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.