The Implosion of the Mainstream Media
By Bruce Walker
August 4, 2008
Three polls in the last three months show that the public sees the news media as biased toward Barack Obama. Gallup at the end of May, when Hillary was still in the race, showed that thirty-seven percent of Americans thought the media had been too easy on Obama, higher than either McCain or Hillary. In July, with both parties' nominees chosen, Rasmussen published a poll that showed nearly sixty percent of voters thought that journalists gave preferential treatment to Obama, compared with only fourteen percent who thought that McCain got preferential treatment from journalists. Even among Democrats, twenty-seven percent of Americans thought that reporters were biased in favor of Obama while only twenty-one percent of Americans thought that reporters were biased in favor of McCain. Democrats, naturally, were the least likely to see media bias in favor of their candidate.
Soon after that, Fox News came out with a poll that asked Americans which candidate received more preferential treatment from the national press, Obama or McCain. Forty-six percent of Americans said Obama while only six percent said McCain. As with the Rasmussen Poll, what was most fascinating were the internals of this poll. Democrats, by a margin of thirty-one percent to eight percent, thought that the national press was favoring Obama more than McCain and that independent voters, by a margin of forty-one percent to nine percent, thought that the national press was favoring Obama over McCain. Sixty-seven percent of Americans responded that they thought the media wanted Obama to win, and sixty-one percent of Democrats said that they thought the media wanted Obama to win. In fact, Democrats, Republicans, and Independents were in almost identical agreement about the degree of bias toward Obama.
The Descent of Media is almost complete. National elections are intended to be proving grounds for potential leaders. The media, which claim extraordinary constitutional and legal privileges on account of their role in our democracy, have a corresponding moral duty to be the vehicle to test these leaders. McCain won the respect of the media when the Keating Five scandal broke by always waiting until every single reporter had asked every single question about the Keating Five. Both the media and McCain, in that example, acted the way the Constitution envisioned the press and politicians interacting.
The contrast between this serious interaction and the mainstream media's treatment of Obama as a rock star, with the media a classroom of lovesick schoolgirls, is stark. Obama has no experience. He has spouted more factual errors than, perhaps, any major presidential candidate in American political history. He has close relations with convicted felons, avowed terrorists, corrupt political machines, and anti-American congregations. Why is the media so in love with him? The answer is very easy: Obama is a radical Leftist Democrat. The spectacle of a helpless, infatuated media is a part of an old, unfolding story: The Descent of Media.
The media have been in love with Leftism and biased against Republicans for at least the last four decades. Those who are surprised that the New York Times refused to publish an opinion piece by McCain when it would for Obama have not studied the history of that paper. Arlington House published All The News That Fits in 1969, nearly forty years ago, and that book chronicles in great detail the systematic bias of our national journal of record.
The rest of the mainstream media were just as wrong, just as often, and just as early. When CBS had its documentary "Hunger in America" in 1968, its journalists begin by talking about a child who had just died of hunger in a particular hospital. It was a pure lie. What happened a few years later in the CBS documentary "The Selling of the Pentagon" was even worse. CBS took the answers of an Assistant Secretary of Defense to questions and simply placed those answers as answers to completely different questions.
A few weeks before the 1972 Presidential Election, ABC had a documentary on national defense which had many blatant errors which can only be construed as lies. The documentary begins by stating as fact that sixty percent of the federal budget went to national defense (the actual figure was thirty-eight percent) and goes on to state that America needed no supersonic bomber because it already had a supersonic bomber, the B-52 (which was not supersonic.) Every one of the many gross errors of fact favored the position of Senator McGovern and opposed the position of President Nixon. McGovern was not sexy or a rock star idol. He was, like Obama, simply a Leftist Democrat. That was enough for ABC.
The totalitarian bias of the mainstream media forty years ago was not news. When polls asked Americans if they thought that the media was biased, conservatives, overwhelmingly, said that they did. Liberals, also overwhelmingly, said that the media was not biased. When this was the same result of polls taken by different polling organizations over many years, what sane person could conclude anything except a Leftist bias in the media? Not only was the mainstream media consistently in the tank for the Left, but other more troubling factors were in play.
First, the mainstream media indignantly denied its bias. Many newspapers in American history, including a few still in circulation, proudly declared their partisan affiliation. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette has always been honest about its tilt. Missouri still has newspapers like The Sedalia Democrat, Standard Democrat, Democrat-Missourian, and The Marshall Democrat-News just as the Show-Me State still has newspapers with names like the Republican Monitor and the Republican Clipper. The mainstream media have never been willing to accept the title of an advocate for Democrats and Leftist politics, even when that is blazingly obvious. Having bias is not a sin in journalism. Lying about bias, however, is seriously wrong.
Second, the mainstream media are composed of giant corporations. One of the inherent checks and balances of our free enterprise system is that competitors are supposed to compete. When a Leftist even suspects that, say, BP and Shell are collaborating rather than competing, it is not just the morality of this collaboration that it questions but the legality, and not just the civil legality but the criminal legality. Corporations - or rather, corporations in any other area of American life - that only pretend to compete not only have juries award aggrieved parties huge judgments, but the employees of those corporations go to prison. Yet when CBS produced some of the sloppiest documentaries in American history, ABC and NBC, its "competitors" in the news market did not raise a peep. In any other economic market, the lead story on World News Tonight would have been "CBS reporters intentionally deceive viewers." But the mainstream media have placed themselves above those laws of economic competition that govern other corporations.
Third, the media were always intended to be a check upon themselves. Reporters and their corporations have unique privileges given to no other corporations and no other employees in our economy. One duty that goes with those privileges is a duty to study politicians critically, but another duty is to study the rest of the media critically. So, when ABC produced its awful 1972 documentary of CBS produced its equally awful "Selling of the Pentagon," we had the right to expect that each would report on the other. Both corporations have chunks of bandwidth for its affiliates, confidentiality privileges in court, and protection for defamation lawsuits just because these are supposed to be our guardians from abuse of power. The mainstream media have always considered as newsworthy not only the abuses of politicians and parties but also of corporations that influence our democracy. The mainstream media, however, always placed ideology above duty and have never tried to criticize their own profound and terrible impact upon American politics and government.
In a democracy when private citizens do much more actual reporting and much more objective analysis than those corporations which have a near monopoly upon mass communication, then the long descent of the mainstream media into a moral and an intellectual irrelevance is upon them. We have reached a point in which even those Americans who benefit from mainstream media bias have stopped seriously denying the bias. The implosion of the mainstream media is complete.
Bruce Walker is a long-time conservative writer whose work is published regularly at popular conservative sites such as American Thinker.