Talk about Bias

James Bemis is a columnist for the California Political Review, and has been published in many other Catholic and secular publications. This article originally appeared in The Wanderer.

What accounts for conservative success? “Progressives” think they know – but as usual, what they “know” just isn’t so.

Take, for example, NBC Nightly News “reporter” Lisa Myers. Covering the advent of O’Reilly’s show, Myers attributed conservative radio’s triumph to the “simplistic world view” held by conservatives. “O’Reilly joins a long list of talk radio hosts whose views range from conservative to more conservative,” Myers said. “Why aren’t there more moderate or liberal voices? Well, experts say conservatives are more entertaining because their message fits the media. Where others see shades of gray, O’Reilly and Limbaugh mostly portray the world as black and white – and revolving around them.”

Oh really? What apparently never entered Ms. Myers’ pretty little head is that many listeners find talk radio a welcome refuge from the left-wing propaganda, masquerading as news, burbling from the lips of “reporters” like Myers.

Of course, reporters don’t see bias in the stories they present – liberals never do. At least these talk show hosts acknowledge their conservative views up front – and you can take or leave them on that basis. Further, the public has a full spectrum of political opinion to choose from on commercial radio – the same can’t be said for the nightly news oligopoly of Dan Rather, Peter Jennings, and Tom Brokaw, none of whom would ever be mistaken for a conservative.

These big media types like to think of themselves as providing impartial, fair reporting. The truth is, everything they say or do is colored by their “progressive” views and the way they think things are supposed to work.

Reporters don’t notice their own biases because liberalism envelops their surrounding work environment, the way a fish doesn’t notice it’s in water. To the press, fairness consists in arguing about the margins; a real examination of the underlying principles is almost never given. The main problem isn’t the partiality that creeps into the news they cover; it’s the unexamined angle that isn’t covered at all.

If mainstream media journalists were more truthful, they’d make their biases clear. Maybe newscasters and reporters should have a (D) or (R) party affiliation next to their byline, like elected officials. Perhaps a simple declaration of party allegiance at the beginning of each article or broadcast would suffice – “Hi, I’m Dan Rather, “yella dawg” Democrat, and here’s tonight’s news…” or “This is Wolf Blitzer, Green Party loyalist, reporting from the Rio earth summit…” Not only would such refreshing honesty help put the “news” in perspective, it might even liven things up a bit.

The “simplistic” label given conservative radio hosts is another canard, as anyone who tunes in knows. This is more liberal wishful thinking than sound analysis.

Take, for example, my favorite talk show host: Hugh Hewitt (KRLA-AM in Los Angeles.) Each month, Hewitt offers separate one-hour segments on poetry, fiction, non-fiction, science, and Shakespeare. (I just bought the tapes of a three-hour show Hewitt devoted exclusively to the life and art of William Shakespeare.)

Weekly, Hewitt provides features on U.S. and world history, religion, Constitutional law by two law school professors, an energy briefing by California State Assemblyman John Campbell, a Washington update from Congressman David Drier, an hour with “Beltway Boys” Fred Barnes and Morton Kondrake, another with foreign affairs guru Frank Gaffney from Center For Security Policy, and an hour on the movies. Frequent guests also include pollster Kellyanne Conway to give a sense of the country’s pulse, libertarian Virginia Postrel on technology, and veteran editorial-page editor and media critic Ken Grubbs on the economy.

This is simplistic? Anyone saying so must never have bothered to listen in the first place.

Actually, no place is so rife with crude thinking as television news, home to unsophisticates like Lisa Myers. Constrained by political correctness and limited to what it catches on film, TV news pretends to cover the world. But if a story can’t be captured by an image or emotion, it isn’t reported. This is why violence, blood or pathos always leads the top of the hour: there’s no room here for subtlety, analysis, or rational thought.

In other words, it’s simplistic.

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