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Saturday, May 23, 2009

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It has simply marked a change in tone from a sycophantic media who worked tirelessly to get Obama elected and are now too craven to call him out on his near 180 degree shift in policy. It would take true character to step up and say that when confronted with the same hard choices that Bush had to make he is forced to similar conclusions. Instead, we get what Charles Krauthammer calls the Obama three step: "(a) excoriate the Bush policy, (b) ostentatiously unveil cosmetic changes, (c) adopt the Bush policy".

Obama is off base and Cheney on the money. We have not had an attack on US soil since 9-11 so we have not "lost our way" as Obama thinks. Not only do his actions negate his words, but his words negate themselves.

It has simply marked a change in tone from a sycophantic media who worked tirelessly to get Obama elected and are now too craven to call him out on his near 180 degree shift in policy.

I simply don't accept that it's the job of the press to "call out" anyone. That's a job for faux reporters (e.g., O'Reilly, Olberman). Among the many things the press should try to do is expose contradictions and inconsistencies and subject competing narratives to factual scrutiny. Here is where I see an enormous shortcoming that applies to analysis of politics on both the left and the right. But, the typical partisan who complains about this state of affairs is blissfully indifferent to their own selective fact blindness, so they have a tendency to rage at the ump.

Still, I think it's important for the press to do a much better job in this area. They need to be much better umpires, but I don't believe for a minute that partisans would be any less critical of the the press if that happened. Partisans want only those data points that allow them to draw their connect-the-dots narrative of the month. But, the truth is almost always messier and more complicated than the narrative.

As for press reporting on the subject of the Brooks column, the big media outlets have been reporting regularly that Obama has reversed himself on campaign promises and that the left is very unhappy about it.

Is the press in a feeding-frenzy sufficient to generate ecstatic shudders in the the most rightward-leaning 30% of the population? No, but if anyone wants that they can turn on Fox News and get that to their heart's content.

But, none of this obviates Brooks's point about the change in public credibility of policies that lagged behind the actual changes in policy. I think, in this, Brooks's point is well taken: Cheney is effectively misrepresenting the last few years of Bush policy, as is Obama. That might not please partisans, who want to hear Obama alone slammed or Cheney alone slammed, but I think it's some decent umping work on Brooks's part.

I removed another comment--this from a commenter I enjoy. I don't like doing that, but I've decided to promote a more respectful tone in the comments. Attack the opinion, attack outsiders, but please don't disparage other commenters.

I'm not perfect at making these calls, but I'd just ask everyone to make an effort to be genuinely civil to one another.

Thanks

@Dr X

"That might not please partisans, who want to hear Obama alone slammed or Cheney alone slammed, but I think it's some decent umping work on Brooks's part."

This is the kind of niggling distraction that Cheney wishes to create. Cheney is a torturer and Obama is not. Cheney is a war criminal, Obama is not. A blizzard of words won't change the truth.

The problem, as I see it, with your argument is that it assumes that the "umps" don't suffer from the same "fact blindness" that you accuse partisans, like me[?], of suffering from. I think that their is evidence that they do. At least with the Olberman's and Hannity's of the world, you know where they stand, their opinions are not cloaked in the lie of objectivity.

Here are the results from one study of media bias from UCLA:

While the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal is conservative, the newspaper's news pages are liberal, even more liberal than The New York Times. The Drudge Report may have a right-wing reputation, but it leans left. Coverage by public television and radio is conservative compared to the rest of the mainstream media. Meanwhile, almost all major media outlets tilt to the left.

These are just a few of the surprising findings from a UCLA-led study, which is believed to be the first successful attempt at objectively quantifying bias in a range of media outlets and ranking them accordingly.

"I suspected that many media outlets would tilt to the left because surveys have shown that reporters tend to vote more Democrat than Republican," said Tim Groseclose, a UCLA political scientist and the study's lead author. "But I was surprised at just how pronounced the distinctions are."

"Overall, the major media outlets are quite moderate compared to members of Congress, but even so, there is a quantifiable and significant bias in that nearly all of them lean to the left," said co‑author Jeffrey Milyo, University of Missouri economist and public policy scholar.

The results appear in the latest issue of the Quarterly Journal of Economics, which will become available in mid-December.

UCLA, of course, isn't the only organization to come to the same conclusion.

Here's an article on media donations from IBD:

An analysis of federal records shows that the amount of money journalists contributed so far this election cycle favors Democrats by a 15:1 ratio over Republicans, with $225,563 going to Democrats, only $16,298 to Republicans.

Two-hundred thirty-five journalists donated to Democrats, just 20 gave to Republicans — a margin greater than 10-to-1. An even greater disparity, 20-to-1, exists between the number of journalists who donated to Barack Obama and John McCain.

Searches for other newsroom categories (reporters, correspondents, news editors, anchors, newspaper editors and publishers) produces 311 donors to Democrats to 30 donors to Republicans, a ratio of just over 10-to-1. In terms of money, $279,266 went to Dems, $20,709 to Republicans, a 14-to-1 ratio.

[...]

The contributions of individuals who reported being employed by major media organizations are listed in the nearby table.

The contributions add up to $315,533 to Democrats and $22,656 to Republicans — most of that to Ron Paul, who was supported by many liberals as a stalking horse to John McCain, a la Rush Limbaugh's Operation Chaos with Hillary and Obama.

What is truly remarkable about the list is that, discounting contributions to Paul and Rudy Giuliani, who was a favorite son for many folks in the media, the totals look like this: $315,533 to Democrats, $3,150 to Republicans (four individuals who donated to McCain).

Let me repeat: $315,533 to Democrats, $3,150 to Republicans — a ratio of 100-to-1. No bias there.


As someone who is not a member of a political party and has split almost every ballot I've ever cast, I don't really think of myself as partisan. But maybe I am. I am very conservative on economic and defense issues, but lean more libertarian on civil liberties. I read a very broad range of opinion, and I believe that the media definitely has it's thumb on the scale. If that makes me partisan and "fact blind", so be it.

Cheney is a torturer and Obama is not. Cheney is a war criminal, Obama is not.

This statement gets right to the heart of the issue. Those on the left would like to smear those they disagree with politically as "torturers" and "war criminals". The object is to shut down debate and to discredit your oponent.

I'm wondering, does this mean that all of the Democrats who knew about this program and approved or did nothing to stop it are "torturers" and "war criminals" too?

"The problem, as I see it, with your argument is that it assumes that the "umps" don't suffer from the same "fact blindness" that you accuse partisans, like me[?], of suffering from."

I wrote:

"Still, I think it's important for the press to do a much better job in this area. They need to be much better umpires"

That said, I'm convinced that reporters do a much better job of overcoming their own biases than do non-press partisans when it comes to acknowledging facts. The press does report negative information on politicians of all stripes, while partisans tend to ignore politically inconvenient facts. Training matters. Biases can be significantly overcome by people who are trained and working to do just that. Umpires and refs have favorite players and teams, but they're better at calling games than the players are.

Where this began--you said that the press hasn't reported on Obama's reversal of his campaign positions. That's simply untrue. The press has reported on that repeatedly. It think this is quite a good example of the press reporting on something that has negative implications for Obama, and it's interesting that you haven't seen the reporting.

If there is a problematic bias that affects press reporting, it might be a bias against complexity. Editors seem to believe that a large chunk of the audience doesn't respond well to complicated stories and nuanced analysis. They believe that people prefer relative simplicity and clarity. I think they're mostly correct in that assessment, but it does diminish the quality of reporting, in my opinion. After reading a newspaper article or watching a news report, I frequently find myself wishing that a reporter had addressed something that seems critical to understanding the subject being reported. Inherently complicated stories and subjects are very often oversimplified. But, there are economic realities and marketplace considerations, rather than politics, behind this tendency.

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