The most brilliant strategy employed by conservatives in recent times can be encapsulated in two words – liberal media. These two words when uttered by themselves are enough to rile up the base and explain away all inconsistencies or even factual errors. The idea is rooted in the mentality that conservatives are victims that are not given their due or their interests not represented by a media that is inherently liberal .
So what makes them liberal? Well, it turns out that, most people involved in the media trade are or at least used to be liberal or vote liberal so ergo, the media is liberal. This line of thought assumes that a person’s political behavior or beliefs naturally influences that person’s professional work even if it is proven time and time again that it is not the case. Professionals are called that because they are trained to separate their personal beliefs from the work they do. No doctor is going to refuse treatment to a conservative patient because he is liberal, no liberal fireman will delay putting out the fires in homes where conservatives live, and nor will a liberal hair stylist refuse to cut the hair of a person who wears a McCain/Palin button. So why do conservatives fear that the media people who might vote liberal lean liberal in their profession?
Part of the reason is because at times, someone has acted unprofessionally and let his political ideology affect his work and soon he or she were held up as an example of liberal bias. Conservatives countered by setting up conservative media (National Review, Fox News, etc.) to counter the balance (hence ‘fair and balanced’). But the inherent difference is, conservatives unabashedly seek to further their ideology and when confronted, say that they are merely seeking to balance out the so-called liberal side. Conservatives tend to believe that their ideology is proven beyond all reasonable double and should remain unchallenged. By definition, liberals are open to dialogue and discussion and may be amendable to changing their mind whereas conservatives have already made up their mind and are convinced they are right. The only thing that remains is to convince the rest of us. Historically, it was not so but a great deal of conservatism in the U.S. is now influenced by Christianity which also rigorously pursues its dogmatic philosophy and insists on ‘saving’ the rest of us. Any change or movement from the status quo is abhorrent. Conservative is defined as “holding to traditional attitudes and values and cautious about change and innovation” so naturally to expect them to act any other way is asking for too much. If they change easily, they would be liberal.
Journalism or any reporting requires you to be open-minded and open to any facts that you might uncover during the investigation. So naturally it has and does attracts people of such inclination. If you proudly proclaim to be part of the ‘conservative media’, chances are you have already made up your mind and are only determined to inform the rest of us. That’s all fine and dandy but why the overwhelming feeling that if journalists are liberal then they will definitely report everything with a liberal bias?
Perhaps the answer lies in how the conservatives approach their reporting. They expect the liberals to act the same way. Why wouldn’t they, right? We do it all the time, is their line of thinking. However, that’s not the reason why the charge of labeling someone as part of liberal media works so well. It works partly due to the liberals being accused. Naturally, the journalists that are liberal in their personal beliefs are forced to introspect and even begin to doubt if they have been doing it subconsciously. Thus to compensate, they try to lean right in order to “balance the reporting” thus achieving the first goal of those who accuse them of having a liberal bias. Every issue on network and cable news now has to be divided into a left and right angle even if it is abundantly clear that sometimes facts overwhelmingly support the left e.g. global warming, etc. By introducing doubt, they have succeeded. Now every thinking liberal journalists tries more than ever not to present facts but to appear fair to both sides even if it is a false dichotomy.
Another reason perhaps more insidious to speculate, is that conservatives are more likely to hold a grudge and take offense personally. Liberals by their nature are accommodating and willing to understand that while we disagree, we are still professionals and can be respectful. Conservatives will at times go out of their way to hurt journalists by restricting access or even blackballing them thus hurting their credibility and hitting them where it hurts the most, their livelihood. The media is more likely to be deferential to conservatives who are not afraid to act as bullies. We hear a lot about the liberal media but even when Democrats were in majority briefly in 2008-2010, the TV and talk shows were dominated by conservatives. John McCain gets invited almost every other Sunday to Meet The Press although he went down to a resounding defeat in the Presidential election and has since disavowed his signature legislation, the McCain-Feingold Act on Campaign Finance. So why is he so sought after than any comparative liberal senator? Why are threats by conservative senators taken more seriously? Because they are crazy enough to actually go through with them? No? Have you forgotten the debt ceiling debates that for the first time brought down the United States’ credit rating? The Republicans actually dabbled in the exercise that would have led to the most powerful and richest country defaulting on its debt.
So if you hear someone resorting to accusing the media or a journalist of being part of the liberal media, remember that he has run out of all logical arguments and is using the one argument that works the best. Perhaps he is not even considering the logical arguments anymore. Why should he, right? Since this one works so well and all the time. But it should be treated like the Godwin Law or the Fanboy Theory.
- I’m using the terms liberals and conservatives here to represent the average politician of either beliefs. Things may have been much better in the recent past or may be better in the near future but as things stand, this is closer to the truth, in my opinion. [↩]