“A lie told often enough becomes the truth.”
– Ronald Reagan1
“And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed—if all records told the same tale—then the lie passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’”
- George Orwell, 1984
How many times have you heard about the “liberal media”? Probably so many times that most of you even believe it. It would be amusing, if it wasn’t so sad. These types of falsehoods that become “facts” are precisely part of the war of definitions that the right has used to drag the political center, and the country, further and further to the right over the years.
This myth, in its current form, originated from a single survey that was done many years ago. 1972, S. Robert Lichter et al in “The Media Elite: America’s New Powerbrokers” did a small survey of 238 journalists, and found that the majority of them did vote Democrat. While this shouldn’t be surprising, particularly given that that study after study shows that there is an inverse relationship between education and conservatism, and as a rule, journalists tend to be fairly well educated. (This is the truth behind why Republicans and conservatives are so opposed to education. It is why people like Rick Santorum say, “We will never have the elite, smart people on our side”)
Did this survey find that the media was liberal? No, not really. Not even its authors claim so. What it found was that the media was, in fact, not liberally biased, though many of the mid-level and below reporters did tend to vote Democrat. (At that point, voting Democrat actually put one a bit left of center.) The right wing though, and in particular (oh, the irony here), the right wing columnists in the media, took this survey, twisted it, as they are wont to do, and on the other end of their propaganda machine came out the turd that “The media is liberal”. They have been decrying the media as such ever since.
The facts in front of us would convince any sane reasonable person to the contrary, but that is not what we are dealing with. We are dealing with people who have largely been victims of a Milligramesque Experiment echo chamber. “You will accept authority.” You will accept that the media is liberal.” “You will believe that everything that comes from the government is evil.” “You will ignore the contradictions.” “You will ignore the man behind the curtain.” You will give me your dollars.”
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One of the other interesting things to consider in this is that these low- and mid-level reporters really have very little control or influence over what they actually put in the papers or on the screens. The people who are in control are the editors and the managers. These people are the ones who are shown, in the same material referenced above, and multiple repeated surveys, to be most typically conservative. Oh, wait. Let’s pause here. What we have here is pretty typical, isn’t it? Those at the top are going to escape taking responsibility, while the right blames those at the bottom for their perceived issues? It is the typical way that the right wing operates.
Let us look briefly at the consolidation of media. I’m sure we’ve all seen the numbers, yes? And, they are constantly changing. Growing ever more consolidated. When Ben Bagdikian introduced The Media Monopoly in 1983, he concluded that “50 men and women, chiefs of their corporations, control more than half the information and ideas that reach 220 million Americans, it is time for Americans to examine the institutions from which they receive their daily picture of the world.” Today, 30 years later, the consolidation has grown to such a degree that we now have “more than 1500 newspapers, 1100 magazines, 9000 radio stations, 1500 TV stations, 2400 publishers, owned by only 3 corporations,” as the meme goes. Using Bagdikian’s methodology, in 2009, this number had fallen from 50 to 15 controlling over 50% of the information and ideas dominating the American market, and:
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