It is used by those mainly on the right as a reason to cry foul for never getting a fair shake from the broadcast media. The point has been honed to a sharp point by some, namely Sarah Palin, as a badge of honor; as a way of painting any Conservative as an underdog in any contest – not only do they have to defeat their opponent, but they have to do it with a media machine that is decidedly tilted against their cause. They even take it a step further, implying that this ‘Liberal Media bias’ has been so pervasive (and apparently so subtle) that all us unwashed masses do not even recognize it. Ergo, they are here to free us from this brainwashing.

Thanks much.

I am a Liberal, so much of what I am about to write will be dismissed by many as myopic, since those on the other side of the aisle will claim that I wouldn’t criticize what I agree with, or would not even be able to recognize the bias. To them, I am one of the brainwashed. Fine, if that’s your take then stop reading.

If you’re still here, ponder this. Give the following a bit of cogitation:

A given media source may have a bias, but media, on the whole, does not.

Still here? Good. Time for elaboration: For every Fox News there’s an MSNBC. For every Los Angeles Times there’s a Wall Street Journal. For every Rush Limbaugh there’s a, uhhh…

Okay I’m stumped on that one. There is no bellicosity on the macro level on the left that compares with His Rushness. Based on that fact alone, one could conclude that Rush’s unchecked pomposity would singlehandedly tilt the scale of bias towards the Conservative side. But I am not going to fight fire with fire – I am not going to purport that there is a Conservative Media Bias as a retort to the claims of Liberal Media Bias. Instead, I am going to claim that there is bias everywhere, that, when added up, essentially balances the scale.

If you can’t get with that assertion, then I will offer that you only see what you want to see – if you’re Liberal you scream about Hannity while ignoring Maddow. If you’re Conservative you scream about the San Francisco Chronicle while ignoring the Christian Science Monitor. If that fact escapes you, it is you that is myopic. Media, collectively and completely, has no bias – the myriad of television, cable, newspapers, magazines, websites, blogs, added up, equals no bias. Because it is so voluminous and encompassing that there would be no way to assure a commonality along any ideological line.

It is not media bias. It is media by us.

Look, I watch MSNBC. I personally think Rachel Maddow does a very good job at giving her opinion. Re-read that last sentence. I said giving her opinion. I am intelligent enough to recognize an opinion when I hear it, whether it is one I agree with or not. Opinions, by definition, are biased – they are based on the person who is stating the opinion’s paradigm. So, those on the right that claim there’s a media bias and further that it is so subtle that most of us do not see it, you are insulting us. Stop it.

Therefore, do not tell me that, if I watch the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams that Brian is feeding me the news through some left-leaning prism. Don’t claim that Scott Pelley is a moll of the left when he’s doing the same job on CBS. Because it is disingenuous at the least, and insulting at the most. There is news and then there is opinion. I know the difference. Do you?

A blogger took me to task for this claim of no bias on the macro level. His point was that his father was in the broadcast business for 25 years and he experienced this purported liberal media bias, therefore it exists. My reply to that is simple – my dad was a plumber for 40 years but I can’t fix a toilet. As well, what occurred in our parent’s day is not relevant – cable and the internet has made any comparisons to 1968 moot. So don’t tell me that you heard from someone who heard from someone that they were told that someone said there’s a bias. Prove it.

Or, in keeping with the American Way, just change the channel to something you agree with.


Dawn said...

You're not myopic, just a stubborn jackass. I've argued with you before, recall? About things upon which we agree even, when you take it a little too far and too harsh in your railing against Republicans. I used to be a Republican, and therefore I know that not all Republicans think the way you say we do (did). I also used to be in the media and I can tell you that the media is full of bias. Personal bias. There is no such thing as the unbiased media in spite of the ideal we have been taught to believe. Human beings are biased. In the news business, our bias shows in every detail. And not just in the realm of opinion either. What story leads the nightly news? What story is top of the fold with a picture, and what story is page 8C? The media's first display of bias every single day is that we tell you what is important. TO US. We determine the priority of your concerns. We pursue the stories we believe should matter to you, whether they do or not. We make them matter to you, against your will. And given the fact that nearly every research poll will reveal that the vast majority of news reporters, writers, producers and broadcasters will identify themselves as Democrats or "liberal," it is no stretch to suggest that there is liberal bias in the news. I have long theorized that the reason FOX News took off so strongly was that it was the lone media outlet representing "the other side" of the population, and no matter what side you are on, the other side is half the country! And half the country jumped on FOX News for a reason.

Now, it's not some insidious agenda. There's no great conspiracy to be biased in the news. It just happens. Consider what sort of personality goes into journalism. Those people who get fired up for causes and want to reveal the truth about stuff and draw attention to things long neglected, in their mind. Idealists. Liberals. It doesn't make them bad. It only makes them human beings. Liberal human beings. Who have personal biases.

Jerry B said...

You call me a stubborn jackass, then proceed to essentially agree with the point of my story, that there is personal bias.

My point remains that "media" is such an encompassing, vast realm that it would be impossible to claim that the net sum of all these opinions tips the scale of impartiality one way or the other. And further, who would even dare claim there is? Such a person is, themselves, biased. Cuz there is not enough hours in a person' life to research everything that exist in the media to conclude things as mis-reported on the macro level.

We are not a melting pot. We are a fruit salad. A bunch of individual pieces, each autonomous. It becomes a matter of what piece of fruit each person likes. That's our media.

Mikey said...

Agreed. To add, I don't think media in the US has control. Influence, of course, but not control.

Media in the Middle East is almost comforting because it is often so absurd it helps you realize the 'real picture' haha.

In the end, I appreciate almost all written and televised media for what it is, I'm pretty sure. I think most of us okay with it, but alarmed by the fact that we know there are people who hang on every word spoken by, say, Fox News (or Al Jazeera or Deutsche Welle, or The Economist, etc).

And as post-script, I always like to read the posts, not just the political ones.