Thursday, 30 April 2009

When Bias Attacks

Every now and again I get into arguments about whether or not there is a liberal bias in the American media. The most obvious counter to this is FOX News, but that's so obvious there doesn't seem any point flagging it up any more.

There's more than one way to skin a cat, though. Ladies and gentlemen, I present the Washington Times:
Mr. Obama is the second-least-popular president in 40 years... According to Gallup's April survey, Americans have a lower approval of Mr. Obama at this point than all but one president since Gallup began tracking this in 1969. The only new president less popular was Bill Clinton, who got off to a notoriously bad start after trying to force homosexuals on the military and a federal raid in Waco, Texas, that killed 86. Mr. Obama's current approval rating of 56 percent is only one tick higher than the 55-percent approval Mr. Clinton had during those crises.
From Gallup's own website:

That's from March; today's figure is 63%. This, by the WT's own figures, puts him ahead of every president in the last 40 years, aside from Reagan (who beats him fairly comprehensively), and Carter, with whom Obama is tied (at this point in the presidency, Obama's first three months are on average ahead of Carter's). GALLUP also shows that Bush, far from beating Obama, managed only two spikes into the low sixties pre 9/11, whereas Obama has only dipped below 60% "on a few occasions".

This, by the way, is exactly the reason why I don't buy into the argument that a journalists should be assumed to be telling the truth unless you can dig out the counter-evidence. There's just too many of them that are flat-out idiots/liars.

Two important qualifiers. Number one, I am not, as may sometimes seem the case, anti-journalist. I do not believe them all, or even the majority, or even necessarily a particularly large minority, to be feckless scum. I simply refuse to assume that they must be telling the truth until I get round to catching them out. Journalists should need to build good reputations before they can be implicitly trusted, they should not start out expecting that trust until such time they prove to be unworthy of it.

Number two. I'm hoping to preempt a fairly common response to this sort of post, which is "That doesn't prove the media are biased towards the right!" Of course it doesn't. Simply arguing that the media isn't biased one way does not mean you are claiming that it is biased the other way. As Al Franken said, if there is a bias in the American press, it's towards a certain kind of money-spinning low-brow story. The Republicans are much better at playing to that particular market, which is why I can forgive an assumption that the media is biased towards the right (this sort of thing doesn't really help, of course), but that's not bias, that's just good tactics (though good does not mean, respectable, acceptable, or inoffensive). All I'm doing here is demonstrating that there are more reasons to doubt the apparently indestructible idea that the media is in the tank for the left than pointing at FOX. There are plenty of other media outlets out there pumping out fact-free conservative bullshit.

Oh, and in the interests of fairness: CNN, I'm with Drum; knock this shit off. DeMint's argument is shaky enough at face value, you don't need to parse his statement to make it seem more insane.

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