Conservative Media Are Not the Problem

December 13, 2012

It is really getting old to hear liberal politicians and pundits complaining about conservative media as being destructive, as if the country would be better off returning to the halcyon days of the monolithic liberal media.

That seems to be the view of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who complained about “the right-wing control of the American media, particularly starting with Fox News.” During a discussion on HuffPost Live, Kennedy said, “Ninety-five percent of talk radio in our country is right-wing … so a whole section of our country that’s what they’re hearing.”

“Twenty-two percent of Americans,” continued Kennedy, “say their primary news source is Fox News. It’s divided our country in a way that we haven’t been divided probably since the Civil War, and it’s empowered these large corporations to get certain kinds of politicians and ideologues who are in the United States Congress elected — the tea party ideologues who control the Republican Party.”

Admittedly, many conservatives complain about the liberal media, but that’s because they hold themselves out as unbiased journalists when their reporting is flagrantly slanted in favor of Democrats.

Their bias is obvious in their selection of news stories, in their presentation of those stories, and in the contrasting treatment they accord politicians and policies of the respective political parties.

Conservative radio talkers generally don’t hold themselves out as unbiased journalists but as commentators, and they have every right to voice their opinions.

Fox News portrays itself as “fair and balanced,” and while many of its hosts are conservative, a fair number are liberal, and even on their commentary shows, they almost always have liberal representatives present the left’s position on issues they’re debating. Often, this is not the case with liberal networks.

But Kennedy’s worst error isn’t in painting conservative talk radio and Fox News as unfairly biased while ignoring their far guiltier counterparts on the left. It’s in scapegoating conservative media for the divisiveness in this nation.

The nation is divided because half the country subscribes to one worldview and the other half to an opposite one. Perhaps it seems more divided than it used to because the liberal media no longer have a monopoly and the emergence of a robust alternative media has given conservatives a consistent public voice. It’s understandable that after enjoying decades of free rein, liberals are frustrated at having their views challenged daily on the public airways, but it’s healthy for the republic that leftist politicians are now scrutinized, as well.

Astonishingly, however, Kennedy probably believes what he’s saying. Like many myopic liberals, he is blind to liberal media bias and intolerant of the opposing viewpoint. As a result of their arrogance and the cloistered echo-chambered environments they inhabit, most liberals don’t believe liberal journalists slant their reporting, but present the only reasonable take on the issues.

To them, it is not biased to denigrate the conservative viewpoint, because to them that viewpoint is aberrational. To them, for example, there aren’t two sides to manmade global warming; there is just the fact-based community and the deniers. To them, science-based intelligent design is, oddly, anti-science, whereas macroevolution, which can’t begin to explain the formation of matter from nothing, much less life from non-life, is an incontrovertible fact. To them, a $161 billion deficit under George W. Bush is catastrophic, but a $1.3 trillion Obama deficit under Obama represents modest fiscal progress. To them, there are not two credible positions on certain macroeconomics questions. There is the Keynesian “truth” that government spending is required to stimulate economic growth versus the illiterate heresy that free enterprise causes growth and leads to greater prosperity for more people than any other system.

Indeed, many liberals are so certain that only their views are legitimate and that contrary ones are dangerous (they often lead to violence) that they flirt with the notion that vocal opposition ought to be muzzled — as witnessed by campus speech codes, their crusades against so-called hate speech and the Fairness Doctrine.

America’s problem is not divided opinion and rigorous debate, which have always existed and are integral to our system. (If it is divisiveness to which liberals object, they need look no further than President Obama, who is constantly pitting Americans against each other on the basis of race, income and gender.)

The problem is journalists who once acted as watchdogs against abuses of power and who now function as co-conspirators in those abuses by liberal politicians. If they choose to abandon any pretense toward objective journalism, that is their prerogative, but it is ours to shine a spotlight on their fraudulent abdication.

At least conservatives, both in the media and in public service, are more honest with themselves and others about their own beliefs and biases, and thus represent much less danger to the republic than liberal politicians and media masquerading as neutral, unbiased, objective or bipartisan. Even so, conservatives would never advocate chilling or suppressing liberal speech in any way.

What we need are not fewer conservative media outlets, but more. And we need liberal journalists and politicians to be more forthcoming about their biases.