April 28, 2003

The Structure of Media Bias

The Liberal Media, the Conservative Press, which one is it? I find it interesting and sometime amusing the way liberals and conservatives always seem to think that the media swings the other way. I once thought it was a nice indicator of a relative balance in the media. And the media is a bit more balanced then many give it credit. But there is something else, something structural, let me break it down.

There is a strange dynamic inside our most popular media of today, minus the internet and books. That means TV, movies, radio, newspapers and magazines. Those 5 media have a structural bent towards conservative messages. But counteracting that bent, is a tendency for the staff to lean a bit liberal.

The typical result? A liberal leaning reporter trying to act balanced, but producing a story that comes off with a bit of conservative edge to it. The dynamics are easiest to see in Hollywood. Politically the players in the movie industry on average are strongly to the left, and they contribute mainly to the Democrats. But somehow a fuck of a lot of patriotic movies with strong moral messages come out of system.

Why? Because the conservative approach of pushing strong simple moral messages is tailor made for movies. It makes a nice strong ending to the story. Same goes for TV spots, newspaper headlines, and magazine covers. Simple, basic and familiar but dramatic. Its the conservative way. The structure of these media encourages the right wing worldview to show through on the simplest level.

However, the traits that make good reporters, actors, directors, editors and the like are more in tune with a liberal world view. Creativity, rational thinking and detailed exploration of stories. The nurturing liberal worldview breeds these ideas and encourages liberal reporters. Hence the "liberal media". And in times of slow news, the questioning liberal worldview slowly takes over the tone of the news.

You could see it in GW2 when news was hot and running quick the tone was pro-war, celebrating the moral clarity of soldiers heading to battle. A couple days later as things settled in, the questioning and exploration of the darker sides would return. And then bam! more war motion and the bombastic conservative headlines were back. Slow down, more liberal, explode fast, more conservative. Cycle. Repeat.

I have a feeling this sort of dynamic has been around for a long time. What's different now is that the Bush administration has a great feel for the rhythms of media, and have been timing there actions remarkably well. Their over the top conservative rhetoric and action is pace perfectly for maximum US media exposure. They understand the structure better then the Dems and it shows. And the advantage is huge. The left just doesn't have the rhetoric to win in the game of overblown headlines. Their arguments are better suited for a slower more reasoned environ. Its no coincidence that the lefts biggest media victory of late, the downfall of Trent Lott, came during the slow news time around Xmas. The Left needs to throw off the Bush administrations rhythm and slow the pace down. Summer is dead when it comes to news, and they'll need to maximize that to their advantage. And come Fall its all about setting the pace, whoever does it going to control the media game.

Posted by Abe at April 28, 2003 02:26 AM


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