An understandable misconception from my previous comments is that I think bias in the media is inherently wrong. In actuality I think bias is a natural and inescapable part of having beliefs. Any journalist with half a brain and an education better than Dan Rather’s will have a healthy load of biases by the time they get a real audience. My problem with bias in the media is where it manifests itself in news sources which portray themselves as “objective”. Too much news is opinion masquerading as fact. While the inherent conflicts of interest within the 4 or 5 major MSM conglomerates and simple laziness can be blamed for a lot of MSM inaccuracies, the fact that the lion share seem to favor one side of the political spectrum demonstrates that the problem goes beyond random error.

Several previous posts on the issue of media bias suggested that since everyone is somewhat biased that the measure of bias is hopelessly subjective and not empirically identifiable. Fortunately we’re not dealing with the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle here. In the dark old days under the fairness doctrine conservative groups, in an effort to demonstrate empirically that news stories were not being reported fairly, began to simply count the number of times individuals were identified as conservative vs. liberal. While it’s easy for MSM news source to dismiss such studies as “unscientific” and ideologically motivated rather than address the actual validity of the charges, there have actually been a few studies within the hostile realm of academia. “A Measure of Media Bias” by two political science professors from UCLA and the University of Missouri found that the overwhelming majority of MSM news sources show a “strong liberal bias”.

Well I suppose that even the data in empirical studies can be skewed to suit the author, so lets move on to more specific examples:

Here’s an example of a story from Reuters detailing the outcome of the investigation of the Italian Journalist who was shot at by American solders that was modified by the LA Times to shift blame onto the US. Central to establishing culpability in the issue was the speed at which the Italian vehicle was traveling. The Italians attested that they were traveling at a “normal speed”, 25-30mph while US soldiers testified the vehicle was driving in excess of 50mph. The LA Times left the Reuters article intact minus this slightly important sentence:

CBS news has reported that a U.S. satellite had filmed the shooting and that it had been established the car carrying Calipari was traveling at more than 60 mph per hour [sic] as it approached the U.S. checkpoint in Baghdad.

The net result is that instead of revealing that Giuliana Sgrena is a lying commie, the article presents the outcome as far more negative to the US military than it really was.

ABC News’ Terry Moran had this admission of Bias in explanation for Newsweek’s Koran flush story error:

There is, Hugh, I agree with you, a deep anti-military bias in the media. One that begins from the premise that the military must be lying, and that American projection of power around the world must be wrong. I think that that is a hangover from Vietnam, and I think it's very dangerous. That's different from the media doing it's job of challenging the exercise of power without fear or favor.

I’m sure the whole Koran – sorry “Holy Qu’ran” since we’re talking about Newseek – thing doesn’t need rehashing but it is worth nothing that the pressures of the intensely competitive news market which is always cited as the cause for blunder such as this one didn’t seem to be a factor when Clinton was in the White House. The same editor responsible for pushing a highly damaging story to the Bush administration with little regard for the consequences and facts showed complete restraint when presented with the Isikoff piece which first revealed the existence of Clinton’s relationship with Lewinsky -- "there were huge stakes if it was wrong." After letting Newsweek get scooped by Drudge he still didn’t learn his lesson and also spiked a story on Katherine Willey that allowed Newsweek to be scooped by 60mins. Embarrassing a self-destructive, hedonistic relic of the 60’s is “huge stakes” while causing the deaths of 16 people and further damaging the image of the US abroad can’t be anticipated or avoided?

I’m sorry but anyone who’s not Dan Rather could have asked and answered the blindingly obvious questionL

“Why is it news worthy that the “Holy Qu’ran” is flushed down the toilet as opposed to an issue of our shitty magazine?”

Answer: Because a lot of people with a shockingly low regard for human life who we’re trying to get to chill out consider it sacred.

I find it fantastically unbelievable that a man with an Oxford education with intelligence described by his peers as “laser-like” wasn’t completely aware of this reality. Instead I think it was a half hearted attempt to tear open the wound of Abu Ghraib as a means of discrediting the current non-democratic administration.

To reiterate, I don’t believe there is anything wrong with ideology in the media, it just needs to be acknowledged. The increasingly transparent attempts to insert an agenda into the news has caused overall trust in the veracity of the news media to fall from 72 to 49 percent in the last 17 years. MSM is ailing and will not recover until it acknowledges that it is no longer an accurate reflection of reality. It must do this by either acknowledging it’s institutional bias so consumers can apply the correct filters or by truly seeking editorial and journalistic diversity.

Goodbye 31

One of the great heroes of my life played his last game tonight as the Pacers lost their series against the Pistons. Reggie Miller is now retired, and I have no more reason to watch basketball.


interesting documentary

I recently saw a documentary called The Weather Underground about the 60's leftist militant organization called the Weathermen. It was very well-done, if a bit too sympathetic to the weathermen.

It raises a lot of good questions, though, about what constitutes ethical behavior in a world where large forces effect large numbers of lives, sometimes in very negative ways. It also raises good questions about the ethics and the strategic effectiveness and ineffectiveness of violence.

As someone who believes that situations can potentially arise where the most ethical response involves violence (i.e., as someone who isn't a pacifist), I was forced to confront very tricky questions about the concepts of ethical vs. unethical applications of violence. It seems to me that if one adopts a utilitarian ethic, which governments essentially do when they conduct war, then it is difficult from a purely moral standpoint to condemn those who adopt a similar ethic in oppostion to war, as the weathermen did. In other words, if you support the Vietnam War, in which hundreds of thousands if not millions of innocent people were killed, then you can't very well stand in righteous indignation and shock when a terrorist group blows up a building in opposition to the war.

You can condemn the goal, you can condemn the effectiveness, you can condemn the ideology, but it is difficult to qualitatively condemn the technique of terrorism as immoral while simultaneously supporting the ethical permissability of other forms of violence. Some might argue that conventional military powers don't target civilians directly (at least not according to official policy), but does that really make state sanctioned violence more ethical than terrorism? Is it really worse to intentionally kill 3 people than to unintentionally kill 50,000? Was it immoral for German theologian Dietrich Bonhoefer to attempt to assasinate Hitler?

In a similar vein, I think the film very effectively portrayed the level of dedication that some of these people possessed. Regardless of one's opinion of their goals or their techniques, it is difficult to deny that they were the real deal. One got a real sense of "we're not in Kansas anymore," that these people were willing to change their whole way of life for their cause. I'm not trying to laud them, but only to contrast that palpable sense of dedication with the condition of the modern left--- the oppostion to the Iraq War, for example.

I in no way support what the Weathemen did (although I should note that they only destroyed property; they never killed anybody). At the end of the day, I think that if you make moral allowances for terrorists because you sympathize with their cause, then you can't very well complain when someone from the opposite cause adopts the same technique. I also think they were foolish for abandoning conventional politics and non-violent dissent (as George Will said of interest groups, they want the all the power of political office without having to be bothered with inconveniences like running for office). They were also extremely foolhardy, in that their techniques were not only completely ineffectual, but they were also extremely counterproductive. They, and the rest of the 60's far left, caused such a knee jerk political reaction in main stream America that the Left is still paying the price today.

I was continually reminded throughout the film of the Earlham pie thrower, Josh Medlin. His justifications for his actions were eerily similar to those of the weathermen. As the length of this post suggests, all of these people really get to me, in infuriating, haunting, and humiliating ways. I am at once impressed by their dedication and shamed by my own complacency. They make me wonder what I could really do if I got off my duff and got organized, got radical. At the same time, though, I'm frightened by their extremism, because I know that there but by the grace of God go I. The line between admirable dedication and contemptable extremism is disturbingly blurry.