Friday, November 06, 2009

Transcending Moderate Bias, or How the Media Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Nutjobs

As media-bashing has gone platinum (which one might attribute to an era of hyper-partisanship, or one might not), claims about the media's liberal or conservative bias have actually -- ironically, perhaps -- reinforced the media's "moderate bias." Stephen Colbert famously said that reality has a well-known liberal bias. Or it might have a conservative bias. Charlie Gibson doesn't care! He's not interested in reality - he is interested only in the meta-reality that is the Beltway political conversation, which is viewed two-dimensionally along a left-right spectrum. By and large that's fine -- using centrism as an approximation for objectivity is not altogether without merit, as long as everyone knows how the game is played. But as Poniewozik says, "Our conception of politics is broken if it cannot account for the fact that Michael Moore and Glenn Beck come to some of the same conclusions while having very different philosophies. Yet pollsters and the media still rely on it, to frame politicians and themselves." I'm not sure I agree that 'left' and 'right' are becoming increasingly inadequate (they've always been inadequate)... but even if I did agree, what is the alternative - a Borgesian map of the world? The media's abiding faith in a "neutral center" unicorn remains a useful fiction.