Thursday, July 01, 2010

Right wingers confuse assessment with bias

So conservatives have a bug up their asses about the video below, in which reporters are caught on a hot mic bashing Sarah Palin's speech at California State University Stanislaus. You should watch it.

If you don't have time, there's a transcript of the reporters' remarks here, but here's a taste of what they said.
What’s your problem?

Oh my god I feel like I just stepped off of a roller coaster! Go round and round and up and down and shit flying out of everywhere and standing. Remember when you had to write a report as a college student and you just tried to jam in as many quotes as possible? You know, from as many random things you could get, you know, that’s what I got.

I got she didn’t ever finish a statement.



Did she make a statement? Cause I didn’t catch that either.

[snip] Now I know the dumbness doesn't come from just soundbites.
Right wing blogs decided this simply proved what they'd been saying all along. Sister Toldjah:
...people STILL wonder why conservatives are so distrustful of the mainstream media?
Hot Air:
If these were opinion journalists, these comments would be no problem. If they’re news reporters expected to render an objective, fact-based report on the event, I’d say that they have a bright future at MSNBC.
But far above the clucking of most of the righties was this comment by Jay Nordlinger.
This afternoon, I wrote a long, rather huffy post on liberal media bias. It was prompted by 1) those reporters who were caught on tape trashing Sarah Palin, and 2) the David Weigel affair. I have deep-sixed the post, however — spiked it. I can huff about media bias again, as I have in the past. (And I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll — not budge the house an inch.)

Let me instead say this: I think many of my conservative colleagues are far too gingerly when it comes to liberal media bias. Far too timid, delicate, and forgiving. For a long time, complaining about media bias has been seen as uncouth. It’s something we all need to learn to live with, like death, taxes, and mosquitoes. Don’t be uncool by bitching about it, man.
Um...What. The. Fuck? First of all, right wingers have been bitching about the media non-stop since at least the late 60s and a considerable number of them make their livings off of that single complaint, so Nordlinger's suggestion that conservatives are holding back is, well, stupid.

Second, contra Nordlinger and the gang in his Liberal Media Mystery Machine, nothing these reporters said suggested they hold biases against conservatives. Not a single one of them bashes Republicans or conservatives, they simply complain they've got their work cut out for them in trying to condense Palin's scattered and pointless speech into news reports. That's not bias. That's just dealing with the facts.

Honestly, one has to wonder if Nordlinger and the others even listened to Palin's speech before suggesting these reporters' complaints were based on political leanings instead of the daunting task that lay ahead of them. Here, for example, is a short excerpt.
If this cultural relativism is confined merely to just a few individuals, the exceptions to the norm, well that’s one thing but we have seen before what happens when whole sections of society fall into that trap. Take note of this, uh, consider that would the brutality of communism have lasted as long as it did if there hadn’t been a large group of people here in the west who were willing to essentially accommodate it for fear of daring to even condemn it. For a long time, folks, it was kinda consider, considered sophisticated to take a position somewhere between freedom and communism.

And it took a supposedly unsophisticated graduate from lowly Eureka College to bring Communism to its knees. And he did it by simply calling an evil empire what it was, evil. There’s an important lesson here for us today. A free republic can only survive if its citizens are willing and able to defend it ideologically and to stand up for its founding principles.

And there’s an old conservative joke it, it says that an elite liberal is someone who is so broad minded that they can’t even take their own side in an argument. I think that could apply to some of the college professors I’ve met and so, uh. But you know. But that’s really no joke when we have seen, hmm, even recently, American diplomats apologizing to a communist dictatorship because of one of our sister states here in the good ol’ United States of America, Arizona just trying to enforce an American federal law? To apologize for that? Or, if we get an administration, if we get an administration that unilaterally tries to end a war on terror, not by winning it but by instead no longer referring it, to it, as a war on terror as if the evil terrorists will stop attacking us once we proclaim that we just won’t call it terrorists or terrorism anymore.
That should give you a good idea of what Sarah Palin's speech was: a pastiche of right wing shibboleths, faux populism and poorly delivered "jokes" baked in a hmmm-and-goodness-gracious crust. And, by word count, that's just over 15 percent of Palin's speech, so those poor damn reporters had much, much more of that rambling crap to wade through.

In complaining about the job they had to do, these reporters seem to me to be assessing the speech, not exhibiting political bias. Of course, the Nordlingers of the right have spent their entire professional lives lowering the bar of "liberal media bias."

One wonders, in fact, just how low it is.

Does Jay Nordlinger think David Frum, George Will, Peggy Noonan, Ross Douthat and David Brooks exhibit biases against conservatism because they have each pointed out at one time or another that Palin either seemed unprepared as a national politician or had given a terrible speech? Well, we know exactly how Nordlinger feels about at least one of those people, because he recently defended David Frum from right wing writers who do believe disagreement is equivalent to apostasy, writing that Frum is an "MVP of American conservatism" despite Sarah Palin's place as "one of his primary targets."

In other words, much more consistent criticism against Palin than these reporters jabs doesn't seem to equate to bias in Nordlinger's eyes.

You have to also wonder what Nordlinger thought about the reactions of Keith Olbermann, Chris Matthews and Howard Fineman to President Obama's speech on the oil spill in the gulf. Look at the "highlights" below as culled by one of Nordlinger's conservative fellow travelers:
Olbermann: "It was a great speech if you were on another planet for the last 57 days."

Matthews compared Obama to Carter.

Olbermann: "Nothing specific at all was said."

Matthews: "No direction."

Howard Fineman: "He wasn't specific enough."

Olbermann: "I don't think he aimed low, I don't think he aimed at all. It's startling."

Howard Fineman: Obama should be acting like a "commander-in-chief."

Matthews: Ludicrous that he keeps saying [Secretary of Energy] Chu has a Nobel prize. "I'll barf if he does it one more time."

Matthews: "A lot of meritocracy, a lot of blue ribbon talk."

Matthews: "I don't sense executive command."
If Nordlinger believes he can label those reporters who bashed Palin's speech liberals simply because they listened to it and were dismayed, then does he believe Olbermann has proven his conservatism with these comments?

The truth is, I don't have the slightest clue about these reporters' political motivations, but neither does Nordlinger. He doesn't even know who they are. He hasn't combed through reports of the speech to actually find evidence of bias in the way the speech was presented to the public. All he knows is that some people didn't like something one of his heroes said and, to him, that makes them biased.

Basing one's beliefs on a pre-conceived view of a profession instead of the evidence at hand? That's not just foolish. It's bias.


Blogger KaJo said...

From Palin's speech: "But that’s really no joke when we have seen, hmm, even recently, American diplomats apologizing to a communist dictatorship because of one of our sister states here in the good ol’ United States of America, Arizona just trying to enforce an American federal law? To apologize for that?"

But in typical Republican/neocon/, sorry, TeaPartier fashion, Palin repeats their hypocrisy by NOT similarly blasting Texas congressman Joe Barton for apologizing to British Petroleum, a foreign corporation, for the "overbearing" attempt of the U.S. federal government to protect and care for Palin's own fellow citizens.

9:19 PM  

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