Bias: It’s Not in the Head


John Harris is doing a Slate exchange with Mark Halperin and says “I’m protective of you (and of myself), especially since most of the people who attack you and The Note do so with radically misguided assumptions about your actual opinions and professional values.” To me, this is revealing. The presumption here is that the correct way to assess The Note is with regard to Halperin’s “actual opinions.” But, of course, there’s no real way for readers of The Note to assess Halperin’s “actual opinions.” The only thing they have to go on is the writing that appears in The Note. As Derrida says, there’s nothing outside the text.

This is relevant because one of the key things that makes The Note — irregardless of Halperin’s “actual opinions” about politics — a rightwing publications is its insistence that the media is a liberal institution. And, again, The Note’s basis for endless reiteration of this rightwing talking point is that the “actual opinions” of the bulk of the people producing political journalism are liberal. As best I can tell living and working in this town, this is, in fact, fairly accurate. It’s also completely irrelevant. Journalists’ “actual opinions” about things don’t matter at all. What matters is what they write, what they say, what they broadcast. One of the great strengths of the blog-based media criticism, I think, is precisely that the people writing the blogs tend to know virtually nothing about the world of professional political journalism — the only thing they have to go on is the work, not the “actual opinions” or even “professional values” of the people doing the work.

What matters is what you do and what the impact of what you do is. The impact of what The Note does is to help the Republican Party win elections. I don’t really know why The Note is so deeply invested in doing that, but that’s what they’re doing and, at the end of the day, that’s what matters.