The Unbearable Blindness of Bias (or, Why Jake Tapper Could Use a Few Conservative Coworkers)

| May 3, 2010 | Reply

I have oft opined that left-wing media bias is much less the “Oooooo! I hates me some conservatives” variety and much more the kind of bias where journalists live in a left-wing echo chamber where they can count the number of real conservative friends and associates they have on the fingers of half of one hand.

This past Sunday’s episode of ABC’s “This Week” provides a nearly perfect example of this far more common and more insidious bias. Here is the lineup Jake Tapper (who is about the straightest shooter among regular MSM reporters — more on that later) and crew rolled out Sunday:

  • Al Sharpton
  • Katrina vanden Heuvel
  • Bill Maher
  • Matthew Dowd
  • George Will

Remember, this is a quick-hitting, lightly-moderated conversation where sound bytes rule the day and someone who talks fast and loud can prevail over someone who needs more time to develop the point. Also, it’s the last lengthy segment of the show. Viewers are more likely to remember that segment than, say, the first one.

So, with those points in mind, let’s do a quick ideological inventory of the panelists. Sharpton, vanden Heuvel, and Maher are about as hard left as you can get without getting plastic surgery to look more like Karl Marx. George Will is a conservative and Dowd, a “political consultant” is nominally a Republican, but has an interesting history.

See, he was a Democrat until 1999, when he changed his party affiliation and, shortly thereafter, started working for the Republican Party. He then went on to take high-profile strategist positions in the Bush campaigns in 2000 and 2004. In 2007, he loudly denounced both the President and Vice President in a high-profile New York Times interview. Just a few months after that, ABC hired him as an on-air contributor. The timing was probably just coincidental. Politically, I’d classified Dowd as “paid hack”, but center-left seems about the right place to put him, based on his public work over the past three years.

So, we have three hard-leftists, a center-leftist who works for the network, and George Will. Is that balance? Hardly. And that’s not the only imbalance.

Let’s look at the lineup another way. Sharpton, van den Heuvel, and Maher all earn their living by being incendiary. They are inciters, both figuratively and, in Sharpton’s case, literally. They throw rhetorical bombs. Dowd doesn’t have the courage or depth of conviction to throw a bomb against a target that he thinks will shoot back and Will, well, no one’s ever confused him for Ann Coulter (who, by the way, would be the temperamental equivalent to any one of the Ultra-Left Power Rangers on that panel).

Not only was the tilt so hard to the left that Hank Johnson would have called a Congressional hearing to save it, but it was stacked toward people whose style heavily favors the short burst sound byte, which is exactly what a roundtable discussion rewards. In other words, the game was rigged.

Now, I respect Jake Tapper. I think he’s about the closest thing to a straight-shooter television news has. He honestly tries to police his own obvious biases and lay them aside when he covers a story. On the other hand, it’s obvious that he suffers from a huge blind spot, otherwise he would have looked at that lineup and thought “Sharpton, vanden Heuvel, and Maher? Holy crap, that’s overload. We need to drop one of them and bring in someone else to even things out. Hey, we should get Laura Ingraham. She’s done the show before.” So why didn’t he? I think it’s because he honestly didn’t see how heavily tilted the panel really was.

Maybe if they brought in a few more conservatives on a regular basis, this wouldn’t happen nearly as often. I’m sure Tapper could find a few promising candidates in his Twitter feed. If he can’t, I’d be more than happy to recommend a few.

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