Saturday, August 16, 2008

The media's true goal, unmasked

It is a well-established assumption that the mainstream media is liberally biased. This is evidenced by the cherry-picking of negative news regarding the Iraq war, overly critical “attacks” on president Bush spearheaded by liberal standard-bearer Keith Olbermann, and most recently by the coddling of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. Arguments supporting any of these attacks, such as those made by the group Veterans Against The Iraq War, are written off as nonsense or, even worse, unpatriotic garbage.

There is, however, a shining star of hope for journalistic integrity hidden within the fourth estate: FOX news. FOX is the clear leader in the ratings war perpetually being fought by the big established media corporations, and it’s obvious why. Their tag line “we report, you decide” clearly conveys a commitment to the journalistic ideals of information presented in an unbiased fashion so that you, the viewer, can make informed decisions about the world around you. Lost among the obvious liberal tendencies of MSNBC, CNN, ABC, and NBC, there is nowhere for the news-hungry consumer to turn but FOX for information you can trust.

Yet all is not right in the world of mainstream media. Quietly, and with little fanfare (as is to be expected with such subversive tripe), a report was issued by The Center for Media and Public Affairs:

“The Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University, where researchers have tracked network news content for two decades, found that ABC, NBC and CBS were tougher on Obama than on Republican John McCain during the first six weeks of the general-election campaign.

You read it right: tougher on the Democrat.”

If you are shocked and appalled by this obvious lie, you’re not alone. Bill O’Reilly, one of FOX’s most popular talking heads, has brought your anger straight to the source of the study: researcher Robert Lichter. O’Reilly shreds Lichter’s arguments like a wolf among lambs (I assume, I haven’t been able to listen to the file yet, but Papa Bear’s a champ who would never get talked down by some east-coast, pointy-headed phony like this Lichter character).

Now I’m going to go out on a limb here and disagree with Bill. The more I look at the evidence, the more it seems that there is something else going on here – something deeper than is immediately obvious. In fact, I am going to go so far as to argue that the media is, indeed, being tougher on Obama than on McCain. Here’s why:

1. The attacks on Obama are far from substantial (Too skinny to be president? Really?)

2. The attacks on McCain are significant and persuasive (See: Andrea Mitchell)

3. There’s a Communication Science theory known as Inoculation Theory that ties this all together

Let’s start with point number 3. Here is the Medical Analogy explanation for Inoculation Theory shamelessly ripped from the Wikipedia entry:

“Inoculation can best be explained and was derived from the idea of medical inoculation. Providing people with a potential weak opposing argument can act similar to a weak virus injected into a human body building an antibody or defense to future attacks. The goal is to build immunization to future physical threats, or in this case, arguments opposing a potential attacking message.”

Said another way, the media is providing the public with exceedingly weak arguments against Obama. This leads to an easy refutation of those arguments, reinforcing the public’s already positive opinion. Here are just a few examples of obviously anti-Obama “news” presenting arguments or “controversies” more appropriate for a high school class president race than for a race to be President of the United States :

- Obama Crowd Builds in Germany: Good or Bad?

- Too Fit to Be President?

As evidence of just how shoddy this reporting was, there is reason to believe that the idea for the latter article was devised on a Yahoo Message Board or, even worse, in the satirical newspaper The Onion. With journalistic standards like this, it’s no wonder the media isn’t taken seriously anymore.

The media certainly appears tilted against Obama. However, the reasons for the slant are wholly counter-intuitive, with the end goal revealed to be a bolstering of Obama’s approval ratings. This is accomplished by creating a large volume of childish and asinine anti-Obama arguments. To compound all of this, what little criticism of McCain does creep into the media is often scathing, harsh and much harder for the everyday media consumer to refute.

It gives me no pleasure unmasking this supposed anti-liberal bias for all the world to see, but it must be done. Sitting idly by while the media subverts the presidential election process for its own gain would be a far greater crime – a crime I am not willing to commit. My task is complete, but there is still work to be done. Maintain your vigilance and avoid taking the easy path being offered up by the talking heads and “journalists.” Think critically about every story and come to your own conclusions, just like it says here:

1 comment:

Steven said...

Read this: - Obama's Edge in the Coverage Race