A jump to the left, a step to the right

When it comes to the media, I think objectivity is a little over-rated. I like the fact that certain newspapers – British and American – nail their colours to the political mast, and go out of their way to attract those of a certain ideological persuasion. It’s why The Guardian with its relatively socially progressive agenda will always be more appealing to me than, say, the Daily Telegraph. And if you ever see me with a copy of the Daily Mail, feel free to drive rusty nails into my eyes.

In the States, it’s probably fair to say that more media outlets attempt to claim that they are independent from political bias, but some just can’t help but have their true colours emerge. And of course, the best example of this is Fox News.

Don’t get me wrong, the Fox network has many things going for it. After all, any channel that features ‘House’, ’24’ and even ‘The Simpsons’ is alright by me. But their news coverage is world-renowned for its – erm – marginal right-wing bias. Infact, their political persuasion is so well documented that I’ve never actually turned on the TV or radio to watch or listen to the news for myself.

Until Friday that is, when my Obama-supporting cab driver was listening to the Fox News channel on his satellite radio. Now, as I said earlier, I’m all for a bit of open bias, but this was ridiculous. Despite there being 11 national polls published on Friday, all of which claimed that Obama’s lead was widening (bar one, which had the McCain camp gaining a point), one commentator claimed that McCain had narrowed the gap in the last week by 10 points in key demographics such as 18-30 year olds, to practically level things up.

In a debate about taxation, the host and a Republican analyst both expressed their opinions about possible tax raises in an Obama administration, before cutting off a Democratic spokesperson by playing music over the top of her as she tried to make her response. And as I left the cab, Joe the Well Driller was telling us how much an Obama administration would hurt him.

Now, some or all of this may turn out to be fair, although it still seems unlikely that millions of 18-30 year olds will suddenly wake up and exclaim “Wow, that little man with the grey hair is just the guy I need to stir me from my latent political torpor.” But what really shocked was the abject refusal to put both sides of the argument. One of Fox News’s taglines is “Fair & Balanced,” but to be honest I’ve seen more fair and balanced treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

My best guess is that Fox News isn’t actually a news channel, but some kind of warped reality TV show in which contestants compete to see who can make the most outlandish claims on a broadcast outlet. Mark my words, viewers will turn on later this week to find Ryan Seacrest proclaiming Bill o’Reilly “America’s Next Top News Inventor Idol.”

15 thoughts on “A jump to the left, a step to the right

  1. Trixie Trouble

    Rupert Murdoch – what can you say?
    I always think of the Jonathan Pryce character in Tomorrow Never Dies – it must have been based on Murdoch?

  2. Mike

    While I completely agree with you on Fox News, lately it seems like they have experienced an epiphany of sorts. On three separate occasions this weekend, they defended Obama. What say you?

  3. Expatmum

    I’m just horrified that some people only watch FOX and get all their news from it. Mind you, if you tuned into Keith and Rachel on MSNBC, you could say they were more than a little left leaning!

  4. Dylan

    I have to say that I’ve never seen them either, Expatmum. But it seems like bias one way or another is a central part of the broadcast news system?! I have to admit to having given up on US news stations given their refusal to cover issues of genuine worldwide importance…

    Now, where’s Alasdair when you need him??

  5. Brooklyn

    Trixie Trouble:
    Please tell this Yank what the heck “pantomime season” is. Thanks.

    [If Obama wins, I fully intend to watch/listen to right wing tv/radio and wallow in schadenfreude.]

  6. carrie

    totally agree. this election season i forced myself to give equal time to all of the major networks, including fox news and it was hard, if not impossible to come by any network or individual for that matter that didn’t let some political bias reflect in their broadcasting.

    what i liked the most were the individuals who, representing a network that was clearly leaning to one side, were blatantly obvious about their leaning to the other.

  7. Trixie Trouble

    Brooklyn, from the Cambridge Dictionary:

    “pantomime noun
    UK INFORMAL panto) (in Britain) an amusing musical play based on traditional children’s stories, performed especially at Christmas”

    Tends to be full of innuendo/double entendres and incorporates audience participation.The characters are caricatures – including their costumes and make up.

    Kind of gets lost in translation.

    Anyway, the point I was making is that traditionally there is a scene where the ‘baddy’ (that’s bad guy to you) is behind the narator/main character and the lead asks the audience ‘Have you seen . …?’. Hence, he’s behind you.

    Really, really lost in translation.

  8. Alasdair

    Brooklyn – think of Gilbert and Sullivan, which tends to be sort-of-serious pantomime … it is designed/written to be current/topical and often local … thus, the Mikado’s “I have a Little List” is classic pantomime-within-G&S …

    Dylan – Fox News has the danglies to say that it gives *both* sides – so it has Hannity *AND* Colmes, for example … it makes no attempts to have every 30-second segment be unbiased – while doing its best to have a given 24-hours’-worth be overall-balanced … thus, by comparison, it *seems* to be far-right, precisely because the NBCs and the like are so out-there left-biased while proclaiming their innocence of bias …

    Try Pew Research Center’s write-up, for example …

    In some ways, the saddest is someone like yourself, Dylan, who proudly says “But their news coverage is world-renowned for its – erm – marginal right-wing bias. Infact, their political persuasion is so well documented that I’ve never actually turned on the TV or radio to watch or listen to the news for myself.”

    That is the classic recipé for blissful ignorance politically … Everyone knows how biased *this* outlet is that I’m not even going to watch it/listen to it ! … and that is compounded when those of us who watch both Fox and NBC and the like try to explain what we have seen, and yet *we* are the Pantomime bad guys …

    At least in the UK, the Daily Mail and the Daily Express, and the Grauniad and the like proudly proclaim their biases …

    What I do not understand even to this day is how many Brits end up here, and somehow their critical faculty seems to have been removed …

    Oh and (grin) the Dirty Digger is in it for the money … he publishes what the market asks for … why do you think he doesn’t own the NYTimes or the WaPo or the LATimes or the various Tribune Group newspapers ? He makes money with Fox because he offers both left and right opinions on it …

  9. Cocktails

    I’ve been long impressed by the level of political bias in the US media. Even satire like ‘The Daily Show’ is proudly prejudiced.

    I know that they’re state funded and therefore expected to be objective, but people go apoplectic enough about the BBC in the UK and the ABC in Australia being allegedly run by a bunch of lefty liberal pinkos. How would they cope in the US?!

  10. Expat Mum

    I don’t remember my critical faculty being removed. I’m sure I would have felt it!

    Trixie – you forgot to mention that the old woman lead (Window Twanky or the Ugly Sisters) is usually played by a man, while the Principal Boy (Prince Charming or Dandini) is often played by a leggy lady.

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