Bias in the mass media has been getting more flagrant in recent years, and polls show that most people are getting wise to it. Here is a graph published by Gallup in August, 2010, that shows the trend in consumer confidence in the mass media:
I was talking to my daughter-in-law several years ago, trying to help her see what was really going on in the country, because she was relying on unreliable sources of information. She acknowledged that there was bias in her news sources, but dismissed it saying, "everyone is biased." I've thought about how to answer that, because the problem is much more serious than she seemed to appreciate at the time.
In the 19th century, it was typical for media outlets to be biased. The difference between then and now is not the bias, but the honesty. Back then, newspapers admitted their bias, and you could find newspapers coming down on one side or another. Today's problems with sources of information go beyond bias. Here is what is happening: The leftist media, which consist of the big networks (ABC, NBC, CBS, and some cable news outlets like CNN and MSNBC), the major newspapers (led by the New York Times), and the major news magazines, while they pretend to be objective, are actually pursuing an agenda so energetically that they will lie about events, will allow lies to be perpetrated without challenge, and spike stories that don't fit their agenda. The problem,therefore, is more serious than media bias—it is media corruption. There are numberous examples illustrating these problems. Here are a handful of them:
Lying about Events
During the 2008 presidential campaign when so many in the country became excited about Sarah Palin, the media took it upon themselves to take her down. One of their tactics was to claim that she was stirring up hatred.
At one speech given by Sarah Palin in Clearwater, Florida, in October, we had the following report from Dana Milbank of the Washington Post. He told us that, after Palin had mentioned Obama's connection to domestic terrorist Bill Ayers, one man in the audience said, "Kill him!"
Thus was launched many sessions of hand-wringing among the left, bemoaning that such hate existed in America and that Sarah Palin was stirring it up. Problem was, the story was made up. The Secret Service had agents stationed throughout the audience, and they didn't hear any such thing. To get to the bottom of the matter, they conducted further questioning of people who were in the audience. The result—they couldn't find anyone who had heard the threat. Clearly, the incident was made up by the reporter.
Another flagrant example was the admission in 2003 by CNN's chief news executive, Eason Jordan, that they had covered up stories of atrocities by the Saddam Hussein regime in order to curry the favor of the regime so they could keep their Baghdad bureau open. (See his op-ed in the New York Times, The News We Kept to Ourselves.)
Allowing Lies to Be Perpetrated
In March, 2010, as Democrat lawmakers were walking to the Capitol to hear President Obama's speech after the passing of Obamacare, they reported that Tea Party protestors spat on them and called them racial and anti-gay epithets. The news media reported on this and criticized the Tea Party movement. However, there were video recordings of the entire walk, and a scouring of those video clips revealed that no such thing happened. The media, however, failed to correct the record, and continued to perpetuate the reports. Later in the summer when the NAACP made a statement condemning racism among Tea Party supporters and referencing this concocted story, the media continued to report the story as if it had actually happened.
Spiking Stories That Don't Fit Their Agenda
We have known for a long time that the left-wing press has refused to run stories that would undermine their agenda. But this has gotten more difficult for them in recent years with the rise of the Internet and talk radio, where some of these stories have gotten out in spite of their efforts. So they have sometimes been forced, reluctantly, to finally cover stories like the Monica Lewinsky scandal, corruption in the ACORN organizations, etc. But still, they are still able to manipulate public opinion by refusing to give much coverage to some stories, simply because there is a certain percentage of the population who rely solely on them for their news.
It was significant when Jonathan Strang of The Daily Caller uncovered a listserv made up of several hundred journalists from the left. It was dubbed the Journolist, and in this forum, members of the media openly discussed their conspiracies to spike stories, to lob false accusations against conservatives, and to otherwise manipulate the news. If you haven't read his report, you will find it most eye-opening. It was reported on The Daily Caller website, July 20, 2010.
Consequences of the Corrupt Media
The corrupt media is detrimental to the functioning of our democracy because it provides cover for the corruption of politics. Leftist politicians who lie to their constituents by posing as conservatives or moderates are given cover by the press. Then they are able to pass legislation that masquerades as something very different from what it is, such as "The Employee Free Choice Act," that is designed to pressure employees into agreeing to unionize by taking away their right to a secret ballot, "The DISCLOSE Act," that is designed to muzzle their conservative critics. The effects of their legislation is also covered up. Many people, for example, believe that the financial crisis happened because there weren't enough regulations of mortgage lenders, etc., leading them to write loans for people who couldn't afford to pay. The truth, however, is that the regulations were actually the culprits in pushing banks to relax lending standards so that more minorities could obtain home loans.
This media corruption has enabled historical lies to be perpetuated. Many people believe that FDR's New Deal helped get us out of the Great Depression. The truth, however, is that they helped create a second depression in 1938-39, and that while other countries were climbing out of the depression, we were sinking deeper. As the war was drawing to a close, about six months before he died, FDR outlined post-war programs that included government-subsidized housing, federal involvement in health care, more TVA projects, and the "right to a useful and remunerative job" provided by the federal government if necessary. His death took the steam out of his proposals, and Congress, refusing to enact his vision, instead enacted steep cuts in income tax rates and corporate tax rates. By the late 1940s the economic revival was so robust that tax revenue was actually higher with the lower rates than it had been with higher rates. For more information, see Did FDR End the Great Depression? from the April 12, 2010 Wall Street Journal.
There are similar historical deceptions about the war in Vietnam. American military successes in 1972 culminating in the Christmas bombings of Hanoi drove North Vietnam to sign a surrender in early 1973. Enforcement of the surrender, however, was blocked by Congress, and the media would not tell the whole story.
The perpetuating of these historical deceptions facilitates the advance of the agenda of the leftists by leading many of the less informed to be swayed by their arguments that government spending can cure recessions and that war doesn't work.
See my blog postings about bias and corruption in the media.