Monday, April 16, 2012

Liberal Media Bias: Has Fox News Made It Worse

Back in the old days, the liberal media at least used to pretend it was neutral and objective.  But now that there is Fox News, the liberal media feel that since there's a conservative alternative they can put the pedal to the metal on their liberal bias.

That's the argument of Robert Stacy McCain at the American Spectator.
The very existence of a conservative-friendly TV news alternative, however, relieves liberals at other networks of any twinge of conscience about bias in their programming. They may well reckon, "If conservatives don't like it, let 'em go watch Fox." And given how liberals have demonized Fox -- portraying it as an all-powerful evil force in media -- some reporters may even feel the need to slant their coverage more stridently leftward, so as to counteract the exaggerated right-wing news menace.
He's probably right.  The trouble is that conservatives get the worst of the exchange, because there about 24 million nightly viewers of the network news versus 3 million for Bill O'Reilly on Fox News.

On the other hand conservatives need to stop whining about this and stand back for a moment.  We need to appreciate the enormity of what we are trying to do.  The yellow press grew up in the 19th century servicing the rising working class, dishing out scandal, afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted.  For two hundred years there has been a bigger audience for corporate scandals than for government failure.  That's not just because of liberal media bias, it's because a lot of people experience themselves as victims of powerful forces, and buy the idea that government and journalists protect them from those powerful forces.

The destiny of the modern conservative movement is to change this culture, the culture of the working man railing against his boss, the victim railing against the Man.  It is a profoundly middle-class movement, based on the idea that if you want to change something, you get together with your neighbors and change it.  You do not wait around moaning about exploitation until some community organizer in a radical suit turns up to lead you.

In the United States there is a political party that represents people that prefer the "get-together-with-your-neighbors" model of society.  It is called the Republican Party.  There is also a political party that represents the "moaning about exploitation" model of society.  It is the over-under coalition of educated elite and suffering victims we call the Democratic Party.  Liberal media or no liberal media, there is no doubt about where to go if you are a Tocquevillian American that believes in forming voluntary  associations to do public work.  And there is no doubt where to go if you feel that you are a victim of powerful forces.

The point is that, for nearly a century, the majority of Americans have clearly felt that they benefited from a government that ran social programs like Social Security and Medicare.  So long as a majority believes this, the current system will continue.

If you want to change this status quo then you have to start a movement.  Obviously such a movement will experience resistance from the present elite and from the present beneficiaries of the status quo.  It is right and proper, therefore, that we should have a liberal media that defends the status quo, and ridicules the conservative movement that wants to change it.

But if the status quo should be seen to fail, or if its major proposals for change are experienced as negative change (Obamacare) then all bets are off.  That is the situation right now for the liberal media and the educated elite that backs President Obama and the Democratic Party.  Its programs are running out of money.  There is a danger of "austerity" or a collapse of the current patronage/clientage system in a sovereign default.  ("Austerity" means minor cuts in government programs that are experienced as life-changing by people that have adjusted their lives to rely on government programs for basic necessities).

When "austerity" bites, or default happens, then all bets will be off.  Then, and only then, people will be looking for a new political home, and they will be looking for a new media home.  All of a sudden the Democratic Party will find that it must adapt or die, and the media will find that it needs to change its politics or die.

There is no doubt that the Democrats would not have done as well as they did in 2006 and 2008 without the assistance of the mainstream media.  But what good did it do them?  They recklessly pushed through Obamacare, and then suffered the worst reverse in a mid-term in half a century--even though the Tea Party, vehicle of the reverse, was roundly denounced by all establishment opinion makers.

All in all, it is best to think of the media as a trailing indicator, like the unemployment rate, rather than a leading indicator, like stock prices.  When the welfare state collapses--as it will, because government always runs out of other peoples' money--the liberal media will shrivel up and slink away.  And nobody will give it a second thought.

But politics will not change.  People will still be out looking for free stuff from the government.

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