Corddry’s Law

Glenn Greenwald points out something I’ve been thinking about for a few years:

Despite all of that, The Washington Post‘s Ombudsman, Deborah Howell, today wrote a column claiming that one reason that The Post and other papers are losing money is because they are “too liberal”; have had “more favorable stories about Barack Obama than John McCain,” and “conservatives are right that they often don’t see their views reflected enough in the news pages.”  To mitigate newspapers’ financial problems, Howell decrees:  “the imbalance still needs to be corrected.”  She adds:  “Neither the hard-core right nor left will ever be satisfied by Post coverage — and that’s as it should be.”

What if the actual facts — i.e., “reality” — are consistent with the views of “the hard-core left” and contrary to the views of the “hard-core right”?  What if, as has plainly been the case, the conservatives’ views are wrong, false, inaccurate?   What if the McCain campaign was failing and relying on pure falsehoods and sleazy attacks, and The Post‘s coverage simply reflected that reality?  It doesn’t matter.  In order to sell more newspapers, according to Howell, The Post‘s news coverage must shape itself to the Right and ensure that “their views [are] reflected enough in the news pages” (I don’t recall Howell complaining when her newspaper — according to its own media critic — systematically suppressed anti-war viewpoints in its news pages and loudly amplified pro-Bush and pro-war views).

In Howell’s view, The Post shouldn’t determine its news reporting based on what is factually true.  Instead, it should shape its coverage to please this discredited, failed political movement — in order to sell more papers.  That corrupt formula is, of course, what is now meant by “journalistic balance” — say what both sides believe and take no position about what is true — and it is precisely that behavior which propped up this incomparably failed and deceitful presidency for so long.  The establishment media bears much of the responsibility for what has happened during the last 8 years, and amazingly enough, the lesson many of them seemed to have learned is that they didn’t go far enough (“we’re too liberal; we need to accommodate the Right more”).  If there is an Obama presidency, watch for them very quickly to re-discover the long-dormant concept of “adversarial behavior.”

This is very postmodern of the media – truth is no longer objective (epistemologically based on the correspondence theory, say), with the accuracy or falsity of politicans’ statements being checked against reality.  It’s subjective, with accuracy defined on a large scale by that mythical point that journalists perceive as being halfway between the Democratic and Republican party platforms.

In other words, if, say, the Republican party moves their platform to the right, under this epistemological structure, the what the media reports as truth moves to the right as well (one clear example being global warming, and another intelligent design.  Of course, I think this is exactly what’s happened in the last 15 or so years, not eight; Clinton got subjected to this as well, clearly.  Also (of course) I think this is ridiculous.

Another way to explain this is to point out that rather than look at the entire world, many journalists report the world as if the two major parties are able to define the limits of what is possible, i.e. “the only realistic/best proposals on issue X must lie somewhere between the Republican and Democratic positions.”  This often results, incidentally, in the belief that there are only two positions or two ways of looking at any given issue.  Needless to say, this is stupid and does not reflect reality at all.

Charitably, there are a lot more people than just important national journalists who have this view of reality.  But journalists need to hold themselves to a higher standard, for the sake of the rest of us.

Going along with this is the fact that both parties have moved right on many issues while polling suggests the country either stayed still or actually moved left – yet the media reports the world as lying between wherever the two parties are.  Kevin Drum points out that the Republican Party is looking like it’s going to keep moving right.

Oh, and Corddry’s Law?  That comes from Rob Corddry, formerly of the Daily Show, who once told Jon Stewart that ‘reality has a well-known liberal bias.’ As with many things on the Daily Show, that gets right at the heart of what’s going on, and it does it in one friggin’ sentence.

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