On Monday, former chief foreign affairs correspondent for CBS News Lara Logan dropped a bombshell on the media: she told retired Navy SEAL Mike Ritland that the media are wildly biased to the political Left. “This interview is professional suicide for me,” she stated, after agreeing with Ritland that most major media are “absurdly left-leaning.” She stated:
The media everywhere is mostly liberal, not just in the U.S. But in this country, 85% of journalists are registered Democrats – that’s just a fact. No one is registering Democrat when they’re really a Republican. So, the facts are on the side that you just stated: most journalists are Left, or liberal, or Democrat, or whatever word you wanna give it. How do you know you’re being lied to? How do you know you’re being manipulated? How do you know there’s something not right with the coverage? When they simplify it all and there’s no gray. There’s no gray. It’s all one way. Well, life isn’t like that. If it doesn’t match real life, it’s probably not — there’s something wrong.
Compare Logan’s accurate take on the media with the words of opinion writer Jonathan Capehart of The Washington Post and MSNBC, who described the media’s wild malfeasance on the Jussie Smollett story this way:
Just the circumstances and the way he told the story, and what he said happened to him sort of fit in with a narra — not a narrative, but a reality for a lot of people in this country since President Trump was inaugurated, that there is an atmosphere of menace and an atmosphere of hate around the country that made it possible for people to either readily believe or want to believe Jussie Smollett.
Capehart’s Freudian slip is actually rather important. He was correct that many in the media granted credibility to Smollett’s hoax because it fit a narrative. But then he corrected himself to state that it wasn’t a narrative at all – it was a “reality for a lot of people in this country.”
Now, this slip is fascinating because it reveals the unfortunate truth about many media members on the political Left: they mistake their narrative for truth. Opinion becomes fact. Those who disagree with a given “fact” – fact which is actually opinion – are then labeled ignorant, or foolish, or malevolent.
Is this an innocent mistake, a matter of mere confirmation bias to which we are all prone? Or is something deeper going on?
Since the 1960s, the radical Left has claimed that most human interactions are governed by power dynamics. Critical theory suggests, for example, that free markets aren’t actually voluntaristic arrangements of individuals engaging in mutually beneficial trade – they’re a reflection of hierarchical arrangements created by the rich. Thus, critical theorists suggest that a regulated market controlled by “the people” – progressives – would properly rejigger economic relationships. Similarly, critical theory suggests that free speech isn’t actually free – it’s a system set up by those who have powerful distribution mechanisms for their speech at the expense of others. Thus, critical theorists suggest, along the lines of Herbert Marcuse, that certain opinions must be silenced in order to even the playing field – “repressive tolerance” must be applied.
If you believe in such critical theory, you aren’t likely to be shy about the application of your own political power to these supposedly hierarchical systems. After all, if you believe that systems of speech and economics are constructed by the powerful, then you should use every means at your disposal to act against them. If you can blame some nefarious right-wing forces using hidden mechanisms of power for all the systems you don’t like, then you can use institutional power to tear away at those systems.
Thus, media bias becomes not an evil, or even an error to be mitigated, but an affirmative good. Objectivity, in the critical theory framework, is an illusion used by certain powers against other powers; thus, the illusion of objectivity can and should be used by more legitimate powers on behalf of certain political interests.
Most members of the media surely don’t think like this; most members of the media probably fall prey to confirmation bias rather than ideological self-justification. But the continued insistence by members of our media that they are not prone to such confirmation bias, when they so obviously are, suggests that at a certain point, confirmation bias shades over into affirmative enjoyment of Leftist power politics. And that is truly dangerous, because politically-motivated players using the façade of objectivity to press forward an agenda aren’t journalists at all. They’re simply liars.