Because the media paints our culture's view of what is true, it influences policy on everything from waging war to feeding our kids. That’s why we like to see thoughtful critiques on how the media works, from all sides of the political spectrum.
You may be interested in a couple of recent in-depth discussions of media influence, one from each side.
Fasten your seat belts for two very different views that agree only on one thing: media bias exists and we must think critically about it.
From the Right
This week, Accuracy in Media, a media watchdog on the right, published the March 14 CPAC speech, Our democracy depends on the American people holding the media accountable, by Rep Lamar Smith (R-TX).
Rep. Smith argues that media bias is a major threat to democracy: "When the media don’t report the facts, the American people can’t make good decisions. And if Americans can’t make good decisions, our democracy is at risk."
He gives the recent election as an example:
"…according to the Pew Research Center, in the final week before the 2012 presidential election, twice as many stories were positive about President Obama than were positive about Governor Romney. The media do their best to determine the outcome of elections."
And, Rep. Smith cites other examples, especially on the topics of abortion, gun control, and immigration:
"...over 500,000 pro‐life supporters recently marched through the streets of D.C. to protest the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. The March for Life is always one of the largest public demonstrations that takes place in America. But neither ABC nor CBS reported on the annual march. NBC provided 15 seconds of coverage. While ignoring the march, all three networks did report on a pro-gun control rally that only drew 'close to a thousand people.' "
"Every week, there are multiple stories that minimize the problem of illegal immigration and lax border security and maximize the need to legalize everyone in the country illegally. Reporters fail to inform the American people that the GAO found that only six percent of the southern border is under 'full control.' Yet they continue to quote the Administration as saying the border has never been more secure."
From the Left
In this week's New York Times article, Marches of Folly, Paul Krugman reflects on how the mainstream media covered the lead up to the Iraq war.
He writes: "There were, it turned out, no weapons of mass destruction….The really striking thing, during the run-up to the war, was the illusion of consensus... And the war — having cost thousands of American lives and scores of thousands of Iraqi lives, having imposed financial costs vastly higher than the war’s boosters predicted — left America weaker, not stronger..."
He posits that "...support for the war became part of the definition of what it meant to hold a mainstream opinion. Anyone who dissented, no matter how qualified, was ipso facto labeled as unworthy of consideration….CNN’s Howard Kurtz...wrote about how this process worked, how skeptical reporting, no matter how solid, was discouraged and rejected. 'Pieces questioning the evidence or rationale for war,' he wrote, 'were frequently buried, minimized or spiked.' "
Krugman also feels something similar is happening with mainstream reporting on US debt and deficit: "It has been especially striking how often questionable assertions are reported as fact. How many times, for example, have you seen news articles simply asserting that the United States has a “debt crisis,” even though many economists would argue that it faces no such thing?"
He concludes that the media's behavior leading up to the Iraq war was a lesson in groupthink, but a lesson he feels they did not take to heart.
What do you think?
We're curious, do you:
- Agree with either Smith or Krugman?
- Disagree with both?
- Agree with some of what each says, but feel their own bias is skewed?