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In today’s environment, looking back the very idea of “Media Bias” seems almost quaint

by | Apr 20, 2020

By Dave Andrusko

My wife and I, like most Americans, are holed up at home, doing our part to slow down and eventually control the COVID-19 pandemic. I cannot find current Nielsen ratings (which nowadays do not track all the many ways anything can be viewed anyway), but the viewership for the daily Coronavirus Taskforce briefings is huge by any reckoning.

I mention that at the beginning because what we see on display at those late afternoon/early evening briefings is, in one sense, not surprising, but, in another sense, illuminates how, in retrospect, the very idea of “media bias” seems almost quaint. What do I mean?

First, the unsurprising part.

From before Day One, the major media has done everything in its considerable power to destabilize the Trump Administration. We needn’t rehearse the obvious. The CNNs and MSNBCs  and Washington Posts of this world had prepared themselves and their audience for the certain coronation of pro-abortion Hillary Clinton when, low and behold, pro-life Donald Trump pulls off one of the greatest upsets in American history. They were not happy and have gone after President Trump with every weapon in their arsenal. 

The very notion of being “fair,” let alone “objective” was tossed out without a second thought, deemed a laughable anachronism when their enemy occupied in the White House. When the Washington Post’s official slogan became “Democracy Dies in Darkness,”  you knew the Post had gone off the deep end.

If you have five minutes, please read this 2017 story from Paul Farhi

The overweening sense of self-importance and the self-congratulatory we-are-the-only-thing-saving-Democracy  is, frankly, comical. Consider this, about the small group determining what the slogan would be. Any slogan, they determined,

“must be memorable and may be slightly uncomfortable for us at first.” It also had to be “lofty, positive [and] not bossy” and pithy enough to fit on a T-shirt.

The group brainstormed more than 500 would-be slogans. The choices ranged from the heroic (“Dauntless Defenders of the Truth”) to the clunky (“American democracy lives down the street. No one keeps closer watch.”) to the Zen-like (“Yes. Know.”).

The group ultimately ended up where it started — with “Democracy Dies in Darkness.”

“Pithy enough to fit on a T-shirt.”
“Dauntless Defenders of the Truth”!” 

Honest to goodness, you can’t make this stuff up.

Second, what about the aforementioned idea that such blatant hostility and one-sided coverage (not to mention the endless attempts at “gotcha” at the briefings) makes the ideal of media bias seem almost quaint, a relic of a far different time?

Consider. In 1990,  when David Shaw wrote his famous four-part critique of pro-abortion media bias in the major media for the Los Angeles Times, I think it fair to say Shaw was surprised when he found “scores of examples large and small, that can only be characterized as unfair to the opponents of abortion, either in content, tone, choice of language or prominence.” 

“Although reporters (and editors) insist they don’t let that happen [allow personal “pro-choice” beliefs to take precedence over the obligation to be fair and impartial], abortion opponents are equally insistent that media bias manifests itself, in print and on the air, almost daily,” Shaw wrote. “A comprehensive Times study of major newspaper, television and newsmagazine coverage over the last 18 months, including more than 100 interviews with journalists and activists on both sides of the abortion debate, confirms that this bias often exists.”

Re-reading what two reporters from the Washington Post and one from the Boston Globe said to Shaw, I recall thinking at the time that there really were journalists who were troubled—in some cases deeply troubled—by the distorted picture their publications painted of pro-lifers.

One said “she’s troubled by the media’s tendency to portray the anti- abortion movement as ‘dominated by religious crazies’ and to ‘ignore what I think are the very understandable and reasoned arguments that are put forth by the pro-life side.’” 

Another, a medical reporter for the Post, said “she herself ’had a sort of mental image of the anti- abortion groups as all being extremists’ before she began writing much about them.”

Can you imagine that happening today? A gigantic, non-partisan examination of the major media’s treatment, not only of our issue, but also of President Trump? Of course not.

What about key reporters? Would any of them deviate from the , threadbare, tiresome talking points about pro-lifers (they “hate women” and care nothing about babies “after they are born”), let alone about President Trump, about whom no comparison is too vicious or too over-the-top? 

Deviation would be nothing short of secular heresy. Conclusion?

Conformity rules and absolute  conformity rules absolutely.

Categories: Media Bias