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November 15th 2008 print

Bill Muehlenberg

Media Bias

The reason this website exists – and many like it – is because of media bias. If the mainstream media (MSM) were doing its job properly, there may not be a need for sites such as this.

The reason this website exists – and many like it – is because of media bias. If the mainstream media (MSM) were doing its job properly, there may not be a need for sites such as this. But because the MSM is overwhelmingly left of centre, and overwhelmingly secular, there is a pressing need for news and views which are less secular and less leftwing

The media of course has great power and influence. It can not only report news but create news, distort news, manipulate the news and censure the news. As commentator James Hitchcock once wrote, “Probably the greatest power which the mass media possess, is the ability, in effect, to define reality.”

As one who has been involved in dealing with the media over the past twenty years, I have witnessed firsthand the way in which news coverage can be treated. I have certainly witnessed how the media can distort and create news. As GK Chesterton once quipped, “Journalism consists in saying ‘Lord Jones is dead’ to people who never knew Lord Jones was alive.”

Now on a regular basis I provide examples of the bias inherent in so much of the MSM. Indeed, I have over 50 articles on my own website devoted to the issue. But still, critics will remain sceptical, and deny any such systemic bias. So let me here offer a bit more proof of my allegations. Let me provide a few bits of documentation to back up my claims.

A number of studies have been done on this issue. They show that much of the MSM simply reflects the reigning worldview of our elites, that of secular humanism. Let me mention just a few of these studies. One earlier study was published back in 1986 when Robert Lichter, Stanley Rothman and Linda Lichter wrote The Media Elite. In it they carefully documened how our news makers are far to the left of ordinary Americans, and far more secular. The book is the result of a ten-year study sponsored by several universities. It examined how journalists covered issues during the previous fifteen years, and makes clear how out of touch most of them are from the rest of the nation.

Then there is the work of a former MSM insider, Bernard Goldberg, His 2001 book Bias was a damning expose of the overwhelming bias found at CBS in particular, and the MSM in general. Goldberg had worked for the CBS television network in America for nearly three decades. Thus he knew from personal experience how the media can push agendas, manipulate the news, and censure opposing viewpoints. His expose is must reading.

Plenty of other book-length critiques of the media have appeared over the years. There are also plenty of quotes one can cite from various players, including those who admit their own bias. Let me just offer two Australian quotes regarding our own ABC.

Australian writer Robert Dessaix was for many years the host of the ABC’s Books and Writing program. He also happens to be a homosexual. Way back in the mid-1990s he said this about the ABC in the Melbourne magazine of the arts, Storm: “The political correctness of the ABC is extraordinary. There’s no leeway in anything to do with race or gender or politics. There is only one attitude you can have to Aborigines, to multiculturalism and to feminism. I have to tailor what I say to the reigning ideology of the ABC. As for career prospects in this bastion of gay men and feminists, heterosexual males may as well go and commit suicide.”

The second is also made by an ABC insider. David Salter was a former executive producer of the ABC’s Media Watch. In an August 2007 article in the Australian entitled “A bias for independence,” he too makes an incredible admission: “The long march of young liberal-humanist progressives through the ABC’s many portals is as much a self-perpetuating cycle as the daughters of doctors choosing a medical career or the sons of great football players striving to match the sporting deeds of their fathers.”

It is most revealing that he uses the phrase “the long march”. Anyone aware of leftist thought and history would immediately know what he was referring to. Around 80 years ago the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci said the most important mission for socialism was to “capture the culture”. He said this must be done by means of the “long march through the institutions”. That is, socialists must take control of the institutions of influence and power, such as the academy, the judiciary, and the media. Thus the goal is to overthrow societies from within, instead of relying on bloody revolutions from without.

So Salter knows well that this is exactly what has been happening in the ABC. Of course many other examples and admissions can be produced here. But let me focus on one final, and very recent, illustration. It concerns the just-finished US Presidential elections.

Two of the most leftist and secular MSM outlets in the US are The New York Times and The Washington Post. There was a quite amazing piece in the Post last week. It is written by Deborah Howell, an ombudsman for Post. The piece was entitled, “An Obama Tilt in Campaign Coverage” and it spilled the beans of the leftist slant of the Post.

She begins with these words: “The Post provided a lot of good campaign coverage, but readers have been consistently critical of the lack of probing issues coverage and what they saw as a tilt toward Democrat Barack Obama. My surveys, which ended on Election Day, show that they are right on both counts.”
“My assistant, Jean Hwang, and I have been examining Post coverage since Nov. 11 of last year on issues, voters, fundraising, the candidates’ backgrounds and horse-race stories on tactics, strategy and consultants. We also have looked at photos and Page 1 stories since Obama captured the nomination June 4. The count was lopsided, with 1,295 horse-race stories and 594 issues stories. The Post was deficient in stories that reported more than the two candidates trading jabs; readers needed articles, going back to the primaries, comparing their positions with outside experts’ views. There were no broad stories on energy or science policy, and there were few on religion issues.”

Here are some of the specifics: “The op-ed page ran far more laudatory opinion pieces on Obama, 32, than on Sen. John McCain, 13. There were far more negative pieces about McCain, 58, than there were about Obama, 32, and Obama got the editorial board’s endorsement. The Post has several conservative columnists, but not all were gung-ho about McCain. Stories and photos about Obama in the news pages outnumbered those devoted to McCain. Reporters, photographers and editors found the candidacy of Obama, the first African American major-party nominee, more newsworthy and historic. Journalists love the new; McCain, 25 years older than Obama, was already well known and had more scars from his longer career in politics.”

But wait, there’s more: “The number of Obama stories since Nov. 11 was 946, compared with McCain’s 786. Both had hard-fought primary campaigns, but Obama’s battle with Hillary Rodham Clinton was longer, and the numbers reflect that. McCain clinched the GOP nomination on March 4, three months before Obama won his. From June 4 to Election Day, the tally was Obama, 626 stories, and McCain, 584. Obama was on the front page 176 times, McCain, 144 times; 41 stories featured both. Our survey results are comparable to figures for the national news media from a study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism. It found that from June 9, when Clinton dropped out of the race, until Nov. 2, 66 percent of the campaign stories were about Obama compared with 53 percent for McCain; some stories featured both. The project also calculated that in that time, 57 percent of the stories were about the horse race and 13 percent were about issues.”
And of course it is not the text which is important. Images can have far more sway: “Counting from June 4, Obama was in 311 Post photos and McCain in 282. Obama led in most categories. Obama led 133 to 121 in pictures more than three columns wide, 178 to 161 in smaller pictures, and 164 to 133 in color photos. In black and white photos, the nominees were about even, with McCain at 149 and Obama at 147. On Page 1, they were even at 26 each. Post photo and news editors were surprised by my first count on Aug. 3, which showed a much wider disparity, and made a more conscious effort at balance afterward.”

It is quite remarkable to have this sort of true confessions coming from such a liberal media outlet. But it adds further proof to what conservatives and religious folk have been saying for years: the MSM is out of touch with much of mainstream society, and it takes positions that are far to the left of many, and far more secular than most.