The News Site of Fresno City College

Is the Media Liberal? Con

March 21, 2017

A frequently asked question is, “Is the news media too liberal?”,however, to frame it that way can only lead us to one conclusion: the media is liberal.

This would not allow for a meaningful discussion of liberalism, or what the role of the news media is in our society.

To understand if the media is truly liberal, the political philosophies of liberalism and conservatism  must be understood.

Liberalism came out of the Enlightenment during the 18th century from political thinkers and philosophers such as John Locke, David Hume, and Adam Smith.  

Some of the basic tenets of what we now call classical liberalism include the individual liberty of the greater good, a civil society that is under control (peace), free markets in which the government cannot interfere with the economy, and that a limited government’s only goal should be to protect the life liberty and property of its people.

Traditional conservatism has been the dominant political ideology over the span of human history and has come forms such as aristocracy, monarchy, military dictatorships, and theocracies.

Traditional conservatives held the view that there was a natural social order that should not be disrupted; society is an organic whole; equality is not too important; elites have the right to rule but have responsibility to the welfare of others, the importance of customs and traditions, the need for a transcendent moral order, and the need for statist control over the economy.

Though these different political labels take on the opposite meanings in the US, the media today can be seen as putting into practice both of these philosophies.

An often cited survey of reporters, editors, and executives conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2004 found that 34 percent of the national press identified as liberal, as opposed to 7 percent conservatives, with most called themselves moderates. These types of studies and surveys are proclaimed as evidence of a liberal media.

If a survey found that 51 percent of the workers at a General Motors manufacturing plant  identified as liberal would that make the company liberal?

What the workers at a certain company doesn’t matter as much as what the owners, advertisers, and investors believe, and what views they want presented in the media.

Major news outlets are owned by major conglomerate corporations and as an industry, they have a major goal: profits. These corporations are not faceless. They are run by people with certain views, and who have certain interests.

The Telecommunications Act of 1996, signed by Bill Clinton, allowed for media cross-ownership and as of 2011, six corporations own 90 percent of all media companies; a very limited choice for a variety of ideas.

That major corporations want less government interference and regulation on how many companies they can own and buy is a more conservative stance, and not too often mentioned during discussions of liberalism.. Adam Smith’s view that government’s should protect their people from corporate tyranny is often forgotten when economic “experts” cite his book “The Wealth of Nations” and the need for capitalism.

If we truly had a liberal media, there would be more news coverage on working class people and stories supporting welfare. In his book, “Why Americans Hate Welfare”, Martin Gillens notes what he calls “the racialization of poverty” in news coverage.

With original research conducted over many years, Gillens describes how the media has pushed poverty to be associated with lazy, undeserving, African-Americans. While most journalist tend to reject stereotypes about black people but, Gillens argues, “in the everyday practice of their craft…these same journalists portray poor blacks as more blameworthy than poor whites.”

One can find the Business section, NASDAQ, and what is happening in the stock market in most newspapers, but there is no Labor section. It seems that the doings of the business elites are more important than working class people, the majority of Americans. When we do hear of labor issues it is when workers are causing trouble for the owners of business, such as going on strike.

A systematic analysis of the media will show it to be more conservative than liberal, and that most of the accusations of a liberal media come from the right.

While the media tends to be more liberal on issues such as abortion, and same-sex marriage, issues that won’t really affect the profits of elites, it is their conservative standpoints that are having bigger effects when it comes to democracy in the US, and across the world.  

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