The simplistic rant against a so-called liberal media bias is a political maneuver, and it has worked. Here’s one bit of evidence–a news media train wreck.
In the midst of Lois Melina’s ineffective counter-rant we may find the damage caused by a generation-long harangue against a non-existent, pervasive political bias:
As the country prepares for at least two years with the Republicans in control of both the White House and Congress, it is vitally important that the news media look at how they have failed the American people and contributed to a polarized nation.
Journalists have allowed political operatives to successfully control what is discussed and how it is discussed. TV programs that pit an extremist on the left against an extremist on the right have made it clear there is no room for moderate voices. Walter Cronkite used to be the most trusted journalist in America. Now Jon Stewart–a comedian with a “fake news” show–may be.
She’s right about one thing (assuming she would agree with my explication): the he-said/she-said reporting mentality (a consequence of the fairness bias fighting constant bias ranting) has been used effectively by spinners to frame the debate and control content of news. Attempts to buck this system actually seem odd.
She’s right about one more thing: the news media share the blame for a polarized America, if that is what we have (I’m not convinced yet).
Neither liberal nor conservative partisans truly want a skeptical press. Each side prefers selective skepticism and selective compliance. Each side calls the skepticism it doesn’t like bias. Each side ignores counter evidence. This is, by the way, irrational. But we’re talking political struggle here, not reasoned civic debate. That means were talking about a zero-sum game–winning versus losing, which is anathema to the democratic bargain. The politicized role of reason is to figure out the winning tactics. It is not itself a winning tactic.
Melina does her cause no favors because she uses the very discourse that the bias ranters target. So this screed is easily dismissed as an example of exactly the kind political bias we may experience locally.
If what Melina intends is a critique, then I suggest she be more explicit about how to achieve a properly skeptical press. We could start by insisting that the press operate as custodians of fact with a discipline of verification–something I teach in my Introduction to Journalism class. When you’re losing the game it’s time to return to fundamentals.
There is, however, a way that we can say the press is Liberal with a capital L. Like most Americans, journalists and journalism generally believe in: American capitalism, one person one vote, keeping an eye on government and big business, the primacy of American culture, the overall goodness of the American people, the ability of the people to make effective political decisions given accurate information, the right of religious freedom, the right to free speech, the right to privacy, the Bill of Rights generally, the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, motherhood, apple pie, etc. etc. etc.
These are Liberal ideas. We are a Liberal nation. We have a Liberal government and Liberal press.