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Monday, July 19, 2010

The One-Party Media
Maimon Schwarzschild

The usual disillusioned phrase is "mainstream media" or MSM.  The problem, of course, is not mainstream-hood.  Angrily talking about the "state-run media" is even more misguided: the media were anything but state-run, or state-sympathetic, when Bush was president; and Republican or conservative officials or judges can expect relentless hostility now as much as ever.

What we have is One-Party Media: newspapers, broadcast networks, newsmagazines which represent the views and preoccupations of the Democratic Party and the political left, and consistently denigrate or ignore the views and preoccupations of the political right or centre-right; and which very often systematically ignore any news or information which might reflect badly on the one party, or reflect well on the policies, proposals, or values of the other.  (Fox is the exception - and how it is reviled for it! - although in its actual news stories, Fox often, although not always, follows the "narrative" of the other media.)  (The Wall Street Journal is the other partial exception, but with the same proviso for many of its actual news stories, and at any rate the Journal is still largely a specialised business paper with a specialised readership.  There are essentially no other major exceptions in either print or broadcast news.)

It is extraordinary, and I think unprecedented, that a free press has voluntarily transformed itself into something not very different from the controlled press in an undemocratic country.  But that is what has happened.  There are, to be sure, alternative sources of information and commentary in the US for anyone who seeks them out.  (There are often such sources in undemocratic countries as well: foreign broadcasts, "underground" or samizdat circulation, and so on.)  But the mainline, and still collectively very powerful, media are overwhelmingly a One-Party media.  It needs to be said plainly.

Scott Johnson on the Powerline blog wrote yesterday about the Justice Department's treatment of the New Black Panther Party case:

I think this should be a big story, and I know it would be viewed as a scandal of epic proportions to which we would be treated on a daily basis if a similar story arose in a Republican administration. It is the sickening double standard of the mainstream media that adds the frisson of disgust to what is otherwise an interesting story in itself.

But this was merely yesterday's example.  There are innumerable examples, every day.

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Maimon Schwarzschild
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Comments

I think The Economist counts as balanced.

Posted by: Jimbino | Jul 19, 2010 8:03:11 AM

I would not call The Economist balanced on US subjects. World wide, I have little ability to judge but they seem more balanced.

Posted by: Michael Kennedy | Jul 19, 2010 9:48:53 AM

The Economist is so anti-Israel that it's really hard not to view it as anti-semitic. In more general terms, the Economist is quite dependably European social democratic.

Anyway, I took this post to be about the US media.

Posted by: Marty | Jul 19, 2010 12:11:28 PM

You have got to be joking, the Economist is anti-Israel? It's so horrendously blandly conformist on Israel it fits right into the old Israeli Mapai mold.

Israel, I might add, is the perfect example of how your theory about a supposedly Democratic-party-worshipping media is dead wrong. There are issues on which the media is totally right-wing, and issues where it is totally left-wing. On Israel, the US media is fascist, racist, right-wing Likudnik (as it sounds all of you are). On slaughtering Arabs and Muslims around the world, the media is as right-wing fascist, racist as they come. Anything and everything justifies murdering a Muslim, all done in the name of America's grand colonial civilizing mission for our ingrateful dirty little brown brothers with attitudes lifted straight from the Spanish American war's atrocities in the Philippines. That's one side. Then you have issues on the other side where the media is for example totally pro-abortion and is incapable of considering the notion that another human life is at stake beyond that of the mother. Or you have the way the media was obviously utterly enthralled by Obama to the point of refusing to ask him the tough questions in the campaign or on health care or the financial bill.

And then you have Fox, a bunch of right-wing blowhard nutjobs that Rupert Murdoch figured could make a bundle by tapping into the least common denominator with. Sad to say he succeeded. I am always amazed when I go to the many places in the US where people actually think Fox News is news. It's just as mind boggling to me as people in the UK who think reading the Sun is reading a real newspaper. And of course, Fox News has dumbed down all of American mainstream media. They got the ratings by feeding people meaningless dribble and a constant stream of white resentment and pseudo-patriotism, and the rest of the media went dumb as a result to try and chase their ratings.

What almost all of the main media lacks - be it CNN, Fox, MSNBC, NY Times, Washington Times - is actual intelligent discussion of the issues. Blowhards in and watching the media outlets are so busy screaming "Left-wing bias!" or "Right-wing bias!" that they completely miss the fact (as you have) that the biases vary by issue and by outlet, but that all of the outlets deliberately dumb everything down. They assume you and I are idiots incapable of examining the facts.

And on this point, despite admittedly being left of center, I actually rather like most of the Wall Street Journal. Not the op-ed page which is full of all the crazies and stupidity mentioned above. But the news and articles they cover, even with a conservative bent, delve into facts. I can see the validity of conservative fiscal arguments when I am shown the problems that occur in excessive rule-making and regulation as actually experienced by a business. When a new law/bill is explained to me in detail in a paper like the WSJ, I can judge for myself whether it is a beast that deserves to be slain or sensible, and the WSJ can make its views clear while still leaving the facts open for me to read. Across the pond with a more leftish bent but of almost identical value (I'd say slightly better, but its a close competition and they obviously have different geographical focus) to the WSJ is the FT. Both of these sources, one slightly right, one slightly left, engage me in intelligent discussion and presentation of the facts. I can respect that and see the value in opinions on both sides. I might say the same of Al-Jazeera and its professionalism (Arabic and English versions, though the Arabic is better and more professional in my view, though the focus more regional and not quite as international), but of course the racist reaction to anything remotely connected to Arabs in the US has more or less got it practically banned here to date while the rest of the world actually learns something. Or the BBC (with its mixture of liberal and conservative biases) for that matter. Heck, on websites, I can even have some respect for CNN Arabic which - while no AlJazeera - manages to be reasonably sane and intelligent compared to the inane brainless drudgery of the main US site.

If you're looking for a one-sided bias as the main source of evil in most US media, you're barking up the wrong tree. The problem is that they all dumb things down and they all have decided that media is about partisan warfare (of which you are showing you enjoy being an integral part) and tabloid journalism and not about informing their consumers. I credit just a few US sources with bucking this trend (WSJ from the right as mentioned, McClatchy from a more grassroots level, LA Times from left), but their market share is small and none of them are in the TV business it seems. They should learn from Al-Jazeera who have proven that one can educate their viewers, have top-notch professionalism, and have a viewpoint without letting that viewpoint get in the way of their viewers forming their own opinions (which again, I'd credit the WSJ with doing in the US...sans the bizarre op-ed page, but the rest of the paper outshines it).

Posted by: Non-Arab Arab | Jul 19, 2010 2:25:45 PM

"It is extraordinary, and I think unprecedented, that a free press has voluntarily transformed itself into something not very different from the controlled press in an undemocratic country. But that is what has happened."

Question: Why have they done this? How could it be in their best self-interest to fail to serve roughly half of the market?

Posted by: Bob Buchanan | Jul 19, 2010 7:53:03 PM

Bob, the reason it is in their best interest to fail to serve the other half is that they are activists, pretending to be journalists.

Posted by: Chris | Jul 19, 2010 9:49:16 PM

You are so far off base it is almost comical. You can't be seriously talking about the Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal, New York Post and FOX. You can't seriously be talking about Disney-owned ABC or GE-owned NBC. And you truly cannot be referring to those thousands of small town newspapers and radio stations all across America that print or air nothing but Hannity, O'Reilly, Beck, Savage and Limbaugh every single day or week of the year, including our church-owned Bonneville stations like KIRO in Seattle. There is simply no liberal equivalent to this right-wing blather. Period.

Posted by: Joe | Jul 20, 2010 5:45:05 AM

I work in China, and this article really resonates with what I see---that the US media voluntarily allies themselves with a political power (and thus must suppress truth)while here the journalists have no choice in the matter. The political system dictates that their #1 job is making the Communist Party look good. The MSM (or now OPM) is to the Democratic Party as Xinhua (China's news agency) is to the Chinese Communist Party.

Posted by: JKP | Jul 20, 2010 7:57:35 AM

"What we have is One-Party Media: newspapers, broadcast networks, newsmagazines which represent the views and preoccupations of the Democratic Party and the political left, and consistently denigrate or ignore the views and preoccupations of the political right or centre-right; and which very often systematically ignore any news or information which might reflect badly on the one party, or reflect well on the policies, proposals, or values of the other."

This is an excellent statement of the facts. As a conservative, I have preoccupations. Here's one. I am very concerned about the devastating treatment of children and fathers in American divorce courts. I have followed and lived this issue for 20 years. It's huge in my world. But my world-view gets no respect from the Dem Party newspapers. Their preoccupation is "men bad, women good" and they stick with it. Injustice toward males when women are in the picture is a non-issue to them. The issue to them is women, period.

Schwarzchild is right when he complains that the One-Party Media just will not drop or set aside its preoccupations. As a result, when I look at papers like the Boston Globe and the NY Times, which I used to admire greatly, I just shake my head in disappointment. The reporters and editors who constitute those papers are living in a glass bubble, talking to each other (I picture something like a glass-walled elevator going up and down the side of a building) and when they look out at me, I don't seem that real to them.

There is no institution so noble that it cannot be corrupted, and today's example is: the once-noble American newspaper.

Posted by: Lowellguy | Jul 20, 2010 8:01:14 AM

"You can't be seriously talking about the Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal, New York Post and FOX. You can't seriously be talking about Disney-owned ABC or GE-owned NBC."

Because, you see, large corporations = right-wing. Corporations never ever collude with progressive politics or governments. Certainly, a large organization like GE would never ever ever see things the way another large organization like the US Government would see things. For that reason, we are positive that corporations did not go along with the Wilson and Roosevelt administrations, and we are double-plus positive that they received no benefit from them.

GE loves the Tea Partiers, and all conservatives. Totally.

Posted by: Marriedrambler | Jul 20, 2010 8:09:24 AM

Large corporations such as Disney, GE, Time-Warner and Microsoft (owners of ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, etc) are happy to collude with Democrats because Democrats craft legislation, bureaucracies and regulations that create more Big Government. Big Government and Big Corporations are hand in hand, America's ruling class.

The constantly escalating pile of laws and regulations protects the big corporate empires by building barriers to competition and barriers to new businesses. MSNBC pundits loved the Reid-Pelosi health care plan because GE loves it, GE plans to make billions in profits administering the new health care plans mandated by Democrats in congress. That's why GE pays millions a year to former Senator Tom Daschle.

JKP is right. American journalists have voluntarily become

Posted by: Number Six | Jul 20, 2010 8:29:58 AM

JKP is right. American journalists have voluntarily become Xinhua and Pravda.

Posted by: Number Six | Jul 20, 2010 8:40:31 AM

"They should learn from Al-Jazeera"

You should've done us all a favor and started with this. I don't like reading racist stupidity in the morning. Now why don't you go applaud their treatment of women and gays? Watch any beheadings lately? I'll bet that Dan Pearl thing was just so totally cool!

I'll give you this--at least your "left of center" praise of Al-Jazeera is an honest look into your true moral guide: anything goes if it opposes Israel.

Tool.

Posted by: rrr | Jul 20, 2010 8:44:17 AM

It's from the business model.

People don't tune in to hard news. Think city council meetings. They'll come for a big one-off news event, but those won't pay the bills day to day.

The product of news media is not news; it is you. They sell your eyes to advertisers.

One group of eyes that's large and easy to attract every day is soap opera consumers. So they're the business model today. It's a minority (20% of the population; 40% of women) but a big one.

No story that does not hold the interest of soap opera people will run, lest they tune away.

That business model may or may not work, but it's that or nothing.

As a result of the soap opera tastes of the news audience, the media attract lefties, whose narratives more or less match soap opera.

Thus the one-party bias comes out of a business model.

Posted by: rhhardin | Jul 20, 2010 8:46:21 AM

Non-Arab Arab,

Your point about the Wall Street Journal giving actual facts is quite good. Your point about much of the news being dumbed-down is also good, though perhaps over-stated.

But then you list the BBC and Al-Jazeera as good example?!? They are even worse than what we are talking about here. There are many, MANY, well-documented examples of outright lying to their audiences, always in one biased direction. Even on Israel, where you seem to think they are so bad, they are simply hiding their biases (in your direction), since the US audience is so overwhelmingly pro-Israel* - see the recent Helen Thomas implosion for an example of what many of the really think. Indeed, there have been a few like that just recently (Helen Thomas just being the most famous example), where journalists forget themselves and express their real opinion, them get "thrown under the bus" by their bosses because of the disgust of such a large portion of their audience.

* I don't want ANYBODY slaughtered, Arab or Israeli. With that in mind, I ask myself: what would happen if Israel was truly convinced that the Arabs weren't dedicated to their complete annihilation and genocide? Easy: the war would be over. Israel has nukes - if they wanted the Arabs dead, THEY WOULD BE DEAD. (It would be easy for Israel to do, even without nukes - artillery and airstrikes. See the Bombing of Dresden from WWII for an example.) If the PA had a nuke, what would happen? DUH. So, in my desire to AVOID deaths on either side, I must support Israel. They are clearly imperfect and make mistakes, but their list of defining goals does not include GENOCIDE, as the PA and Hamas officially (and many other Arab groups unofficially) do.

Posted by: Deoxy | Jul 20, 2010 8:48:21 AM

" On slaughtering Arabs and Muslims around the world, the media is as right-wing fascist, racist as they come."
- - -

And Jenin, and the al-Dura farce, and the "rockets? what rockets?" lies about what's really happening, along with the ambulance stories, and the peaceful ships of charity, and the silence about reasons why Israel might fear its arab neighbors, and pretty much every other media attempt to spread lies about Israel have been - what? - exceptions to your fantasy?

You'll not be able to get away with your lies forever. At some point, even the dumb liberal people are going to see enough proof that your people are murderous lying scum to quietly edge away from you in embarrassment.

Posted by: bobby b | Jul 20, 2010 8:54:34 AM

"There is simply no liberal equivalent to this right-wing blather. Period."
have you seen the campaign donations, gop v. democrat?

what the libs in media lack in intellect, they make up for in numbers.

as an example...
pretend afghanistan was Iraq, under Bush.

the inherent questions of timetables, exit strategy, and ability of the natives to tkae over fighting are never asked, or answered.

when's the last time you saw a major paper report how many troops we have in Afghanistan, on their front page?

there are two methods that the msm pursues...
ignore admin misteps, and defend the admin, once talking points are provided.

Posted by: mark l. | Jul 20, 2010 9:04:06 AM

I could care less what the MSM reports. I don't read their publications or watch their shows. Furthermore, by the shellacking the democrats are about to suffer in November the success of the MSM in promoting the leftist agenda is nominal.

In the long run, the American people correct their electoral mistakes within an election cycle or two. Enough independent voters will swing to the opposition party to tip the balance.

Posted by: NH Voter | Jul 20, 2010 9:04:39 AM

"...that print or air nothing but Hannity, O'Reilly, Beck, Savage and Limbaugh every single day or week of the year, including our church-owned Bonneville stations like KIRO in Seattle. There is simply no liberal equivalent to this right-wing blather. Period."

Joe, I think you have just made the classic mistake that most "progressives" make when criticizing those names and the news mediums that they appear on as compared to the left-wing bias that conservatives talk about. Those personalities do not present the "news", they offer their opinion on the news as a form of entertainment. Most of those local stations that broadcast their shows do so because of the ratings that they get because they are entertainers. When conservatives criticize the "left-wing media", they are talking about the men and women who are actually claiming to be presenting the "news" of the day, not their opinion. I don't think any of the personalities have ever claimed to be "news anchors", so they have every right to present their opinion on the news with whatever bias they have... because it is their OPINION, and they never claim that they are presenting anything but that.

Posted by: Brother Bill | Jul 20, 2010 9:11:15 AM

@non-arab arab: I suggest you read the Koran and perhaps the Hadith and you'll understand why Islamofascist Muslims are killing kafirs and each other. You write very well; your thoughts and ideas suggest you might be hallucinating.

On the article I must say my experience has to agree that MSM "journalists" are propagandists for the Democratic Party.

Posted by: jgreene | Jul 20, 2010 9:11:47 AM

I've been using the phrase "Establishment Media" for a long time. It's what they are, and what they don't want to face -- they aren't standing up to the establishment anymore because they have become it.

Posted by: Everlasting Phelps | Jul 20, 2010 9:28:14 AM

Perhaps the term "lap-dog media" is most appropriate. While it is truce that most journalists today have been schooled as activists, and presume that they "represent" the public, sadly they are only tools of the powerful left-leaning corportist elements. Number six above, might have included the Soros foundation, which above all, exists to sculpt public opinion to enhance its own interests. As an example, ponder the Soros investment in Brazil's off-shore oil and the sudden occurance of a spike in oil futures. The resulting abrupt increase in fuel prices ruptured the overextended debt ridden financial structure, just prior to the election. How do you think that occured?

Posted by: Garrettc | Jul 20, 2010 9:31:41 AM

I think the phrase "yellow dog journalist" works. It captures a spectacle in which yellow dog Democrats practice yellow journalism against their political opponents and on behalf of their allies. Practioners are YDJ, or "yidjes". Particularly egregious examples are "yidjits"; it combines biased, unprofessional, and dumb in the same handy term. (I think I coined this back in 2008; alas, it never caught on.)

Posted by: slarrow | Jul 20, 2010 9:41:30 AM

The fact the OPM (one-party media) is still in business is no thanks to me. I cancelled my last subscription in the 90s. I don't watch any of their crappy pseudo-news on TV. My life is much better for it (I worry no more over "crises" driven by agit-prop gasbags.) Maybe others are catching on....

Posted by: Buck O'Fama | Jul 20, 2010 9:43:35 AM

After being a subscriber for 30 years, I stopped my subscription to the Economist last year. I could always rely on it for excellent craftsmanship, and hard-headed, fact-based analysis (whether I liked it or not). And it always stuck to its founding principle - free trade. I quit because it became a print version of BBC - it drank the Obama kool-aid, it uncritically accepted global warming alarmism, and, most disappointingly, it stopped its vigorous support of free trade. No longer fresh and provocative - just another Euro-elite perspective.

Posted by: Greg | Jul 20, 2010 9:51:09 AM