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“Bias”

By Matthew Yglesias  

"“Bias”"

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Not to nitpick too much, but the decision by Andrew Golis and Chris Lehman to kick off their new Yahoo News venture with lame efforts at even-handedness kind of annoyed me:

And conservatives are no longer the only ones lodging complaints of bias from their own in-house platforms. Democratic and liberal-leaning organizations such as Media Matters for America and Think Progress are dedicated to calling out bias in the media on popular websites with devoted followings. [...] And the paradox, of course, is that these new referees who once cried “bias!” are often far more biased than those they critiqued. All of which makes it next to impossible to figure out when their critique of the mainstream media is actually right.

I think it’s important to note that on the Media Matters “about us” page they don’t once mention bias. I think you’d actually be extremely hard-pressed to find examples of Media Matters or ThinkProgress “calling out bias in the media.” The idea of a “biased” media is a specific kind of claim and it’s not a claim I think you’ll find being made very much at ThinkProgress. To take a recent media item from Igor Volsky here he is complaining that “ex-gay” activist Richard Cohen was invited on CNN to ask whether homosexuality should be cured:

Clearly, “the best political team on television” was just not at its best, proving that CNN can’t be “trusted” to do even the most preliminary background research on its guests. The network provided the self-proclaimed former homosexual with a platform to promote his organization, the International Healing Foundation, without once challenging his credentials or claims of rehabilitation. In reality, Cohen has been kicked out of the The American Counseling Association and currently operates without any professional license or accreditation. His views on homosexuality have been discredited by every established medical organization and his ideas about gays are apparently only taken seriously by CNN bookers and producers.

Nobody is saying that Kyra Phillips (who hosted the segment) or whoever produced it is “biased” against gays and lesbians or anyone else. What he’s saying is that CNN put a guy on the air as a credible expert who should not, in fact, be regarded as a credible expert. And on and on like this. Media Matters describes their mission as “monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media.” That’s a mission that’s distinct from the conservative conspiracy theory that there’s a vast “bias” in the media aimed at discrediting them through the presentation of some non-conservative ideas.

Is it really “next to impossible” to figure out whether or not Igor is right about this item than it is to figure out whether or not any factual claim is right?

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