[Update: Neo NeoCon goes more into the MSM media bias on Iraq.]
Ralph Peters pretty much says it all for me, but I do have one personal anecdote along these lines to relate.
Remember General Abizaid? Remember when he spent something like 4 hours testifying in front of a congressional committee reporting on the state of affairs in Iraq before the surge? Here’s how his entire block of testimony was summarized by The News Hour with Jim Lehrer that day:
General Abizaid reported today that the strength of the insurgency now is the same as it was six months ago.
Gee, if that was the only important thing that Abizaid said, then things must be awful in Iraq, huh? Yet Abizaid testified before Congress for a ridiculously long time and said many things, some of which were reports of success and some of which were reports of mistakes. Normally I’m not much of a C-SPAN junkie for watching congressional hearings (mostly they consist of 50 minutes of posturing by the representative followed by 10 minutes of slanted questions at the person giving testiomy), but I did happen to watch a big chunk of this one because dammit, Iraq is too important a subject to be left to the slanted filterings of whatever media outlet happens to be on TV. Abizaid presented a lot of information and some of it was encouraging and some of it was discouraging. What did the News Hour do with all of that? They harped on the most negative soundbite they could find to stuff into their summary. Had they gone into depth on the subject, we would have seen that it was more of a 50/50 situation and not just an unmitigated failure as they would like us to believe.
“The News Hour” likes to gush forth about how its the only news program to tackle subjects in depth from both sides to make you an informed viewer. But do they really do that? I had already suspected that they harbored bias in the way they reported things, or rather the way they didn’t report things. There had been other news reports where I was independently informed of the event and knew the facts for myself and could see how the News Hour would distill and report them. Its not that they lied or overtly spun the facts, but what was more telling about the bias in their reporting were the inconvenient factoids that they simply omitted from their reporting. It was also clear that their anchors had certain chips on their shoulders that they just couldn’t give a rest when interviewing persons on the show. For instance, when Charlayne Hunter Gault was a regular talking head on the program, it seemed that she tried to make every news story a story about race, even when it seemed the only person talking about race was her. Eventually she left the program, and I breathed a sigh of relief. Not because I think that race is never an issue, but it isn’t always the issue either.
The bias is also shown in the people they select for their “panel of diverse opinions” when they have a group discussion. They like to pick people that are from the left as their “one side” and pick people just barely right of center for their “other side”. Gee, the average of the panel just doesn’t seem to work out to a centrist, middle-of-the-road position, does it? Whenever the Palestinians are in the news, they harp on endlessly about the Israeli response to Palestinian violence while barely mentioning the Palestinian violence that instigated the Israeli response. Somehow, the Palestinian violence is always justified (even when its Palestinians killing their own people indiscriminately), while the Israeli response is always just another data point that shows Israel to be an out of control mad dog in the neighbourhood.
Their weekly political analysis is given by the same two guys for what seems like the past ten years: Mark Shields (statist from the left) and David Brooks (statist from the right). Here are two guys that are supposed to analyze things from two opposing viewpoints, but if you pay attention you’ll see that Mark Shields gets to go on and on and on and on about whatever government program or statist move he thinks is best for the country while David Brooks occasionally speaks up to say something along the lines “I disagree that we need to have complete government control in this area because 75% government control will be sufficient.” Give me a break.
Then there is the subtle bias that is shown in the pictures they show in the corner while the talking head is recounting the news summary for the day. Have you ever noticed that they’ll show a smiling picture of Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, but they’ll show a grumpy looking picture of John McCain? Oh, we’re not biased, we’re objective. Honest. Then there are times when the picture being shown just doesn’t have anything at all to do with the events they’re talking about in the summary.
Fortunately with blogs, we won’t have to suffer this self-righteous facade of objectivity for much longer. With a blog, you know where the author stands because they come right out and say so. Contrary to what these so-called objective reporters will tell you, what blogs are doing is a return to the traditional function of the press in America. Did you realize that when James Madison founded a newspaper that was pro Federalist, that Thomas Jefferson funded a competing newspaper that was anti Federalist? They didn’t make any secret of what position they supported and why! That’s a marketplace of competing ideas, not a uniform sea of regurgitated AP wire reports that read identical in every single paper across the nation. Did you ever wonder why the news in the paper always appears so bland and uniform? That’s because there isn’t any real difference between papers for national news anymore. Its all been reduced to a single viewpoint: that of the Associated Press.
I’m fairly certain I won’t be hearing about any good news from Iraq on the News Hour and they’ll only bother mentioning Iraq in the news summary to update me on the American body count or to try and milk a little journalist mileage from dead soldiers by parading them at the end of their broadcast in their “honor roll”. Honor roll, my ass. The only reason you get to parade individual photos of fallen American soldiers at the end of your program one at a time is because they simply aren’t dying off in the thousands like they did in World War II, so you get to milk their portraits for as much heart-wrenching tear-jerking effect as you can manage, all the while claiming you’re “honoring” them.