It has been said that a lie repeated often enough becomes the truth.
Gallup has found that in each of the past 10 years, between 45 and 48 percent of surveyed American adults believed news media was “too liberal,” and between 11 and 19 percent believed the media was “too conservative.” The remaining percent chose another response.
While liberal media bias undoubtedly exists, one must take into consideration the sources most people get their news from, few of which are left-wing.
A 2009 poll by CBS News and The New York Times found that television is the primary news source for 60 percent of American adults.
A separate poll by NBC and The Wall Street Journal found that of the 48 percent of adults whose primary televised news source is one of three cable networks, more respondents chose FOX over CNN and MSNBC combined.
To say that FOX isn’t the most blatantly biased mainstream media source is an understatement. The liberal incarnations of Ann Coulter, Sarah Palin, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly would be ruthlessly attacked on any other network, yet all have flourished on FOX.
All five have made statements many consider blatantly racist.
Beck, without any legitimate basis to make such an assertion, claimed that President Obama is a “racist” with a “deep-seeded hatred of white people.”
Coulter, a gloating conservative provocateur, referred to Obama’s memoir, “Dreams from my Father,” as a “dime-store version of Mein Kampf,” and appears frequently on “The O’Reilly Factor” and the “Hannity Show.”
O’Reilly himself has admitted to an extent the bias of FOX’s commentary, but justified its necessity to counterbalance the “liberal media.”
O’Reilly’s statements, which he later retracted, should be appreciated for their sincerity. FOX and most of its enthusiasts are quick to rebuttal any claim of conservative bias by claiming that despite people like Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly, the news segment programs adhere to standards of neutrality.
Unfortunately, not even that is the case.
The coverage of two recent events, the Occupy Wall Street protests and News of the World phone-hacking scandal, show a bias in both the amount of coverage and its quality.
FOX and News of the World are owned by the same company, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.
Coincidentally, FOX also had half the level of coverage of the phone hacking scandals as MSNBC and one-third that of CNN, and the coverage tended to downplay Murdoch’s knowledge of the scandals.
Murdoch has funneled millions in donations to Republican organizations through News Corp’s general fund, but has donated little to Democratic groups. Other media parent companies have also made political donations, but in much smaller increments than News Corp and to candidates of both parties.
But do claims that any conservative slant on FOX is justified because it balances out the liberal bias in the rest of the media carry any validity? Is the mainstream media really liberal?
True, The New York Times, MSNBC, Time, CNN and countless other outlets have had liberal media slant accusations mercilessly thrashed against their reputations, deservingly in some cases.
In making a judgment, it’s important to contextualize the difference between being liberal and conservative and favoring candidates of one party over another.
As a whole, news coverage and political commentary tend to prefer Democratic candidates, but the media is not decisively liberal on a number of issues.
FOX was quick to portray the Occupy Wall Street protestors as a fringe group, but other networks have been more reluctant to portray the extremity of certain tea party groups and candidates.
A more thorough investigation of the war in Iraq would have revealed claims of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq to be a hoax, but few in the media challenged the Bush administration’s claims.
It is only in recent years that the media has adopted a more progressive stance on social issues like gay rights, race and gender equality, but the representation of minorities in the news is far from progressive.
Media Matters found that in 2008, 67 percent of the guests on prime-time cable news were male and 84 percent were white. MSNBC had the greatest gender imbalance, while FOX was the whitest network.
Latinos, who comprise more than 15 percent of the population, only represented 2.7 percent of cable news guests.
When it comes to fiscal policy, the notion that the federal budget deficit and national debt are hampering economic recovery seems to be universally accepted, despite conventional economic wisdom to increase government spending when private sector demand and investment taper off.
CNN, MSNBC and other allegedly liberal media outlets have attempted to balance left-wing and right-wing pundits, guests and commentary.
FOX, on the other hand, often uses moderates, liberals and straw men to rebuttal stronger conservative political commentary.
All paint a picture far different from the widely-held belief in a liberal media. How could this be?
Either the media isn’t quite as liberal as people think it is, or it has become too empathetic with its detractors, who shrewdly realized they could sway content with accusations of bias.