Do you remember when it was a controversial charge to accuse the mainstream media of liberal bias? Do you remember when a media insider had to fear for his or her career if they admitted that the bias existed? Do you remember when conservatives were the only ones who seemed to recognize the bias?
It really wasn’t all that long ago – probably around twelve years. My how things have changed.
Today, there’s a general consensus among Americans that the media plays favorites. A little over a decade after CBS News insider, Bernie Goldberg, first blew the whistle on the problem, other journalists are finally peering out from behind the curtain and reluctantly conceding just how serious and widespread the problem is.
ABC News’ Jake Tapper, who has merely flirted with affirming liberal bias in the past, now seems to be done tap-dancing around the issue. He recently told radio host, Laura Ingram, that the national media is failing the country. He stated, in no uncertain terms, that they tipped the scales for Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential election. He also criticized the media for how timid they’ve been in reporting on serious issues like our country’s dire economic state and the war in Afghanistan – you know, the issues that really matter to both our nation and Barack Obama’s presidency.
Just days earlier on NBC’s Today Show, Time Magazine’s Malk Halperin expressed frustration in how the media likes to give extra attention to stories that help Obama or hurt Mitt Romney. “The media is very susceptible to doing what the Obama campaign wants,” he said.
FOX News’ Kirsten Powers, who typically defends liberal views on FNC, is also disturbed by what she sees. She recently pointed out the outrageous double-standards the media uses when reporting on gaffes made by Republicans vs those made by Democrats.
The public has woken up as well. A recent Rasmussen poll revealed that 51% of voters believe that most reporters are trying to get President Obama re-elected, while only 9% believe that they’re trying to get Mitt Romney elected. Furthermore, the same poll shows that they believe that media bias is a more corrupting force in U.S. politics than big money, campaign contributions.
Yes, the cat is out of the bag, but there’s still an important, lingering question when it comes to media bias: Just how much influence does that bias have on the public, and more specifically on the electorate?
Bill O’Reilly estimates that the media’s endorsement of Obama has given the president a three to five percent edge over Mitt Romney in public opinion polls. I tend to believe that number is much larger. After all, we’re not just talking about the media promoting Obama and disparaging Romney. We’re talking about the stories the media chooses to hype and the ones they choose to downplay. We’re talking about the information they willfully omit, and the partisan assertions they fail to challenge. We’re talking about the narratives that they help the president advance, and the messages from the Romney campaign that they work to bury. We’re even talking about the entertainment industry and late-night comedians, who by their own admissions can’t bring themselves to make sharp jokes at the president’s expense.
I believe that media bias is so engrained in our culture that we’ll never be able to fully recognize the effect it has had on our society. Several media analysts have pointed out that the age of New Media has given conservatives a tool to marginalize liberal bias, and they’ve pointed to a sharp viewership decline in established media outlets as their proof. There’s certainly some truth to that, but you can’t ignore the overall environment. Outlets like FOX News, The Wall Street Journal, New Media blogs, and conservative radio still make up a very small percentage of the media. Even with their individual success, they’re up against a widespread, collective culture of liberal group-think that is far more influential on public opinion.
Even those who recognize liberal bias in the media aren’t immune to its effects, because we’re conditioned to lend the benefit of the doubt to those who provide us with information. We want to be able to trust the media, but the reality is that we simply can’t. Not enough people in that profession recognize their own inclinations. Not enough of them value the importance of their profession to our free society.
The November election will be a pivotal point.
The mainstream media has never been more invested and deliberate in deciding the outcome of a presidential election than they are now. The proof is clear: The economy is in the dumps, unemployment has been chronically high for four years, our catastrophic national debt continues to rocket out of control, gas prices keep setting records, our social safety net programs are failing, the entitlement culture is growing, and there are signs of another looming recession on its way. Yet, national polls still show that nearly half of the country approves of the president’s job performance. That’s a true testament to the media’s influence on public opinion. A large portion of the public clearly has no clue just how bad of a situation we’re in.
Just imagine if the media covered the U.S. economy with as much rigor and criticism as they covered the Iraq War during George W. Bush’s presidency. Does anyone honestly believe that President Obama would be clearing an approval rating of 30%, regardless of how personally appealing the public found him to be?
No, the primary reason the president has any chance of winning another four more years in the White House goes directly to how the media has chosen to portray both him and Mitt Romney. Thus, the November election should answer once and for all just how much influence the mainstream media still has on the electorate. The election will be far less about any meaningful measure of leadership than it will be about a distorted perception of who each man is. If most of the country buys into the notion that Mitt Romney will be more detrimental to the United States than Barack Obama has been, we’ll have proof that the mainstream media is still the domineering force in American politics. If Mitt Romney wins, even by the skin of his teeth, it will prove that the liberal establishment media-engine has finally jumped the tracks and will never again enjoy the kind of power they’ve had for decades.
We’ll find out the correct answer soon.