Widespread confusion about “media bias” is playing a large role in the current national crisis, serving the interests largely of Trump.
House Speaker Ryan, explaining why fellow Republicans shouldn’t get too worked up about all the possibly impeachable offenses: “ It is obvious that there are some people out there who want to harm the president.” Trump himself: “Look at the way I have been treated lately, especially by the media,” he said. “No politician in history . . . has been treated worse or more unfairly.
They speak as if there were some other reason journalists, and others– half the country?- oppose him has nothing to do with what he has done, does, and they are afraid he will do. (Are Ryan and Trump suggesting that he is so unpopular because he’s white? Or Christian?)
According to many traditional news sources (AP, New York Times, CNN, etc) Trump’s tumultuous term is “coming to a head,” “the ‘beleaguered” administration “reeling,” “floundering,” from Trump’s firing of Comey and subsequent “potentially disastrous” revelations.
Is this another Watergate? Are we headed for impeachment? Surely, the anti-Trump half of the country is thinking, even a reluctant Republican congress, despite Ryan’s caution, will step in soon.
But there is every indication that Trump supporters are hearing both the facts presented in the news stories and the crisis atmosphere itself as “fake news.” Dismissable “media bias.”
Probably even Trump supporters agree that a “free and independent press” is key to democracy –and one of the first things to go in a dictatorship. (.How can you know how to vote if you don’t know what’s happening?) And many Trump supporters may even agree that journalism played a key role in the necessary removal 40-some years ago of Nixon for criminal activity. But now the contemporary version of that indispensable press (Woodward and Bernstein, and such “distinguished” and “trusted” sources as Walter Cronkite, Eric Sevareid, Edward R. Murrow, who brought us the stories of World War Two, of the McCarthy era, civil rights struggles etc.) is being dismissed for “media bias.”
Now, all you have to do is show that a paper, a journalist doesn’t think Trump is good for the country to get a good portion of the country to dismiss it as “media bias.”
The old complaint from the right that the media has a liberal “bias” seems to be borne out by the facts (at least Wikipedia’s version of the facts, which I see no reason to dispute) that “Among the United States’ 100 largest newspapers by paid circulation, 57 endorsed Clinton while only two . . . endorsed Trump.”
But “bias” is a misleading term for newspapers’ preference. “Bias” suggests, first, that a belief or preference is based on an a priori prejudice. And, second, that it deviates from an available “objective” view. But when it comes to politics –or for that matter, most important issues—there is no such thing as godlike, disinterested neutrality of “objectivity.”
According to the Wikipedia article, “Reasons cited by editorial boards for refusing to endorse Trump included his lack of experience in government at any level, as well as, among other reasons, editors’ belief that Trump was profoundly ignorant of most areas of public policy, lacked character traits considered desirable in a US president, and took a cavalier attitude towards civil liberties . . .”
“Bias,” then, is a biassed term for those reasoned endorsements.
You may, as a Trump supporter, disagree with the reasoning and prefer another view of Trump such as that of the two newspapers that endorsed him. But don’t delude yourself by believing that this editorial or story is biassed, and this other one you like the sound of better, “objective.”
We’d be able to understand the world better if the bias/objectivity dichotomy were stricken from the vocabulary.