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Liberals, progressive and Democrats should think critically about the negative impacts of widespread media bias on American democracy. There simply is no doubt that virtually all mainstream media regularly show their strong bias against president Trump and his administration. These media have convinced themselves that they are working to save American democracy from an incompetent, corrupt and dangerous president. And those on the left eat up the negative coverage, which means more money for the anti-Trump networks, newspapers and magazines. Never mind that he was elected fairly and legally.
It seems that the leftist media would only be happy if Trump was driven out of office by any means. Such a victory would confirm the undemocratic power of a free press that replaces a military coup with a media one.
Here is my point: More Americans should seriously consider the larger question of whether such a perversion of freedom of the press undermines our democracy. Why? Because instead of fairly presenting genuine news the opinion loaded negative coverage has the goal of bringing down Trump and overturning the election result. The press establishment overwhelmingly filled with liberals and progressives wanted Hillary Clinton and refuse to accept defeat. After all, despite a mighty effort, the media failed to elect Clinton. It continues to seek retribution by bashing Trump and ignoring the many failings of the Clinton campaign.
The press probably feels some responsibility for Trump’s success during the primary season. Coverage of Trump’s beating up of his Republican opponents was extreme. Now the press is getting even.
To dispel any doubt about the widespread perception of media bias, consider a June 2017 Rasmussen survey of likely American voters. “Fifty percent (50%) think most reporters are biased against the president, up two points from January. Just four percent (4%) think most reporters are biased in Trump’s favor. Given the president’s testy relationship with the media, however, it’s not surprising that 76% of Republicans and 51% of voters not affiliated with either major political party believe most reporters are biased against the president, a view shared by only 24% of Democrats.” Perhaps the most important finding is that “Nearly 90% of voters who Strongly Approve of the job the president is doing think most reporters are biased against Trump and rate media coverage of him as poor.”
These results support the view that all the negative coverage may strengthen the Trump base, which largely have stopped reading and listening to what they think is fake news. News based on reporting of facts has been replaced by opinion and a near total emphasis on what Trump says rather than on what he and his administration have does. In other words, rhetoric preempts accomplishments, and those positive accomplishments from a conservative perspective are also viewed negatively by the leftist press. Information about governance is purposely kept out of the media limelight to allow Trump rhetoric to get endless vicious criticism.
Often, such surveys are dismissed. So consider the 2017 study prepared by the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard. It revealed what reasonable people would consider a disturbing level of media bias against president Trump. Here are the fractions of negative news coverage towards Trump: CNN and NBC, 93%; CBS, 91%; New York Times, 87%; Washington Pose, 83%. FOX had the most equal coverage, with 52% negative.
Those who like the biased anti-Trump media coverage should reflect on how all that coverage robs them of getting solid information on myriad local, state and world events. In other words, the biased media dominance inevitably leads to a dumbing down of the public about what is really happening that merits news coverage as well as details about what is happening in the sphere of public policy. Journalism itself has been degraded to such a degree that for much of the population no one believes anything coming from the opinion-loaded media. Apologists for the left and right unload opinions rather than enlightening information and analysis. Rational people do not trust the press.
The core issue is whether the press is giving itself too much credit for presenting the truth. In fact, what is happening is the presentation of opinion not objective facts that reveal the truth. Truth requires objectivity and a concerted emphasis on undisputed facts. Instead, opinion, even in so-called news stories, is routinely presented.
Biased media hiding behind freedom of the press should disgust all Americans. We all are being robbed of huge amounts of news and information. Amazingly, for example, network CBS news used its whole hour broadcast to presenting anti-Trump laced coverage of the recent Charlottsville event. That is virtually a nightly occurrence at CNN where only anti-Trump diatribes are presented in multiple shows. The front pages of the main newspapers are the same. Real news from all over the country and the world is not given to the public the way it used to be.
The credibility of the media has taken a lethal blow. What they deem good for their business now will ultimately backfire as Americans for years to come seek and find alternative news sources or eliminate news from their lives. A truly informed public is needed for a quality democracy, and we are losing that.
Yes, a free press is vital for democracy. But a deeply biased press is not.
As to these crazy times, Ruben Navarrette Jr. summed them eloquently: “President Trump and the media deserve each other. Both are driven by ego and take criticism personally. Both will twist the facts to defend themselves and push their agenda. …Americans are fed precooked narratives by the Fourth Estate. We’re told what’s important and what isn’t, what to focus on and what to ignore, and — above all — what to think. …I sure miss journalism.” So many of us do.
Joel S. Hirschhorn was a full professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison and a senior official at the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the National Governors Association; he has authored five nonfiction books, including Delusional Democracy – Fixing the Republic Without Overthrowing the Government.