Bias in the News
I don’t know what got into the New York Times, but its adoration of Paul Ryan is unseemly.
Look at the two photos above, in Sunday’s campaign trail slideshow. In particular, look at the angle and the lighting.
Ryan, right, is shot by a photographer at ground level, looking up at a heroic figure, in the style of of Soviet realism, or National Socialist realism. Larger than life leaders standing way above the crowd, muscular and erect and confident. His smiling features are lit well as he stands outdoors with his mother, probably on a platform, but we don’t see that.
Obama, left, is shot a little further back, so he’s closer to eye level, and he’s smaller and slouching the way people do when they’re not posing. His tie’s a bit undone and he’s frowning and leaning forward, holding on to the lectern, making it clear he’s on stage, behind the teleprompters. He’s alone, indoors, back lit by bright light from large windows, washing out his profile.
In this ostensibly even-handed slide show of 11 photos, the one above of Ryan is No. 1, and the one of Obama is No. 8, the first to show the Democrat.
Objective is the journalistic word for being even-handed. The way newspaper editors and television producers mean it, every one gets equal time, and the right to respond to allegations. The august NYT doesn’t come close in this, or in its coverage of the campaign now. I often wonder if the editors are not too thin-skinned about the drumbeat of Tea Party accusations that big media is hopelessly liberal. You have to understand that you can easily promote a person or a program or a party without an ideological underpinning. Pols do it all the time, and so do journalists. Most of us give up on ideology once childhood ends. And if the Times has an ideology, it’s not liberal, but yuppie.
There’s a serious philosophical debate over whether people can be objective, even handed. The longer I live, the more I am convinced that no one can be cleanly objective, just as no one can be thoroughly bipartisan. Another way to look at it is that none of us can escape our own agenda and interest. We can spout any principles or slogans we like, but we never forget who we are nor stop ourselves from realizing what looks good at the moment.
I don’t think that’s a very bleak way of looking at the world, and it’s compatible with any reasonable conservative or liberal point of view.
The title of this “blog” — blogs, bloggers, feh, I don’t like the way those sound, but language changes — is “unbiased”. It may not always seem unbiased, but you’d have to know a good deal more about me. I’ll tell you a few things.
Looking back four years ago, up until August, I was leaning toward voting for McCain. Then he chose Palin, an ignorant political neophyte, to be his running mate, and he lost my vote. At first, I disliked Obama, not because he was radical or extreme in any way, but because of the way he spouted platitudes — like his whole thing about “change” and “bipartisanship”. At one point, he even said that he wanted a White House that citizens could call and feel that they’d been heard. All that seemed silly, but I looked around for interviews with him before the campaign — isn’t the web great — and I found a reasonable, bright politician. That’s what I want in Washington: reasonable, bright politicians. There’s no room for amateurs.
If you don’t believe me that Palin is ignorant, read the detailed account of the 2008 campaign, “Game Change”, or just follow this link for some of her misstatements. If you’re a true believer in the Tea Party, you’ll still wave all that away, but I can’t wave it away. She was frightening and McCain was getting up there in age.
Way back in 2000, Bush the younger didn’t bother me too much, although it looked like he stole the election in Florida (as JFK appeared to steal the election in Illinois in 1960). I didn’t like his religious line, nor his cut-taxes-no-matter-what stand, but I didn’t think Congress would let him do anything too crazy. I simply didn’t like politics. By 2000, I was out of the news business and barely read any news. I couldn’t have imagined Sept. 11 or the war in Iraq.
Now, in 2012, there are two very important political issues that I know something about: government regulation and social programs — like health care.
Deregulation has been a bipartisan affair for more than 30 years, and it’s done nothing but hurt. This should be obvious after our brush with a full-blown economic depression in 2008. We had a rehearsal for all this in the late 1980s when I worked for Wall Street Journal. I was a news editor on the politics and banking desk, and I could see exactly what went into the savings-and-loan crisis. It cost the country hundreds of billions, shoved us into a long economic decline — that, my Republican friends please note, resulted in Bill Clinton’s election after 12 years of Morning in America.
We got out of that, and promptly proceeded to completely deregulate the financial industry. About the only thing the bankers and Wall Street learned was how to stay out of jail — as several savings-bank executives were actually incarcerated. The meltdown in 2008 nearly did us in. I am afraid that the next one will, and that the election of Paul Ryan and his running mate (funny how Ryan overtook Romney in media attention) will push deregulation full speed ahead into a real depression that will make 2008 look like a Hollywood musical.
Just think back to 2008 and imagine that your Social Security checks depended on the Wall Street investments you made. That’s what Paul Ryan and George Bush were trying to do in the years leading up to the meltdown, but Congress was sacred of the voters.
About health care, I cannot see how this country can simply let health-care costs rise indefinitely. Non-Medicare health insurance is already out of reach of many. Nothing in any of Ryan’s plans addresses the cost of health care, except his magical belief that private corporations will figure it all out — much like they figured out the banking system and the economy.
Tax cuts for the rich are a scam. They mean a great deal personally to Romney, whose fortune is in the hundreds of millions, and Ryan, whose fortune is in the mere millions. They might be able to force more tax cuts into law, but that will pile the national debt higher and higher.
They won’t be able to cut the budget to make up for the money they will no longer contribute to society. What they don’t understand is that we are all in this together, whether they like it or not. Their notion of a nation of moochers sponging off their wealth is not far away from the “parasites” in the old Soviet Union. They are not very smart prophets for the free market. Despite all their family advantages, they don’t understand that no one can sell anything to customers who have no money. Then where is the free market?