Thursday, November 7, 2013

How the NSA Exposed the Media's Biggest Bias


Dissecting media bias is now a lucrative cottage industry in American politics. From Media Matters to the Media Research Center, there are multimillion-dollar think tanks whose entire mission is to prove that the media serves one of the political parties, and unduly persecutes the other.

Let's just state up front that it is certainly true that Democratic and Republican party biases exist in the corners of the mediascape that are explicitly partisan—places like talk radio and party-aligned cable television, to name a couple. It is also true that polls suggest this niche media's effort to recast every political issue as a purely red-versus-blue affair has unfortunately helped convince more Americans to base their own positions purely on party affiliation rather than on principle. And it is true that because of its affinity for shock, spectacle and sensationalism, hyper-partisan media outlets get lots of residual media attention, which ends up depicting these outlets as far more significant cultural forces than they actually are.

However, the dirty little secret is that despite all the hype, audience data prove that these purely partisan outlets represent a comparatively tiny share of the media world—the share that caters to the small handful of already-persuaded political junkies. More importantly, as the recent brouhaha over the National Security Administration highlights, these outlets' blatantly partisan biases do not reflect a far more pervasive and problematic bias in the much larger and more influential general-audience news media: the bias toward governments, corporations, politicians and businesspeople from any political party who appear to wield disproportionate power.
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