Bias in the Media

First, full disclosure, I am a social issues moderate but fiscally-minded conservative. No WAIT…..before you close this blog, I truly wish to address what I believe are the salient issues from both sides.

Every liberal, and even some “independents” I talked to refuse to watch Fox; and every conservative I know refuses to watch, well, actually they watch and read many media sources although they feel the vast majority of media types and outlets are run by heavily biased liberals.

Most independents I know have very discernible leanings but they refused to be labeled and that’s cool. I consider myself an independent thinker especially when it comes to social issues. For example, I think everyone deserves to be happy. You know, the “pursuit of happiness” thing in the United States Constitution? It’s a fundamental right, as long as you don’t run afoul of any laws. Seems fair, right? Well, for the LGBT community this has been a long road for laws to be altered not to discriminate relative to pursuit of happiness. Like, who you can love or marry. There clearly has been a lot of progress in the last couple decades. And I am certain my LGBT relatives and friends would scream that there hasn’t been nearly enough. That bias abounds and presents obstacles.

Okay, I agree but, I do think effective changes to law have made things substantially better relative to pursuit of happiness. The constitution imbues individual American citizens with inalienable rights. The laws struggle more so, however, with well disguised bias. And until those specific acts of bias are made illegal, the rights of others to their happiness, or to their religious beliefs, or to how they conduct their business, short of being made illegal, must also be respected. Remember, I said social moderate. I believe those protections must come from the rule of law, not violence or any other criminality, or incessant bludgeoning from the media. Others have rights too, and those should be respected in the same fashion that the new rights achieved by the LGBT community have and are being tolerated by vast majority of those who disagree.

Ah well, back to the media focus of this blog post. If you are liberal in your views, you have a multitude of media sources to experience the “news” that also supports your views. I know liberals vehemently deny this, but I believe everyone really knows the truth about NPR, CNN, MSNBC, NBC, the Washington Post, the New York Times; among many, many others that compose a very long list of liberal leaning media outlets. How many journalism or media and communications majors did you know who were not exceedingly liberally minded? For that matter, how many college instructors, regardless the discipline, flavored their lectures with conservative ideals? An immeasurable small number. For the journalists and news readers It all comes from that fifth estate thing and the media’s constitutional empowerment to watch dog the state and ensure the government and big business do not run roughshod over the people, or the law (although, for example, the Hilary email server “thing” seemed to miss their gaze). An unbiased news media is certainly a key function of true democracy! Thanks to the enduring wisdom of the American system designers and its instructional guidance in the Constitution.

Conversely, in ridiculously over-simplified terms, the primary role of conservatives is to be the protector of capitalism, and, keep liberals from emptying the treasury and bankrupting the country. This counter balancing system has served us well. In most cases, in the really important battles, the liberal establishment has won. The vast majority of taxes collected go to entitlement programs or other wealth transfer systems. And the country is deeply, I mean DEEPLY, in debt because of it. But we are not quite bankrupt yet. Because capitalism creates enough wealth (and therefore taxable income), and real (not government) jobs to keep most able-bodied workers paying taxes and out of the entitlement trap….until retirement.

Okay, you may not agree with all of that but its how I generally view things. So why dive into this enormously contentious topic? It is because I believe the scales have been tipped dramatically in the liberal direction by the vast majority of media outlets of any type. And it appears even some members of the media elite are quietly willing to admit they are going too far. The vilification of anyone who is not liberal in their views has become a Salem witch hunt which is wholly unhealthy for our nation. Yes, there are some “villains” in both camps. But anyone who might be daring enough to publicly declare their conservative views is immediately placed below pimps, murderers and pedophiles on the humanity scale. The viciousness of the attacks should frighten everyone. The examples are too numerous to completely account for but we’ve all seen them. Television in day and night time talk shows, hosts, presenters and recipients at awards shows and almost any excuse for a celebrity to broach the topic. News programming leadership must be more subtle, but carefully get the message across in how a “news” story is written and or filmed, which politicians sound bite is broadcast, or even just who is seen or heard daily.

I mentioned that even some members of the media elite are expressing concern. Here’s just a couple examples.

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Editorial piece by Megan McArdle, Washington Post Columnist April 10, 2018

Empathy Deficits

Bias Against Conservatives Works like any Other Prejudice

Everyone’s angry about Kevin Williamson. The left that he was hired by the Atlantic despite having said that abortion should maybe be a capital offense; the right that he was quickly fired when it turned out that he really did believe that abortion is, well, premeditated murder.

In a better world, this moment would help us understand each other, and come to some sort of reasonable agreement, rather than swearing mutually assured destruction. That’s because what conservatives are saying about media bias sounds a lot like what liberals are saying about race and gender — and vice versa.

(I pause to make the tiresome-but-necessary disclaimer: I’m comparing the group dynamics, not proclaiming that bias against conservatives is exactly morally the same as systemic racism and sexism. And the group dynamics really are the same. I know you’re skeptical. Bear with me.)

While conservatives are right about media skew, they frequently talk as if it is some sort of conspiracy. It isn’t. I’ve worked in mainstream media my whole career, and the overwhelming majority of my colleagues have been lovely, generous people who are deeply and sincerely concerned with seeking truth.

No, liberal hegemony in media, academia and entertainment works by the same mechanisms that produce systemic bias against other groups: People are more comfortable with other people who are like them. And thus, they reproduce themselves in the institutions they control without ever consciously thinking: “Time to shore up the power structure!”

Moreover, these things are subject to tipping points — a small majority can rapidly turn into total domination. Those homogenous groups inevitably find it difficult to imagine ways different from their own, much less take them seriously. And this cozy consensus naturally alienates many members of the minority.

A person of color in a white space spends a great deal of time noticing they are a person of color, and that they are in a white space. The white people are very rarely conscious of the glistening pink skin surrounding them on all sides. Something similar holds for liberals and conservatives in American cultural institutions. People on the right may be well-treated in liberal domains (I generally have been); their institutions may try hard to be fair (mine certainly have). But they will always be conscious of their difference, that their presence in those spaces is unusual, and cannot be taken for granted.

Remarkably, through the miracle of modern mass media, liberals have managed to give this experience, not to a handful of conservatives in mainstream cultural production, but to virtually every American conservative. Those conservatives spend the first few decades of their lives in a left-skewed educational system, and the rest consuming cultural products made by liberals, so that liberal cultural hegemony barrages them daily with their “otherness.” Which is how they can sincerely feel powerless despite holding a great deal of political power.

This ought to give conservatives some insight into what the campus left is saying about race and gender. They should ask themselves whether their rage about Williamson is not, perhaps, similar to how underrepresented minorities feel about their experience in many other American institutions. And see if they don’t develop some sympathy for the occasionally vivid expressions of anger that erupt when people respond to minority complaints with “Sorry, that’s just how things are, and also, many of you deserve it.”

As for liberals: Well, guys, check your privilege. Try to really imagine what it might be like to have a conservative identity when cultural products almost all skew liberal. That is, to be one of the few acceptable villains for all the movies and jokes and television shows. To see your viewpoint systematically excluded and slighted. To have your daily life, your beliefs, routinely handled with ignorance and insensitivity.

Then imagine what it would be like to complain, and get eye-rolls from the very same people who talk a lot about privilege and microaggressions. Or worse, get the same tired tropes that majorities always hand the minority: “Gaslighting” (“that thing you just saw happen didn’t happen at all”); sneering explanations that your intellect, morals, or manners make you unfit for elite spaces; or sad shrugs at the impossibility of anything ever changing.

If that happened to you, probably you’d be pretty mad. You might even become occasionally intemperate in your speech. Heck, you might even say “to hell with respectability politics,” and vote for a loudmouthed reality television star whose signature campaign move was telling cultural hegemons to take a long stroll off a short pier.

By this point, I would imagine many conservatives are angrily cataloguing the ways their behavior differs from campus protesters; many on the left are outraged that I would dare draw any parallels between the deeply unjust discrimination against other minorities and the educated conservatives seeking elite jobs. Or, less caustically, they might say: “Yes, but this is how the market worked out, and conservatives of all people, have no right to complain about it.”

If you want to say “Conservatives should use this opportunity to rethink whether cultural dynamics might occasionally produce unjust market outcomes” — well, obviously I agree with you. But if you want to use that as an excuse to do nothing, then there we part ways.

You cannot complain about Fox News, and then serenely proclaim that liberal-leaning publications are some sort of natural happenstance, like tsunamis. You cannot demand that people work hard to include minorities while simultaneously, well, refusing to include a minority. And obviously, I would offer the same admonition to conservatives who are outraged by their own exclusion, while refusing to listen to complaints from other excluded groups.

But if you aren’t swayed by appeals to logic, consider the practicalities. A substantial fraction, maybe a plurality, of the country is being made to feel the stings of exclusion, with all the anger and counterreaction that implies. That’s not going to end well.

Unfortunately, I suspect that there are people who think that this will end well, at least for them — that we are now in total war, and their side is headed for V-E Day. And that a strategic lack of charity is therefore a valuable tactic.

They’re making a grave mistake. If we are in total war, it’s not World War II, but World War I, with both sides deeply entrenched, and neither side controlling sufficient strategic resources for outright victory. Which leaves us with two choices: We can keep killing each other without ever really advancing. Or we can seek an armistice, and a generous peace that lets us live together as neighbors rather than enemies.

Read more from Megan McArdle’s archive, follow her on Twitter or subscribe to her updates on Facebook.

Read more:

Ruth Marcus: Kevin Williamson’s abortion comments were shocking. But at least he’s intellectually honest.

Erik Wemple: The Atlantic pledges stepped-up vetting after ‘parting ways’ with conservative writer Kevin Williamson

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Richmond Times Dispatch Editorial Page April 19, 2018

Tolerance

Conde’ Nasty

Did you see the recent story about the protests that have besieged the offices of the National Review after the conservative magazine published an article fretting that the growth of Halal restaurants in Manhattan felt like a “creeping Muslim Infiltration”?

Neither did we. That’s because National Review didn’t run such a piece. But you can be sure if it had, a social media firestorm would have erupted. Presenting an entire faith group as a subversive threat to the community is not exactly broad minded.

Much less outrage has greeted the effete bigots at The New Yorker, however, after it recently ran a 1400-word lament about the “creeping” spread of Chik-fil-A in Manhattan. As one tweet from the magazines official twitter feed summarized: “Chik-fil-A’s arrival in New York City feels like an infiltration, in no small part because of its pervasive Christian traditionalism.”

A few conservative organs quickly pointed out the obvious: if the magazine had said anything about Muslims or Jews –- even those who oppose gay marriage, as Chik-fil-A president Dan Cathy does – it would have been greeted with scathing condemnation, and rightfully so. But mainstream media have ignored the odious attack, and the magazine has offered neither a retraction nor an apology. Apparently its fine to lambast certain out-groups in New York. You just have to pick the right ones.

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It gets to the point where, if you are a conservative, you don’t publicly declare anything for fear of viciousness. Its not only “uncool” to be a conservative, (all the really cool people are vociferously liberal, I mean, who doesn’t want to be the one perceived as always bearing gifts and never deliver the tough messages of fiscal responsibility) it is socially and, maybe even, physically dangerous as well.

Excluding the nutcase, knuckle-dragging “far right” white supremacy bigots, who have NO association with the vast, vast majority of conservative citizens (that’s right, we are citizens too) most do not publicly protest in mass demonstrations or physically attack their ideological opposites. They just go about their day trying to live out reasonable lives trusting mainly that their votes will be enough to prevent total political annihilation and any further move toward euro-socialism. Show me one nation in history that has served its entire population better over two hundred plus years than American democracy and capitalism. You cannot. Why does everyone else want to come here and not France or any other example? I have been there many times and no one looks happy, their government systems are a train wreck and their poor are not served better.

My point is we all want many of the same things. Peace, freedom, a chance to improve our lot in life, free of hateful discrimination and a right to worship whichever God we chose; or not, and, of course, the always difficult to achieve consistently, happiness. The constant barrage of hate leveled at the conservatives will not make things better. Respectful dialogue will.

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