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The Fallacy of Liberal Media Bias

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There are countless individuals and organizations dedicated to tirelessly monitoring all forms of media, breathlessly posting the latest bias infraction, another brick in their bombproof case for the liberal media bias. Not confined to conservatives, indeed not even to politics, forward sentries on the internet are vigilant for bias in everything from breastfeeding to UFO activity.

There are plenty of surveys, formal or otherwise, that show there is little disagreement that MSM bias is real. That said, it turns out that this bias is a bit like pornography – we all know it when we see but there is little agreement on a common definition. So this raises a question: If there is no consensus on what constitutes bias or how it swings, does the charge of systemic liberal bias in the MSM have a leg on which to to stand?

Without doubt, there are credible instances of bias that show up in the media. Mindful of this, the many watchdog organizations, whether liberal or conservative, do provide a truly valuable service to consumers of news in a cyclonic industry. The edit of George Zimmerman’s 911 call really did alter an interpretation of the conversation. And while I support the assertion that the Trayvon Martin tragedy highlights the reality of ongoing social challenges, I still don’t like being lied to; especially if I might unwittingly use that lie to support my sympathies.

The Zimmerman 911 edit is a demonstrably credible instance (or sample) of media bias. Unfortunately, most news items rarely have such a clean empirical test for the alleged bias. Most often, they drift without moorings in a subjective, and very crowded harbor. Let’s say I wake up one morning to hear a story on the radio that Action News X’s Special Investigative Team (SpIT) report that authorities believe that the numerous recent UFO sightings were most likely a weather balloon.

If I believe with the conviction of fact that the weather balloon was indeed an alien spacecraft I would, in turn, have every reason to believe that the integrity of SpIT’s reporting was corrupted. If a story violates my beliefs, then how meaningful is it when I label the story as biased? This is only one example of how sample collection can be flawed. Researchers have yet to produce a broadly accepted method to rate news items  quantitatively for bias; therefore, these studies will continue to be dogged with perfectly credible accusations of some sort of bias in sampling.

Yet, despite the growing mountains of evidence showing MSM bias, using this as proof for an information cartel driving a liberal bias (or any bias) in the MSM still does not pile higher than a hill of beans. On the contrary, this overwhelming evidence is actually doing a better job of proving the the opposite: that there is no systemic bias in the MSM. To make my point, let’s play with marbles.

Alice and I decide to toss a marble in a bucket for every MSM news story we see. The color of the marble we toss represents our interpretation of the story’s political bias with red for conservative, blue for liberal and purple for politically neutral. I am a known card-carrying liberal and Alice sleeps in Reagan jammies. Not surprisingly, a month later, her bucket is filled with 50% blue marbles, 45% purple marbles and 5% red marbles. She looks at my bucket and quips, “Still wearing your Trotsky PJs, I see,” and notes that it contains 50% red marbles, 45% purple marbles and 5% blue marbles. So we thoroughly mix our respective buckets together in a tub, take a few steps back and, guess what? The tub appears to be filled with purple marbles.

If only two people play the game, it is reasonable to assume that one player is less objective than the other and, thus, skews the merged results. When lots and lots of people are collecting samples of media bias, the quantitative integrity of the sample collection matters less and less because it is also reasonable to assume that this lack of integrity distributes equally across the political spectrum. Since the errors will tend to distribute evenly across the political spectrum, then the results will still produce the same mean. Translation: still no systemic MSM bias being shown.

A news report deemed false (whether real or imagined) is the most popular indictment of the MSM bias but is far from the only argument being used. There are myriads of studies using methods such as relativistically ranking how conservative or liberal a news organization is deemed. Other studies have surveyed editors and journalists about their political beliefs. Still others count the frequency of liberal versus conservative sourcing, or possibly, the frequency of the reporting of a politically charged event.

So far, however, none of these studies has proved unassailable and whether they favor the liberal or conservative hunches, they are uniformly burdened with an avalanche of criticisms. For instance, despite the revelation that a very large percentage of journalists self-identify as liberal, the effect of this on their neutrality in reporting is still supposition.

I’m not suggesting these studies are all useless, just suspect. Mostly what I am saying, though, is that despite 30 years of research, we are still no closer to a definitive position on bias in media. Like the the news sample based evidence, what can be said is that, flawed or not, when viewed collectively the widely varying results of these studies still aggregate into a net-neutral conclusion.

As I hope I’ve made clear, I do believe that media bias is alive and well. It is sometime egregious and clumsy, as in the Zimmerman edit, but is more often quite subtle. Imagine Glenn Beck spending a tearful hour decrying the horrors of socialized health care which is not news but is editorial content (to be generous). Following Beck, the news opens with a laboriously objective story about the legislative state of the Affordable Health Care Act. Can that story be considered objective if it has been potentially poisoned by the preceding editorial? Obviously, I’m picking on a popular cable news network in this example but in all truthfulness, I believe that this kind of cross pollination of news and editorial is not unique to Fox.

Actually, it is my opinion (not allegation) that this is an industry wide practice. Naturally, news organizations noisily boast of their neutrality and fairness. And while performing this very public song and dance, they actually quietly expect us to see through their disguise. Why wouldn’t they? What better way to for a news organization to brand themselves in a competitive MSM market. If Fox viewers took a bizarre seismic shift to the left then I have every reason to think that we will soon see a soggy face tearfully lamenting how the social order ordained by the constitution is being undermined by greedy corporate interests. Rupert Murdoch may have a political agenda but his prime directive is profit.

I will even confess a natural suspicion of corporations. My anxiety shoots up when, for instance, the three largest oil companies have closed door meetings with the vice president (who also happens to be waging war against an oil producing nation). Egregiously discomforting exceptions not withstanding, out-of-hand assumptions about a media corporation’s motive is akin to “proving” that the driver was speeding because that car model is popular with professional auto racers.

Corporations don’t like me, they like money and I’m okay with that. They are businesses first and foremost, and that means that a cartel-like collusion on providing news with a liberal bias will still have to make business sense. As a nation, the media consumer market will split down the middle of the political divide so it would make no sense for a cartel to alienate an entire half of the media market. As Daniel Sutter argues in his excellent and thorough essay, there is no profit advantage for this kind of collusion.

So when a fan of a political candidate blasts media bias for the the poor coverage Ron Paul receives, I offer a simpler explanation. Maybe it’s because nobody likes him. The news, after all, is just responding to consumer demand. (And Ron Paul supporters do like consumer driven markets, don’t they?) Thus, while it’s true that I regularly want to kick in my TV, I take comfort in knowing that all over the country, spanning race, creed, income and political beliefs, millions of other Americans also want to kick in their TV. And I figure that as long as the MSM is pissing off all of us, the system is still working.

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About Andrew Ratzsch

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/IanMayfield Dr Dreadful

    Great job, Friv D. You’ve basically set up a grand experiment here: anyone taking issue with any part of this article is very possibly demonstrating their own biased perception of the media (in this case, you)!

    One other important point you could have mentioned is that bias in the media is fluid, not static, and responds to the realities of the moment. For example, there was a period of three or four years after 9/11 when many MSM outlets took a decidedly kid-gloves approach to the Bush administration. If a harsh critique was published or broadcast, Karl Rove had only to accuse the perpetrator of a lack of patriotism and the outlet would back off.

    That tactic probably helped to win Bush the ’04 election. After that, the MSM got noticeably more critical of him, in response, I think, to the public’s growing disillusionment with the various wars.

  • Baronius

    You’ve gotta love a media critic who doesn’t know what network Glenn Beck is on. OK, sure, the example that Andrew used could be deliberately dated, but I doubt it, considering he doesn’t even know how to spell GlenN’s name.

  • Zingzing

    Maybe that’s a little nitpicky thing the editors should get on, baronius.

  • http://frivolousdisorder.com/ Frivolous D (Andrew Ratzsch)

    Thank Doc D.

    I have always been mindful of those “kid glove years” as a counterweight to the liberal bias charge.

    That said, I much prefer your characterization of a “fluid media.” I’m sure that we agree that politicians were remarkably effective at managing public opinion during that era. In the context of the article’s thesis, it could still be said that the journalists and editors were simply responding to market demands.

    Of course, this still doesn’t exonerate them from looking like a bunch of of Karl Rove’s minion eunuchs.

  • Zingzing

    And of course, beck was on fox when he literally wept tears over the health care act.

  • Costello

    You gotta love a troll like Baronius who isn’t bright enough to understand the difference between a hypothetical analogy and a citation of fact.

  • http://frivolousdisorder.com/ Frivolous D (Andrew Ratzsch)

    Baronious,

    Glenn Beck’s radio show doesn’t meet a widely accepted definition of the MSM for the simple reason that he is syndicated. His show is neither produced nor broadcast by a national news organization. Rather is is rebroadcast on a number of smaller radio stations and most of those, if not all, don’t have national news collection and dissemination abilities.

    So the anachronism was, indeed intentional. However, I apologize for the lack of clarity. My only excuse is that I’ve become complacent, having adapted to an audience capable of making these inferences on their own. However, I will try to be clearer in the future.

    However, your comment that I misspelled the name “Glenn” is absolutely correct. Just shoddy writing, no excuses.

  • Baronius

    Friv – If you’re open to criticism, let’s talk about this:

    “There are myriads of studies using methods such as relativistically ranking how conservative or liberal a news organization is deemed. Other studies have surveyed editors and journalists about their political beliefs. Still others count the frequency of liberal versus conservative sourcing, or possibly, the frequency of the reporting of a politically charged event.”

    Those studies sound pretty interesting. Maybe you should have elaborated on them more than a simple announcement that they’re “suspect”. In fact, you really didn’t elaborate on anything specific in this article except for the Zimmerman story. It’s nice to know how you feel about media bias, but it would have been better if you’d discussed specifics.

  • Baronius

    Dread, are we talking about George W. Bush’s first term? The non-stop condemnations of Ashcroft and the PATRIOT Act, the constant tally of “x number dead since Bush declared Mission Accomplished”, the claim that Bush was trying to distract us from his failure to capture OBL, et cetera? Please identify some of these marbles that you’re counting.

  • http://frivolousdisorder.com/ Frivolous D (Andrew Ratzsch)

    Baronius,

    First of all, I never said that they were all wrong, what I said is that there is no consensus on their validity, whether left, right or center. Had I listed only a few examples, then you would have charged me with “cherry picking.” Therefor, to support that assertion to your satisfaction, I would have to list every study and all of their respective critiques. Since I made no reference to data or conclusions of a specific study, convention did not require a citation. Further, it would have left very little room in the article for substantive original content.

    The convention is tha, as my critic, it is your job to prove me wrong. So feel free to to post a study that supports a claim of a general and consistent pattern of bias in the national news reporting. To prove me wrong, your study must be credible (e.g. academic, recognized institution, sponsored by national organization, etc. – not Joe the Plumber); it must have been published for peer review; and have wide peer-level acceptance as being as being fundamentally accurate and without flaws that impeach the credibility of its conclusions.

    Go crazy! I’ll be here.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/IanMayfield Dr Dreadful

    Perhaps my standards are too high, Baronius, since I come from a tradition in which the sitting government is routinely eviscerated by the MSM on the grounds that it is their job as the fourth estate to hold them accountable.

    Contrast Paxman’s style vs. Blair in that video with this NBC interview with President Bush, given shortly after Katrina, in which Brian Williams pulls more punches than a boxer with no arms.

    Or this Newsweek piece from 2003, in which the magazine decided on the brink of the highly contentious Iraq invasion that the absolute perfect angle for an extensive feature on the President would be an extensive analysis not of his rationale for going to war but of his religious faith.

    Did any of those criticisms, claims and body count tallies you speak of actually appear in the MSM, Baronius, or were they on liberal blogs and on the websites of groups like Media Matters, Daily Kos or Think Progress?

  • Baronius

    Andrew, that’s a weird little judo move you’re doing. I didn’t say you said they were wrong; I said you said they were “suspect”. In fact, I didn’t say anything that didn’t come straight from your article. You admit that there are studies showing media bias – you wrote about them. Then, when I mention the studies you wrote about, you question me about it. Well, here’s a source about the studies that you might want to consult. It’s an article called “The Fallacy of Liberal Media Bias”, and you can find it here (note the lack of link).

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/IanMayfield Dr Dreadful

    Baronius, perhaps I missed it, but I read through the article again and can’t see anywhere Andrew claims that any studies are “suspect”.

    Conclusions drawn from those studies – now, that’s another matter.

  • http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/author/danmiller/ Dan(Miller)

    Doc, re # 13: I’m not suggesting these studies are all useless, just suspect appears in the second paragraph, close to the top of page 2.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/IanMayfield Dr Dreadful

    Page 3, actually, Dan, but thanks.

  • http://frivolousdisorder.com/ Frivolous D (Andrew Ratzsch)

    The “suspect” statement accurately reflects my belief that there is no bias study (left or right) that is irrefutable and I my challenge to Baronius in #10 also reflects that… which is why I let the whole “suspectgate” dangle.

    In the broader context of the paragraph and thesis, it was meant to say that every study is going to be held suspect by somebody and that to continue to use individual studies, regardless of their merit, will only serve to intensify the stand-off. The paragraph more clearly concludes that “flawed or not, when viewed collectively the widely varying results of these studies still aggregate into a net-neutral conclusion.” In other words, no-one is winning this war. I see now that the paragraph could be better, though.

  • Baronius

    No one is winning this war because there are two sides to it? That’s the gist of what you’re saying. As long as there are people who hear left-wing bias and right-wing bias you’re unwilling to declare that either side is right. You’re not persuaded by the quality of either side’s argument. The mere fact that both sides exist is enough to persuade you.

    You’d be more convincing if you’d consider the actual arguments instead.

  • http://frivolousdisorder.com/ Frivolous D (Andrew Ratzsch)

    “You’d be more convincing if you’d consider the actual arguments instead.” Which arguments? Consider them in what sense. It is obvious from your comments that you didn’t read the article for content but just “sifted it” for weaknesses, because your charges are disconnected and generic. And your summary is an interpretation of the preceding comments only.

    Since you don’t like to read, a recap:
    First: I am suggesting that there is likely to be more truth in “averaging” the results of those studies than there is in any single study. However, this is an opinion because I am not aware of a study that attempts this approach.

    Second: The economics of the MSM industry provides an alternative metric. Please see the last few paragraphs for an outline of this argument. I freely acknowledge that my views have been heavily shaped by Daniel Sutter’s paper which is why he earned a link in the second to last paragraph, despite no specific reference to his work. I will add that the paper was written with the input and endorsement of Tyler Cowen, a famous (and famously) libertarian Georgetown economics professor, a brilliant man who constantly pisses me off.

    This article is properly considered an opinion piece that meets reasonable expectations of support. Your best avenue of attack would to be to recognize that there is no formal method of aggregating either the news samples or the studies and therefor the net-neutral conclusion is an assumption. Run with it.

    If you want a conclusive, watertight argument, you won’t get it. I think you could mine this article for a couple of PhD thesis’s and I only had 1500 words and a weekend. If you want an intelligent debate, then read the article for content first.

  • Baronius

    Andrew – Please don’t presume to tell me what I did and didn’t do when I read this article. If I found weaknesses, it’s because the article was weak.

    Dread – I remember watching those segments on the nightly news, so it wouldn’t have been left-leaning internet commentary. I’ll see if I can find some examples online – but no promises.

  • http://frivolousdisorder.com/ Frivolous D (Andrew Ratzsch)

    Baronius, it wasn’t a presumption, it was a deduction.

  • Baronius

    Dread – Here are a few examples:

    To Many, Mission Not Accomplished; Residents Say Occupation’s Unkept Promises, Military Tactics Fuel Resistance
    The Washington Post, June 3, 2004

    Bush Defends Year-Ago Claim Of End of ‘Major Combat’ in Iraq; President Appeared Under ‘Mission Accomplished’ Banner
    The Washington Post, May 1, 2004

    Odai Hussein May Have Killed Self
    ABC News, July 23, 2003
    “U.S. officials expressed hope that the deaths of Saddam’s sons would put an end to violent resistance in Iraq that has left 41 U.S. soldiers dead since President Bush announced the end of major combat operations on May 1.”

    AFTER THE WAR, A BATTLE STILL RAGES FOR PEACE IN IRAQ
    PBS NewsHour Extra, August 29, 2003
    “Four months after major combat operations ended in the Iraq War, U.S. soldiers and their international allies still face major challenges in their efforts to bring peace, stability and a new infrastructure to the former totalitarian nation.”

    Bush Plans Probe of Intelligence
    Chicago Tribune, February 2, 2004
    “Since May 1, when Bush announced the end to “major combat operations” in Iraq, the president and his administration have been the subjected to questions over the inability of weapons investigators to turn up any chemical, biological or nuclear weapons–the White House’s initial and most important rationale for using deadly force to overthrow Hussein.”

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/IanMayfield Dr Dreadful

    Baronius, those examples are just the normal tone of the news cycle, not the savaging you claimed in your #9.

    I can see how a Bush supporter might have seen them as less than impartial, just as you can probably see how an Obama supporter might find these headlines unfair:

    Obama’s Afghanistan Decision Is Straining Ties With Democrats
    New York Times, December 3 2009
    “President Obama’s decision to send more troops to Afghanistan over the objections of fellow Democrats on Capitol Hill is straining a relationship already struggling under the weight of an administration agenda that some Democratic lawmakers fear is placing them in a politically vulnerable position.”

    Obama’s Afghan Problem: Not a General, But a War Strategy
    Time, June 25 2010
    “The most damaging comment by General Stanley McChrystal about the Obama Administration’s Afghanistan war effort was not in the Rolling Stone story that got him canned. Instead it was his explanation, two weeks ago during a NATO briefing in Brussels, for the delay in the planned Kandahar offensive, deemed the pivotal campaign of the war.”

    Documents leak leaves White House on defensive about Afghanistan policy
    Los Angeles Times, July 26 2010
    “The leaking of a trove of U.S. documents has put the Obama administration on the defensive about its Afghanistan policy and may deepen doubts in Congress about prospects for turning around the faltering war effort.”

  • rightstat

    plot right/wrong track national poll results and then check how often these polls are mentioned in MSM depending on which party holds the power in DC… It could yield an interest and relatively clear measure of bias.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/IanMayfield Dr Dreadful

    It could, but I’ve a feeling it wouldn’t be all that edifying as most MSM outlets automatically report poll results as they are released by the polling companies.

  • Jay

    My personal belief in liberal media bias arises from my personal transition from Marxist to libertarian. Post transition I became aware of both news and editorial content that either didn’t report some news, e.g. gays or minorities committing crimes against whites, gun owners protecting the life of a loved one or themselves, etc., or failing to present alternative viewpoints when appropriate.
    Although it’s true that I’ve become a Fox News junky, as a libertarian I disagree with much of it because I’m a social liberal.
    But to their credit, Fox presents more opposing viewpoints with their regular lefties – Bob Bechel, Alan Colmes, Kirsten Powers, Juan Williams, et.al. and, with the possible exception of Bill O’Reilly, show more respect for those they disagree with.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/IanMayfield Dr Dreadful

    But to their credit, Fox presents more opposing viewpoints with their regular lefties – Bob Bechel, Alan Colmes, Kirsten Powers, Juan Williams, et.al. and, with the possible exception of Bill O’Reilly, show more respect for those they disagree with.

    You’ve got to be kidding. There are whole websites devoted to documenting Fox News’s blatant bias and disrespect for liberals. Here are two of them:

    Newshounds
    Media Matters

  • Baronius

    Dread – I didn’t say that those stories were unfair. You asked for examples of Bush not getting a free pass, so I gave you a few.

  • Clav

    Newshounds and Media Matters, Doc?

    You probably could have found sites with a more sinister outlook, but you would have had to work a bit harder.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clav –

    Mediamatters is quite mild as compared to, say, redstate or drudgereport, much less newsmax or newsbusters. That, and it’s a truly useful site for finding out the latest manipulations and obfuscations of news by Fox and all their leetle friends….

  • Baronius

    Dread – You mention the Newsweek cover about Bush’s faith as if it were a positive thing. You may remember that Bush was criticized for his religious convictions. Here’s something from that issue of Newsweek.

    The Sin of Pride, by Martin E. Marty

    “…On the path to the presidency he saw that his newfound faith appealed to a core constituency of religious conservatives and they appealed to him. His religious rhetoric became more public and more political.

    “After September 11 and the president’s decision to attack Iraq, the talk that other nations found mildly amusing or merely arrogant has taken on international and historical significance. It rouses many Americans to an uncertain cause and raises antagonism among millions elsewhere. Few doubt that Bush is sincere in his faith, a worthy virtue when he alone must decide whether to lead 270 million people into war, possibly killing thousands of others. The problem isn’t with Bush’s sincerity, but with his evident conviction that he’s doing God’s will….

    “…He follows and leads ever since he first, as he put it, “heard the call” to seek the presidency, and after Iraq he promises to transform the Middle East into utopia.

    “But the Bible presents a more nuanced God.”

    Agree or disagree with it, it’s hard to sell this as proof of the media’s giving a pass to Bush during his first term.

  • http://frivolousdisorder.com/ Frivolous D (Andrew Ratzsch)

    Jay, “Marxist to libertarian.” Wow! You don’t do things small. Please put me on your party list.

    Ironically, I’ve always felt that Alan Colmes highlighted Fox bias. As a spokesperson for the left, he often seems disorganized in his thoughts and a weak debater who was easily run roughshod over by the conservative commentators.

    He did such a poor job at times that hiring him over the many other, more capable, liberal talking heads out there struck me as very much by design.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/IanMayfield Dr Dreadful

    Dread – I didn’t say that those stories were unfair.

    Neither did I. I said a partisan Bush-ite might see them as unfair.

    You asked for examples of Bush not getting a free pass

    No, I didn’t.

    Agree or disagree with it, it’s hard to sell this as proof of the media’s giving a pass to Bush during his first term.

    Again, I’ve never claimed that he got a pass; I’m saying that punches were pulled. Criticism was mild, at least compared to what I was used to at the time. After over 10 years in the US, I’m more acclimatized to the American MSM now. But it’s pretty damn wimpy, I can tell you.

  • John Lake

    I haven’t read through the comments yet, I’m still on the basic article:
    “Naturally, news organizations noisily boast of their neutrality and fairness…” in some cases they admit to sponsorship.
    Rather than looking to spot bias, we might look to the financial support behind the broadcast, or publication. If a media outlet is partially owned by oil interests, we may be skeptical. If a media outlet is owned by a sports team, we may see another type of bias.
    Generally unbiased reports swing to the liberal. The not-for-ancillary-profit outlets are likely to support freedom and “The American Way.”
    If an outlet stands to gain or lose depending on the outcome of an election, they might be moved by that influence.
    One form of media bias in recent months still sticks in my craw. The coverage of the assault on the bin Laden compound did and still does favor our Seals, and our President. In fact that invasion was a sore spot in the history of America. Nothing against the Seals, but there is something terribly wrong with today’s military.
    Last word: If readers want to hear about space aliens invading, and they spend money on the news, there might be a tendency to play it up a bit.

  • Clav

    Generally unbiased reports swing to the liberal.

    Am I the only one who sees the inherent oxymoron in that statement?

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/IanMayfield Dr Dreadful

    Clav, it really isn’t oxymoronic, and I think that’s the whole point. Any study of media bias first has to decide what the media is biased against (or in favour of). Since there’s a whole spectrum of political views, where you draw the line from which you measure bias is (a) essentially arbitrary (b) influenced by your own bias.

    “Liberal” is just a label, and John has to attach some sort of label to his argument or no-one would know what he was talking about.

    And actually, there’s quite a lot of psychological research recently that strongly suggests that the most unbiased news reports are by definition going to appear “liberal”, because liberals are more likely than conservatives to consider other points of view.

  • Clav

    I don’t agree, Doc.

    Your first point, while true on its face, does not, in a logical sense, negate my observation.

    Your second, regarding attaching some sort of label, IMO actually proves my point, as in the absence of data we can only surmise that John (a liberal, as we know from his writings) chose to characterize unbiased reports as liberal, because he is one.

    Context is everything; this is a political article, it’s in the Politics section, and the thread is also political. Since the sentence I quoted does not deny the inherent meaning derived from the context, (and John is a demonstrated liberal), the sentence is ipso facto oxymoronic because it arguably stems from bias.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/IanMayfield Dr Dreadful

    OK, Clav, gotcha.

    Just thought John needed defending a bit there, even though I don’t generally take him all that seriously (IIRC, he thinks global warming is caused by solar flares and that the moon landings were a hoax). It goes to show how difficult it is to prove that the MSM is biased one way or another, because any perception of bias is itself biased.

    Also to be thrown into the mix is the question of what constitutes mainstream media. Is it just the traditional outlets (news agencies, newspapers and television news programs and their associated websites), or should the category also include newer entities like Real Clear Politics, Politico, Drudge, the Daily Kos, Townhall, HuffPo or even Blogcritics?

    There’s no reason why what constitutes the MSM should be set in stone, and ironically expanding the definition might result in a more unbiased media, since political websites are just as likely to lean right as left.

  • http://frivolousdisorder.com/ Frivolous D

    Dr D,

    THANK-YOU! As you predicted in #1, collectively, the comments vindicate the thesis.

    And while I’m at it, It wasn’t an oversight that I was vague on defining MSM. Personally, I would start with “Corporately owned news gathering organization whose distribution market is national.” Or some such thing. But even before I finished typing, I could think of all sorts of arguable exceptions.

  • Igor

    IMO the “MSM” is biased to the right, very noticeably.

    I don’t ordinarily read newspapers or watch commercial TV news, but sometimes I watch the Sunday morning “Face The Nation” or “Meet The Press”, etc. But not for long, since the guests are treated with kid gloves and convert every question into a Talking Points opportunity that makes it worthless. Interviewers are timid and uninformed. It’s pretty disappointing. The rightists are best at manipulating this environment and so it becomes tiring to just listen to propaganda lines one already knows.

    Sometimes I watch PBS, but it too is subservient to rightists. I suppose that the constant din of “liberal bias!” accusations has intimidated the management. Indeed, the head of PBS was openly rightist until recently.

    Two examples of PBS rightist bias:

    1-every week the “McLaughlin Group” consists of 3 or 4 conservatives (including the moderator) beat up on an unassertive female liberal with a weak voice. They relentlessly interrupt her and the moderator doesn’t intervene. It is totally one sided. I would think that any self-respecting conservative would be embarrassed by such a show.

    The Bill Moyers show is, I suppose, the counterbalance to Mclaughlin. But it isn’t as vicious as McLaughlin, rather gentlemanly, in fact, and usually is an author interview.

    2-PBS also fails to provide balance. The other day I watched “Newshour” when they discussed Social Security financing with an SS person and a rightist from “Heritage Foundation”, an all rightist talk tank. He, of course, constantly complained about SS, without any counters from the SS rep or the moderator, and since NO SS advocate was present it was totally one-sided. I was alarmed to hear acquaintances tell me that SS would be broke in 10 years, based on their mis-hearing of a misrepresented attack by the Heritage guy. Since PBS didn’t allow a pro-SS person on the program, viewers got a VERY biased view of SS funding.

    Of course the commercial part of the MSM must be sensitive to the needs and desires of their Corporate Masters, so they naturally have a rightward bias.

  • http://frivolousdisorder.com/ Frivolous D

    Igor,

    Teaser alert! This article actually started out as a brief paragraph in the intended article about conservatives and media. I’m still working on it and it is 3-6 days out but I can tell you that Warren will once and for all stop sending me Christmas cards.

  • Igor

    25-Jay: The leftist podcasts of Maher and Maddow treat rightist guests quite well. So I’m dubious about this statement:

    “… to their credit, Fox presents more opposing viewpoints with their regular lefties – Bob Bechel, Alan Colmes, Kirsten Powers, Juan Williams, et.al. and, with the possible exception of Bill O’Reilly, show more respect for those they disagree with.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    “Jay” –

    “… to their credit, Fox presents more opposing viewpoints with their regular lefties – Bob Bechel, Alan Colmes, Kirsten Powers, Juan Williams, et.al. and, with the possible exception of Bill O’Reilly, show more respect for those they disagree with.”

    Like when the president of the United States was repeatedly and rudely interrupted during a one-on-one interview?