Complaints of media bias are tiresome. I get that. But, on the other hand, I’m really not convinced that folks are fully cognizant of exactly how far off-kilter the media is from the rest of society, or how profoundly that impacts how a lot of us see the world we live in. This chart, more than any other chart I’ve seen, conveys that reality.
I promise to do my best not to include this image in every post that I write for the next couple of years, but let me explain why it’s so important. (The post is from a Business Insider article, by the way: These Charts Show The Political Bias Of Workers In Each Profession.)
First, I mean “media” in the most general way possible. The entertainment industry, newspapers & print media, and academics: these are the sectors that determine, if not what people think, then certainly what people are thinking about. Folks marvel at the rapidity with which the country changed its mind on gay marriage, but it’s really no mystery when you think of how committed these sectors were to the campaign. (I’m not as sure about Online Computer Services, exactly, but it sounds like you may as well toss in the Internet with the rest of the media as well.)
So why is is that conservatives often feel under siege despite their numerical superiority (according to many polls)? This is why. Why is it that liberals cannot fathom what motivates conservatives? Again: this is why. There are essentially no representatives of conservative thought in the media that dominates this country.
This simple fact explains an awful lot about the current political climate.
18 thoughts on “Media Bias: The World I Know”
The graph is a wonderful visual. Thank you. You say “There are essentially no representatives of conservative thought in the media that dominates this country.” Maybe I am missing something (I’m not an economist or statistician), but I just checked ratings for news programs for Monday, July 13 and found that Fox News proved far more popular than its liberal counterparts by a sizable margin. Are you saying that popularity doesn’t count because it doesn’t constitute dominance?
Before Fox News, folks always used Rush Limbaugh as the counter-argument for liberal bias. He was wildly popular, available (on AM radio) in every city, and clearly more overly partisan than, say, NBC, CBS, and ABC.
But Rush Limbaugh was not really evidence of fairness in mainstream media. He was–as an alternative source of media–much more symptom of just how out of touch the conventional media sources had become.
It’s pretty much the same situation with Fox News, which is basically just someone taking Limbaugh’s strategy and expanding it to cable news. Just consider two facts:
1. Fox News is basically a pariah among news outlets
2. It is wildly popular
What that tells you is that other than Fox News, the media is very, very skewed. ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, NPR, etc, etc. This makes Fox and, for another example, the Wall Street Journal the very paragon of exceptions that prove the rule.
Keep in mind also, that this isn’t just about journalism. Look at network television and Hollywood. It’s really, really easy to find shows and movies that emphatically trumpet socially liberal dogma and that often go way, way out of their way to humiliate conservatives. Off the top of my head: George W. Bush’s head appearing on a pick in season 1 of Game of Thrones, gratuitous swipes at Republicans in an otherwise apolitical movie like Julie and Julia, and basically everything that happens in Charlie Wilson’s War.
This means that a conservative watching TV is pretty well accustomed to seeing their beliefs overly mocked in ostensibly mainstream television. It’s just part of every day life.
Now, you could easily respond that minorities in America live with a much deeper and more pervasive kind of otherness. And that is absolutely a valid response, but it also falls under “two wrongs don’t make a right.” The fact that socially liberal white Americans manage to continue to alienate minorities (look how few roles are given to minorities, or how few women directors there are in Hollywood, or how much less women make than men, or how few female national news anchors there are) is not somehow a way of balancing the fact that they also routinely disparage conservative Americans. It doesn’t bring balance. It just underscores how little conventional socially liberal political ideology actually has to do with social justice in any meaningful sense of the word.
Thus, we live in a country where the poor, where minorities, and where conservatives all have legitimate basis to call themselves alienated (to one degree or another, I’m not drawing equivalences), while the opinion-makers and elites (overwhelmingly fiscal conservative, social liberals) continue to use that partisanship to divert attention from their policies and to break threatening factions that might otherwise spell trouble within America’s restive underclass.
That chart may make sense for Americans, but for anyone else it is garbage.
Let’s take ‘Conservative’ as an example. Conservatives in every other country I am familiar with stand for:
1) Gun Control
2) Same-Sex Marriage
3) Open Access to Abortion
4) Separation of Church and State
Note that I’m not talking politicians, I’m talking about the general public.
Could one not simply shrug and say that market forces dictate media consumption… That despite what Americans think, say or do, they simply demand more liberal media than conservative media?
Of course it is garbage for anyone else. It is a chart of the American corporate sector using American terminology to discuss American politics. I’m sure it would be quite interesting to see a similar chart for France or the UK, and such a chart should use French (or UK) sectors and French (or UK) terms for discussing French (or UK) politics, etc.
It just seems odd to use a pejorative term like “garbage” because this particular tool is about one country rather than another country.
Other facts make that simplistic conclusion untenable:
1. The only major outlier (Fox News) is also the most popular
2. Conservative politicians continue to be very competitive nationally
There are more, but those two alone should strongly indicate that this isn’t as simplistic as democratic market forces.
However, once you weigh in consumer spending power (keeping in mind that advertising fuels journalism) the market-explanation makes a lot more sense. I’ve come to believe more and more that social liberalism is basically an elitist ideology driving primarily by affluent, well-educated, predominantly white Americans. If you consider that this is a much more sought-after demographic than poor, uneducated Americans (black or white), the skew makes a lot more sense economically.
Hasn’t journalism always targeted the educated, throughout history, especially considering that for a couple centuries of newspaper history literacy itself was equivalent to being educated? What’s the problem here? If there is so much demand for conservative media content… Why is there only Fox news? Why is no one investing conservative media?
Well, if you have a problem with elitism in general or with our particular elites today, then a media that reflects their interests might be problematic.
There’s a pipeline issue, which is a way of saying that the ties between academia and journalism make it tricky to disengage journalism from a particular liberal perspective. To give a very simple example: if all your journalism professors are left-wing this contributes substantially to all your journalism majors being left-wing which in turn means there’s only but so much of a labor pool for a conservative media.
This might, in fact, be why Fox News seems to have such quality issues…
Is elitism a problem for our society? Haven’t all human societies throughout history been led by an elite class? Is an alternative possible for our species?
Just curious, but where in the main article does it say that This Chart Applies to the United States.
There has never been a society without murder, theft, and rape. Lots of things that are endemic are still worth fighting against and, hopefully, mitigating to some degree.
I did not specify the country. I could do that next time. I did, however, specify that it was from a country (singular), and so some of your irritation based on international comparisons takes me by surprise.
It is probably safe to assume that if a US publication is showing a graphic drawn from research into federal campaign donations without explicitly naming other countries it is talking about the US.
For being upset at Nathaniel for not specifying this chart applies only to the United States, you seem to have a very northwestern, Anglo-Saxon/Nordic European idea of conservative in mind. Maybe you happen to know only northwestern, Anglo-Saxon/Nordic Europeans, but off the top of my head your generalization doesn’t apply, in whole or part, to:
1) Spain. Example: People’s Party.
2) Republic of Ireland. Example: Abortion for many parties.
3) Northern Ireland. Example: Abortion for many parties.
4) Most of Eastern Europe. Examples: Everything.
5) Australia. Example: http://www.crikey.com.au/2014/06/04/how-conservative-mps-are-trying-to-undermine-abortion-rights/
Let alone conservative parties in Latin America, South America, Africa, and Asia. Also, church/state relations are different in Europe (because of their history), so making a direct, generalized comparison to the US is unwise. For example, France’s take on religion is very different from the US. The US tends to be more live and let live. France’s style of government is *very* secular, based on its experiences before and during the French Revolution. And on the flip side, Poland’s government is closer to the Catholic Church than most countries, again based on historical experiences.
This subject is really irrelevant, because I think it would be decently obvious Nathaniel is talking about the United States only, but this subject is one of my annoyance areas because I grew up in the US as a kid with a first generation German-American parent (I still speak German). Everybody seems to think they know Europe, and no one seems to have actually visited for an extended time, learned anything about Europe, or talked to very many Europeans. And those who do know a little something generally seem know a very specific subset of Europe, namely northwestern, Anglo-Saxon/Nordic European countries, with rose-tinted glasses.
“1) Gun Control
2) Same-Sex Marriage
3) Open Access to Abortion
4) Separation of Church and State”
I would be surprised if this were the case for all four. It certainly isn’t true in my own country, nor in any of the neighbouring countries. Certainly isn’t true in Eastern Europe.
“Everybody seems to think they know Europe, and no one seems to have actually visited for an extended time, learned anything about Europe, or talked to very many Europeans. And those who do know a little something generally seem know a very specific subset of Europe, namely northwestern, Anglo-Saxon/Nordic European countries, with rose-tinted glasses.”
Bryan, you are one of my favourite people now.
I used to deal with a wide range of international customers, who would buy Component A for the U.S.A. and Component B for Korea (or Japan, or China…)
Stating what country you are talking about is a necessity when sourcing production line parts. It is also necessary when you are talking about something that affects one particular country.
I didn’t know you were American until I’d read a fair chunk of it. If I had known you were writing about the USA, I would have ignored it, because it doesn’t apply to me. If you have have been writing about the American Presidential nominees on the other hand, I would have read it, since American politics is a hobby of mine.
And no, I don’t have any idea who will be the two party nominees. I’m pretty sure it won’t be Ted Cruz for the Republicans, and I don’t think it will be Rick Perry, but it’s early in the campaign.
I suppose I am a Tolerant Traditionalist in lack of a better term to describe my flexible ideology. But does the fact that I would require material proof that churches are not tax-free pyramid schemes for accumulating capital before granting them continuation of tax-free status make me a social liberal? Scientology and the LDS Church, for example, would not pass my criteria for this, not even close. Is it not a classical liberal / conservative idea that business, religion and government should be separated to the degree it is practicable? Are there not extreme moral hazards when two or all three of these form close combinations? Is it not fundamentally different to say that these separations should be real and be enforced than it is to actively advocate eradication of religion as in Marxism? Help me understand my position better. If liberalism is firmly in control as you state, this taxation status issue is an inevitable debate ahead, as you say.
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