The Myth of Liberal Media Bias
Though an oft-repeated matter-of-fact for many a conservative, there is no such thing as liberal media bias. To the contrary, mainstream media is exceedingly, and disturbingly, conservative.
Sure, perhaps even most individual talking-heads may personally identify as socially liberal, but most aren’t even allowed to voice firm opinions, let alone publicly out their political leanings. The profit incentives of their bosses, founded in the satisfaction of advertisers, prohibit even fleeting, let alone prolonged, liberal expression.
Take, for instance, the refusal of the New York Times to use the term torture at the behest of the Bush administration, in favor of enhanced interrogation. The Obama administration (however clumsily) refers to Daesh as ISIL – yet the liberal media calls them ISIS. From the beginning, the supposedly liberal media have propagated the agenda of hard-line right-wingers - both in the US and the Middle East - by marrying with their language the religion of Islam (and by extension all Muslims worldwide) to radical Wahhabi mad men who want just that. The NYT position quotation marks around Israeli “settlements” in disputed territories. Most media outlets refer to undocumented immigrants (aka human beings) as illegal aliens.
Why is it, then, that people widely viewed as liberals would parrot conservative spin on matter after matter? Partly, it is because they are constantly accused of being liberal, that they pain themselves to avoid doing or saying anything that could be construed as liberal bias. Partly, it is because most of the doe-eyed script-readers on television have a narrow view of liberalism which consists of abortion and gay rights – so they don’t really have much liberal to say, anyways. I wouldn’t expect that many are strongly opposed to capital punishment. Or torturing prisoners of war in Guantanamo; imperialism; off-shore drilling and fracking; warrantless mass surveillance… Or that many of them are in favor of assisted suicide. Or blanket legalization; campaign finance reform; student debt forgiveness; free pre-school, school lunches, and college; single-payer healthcare; universal basic income; high taxation of the wealthy...
Mostly, it is because they wouldn’t be allowed to express such views and remain employed in their current positions. They were promoted within the system because they are talented in hiding their opinions and avoiding offense. The media has been trained, in the past few decades, to forgo objectivity in favor of neutrality. They’ve forgone their adversarial role of umpire in exchange for access to politicians who are not to be seriously challenged. From on-screen mannequins to decrepit executives, they are whores to power who would rather rub elbows than throw them.
Exxon Mobile has a direct pipeline of cash to CNN which ensures climate change is largely ignored, and climate skeptics (as the liberal media calls them) are featured prominently in the rare climate discussion. Pharmaceutical companies want to keep the drug war going strong so the government keeps their market competitors at bay. Financial institutions selling reverse-mortgages (along with literally every other industry) want deregulation. The quadrennial cash dump ensures that campaign finance reform and money in politics is never discussed (ask Lawrence Lessig).
It wasn’t always like this. Sure, Borax was around long ago. And political bribery is nothing new. But legal changes of the past few decades have exacerbated our problems. Buckley v. Valeo & Bellotti (and later Citizen’s United & McCutcheon) essentially legalized political bribery. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 deregulated broadcasting. Before, one could own only one major news outlet in a given media market. Now, a half-dozen corporations control 90% of media. Before, in exchange for utilizing our airwaves at no charge, television stations had to devote an hour of primetime to news coverage to relevant and current topics in an honest manner. Then, 60 Minutes managed to turn a profit, and it-bleeds-it-leads became the model.
There is no liberal media bias. There is instead corporate media biased in favor of the establishment and profit. And there is alternative media of whichever stripe you fancy.