Sunday, October 16, 2005

Columbia Journalism Review: Media Bias Charges Just a Conservative Fantasy

The Columbia Journalism Review is the house journal of the mainstream media. Their job, of course, it go be a “watchdog” over the media, reporting on incompetence and abuses.

In reality, they virtually never criticize the media from the right, but only from the left. They will, for example, criticize the burgeoning religious media, or attack newspapers for not having enough female op-ed columnists. But confessions of liberal bias are few and far between.

One example of this, chosen almost at random from CJRDaily (the magazine’s blog) is a review of a book by Craig Crawford titled Attack the Messenger: How Politicians Turn you Against the Media. Crawford, as the title suggests, seems to believe that any time the media attacks a politician the attack must be well founded, and that when the politician charges bias that is a sinister tactic that has the effect of lowering peoples’ confidence in the press.

And lowering peoples’ confidence in the press, Crawford believes, is an evil thing.

But Paul McLeary, reviewing the book, on CJRDaily faults Crawford for not being partisan enough:
Crawford uses examples from both the Clinton and the Bush presidencies to bolster his case -- but without the partisan media itself shilling for these politicians, the pols wouldn’t have so easily succeeded in saddling the media with the stigma of bias. Consider Tom DeLay’s recent charge that the scandals that have followed him these past months are "just another seedy attempt by the liberal media to embarrass me." Where do you think he got that? Without years of conservative pundits hammering home the idea that the press is carrying out a liberal agenda, the charge likely wouldn’t have even surfaced.

In other words, a Limbaugh creates the argument, and a DeLay comes along to exploit it.
That’s right. This fellow believes that nobody could possibly see liberal bias in the media unless Rush Limbaugh told them it is there.
Which brings us to another failing in Crawford’s epistle. He never defines his terms in a way that would allow the reader to distinguish just which politicians are most adept at playing the bias game. Truth be told — and Crawford undoubtedly knows this full well — it is primarily conservative politicians who wield the media bias cudgel, though he seems loathe to ever admit as much.
In other words, if criticisms of media bias come primarily from conservatives, that’s not because the media are biased against conservatives, that’s because conservatives are evil and engaged in an insidious plot to discredit the media.

In fact, when McLeary makes such arguments, he is showing a liberal bias. He is, in fact, criticizing Crawford for being even handed!

McLeary has shown the obtuseness and arrogance of the mainstream media better than Rush Limbaugh ever could. Those folks are so immersed in their own little parochial world that they can’t see their own biases, and can only demonize those who criticize them.


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