Monday, May 16, 2005

On Media Bias...

I'm willing to accept, for the sake of argument, that lefties really do believe that news and opinion aren't distinct and shouldn't be. I'm not sure why this is. It may have something to do with the left's conceptual rejection of the idea of objective truth.

Example: whenever a conservative brings up the blatant left-wing bias of some reporter/newscaster, a left-winger will invariably respond with incredulity, claiming hypocrisy on the part of the conservative, considering that folks like Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly are AT LEAST as biased as said reporter/newscaster, or some such.

This argument would strike many folks as a non sequitur, owing to the fact that Hannity and O'Reilly are OPINION commentators who don't claim to be objective reporters/newscasters. Fox News does have newscasters, including Brit Hume, formerly of ABC News, but I really don't hear criticism of Brit Hume for his biased newscasting. When I look at the FOX NEWS website, I generally find the same news stories as I find on any other news website.

The criticism of Fox News for a supposed "bias" is generally reserved for the likes of Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly. In the case of Hannity, he's part of a "Crossfire" style format pioneered by Ted ("Christians are Stupid") Turner's Cable News Network with Pat ("The Holocaust is a Myth") Buchanan of all people, and yet, to my knowledge, no one to the right of Noam Chomsky has accused CNN of right-wing bias just because it featured a show featuring Buchanan. With respect to O'Reilly, his format generally features people from the left side of the political spectrum, who come on and argue with O'Reilly and other guests. Often, O'Reilly sides with the "right wing" position, other times he doesn't. Oftentimes there isn't a "right wing" position on an issue.

At any rate, these are shows in which political talking heads argue with one another. Guests and hosts are specifically chosen BECAUSE they have a point of view. Of course, a guest or host can only go so far out on a limb before another guest catches him stretching things or mixing metaphors, in which case he or she is over a barrel without a paddle. There is a multitude of voices at the table. A guest's bias is checked by the other speakers on the show. Because of the "checks" inherent to this sort of presentation, bias on the part of one or more (or all) of the guests is not of particular concern.

Contrast the above with the position of the news anchor or the reporter. There is only one voice. There is no counter-argument or discussion. There is only a presentation by one person. If that news caster or reporter uses his or her time slot to present only one side of an issue, or presents "facts" which benefit or injure only one party to a debate, that individual's bias is a very important thing to know. If that person claims to be objective and neutral, and yet consistently presents only one side of the debate with his or her presentation time, it is right to call that person on his or her lack of neutrality and objectivity. The same holds for Dan Rather as holds for Brit Hume. If Dan Rather or Brit Hume is shading the news, then that's worth talking about and criticizing. If newscasters and reporters are going to be biased, then so be it, but let's be open about it, rather than letting these folks swing the knife of a partisan while trying to hide behind some noble cloak of "objective reporting." Rather's a partisan hack. At every turn, he's consistently done whatever is within his power to help the leftists and harm conservatives, while trying to wear this mask of objectivity. We all know, of course, that this is a crock. Why is it controversial to say so?


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