Lying About Bias
By Bruce Walker
October 19, 2009
Ask almost any conservative who the real political enemy of American values is and he will likely say the media. The nearly hysterical reaction of the leftist establishment media to talk radio and to Fox News shows just how desperately the left is to keep every public voice except its own silent. This ripples across the whole spectrum of expression. Entertainment programs like CSI spout an overtly leftist agenda. College students are bullied into not using academic freedom to support conservative values. Even young school children are taught to sing praises to our Leader, Obama.
The endemic bias in our institutions of information, education, and entertainment is not news. It is not a calamity for freedom and democracy either. The real problem is that the left, with a perfectly straight face, lies about its biases. Evidence of the clear bias of television news has been accumulating for forty years, since Vice President Agnew's Des Moines speech. Poll and poll, year in and year out, decade in and decade out, show that those who define and report news, who develop and administer the studies of our students, and who create and perform entertainment on television and in film are overwhelming leftist. Polls also show that Americans are overwhelmingly non-leftist. Is that a danger to democracy?
The bias, per se, is not a danger to democracy. The majority of Americans can find information easily on the internet and the unrealistic dogma taught our children in classrooms fades fast in the real world of family, work, and community. The dangers – and they are very real dangers – of leftist institutional bias are these: (1) The leftist establishment acts like subsidiaries of Standard Oil and does not compete against itself, and (2) The leftist establishment lies about its bias.
Americans have long recognized that the best guard against an accumulation of private power is real competition. If Ford makes a better truck than GM, it points out to its potential customers all the ways in which its truck is better than GM. This sort of competition is conspicuous by its absence in television and in film. The outstanding failure of CBS New to cover the Tea Party protests, for example, should have been big story to all the other networks – if all the networks were truly in competition. The short shrift given the ACORN scandals by MSNBC should have been exposed by the other news networks, if these news networks were real, rather than phony, rivals. Instead all the leftist establishment media acts like a single, monopolistic conspiracy, concealing the true flaws of its notional "rivals." On paper functionaries of this ideological front of television executives, film makers, college professors are separate from each other. In practice, they all behave like members of an ant colony. The mind-numbing monotony of news, entertainment, and education is a result of the utter sterility and lack of any independent thought which genuine originality and separation would produce.
The even greater danger is that these predictable robots of Leftism lie about their ideological beliefs. There is nothing wrong with having an ideological position. In fact, all of us should. Words like "moderate" and "pragmatic" simply mask beliefs. Those who belief that robbing affluent Peter to pay destitute Paul are wrong, but they are perfectly entitled to be wrong. Indeed, the beauty of America is the vast number of truly independent opinions which free people form if left alone. Beware – always! – of political leaders who seek to "Bring us together." Those of us called "conservative" are actually a truly diverse collection of devout Christians, Orthodox Jews, atheistic Objectivists, people who believe in strong national defense, other people who believe in very small government (including defense), and the like. While a leftist accepts the whole orthodoxy of Leftism – global warming, CIA torturers, government run health care, animal rights, feminism, evil America, and the like – conservatives are united mainly by their wish to escape the rigid party line of the left.
The left does not just have its biases, but it lies about those biases. Once the media was very overt about its particular prejudices, and everyone accepted those leanings. The Political Handbook of the World, for example, identifies the New York Herald Tribune as a Republican newspaper and the New York Times as a Democratic newspaper. The Boston Globe was a Democratic newspaper and the Boston Herald was a Republican newspaper. Newspapers tagged with a partisan tilt did not indignantly insist that their newspaper was objective and nonpartisan. In fact, many newspapers had their partisan flag in the masthead, like the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
If networks and filmmakers were honest like their predecessors, then the New York Times would be the New York Democrat and it would state, honestly, that its goal was to present the Democrat political perspective. MSNBC would be the Liberal Opinion News Network. CBS would be the Democrat Partisan Network. This would be honorable bias, respectable partisanship, noble subjectivity. And this, grimly, is something that the left will never present. Like Marxism, the left in America pretends to be "scientific" and "objective," while its opponents are ignorant and biased.
This, then, should be the question to every network, every newspaper, and every other organ of media Leftism: Why do you lie about your beliefs? Why do you conceal your biases? Once the left can answer that question honestly, the real dangers of Leftism will be gone.
Bruce Walker is a long-time conservative writer whose work is published regularly at popular conservative sites such as American Thinker.