28 June, 2007

The Myth of Media 'Fairness'

I was planning to write about the Orwellianly labeled 'Fairness Doctrine' today--and I will. But first a neat little set-piece with Rupert Murdoch that puts it all in context:

Murdoch isn't a party-line guy. He's a pragmatist. He likes strong politicians and change agents and winners; in recent years he has supported moderates like Tony Blair and Hillary Clinton.
Did the author of the exclusive Time piece (Eric Pooley, also the author of last month's 'The Last Temptation of Al Gore') just call Hillary Clinton a moderate? A moderate socialist maybe, camouflaged in the kind of moderate-sounding slogans she'll need to get herself elected. Or maybe moderately competent at cynical political triangulation--a discipline she would have learned at her husband's knee if Monica hadn't already occupied that particular, um, position. I digress...
...he [Murdoch] has a stubborn populist streak, and his populism finds an outlet on Fox News, a channel that gives voice to angry middle-aged white guys.
As opposed to what, exactly? Calm, youthful, liberal-minded, quasi-androgynous, "people of color" uniquely capable of thinking deeply, comprehensively and fairly about intractable societal problems and coming up with calm, intelligent, forward-looking, government "solutions" that unemployed, gun-toting, vengeance-seeking Michael Douglas caricatures of the broad and enduring conservative impulse in American politics would never ever think of?

Gimme a break. Does rap appeal to "angry young black men"? Whatever the grains of truth ofo such sweeping statements on the margin, it too is a demeaning caricature--yet Poole would get lynched for saying so and he knows it. Middle-aged white men, on the other hand, are fair targets for a deeply self-righteous MSM that's seldom met a liberal double standard it can't cozy up to.

Which is all to say that I think I've been insulted... along with over 60% of the male electorate in this country. (People like Michelle Malkin, LaShawn Barber, Thomas Sowell, Ann Coulter and Condi Rice don't seem to even enter into Poole's world view in which one cannot be authentically and honestly conservative and simultaneously be female or old, or young, or black or Asian or Hispanic or anything else other than a Dick Cheney clone--which should not in any way be interpreted as a slam on the veep, whom I hold in high esteem.)

It's not clear if MSM outlets like Time, and media elite figures like Mr. Pooley are even aware that this kind of sarcasm-dripping, holier-than-thou, finger-wagging editorializing on all things non-liberal (and posing as "objective", "mainstream", "news") is what's making people like Rupert Murdoch fabulously rich, Air America quietly bankrupt and the 'Fairness Doctrine' deeply attractive to a Democrat-controlled Congress unable to squelch the sniping from "angry middle-aged white guys" like me. Yeesh. The Time piece continues:
"CNN is pretty consistently on the left, if you look at their choice of stories, what they play up. It's not what they say. It's what they highlight." [says Murdoch] (CNN, which is also owned by Time Warner, hotly disputes this charge.) Then he mumbles conspiratorially, "And if you look at our general news, do we put on things which favor the right rather than the left? I don't know." Has Murdoch just said what I think he said? Has he flirted with an admission that Fox News skews right? If so, he quickly backs away. "We don't think we do. We've always insisted we don't. I don't think we do. Aw, it's subjective. Neither side admits it."
Poole can barely contain his glee at "catching" Murdoch obliquely hinting at bias--a thing which in MSM-land is sort of like catching a pedophile--and then (in Poole's view) stumbling over his response to a deliberately mis-interpreted question. Murdoch is right if incompletely so and Poole completely fails to pick up on it: bias is subjective and neither side admits it.

At least traditional media outlets don't. We bloggers are a good deal more emancipated. Plus nobody is paying us--at least not this blogger. Hewitt is one of the higher-profile media mavens leading this intellectual charge--a view that says all claims to objectivity are false.

Murdoch actually understates the case. Bias is more than just subjective. It's unattainable, illusory and pointless to debate. I take the Weberian view (Max that is): human beings are biased. Full stop. The best we can do is to try to understand and state our biases. Even there however, we will never be able to be completely honest with ourselves, much less with those who consume what we produce.

The best we can do is to admit that we are biased and let the media consumers decide what they want to hear, see or read more of. It's a world view that springs directly from a larger theological view of mankind as being fallen, flawed and lost outside of the saving grace of God through Christ: I'm flawed; he isn't. I'm biased in my own little ego-centric universe; he's entitled to be 'biased' because he's eternally and universally right. (Well that's another post right there. I digress... again.)

The current market for news and opinion is so free, comprehensive and multi-faceted that anyone transported in a time machine from say, 1970 (on my mind because the novel I'm working on is partially set there) could scarcely conceive of it. And it's completely at odds with a government-centric, left-leaning, throwback-static world view in which things must be controlled and legislated and managed (by elites and bureaucrats) in order to produce a socially respectable result... whatever that means.

In a media environment in which channels, stations, reading options, and content-consumption alternatives (think YouTube and podcasts) are proliferating daily (never mind the sheer volume and variety of content on them), it is almost laughable to think that a highly partisan Congress would single out one small but vitally important slice of that beautiful, everyman cacophony (talk radio) and propose that it be neutered because an elite few have deemed its progeny (and potential progeny) to be ugly.

(The eugenic, anti-life echoes contained in this issue are something I hadn't even thought of until just now. Hmm... That may need to be the subject of another post.)

I say almost laughable except that it frightens me deeply (almost as much as thinking about our inability to deal with Iran) that more and more Democrats are coming out with very straight faces indeed and proposing without a trace of shame, irony or awareness of Orwell's warnings, that something called the "Fairness Doctrine" is more about fairness than doctrine.

More fair than peoples' God-given right to choose what to read, who to listen to, and what constitutes bias? I can think of few things more antithetical to the Constitution. I can't say for sure, but knowing the opportunistic ends-justify-the-means cynicism of some of the characters involved, it seems more than likely that those proposing this know so.

They know it's unfair and they don't care because it's unfair to angry, middle-aged white men--their code word for conservative. In their heart of hearts, they'd like to call us rednecks because well, they do at their liberal dinner parties--and (what was that noise on the phone line?) no, I'm not paranoid; I've heard it.

We can only hope that--should it come to it--the Supreme Court would quash such a measure as the Fairness Doctrine (a bad idea way back when; an utterly reactionary idea now). Unfortunately, we might be into a second Hillary term before it gets challenged at that level.

Maybe I shouldn't worry though; with Hillary in office, Iran may get us first. They've got their own version of the Fairness Doctrine. They call it sharia law.