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Liberal Dominance in Mass Media Harms America


Liberal dominance in journalism, entertainment, and academia deprives American citizens of the information they need to make informed decisions in the voting booth.  This is a much bigger problem than campaign finance or, well, just about anything short of another 9/11 or global terror generally.

In a talk he gave entitled The Bright Future of Post Partisan Social Psychology (available here and here with lots of additional data both pro and con) Haidt pointed out that the near absence of conservatives in his own field of academic social science hurts the science because there are no opposing views to question current orthodoxy.  The result is that practically all of the research into the psychology of politics is centered on trying to answer the question “what’s wrong with Republicans?”   And, surprise, the answer that keeps coming back just coincidentally happens to confirm the liberal narrative about Republicans.  Haidt argues for affirmative action for conservatives in academia because if even a small percentage of his field were conservative, say 10% or so, there’d be enough people to question and hold to account the findings of the science.  

I suggest that a small percentage would be nowhere near enough to solve the problem because the decisions as to what gets published, how much time or how many inches are spent on it, and the spin to give it, are made by a select few. Which probably has a lot to do with something Haidt said when he was interviewed at On Being, with Krista Tippett:

“the media tends to be liberal, um, as the academic world is, and Hollywood. So you cannot grow up in this country without being exposed to lots and lots of liberal ideas. But it wasn’t until I was about 40 that I happened to pull a book off a shelf that said conservatism on it that I was ever exposed to conservative ideas. And I’m well educated. And I had never encountered conservative ideas. So, there’s a real asymmetry in access to the other side’s ideas.”

He says “And I’m well educated,” as if being educated should expose a person to intellectual diversity and inoculate him or her against narrow mindedness. Well, the data is clear that the truth is the exact opposite, which is why Thomas Sowell is right when he says, “”educated,” “smart,” and “ignorant.” Unfortunately, those same three words would describe all too many of the people who come out of our most prestigious colleges and universities today.”

In his Post-Partisan talk Haidt observed that the number of conservatives in academic social science compared with the number of conservatives in the population as a whole represents “a statistically impossible lack of diversity.”  I suggest that the following graphics from a recent Talking Points Memo by Bill O’Reilly entitled Subverting American Democracy demonstrate the kind of thing that results when that statistical impossibility determines how we get our news (I took these pictures of my TV with my smart phone, yay technology):

Media Bias - Broadcast

Media Bias - Print

If the exact same scandals happened with a Republican administration there’s no doubt whatsoever that the media would go after it with the same tenacity with which they went after Watergate.

American mass media offers a decidedly one-sided interpretation of what’s going on in the world and why it matters, and it therefore deprives the country’s citizens of the full spectrum of information they need in order to make informed decisions in the voting booth.

Some might point to Fox News as the small percentage within broadcast media equivalent to what Haidt calls for in academic social science.  But no, the evidence in the graphics above puts the lie to that idea.  Fox News, rather, is considered by many to be a pariah within the industry; a source of evil that should be driven off the air. And why? Because academia, entertainment, and journalism, all, individually and together, are a “tribal moral community.”  Here’s Haidt, from his Post-Partisan talk describing the meaning of that term:

Has social psychology become a Tribal Moral Community since the 1960s? Are we a community that is bound together by liberal values and then blind to any ideas or findings that threaten our sacred values? I believe the answer is yes, and I’ll make 3 points to support that claim.

Bill O’Reilly is right when he says…. “if James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin were with us today they would be the lead guest on “The Factor” this evening. Because those men envisioned a fair press in America, a media that would inform the people. Giving them honest information. So they could make educated votes. But that’s not what we have today. And that corruption in the media is greatly harming this nation.”  (Video and transcript of O’Reilly’s editorial, here. )

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I Support Viewpoint Diversity

www.heterodoxacademy.org

A politically diverse group of social scientists, natural scientists, humanists, and other scholars who want to improve our academic disciplines and universities. We share a concern about a growing problem: the loss or lack of “viewpoint diversity.” When nearly everyone in a field shares the same political orientation, certain ideas become orthodoxy, dissent is discouraged, and errors can go unchallenged.

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