Inside the Media Bubble, Bias Doesn't Look Biased (With Bonus Football Analogy)

| May 24, 2011 | 3 Replies

I know we conservatives yack on about media bias, often to the point where we sound like a shelf full of “Tickle Me NewsBusters” dolls whose squawk buttons have all been pushed at the same time. But the bias really does exist and it’s not very often overt. Most times, even seasoned news hounds don’t see it, because one of the MSM’s very best tricks is one that comes as naturally (and reflexively) as breathing. Let me show you what I’m talking about. Here are a couple new items that hit my RSS reader in the past few days. First, a Reuters story about a recent Gallup poll on gay marriage:

Fifty-three percent of Americans support making gay marriage legal, a Gallup poll showed on Friday, a marked reversal from just a year ago when an equal majority opposed same-sex matrimony.

The latest Gallup findings are in line with two earlier national polls this spring that show support for legally recognized gay marriage has, in recent months, gained a newfound majority among Americans.

That’s good, if you’re a supporter of gay marriage. Clearly you can say that momentum is moving in your direction, and, more importantly, you can use the poll to help nudge other people to your way of thinking.

To do that, though, you have to leave out what Reuters only barely mentioned as a buried clause in a much longer sentence — Americans have voted not to expand the definition of marriage to include gay couples every time the matter has appeared on a ballot. As you can see in the article, that’s not particularly tough to do.

Actually, it’s essential if you want to nudge public opinion to your side. People don’t like to be on the “wrong” side of an issue and there is always a tipping point where the public changes its mind in one seemingly-simultaneous rush. I suspect strongly that gay marriage activists and their friends in the media sense that moment is close at hand. Why else would so many media outlets (such as the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, TIME, Forbes, NPR, Chicago Tribune, and Seattle Post-Intelligencer) report on the poll in almost exactly the same way? Why wouldn’t an objective journalist note that while this opinion poll shows one thing, very recent election history shows another?

They’d do that because it confirms their view of the world. Of course most Americans want gay marriage because most Americans are good-hearted and fair people, not bigoted h8ers who want to deprive people of their true and full civil rights. That there is another position that is as valid as their own never occurs to them.

Now, the second story, a brand new poll on abortion.

A new Gallup poll finds:

–Just over half of Americans, 51%, believe abortion is “morally wrong,”

–61% now preferring that abortion be legal in only a few circumstances or no circumstances.

If you look at the trend-lines, you see that there is no “historic” result here. Most Americans have considered abortion “morally wrong” for over a decade. Most of them have favored at least reasonable limits on abortion for at least that long and, indeed, when this topic comes to the ballot box, the nation votes the same way. It’s awfully hard to ignore that 61 percent of the nation believes there should be only a few or no cases under which abortion should be legal.

Yet the MSM has managed it (notice who is reporting on the abortion poll and who is not). Why?

See, I don’t think they’re doing this intentionally. Abortion is not on their personal radar screens in the way gay marriage is, much in the same way that you don’t care about the Oakland Raiders all that much if you’re a Green Bay Packers fan. You don’t care if the Raiders score a field goal or get another first down like you do when the Packers do it. They’re not your team, so why think about it? I believe that’s the bias we see more often than not from the “objective” media sources. The reporters who write the stories and the editors who assign them live in their own mostly-progressive political worlds. Another poll that shows how distasteful the mainstream Democratic position on abortion is to the nation isn’t that big a deal, like that touchdown pass by Jason Campbell isn’t that big a deal to the guy wearing a cheesehead and a Clay Matthews jersey.

And so we get biased coverage that serves not to inform the public but to nudge them toward a particular worldview, just like that Packers fan is going to nudge his friends toward his team. That is the bias we conservatives fight most often every day. It’s the reason we holler when a left-wing stalwart gets hired to write a supposedly neutral political blog for a major newspaper (especially when that’s could describe almost every one of their political bloggers).

It’s also why I get so fired up about the astonishing paucity of right-wing money that goes to new media. Clearly the way to fight this bias is to get a few more news sources into the zone that operate outside the progressive bubble. We conservatives can’t expect the folks who run Washington Post or Reuters to do that out of the goodness of their own hearts. We are going to have to do it ourselves, at least right now.

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Category: Oh, THAT liberal media., The Social Issues

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