Ideological struggle…

John Leo answers, among others, E. J. Dionne, Jr. regarding the contention that media bias is moving to the right.

To quote myself: “The press…is often thought of as a unified voice with a distinct bias (right or left depending on the critic). This simplistic thinking fits the needs of ideological struggle, but is hardly useful in coming to a better understanding of what is happening in the world.”

This is not to suggest that ideological struggle is unimportant. Quite the contrary. But such struggle is often not about getting at the truth; it’s more often about making the world the way you want it to be. And there’s nothing wrong with that. What I would like to see is some admission on the part of press critics that they have a political agenda and that their critiques are not necessarily aimed at description.

(Does that include me? Of course it does. I belong politically to what we might call the center-left. I would certainly like to see more of my fellow citizens adopt such a position. But, as an academic, I believe I owe more allegiance to the discovery of knowledge and something like an “accurate” description of the world. I am as annoyed by overt and sloppy ideological bias (from any wing) as any other press critic. But I do not suppose that bias exists outside of a structural context.)

I believe there is a slight liberal bias to the news media caused mostly by the very function of journalism and its structural biases. It is quite possible to pull out any number of anecdotes, examples, and surveys to “prove” any bias that you please at a given time and place. All the while the most dangerous biases are left largely ignored. (via MediaMinded)

UPDATE (11:40 a.m.): It seems I should define “liberal” in regard to my contention that the press has a “slight” liberal bias. I mean this: The press in the U.S. conceives itself to be a watchdog of government for the common man. That is a classically liberal position. By this definition, even Rush Limbaugh is a part of the so-called liberal media establishment.

And an addendum: This post should not be read as a criticism of MediaMinded, from whom I took the link to John Leo. While I think it’s clear he and I have some political differences, I consider his work in media criticism to be some of the best on the internet. He’s also open about his own biases, which I greatly admire. (re: e-mail from a concerned reader, not MM)