Thursday, February 08, 2018

Media Bias

I wrote for years about media bias, before it became such a front-and-center topic with really good journalists and writers covering it. In the early years, I was among the few voices, churning out examples and offering tie-ins, because there was a news-desert of really nutritional information. I gradually got away from that, because I was only echoing what others said better.

In the context of Mollie Hemingway's reporting of very big events that are being systematically ignored,
These investigations have resulted in the firing, demotion, and reassignment of at least six top officials at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice. And all of those personnel changes were made before even the first official reports and memoranda from these investigations were made public.
...I think I have some value-added this time.  I count some serious moderates - usually somewhat conservative but appalled by the actions of prominent conservatives, or previous liberals who feel the national Democrats have become insane - among my friends; also my extended family is almost entirely textbook liberal elite - arts and academia, Seven Sisters, government bureaucrats, nonprofit executives. They think they are enraged by Trump, and a nation that has betrayed them by electing Trump. They were 60-99% just as enraged by every other Republican presidential candidate or member of Congress, but they are beside themselves now.

I submit that their rage has another source.  The media they follow reports only some of the facts, plus a lot of speculation of what they hope will be the facts. Truth does not always win out, but it does have a slow power that public relations, spin, and wishful thinking has to constantly beat back. The moderates slightly, and the liberals entirely, are enraged because events take them by surprise. The 2016 election was the most glaring example of this, but it happens over and over to them.  They read the news about Trump/Russia collusion a year ago - it looks like at least some of it must turn out to be true, even if much of it is fevered an exaggerated. They figure that the FBI and the DOJ must be mostly reasonable and doing their jobs, even if there is some unsavory political business here and there.  Or at the worst, an Eric Holder or a Loretta Lynch might be well over the line, but this is balanced by some Republican somewhere doing the same thing.* Accusations to the contrary seem completely out of left field.  Of course they sound like conspirazoid nutcases. Everyone knows that these are fevered imaginings. 

Thus, when they gradually prove to be true, it's not only a shock, it prompts the idea that there must be something very bad going on behind the scenes.  Because the wrong people are in the dock while the others are winning their court cases, walking away from what were believed to be Watergate-level crimes, only paranoid explanations fit the data. The Washington Post  told them one set of things was very likely to happen and the other set of things was entirely ridiculous.  Yet the ridiculous events came to pass.  That can only mean that someone, somewhere...

I have to wonder if the explanation will be offered that people in the federal agencies, who know which side their bread is buttered on, cooked the books in order to give Trump the results he wants.  That is, that there IS a Deep State, and it suddenly flipped to be on the president's side. If that seems insane that any reasonable person could even entertain that idea, consider the fact that the left now thinks that the FBI is an honorable and reliable agency that should be listened to, which Trump and the Republicans are trying to destroy, because they are getting worked up about two highly-politicised investigations. The nerve. (I will note that I am also worked up about the fact that the FBI forensic lab has been so slipshod and lazy over the last two decades that they are far less accurate than a coin flip in their conclusions.  Conclusions that mean prison time and even death for the accused.)

They are enraged because their sources told them one reality is true, but in the slow grind of events, a different reality prevails.  Looking at it that way, I would be too.  And so would you. I have long said that the journey out of liberalism is a painful one, because it is a personal one.  You not only have to change an idea here and there about gun control or tax reform. The whole of your image about yourself gets called into question. Note that leaving liberalism will not mean you become a conservative.  You might become libertarian, or rear-guard liberal, or apathetic, or activist Christian, or meditative, or anarcho-monarchist like Tolkien, or a dozen other things. Becoming a conservative isn't that difficult.  In fact, it is so suspiciously easy that one suspects (as I do) that it can't be the answer to a complex reality either.

*There often is.  It usually turns out to be a state representative from South Dakota or a writer for a conservative website you never heard of.  Same thing as a cabinet member, sure.


Aggie said...

You're touching on the secret of Trump's success: He's the guy everybody loves to hate, and he uses that outrageous conduct to get his plan executed. Nobody will believe he's gotten the deep state to do his bidding, because both Republicans and Democrats alike don't support him. But that won't stop the stories from being broadcast, after all we're a year and some change into this saga and the press still can't figure out why their horse is running the wrong way. And some of the fans in the stands are still believing it's shaping up into a winning effort. They're watching a different race.

Boxty said...

I think you're describing cognitive dissonance which I don't exactly understand.

And neocon could be added to your list of possible positions for former liberals to take.

Christopher B said...

You're also touching on what I think is the ultimate problem.

If you've already independently decided that Donald Trump is a Bad Man for reasons, some of which may be accurate, then you are unlikely to be troubled by the Clinton aka Steele Dossier driving an investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russians. Just because opposition research is biased doesn't mean that it isn't accurate, and the FBI certainly should have had concerns when presented with evidence from a respected British intelligence agent. You've probably also independently decided that Hillary Clinton is an honest and competent politician, and that she's likely targeted for outrageous accusations because of her gender, and envy of her and her husband's successful political careers. She isn't doing anything that other politicians, especially men like Colin Powell, haven't done before her. Her loss to that Bad Orange Man can't be explained by any failure on her part so it must have been the result of ignorant bigots being driven by outside influences. Obviously Trump is going to be able to exert significant influence on the Executive Branch so any resolution of these allegations in his favor is going to be tainted by the fact that his administration is in charge now, and any significant investigation of the Clintons is just naked political grandstanding of a kind that is absolutely un-American.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

@ Christopher B - I don't think it even needs to be that strong. It often is that strong - my brother insisted that Hillary Clinton is the most ethical candidate for president we have ever had, and that all the accusations, all of them, have been purely political exaggerations of minor everyday foibles. It does gradually become a toxoplasma of rage phenomenon, where one has swallowed so much for so long that their personality has adjusted to it. They are foxhole friends who will believe them even when they are clearly lying. They made that decision in a thousand small ways over the years.

Yet I think the shock comes even to those who are more measured, who might think that a lot of Washington is corrupt on both sides (though the Republicans are worse), and Hillary Clinton was untrustworthy (but far superior to Donald Trump). They also tend toward relying on New Yorker, or Washington Post, or Huffington Post for their picture of the world, even if they don't buy it all. Stories like the IRS targeting the Tea Party are dismissed and forgotten. When they come back again they are disregarded as some mere technicality, or maybe some few overzealous partisans going out-of-bounds. Then that is buried and forgotten as well. When something larger occurs, it stirs paranoia because it is so unexpected that something must be wrong.

Christopher B said...

True, I'm mostly describing the shock-resistant, the people who are never going to be believe Bill, Hillary, or Barak ever did anything wrong, or even as they watch them perp-walked into a police van, are going to insist that it was nothing nearly as bad as what Trump and the Republicans are doing.

Christopher B said...

Some interesting polling on this, from Rasmussen from Stephen Green at Instapundit.