Media Bias

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Another Liberal Media Bias Example
I mentioned the liberal media bias yesterday. Some say that's all in my imagination. It's easy to say there's a liberal media bias, but prove it! Whenever possible, I do just that. Here's another example.

One of the ways the liberal media bias manifests itself is in the way that the media manage to work a potshot at Republicans into what otherwise seems to be an unrelated story. I found another example yesterday, in a story about the Beloit College Mindset List. This is an interesting list published every year by a private college in Wisconsin. It attempts to provide a framework for the mindsets and life experiences of the incoming freshman class. This year, for instance, the list notes that the incoming Class of 2009 has always known Starbucks, has never watched Arsenio Hall, and has always known the USA as the world's only superpower.

But why miss a chance to take a cheap shot at Republicans?

Reporter Ryan J. Foley notes that Jimmy Carter is just another name to these kids. He also notes that someone named George Bush has been president for more than half their lives. OK, fair enough. No problem there.

But while he manages to work in that they are too young to know much about Watergate -- the scandal that disgraced a Republican president (Actually, college students have been too young to know about Watergate for about 20 years now! Why does he dredge up Watergate?), he doesn't mention an Oval Office scandal that these kids grew up with, and that may have actually shaped their value system and even their behavior while in college. I speak, of course, of Bill and Monica. Just a little detail not worth mentioning, I guess, since Bill is a Democrat.

But wouldn't it be interesting to know whether the freshman see Bill and Monica as role models? Someone whose behavior they will emulate while in college? That's certainly more relevant than Watergate.

But here's the smoking gun; the story ends with this cheap shot:

"The freshmen have witnessed the Bush family become a political dynasty -- some of them quite reluctantly.

"'It's scary to think about Jeb Bush running for president,' [incoming freshman from Wellesley, Mass., Lizzie] Starr said."

How did Jeb Bush get worked into this? What leading questions did the reporter ask this girl to get her to deliver the putdown he was looking for?

The modern-day reporter doesn't just "report"; he or she has an agenda. And it's almost always anti-conservative.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Bias Is In His Genes
According to an interesting story by Benedict Carey of the New York Times, your ideology may be hardwired into your genes.

According to researchers, while your political party allegiance may be more tied to environmental factors, your underlying beliefs and principles -- and where you line-up on the polarizing issues of the day -- are shaped by genetics.

(I'll buy the idea that the environment shapes your party allegiance. Here in Minnesota, where we've been brainwashed for years that Republicans are bad and Democrats are good, we've got no shortage of conservative-minded people who nonetheless call themselves Democrats (and vote for liberal Democrat candidates).

Interestingly, reporter Carey lets his own politics show through in the story. Yes, again, it's subtle, even unintentional. But that's what media bias is. If it were overt and intentional, it wouldn't be bias, it would be malice. Here are some examples:

Carey writes: "A child raised on peace protests and Bush-loathing generally tracks left as an adult, unless derailed by some powerful life experience. One reared on tax protests and a hatred of Kennedys usually lists to the right."

Great examples (not). Leftists love peace and "loathe" Bush -- an easy target these days. Meanwhile, those on the right "hate" America's royal family, and are greedy pigs who don't want to pay taxes.

Oh yeah, that's fair.

Second example: "Most of the twins had a mixture of conservative and progressive views."

"Progressive"? What happened to "liberal"? Only liberals refer to themselves as "progressive." Is there any doubt what's in this reporter's genes?

And they keep telling us there's no such thing as liberal media bias.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Tax Ruling Reporting Reveals Media Bias
Imagine, if you will, that a high court has just issued a ruling upholding abortion rights. (OK, you don't really have to imagine that.) Now, imagine this headline in a mainstream daily newspaper:

"Death toll goes higher"

and this subhead:

"Court-allowed killing of unborn could cost millions of lives"

You'd never see that (and I'm not saying that you should).

Instead, you'd see something such as this:

"Court upholds women's rights"

Keeping that in mind, take a look at the way the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports today on a state Supreme Court ruling that allows Minnesota businesses to continue to take advantage of an existing provision in Minnesota tax law. Here's the front page headline on today's paper:

"Budget hole gets deeper"

"Court-allowed corporate tax breaks could cost state up to $300 million"

The paper reveals bias here in the choices that its personnel have made. They have chosen to play this as a "bad news" story, and they decided to define the issue as "corporate tax breaks." They had other choices available to them. For instance, keeping the hypothetical abortion ruling in mind, they could have played the story this way:

"Court upholds taxpayers' rights"

But they didn't, did they? No, they chose the easy, predicable angle of playing this as the evil corporations costing the state money. Which will, in turn, make it harder on (dramatic pause) the children, because the state is already short of the amount of money that Democrats would like to spend on public education and other entitlement programs.

But isn't this really a story of a victory for taxpayers? A story of the court protecting the rights of taxpayers? Even if the taxpayers in question are corporations, not some more politically-correct category of taxpayers?

Look, I'm not necessarily defending the tax law as written, which allows firms to avoid much of their state income tax by setting up Foreign Operating Corporations. But if that is the law, then it is the law. That's the same as with abortion issues. If the right to abortion exists in the law, then it can't be abrogated just because someone doesn't agree with it. It's the same with tax laws. If you don't like them, then you have to change them. You can't just deny some taxpayer his rights.

Laws are essentially a contract -- a contract between the government and the governed. Laws let each side know what is required of them -- what they may and may not do. This is especially so when it comes to tax law. And it's silly for the government to argue that it is being taken advantage of, because the government unilaterally writes the terms of the contract.

So, let's celebrate this ruling as a victory for the rights of the ruled. Then, if we don't like the results, let's change the law.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Whose White House?
A newspaper headline reads: "14 states gave Viagra to known sex offenders."

The subhead reads: "1998 White House letter said Medicaid had to cover prescription."

Notice anything there? If that letter had come out of the White House sometime since 2001, you know darn well that subhead wouldn't say, "White House letter." It would say, "Bush administration letter."

Media bias is in the details.

Saturday, June 4, 2005

Media Bias Is in the Details
As I've pointed out before, the liberal bias in the mainstream media manifests itself in subtle ways. Usually, the perpetrators have no idea they are being biased; they are just reflecting the world the way they see it.

Another example revealed itself yesterday. A one-paragraph story buried in a news round-up reported that the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History has withdrawn its support for a film about intelligent design, or, as the paper reports it, "intelligent design." The film was produced by a group that takes a skeptical view of the theory of "evolution," or, as the paper reports it, evolution.

See the problem? Someone has decided that "intelligent design" requires quotation marks, a way of showing us that this is some made-up term (and idea) that the paper doesn't recognize as legitimate. Meanwhile, "evolution" gets to stand on its own, no quotation mark qualifiers required. Never mind that evolution is also an unproven (and unproveable) theory.

Abortion is another topic that demonstrates this bias. Watch how abortion politics is reported. If one group describes themselves as pro-life, the paper is likely to write it as "pro-life," with quotes to show that the paper doesn't recognize that term as legitimate. Left to its own devices, the paper will call this group people opposed to abortion rights.

And, of course, the mainstream media never calls anyone pro-abortion. No, that side is always called pro-choice, or supporters of abortion rights. Doesn't that sound nicer?

And so it goes, as they gently guide the public consciousness in the direction they want it to go.

(I know, some would say, "But I'm not 'pro-abortion,' I just think people should have the right to choose for themselves." I think that's a cowardly cop-out. It's like saying you'd never beat your wife yourself, but you want others to have the right to choose -- because it's a decision best made by a man and his lawyer.)

Sunday, May 1, 2005

Loaded Question
I saw the new TIME magazine today. The cover features the new Pope, and asks "How conservative will he be?"

What's implied, it seems to me, is the idea that being conservative is bad, and the real question is "Will he be too conservative?"

Maybe I'm just too sensitive here, but it looks like still more evidence of the mainstream media's liberal bias. I can't imagine a TIME cover featuring a liberal religious leader or politician, and asking the question, "How liberal will he be?"

Saturday, April 30, 2005

And in the Third Year, He Will Rise Again!
From the Star Tribune, April 28, 2005:

Wellstone campaign fliers appear in mailboxes

Associated Press

April 28, 2005

MINNESOTA CITY, Minn. -- A Minnesota City woman is trying to figure out why she recently got a campaign flier for the late Sen. Paul Wellstone in her mailbox.

Christine Rinn wonders why she's getting the flier now, 2 1/2 years after Wellstone died in a plane crash.

Post office and Minnesota DFL officials are baffled after hearing that several people received the fliers. At least three Minnesota City residents received the mailings, which were paid for by the Minnesota DFL.

DFL spokeswoman Tonya Tennessen says they're assuming that something happened at the post office. But postal workers don't know what happened either.

The fliers tout Wellstone's commitment to farms and rural communities and urge people to "call Paul.''


I knew it was only a matter of time before the faithful begin to claim that he has risen from the dead. It's scary, the way that the late Senator -- a Jew who was a gifted orator, who championed the poor and shook up the establishment -- has become such a Christ-figure to his followers.

From the "What Would Wellstone Do?" bumper stickers (Instead of "What Would Jesus Do"), to the lawn signs (still?) draped in black mourning shrouds, the late Senator holds a god-like standing with some of his faithful.

They have the sacred relic -- the iconic green bus. There are disciples preaching the word. There's the book of Wellstone, and the youth camps. All the trappings of a religion, not just a political movement. It can't be long until we have "Wellstone!" the musical. (Or maybe "Paul Wellstone Superstar!")

Friday, April 22, 2005

How Do You Ban It If It Doesn't Exist?
As I've pointed out before, a principal way in which the liberal media bias manifests itself is in defining the terms of the debate. The debate over same-sex marriages provides an example.

Here in Minnesota, we're repeatedly being told that there is an attempt underway to "ban" same-sex marriage. What's being referred to is the push for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as involving one man and one woman.

But that's not a "ban." It's merely clarification of the status quo. The state of Minnesota does not now recognize, nor has it ever recognized, marriages between people of the same gender.

But proponents of same-sex marriage, aided by the liberal mainstream media, keep talking about evil politicians who want to "ban" same-sex marriages, as though same-sex marriages have been the norm since time immemorial, and NOT allowing them would be a change.

Additionally, it's a misnomer to say that "gays" are not allowed to marry. No one is asked, on a marriage license application, "Are you gay?" No, the criteria in question is that the two applicants must be of opposite gender. If one or both are gay, it doesn't matter. They can get married anyway, as gays and lesbians have indeed done in the past.

My point is, this is not a case of "discrimination," as some would charge. The current marriage laws treat everyone equally regardless of sexual preference. True, some people may find they can't marry the person they would like to. But it isn't the government's job to give everyone what they want. It's the government's job to treat everyone equally.

Here's a somewhat analogous example: In Minnesota, automobiles may not be sold on Sundays. Generally, auto dealers like this law, because it gives them all a day off, and they know that being open on Sunday would not increase the total number of cars sold.

But a few years ago, this law was challenged by an auto dealer who is a Seventh Day Adventist. He observes Saturday as the Sabbath, and his business is closed then. This obviously put him at a competitive disadvantage. He sued, arguing that he should be able to be open on Sundays.

The court ruled against him, saying that he was not being discriminated against, since no one could sell cars on Sunday, and it was his own choice whether to be open on Saturdays. The law treated everyone the same.

The Blind Leading the Blind

But the liberal media don't suffer for followers. There was a rather bizarre guest column in my Thursday paper, a rather ignorant, self-righteous and -- dare I say it -- hateful diatribe from a good liberal intent on calling others ignorant, self-righteous and hateful.

One Craig H.Muntifering set out to dissect Minnesota State Senator Michele Bachmann, who is a leader of the push for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Muntifering doesn't make any sense, because he starts out with a totally wrong premise.

Muntifering seems to have analyzed Bachmann's motivation thusly: She thinks gays are sinners, therefore she wants to punish them, so she will take away their "right" to same-sex marriage.

Having established this false premise, Muntifering then writes:

"I find it quite hypocritical of her to use religious reasons for her justification. If she is using the Bible as a basis to uphold her position on gay rights, then why not fornication or adultery as justifiable cause to take away someone's right to marry? Who gave Bachmann, or her supporters, the right to pick and choose certain sayings out of the Bible to determine who has the right to marry? There are all sorts of statements in the Bible regarding adultery, yet Bachmann isn't suggesting any amendments to take away rights from those partaking of those offenses."

This is nuts. Bachmann's stance isn't to "penalize" homosexuality by taking away marriage rights, the way we might penalize drunken driving by taking away the right to drive.

Then Muntifering writes:

"There are popular shows that have demonstrated a tolerance for casual sex with their characters ('Cheers' and 'Friends'). No one seemed to raise any objections to those extremely popular shows. But yet, SpongeBob is seen holding hands, and social conservatives want to cancel the show. Yet, Sam ('Cheers') and Joey ('Friends') can participate in plenty of casual premarital sex on prime time in front of all age groups, and they're considered heroes by the general public."

No one raised any objections, you say? Have we forgotten all about Dan Quayle and "Murphy Brown"? Then the logical genius writes:

"So why wouldn't social conservatives like Bachmann want to take away rights from those who admire and follow that kind of activity? Does she feel it's OK to impose or restrict a gay person's rights as long as doing so makes her look pious in front of God (and voters)? And oh yes, of course, as long as there are no impositions on her or her supporters' lifestyles - no matter what offenses they commit."

This is ridiculous. Again, this is not about applying a "penalty" to someone. But then, I suppose it's easier to conduct a character assassination if you don't worry about grounding your accusations in any sort of fact or logic.

Muntifering concludes with a whopper of a non sequitur:

"I don't want Bachmann's religious views creating different classes of people. She should spend taxpayers' funds on investigating education and health care needs and addressing deficit spending rather than worrying about some invasion of an army of hand-holding SpongeBobs."

Yes, yes, that's it. Always point to some other issues that your opponent should worry about. And we could say the same thing to you. Why are you writing about this? You should be writing about AIDS or affordable housing.

But worst of all, Michele Bachmann hasn't made an issue of SpongeBob. Why does Muntifering keep throwing that at her? Why is he so obsessed with SpongeBob?

Tuesday, October 5, 2004

Report on Tax Cuts Illustrates Different Perspectives, and Media Bias
A recent news story about Congress' wrangling over tax cuts provides us with a "teachable moment." The story illustrates three points: 1) Differences of opinion are frequently the result of looking at the same situation from different perspectives. 2) Which perspective you have determines what terminology you use to define the debate. 3) When the media pick which terminology they will use, "media bias" results.

Here's the lead paragraph from a story by Edmund L. Andrews of the New York Times. It was top-of-the-front-page in my Sept. 23 St. Paul Pioneer Press:

"Putting aside efforts to control the federal deficit before the elections, Republican and Democratic leaders agreed Wednesday to extend $145 billion worth of tax cuts sought by President Bush without trying to pay for them."

I emphasize the last six words because they are key. The idea that we must "pay for" a tax cut reflects a certain type of thinking. A type of thinking that regards tax cuts as some sort of government benefit being paid out to people. That sort of thinking comes about if you assume that there is some "right" level of taxation, and any deviation is an unnatural abnormality that must be "paid for." Taken to the extreme, this line of thought believes that ALL money belongs to the government, and any money that the government does not take from you is actually money that the government is giving to you. People with this perspective are usually called liberals.

But tax rates are, of course, arbitrary. They can be set as high or low as we want to make them. People who recognize this look at tax cuts differently. They start with the premise that the money is theirs, not the government's. We usually call these people conservatives.

Also at the heart of these differing perspectives is the question of which came first: the taxing? or the spending?

Liberals seem to put the spending first. They look at all the things they want to do with tax money, see how much tax money that will take, then they set the tax rate accordingly. They see expenditures as fixed and tax rates as flexible, so the tax rate must adjust to accommodate spending. This is what is going on now in St. Paul, as a new city council majority wants to raise property taxes.

Conservatives are more likely to first determine the desired tax rate, then see how much money will be available, and make spending decisions accordingly. They see tax rates as fixed and expenditures as flexible, so expenditures must adjust to accommodate tax revenues. This is the position of St. Paul Mayor Randy Kelly, who vetoed the council's proposed property tax hike.

Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Dave, if the tax rate is lowered, then planned expenditures will have to be cut. That's what they mean by 'pay for.'"

I understand that. But remember what I said about terminology defining the debate. This story is reported from what I have described as the liberal perspective. The reporter shows his bias -- however unintentional -- by looking at tax cuts as a departure from the "correct" rate, and a benefit that the government is paying out to people. He seems to assume that the government already has the money, and now is paying some of it back to people. That's why he reports a tax cut as something to "pay for." He sees the spending as coming first. A conservative perspective might instead refer to the need to adjust spending in order to balance the new budget, which is based upon the lower tax rates.

Unfortunately, my point would be more clear if we weren't talking about the federal government. You see, our federal government doesn't balance its budget. We have a deficit year after year. So when Congress passes tax cuts and then fails to -- take your pick -- either "pay for" them or "adjust spending," it just adds to the deficit. If we were talking about the city of St. Paul, which must balance its budget, we'd actually have a better example. But with deficit spending, Congress isn't forced to recognize the relationship between taxing and spending. Thus they can get away with cutting taxes -- at least in the short term -- without making any tough decisions on the spending end of the equation.

So what should the tax rate be? Is there some magic number? Beats me. In the absence of scientific proof of the "best" tax rate, we instead have a system built on a tug-of-war between two philosophies: conservatives, who think a tax cut is good in and of itself; and liberals, who think a tax increase is good, because it allows increased government spending on worthy causes.

Either, or both, may be right -- in the short term. But consider what would happen if one philosophy won out. If we raised taxes year after year after year, eventually we'd approach 100% taxation. Obviously, that wouldn't work. If we cut taxes year after year after year, eventually we'd approach 0% taxation. Obviously, that wouldn't work, either.

So in the long run, maybe this adversarial, two-party, tug-of-war isn't so dumb after all.

page and website contents copyright 2005 David W. Downing