Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Media Bias Myth

You hear people on the right bash the "liberal media" all the time, but where's the evidence for this? As far as I can tell, the New York Times leans left, Fox News leans fascist, and the rest of the major news outlets lean incompetent. For example, the headline on after Sara Palin's interview with Charles Gibson was "Palin takes tough stance on Russia." See: The article makes no mention of the fact that Palin didn't know what the "Bush doctrine" was, or that she calls the attack "unprovoked" when it probably wasn't. (Incidentally, this is something most major media has ignored or only mentioned in passing. A friend who attended last week's International Court of Justice hearings -- Georgia v. Russia -- told me that the Georgia pretty much acknowledged this, starting every other sentence with "it's not about who fired the first shot." One more addition: I doubt Palin has heard of the ICJ and doubt McCain thinks it should exist.).

Even the NY Times article which talked about the interview was titled "In First Big Interview, Palin Says 'I'm ready.'" While the article does acknowledge that Palin struggled during the interview at times, it lets her off the hook pretty easy. You would think that the real news from this interview, and hence the healdines would reflect this, is that a woman who very well could be the next Vice President, let alone President, stumbled through basic questions on foreign policy: "At times visibly nervous, at others appearing to hew so closely to prepared answers that she used the exact same phrases repeatedly, Ms. Palin most visibly stumbled when she was asked by Mr. Gibson if she agreed with the Bush doctrine."

Ultimately, the media is as unbiased as reality TV, because it is reality TV. Reality TV is the popular entertainment of the day and the news has adopted its style. Pick any article on or MSNBC and read it -- every story on the election has this format: McCain said x, Obama camp replied y, and McCain replied z. There's no investigative reporting -- the news doesn't tell us -- x was a lie and y was misleading. People can't get the news from the news anymore -- to do that you have to read the New Yorker -- or the Economist -- I don't care if has a conservative bent -- it just has to be journalism that involves investigative journalism and not what CNN has become: reality TV.

And this is why I'm not surprised that false and misleading McCain ads have been so successful. In the absence of investigative reporting, the election comes down to which side tells better lies. That's it. And so far, the Republicans have done a better job.

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