The “B” is for Bias

If you’ve recently visited Drudge you’ve probably seen this memo from ABCNews’ political director essentially saying that it will essentially be ABCNews’ official policy not to "reflexively and artificially hold both sides 'equally' accountable" because "the current Bush attacks on Kerry involve distortions and taking things out of context in a way that goes beyond what Kerry has done…". This pretty much confirms what I’ve been saying for the last 10 months, that the MSM has decided that Kerry’s going to get a pass and that the media’s critical eye will be unblinkingly fixed to the Bush administration. From Evan Thomas, the Assistant Managing Editor of Newsweek admitting “the media wants Kerry to win and so they’re going to portray Kerry and Edwards as being young and dynamic and optimistic” in July to the CBS memo controversy we’ve seen an unprecedented decline in the editorial integrity of mainstream news sources. It’s incredibly frustrating to me that the news most people receive is becoming a less accurate portrayal of reality and more a reflection of the desires of poorly educated, idealistic journalism majors from the 60’s.


Joe said...

I've seen Mark Halperin, the supposed author of this memo, on the Charlie Rose show at least once a week for the last several months. On that show at least, he is very objective and fair. He's also really intelligent and really funny.
I noticed that you did not actually comment on the content of this memo. I'm not sure what he is referring to exactly, but theoretically at least, he makes a perfectly valid point. If Bush calls Kerry a child molester, for instance, while Kerry accuses Bush of liking strawberry rather than rasberry jam, the media isn't obligated to treat both distortions equally. I don't think you have any reason to paint this as liberal bias when you don't know what Halperin is referring to.
The media wants Kerry to win? That's ridiculous. If they're hard on Bush, it's because Bush treats them like shit. Also, Bush is a pretty lousy president and has made many, many mistakes. It's their JOB to call him out on those mistakes.
I saw Edwards on all three Sunday morning network shows this morning, and they all gave him a hard time about the Iraq inconsistancies, which are real. I'll believe the media is biased when both sides stop complaining equally. If the right thinks there's a liberal bias, and the left thinks there's a conservative, corporate bias, then chances are, the media's doing its job.

Andrew said...

What makes the memo controversial and biased is that it makes the implicit editorial judgment that attacks made by Bush will contain distortions more frequent and severe than those made by Kerry and that the distortions made by Kerry are somehow benign and not worthy of scrutiny because they are not central to his efforts to win . If the memo was simply “please review the validity of attacks before mindlessly repeating them in the news” as your child molester/raspberry jam analogy seems to reflect, no one would disagree with that. But that is clearly not what the memo is stating. It states that the only way to “serve the public interest” is to filter all attacks from the Bush camp with the prejudice that they are distortions which will unfairly manipulate the electorate.

“This is all part of their efforts to get away with as much as possible with the stepped up, renewed efforts to win the election by destroying Senator Kerry at least partly through distortions.”Bias is a form of prejudice and that is what Halperin is asking for in this memo.

I’m also curious what your contention that “both sides stop complain[ing] equally” is based on? Eric Alterman?

Within my last post I included a link which references an NYT poll which states: ``When asked who would be a better president, the journalists from outside the Beltway picked Mr. Kerry 3 to 1, and the ones from Washington favored him 12 to 1.”Media bias is increasingly becoming the issue I’m most frustrated with lately and I’d be more than happy to continue this discussion if you're not satisfied with this argument.

Andrew said...

This is a NYPost op-ed that addresses my recent mainstream media bias concerns more fully. Here's the portion of it that deals with the ABCNews memo issue specifically:
Consider the latest smoking gun to emerge in the media war on George Bush (news - web sites): The internal memo written by ABC News Political Director Mark Halperin that popped up right before Friday night's Bush-Kerry debate.

Halperin, described by the network as "responsible for the planning and editorial content of all political news on the network," issued new orders.

Both sides distort the truth, he said, adding in effect that Kerry's lies don't matter — but that George W. Bush's most certainly do.

"Kerry distorts, takes out of context, and mistakes all the time, but these are not central to his efforts to win." In contrast, he wrote, "the current Bush attacks on Kerry involve distortions and taking things out of context in a way that goes beyond what Kerry has done" — a point he said was echoed by reporters from such paragons of objectivity as the above-mentioned Newsweek and The New York Times.

Then came the instructions:

"We have a responsibility to hold both sides accountable to the public interest, but that doesn't mean we reflexively and artificially hold both sides 'equally' accountable when the facts don't warrant that.

"It's up to Kerry to defend himself, of course. But as one of the few news organizations with the skill and strength to help voters evaluate what the candidates are saying to serve the public in- terest, now is the time for all of us to step up and do that right."

That is, voters need skillful, strong "help" evaluating information because they are too stupid, too ignorant or too benighted to figure out the "right" way to vote all by themselves.

They need Mark Halperin and his crew of correct-thinkers to explain things to them.

Such arrogance borders on the incomprehensible — and it is unforgivable at this stage of one of the most important presidential elections in American history.

An ABC News flack said Friday night that "we're not interested in taking sides" — which hardly addresses the issues raised by the Halperin memo.