Even worse, a lot of complaints of media bias are actually cases of the Sarah Palin Paradox (I just now made up the name, but it's something I wrote about back in April), which goes like this: If you're capable, via the printed word or some form of electronic transmission, of making it widely known that you feel your voice is being suppressed by the media, then your voice is no longer being suppressed, for you have in fact used the media to amplify it. And if you're capable of making it widely known that you feel your message is being distorted, then your message is no longer being distorted, for you have used the media to clarify it.
I say all this primarily to establish some credibility. Now, when I spend the rest of this article doing exactly what I can't stand—griping about media bias—it should be that much more meaningful. Or hypocritical.
Anyway, last week I wrote about a question Ron Paul was asked in whichever of the last half dozen Republican debates was moderated by Chris Wallace: "Are you suggesting that heroin and prostitution are an exercise of liberty?" Paul's response—that things like that should be decided at the state level, and, by the way, maybe we should have more faith in our ability to not do things that are dangerous, regardless of legality—was reported on with all the nuance and subtlety of a Michael Bay-directed action sequence. For example, here's a quote from a Time article about Obama's re-election chances:
[F]ive of the Republican candidates for President gathered in South Carolina for their first official debate. It was a weird show, newsworthy only because Congressman Ron Paul came out in favor of legalizing heroin, cocaine and prostitution.And an editorial by Dana Milbank of the Washington Post, which discussed the debate via the condescending premise that none of the "adults" attended, leaving the "juveniles" on their own:
At Thursday night’s debate in South Carolina, Libertarian Rep. Ron Paul explained why heroin and prostitution should be legal and why the Department of Homeland Security should be eliminated.And a Mother Jones piece listing "Ron Paul's 15 Most Extreme Positions":
7. Let the Oldest Profession Be: Paul wants to legalize prostitution at the federal level.As I pointed out last week, Paul didn't argue for legalization; he argued for leaving it up to the states, which is very different, but whatever. The knee-jerk reaction to the idea of legalizing heroin makes a little bit of sense to me, as far as knee-jerk reactions go (talk about setting the bar low), but the righteous indignation over prostitution couldn't be more absurd, because prostitution is legal at the federal level. Apparently it never occurred to these journalists to ask themselves (or, even better, a knowledgeable bystander) just what the hell is going on in Nevada.
8. Legalize All Drugs: Including cocaine and heroin.
So there's your media bias. A Republican presidential candidate—who, it should be noted, is doing alright in the polls—is widely ridiculed for, really, nothing. Especially in terms of the prostitution issue, where he merely offered an unemphatic defense of the legal status quo. And he wasn't even the one who brought it up.
Fortunately, there's a watchdog group out there combating anti-conservative bias with so much zealotry, they've been known to confuse bias with the mere asking of a difficult question. Here's what NewsBusters had to say about the media's treatment of Ron Paul after that debate:
[…chirp…chirp…]That's right, nothing. And nothing from Media Matters either. Or Politifact. Or just about anyone else. The most prominent media outlet I can find that consistently sticks up for Paul's more socially libertarian views is Reason.com, which is one of my favorite sites, but it's not exactly a media juggernaut.
Remember the Sarah Palin Paradox from earlier? How her portrayal of herself as the victim of an antagonistic media is undermined by her success in cultivating that image? Ron Paul is the person she's pretending to be. He's the one who says things the "lamestream media" doesn't want you to hear. He's the one who has to take his message straight to the people, because the media can't be bothered to simply report the facts fairly and objectively. He's the one whose voice is being suppressed. And does he spend even half as much time complaining about how he's treated?
Really, I'm asking. Does he? If he does, I never hear about it.
1. That people can't seem to agree on even that much is an endless source of frustration. As is the closely-related inability to recognize that whatever your favorite source of commentary happens to be, it's still almost definitely biased in some way or another. In fact, that's probably why you like it.
2. This is as good a place as any to rant about Harry Reid's bizarre decision earlier this year to call on the legislators in his home state to ban prostitution:
Describing a meeting he had with a firm that would have opened a data center in the state—"a move that would have created desperately needed jobs"—Reid said the executives balked because prostitution remains legal in Nevada.So…the way to create jobs is to shut down an industry that employs thousands of people and exists (legally) only in Nevada, thereby enticing a handful of (possibly fictional) investors who want to do business in a place that's just like the other 49 states, except more desert-y. Whatever Reid's ulterior motive was (and I'm sure he had one, because there's no other reason to lazily advocate something with no chance of happening), I hope it backfired.
"Nevada needs to be known as the first place for innovation and investment—not as the last place where prostitution is still legal," he continued. "When the nation thinks about Nevada, it should think about the world's newest ideas and newest careers—not about its oldest profession."
3. For example, there was this NewsBusters' article from January, which I had started to write about, but then the Tucson shooting happened and made it seem even more pointless than usual:
NBC's Meredith Vieira seemed baffled by the concept of taking a principled stand against Obamacare, as she repeatedly pressed Michele Bachmann, on Thursday's Today show, why Republicans would bother to vote to repeal the health care bill in the House if it wasn't going to get passed in the Senate or signed by the President? Vieira's very first question to the Republican Minnesota Congresswoman set the aggressive tone for the entire interview as she demanded: "Given the fact that the Democratic-led Senate will never go for that and the President has veto power, why make that the first big thing on your plate?"So…House efforts to repeal healthcare reform were virtually guaranteed to have no tangible effect, which raises the obvious question of why House Republicans felt this was a worthwhile use of their time. It's not bias that Vieira asked Bachmann to defend the repeal effort. It would've been unprofessional not to ask. (Bachmann's defense of the repeal, in part: "Because it's not symbolic. It's real." She keeps using that word, "real". I do not think it means what she thinks it means.)
4. Granted, NewsBusters is supportive of Paul from time to time, like after the most recent debate:
On Tuesday, Chris Matthews wrongly accused Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul of saying during the previous evening's debate he would let a critically ill person die if the patient didn't have health insurance.So…it's not like they refuse to come to Paul's defense altogether. They just don't do it unless they agree with him. Have I mentioned before that the overall level of respectability of America's various media watchdog organizations is distressingly low? (Yes, I have.)
Exactly how does Matthews and others on his so-called "news" network continue to get away with such blatant misrepresentations?
5. Wow, I tried to hold it together, but it's really hard to complain about the media without sounding like a crazy person. Let me try those last three sentences again: He's the one who says things that, while defensible, are out of the mainstream, and thus not conducive to the simplified reporting people have grown accostomed to. He's the one who has to rely less on traditional media and more on Internet-facilitated grassroots organizing, which, even in this increasingly digital age, probably puts him at something of a disadvantage. He's the one whose voice is being…well, not suppressed, really, but a little harder to find than it should be. Is that better?