It is useless to debate the left-wing bias in the MSM, which is like debating the temperature at any given place on any given day. Opinions may differ as to what it feels like, but there is a factual answer to the question of what the temp is. No matter what your opinions are about the MSM, the fact is that the Beltway-Manhattan MSM tilts way, way left. Newsbusters quotes Jim Pinkerton running through the basics for the folks who think it may be close to freezing when in fact it is 61 and cloudy.
This bias does impact elections because it influences voters’ perceptions of facts, most specifically this year about Iraq but on the economy and many other issues that move voters. Newsweek’s Evan Thomas once estimated that media bias would give the Kerry-Edwards team a 15 point lift in Campaign 2004, and while he obviously overestimated the ability of the MSM to decide presidential elections, he may not be that far off when it comes to that point in an eight year cycle when the incumbent president’s fortunes are at a natural low –the sixth year election.
Mary Katharine Ham has some fun comparing last year’s reporting on the day-after-Thanksgiving sales with this year’s stories, and in so doing she underscores why the overwhelming number of lefties in newsroom works to tilt the news so decidedly to the left. Stories can always be written to emphasize the good news or to emphasize the bad news. The Pelosi-Reid cheering section exists in the news sections of every major daily in America, as well as within all of the broadcast networks except Fox.
Pointing to and complaining about bias isn’t a meaningless exercise, though, and is in fact a necessary one going into the next two years. Though hardly anyone takes the “news” seriously as news, the MSM remains a very effective disseminator of various myths, and myths are stories intended by their tellers to be believed. The most dangerous myth the MSM pushes is that the war we are engaged in is one of choice, and one that can thus be avoided. A second killer myth is that our enemies can be “engaged,” and that we have something they want.
These myths are similar to those peddled by the Times of London during the glory years of appeasement, and peddled with special vigor by Geoffrey Dawson, then editor of the Times. There are plenty of candidates for Dawson’s mantle (and Powerline worries that Susan Glasser’s promotion at the WaPo is raising up another lefty even higher in the ranks) and of course Bill Keller’s tenure at the New York Times has been especially hard on the national interest.
But, sadly, we haven’t seen anything, yet. The ordinary losses of a sixth year election will be used by the Beltway-Manhattan media elite as proof of a sea change in the public’s opinion’s from 2004, and the tentative attempt at arguing for retreat and defeat will grow very loud and very insistent very soon.
The good news is that unlike Great Britain in the 1930s, there are plenty of new media outlets with vast and growing audiences. The debates ahead will be sharp and prolonged, but not one-sided. The killer myths have their friends and promoters, and their enemies as well. The presidential election already unfolding will be a pretty interesting test of strength between the two, though new media has the advantage of seeing clearly what The Looming Tower and other crucial reads have laid out.