Friday, November 07, 2008

Why Media Bias/Progressive Bias Is a Spiritual Problem

The Opening Case In The Abstract

As I’m not expecting any journalists or media people to read this, and few progressives, I will keep much of it general enough that pretty much anyone might get some benefit. Otherwise I would just be talking to myself. Which I also do. Media folks are not some separate category of people who think differently than others, they spring naturally from progressive culture. Progressives, in turn, spring naturally from a certain strain of American culture. So changing the media, except in isolated and individual places, requires a change in the progressive culture which enables it.

I often narrow my eyes suspiciously when people claim that something secular is actually a spiritual problem. When Christians say that, I think immediately of aromatherapists saying you need aromatherapy, or harmonica players telling you your band needs a harmonica. It smacks too much of “what you need is me, and my wisdom.” I hope I will be properly cautious about this.

Even the nominally religious will use the concept at times, as Churchill did often in WWII, telling the British people that Europe’s crisis was more spiritual than physical. The nonreligious among you can call it a self-awareness problem and be pretty close to my meaning.

I want to bypass all the arguments and evidences whether media bias is real. Conservatives say it is, progressives say it isn’t, and everyone believes that the other side is responding with confirmation bias. Confirmation bias, the natural tendency to remember items that support your POV and disregard those things that don’t, is quite powerful, and none of us is immune to it. Therefore, it pays to intentionally attack one’s own confirmation bias from time-to-time, even if you’re right. Especially if you are right. Each of us is obligated to ask ourselves the hard questions, and I don’t see evidence that the folks in the traditional media do that. Their answers to such questions, in fact, strongly suggest evasion – a refusal to open certain doors inside.

Progressives know a lot about a lot, but they don’t seem to see themselves very clearly. This places a severe limitation on their understanding events around them, which is a shame, because they tend to know much more about the events around them than the average person.

Self-awareness is difficult to purchase, because you have to buy it from the worst parts of yourself, which will drive a punitively hard bargain. Yet as a psychologist friend humorously repeats “It’s good to keep in contact with reality. You might need it someday.”

The Opening Case Made Sequentially.

As the elections drew to a close, and my anger at unreported and unfairly reported stories occupied too many of my waking hours, I suddenly asked myself “What is it that you want to happen in media reporting?” Hmm. I don’t want newspapers to be made to be even-handed according to some government standard. I don’t want TV networks to be required to be graded on their neutrality, with some affirmative-action plan for less-popular points of view. I don’t want journalists to be made to do it right, I want them to get it. I have rejoiced in the diminishing audience of the nightly news and the major newspapers, but that is a direct consequence of their current bias. I don’t think their investigative skills are valueless or their skills of presentation contemptible. I don’t have anything against those media per se, and in fact should wish them well, as some folks prefer to get their news that way.

I also don’t want them to be instructed by conservatives about what new ideas they should be considering and which ones they should be holding at arms length. That just seems pointless, turning the dirty shirt inside-out instead of washing it. No reading lists, no required websites to check out.

But standing up in the cold winds of self-knowledge is something we should all do every decade or so, and this is a good opportunity.

All this was just an excuse to write a general comment on self-awareness.

As a semi-serious aside, Daniel Gallington has a modest proposal that all news people identify their bias in the same way that politicians do. As in Chris Matthews (D-MSNBC). I guess I would be Assistant Village Idiot (Cons - Blgs)

10 comments:

Gerard said...

No so fast.

You might want to try one expanding on the notion of "changing the media, except in isolated and individual places, requires a change in the progressive culture which enables it."

Which is obviously key.

Donna B. said...

Donna B. (U, USA)

U= Uncommitted

Gagdad Bob said...
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Gagdad Bob said...

I wish they could just be like national sportscasters. You can't tell who they're rooting for, because they're not rooting for anyone. But if you are secretly rooting for someone, it is impossible to be objective -- especially with regard to politics, which is so spiritually all-consuming for the left.

xlbrl said...

What we see depends mainly on what we look for. Nothing is easier than to decieve one's self, as our affectations are subtle pursuaders.
Then it is that it is not being deceived, but undeceived, that renders us miserable.
What progressives are looking for is the rhetoric to rule the minds of men, even as they deceive themselves.

Der Hahn said...
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Der Hahn said...

think this might dovetail with where gerard is going.

It's not so much that the media are or are not biased but that they steadfastly maintain, even when presented with mountains of contrary evidence, that they are *unbiased*.

The same thread runs seems to run through progressivism. All of their proposals are well-justified and reasonable, well, because they say they are. Read the comments in any volokh thread on Obama's 'voluntary' community service proposals. It is simply accepted by pro-Obama commentors that this service would be 'voluntary' simply because Obama calls it 'voluntary'.

leadpb said...

The same idea can be stated thusly (and sincerely): "What do you mean liberal? That's just the way things are."

If the idea/s is held long enough and grows, this is the resulting ethos.

Carl said...

I actually agree with both gerard and gagdad. For whatever reason, media objectivity is dead and unlikely to be revived. Rather than change the culture, hold a funeral for a dead impartiality and make clear to lefties that citing "the Ol' Grey Whore" isn't sufficient--that progressives, not the press, are responsible for fact checking. Stripped of its gimmicks, that's Gallington's approach, which is why I prefer it.

jim treacher said...

I'm not sure media objectivity ever existed in the first place. It's just that now we can see how the sausage is made.