How Concern Over Media "Bias" Warps Judgment

Conor Friedersdorf calls on the right to police their media outlets and call out slander and lies, but rightfully notes that critics fail to realize how fundamental a shift this would be for conservatives:

I’d love to see more folks in the conservative movement adopt Rubin’s attitude. But they won’t. One reason is that it’s difficult to condemn Beck in isolation. Acknowledging that his show is indefensible -- that’s the core of her critique -- means confronting the fact that Fox News under Roger Ailes knowingly broadcasts factually inaccurate and egregiously misleading nonsense every day. How many conservatives are willing to stipulate that?

It also means departing from the conservative movement’s standard approach to its entertainers: It’s verboten to criticize anyone on “your own side” in an ideological conflict many see as binary.

I'd put that last sentence differently. It's not so much that conservatives assiduously stick by Reagan's 11th Commandment, refusing to criticize each other. It's that conservative media -- going all the way back to National Review -- was conceived as an alternative to pervasive liberal bias in American institutions. But the thing about fixating on bias is that it's a woefully inadequate criticism. If you're a conservative and you read something in The New York Times you agree with, you're unlikely to think the story the product of liberal bias. But if you disagree, well you're not surprised, because, you know, bias skewed the story. In short, ideology comes first; facts come second.

And worse, you run the risk of becoming a hack. As Friedersdorf writes, whatever the editors of National Review's private concerns over Glenn Beck's behavior may be, they preside over a magazine that publishes Andrew McCarthy. I can understand, from the perspective of self-interest, not wanting to become a critic of Roger Ailes and his Republican propaganda network -- they're powerful. But a writer few outside of the movement have heard of who obsesses over fantastical worldwide jihad? I can only conclude they are persuaded by his theories.

So I'm less concerned about the "poisonous" nature of our political discourse than I am with the fact that one faction has taken over an entire political party and promoted cranks, bigots, liars and hucksters in an effort to acquire power. Genuine political disagreement has been replaced by a daily dose of what craziness is emanating from Michele Bachmann, and that's hardly a productive use of the left's time, to say nothing of the United States as a whole.

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