Dan Popp
A different slant on media bias
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By Dan Popp
March 19, 2013

Be careful, therefore, how you hear.... – Jesus (Luke 8:18a, Weymouth)

Democrat pollster Pat Caddell has reinforced the sentiments of many people of all parties by saying that the news media have become "a fundamental threat to the democracy" [sic] and "the enemy of the American people."

Let me tell you why I believe that the media are not the problem.

Since the invention of the printing press in the 15th century, pamphleteers and newspaper publishers have produced slanted, biased, one-sided, ideologically driven materials for mass consumption. And they've never really put out anything else. In early America, major cities had two or more newspapers because one was devoted to presenting the news that fit the narrative of one party, and the other paper or papers slanted their reporting from other directions. No one thought about "media bias" for the same reason that fish don't think about "wet."

It was the invention of the telegraph that changed that. Now "wire services" could sell their nearly-instantaneous reports to many newspapers. But they would be cutting their potential market in half if they chose to concentrate on one slant or the other. So they pretended – and that's the right word – they pretended to be objective and unbiased. Now, anyone who thinks about this for a second will realize that no human being is free of prejudice. Each of us has a point of view, developed in various ways by our experience. As the father of broadcast journalism, Edward R. Murrow, put it, "Everyone is a prisoner of his own experiences. No one can eliminate prejudices – just recognize them."

Contrast Murrow's frank and humble statement with Walter Cronkite's pompous sign-off line, "And that's the way it was."

The problem isn't that reporters have opinions. The problem is that we allow them to pretend that they don't, or that their views don't influence their coverage. That's a little like the classic Democrat line about abortion; "It's against my personal beliefs, but don't worry; my beliefs would never actually affect my life."

Calling one collection of outlets the "Mainstream Media" perpetuates the pretense that these outlets are supposed to be objective, and therefore authoritative, while outlets reflecting the opposite view constitute the "Right Wing Media" and should be dismissed because of their bias. In a rational world, it would be those pretending to be objective – those who lie to you about telling the truth – who would be discredited, and those admitting their unavoidable bias who would gain some credibility for acknowledging the obvious.

Mr. Caddell pointed specifically to journalism's gatekeeping function – deciding what news is "fit to print" and what is ignored. He believes that it's uniquely the responsibility of the media to protect liberty.
    The press's job is to stand in the ramparts and protect the liberty and freedom of all of us from a government and from organized governmental power. When they desert those ramparts and decide that they will now become active participants, that their job is not simply to tell you who you may vote for, and who you may not, but, worse...what truth that you may know, as an American, and what truth you are not allowed to know, they have, then, made themselves a fundamental threat to the democracy, and, in my opinion, made themselves the enemy of the American people.
But Caddell's own bias is showing. He believes that human beings in the media can be objective – that our flaw of personal prejudice can be removed, in harmony with the fundamental leftist assumption that people are basically good and ultimately perfectible. (Contrast the teaching of Christianity which says that people are bad but redeemable - through Christ alone.) The Founders wouldn't have recognized this alleged duty of individual members of the press to call government to account. They believed that, on the whole, with the public receiving conflicting reports from newspapers slanted from both sides, the truth would come out, and then win out. To expect a journalist to give us a "God's eye view" on any issue is laughable. To demand that any one reporter act as our watchdog is to say that he or she has no right to free speech, or free press!

Each of us has a responsibility to tell the truth, of course. But that is a responsibility to God. And leftists have told us as clearly and repeatedly that they don't believe in God. Not in the God of Truth, anyway.

It isn't the press' job, but the people's job to "stand in the ramparts and protect the liberty and freedom of all of us." The fact that the electorate is gullible and mis-educated and lazy and unable to think for ourselves isn't the fault of the brainwashed bubbleheads in the media. We 21st-century Americans have vastly more potential sources for news and information than did our forbears. Somehow they sorted out truth from error, at least most of the time. It's ridiculous to suggest that we can't do as well as they did, faced with the same unpreventable media bias.

We only have to recognize it.

© Dan Popp

 

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