Media Bias: We can never know the truth

Does a goldfish know it's living in a fishbowl? Everything I tell you is a lie. Truthiness is a quality characterizing a "truth" that a person claims to know intuitively "from the gut" or because it "feels right" without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination, or facts.

I get a new Conservative follower on Twitter. Sometimes I check them out; sometimes I don't. Many times it's Obama bashing so why bother? This time I do and am led to the following curiosity on the political landscape.

The Media Research Center (MRC) is a conservative organisation dealing in content analysis. From their About page:

Leaders of America's conservative movement have long believed that within the national news media a strident liberal bias existed that influenced the public's understanding of critical issues. On October 1, 1987, a group of young determined conservatives set out to not only prove — through sound scientific research — that liberal bias in the media does exist and undermines traditional American values, but also to neutralize its impact on the American political scene.

Is it just me, or does anybody else notice something odd? Look at these two statements:

1. Does media bias exist and if so how, when why, and who?

2. I am going to set out to prove that liberal media bias exists and undermines traditional American values.

The first is a question: Is the moon made out of green cheese? The second is a statement, a statement of intent: I am going to prove the moon is made out of green cheese… and undermines traditional American values. Although the definition of said values is not given. Or whether those values are good values or merit being undermined so as to be changed to something better.

Am I the only one who notices something odd?

Wikipedia defines media bias:

Media bias in the United States occurs when the media in the United States systematically presents a particular point of view. Claims of media bias in the United States include claims of liberal bias, conservative bias, mainstream bias, and corporate bias. There are claims of bias in both news and entertainment media.

I see the word "claims". Is any of this provable? Is it a deliberate campaign to stack the deck and sway the public? Wikipedia goes on to say:

Practical limitations to media neutrality include the inability of journalists to report all available stories and facts, and the requirement that selected facts be linked into a coherent narrative. Because it is impossible to report everything, selectivity is inevitable.

So is there a bias and if the answer is yes, just what is that bias or is there more than one?

Yes, there is liberal bias
The 1980s book The Media Elite is based on a survey of 238 journalists randomly selected from America's most influential news organizations: ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, Time, Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal. The authors discovered the following: predominantly white (95 per cent), male (79 per cent), college-educated (93 per cent), well paid, secular in outlook (50% listed their religion as "none"), and four out of five were raised in affluent families. In looking at the political beliefs of these journalists and asking how each voted in the previous four presidential elections, the authors concluded there is a liberal media bias.

Yes, there is a conservative bias
Does one only look at the journalists? What about the entire news organisation? Some companies like TimeWarner, CBS, and Disney own the majority of mass media outlets. They can exert pressure on media to underplay anything critical of their operations.

Top down control plays a hand in media. Fox is owned by News Corporation whose CEO is Rupert Murdoch, well known for his Conservative leanings.

So, is there or isn't there?
Back in April the Washington Post ran an extensive article on this issue. (How biased are the media, really?)

Just about every new poll of public sentiment shows that confidence in the news media has hit a new low. Seventy-seven percent of those surveyed by the Pew Research Center in the fall said the media “tend to favor one side” compared with 53 percent who said so in 1985.

While this paints a dire picture of how the public perceives the media, the article goes on to quote the 2012 book "Media Bias in Presidential Election Coverage 1948-2008" by David D'Allesso in which the author after studying the studies of media bias, concludes that while there are left and right biases in various media, the net effect for the whole is nothing. News reporting tends to remain in the middle "because that’s where the people are, and that’s where the [advertising] money is. . . . There’s nuance there, but when you add it all and subtract it down, you end up with nothing."

A Conservative Conspiracy
I always see "liberal media bias"; I hardly ever see the opposite. Why? Eric Alterman in his article "Think Again: How Conservatives Treat Media Bias (Hint: Confusingly)" (Huffington – Oct 5/2012) offers up the following explanation:

Conservative standard-bearer William Kristol told The New Yorker, upon launching The Weekly Standard back in 1995, that "the liberal media were never that powerful, and the whole thing was often used as an excuse by conservatives for conservative failures."

In 2003 by The Weekly Standard "senior writer" and Kristol protégé Matt Labash [told] the website JournalismJobs.com: "While all these hand-wringing Freedom Forum types talk about objectivity, the conservative media likes to rap the liberal media on the knuckles for not being objective. We've created this cottage industry in which it pays to be un-objective. It pays to be subjective as much as possible. It's a great way to have your cake and eat it too. Criticize other people for not being objective. Be as subjective as you want. It's a great little racket. I'm glad we found it actually."
 

Final Word
Is the sky falling and do we know it or not? Or is it more of a question of faith than fact? I continue to marvel at the leaps of logic to be found in Twitter, Facebook, and user groups. I've decided and nothing you can say will persuade me otherwise.

from Twitter: Tea Party Sailor ‏@Win_The_US_Back 9:19 AM – 7 Oct 12
Even if it were true #MTP I'd take a Lying Christian Capitalist over a Lying Muslim Marxist any day- Obama's Reign of Terror is almost over!

However, there are the undecided. Will they manage to separate the wheat from the chaff and arrive at the truth as opposed to the truthiness? There is now less than one month to November 6, 2012. May the best man win because at this stage of the game, the party platform, the achievements since taking the oath, and the historical context of the last four years no longer matter so much as the next debate or how someone knots their tie.

FYI: The picture of PBS and Michelle on Sesame Street is an image taken from my new Conservative follower's Twitter account. During the first debate, Romney said he would cut funding to PBS and hence to Sesame Street. Jon Stewart of the Daily Show pointed out that the Conservative camp is concerned with the $8 million of Sesame Street but not the $4 billion in tax cuts to big oil. (see the Oct 8/2012 episode of The Daily Show; a must-see for a leap of logic that defies belief.)
 

Click HERE to read more from William Belle

References

I have written a number of articles on American politics and the 2012 Election. Check out the site map under the category Politics.

Wikipedia: Media Research Center
The Media Research Center (MRC) is a conservative content analysis organization based in Alexandria, Virginia, founded in 1987 by conservative activist L. Brent Bozell III. Its stated mission is to "prove — through sound scientific research — that liberal bias in the media does exist and undermines traditional American values" and to "neutralize [that bias's] impact on the American political scene".

Wikipedia: Media bias
Media bias is the bias of journalists and news producers within the mass media in the selection of events and stories that are reported and how they are covered. The term "media bias" implies a pervasive or widespread bias contravening the standards of journalism, rather than the perspective of an individual journalist or article. The direction and degree of media bias in various countries is widely disputed.

Wikipedia: Media bias in the United States
Media bias in the United States occurs when the media in the United States systematically presents a particular point of view. Claims of media bias in the United States include claims of liberal bias, conservative bias, mainstream bias, and corporate bias. There are claims of bias in both news and entertainment media. There are a variety of watchdog groups that attempt to find the facts behind both biased reporting and unfounded claims of bias, and research about media bias is a subject of systematic scholarship in a variety of disciplines.

The Washington Post – Apr 27/2012
How biased are the media, really? by Paul Farhi
Just about every new poll of public sentiment shows that confidence in the news media has hit a new low. Seventy-seven percent of those surveyed by the Pew Research Center in the fall said the media “tend to favor one side” compared with 53 percent who said so in 1985.

Huffington – Oct 5/2012
Think Again: How Conservatives Treat Media Bias (Hint: Confusingly) by Eric Alterman
[Conservatives complain about liberal media bias but offer no specifics: Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), Brent Bozell, Gary Bauer, Ed Meese, Tony Perkins, Rush Limbaugh, and Richard Viguerie]

my blog: Election 2012: Down to the wire: I've made up my mind
Choosing between a Lying Christian Capitalist and a Lying Muslim Marxist.

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