Media: Is it fair & accurate or biased about policy issues? FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Fri, 12 Mar 1999 16:42:23 -0800 (PST)


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Some of us homeless and ex-homeless folks on Homeless People's Network list
spend a lot of time reviewing "mainstream news" articles about homeless
people and related policy issues.  And some of us edit, broadcast or write
for "alternative media", such as street newspapers.  Which leads me to ask
these questions:

Do you think the way big media represents homeless and poor people is accurate?

Are street papers more accurate than mainstream corporate-owned media in
portraying issues which affect homeless people?

Is big media "objective" in it's presentation of public policy issues?

More broadly,does mainstream media report fairly and accurately about
public policy issues or is it biased?

Please cite examples to illustrate your answers.

See below for two related articles:

FWD [an article, followed by a reply]

"The Right has cultivated a dominance in policy and cultural debates while
the Left has devoted its energies to cleaning up the human wreckage that has
resulted from the execution of the Right's ideas. Sponsoring soup kitchens
and homeless shelters are worthy causes, but influencing public policy so
that there will no longer be a need for them is equally important."
-- from article below

THE RIGHT-WING MEDIA MACHINE: IDEOLOGY BACKED BY LOTS OF MONEY
By Randolph T. Holhut

Money may be the mother's milk of politics, and you can get quite a lot
accomplished with the right amount of cash. But money alone isn't enough.
Building a political infrastructure that will work as a conveyor belt to
churn out ideas and affect government policy is also important.

The Right has long known this and has invested its money into the
foundations, think tanks and media outlets to get its message across. They
have used non-profit foundation money to build an impressive and formidable
political infrastructure that parallels that of the Left, only with more
funding, better organization and a massive base of support.

It's not news that right-wing organizations are better funded and better
organized than the Left. It's the extent of how well funded and organized
the Right is that magnifies the failure of the Left to get similarly
organized.

For example, take the media. It is one of the great myths of conservative
thought that liberals control the media. Yes, there are certain issues (gun
control being chief among them) when a clear liberal bias can be detected.
But by and large, as the noted educator and philosopher John Dewey once
said, ``the reactionaries are in possession of force, in not only the army
and police, but in the press and the schools.''

Armed with lots of money from wealthy donors and conservative foundations,
the Right created and funded its own media network. From 1990 to 1993,
right-wing foundations invested $2.7 million into four conservative
publications - The New Criterion, National Interest, Public Interest and The
American Spectator. During that same time, left-wing foundations contributed
about 10 percent of that amount, $269,000, into the four major liberal-left
publications - The Nation, The Progressive, Mother Jones and In These Times.

The conservative media - talk radio, the Moonie-subsidized Washington Times,
the Wall Street Journal, Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network and
the afore-mentioned magazines - have churned out hundreds of stories about
President Clinton's infidelity, the Whitewater real estate deals and the
``suspicious'' death of Vincent Foster.

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The Right has cultivated a dominance in policy and cultural debates while
the Left has devoted its energies to cleaning up the human wreckage that has
resulted from the execution of the Right's ideas. Sponsoring soup kitchens
and homeless shelters are worthy causes, but influencing public policy so
that there will no longer be a need for them is equally important.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

In the 1980s, similar types of stories popped up about Ronald Reagan and
George Bush. They were not followed through with the vigor that the
conservative media has shown in attacking Clinton. Back then, they were too
busy defending the indefensible policies of Reagan and Bush. With an
opposition president in office, they quickly switched from defense to
offense and mercilessly laid into Clinton.

The Republicans have been shameless about using the ``big lie'' technique
that Hitler used so skillfully during his rise to power. Hitler believed
that the bigger the lie and the more often it was repeated, the more likely
it would be believed by the masses.

A GOP smear may begin its life in arch-conservative publications like the
American Spectator or the Washington Times. Limbaugh, Robertson and the rest
of the platoon of conservative talk show hosts then repeat it on their
programs. The Wall Street Journal, perhaps the shrillest attacker of Bill
Clinton in the American press, might give the item legitimacy on its
editorial page. The conservative syndicated newspaper columnists will
discuss it in print and then go on the weekend talk shows to give it even
wider play. It doesn't take long for the wild accusations of the
conservative media eventually to seep into the mainstream media.

Or you can bypass this whole process. The Rev. Jerry Falwell has hawked a
videotape on his ``Old Time Gospel Hour'' program that claims to have the
``truth'' about the alleged Whitewater scandal. Two others whose sole aim is
to wipe out Clinton - Floyd Brown and Operation Rescue's Randall Terry -
have formed so-called ``citizens groups'' as a conduit for their hateful
rhetoric.

To keep a movement going, you need to develop talent. Starting in the early
1980s, the Right poured millions of dollars into college campuses to
establish right-wing newspapers. It helped the Right gain credibility on
campus and provided a farm team for the Right's media apparatus. The Left
had no comparable effort, and lost out on an opportunity to develop a new
cadre of activists. The people who worked on the right-wing college papers
in the 1980s are now in the thick of the conservative movement.

The right-wing foundations such as the John M. Olin Foundation, the Bradley
Foundation and the Sarah Mellon Scaife Foundation put their money into
building the intellectual underpinnings of the movement. The philanthropic
Left foundations such as the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
focused other priorities such as AIDS, homelessness and the environment.

The result of this strategy is clear. The Right has cultivated a dominance
in policy and cultural debates while the Left has devoted its energies to
cleaning up the human wreckage that has resulted from the execution of the
Right's ideas. Sponsoring soup kitchens and homeless shelters are worthy
causes, but influencing public policy so that there will no longer be a need
for them is equally important.

   [A reply to the article above appears below.]

   REPLY by E. F. Joseph

   Re: The Right-Wing Media Machine: Ideology Backed By Lots of Money


   I think you are missing the point if you say that the "media"
   is either "left" or "right". The media is "GREEN" - if it
   sells, it plays.

   Sure, you can find some bias here and there, but it's amazing
   how LITTLE political bias there is in the mainstream, and
   even second-tier news services. Compared to the sort of raging
   polemics one can find in partisan european news products, the
   news in the USA is practically hospital pure.

   What we have here is not political bias but instead a tabloid
   mentality. If there is a dollar to be made, ideology takes a
   back seat. The recent Juanita Broadrick case is a good
   example. Initially, anchor Tom Brokhaw (ultraliberal)
   threatened to resign if NBC ran the story. However, as other
   news organizations began to hype-up the "suppressed" NBC
   interview - raising its ad-dollar value - both NBC and Brokhaw
   broke ideological ranks and ran the interview. The recent
   (long) Lewinski interview is another example of where a
   "leftist" media sells out for the big bucks.

   Right-wing biases also exist ... especially evident in recent
   military adventures. All of the media outlets still persist
   in portraying Iraq as NAZI germany, the USSR and Red China
   all rolled into one vast danger to the entire human race -
   when, obviously, Iraq is just a (barely) 3rd world shithole
   which cannot even defend itself against even unsophisticated
   military harrassment. The media here serves the interests of
   the military-industrial complex. Their rhetoric is straight
   from the cold war, only the names have changed.

   BUT - if it pays - the media will run fantasies about our
   military using nerve gas against our own defecting troops
   in Cambodia.

   For the media, "truth" is whatever fills the corporate
   coffers. All the other biases are low-grade and random.
   Our media rarely actually LIES ... as in providing
   bogus facts ... but when motivated it instead distorts
   and disinforms by skewing the RELEVANCE of the facts.
   Context is the other half of "truth", but it's harder
   to pin down. Our media plays context like true artists.

END FORWARD

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