The Media's True Colors - Part 1A
As I said in my introduction, this is a series intended to explore the real nature and behavior of the U.S. mainstream news media - in terms of news coverage. Part 1 of this series will address issues of basic journalism, and the first topic I address in Part 1 is journalistic malpractice (in the context of political reporting).
When we talk about media bias, it is important to distinguish mere slants in news reporting from media malpractice manifested by outright fabrications, lies or fraud since the latter is most damaging to the target of the coverage, especially when it comes to political coverage which is arguably the most significant in terms of impact to one party or the other across the country. Campaign 2004 showed that media malpractice continued its recent historical trend - impacting the Democratic Presidential candidate more than the Republican. Moreover, transgressions against the Right (e.g., CBS/60 Minutes) [or even transgressions that fit the Right's bogus claims about the Media or the Left (e.g., Jayson Blair)] get far more publicity in the mainstream media than the far greater transgressions against the Left. These facts alone show that the media is biased far more conservative than liberal on this issue.
To provide readers with some perspective on how mainstream media malpractice tends to be skewed against Democrats, I decided to do a quick compilation. First, I did a Google search on "media bias against Bush" and one of the links that popped up was the Media Research Center (MRC) post titled "The Ten Worst Media Distortions of Campaign 2004" (a Google search reveals that quite a lot of bloggers linked to it). Since MRC is a "leader" on the Right when it comes to tracking (supposed) media bias against the Right (in fact, they claim: "MRC has grown to be the nation's largest and most sophisticated television and monitoring operation, now employing 60 professional staff with a $6 million annual budget"), I felt their compilation would be a good reference to compare and contrast media malpractice claims from the left and the right. The comparison shows that there is really no competition - not only did John Kerry face far more media malpractice than George Bush, MRC's claims of distortions are woefully weak and often shield evidence that totally undercuts their claims.
Even a cursory review of MRC's list of "distortions" shows how silly most of their claims are. I don't reproduce my review here - those who are interested can read it on this page at ICM. It is not just weak on facts and high on bogus outrage - it is also remarkably revealing of how little actual media malpractice against Bush that MRC was able to find with its $6 million budget, in comparison to what I, with my negative budget (no one pays me for this), was able to find against Kerry (with thanks due largely to sites like The Daily Howler and Media Matters). Apart from the CBS 60 Minutes fiasco (which in itself revealed only that CBS/60 Minutes was so incompetent that it avoided presenting reams of incontrovertible air-tight evidence which showed Bush was AWOL and instead picked some dubious "memos" to make their case), MRC has virtually NO other instance of actual media malpractice against Bush. The only other incident that comes even remotely close is #9 on their list and even that, like the 60 Minutes claim is an example of the opposite - the media de-emphasizing Bush's real lies about the so-called Saddam-Al Qaeda connection because of their ineptitude. The bulk of MRC's 10 "distortions" also have more to do with traditional "bias" - not media malpractice, and even those "bias" claims almost entirely have no merit.
On the other hand, the examples of actual media malpractice against John Kerry (not to mention Al Gore, if you consider Campaign 2000 as well) were numerous, something that becomes obvious even from a simple Google search. In the following, therefore, I am going to provide a limited list of incidents showing media malpractice against Kerry (first) and Gore. (It's limited because I don't have the time to sit and mine the massive amounts of data on the media trashing of Kerry or Gore on various websites).
Examples of Media Malpractice against John Kerry in 2004 (also posted at ICM)
In contrast to MRC's woefully weak list, here is a limited sample of the widespread media malpractice against Democratic Presidential candidates in 2004. Most of my examples relate to John Kerry and what I show is just a subset of the malpractice against Kerry (more of which can be seen here and here); I'm adding a "bonus" item about Howard Dean for good reason.
[Just for fun, to make MRC's job easier, I'm excluding from the numbered list below, the two most serious examples of malpractice against Kerry:
(a) Publicizing the false charges of the out-and-out fraud operation called "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" and giving them even minimal credence, often without refuting their blatantly false claims (as one could tell merely by comparing one swift boat veteran against himself or another),
(b) Portraying Bush as "steady" or "principled" and Kerry as a "flip-flopper" (something that was rampant in the media) even though the reality was exactly the opposite (also see this example).]
1. Fabricating a myth that John Kerry's position on the $87B Iraq bill could not be understood - even though it could (easily) and even though Bush's behavior on the same bill was virtually the same (Talking heads on MSNBC's Hardball - here and here, for example)
2. Fabricating a myth that John Kerry cast specific votes against most major weapons systems - even though he did not (Faux News - Sean Hannity)
3. Fabricating a myth that John Kerry called Yasser Arafat a role model when Kerry was actually implying the opposite (New York Post- Deborah Orin)
4. Fabricating a myth that John Kerry signed a letter backing gay marriage (Associated Press)
5. Committing fraud by dropping a few words to make it appear as if John Kerry was lying about what he said about Vietnam veterans (Washington Times' Wes Pruden)
6. Fabricating a myth about John Kerry and Tora Bora (MSNBC - Tim Russert, Faux News - Chris Wallace, New York Times - David Brooks, Washington Post - Charles Krauthammer)
7. Egregiously making up a claim with no evidence, that John Kerry was a "phony" (Boston Globe's Nina Easton)
8. Fabricating a quote attributed to John Kerry that he never uttered (New York Times - Maureen Dowd invented it and others at the NYT spread it)
9. Fabricating quotes by John Kerry (Faux News - Carl Cameron)
10. Fabricating myths about Kerry's debate claims (CNN)
11. Fabricating a claim about Kerry's sponsorship of bills (Faux News - Carl Cameron and Brit Hume)
...and on and on...
Committing outright fraud against Howard Dean, with their reporting on the "Dean scream" (Most media outlets)
Just to point out that the malpractice against Kerry was not just an aberration, I am also including a few examples of the even more extensive malpractice against Al Gore in Campaign 2000.
Examples of Media Malpractice against Al Gore in Campaign 2000 (also posted at ICM)
1. Love Canal
2. Love Story
3. The Internet
6. Farm chores