Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Liberal Media Bias laid bare

Even when they're honest, they're biased.

It's been years--over a decade, actually--since Bernie Goldberg released Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News, touching off a firestorm of debate over the truth or lack thereof of an ingrained leftist bias in the mainstream media. To the best of my knowledge, no one has ever truly refuted Goldberg's thesis. Sure, journalists have complained loudly about it, denied it's truth and accuracy, but they've never been able to show--nor has anyone else--that Goldberg was wrong.

Eric Alterman tried desperately to re-imagine the argument with Goldberg by suggesting that a belief in such a bias led to wrong-headed attempts to correct this--according to him--non existent liberal bias, thus tilting the bias to the right, of all places. And while it is true that news sources like FoxNews have emerged as powerful players since the time of Goldberg's book, the media remains, by and large, a liberal one--as I have previously explained--for very specific reasons.

If some still harbor doubt, witness two stories by Kevin Drum of Mother Jones (Alterman's old stomping grounds, by the way) on the issue of context, with regard to outrage over comments by politicians.

The first story is from today. Entitled No Obama Isn't Taking Credit For Building Your Business, it concerns the recent comments made by the President in Roanoke, Va. that has the Right all fired up and out of sorts. The hot-button Obama quote circulating around is:
If you’ve got a business—you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.
And indeed, Obama did say those words. But they're being misinterpreted. From just the above, it appears Obama is saying that entrepreneurs didn't build their own businesses, that other people did it for them. And if that was what the President meant, it would indeed be outrageous. But it's not. What Obama said in context (my boldface):
If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business. you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.
See it? Obama is saying that business owners didn't create the system itself, didn't build the roads and bridges. Of course, Obama is still fundamentally wrong, since it's still entrepreneurs--of the past--who powered the growth to fund such construction, but let's set that aside for now. The point is, Obama was not suggesting business owners didn't deserve credit for building successful businesses. And Drum, in his piece, is all over this:
Conservatives are going absolutely nuts over the bolded sentence. But can we please stop the idiocy? What Obama meant — obviously, plainly, clearly — is that you, the business owner, didn't build the roads and bridges. Just like you didn't build the internet that you also use as part of your business. This is consistent with the entire theme of his speech, which is dedicated to the proposition that all of us benefit from outside help, including stuff that the government provides. Not only is this uncontroversial, it's positively banal.
Note, however, the tone of the piece. Conservatives are "going nuts." And it's "idiocy." He might as well just call them all morons or the like, because that's clearly what he thinks.

Now, using the way-back machine, let's look at story number two by Drum from about six months ago, on January 8th of 2012. Entitled Is Sauce for the Goose Still Sauce for the Gander?, this story concerns a quote from Mitt Romney that had the Left in a state of euphoria, since it appeared to make Romney look bad. The Romney quote:
I like being able to fire people.
Or perhaps this version:
I like being able to fire people who provide services to me.
Remember it? That sound bite was everywhere, from the Net, to television, to print. And Romney did indeed say those words. But again, most of the people quoting Romney misinterpreted what Romney was saying because--again--the quote was being taken out of context. What he said in context:
I want people to be able to own insurance if they wish to, and to buy it for themselves and perhaps keep it for the rest of their life and to choose among different policies offered from companies across the nation. I want individuals to have their own insurance. That means the insurance company will have an incentive to keep people healthy. It also means if you don't like what they do, you can fire them. I like being able to fire people who provide services to me. If someone doesn't give me the good service I need, I'm going to go get somebody else to provide that service to me.
Clearly, he was not talking about people who worked for him--though that is how the typical person on the Left understood the quote--but was talking about having the ability to get good service by having the option to go someplace else. Two very different propositions, obviously. And Drum grasps this truth, freely admits it:
Of course, this is wildly out of context. What Romney really said was that he likes being able to buy, say, health insurance from whoever he wants, so that he can switch companies if he gets bad service. It's really completely unobjectionable.
Fair enough, so far. But then Drum goes on to ask his readers about the situation, providing them with two possible answers:
So what about that out-of-context snippet? Do you think:  
1. It's fair game. After all, Romney himself, after airing a plainly deceptive quote about Barack Obama, was the guy who proposed the "what's sauce for the goose is now sauce for the gander" standard for quote doctoring. And pretty much everyone on the right backed him up.  
2. It's ridiculous. We lefties should have more integrity than to stoop to stuff like this.
Look at how differently Drum approaches two very similar situations. When it's the Right taking a quote out of context, he's enraged, flabbergasted, and beside himself, calling it "idiocy." When it's the Left, Drum wonders whether or not such dishonesty is fair, suggesting that it may be okay because the other side does it. And make no mistake, the Obama Campaign jumped on the Romney quote, using it in the out-of-context form, like in this ad:

Drum is--by and large--a decent writer. I think he's smart and more or less honest. That puts him near the top of the class, as far as the mainstream media goes. And while he openly leans left in his own views, I'd bet dollars to donuts that he thinks he's fair and even-handed, when it comes to political analysis of this sort. But as we can plainly see, he's biased. No doubt about it.

Cheers, all.


  1. Huh. I didn't think with all the FoxNews, Rupert Murdocks, and Rush Limboes out there that there even was a liberal bias any more. I thought the pendulum had swung the other way.

  2. Well Ed, Limbaugh is a self-professed entertainer; he's never been regarded as a part of the newsmedia, any more than Howard Stern is, by the powers-that-be, even when some pay lip service to him.

    And FoxNews--while kicking the crap out of MSNBC and CNN in ratings, is still just one source. Balance it against all of the networks, the major newspapers (aside from the WSJ), and legit internet sources and what have you got (aside from an awfully big scale)?