Monday, September 8, 2008

Media Bias Again

My post on media bias generated some good debate (especially in the comments to Megan McArdle's post). It also generated one utterly unhinged (and comically stupid) response by a guy named Brad at the Fire Megan McArdle blog. Before I get to Brad's response, I want to clear a couple things up. First, as I noted in my original post, I don't perceive a liberal bias in the media. In fact, if you asked me whether I perceived a particular bias in the media, I would say that I think there's a conservative bias. But I'm a partisan Democrat, and my point was that my perceptions of media bias are likely to be heavily tilted toward perceiving a conservative bias. Second, I don't think "unbiased" means a perfect 50-50 balance of pro-Democrat and pro-Republican stories. The media's reporting should of course be driven by the facts. If the Democrats are right 75% of the time, then by all means, the media's reporting should reflect that. But media bias isn't always that simple; it often takes place at a much more nuanced level, for instance how a reporter describes a policy or a political event. Third: yes, I know that Fox News isn't liberal, and that Chris Matthews slobbers all over Republicans. The fact that there are prominent conservative pundits doesn't prove that the media, in general, have a conservative bias. Now to Brad's post, which is high comedy. Brad first tries to argue that my post is worthless because I'm a lawyer, and not a neurologist. Ouch. Good one, Brad. You're absolutely right: I'm not a neurologist. But, of course, that has nothing to do with my argument, seeing as the neurological study I relied on was published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. Next, he argues that my post was dishonest:

He goes on to cite one of countless studies showing reporters tend to identify as Democrats. He does not, of course, follow up with mention of the consistent accompanying result that a majority of editors and publishers identify as Republicans, or the fact that these folk are the ones who actually control the news being published. That would be honest, and wouldn't play into the meme being pushed.
First of all, the survey I cited did, in fact, include editors in the survey sample. Here's the breakdown of the survey sample:
* 9 percent of respondents were editors, managing editors or assistant managing editors. * 38 percent were mid-level editors (including the copy desk, section editors, graphics/photo editors and editorial page editors). * 46 percent were staff (including both general assignment and specialized reporters, photographers, designers and columnists).
Second of all, there is no "consistent accompanying result" showing that editors and publishers skew Republican. In fact, surveys show that most editors and publishers also vote Democratic. Next, Brad questions the neurological study I discussed:
I'd be interested to know whether the study controlled for the actual empirical truth values of the claims being responded to, as Kerry tended to lie a lot less often than Bush, which could skew the results, but then I'm probably being emotional in my attachment to reality.
Brad was clearly too lazy to click on the link to the study that I provided. Had he done so, he would have found that yes, the study did control for "the actual empirical truth values of the claims being responded to." Or, alternatively, he could have simply read my post, as I clearly stated that the claims the subjects responded to were "undeniably inconsistent." Finally, he argues that the party affiliation of journalists (and editors) can't be used to gauge liberal or conservative bias anymore, because:
Bush's extremism and my way or the highway mentality and record of unmitigated failure have forced the country's political center back into the Democratic Party.
As I noted in my post, the survey of journalists and editors I cited was conducted in 1999—that is, before Bush shifted the political spectrum. Brad should really learn to think before he writes. According to his profile, Brad is a student. My advice to him: stay in school.


brad said...

Awwww, I didn't pay enough attention to you?
How's about the the begging the question failure on your part, the only genuine, non-snark, criticism I offered? You equate Democrat with liberal, which is wrong.
That fact I mentioned I was too lazy to bother to click your link suggests criticizing me for it won't have much impact.

brad said...

Also, ummmmm. In this post, you say
Before I get to Brad's response, I want to clear a couple things up. First, as I noted in my original post, I don't perceive a liberal bias in the media.
And yet, in your original post you said
I tend to think there is a "liberal media bias," based on two facts.
I asked a teacher, and he told me that's contradictory.

Economics of Contempt said...


Don't flatter yourself. You clearly belong in the kiddie pool.

"I asked a teacher, and he told me that's contradictory."

In my original post, I said: "I don't perceive a liberal media bias, but then again, I'm a Democrat." I said that there's probably a liberal media bias, but that I, being biased myself, don't perceive such a bias. Do you really not understand the difference between perception and reality? Honestly, are you in high school?

"How's about the the begging the question failure on your part, the only genuine, non-snark, criticism I offered? You equate Democrat with liberal, which is wrong."

Well, first of all, conflating Democrat with liberal isn't "begging the question," genius. I used "Democrat" as a proxy for "liberal," which isn't begging the question. A liberal media bias doesn't automatically follow from most journalists being Democrats; it requires a mechanism. My argument was that the mechanism is neurological.

There is no universal definition of "liberal" -- it means different things to different people. "Democrat" doesn't line up perfectly with everyone's definition of "liberal," but it lines up well enough with most people's definition of "liberal" to make it a very reasonable proxy, and one that's widely accepted in the political science literature. Maybe you'll read about it in a PoliSci class when/if you get to college.

"I mentioned I was too lazy to bother to click your link"

No, you didn't. Good try, champ.

brad said...

Touchy, touchy. I'd almost feel insulted if your semantic games were successful.
But, alas, no. There are a great many Democrats who are not liberal, and if you were the liberal you try to credit yourself for being you'd know that actual liberals have been very displeased with the Democratic Party since at least the Clinton era.
In my undergrad polisci courses we were taught about things like what the word liberal means in a political context. I was also taught about this thing called the Overton Window, which is what you're trying to use to conflate Democrat with liberal.
As for perception versus reality, this therefore means you take the idea of liberal media bias on faith, then right? Cause a pre-Clinton impeachment survey of newsrooms plus a study which you lack the background to respond to critically plus an editorial referring to another set of pre-Clinton data which supports neither of our claims isn't much in the way of evidence.
Also, you've left out publishers and their politics.
You did get one thing right, I forgot I deleted the line about me being too lazy to take your weak shit seriously and click through. My bad. You were just a means of introduction to laughing at Megan, I wasn't trying to take you seriously.

N btw, you still haven't fixed that typo in your "About Me".

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