Monday, November 5, 2012

Media Bias Proven--and Proven--and Proven

I was discussing Fox TV vs. MSNBC TV with a Republican friend. I said Fox was much, much more biased than MSNBC; my friend said the opposite, which I scoffed at.

My friend dug up a recent report from the Pew Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism.

It proved that MSBNBC was much, much more biased against Romney than Fox TV was against Romney. So I had to eat my words.

Well, except for the mental reservation that MSNBC's negative tone about Romney could be based on fact, while Fox's negativity about Obama could be based on propaganda.

Also, this study wasn't about bias per se. It was about tone--negative, positive, neutral. It did not deal with other crucial elements of bias, such as truthfulness and proportionality (blowing up the important of true but relatively minor issues with the unfavored candidate, while minimizing the importance of negative facts about the favored candidate. These things weren't covered.

I heard the same study cited this morning on one of the local right wing radio stations--Huckabee's show in particular.

But--what no one on the right mentioned was the fact that this same study covered the mainstream media--major newspapers, TV news, radio news, and major mainstream Internet presence--and that the mainstream media, overall, showed exactly zero tilt towards either candidate.

No bias at all--other than that the ratio of positive to negative stories varied up and down in accordance with public opinion polls. This substantiates my belief that the mainstream media is biased in favor of gaining audience, which is necessary to gain advertising. So they'll chase anything that grabs eyeballs. Romney's 47% speech? You betcha. Obama's spectacular loss of the first debate? You betcha--equally.

The Republican Universe (Republiverse) works like a religious cult, just as North Korea's government does. A key feature of every cult is to get you to shun contact with information sources that aren't in line with the cult's propaganda.

Thus not an hour passes on any of the right wing media--radio, TV, internet, whatever--without you being reminded that the mainstream media is totally biased--in the tank for Obama--and that therefore you can't trust them. You can only trust the right wing media.

This study that they're quoting proves that this is flat-out-false.

And while MSNBC is super-negative about Romney, Fox is only better by comparison. True, only 3% of Romney stories on MSNBC were positive on MSNBC. But only 6% of stories on Obama were positive on Fox. And unlike Fox, MSNBC's negative messages on Obama aren't reinforced by a very large, well-financed national network of right wing radio stations.

I'm not justifying MSNBC's tack, and it's also true that MSNBC's defense--that its news programs are unbiased, that only its pundit shows are biased--is false. I watch the "news programs" on both Fox and MSNBC, and both run the party line in terms of what stories are put forth and what aspects are emphasized. Even MSNBC's early morning right wing program--Joe Scarborough's--pits his against a liberal co-host and numerous liberal guests.  Fox, similarly, has a few liberal punching bags on its shows.

Fox and MSNBC are dedicated to their side, from one end to the other.

Lastly, being on one side does not equate with lying on behalf of that side. The Pew study cited didn't deal with that. Nor did it deal with things like incitement to murder, which Fox's Bill O'Reilly virtually did several years ago in his campaign against a gynecologist who provided abortions in the midwest. That campaign only ended when the gynecologist was murdered, in the church he attended, during a service, by an anti-abortion terrorist.

I've never seen MSNBC go that far.

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