Deception & Misdirection

Media bias: Rigging the game

[Continuing our series on deception in politics and public policy.]

Writers, editors, and producers of the national news media usually claim to be objective. They contend that they just report the truth.  They argue that the personal political philosophy of a journalist has no more effect on his or her work than on, say, the effort of a scientist to determine the speed of light in a vacuum.  Facts, they say, are facts.

But to report on taxes or healthcare or national security is not like counting the clicks on a Geiger counter or calculating the distance from the center of the earth to the surface of the moon.  Journalism is inherently subjective; a journalist’s approach to a story invariably reflects his or her opinions.

No one would accept the claim of a Ku Klux Klansman, in line for a judgeship, that he is able to apply the civil rights laws objectively without regard to his personal opinions.  Yet the argument is advanced by members of the media that a reporter can cover Barack Obama and the Tea Party movement fairly even if he thinks that Obama is the smartest president ever (swoon!) and that Tea Partiers are fascist, neo-Confederate, war-mongering plutocrats.

The problem is that the so-called mainstream media are full of people who aren’t mainstream at all.  If they were, in fact, members of the mainstream, their values and backgrounds would more closely reflect those of the American people.

The not-so-mainstream media aren’t mainstream at all. Almost all reporters, producers, on-air “talent,” et al. are liberals; more specifically, most are Progressives. Polls indicate consistently that under 10 percent of American adults are Progressives.[i]   About 20 percent call themselves “liberals.”

That left-wing views dominate Big Media is apparent from examining the lineups of the Sunday morning political talk shows. With the occasional exception of Newt Gingrich and, on rare occasions, Laura Ingraham, these programs ban reporters and commentators with pro-Tea Party and anti-RINO views from their analyst rosters. “Republicans” are represented by, say, David Brooks of PBS and the New York Times or Matthew Dowd, a Democrat-turned-GWBush-supporter who usually takes the RINO line. That bias is true even on Fox, which is said to be a conservative-oriented network, but which absurdly attacked Ted Cruz for his efforts to stop implementation of the Obamacare disaster.

Keep in mind:

  • A 2011 poll indicated that between 25 and 30 percent of American adults identified more with the Tea Party movement than with the leaders of either major political party, and that most Americans consider the advent of the Tea Party movement to be a good thing for the country.  Polls earlier this year indicated that, among people with an opinion one way or the other, the portion who consider themselves supporters of the Tea Party is identical to the portion who consider themselves supporters of the Republican Party. (That was true even as the Republican Party was beating the Democratic Party on the generic congressional ballot.)  This is despite one of the most despicable smear campaigns in American history—from the hoax that Tea Partiers called civil-rights hero John Lewis the N-word to Saturday Night Live’s depiction of Tea Partiers as murderous psychopaths to the weird anti-Tea Party rants of Karl Rove.
  • Year after year, the Gallup poll has shown some 38-42 percent of adults calling themselves “conservatives,” usually one-and-a-half to two times the number of liberals, with conservatives in any given year outnumbering liberals in 48, 49, or all 50 of the 50 states.

Yet I would suspect that there’s not a large or medium-sized newsroom in the country where conservatives outnumber liberals, or where a significant number of reporters have views in line with the Tea Party.  Good luck finding someone in a newsroom who opposes same-sex marriage, or backed George W. Bush on the Iraq War, or takes a pro-science position on Global Warming, or opposes racism in hiring and college admissions. (I should note that there are a few issues—I’ll let you figure out which—on which I happen to disagree with many of my fellow conservatives. But that disagreement doesn’t stop me from recognizing bias when I  see it, even when, once in a while, it’s a bias toward a position that I share.)

Since the days when I was a reporter, diversity, except in the most shallow sense, has almost vanished from the nation’s newsrooms.

When I was young, most cities and many towns had at least two newspapers that served to act as a check on each other. If there was a strike at the local steel mill, the Daily Democrat would blame it on money-grubbing capitalists and the Daily Republican would blame it on radical out-of-town labor agitators. A reader could pick the paper that reflected his own philosophy – or he could read both papers and figure out what was really happening.  Meanwhile, many radio and TV stations covered local controversies.  For example, the first radio station at which I worked as a newscaster reported on violence directed at civil rights workers even when many advertisers wanted a media blackout of the story.  And when local garbage workers went on strike, I covered the story extensively despite threats from both the AFSCME union and the Chamber of Commerce to boycott my program.

Today, just as diversity has disappeared within individual newsrooms, it has disappeared among the different media organizations.  In city after city, the Daily Democrat and the Daily Republican have been replaced by the (liberal) Daily Democrat-Republican, and, regarding controversial matters, the broadcast media mainly repeat what they see in the single local paper and limit their local coverage to “action news” such as train wrecks, house fires, and the weather.  At the national level, the folks who put together the ABC, CBS, and NBC evening news programs take their cues from, and base their assignments on, that morning’s New York Times.  (You’ve heard of The New York Times, haven’t you?  It’s one of New York City’s top three newspapers.)

All that wouldn’t matter as much as it does, if journalists kept their opinions out of their work.  There was a time when they tried to do so.  Then there was time when they inserted their opinions subtly, but sought nonetheless to maintain the appearance of objectivity.  Nowadays, they don’t even bother.

It was roughly 25 years ago that editors of Time magazine began to encourage their reporters to inject personal opinions into their stories, and some eight years ago that Newsweek turned itself into a left-wing opinion magazine like The Nation but with more pictures, before it inevitably imploded.[ii]  In the past two decades, there has been an open movement to twist journalism into a bizarro form known as “civic journalism” or “public journalism,” in which the lines between reporting and advocacy are hidden.  Today, it’s seriously suggested by leading lights of the journalistic profession that newspapers become wards of the government like PBS and NPR.

David Broder, the famous Washington Post political reporter who kept his opinions mostly to himself until he retired to become an opinion columnist, died in March 2011. I wonder if the spirit of journalistic objectivity died with him.

As the journalism profession has corrupted itself beyond recognition, the Obama administration has sought to control the media in dozens of ways ranging from restricting Talk Radio, to using taxpayers’ money to bail out friendly media conglomerates, to naming anti-free speech zealots to such positions as Regulatory Czar and member of the Supreme Court. Now it’s trying to turn control of the Internet over to the, ahem, international community, which would put it in the hands of countries like China, Russia, Cuba, and Saudi Arabia.

Today, tens of millions of people who are underrepresented, almost completely unrepresented, in newspapers (outside the op-ed page, anyway) and in the broadcast and cable media (outside of Talk Radio and a couple of programs on Fox News) and in other print and broadcast media.

Control of the media is critical to the Left’s prospects for success for an obvious reason: They can’t win a fair fight.  Like certain Soviet-bloc Olympians during the Cold War or an Al Franken during a recount, they win only if the referees are in their pockets.



[i] A Progressive is someone who believes that a credentialed elite should govern society, supposedly for the good of all, and that there are few if any limitations on the legitimate power of government.

[ii] After President Obama took office, Newsweek (a) proclaimed on its cover “WE ARE ALL SOCIALISTS NOW” and (b) ridiculed, as “conspiracist kooks,” people who think President Obama is a socialist.  Eventually, the magazine – America’s #2 newsmagazine – was sold for $1, then went belly-up.

By the way, the man most associated with Newsweek’s shift to the Far Left, Jon Meacham, the editor from 2006 to 2010, wrote in 2011 that, “This year, as the 2012 presidential campaign gets under way, two powerful forces will intersect: the commemorations of the Civil War and the opposition to President Obama’s policies.  As groups in the South reenact historical moments – the Sons of Confederate Veterans in South Carolina has already held a ‘Secession Ball’ – the rhetoric of resistance to Washington will inevitably resonate.  While politicians and citizens continue to debate the size and shape of our government, Confederate symbols and the language of ‘states’ rights’ will be in the air.” Yep, if you’re smack-dab in the middle of the American political spectrum, and you oppose unworkable absurdities like Obamacare, that’s what people like Meacham think of people like you.

Dr. Steven J. Allen

A journalist with 45 years’ experience, Dr. Allen served as press secretary to U.S. Senator Jeremiah Denton and as senior researcher for Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign. He earned a master’s…
+ More by Dr. Steven J. Allen