By BRIAN CLOWES
(Editor’s Note: Brian Clowes has been director of research and training at Human Life International since 1995. For a document containing hundreds of examples of bias by the mainstream media, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. This is the second part of his commentary on media bias.)
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The previous column described just a few of the particularly egregious incidents of media bias against the pro-life movement. This problem is certainly not new; as ABC News Political Director Mark Halperin has admitted, “It’s an endemic problem. And again, it’s the reason why for 40 years, conservatives have rightly felt that we did not give them a fair shake.”
Why have the media deliberately suppressed, misrepresented, and outright lied about our message for decades? The answer to this question is relatively straightforward.
The “media” are that group of people and organizations who transmit ideas and information to a large number of people. There are eight primary channels of the media: Books, magazines, newspapers, movies, recordings, radio, television, and artwork.
We are particularly concerned with bias in news reporting, which consists of unconsciously injecting one’s personal views into what is said. But bias is not the problem here; the problem is corruption, which is deliberately and dishonestly twisting one’s story to suit political or social objectives. As the last column showed, what we see in the media reaches the level of outright corruption, attempting to mold history instead of documenting it.
Members of the media, of course, do not believe that they are corrupt. Washington Post editor Christian Williams said: “The reporters work for a shining institution, basically the last uncorrupted institution you can find. Hospitals are corrupt. Judges are corrupt. Everybody in the world is corrupt. But our newspapers are essentially a monument to idealism.”
New York Times reporter Richard Berke claimed that “I don’t think there is [a bias] at all. I think anyone who accuses the press of bias is acting in desperation, I think. I think the press has been much more aggressive and fair, in going after both sides, than ever before.”
When confronted, some journalists expertly dodge the question with flowery and distracting prose. White House correspondent Helen Thomas said: “A liberal bias? I don’t know what a liberal bias is. Do you mean we care about the poor, the sick, and the maimed? Do we care whether people are being shot every day on the streets of America? If that’s liberal, so be it. I think it’s everything that’s good in life — that we do care. We seek solutions and we do think that we are all responsible for what happens in this country.”
Sometimes we have to wonder if the reporters who defend the media against charges of bias were born in this solar system. National Public Radio’s Brooke Gladstone claimed that media outlets in general “offer far more conservative voices than liberal ones.”
The people who say these things may sincerely believe that media bias is a fiction. It is human nature to associate with people who are like us. Pro-lifers tend to have pro-life friends, animal-rights activists tend to spend time with others who hold similar beliefs, and so on. The most influential mainstream media people are usually very well-paid members of the elite. Everyone they associate with is a Hollywood/media/sports celebrity, and they all tend to be extremely liberal.
So somebody who is merely “liberal” on the abortion issue (say, someone who believes that abortion should be legal but that there should be informed consent) appears to the ultra-liberal person to be a “conservative.” This is a natural human tendency; when you only interact with people who think like you do, eventually you begin to believe that yours is the only moral way to think.
This is why the media despise the pro-life message and attempt to ignore it or cover it up — and, when coverage is unavoidable, it ruthlessly twists the message. As Boston Globe legal reporter Ethan Bronner said, “I think that when abortion opponents complain about a bias in newsrooms against their cause, they’re absolutely right. . . . Opposing abortion, in the eyes of most journalists, is not a legitimate, civilized position in our society.”
Occasionally, media personalities must rub shoulders with the “little people,” and the results can be comical. Good Morning America co-host Diane Sawyer said: “You know, I wanted to sit on a jury once and I was taken off the jury. And the judge said to me, ‘Can, you know, can you tell the truth and be fair?’ And I said, ‘That’s what journalists do.’ And everybody in the courtroom laughed. It was the most hurtful moment I think I’ve ever had.”
The Media Have A Mission
Many journalists and other media personalities are more accurately described as activists, not reporters, and believe that they have a mission to hasten society down to the road to a liberal utopia. This sometimes leads to a condescending attitude. Teya Ryan, senior producer of the Network Earth series, said that “the ‘balanced’ report, in some cases, may no longer be the most effective, or even the most informative. Indeed, it can be debilitating. Can we afford to wait for our audience to come to its own conclusions? I think not.”
And Boston Globe environmental reporter Dianne Dumanoski said that “there is no such thing as objective reporting. I’ve become even more crafty about finding the voices to say the things I think are true. That’s my subversive mission.”
According to Bernard Goldberg, who wrote the book Bias: “A lot of newspeople got into journalism in the first place so they could change the world and make it a better place, and to use their position as reporters as a platform from which to “show compassion,” which makes us feel good about ourselves.”
Goldberg quotes researcher Robert Lichter, who said: “Increasingly, journalists see themselves as society’s designated saviors,” whose mission is to “awaken the national conscience and force public action.”
Or as ABC News anchor Peter Jennings admitted, “Those of us who went into journalism in the ’50s or ’60s, it was sort of a liberal thing to do. Save the world.”
Linda Ellerbee got straight to the point when she said that “we report news, not truth. There is no such thing as objectivity. Any reporter who tells you he’s objective is lying to you.”
Geraldo Rivera added that “objectivity was invented by journalism schools. It has very little to do with real life.”
Although the media take a liberal stand on all of the social issues, its corruption is most evident on the issue of abortion. As NARAL’s Susanne Millsaps said, “The media have been our best friend in this fight. They claim objectivity, but I know they’re all pro-choice.”
Millsaps certainly knows what she is talking about. Five major studies on media attitudes between 1981 and 1995 found that between 90 and 97 percent of news media professionals consistently identify themselves as “pro-choice,” and a large majority support third-trimester partial-birth abortions for any reason.
A few media stars have found that, contrary to their own propaganda, their fellow journalists are the most rigid and inflexible people of all. Any questioning of the media orthodoxy can have severe consequences, as Juan Williams found out when he was fired by National Public Radio in 2010.
He said that “I always thought it was the Archie Bunkers of the world, the right-wingers of world, who were more resistant and more closed-minded about hearing the other side. In fact, what I have learned is, in a very painful way — and I can open this shirt and show you the scars and the knife wounds — is that it is big media institutions who are identifiably more liberal to left-leaning who will shut you down, stab you and kill you, fire you, if they perceive that you are not telling the story in the way that they want it told.”
Sometimes it might seem that the blaring media message on homosexuality, global warming, animal rights, abortion, and every other issue is bombarding us from every direction, and it can be intimidating and depressing. This is especially the case with homosexual “marriage” right now. But we must not lose hope; we always have the means to fight back and set things right.
The “mainstream media” are losing their grip on the minds of Americans and know it. After all, you can’t abuse and neglect the truth for half a century and expect people to continue to trust you. Public opinion polls show that people trust the media just slightly more than they trust Congress and less than they trust used car salesmen.
Fortunately, those who stand for faith, life, and family are providing alternatives. These include websites run by all of the major pro-life and pro-family organizations, electronic daily news services such as LifeSiteNews, LifeNews and ZENIT, and an increasing number of privately produced movies that celebrate the Christian vision of life and love. We must visit these media outlets, support them with our donations, and spread the word about them to other pro-life people. If we persist in doing this, one day the “mainstream” media will be the minority, ignored by thinking people.