Monday, February 02, 2004

Sailing On The Canard Line

One benefit of blogging is I get to write stuff about which I know nothing. Today's topic on which I know nothing is a digression on the term "Liberal Media". To me, this is a redundancy, like saying "Rich plutocrat", "Meat-eating lion" or "Limber contortionist". In a society where published expression is unfettered (in the classic sense, this is a "liberal democracy" of which the United States still is an example), the winners in the marketplace of news over time will be those who best adhere to the dictionary definition of "liberal": "Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry". If people want to know what is happening in their society, they want somebody who gathers and interprets facts and events without an implicit ideology. Now since we are human, this is never actually possible, we never absolutely know our own biases. This is why there are standards of practice for journalism which attempt to present an attitude of fairness and nonbias. The New York Times is the newspaper of record probably because (until the Reign of Raines) it did this better then most.

In totalitarian societies, the "media" are propaganda purveyors - Pravda comes to mind. In freer societies, journalism is treated differently by different societies. For instance in the UK, newspapers have explicit editorial viewpoints and their news coverage is explicitly on one side of the fence. The Daily Telegraph is the Tory paper and The Guardian is the Liberal paper. However, they are not organs of the political parties. The criticism of the Telegraph and Guardian are most pointed when directed at their own side of the spectrum - again this is a liberal state of affairs. In the United States, we expect our newspapers to keep their opinions to the editorial page.

So in essence, my belief is that when you have a questioning frame of mind rather than a dogmatic, know-it-all, traditional state of mind, you are going to be drawn into liberal journalism - not propaganda. In order for a journalist to really do his stories well in journalism, he has got to be sceptical and have the ability to not take things at face value. The propagandist consists entirely of face value. Now, this isn't necessarily a left-right issue. When Clinton was proposing health-care reform, the right were fulfilling their liberal role by questioning it and not taking it at face value. When Bush does whatever Bush does, the left and moderate right are fulfilling their liberal role by questioning it. Now when either side parrots without question OR condemns without reasoned discourse then they are not being stewards of good journalism. And to reiterate, good journalism over time will win over propaganda and biased journalism. The liberal media is "liberal" because market forces over time have forced it to be liberal.

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