Sunday, 28 August 2005

MSM Bias and Conspiracy Theories

From James Lileks :
Please get this straight: there are no marching orders. There is no RoveHive to which everyone buzzes in the morning for a scrap of Royal Jelly we carry off to our blogs. If there sometimes appears to be a unaniminity of subject matter, that'™s because certain ideas appear, flower, bloom, take root, and spread. Like kudzu. But kudzu is not taking orders from some dark shrouded mastermind made entirely of cellulose and chlorophyll. If you honestly think that everyone to the right of Noam Chomsky is part of some dark soulless cabal dedicated to extirpating all photons and replacing them with negative matter that strips the flesh from the bones of the poor, I envy you; the world must make perfect sense.
A similar argument applies to MSM - Main Stream Media. The reasons why there's such seeming unanimity in only reporting stories with an anti-Bush spin are:
  1. Most newspapers just get their foreign stories from a few sources: AP, AFP, BBC, Reuters. What appears to be a thousand different independant outlets is just the same half-dozen, or less than half dozen, sources re-badged and repeated endlessly.
  2. Corporate Culture : I forget the exact figures, but well over 75% of US journalists identified themselves as "progressive", "liberal", or "Democrat". A similar survey in Australia would find a far more diverse mix - all parties, "Labor", "Green", and "Democrat". Well, that's all the parties that matter, surely? Opinion is divided on Howard being a Coward, a Liar, an Incompetent, or a Murderer. That's enough diversity, right?
  3. And finally, "if it bleeds, it leads". The story of a thousand schools being rebuilt is boring. The story of a suicide bombing isn't, even if the only casualty is the hapless bomber. Especially if it can be spun to show that "The Iraqi War continues, as Bush's popularity plummets amidst growing outrage at his false reasons for going to war, yada yada."
There is no "conspiracy", just a group of like-minded individuals getting the data from a tiny handful of sources, all of which is written by people who think just like them. Any contradictory data is obviously the result of bias, corporate groupthink, or ignorance. I mean, no-one they know thinks like that.

Let's not fall into the same trap as the Looney Left has. Anyone who thinks the systematic MSM bias is the result of some vast nefarious conspiracy really should take a look at how the Left sees the Right, and learn from their mistakes.

That involves reading things other than Right-Wing blogs. You can learn a lot - sometimes your opinion can be changed, sometimes you find it confirmed because the opponents are far more reality-disconnected than you'd possibly imagined. Either way, don't just read the opinions of people who agree with you.

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