Friday, March 18, 2005

Another post at PressThink

My post this morning in Jay Rosen's continuing thread, "A Western Civ Course in What's Gone Wrong With the Press."

My favorite valid argument in favor of the "liberal media bias" proposition undergirds Tom Gray's "Caring > Activism > Ideology > Partisanship (bias)" progression: That too many journalists fail to grasp the indirect functionality of conservative thought. This has been true at times, and at times still is.

To be able to understand the case conservatives make for their policies, one must understand certain classical ideas about economics/human nature, etc. Without that understanding, then the conservative position always seems callous and uncaring -- when in fact many sincere conservatives are merely hoping for the same result as activist liberals, but with a different understand of government's role. Classic liberalism tends to see direct government action as the answer, and that's easier to grasp; Classic conservatism may have similar goals, but its mechanisms run deeper and are more subtle.


Now, having grasped and applied that understanding to my thinking long ago, may I please move on to the next level of analysis? Not every claim to classical conservative validation is sincere or rational. Instead, I would say that most of the problems afoot in the country today are the result of policies that claim the mantle of conservatism but are in fact wildly anti-conservative (in the sense that they do not conserve and preserve the founding ideas of our republic). To think critically about faux-conservatism is not liberal bias.

I think Gray's solution (adding "pro-life Christians" to the newsroom as remedy for "journalistic rot") cuts straight to the heart of the cultural disconnect Jay describes in this post: If Gray had suggested "free-market economists," that recommendation would have followed rationally from his earlier statement. Instead, he recommends adding a particular flavor of religion to the mix.

Journalists are accused of not understanding conservative thought and therefore failing to frame our stories in a non-biased way. Yet the deeper issue appears to be one of cultural affiliation. We try (and yes, I acknowledge that we often fail) not to pick a side so that we may serve the same function to all sides. But our cultural critics tend to come from a religious tradition that teaches one may not serve more than one master (and that by rejecting God, one serves his enemy).

Hence, I borrow Gray's model to make a new one -- One possible construction of the religious view of "liberal media bias":

"Intellectual hubris > cultural arrogance > Ideology > Partisanship (Satanism)"

Clearly this is not the view of all conservatives or all Christians, but one only has to listen to those pulpit messages linking journalists to the godless cultural elites to see this rhetorical chain reaction at work. "Not like us = evil."

Posted by: Daniel Conover at March 18, 2005 10:08 AM |

I'm beginning to think that the first response to press criticism should be figuring out what each group means when they claim it. The /. guys don't think much of the MSM, but their complaints may be wildly opposed to those of religious conservatives. Please one, lose the other?