We all know bias in the press when we see it don’t we? I am not so sure. Sometimes it is very subtle and unintended, yet powerful. The biggest problem in spotting it is to be able to put aside your own biases, which in my case are powerful. But in my professional life, I spend most of my time finding solutions to the needs of the government whose only criteria is that it will work (and sound better than anyone else’s solution). So one would think I could push aside my biases and try to evaluate how the press is doing. I think not well.
Now we could start with Fox Noise, but except for some bright spots on their staff, most are working off Republican/conservative talking points and there is little dissent about their biases. Then there is Glenn Beck, Lou Dobbs, and O’Rielly, but they don’t even pretend to not be totally biased and driving every interview to one point of view. But what about the rest of them? Okay I will give you that Keith Olbermann is obviously biased, as is Rachel Maddow, but is it the same as Fox Noise? I don’t think so and here is why. If you have two competing points of view do you give them equal time and consideration even though one point of view is more in question than the other? If you do, you lend equal credence to both points of view and in fact you are biasing the argument in favor of the less accepted or credible point of view. The classic example is a debate between evolution and intelligent design. There is no scientific evidence ever found to deny evolution, and intelligent design has been debunked as religion numerous times. Yet when we have a debate and both sides are given the same status, uneducated viewers would assume that there is good evidence on both sides. See how this is biased toward intelligent design?
So what happens when this involves a political discussion? The same thing. When one political advocate states something that is known to be inaccurate and the moderator of this he said/she said shouting match does not push back on what are known incorrect statements, as in the above case, they level the playing field for the party who is spewing falsehoods. That is pretty much what we have today on cable media news where the moderator is along for the ride. The Republicans are very good at this game fanning out like storm troopers with their talking points, and so the bias has been in their favor in this medium. The answer is not for the Democrats to adopt similar tactics, but for the moderator to act like a real journalist and push back against obvious falsehoods before the other side has to waste precious airtime debunking the claims (on the defensive) before making their own points.
There is a variation to that when the moderator pushes back on one side only and I saw Wolfe Biltzer do that in an interview between a Republican and Democratic strategist. The Republican made a claim and Wolfe turned to the Democrat and said “what about that” and when the Democrat responded, he followed up with several tough questions. Good follow up so what is the problem? The problem is that he then throws out a whole another new question and never follows up the Democrat’s point with the Republican. After watching about five minutes of this, whether Wolfe meant to be biased or not, by only attacking one side he was once again skewing the playing field in favor of the Republican. As one commentator has observed we have defaulted to conservative points of view over the last 20 years or so and this defaulting is biasing the discourse by making the progressive debunk conventional wisdom instead of treating it as an equal point of view.
So back to the question of whether Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann are as biased as most of Fox Noise. Well they have a progressive point of view, but I have yet to be able to question any facts they have put forward, in contrast to many things I hear on Fox Noise. Could it just be that these progressives are just presenting the truth and the conservatives are unable to garble their message so it must be biased? Many have accused The Daily Show or The Colbert Report as being progressively biased, but aren’t they just really showing the hypocrisy of our political world and there is whole bunch more of it on the conservative side?
This election is about two very different ways of seeing government and policy. There is massive data to show that conservative policies in most cases have failed miserably and we are living through the aftermath, yet our media still defaults to the conservative story line and makes progressives somehow go the extra mile to explain their views. It allows all the misdirection about terrorists, socialists, and un-Americans instead of pushing these spurious claims aside and focusing on the issues. It puts progressives at a disadvantage in almost every argument, but reality is creeping in and most people just know what we have been doing hasn’t worked. Maybe facts or biased coverage doesn’t count anymore. Maybe finally reality will be the great equalizer.