Cover photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash.

Having attended a media panel with some “big name” outlets after President Trump was elected, my sense was that all media start with a set of biases, but some try harder than others to approach their work objectively anyway.

2005: “The Media Is Leftist”

In 2005, Tim Groseclose and Jeffrey Milyo published an article called “A Measure of Media Bias,” in The Quarterly Journal of Economics (Vol. 120, No. 4; Nov., 2005, pp. 1191-1237). I read a PDF of it here. The followup book is called, Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind (2012), by Tim Groseclose.

The authors found that the media has “a strong liberal bias.” How liberal? “All of the news outlets we examined, except Fox News’ Special Report and the Washington Times, received scores to the left of the average member of Congress.” Not only that, but consistent with claims made by conservative critics, CBS Evening News and the New York Times received scores far to the left of center.”

Here is a description of the method used, which is relative in nature:

“We count the times that a particular media outlet cites various think tanks & policy groups, then compare this with the times that members of Congress cite the same groups.”

Here’s a quick breakdown (e.g. I’m not getting into the methodology behind what a “think tank” is):

  • They started with the fact that members of Congress each have what is called an “ADA Score,” meaning a leftism score. Americans for Democratic Action (leftist) tallies their votes on particular issues and the result is a score from 0 (“against us”) to 100 (totally leftist or as they say “with ADA.”). Here is more information about that.
  • The researchers did a content analysis of Congressional speeches and picked out the particular “policy groups and think tanks” they mentioned. Note they did not assess the right/left tilt of the groups themselves. The result would be something like: Congresswoman X, ADA Score 100, mentions Groups 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
  • Then they looked at mainstream media outlets’ citation patterns as compared with members of Congress. If Member A had an ADA score of 100 and was constantly citing certain groups in her speeches, then the media outlet would be rated “very leftist.”

UCLA Pedigree Makes People Nervous

Of course, this information is not new. However, the media loves to dither on/”debate” whether there’s bias even as they acknowledge it. Also, of course, objectivity is the story the media sells in order to retain their credibility, which in turn is the basis of their business. (We know, of course, that you can be factually accurate and still be ideologically biased. All you have to do is say certain facts and not say others.) But there was something about this study that really provoked a splash; perhaps the fact that it came out of UCLA. See for example: “The problems with the Groseclose/Milyo study of media bias” and “Tomorrow’s Bogus Liberal Bias Claim Today.”

Having attended a media panel with some “big name” outlets after President Trump was elected, my sense was that all media start with a set of biases, but some try harder than others to approach their work objectively anyway.

Yet Even This Noble Effort Rests on Shaky Ground

The study’s authors tried to avoid the taint of bias. To do this, they took two steps:

  1. They defined “liberal” as most people would define it, e.g. by a well-respected measure of voting records.
  2. They did not define whether the sources cited by Members of Congress were themselves liberal or conservative.

The problem, however, is that the underlying assumptions of the study are so fatally flawed we would have to think an entirely different way in order to understand media bias objectively.

Four Flawed Assumptions

The first flawed assumption is that one can define “liberal” according to the criteria of a political party which no longer represents the voters, but rather is arguably sold out to special interests. So, for example, the #1 “issue” on the Americans for Democratic Action website right now is “resisting Trump.” An entire political movement has been established to “walk away” from the hijacking of the Democratic Party which includes the notion of “resistance.”

While you can argue that this is a modern movement, while the ADA was founded in 1947 (nearly a century ago), the definition of “liberal” or “left” has shifted to the extreme over the past few decades, so that 2005 would have been squarely in the middle of this trend. It is hard to know exactly what “liberal” means, but as Dinesh D’Souza and others have shown, clearly both the Democrats and the Republicans are similarly (this is old news; see 2010 article) beholden to foreign funds at the very least. Neither can claim an ideological mantle without answering to their “masters.”

The truth is that we do not even know what “liberal” or “left” would look like in the absence of such funding.

The second flawed assumption is that Members of Congress control their votes. Jeffrey Epstein, the notorious child sex trafficker, was said to “belong to intelligence.” His properties were wired for video. He had a “little black book.” He called himself a “bounty hunter.” And he hung out with the rich and famous, including politicians at the highest levels.“Brownstoning” is the unconfirmed practice of blackmailing politicians over their sexual behavior.

“The existence of ‘Operation Brownstone’ and ‘Brownstone operations’ is not yet officially recognized as operating procedures of the U.S. government. This topic is considered by many to be purely speculation as it is largely based on circumstantial and anecdotal evidence.”

On the origin of the term, see this article about former Congressman Barney Frank and his denial of knowing a prostitution ring was operating out of his brownstone apartment. Former CIA officer Robert David Steele has claimed the following, summarized here (quoted below):

“(General) Flynn was really fired because he was in possession of a high-level Washington DC Pedophile list with many names. One of those names was Vice President Mike Pence’s ‘best friend’. Steele also says that there are restaurants in Washington DC and Saudi Arabia where you can literally order children off of the menu.”

A former CIA agent has said that agents procure children overseas for subjects where information is sought. It is not a huge leap to question whether Members of Congress vote freely.

The third flawed assumption is that “think tanks and policy groups” are writing content independently as opposed to content that lines up with the same foreign masters that blackmailed politicians answer to. The most famous example of this is perhaps the issue of Qatar’s alleged influence over the Brookings Institute, but Qatar is not the only country where foreign power and its potential direction over these semi-academic environments is an issue.

You see how all of this starts to fall apart.

So, the question then becomes: Since I didn’t have an Ivy League education, why can’t the Ivy League researchers take all these obvious factors into account?

It would have to be that they’re either ignorant (possible) or they know their schools or the academic journals would never publish such things.

And why not? Because the academic institutions themselves are always in some way beholden to special interests, be they political or financial. Certain questions cannot be asked, certain topics cannot be studied, and the overall tilt is, once again, toward the left (or what is represented as the left).

This is the fourth flawed assumption: That you can publish an academic paper about media bias without having to, in some way, conform to the political and financial environment within which academia sits.

By Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal. All opinions are the author’s own. Public domain.

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