Crooks and Liars has video of Lou Dobbs discussing the “liberal” media with Howard Kurtz and Ken Auletta from the New Yorker. I am somewhat thankful that Auletta called Dobbs on his assumptions about the “liberal” media. Auletta is right that one facet of bias is horse race politics, it isn’t the only bias, but for broaching the issue in the mainstream media it is a good start.
Kurtz opines that he has never seen so much positive coverage of a presidential candidate as Barack Obama has gotten. I will say again, the best indication of bias are not the stories that run, but rather the stories that get ignored. History doesn’t really allow repeatable experiments, so a reasonable approach is to look at paired examples. Thankfully, there have been multiple in the campaign and campaigns past that we can draw upon.
First, there are the respective episodes of Reverend Wright and Reverend Hagee. Obama’s pastor dominated the news cycle. McCain’s political alliance with Hagee got a brief mention.
Second, we can compare coverage of Kerry and McCain marrying heiresses as Glenn Greenwald did. The conclusion was that Kerry was a gigolo. McCain is just living the American dream.
Third, we have McCain saying that Iran is training al-Qaeda. Chuck Todd points out that if either Obama or Clinton had made a similar mistatement, more attention would have been focused on the episode.
The problem with the media is not facts, it is the framing. A truly objective mainstream media would look at a story from different perspectives and multiple frames. But, we don’t have an objective media. The various media narratives for Obama is that he isn’t specific, an elitist, vaguely un-American, and inexperienced. For McCain, he is maverick, a war-hero, a straight-talker who may be suffering various degrees of senior moments.
It doesn’t matter if the evidence for media narratives are flimsy, it is just a simple matter of repetition. The “pledge of allegiance” smear has lasting effects beyond that story because it reinforces a particular narrative.
Narratives like the Republicans running a badly mismanaged and unnecessary war in Iraq, Republicans being the party of irrational fear and cronyism, Republicans being a party of incompetence in times of crisis (i.e. the credit crisis and Katrina), these narratives don’t gain traction in the media. Yet, the myth of the “liberal” media persists.
The Republican party is the one that wrecked America. Our infrastructure is in shambles, our economy skirting with disaster, our standing in the world has been severely diminished, our civil liberties have been trampled, none of this leaves the slightest blemish on the Republican party in the eyes of the mainstream press. No, it is Obama who has received gushing coverage in the eyes of Kurtz with the so-called bitter-gate, alienating-low bowling scores and all. If this is what Dobbs and Kurtz consider to biased towards Obama then I find their world-view and their expectations for an objective reporting of it inconceivable.