6.14.2009

Power Steering

Recently The Economist picked the brain of Glenn Greenwald. Greenwald thinks we often miss a larger point during arguments about media bias.

DIA: Do you see the media as being tilted towards the left or the right?

Mr Greenwald: The predominant bias of the media isn't really best understood as left or right as much as it is loyalty to power. Journalism ought to be the opposite: it ought to be adversarial to power. But for many reasons—the fact that media stars are now very highly-paid celebrities; they work for the largest corporations which rely on their relationship with the government; they are desperate for access to and favourable treatment from political figures; they see themselves as part of the New York/Washington power elite—they empathise with and are a part of the establishment far more than they are adverse to it.

In general, that translates into a right-wing bias, in that conservatives are generally more geared to serving and glorifying elite institutions and the power that inheres in them. And the alliance that formed in the 1990s between media stars and right-wing operatives, who single-handedly fed the Clinton/Lewinksy scandal, still persists. But I think the overwhelming media bias is far more about serving and revering political power than it is about liberalism or conservatism.

5 comments:

Ry Guy said...

I agree with the media-gravitates-to-power argument, but it is contradictory to say that that equates to a conservative leaning media. Conservatives aren't in power and celebrities certainly can't be accused of being conservative. I've never in my life seen "news" organizations so overtly un-biased as they are these days.

Mike Orcutt said...

I agree with your last statement, and I agree that Mr. Greenwald made quite a big leap in the second paragraph of the block quote. The position that either party is inherently more apt to revere power is precarious indeed.

I think his use of the term "celebrity" referred to our media "celebrities"--Hannity, Olbermann, Beck, Maddow, O'Reilly, Anderson Cooper, Jonah Goldberg, Ariana Huffington, etc.

The "news" organizations you refer to are simply selling narratives to people they know will buy them. While that's a good business model, all it is doing is (at times arbitrarily) widening what is in my mind a very dangerous communication divide. I posted this quote because to me it represents a shred of common ground: All of us, regardless of political inclination, should be wary of the entire mainstream media's tendencies. And to take it one step further, I think we should all be more wary of the tendencies of ANY human being who reports on the news.

Thanks for the comment, Ryan.

ben said...

"conservatives are generally more geared to serving and glorifying elite institutions and the power that inheres in them"

I do agree with this. Isn't that basically the definition of conservative? That you like the status quo?

Thomas said...

I tend to agree with Mr. Greenwald's statement, especially as it relates to a common thread between sports and news media. Typically, we wouldn't compare these two mediums in the same realm of "bias" or "objectivity". Nevertheless, they still reflect the same shared values that Mr. Greenwald asserts. Sports media covers the big names: Tiger, Kobe, LeBron, Farve, ect., all in the fact these figures drive ratings. They are the “stars” of their respective sports, and have a fan base that follows. Therefore, maintaining access and relation to these individuals is one of the premiums of the sports media industry. Likewise, news outlets like CNN, Fox, or MSNBC cover their reporting in a way that it feeds the values and desires of their viewership. As a result, these broadcast outlets focus on the figures and philosophies of those who drive their ratings and drive their ad sales. They play to the crowd, and they are focused on the “stars” of their viewership, whether that be Sarah Palin or Ted Kennedy. At its basic level, its a money game across the board and when ratings drive the engine of so called “unbiased reporting”, actual journalistic ethics take a back seat to maintaining access and promoting a respective angle all for the sake of profit, sales, and ratings.

Ry Guy said...

Thomas, that was very well stated. I think we could all do well to watch all media with a lens of skepticism...or at least consume a variety of news media and then balance both sides ourselves. Because the truth of any story most likely lies in the middle of "left" and "right."