Author Topic: Memo to Journalists: Can the Phony Outrage, Bernie is Right About Bias  (Read 373 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Kanzenkankaku

  • The Beast
  • *****
  • Posts: 851
  • Gender: Female
  • Dreamer/Lightner
    • Mastadon Account
Just found this piece on Salon

Mainstream journalists are having a ridiculous hissy fit over Sen. Bernie Sanders’ suggestion that there may be a connection between the owner of a news outlet and the content or biases of that outlet’s coverage.

If Sanders had suggested that Rupert Murdoch’s ownership of Fox News impacts its coverage, few would argue with him.  But Sanders referred to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ ownership of the Washington Post — a corporate centrist outlet. And the senator, an Amazon critic, complained that the newspaper “doesn’t write particularly good articles about me.”

Immediately, the Post’s top editor denounced Sanders’ “conspiracy theory” – claiming his newsroom operates “with full independence.” A Post columnist tweeted that she’d never “heard a hint of Jeff Bezos interfering.”

Are they deluding themselves? Or sincerely clueless?

I worked in and around mainstream TV news for years, including at corporate centrist outlets CNN and MSNBC. Unlike at Fox News (where I’d also been a paid contributor), there’s almost never a memo or direct order from top management to cover or not cover certain stories or viewpoints.

But here's the sad reality: There doesn’t have to be a memo from the owner to achieve the homogeneity of coverage at “centrist” outlets that media watchdog groups like FAIR (which I founded) have documented in study after study over the decades.

It happens because of groupthink. It happens because top editors and producers know — without being told — which issues and sources are off limits. No orders need be given, for example, for rank-and-file journalists to understand that the business of the corporate boss or top advertisers is off-limits, short of criminal indictments.

No memo is needed to achieve the narrowness of perspective — selecting all the usual experts from all the usual think tanks to say all the usual things. Think Tom Friedman. Or Barry McCaffrey. Or Neera Tanden. Or any of the elite club members who’ve been proven to be absurdly wrong time and again about national or global affairs.

And then ask yourself why someone like Noam Chomsky can be quoted regularly in the biggest mainstream outlets abroad, but almost never in mass media in his own country — even though he mostly analyzes the policies of his own country’s government.

Bernie Sanders is one of the world’s most effective critics of Jeff Bezos and the fact that Amazon paid no federal income tax last year. And the Bezos-owned newspaper has exhibited an unrelenting bias against Sanders in recent years — perhaps most acutely in March 2016, when FAIR analyst Adam Johnson famously wrote an article that quickly went viral: “Washington Post Ran 16 Negative Stories on Bernie Sanders in 16 Hours.” Among the Post's headlines during that period: “Five Reasons Bernie Sanders Lost Last Night’s Democratic Debate,” followed an hour later by “Bernie Sanders’s Two Big Lies About the Global Economy,” followed a few hours later by “Even Bernie Sanders Can Beat Donald Trump.”


The day after this anti-Bernie barrage, which included a half-dozen articles on how badly he’d performed in the Michigan Democratic primary debate with Hillary Clinton, Sanders shocked the Post and the rest of the political establishment by defeating Clinton in Michigan’s primary.

If you still want to believe there’s no connection between corporate media ownership and content, join me in a mental exercise: Imagine how quickly heads would roll at the Post in the fantastical event that it somehow produced even three negative stories about owner Jeff Bezos in a few hours. (Needless to say, there’s much to critically report about Bezos, including Amazon’s tax avoidance, labor exploitation, taxpayer subsidies and CIA contracts.)

I said above that there’s “almost never a memo or order from top management” to newsroom journalists. In normal times, the media system works smoothly without top-down directives. But in times of crisis, such as during the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq — when I was a senior producer of MSNBC’s primetime Phil Donahue show — there may well be orders and memos.

As the invasion neared, top management at MSNBC/NBC News ordered us to bias our panel discussions. If we booked one guest who was antiwar on Iraq, we needed two who were pro-war. If we booked two guests on the left, we needed three on the right. When a producer proposed booking Michael Moore, she was told that three right-wingers would be required for balance. (I thought about proposing Noam Chomsky as a guest, but our stage couldn’t have accommodated the 28 right-wingers we might have needed for balance.)

During that period, we were told by MSNBC brass that invasion opponent Ramsey Clark, a former U.S. attorney general, should not appear on the channel. Apparently, some sort of blacklist.

When the Donahue show was terminated three weeks before the Iraq invasion, internal memos that had circulated among top NBC News executives actually leaked. (God bless whistleblowers!) One memo said that Phil Donahue represented “a difficult public face for NBC in a time of war. . . . He seems to delight in presenting guests who are antiwar, anti-Bush and skeptical of the administration’s motives.” The memo described a dreaded scenario in which the Donahue show would become “a home for the liberal antiwar agenda at the same time that our competitors are waving the flag at every opportunity.”

NBC’s solution? Pull the plug.

My point is a simple one: Our corporate-owned media system too often functions as a corporate-friendly propaganda system, and it operates smoothly. It typically operates without orders from the owner or top management, and without firings for blatantly political reasons.

At MSNBC in those months, we were ordered to bias our content. Memos were written. I don’t know that orders were given in all the other big TV newsrooms. Yet, the content was amazingly homogeneous.

How else do you explain this finding from FAIR? In the two weeks surrounding Secretary of State Colin Powell’s inaccurate, pro-invasion presentation to the UN in February 2003, there were 393 on-camera sources discussing Iraq on the nightly newscasts of ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS. Only three of them represented the antiwar movement. That’s less than 1 percent of the total.

Source: https://www.salon.com/2019/08/16/memo-to-mainstream-journalists-can-the-phony-outrage-bernie-is-right-about-bias/

Offline niam2023

  • The Beast
  • *****
  • Posts: 3988
  • Gender: Male
  • The Forum Chad
Re: Memo to Journalists: Can the Phony Outrage, Bernie is Right About Bias
« Reply #1 on: August 21, 2019, 03:26:07 am »
It is ridiculous when politicians get all angsty about the "unfair" stories about them. Its ridiculous when Trump whines about the mainstream media being so very "mean" to him, and it is ridiculous to see Sanders getting up in arms about the Washington Post.
Living Life, Lifting, Waiting for Summer

Offline Id82

  • The Beast
  • *****
  • Posts: 981
Re: Memo to Journalists: Can the Phony Outrage, Bernie is Right About Bias
« Reply #2 on: August 21, 2019, 11:13:03 am »
Bernie said that? That's a shame, it makes him no better than Trump complaining about every news source being fake and against the American People [Him].
G.O.P
a  b r
s  s o
l   t   j
i   r  e
g  u c
h  c  t
t   t

Offline niam2023

  • The Beast
  • *****
  • Posts: 3988
  • Gender: Male
  • The Forum Chad
Re: Memo to Journalists: Can the Phony Outrage, Bernie is Right About Bias
« Reply #3 on: August 22, 2019, 12:24:34 am »
How is this different than GamerGate's MUH BIAS screeching about "Gamer is Dead"?

...oh right, this time its someone you like.

Its the populist instinct. If something goes wrong it must be collusion.
Living Life, Lifting, Waiting for Summer

Offline SCarpelan

  • The Beast
  • *****
  • Posts: 1054
Re: Memo to Journalists: Can the Phony Outrage, Bernie is Right About Bias
« Reply #4 on: August 22, 2019, 07:17:42 pm »
Sanders points out the same dynamics that intellectuals like Chomsky have criticized for decades. There is a difference between claiming that all the media are dishonest liars who hate you and pointing out that people in power protect their interests by selectively hiring and advocating for people whose honestly held opinions and values don't threaten them. One is a conspiracy theory, the other is criticism based on sociological dynamics. The bias is not in telling lies, it is in the perspective taken to the facts: which ones you think are pertinent and which can be ignored and how you present them. Every media source - government, corporate and alternative - does this editorial work from their own perspective.

Claiming that any given media institution has no inbuilt bias is claiming that people within it are robots with no values and ambitions.

Offline Tolpuddle Martyr

  • The Beast
  • *****
  • Posts: 3650
  • Have you got thumbs? SHOW ME YOUR FUCKING THUMBS!
Re: Memo to Journalists: Can the Phony Outrage, Bernie is Right About Bias
« Reply #5 on: August 22, 2019, 07:41:07 pm »
How is this different than GamerGate's MUH BIAS screeching about "Gamer is Dead"?

...oh right, this time its someone you like.

Its the populist instinct. If something goes wrong it must be collusion.
Well all claims of media bias can be reduced to "muh bias" if you like that sort of thing, it doesn't follow that all claims about media bias have equal weight or similar motivations behind them. It also doesn't follow that media bias doesn't exist because spurious claims about media bias exist.

Lets look and see if this horseshoe theory of Trump and Sanders doing exactly the same thing holds water.

Sanders:
Quote
“I talk about that all the time and then I wonder why the Washington Post, which is owned by Jeff Bezos, who owns Amazon, doesn’t write particularly good articles about me,” Sanders, who is among the leaders in a crowded field of Democratic hopefuls, said Monday. “I don’t know why. But I guess maybe there’s a connection. I guess maybe we helped raise the minimum wage at Amazon to 15 bucks an hour, as well. Maybe that’s why the Washington Post is not endeared to me. I don’t know.”

He is insinuating that Amazon's opposition to the minimum wage might have fueled antipathy towards Sanders in the WP. Well, it might not have helped but the WP were never fans of Sanders.

Here's Trump on the media:
Quote
"The fake news, of which many of you are members, is trying to convince the public to have a recession. 'Let's have a recession.'"

Here Trump is also insinuating that the media has an agenda, lots of media outlets-all together have an agenda to bring about a national recession for reasons.

Qualitatively, the two positions are not the same. Yes both insinuate an agenda, yes neither have shown a 'smoking gun' or 'proof' that media outlets have an institutional bias but one claim posits that multiple outlets have a bias for reasons that are completely unclear in order to bring about a concrete goal that doesn't seem like it would benefit them. The other claims a singular media outlet has a particular bias for a clearly stated reason that aligns with the CEOs personal interests. Whether either claim has merit isn't the issue, as with most "both sides" arguments when looking at the left and the right on closer examination the thing that "both sides" are purported to be doing isn't the same thing. 

« Last Edit: August 22, 2019, 09:20:07 pm by Tolpuddle Martyr »

Offline dpareja

  • The Beast
  • *****
  • Posts: 5215
Re: Memo to Journalists: Can the Phony Outrage, Bernie is Right About Bias
« Reply #6 on: August 22, 2019, 09:55:47 pm »
Sanders points out the same dynamics that intellectuals like Chomsky have criticized for decades. There is a difference between claiming that all the media are dishonest liars who hate you and pointing out that people in power protect their interests by selectively hiring and advocating for people whose honestly held opinions and values don't threaten them. One is a conspiracy theory, the other is criticism based on sociological dynamics. The bias is not in telling lies, it is in the perspective taken to the facts: which ones you think are pertinent and which can be ignored and how you present them. Every media source - government, corporate and alternative - does this editorial work from their own perspective.

Claiming that any given media institution has no inbuilt bias is claiming that people within it are robots with no values and ambitions.

See, this is why I have a tiny modicum of respect for, say, Sean Hannity: he doesn't pretend to be anything other than a Trumpite hack.
Quote from: Jordan Duram
It doesn't concern you, Sister, that kind of absolutist view of the universe? Right and wrong determined solely by a single all-knowing, all powerful being whose judgment cannot be questioned and in whose name the most horrendous acts can be sanctioned without appeal?

Quote from: Supreme Court of Canada
Being required by someone else’s religious beliefs to behave contrary to one’s sexual identity is degrading and disrespectful.

Offline Kanzenkankaku

  • The Beast
  • *****
  • Posts: 851
  • Gender: Female
  • Dreamer/Lightner
    • Mastadon Account
Re: Memo to Journalists: Can the Phony Outrage, Bernie is Right About Bias
« Reply #7 on: August 24, 2019, 05:30:10 pm »
Yeah. It's pretty obvious that the two aren't comparable. The article also talks about how the media had an interest in helping GW Bush go to war. They outright had memos about not letting on anti-war journalists or talking heads without stacking the deck against them with 2 or more pro-war guests. MSNBC cancelled Phil Donahue over being too critical of the war.

As much as cons say the news has a liberal bias because communists, it actually is anti-left and is conservative. Because of capitalist interests.

Offline dpareja

  • The Beast
  • *****
  • Posts: 5215
Re: Memo to Journalists: Can the Phony Outrage, Bernie is Right About Bias
« Reply #8 on: August 24, 2019, 06:14:30 pm »
Yeah. It's pretty obvious that the two aren't comparable. The article also talks about how the media had an interest in helping GW Bush go to war. They outright had memos about not letting on anti-war journalists or talking heads without stacking the deck against them with 2 or more pro-war guests. MSNBC cancelled Phil Donahue over being too critical of the war.

As much as cons say the news has a liberal bias because communists, it actually is anti-left and is conservative. Because of capitalist interests.

They cancelled Phil Donahue, but perhaps worse, signed Jesse Ventura and then didn't even put him on the air while holding him to his exclusivity clause, so that he ended up being unable to air his own anti-war views anywhere.

But also, keep this in mind: Trump calls any poll that's bad for him "fake news". I don't think I've ever heard Sanders refer to a poll showing him trailing or otherwise doing poorly as "fake". (His supporters, sometimes, yes, sometimes with what may or may not be valid criticisms of the polling methodology employed, but not Sanders himself.) Or a story critiquing him for certain gun votes he's cast as "fake".
Quote from: Jordan Duram
It doesn't concern you, Sister, that kind of absolutist view of the universe? Right and wrong determined solely by a single all-knowing, all powerful being whose judgment cannot be questioned and in whose name the most horrendous acts can be sanctioned without appeal?

Quote from: Supreme Court of Canada
Being required by someone else’s religious beliefs to behave contrary to one’s sexual identity is degrading and disrespectful.

Online Skybison

  • The Beast
  • *****
  • Posts: 1157
Re: Memo to Journalists: Can the Phony Outrage, Bernie is Right About Bias
« Reply #9 on: August 25, 2019, 01:33:30 am »
Personally I do think the issues with corporate media do have a lot of truth to them, but there is the issue that it can be easy to use that to read any negative coverage as the result of bias.  You mention Noam Chomsky, but remember that guy has done things like accuse George Monbiot of blindly "following the Washington script" for saying the Rwanda genocide actually happened.  He's not really all that great at telling the difference between when the media is biased and when he's just wrong.  Sanders hasn't done anything like that but yeah I do think his supporters in 2016 exaggerated how much the media was against him (Vox had a good article on how there was bias against Sanders but there were also ways the media was biased in his favor https://www.vox.com/2016/4/7/11378858/sanders-media-bias ) and overlooking that there were huge sexist biases against Hillary.  So yeah I do think the issue of media bias is true but I do think Sanders fans overstate it.

Offline SCarpelan

  • The Beast
  • *****
  • Posts: 1054
Re: Memo to Journalists: Can the Phony Outrage, Bernie is Right About Bias
« Reply #10 on: August 25, 2019, 04:51:23 am »
Chomsky was also horribly wrong about Khmer Rouge. Hindsight is always 20/20, just because he is sometimes wrong doesn't mean his basic scepticism wasn't rational based on the information he had at the time he made his comments. The point is that this type of sceptical look at media narratives and how they are built is different from conspiratorial thinking. Of course, there are people who strive for this scepticism but don't have the instincts or intellect to know where the border between those lies and internet has provided a platform for them, too.

Online Skybison

  • The Beast
  • *****
  • Posts: 1157
Re: Memo to Journalists: Can the Phony Outrage, Bernie is Right About Bias
« Reply #11 on: August 25, 2019, 01:26:18 pm »
Chomsky was also horribly wrong about Khmer Rouge. Hindsight is always 20/20, just because he is sometimes wrong doesn't mean his basic scepticism wasn't rational based on the information he had at the time he made his comments.

He said that in 2011, almost 20 years after the genocide had taken place and an enormous body of evidence was readily available.  Edward Herman, who co-wrote Manufacturing Consent with Noam Chomsky, wrote a book claiming that the Srebrenica massacre never happened and that not only did a hutu genocide against Tutsis killing 500k-1 million in Rwanda never happen, it was actually the Tutsis who committed genocide against the Hutus killing 2 million.  Chomsky wrote the introduction to the book, and although he didn't make those claims himself, when Monbiot criticized his involvement his response was a bunch of equivocating nonsense ( "well people don't talk about genocide against native americans enough so that makes Herman's denying these genocides fine.") and yeah that monbiot was following washington's script.

This wasn't like someone during WW2 being skeptical of the idea that the germans were running gas chambers to kill the jews, this was more like someone in the 60s defending (and sorta endorsing) a guy claiming that the jews built gas chambers to gas 12 million Germans to death.

https://www.monbiot.com/2012/05/21/see-no-evil/


Offline SCarpelan

  • The Beast
  • *****
  • Posts: 1054
Re: Memo to Journalists: Can the Phony Outrage, Bernie is Right About Bias
« Reply #12 on: August 25, 2019, 05:49:17 pm »
After reading the exchange between Monbiot and Chomsky it is seems these are two people talking past each other. My interpretation:

Monbiot: These descriptions are factually wrong and amount to denial of genocide which is dishonest and morally wrong. What is your answer?

Chomsky: The value of the book is in how it challenges the politization of the term genocide. Concentrating only on these problematic parts not only dismisses the other, accurate parts but doing so enforces this politization. I don't endorse the parts that distort the facts but I don't want to help moving the attention away from important issues that are generally ignored.

The rest of the exchange amounts to:

Monbiot: You are avoiding the point.

Chomsky: No, you are missing my point.

Based on Monbiot's quotes and criticism compared to historical accounts I found the writers seem to take conflicting accounts and contentious facts and present their interpretations of these as factual statements no matter which one is more credible. This is something I see people on the left do either as an intentionally one-sided counternarrative to balance out the public discussion or self-delusional conspiratorial thinking; sometimes it is hard to distinguish between these two. In this particular case, I agree with Monbiot in that not only is this a problem but that when it comes to Rwandan genocide the book crosses the line to an outright denial which Chomsky should in my opinion have acknowledged. If he had done so and only then moved on to emphasize what he sees as more important issues the discussion would probably have been more constructive.

"Commonly accepted narrative is politically influenced and is questionable in these instances" is a much better and more honest approach than "the mainstream narrative is certainly wrong, these are the real facts". Depending on the circumstances the counternarrative could still provide valuable additional information and viewpoints but this type of presentation promotes conspiratorial thinking instead of critical analysis. It also gives an excuse to dismiss the entire critical narrative as unreliable leaving the unrealiable parts in the criticized narrative unquestioned and this is what Chomsky is -again, in my opinion - trying to avoid in this case.

Edit; I take one thing back: Chomsky had a good reason to not explicitly call out the denial since Monbiot is asking for a quote to use in his piece about the book. Monbiot is approaching the issue from a narrow, fact-checking perspective while Chomsky is more concerned about how such narrow a focus in a heavily politicised issue will be used to dismiss greater concerns. Chomsky is explaining his reasoning for not giving the quote and avoiding giving it the same time.

Oh, and a correction to my earlier post: my comment about using information available at the time was about Chomsky's discussion about Khmer Rouge. My point was that he is an intelligent good-faith actor who is not infallible.
« Last Edit: August 26, 2019, 01:49:38 pm by SCarpelan »

Online Skybison

  • The Beast
  • *****
  • Posts: 1157
Re: Memo to Journalists: Can the Phony Outrage, Bernie is Right About Bias
« Reply #13 on: September 05, 2019, 01:42:28 am »
The problem I have with that is that everything else in the book was also wrong, just less obviously and offensively then the genocide denial.  The mainstream narrative about genocide from is far more diverse and nuanced then the book was portraying.  The book isn't challenging the politization of the term genocide, it's setting up a giant strawman of what the mainstream is, and then creating a mirror version of that.  There are lots of people out there who make the point he wants without the bad, so I don't see how this book is worth defending.

https://martinshaw.org/2011/06/15/left-wing-genocide-denial/

Overall I'm completely on Monbiot's side on this one.  I don't see any value in counter narrative for it's own sake when such narrative directly contradicts the facts in dangerous ways.

Offline SCarpelan

  • The Beast
  • *****
  • Posts: 1054
Re: Memo to Journalists: Can the Phony Outrage, Bernie is Right About Bias
« Reply #14 on: September 08, 2019, 04:45:49 am »
The question here isn't the credibility of the book as a whole, it is whether its discussion about politication of genocide is worthwhile. That's what Chomsky's qualm seems to be. A main thread in Chomsky's actions in general is the worry about allowing media institutions to define what perspectives are acceptable and censor dissenting ones, even ones that seem complete hacks. In this case Chomsky is defending and avoiding discrediting people who don't deserve his defence but there is a valid logic behind it even if I personally wouldn't do the same in his position. From that perspective I understand Chomsky's refusal to give Monbiot the quote he wants but I understand Monbiot's frustration as well.

If my opinion matters while I accept Chomsky's logic I mostly disagree with him about his premise. I can see how calling an act X a genocide and not calling a more destructive act Y as one can be used to make Y more acceptable and create a moral distinction that ignores actual consequences. On the other hand, Chomsky is blinded by his own perspective and either misses or dismisses how genocide has its particular political and social context on the local level and doing away with the term would make it more difficult to spot and prevent deaths before they happen. The term is not just a politicized propaganda tool and its use is more than empty moralizing; in other words I agree with actual genocide researchers more. On the other hand, the politicized use needs to be kept a very critical eye on and not just by those powerful institutions choose to promote.

All this doesn't mean that I don't think his perspective on propaganda and media narratives is not valid or accurate. It can blind him to other pertinent factors that in situations like this can be more significant. What I object to is the implicit claim that one can stamp him with "genocide denier" with no other context and dismiss him as an intellectual. If I was Bosnian or a Tutsi, my perspective would probably be different and while this does not disqualify Chomsky's positions either it deserves to be acknowledged.