Wednesday, October 24, 2007

It's OK If You Are A Republican

One of the reasons I started blogging was the imbalance I saw in the political media coverage. Everyone talked about liberal media bias, but I saw few liberals on any of the shows which I watched, and the ones that were there had something done to them to make them zombiefied. Yet the talk most of the time was of the liberal media bias.

This was frustrating. Once I dove into the wonderful world of political blogs I learned the acronym IOKIYAAR. Its meaning is in the title of this post, the meaning being that Republicans are the teacher's pets in the media, getting favored treatment.

The reasons are not easy to figure out, but my guess is that the bias has something to do with that prolonged Republican program of always accusing the media of lefty bias. It may also have something to do with the fear of Republicans, because quite a few of them do seem to breathe fire when attacked, and life is much more pleasant for a journalist who only attacks the dirty but peace-loving hippies. Then of course the bias may have something to do with the conservatives being in power in this country.

Whatever the reasons, I was pretty convinced that the media did not have a liberal bias. What they had was a bias against any real lefties. (When did you last see Noam Chomsky on tv, say?) The people defined as liberals in political programs are mostly not. Many of them are Republican-lite, but now this is viewed as equal to communism. The center has been pushed and kicked rightwards for so long that I have to keep going over the list of defining characters of a communist to remind myself that, no, Hillary Clinton does not qualify.

Why this long preamble (and ambling it is)? Because in the next stage of my blogging life I learned that many people with opinions and experience I respect did not see the bias I raved about. This made me go back and check my data, always a good thing. But on the whole I still think that the IOKIYAAR is true.

It is evident in several behavior patterns in the media. One of these patterns is to dig up "equivalent" crimes on the left when some sort of a wide-reaching scandal on the right erupts (such as the Abramoff case). This digging is naturally good journalism. What is not good journalism is to find only, say, one similar example on the left, but to still write a story up as if the scandal or crimes are equally common on both sides of the aisle. These "ignore the numbers" types of stories are still quite common.

A slightly different pattern is to ignore the fact that some wide-reaching scandal has a party dimension. This is a problem if one believes, as I do, that the mirror image of such a scandal would be written up in a way which links it to the Democratic party. An example of this pattern is the way the media reports on the many cases where politically prominent members of the religious right are caught propositioning minors, visiting prostitutes or engaging in gay sex while preaching against it. A more obvious example of this "look elsewhere" pattern is the coverage that three Republican members of the Congress have received for propositioning underage boys, visiting prostitutes and making sexual advances in a public bathroom.

A third pattern of interest is the "false equivalence". Suppose that I throttle my neighbor in a fit of temporary insanity, and you once forgot to send a Christmas card to your best friend from college. In the IOKIYAAR world these two deeds would be regarded as equally bad, but only if I am a Republican and you are a Democrat. (Well, your deed might actually be worse, especially if you happen to get Caitlin Flanagan to write it up.) The "false equivalence" treatment is probably the most serious one of the various patterns of IOKIYAAR, because it extends to all debate about issues so that a science debate must give equal time or space for those who don't believe in evolution or in any global warming whatsoever.

The last pattern I have noticed (though I'm sure there are more of them) is the obvious one of just asserting that something is OK if you are a Republican and not otherwise. Tucker Carlson made this point when he argued that Giuliani's past marriages and love life are out of bounds for journalistic exploration but that Hillary Clinton's husband's love life is a valid topic for discussion.
The pic is just for fun.