Monday, February 21, 2005

The question of bias

Reacting to a speech by NY Times editor Bill Keller, in which he opines that blogs are inherently biased, Commonwealth Conservative writes:

The problem with blogs is their inherent bias? Is that meant to be ironic? I’d say the problem with the NY Times is its inherent bias.

The MSM is clueless, and growing moreso by the day.

Keller's statement evinces the ideology of the '50s emphasis on Consensus: we had a select number of institutions that were a shared referent, creating a coherent intranational identity of sorts (whether or not the historical experience tracked the ideology of Consensus is another question altogether). Keller, of course, is a byproduct of the Consensus, one of whose last vestiges resides in the MSM; they really think they're an unbiased fount of information around which Americans of all stripes can gather.

The lingering question is whether the MSM is, in fact biased. It's certain that they have some kind of bias. As Marxists and postmoderns were noting decades ago, a necessary component of doing the news is selecting the news. In a sense, then, they generate the category 'news.' That much seems self-evident, and is one of the growing number of issues on which conservatives and marxists are in agreement. A second question is whether the MSM pervasively reflects a liberal slant.

I'm gonna bracket that question for the moment, in favor of glip comparison. One interesting feature of the current MSM criticism by conservatives (and marxists, of course) is how critiques of MSM deploy the language of conspiracy theorists: bias is always 'latent' and 'insidious'. In other words, prima facie there's no detectable bias, but once you scratch the surface the web of bias becomes apparent. Hence the hub-bub over Eason Jordan: the key that unlocked the conspiracy had been found. It's all very paranoic; watching it is not unlike watching an Oliver Stone movie.

I googled "MSM" & "bias". Here are some snippets of the The Jawa Report, the first page I found that was more than a 4-line "gotcha!":

"Ultimately, as we might already suspect, the media creates 'news'....And unfortunately the massive private sector human intelligence operation we call journalism has turned into a mouthpiece for an ideology"

From a JFK conspiracy site: "Stone's crime was not that his movie presents a myth, but that he had the audacity and power to challenge the myths of his critics. It is, in the critics' view, the job of the news media to determine the country's paradigm, to define our perceptions, to give broad interpretations to major events, to create the myths which guide our thought and action."

The Jawa Report comments section: "You're right, the left-wing bias of the press has had a serious impact upon society and people don't even realize it."

JFK: "Who did the president, who killed Kennedy, fuck man! It's a mystery! It's a mystery wrapped in a riddle inside an enigma! The fuckin' shooters don't even know!"

The moral: watch out. You're caught in the web, and you don't even know it.