Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Myth of the Liberal Media

I've always wondered how that "liberal media" thing got started. All the major networks and cable news channels are corporate owned and would do nothing to rock the boat of their owners. I suspect that whichever side of the political divide one lives in, it will seem that the media isn't doing enough to present your point of view and is in fact supporting the other side.

Here the YouTube blurb:

Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky demolish one of the central tenets of our political culture, the idea of the "liberal media." Instead, utilizing a systematic model based on massive empirical research, they reveal the manner in which the news media are so subordinated to corporate and conservative interests that their function can only be described as that of "elite propaganda."

via videosift.com

I think we have the illusion of a free media. I don't think the media is necessarily conservative as much as it is muzzled and infotainment focused (i.e, motivated by profit). There are still some sources of relatively unbiased news, The News Hour on PBS, for example, and many magazines. But by and large, it seems to me that the news media in this country simply represents the bias of hits owners and shareholders.


Kensho said...

Agreed, Bill. It's not that we have a conservative media per se - it's that we have a corporate media. This beast is interested primarily in its own self-perpetuation. It serves itself, not the public good.

The question is, how do we stop this from happening in a large system? Corruption happens even in small spiritual ecosystems. How can we hope to prevent it from happening in something as titanic as national media? It seems that in any such structure, a hierarchy naturally begins to emerge. And once hierarchy emerges, then the struggle for power and control begins.

Tom said...

Ours is an absurd corporation-dominated society and in the middle of that, I'm not sure what else we could expect for the biases of the media to be.

There is so much media, with wide availability, that today we can choose what we want to hear and THAT is the problem. We create our own echo chamber.

I listen to the PBS NewsHour, but while they seem unbiased, that is in large part because they are so starkly passive. They get too much credit for presenting "intelligent" news when, it seems to me, what they really end up doing is avoiding the extremes at either end of any spectrum. Then, they pit moderately liberal vs. moderately conservative in their discussions.

In this way, they SEEM confrontational, but really they only reinforce the status quo.

I think it is very difficult to solve the media bias problem. There is always bias.

My media favorite is the New York Times, even as I am aware that it has a 'safe" liberal outlook. And, that to be adequately informed, I need to seek other views elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

I agree for the most part, Bill. Another way to say this is that the mainstream media is primarily "opportunistic".

Regarding the PBS Newshour, I would say that the main criticism of Lehrer, its host, is not that his show is particularly biased one way or another. Rather, it is that the show, and him in particular, is deluded into thinking he has no bias. Lehrer is on record saying as much, and it is simply impossible for any news to be unbiased.

Last point is that the main thicket entered into when the question of media bias is raised is solved by remembering that the "MSM" means a lot of things, hundreds of different sources of news. If one is really interested in diagnosing particularly rancid media bias, one is compelled to be much more specific, detailed, and thorough than the main critics of "media bias" seem to want to be.

And, of course, one must define their terms, namely what "liberal bias" means vs what "conservative bias" means.

If anything, the bias we suffer from our media is the bias of people who don't believe they are a part, an important part, of the stories they cover.


WH said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone.

Kensho -- I think (rather, hope) that as blogging matures the internet will be less partisan and more open to reporting the news without the corporate ownership. But this might wishful thinking. Two of the top blogs are Kos and Drudge, and both are highly partisan.

Tom -- I agree with what you say about corporate media, and about PBS, as well. I sometimes get frustrated that their reporters don't ask the tough questions, the questions I want to hear answered.

I also agree that corporate media largely responds to ratings. We get what we ask for. Too bad more of us aren't asking for more.

MD -- I think you are on to something with the idea that all media is biased (one way or the other), but few admit to it.

Your Post in response to this also adds to the discussion, although I'm not sure I totally agree. Still, I think that is a useful lens for looking at the problem.

One of the reasons I get most of my news online (AP, Reuters, Yahoo, Google) is that more of the stories just present the facts, although I still notice quite a bit of framing to skew readers one way or the other in their response to stories.