The Real Media Bias

Monday, November 1st, 2010

My column this week looks at media bias and the near-uniform opposition to Prop 19 by California newspaper. I argue that contra conservatives, the media isn’t liberal, it’s statist.

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23 Responses to “The Real Media Bias”

  1. #1 |  Steve Verdon | 

    I argue that contra conservatives, the media isn’t liberal, it’s statist.

    Interesting…since the typical view is that the media is liberal, does this mean that liberals are more statist than conservatives (on average)?

  2. #2 |  Anon | 

    My personal opinion is that media is just plain lazy.

  3. #3 |  Rhayader | 

    Interesting…since the typical view is that the media is liberal, does this mean that liberals are more statist than conservatives (on average)?

    RTFA:

    “Because the left traditionally has looked to government to enforce its preferences more than the right, and certainly more than libertarians, it’s easy to see how someone might get the impression that the news media lean left. But you see the editorial pages’ lust for authority on issues like campaign finance reform, where unlike left-leaning groups such as the ACLU and the Sierra Club they almost uniformly support restrictions on political speech, despite the fact that their profession is inextricably tied to the First Amendment.”

    The central claim here is that media bias isn’t driven by political ideology, it’s driven by authoritarianism and power — and that the Prop 19 editorial coverage makes this painfully obvious.

  4. #4 |  DarkEFang | 

    The media really doesn’t do much investigative reporting anymore. Now, for the most part, it just repeats what politicians, government officials and other establishment figures tell it. That dependence leads it to support whatever’s good for those public figures. Preservation of the drug war is in their best interest and therefore in the best interest of the media.

  5. #5 |  Johnny Yuma | 

    @#3 Rhayader

    “The central claim here is that media bias isn’t driven by political ideology, it’s driven by authoritarianism and power”

    Or, the media are driven by political ideology, just not the one that conservatives often yell about. Authoritarianism and power are political ideologies. Statism is a political ideology. And, it’s difficult to find many Americans who don’t embrace and employ these ideologies on a daily basis, especially if you’re searching amongst journalists.

  6. #6 |  Rhayader | 

    @Johnny: Yeah that’s a fair interpretation.

  7. #7 |  SJE | 

    I think that the continued statism of the mainstream media is behind the success of the Daily Show, Colbert Report, Real Time, the Onion, Bullsh*t, etc. While ostensibly “comedy,” these shows tell the truth in a way that is more informative and insightful than the MSM.

    For example, when Sarah Palin claimed foreign policy experience because she could see Russia from her house, the MSM were all about what you might be able to see from Alaska. This completely misses the point. By contrast, comedian Peter Sagal quipped that his view of Lake Michigan made him a sturgeon.

  8. #8 |  Cynical in CA | 

    “That’s the solution proposed by law-and-order conservatives like Rush Limbaugh, who once said the disproportionate racial impact of the war on drugs means “too many whites are getting away with drug use”; the answer, he said, “is to go out and find the ones who are getting away with it, convict them, and send them up the river too.””

    Check.

  9. #9 |  Medicine Man | 

    Really interesting article, Mr. Balko. I think you just put your finger on something I’ve been trying to make sense of for some time. The right-left rubic just doesn’t adequately describe media at the national and state levels; they have a different set of motives. They seem more interested in defending their share of the establishment and thus spend more time amplifying and transmitting the government message than fact-checking it.

  10. #10 |  Steve Verdon | 

    The central claim here is that media bias isn’t driven by political ideology, it’s driven by authoritarianism and power — and that the Prop 19 editorial coverage makes this painfully obvious.

    I think you err in concluding Statism is some sort of non-ideological world view.

    My thinking is that I know of a few Republicans who are for all intents and purposes libertarian (granted a minority which seems to get smaller and smaller as time goes by). I don’t know of too many Democrats that fit that bill. It seems most people who consider themselves Democrats are quite happy with robbing Peter to pay Paul. This last part I’d argue is a necessary condition if one wants to think of oneself as having strong libertarian leanings.

  11. #11 |  Asharak | 

    A lot of the same people who blather about “the liberal media” are the same ones who will believe in every single moral panic that the aforementioned media fabricates (case in point: marijuana/drugs).

  12. #12 |  jrb | 

    Some of us have believed in the media’s statist bias for quite a long time. From the Anti Flag tune Anatomy of Your Enemy:
    “Remember, in times of conflict all for-profit media repeats the ruling party’s information. Therefore all for-profit media becomes state-run.”

    The ruling party in the US has constantly had the population on alert for a conflict – Cold War, War on Drugs, War on Poverty, War on Terrorism. If they didn’t continue to use the language and imagery of war, people might actually wake up and question the lies. When we finally get past those wars, the gubmint will give the people something else to fear, and the media will again be complicit. The best defense, when hearing anything from the government or their media mouthpieces, is to assume they’re lying.

  13. #13 |  JS | 

    If the mainstream major American media worked directly under the CIA it couldn’t get any more statist:

    http://www.harpers.org/archive/2010/10/hbc-90007774

  14. #14 |  boomshanka | 

    “Because the left traditionally has looked to government to enforce its preferences more than the right…

    Really? That would seem to depend on who’s in power at the time. But while the “left” generally favors a social welfare state, the “right” generally favors a police and military state. Politicians of each party, naturally, favor both.

  15. #15 |  InMD | 

    This was, in my opinion, one of the most insightful pieces you’ve done.

  16. #16 |  Trollface | 

    http://i.imgur.com/jFh9P.jpg

    Tee hee!

  17. #17 |  Joe | 

    Protein Wisdom is taking on The Agitator’s favorite cop, Jack Dunphy, over this issue.

    The question inquiring minds want to know: How soon before you can order a hukka of fine dope at the L.A. Mondrian roof bar?

  18. #18 |  Juice | 

    Hmm, social welfare state mixed with militaristic police state. You know who else…

  19. #19 |  delta | 

    I’m also popping in to say the is the best, most clarifying thing I’ve read from you.

    I do think part of it is media laziness or just not prioritizing true reporting; parroting press releases is so much more efficient during the standard news-business cycle. (I’ve had people working at a local TV news station tell me as much, they just don’t have time to care.) Effectively they become just a mouthpiece for authoritarianism.

    Second thing on Prop 19 in particular is my long-standing theory that the US populace needs an illegal, fundamentally harmless drug to feel “edgy” and transgressive. It’s not like all those cops, judges, and reporters aren’t all smoking lots of weed after work.

  20. #20 |  Peej | 

    Great piece. All one needs to do is watch their local TV news to see the laziness and conformity to rules of the state that the media endeavors to extend & preserve. Is it because their license to use the airwaves gives them an excuse to argue that they have a “responsibility” to the public? I think they confuse the public with the government. They are not interested in changing anything, only in parroting the state’s position on controversial issues. Very sad, since instead of stimulating thought among viewers, they serve only to reinforce the state’s position (i.e., the status quo) in the minds of gullible viewers. Too many people accept everything at face value & question nothing in these times. Would the USA even exist today if our forefathers had not practiced critical thinking and questioned the authority of the king?

  21. #21 |  Veeshir | 

    Liberals aren’t “liberal” anymore, they are statists.

    It would be better to call them “Leftists” or “statists”, but people still use “liberal”.

  22. #22 |  SJE | 

    Veeshir: the right is also statist. They just use the state for different purposes. Or are you going to tell me that Bush II, with expanded government, secret prisons, widespread evesdropping on people, etc was “small government”?

  23. #23 |  Things I’d be blogging « Foseti | 

    […] Balko says that the media isn’t liberal – it’s statist. This is a silly libertarian […]

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