Friday, June 02, 2006

The Single Greatest Threat to Democracy

I'm starting to wonder if we really live in a democracy any more. Sure, I have my misgivings about democracy: everyone (or nearly everyone, anyway) gets a say in how things are run, even and especially the people who I think are either stupid, crazy, or both. We get don't pick and choose who has a say, removing all the morons from the pool for the good of the whole.

Also, democracies, at their worst, can involve the tyrannical oppression of the minority by the majority. Nowhere is this more the case than in states like my home state, Kentucky, where a constitutional amendment prohibiting the legal recognition of homosexual relationships passed so overwhelmingly that even the most liberal of the "liberals" - if they want to get elected to anything - have to run as far away as they can from the notion that homosexuals are persons entitled to the same rights as heterosexuals.

At its worst democracy can turn into a legalized "mob" rule, in which those who disagree with the majority are demonized and destroyed, or at least robbed of all voice and power. And democracy, at its worst, is a system in which, by its "winner-take-all" nature, only those who vote with the majority have a say in the operations of the state. There can be no consensus; only majority.

But democracy, despite these and a myriad of other problems, is still the best available form of government, because it asks for the voice and consent of the governed. And, imperfect though it is, it is our form of government, the form which we agreed to. It is a part of our social contract. Or is it?

Thanks to Amy for sending me a link to this muckraking article by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. in Rolling Stone Magazine (didn't that used to be a rock and roll magazine?) detailing the fraudulent nature of the 2004 presidential election. Right now I don't know whether to laugh or cry. I suppose a member of a party which was involved in machine politics for as long as it held power (including some notorious machinery in Louisiana, Chicago, and my home of Kentucky) should not be surprised when the "other" side does what we would probably do if given the chance. But this just further illustrates the illusory nature of democracy.

The game is rigged, folks. We can either give up, or fight against a force we probably cannot change. Maybe I'm the patron saint of lost causes, but I say, let's fight! Or, as my dad said after reading the article, "He got it wrong. The election wasn't stolen, it was given away."

I'll leave you with what the good folks at Habbakuk's Watchpost would call the "money quote" (though, in fact, the article is riddled with "money quotes"):

The issue of what happened in 2004 is not an academic one. For the second election in a row, the president of the United States was selected not by the uncontested will of the people but under a cloud of dirty tricks. Given the scope of the GOP machinations, we simply cannot be certain that the right man now occupies the Oval Office -- which means, in effect, that we have been deprived of our faith in democracy itself.

American history is littered with vote fraud -- but rather than learning from our shameful past and cleaning up the system, we have allowed the problem to grow even worse. If the last two elections have taught us anything, it is this: The single greatest threat to our democracy is the insecurity of our voting system. If people lose faith that their votes are accurately and faithfully recorded, they will abandon the ballot box. Nothing less is at stake here than the entire idea of a government by the people.

Voting, as Thomas Paine said, "is the right upon which all other rights depend." Unless we ensure that right, everything else we hold dear is in jeopardy.


jazzycat said...

To your credit you point out the long history that the democratic party has had in the voter fraud area. However, there are many reforms such as voter photo I.D. that conservatives favor that are opposed by Democrats. Their reasons for opposing these reforms are absurd, so it does make you wonder why they want to leave open these obvious areas for possible fraud. I saw Robert Kennedy talk about his piece and he gave absolutely no solid facts or proof to back his charges.

On another site, where you said you were a Christian, I asked you for your definition of a Christian. I would sincerely like to hear your thinking on this and I would certainly be glad to respond with my beliefs. I would like to hear your answer to that. I am not interested in debating or being critical, but I am attempting to better understand what I assume is a protestant liberal view.

One closing point on global warming that was discussed on the other site. About thirty years ago we were being warned about global cooling by major news publications and the National Park Service reports that glaciers receded in Glacier National Park about 40 miles from late 1700’s to around the John Muir era of 1870’s. So I choose to not accept and believe what the Main Stream Media puts out, since I am aware of their political agenda on this subject.


Brian Cubbage said...

Jazzycat, pray tell precisely what the MSM's political agenda re: global warming is. Spare no details. Indicate exactly what it is that the MSM stand to gain. Be sure to let us know exactly how it is that they misrepresent current environmental science. Pretend that none of us have any idea about what is going on.

jazzycat said...

Glad you asked. The following four posts on my site are very brief and should not only explain, but prove my point.

Brian Cubbage said...

Thanks for the links, Jazzycat. A couple of things:

1) I have a hard time swallowing your conspiracy theory argument to debunk climate-change science for two reasons. First, it overshoots the mark, since the vast majority of science of any kind is done at universities; therefore, if the consensus of environmental science were to run in the other direction, against human-induced climate change, one could debunk it for exactly the same reasons you state.

The second reason I have trouble with your conclusion is that, while perhaps "liberal thinking" prevails at college campuses, the extent to which it overdetermines what scientists do is less than you might think. Scientists are jealously guarded about outside meddling in their disciplines, whether from the left or the right. Also, most science is done at universities, but it isn't funded primarily by the universities themselves. It's too expensive, and state-sponsored research institutions don't get enough funding from their states to do the kind of research that enhances the university's reputation. (Trust me-- universities wish they had the money for that.) So most science is funded by outside institutions. Much of it is funded by the federal government, and a fair proportion of that is funded by the Pentagon.

If there's a concern here about scientists themselves succumbing to bias, it should be about scientists trying to give the people with the pursestrings the results they want. "Liberal thinking" might color a person's thinking, but the threat of losing your livelihood and that of everyone else who shares your lab colors it even more.

2) As to your assertions about media bias: I see plenty of assertions, but little in the way of sustained argument. I just don't see it, frankly, although I don't watch any of the cable news networks. I can agree with you that much of the MSM's science reporting is bad, partly because science is such an incremental endeavor that reporters have to sex it up to get it to play well on TV or in the papers. But that's not liberal bias; that's just plain old sensationalism. And it affects more than just the MSM's reporting on climate change.

Now, on the climate change issue we seemed to have turned a corner. Gregg Easterbrook, a longtime skeptic on the claim that climate change is induced by human behavior, finds the most recent science compelling. (See his recent essay at Heck, even the Bush administration-- no friend to the environmental lobbies-- recently adopted the reality of climate change and humans' partial responsibility for it as part of its official stance.

What more do you want?

Amy said...

jazzycat -
As for your argument about voter photo id - When arriving at the poles, it is currently necessary to provide proof of identity and address. I know; in the 2004 election I had to dash down to the city library at the last minute to get my libary record because I'd forgotten proof of address ;) I also walked forty minutes each way in the rain to vote for an alternate candidate I knew was going to lose but that' s a different story...
RFK did address the question of ID; he explained that the requirement for photo identification was opposed because of the large numbers of people who go through life without identification (non-drivers, like myself, those who move frequently, and others). Proof of address ought to be enough for verification; we don't find exactly find a lot of cases of people stealing others mail so they can vote in their place. I am one of those who otherwise may have been disenfranchised; I'll admit that my id card expired ages ago (and still has my old Ohio address on it), and as a non-driver who also moves frequently, I really don't have an incentive to get it renewed since in 6 months I'm likely to need to change it again. Should my expired identification keep my from voting, when I can prove my residency through other means? Do you want to provide all those people pounding the pavement registering voters with cameras so we can include a photo on the voter id card? Current standards allow for more flexibility in ways of proving yourself, ways that those on the lower rungs of society are more likely to take advantage of... However, that proof is still required - it's just not necessarily through a photo.

jazzycat said...

What more do I want?

I want to hear people that I trust and believe say that there is a significant amount of global warming caused by human behavior. Instead, the people I trust, like George Will for example, point out the so called global cooling scare of thirty years ago by the same MSM that is now claiming global warming.

I am totally convinced that the extreme left wing in this country has an anti-American, anti-capitalism, anti-Republican, pro-socialistic agenda and they will promote anything that will support that agenda. The MSM is sympathetic to the extreme left wing and global warming is anti-American and anti-capitalism since that is what is blamed.

Al Gore was quoted about his movie that it is O.K. to exaggerate the seriousness of the problem so as to convince people. If it has to be exaggerated then…..

Why should I believe people like Al Gore and organizations like CNN, Time, NY Times, etc. when they have proved to my satisfaction that they have agenda’s and they do not mind promoting their agenda’s with false reporting.


jazzycat said...

My sister also doesn't drive. She got a state issued photo i.d. so she could use her credit card. All these democrat excuses about not requiring a photo i.d. are bogus at best and an effort to "keep fraud alive" at worst.


Sandalstraps said...


You've written so much since I went away for the weekend, I'm not sure where to start with my reply. Some of your concerns have been addressed (at least in part) by some my my readers/friends, so for the moment I'll leave those alone (though I really do want to get back to you on election reform and global warming) and deal with the questions you asked specifically of me.

I do not claim to speak for anyone besides myself, and so cannot give you the insight you hope for into "protestant liberal" view. I have enough theological training that I could give you that view (to the extent that there is a single view which can be labelled "protestant liberal"), but it would not answer the question you are asking me, nor would it answer the intent behind your question.

When you ask me for a definition of a Christian, I suspect you are coming at this from the wrong angle. You see that my views differ both from your own views, and also from views which, while not excatly yours, fit your conception of what I Christian should believe. As such I don't fit your expectations for a Christian, and so you ask me to define the term "Christian" in such a way that includes me, so that you can somehow evaluate my credentials as well as my thinking.

First, I don't play that game.

Second, you can't find out what a Christian is by arguing definitions of the term.

We can see who is "in" and who is "out" by deciding up front what counts as "Christian" and what doesn't, and ruling out everyone who doesn't fit our definition. It is a terrible way to gain insight into religion.

But I can answer the spirit of your question by answering you the same way that I answer anyone else who, because of my writing or preaching has the gall to question my position within Christianity:

As a baptized person I have been welcomed and incorporated into the church universal, the body of Christ (baptism is often understood as the sacrament of inclusion). As someone who has vowed to uphold the United Methodist church with my prayers, my presense, my gifts and my service, I am a member (in good standing) of that connectional denomination, and so I call myself a Methodist. As someone who has made and is upholding that same vow to Fourth Ave. UMC in Louisville, KY, I am an active member of that congregation. I am, at least to them, so theologically acceptable that I teach a Sunday School class and preach regularly at one of the services.

As someone who has accepted Jesus the Christ as my personal (not just individual) Lord and Savior, and who has through that acceptance experienced a kind of relationship with God, and who shares that experience of divine relationship through Christ with others, I am not only a Christian, but even an evangelical Christian (albeit a liberal one).

You claim that you are asking not to start a debate or be critical, but to understand. I am sorry that I don't believe that - I've encountered far too many people who say that only to turn around and try to pick me apart in order to save my soul.

If you are sincere in your statement about wanting only to understand rather than debate, criticize and ultimately (though you didn't say it) condemn, then I apologize for not taking you at your word.

As for the rest of your comments, I will respond to them in a seperate comment.

Thanks for gracing us with your presense, and thanks as well for honoring your experience of God. I suspect that we have very different theologies, but I respect faith wherever I see it.

Sandalstraps said...

In my last comment I told Jazzycat

you can't find out what a Christian is by arguing definitions of the term


when you ask me for a definition of a Christian, I suspect you are coming at this from the wrong angle

but, I am a bit disappointed with my supporting argument. That you can't decide who is and who is not a Christian by starting with a definition of "Christian" and then comparing that person to the definition is intuitive to me. But my intuitions are not binding on anyone else, and I don't think that I offered a good argument in support of those intuitions. So, in the interest of fairness, here is my stab at a better argument for my position that one ought not, in trying to determine who is and who is not a Christian, start with a definition of the term Christian. Here also is my proposal for an alternate method of deciding who can be safely called a Christian.

Because discussing whether or not someone counts as a "Christian" is such an emotionally loaded topic, I will build my argument first by way of analogy: that is, instead of talking about Christians, we shall first consider "chairs."

This is by no means a perfect analogy, as some claims which are important for determining whether or not one can be called a "Christian" - such as whether or not one identifies oneself as a Christian - obviously do not apply to chairs. But, understanding that while all analogies (and especially this one) are flawed they can still be quite useful, we shall proceed with two methods of determining whether or not an item in question is a chair:

Method 1 (proposed by Jazzycat - and not an uncommon method in the least):

Begin with a definition of chair. This definition should include all of the attributes and utilities of a chair. It might be something like:

A chair is an object, made of wood, plastic, metal, or some other solid material, in which one sits. It usually has legs, a back, and a seat. It may or may not have cushions.

Then examine the object in question. Does it fit this definition? If so, then it should be called a chair. If not, then it should not be called a chair.

The benefits of this method are obvious, so I won't waste our time discussing them (I don't mean to be flippant here). But it does have some real drawbacks:

1. There may be competeing definitions of chair.

2. The definitions in question are incomplete - that is, they cannot capture all that is meant by the word "chair."

3. The definitions are either:

a. imprecise, or

b. vague.

That is, if the definition is broad enough to cover all kinds of chairs then it is probably so broad that things other than chairs could be in compliance with the definition. If the definition, however, is not so broad, then it will leave out some objects which can be called chairs.

Here are some problem cases:

Loveseat, bench, and couch.

Each of these objects fit the above definition (an admittedly rough one) of chair, while not actually being chair. But, how could one define chair in such a way that includes all objects on which all or almost all people agree are chairs without excluding these objects, which share the attributes and ultilities of a chair?

Method 2 (proposed by Chris, aka Sandalstraps):

Begin with all items about which all or almost all agree are chairs. Look at the object in question. Ask: is this an object about which all or almost all people agree is a chair? If the answer is yes, then it probably is a chair. If the answer is no, then it probably is not a chair.

That is, if the object is part of the set of objects identified as "chairs," then it is a chair. Its identity as a chair does not depend on any definition of "chair," but rather on the consensus of people who use the word "chair" to refer to an object.

The biggest drawback of this method is that it is impermanent. That is, if the usage of the word "chair" changes, then the set of identified chairs may also change. There is, thus, no permanent Platonic form "chair," but rather just a whole bunch of objects which people call "chairs" which have a great deal in common and are thus lumped into a common group.

How does this apply to the term "Christian"? Imperfectly, of course, but I think that it applies quite well, nonetheless. A Christian is, per this method, someone of whom the following is probably true:

1. They identify themselves as a Christian, and

2. They are identified by others as a Christian.

They are, in other words, someone about whom all or almost all people who use the word "Christian" would agree is a Christian.

The problem, of course, is that many people mean many different things by the word Christian - hence Jazzycat's trying to figure out how it is that I use the word; that is, my definition of Christian. But, if someone identifies themselves as a Christian, and is part of a group of people who are identified as Christians, then that person should be considered a Christian, whatever it is that we end up meaning by the term.

This avoids the problem of Method 1, which may identify someone as a Christian who is not commonly identified as a Christian and who would not identify themselves as a Christian (see, for example, C.S. Lewis' and other's concept of the "secret Christian" - the person who while belonging to another religion is called a Christian anyway because they fit some uncommon definition of Christian) or fail to identify someone about whom all or almost all people are agreed is a Christian (like me) because they don't fit some uncommon definition of Christian.

The problem with this is that it does not allow me a weapon available to many who consider themselves my enemies: that is, declaring that they, because they don't fit my concept of what a Christian should be, are not really Christians. It also forces me to share a common label with people who violate my moral and religious values, people whose attitude and behavior I consider to be repugnant.

Many people who are considered to be and consider themselves to be Christians (and who thus are, per my argument, really Christian, whatever we end up meaning by the term) have misidentified the message and values of Christ. (Jazzycat, if you want to see what I mean by that, see especially my series Purity to Compassion in Three Stories from Mark, which you can find on the sidebar under the heading Scriptural Interpretation and the subheading The Gospels) However, they and I are part of the same group: those identified as Christians. I cannot deny them, and they cannot deny me. We are family, and should thus love each other, whether or not we like each other.

And, to be fair, I should say that I can't get on any high horses, since I don't like many of them very much at all.

jazzycat said...

Mr. Sandalstraps,
I appreciate your answer. I have no hostility toward you. I am somewhat aware of the development of liberal Christian theology during the 1800's. My question was due to my curosity since I have never had a conversation with
a theological liberal.

I was an agnostic well into my fifties. I have written 58 Photo Meditations so far which combines my love for photography and Christian theology. They are all relatively brief and are not meant to go in depth on any doctrine.
I an enclosing a link to one at the bottom that I did on Saving faith which I guess will give my beliefs on the definition of a Christian. The index for the rest can be accessed from my blog. Although I am a conservative theologically and politically, I probably think about like I suspect you do on someone like Pat Robertson. I would identify strongly with R.C. Sproul if you have heard of him. I will certainly discuss anything you want to explore further and will respect your position.


Brian Cubbage said...

Jazzycat, I understand and respect your position. As my own comments indicate, I try not to accept uncritically what I hear from the mainstream media on global warming or any other topic. I might base my attitude on different reasons, but in practice it works in a similar way.

What I'm curious about is how you come to trust some sources of information and not others. Seriously, I mean that-- I'm honestly curious, the same way you are honestly curious about Sandalstraps' liberal theology, without having a well-ground axe hiding behind your back. It's just obvious that we trust different people, and I wonder why that is-- if it's just a matter of "I have my ideological blinkers on, and so does everyone else." Actually, I don't know if it's even if I trust different people-- I don't distrust George Will, because I know that he's way too ethical and intelligent to pass off false information. I'm just not always persuaded by his reasoning, the conclusions he draws from the information he gives (and leaves out of account).

Who do I trust, and why? I need to think about that a bit more myself, I guess. I can say that I give a great deal of deference to expertise on the sorts of questions that admit of expertise. The few real experts on a subject I know don't beat others over their heads with their expertise. In my view, being an expert means that you realize just how fallible your conclusions really are. Maybe I'm too trusting; I don't know. I'll have to think about that.

jazzycat said...

(What I'm curious about is how you come to trust some sources of information and not others.)

One time during the Clinton Presidency, I decided to do my own analysis of CNN radio news segment that occurred on the ½ hour. I rated them not on truth but on being either neutral, favor Democrats, or favor Republicans. The truth may be hard to get at but positive or negative is easy to judge. By doing it this way it was also easy to force myself to judge fairly using these simple guidelines. Democrat positive/negative, Republican positive/negative, or neutral. I also included issues in the assessment. Presenting a Republican issue positively or a Democrat issue negatively would be a favor Republican etc. For example a news report that reported something positive about tax cuts would favor Republicans and a report of a something positive about government health care would favor Democrats. You get the idea. By the way the selection of what is covered is major in slanting news. Bias in news does not take dishonesty although that happens as with CNN and the global warming special I saw. All it takes is selectively presenting the events and issues that support your agenda. Long story short, my analysis was overwhelmingly pro-democrat. I would suggest you do your own study with any of the major news providers other than Fox News channel that does seem to be fair. Maybe this is why Fox News is so viciously attacked by liberals and Democrat office holders.

I became an Air National Guard pilot about the same time as George Bush in another state and was amazed at the reporting on that story by the MSM including Rathergate. There were long waiting lists to get in for enlisted personnel, but due to the higher requirements for pilots there was no waiting list at all. I certainly had no political pull and I was accepted immediately after passing all the tests. Did you ever see that fact pointed out?

I could go on but I think the book by “Bias” by Bernie Goldberg would be a good read for you.


jazzycat said...

Hot off the presses as it were....
on the global warming hoax


Sandalstraps said...


There have been many thorough studies of bias in the media, but Bias is not one of them.

I here quote Eric Alterman's wonderful book What Liberal Media?: The Truth About Bias and the News

To those who do not already share Goldberg's biases, his many undocumented, exaggerated assertions have the flavor of self-parody rather than reasoned argument. Among these are such statements as: "Everybody to the right of Lenin is a 'right-winger' as far as the media elites are concerned." Opposition to the flat-tax, he claims, comes from the same "dark region that produces envy and the seemingly unquenchable liberal need to wage class warfare." Roughly 72 of the 232 pages of Bias are devoted to attacks or score-settling with Dan Rather, whom Goldberg believes ruined his career. "If CBS News were a prison instead of a journalistic enterprise, three-quarters of the production and 100 percent of the vice presidents would be Dan's bitches," Goldberg says. Much of the rest of Bias consists of blasts at unnamed liberals who are accused of exaggerating data and manipulating the truth for their own purposes. How strange, therefore, that Goldberg seeks to make his case with statements about "America's ten-trillion-page tax code," tuition fees that are "about the same as the cost of a tax shuttle," and Laurence Tribe's "ten million" appearances on CBS News during the 1980s.

In other words, while arguing that bias in the media is demonstrated by data manipulation and exaggeration, Goldberg clearly makes exaggerated claims which are connected to no data. This, in and of itself, of course, does not prove that the bulk of Goldberg's claims concerning bias in the media are untrue. If it stood alone it would simply be an ad hominem attack. But Alterman systematically deals with claims about media bias by using strongly referenced data, doing the kind of research on the subject that popular writers such as Goldberg and Ann Coulter, who make their living making ridiculous and unsupported statements, haven't bothered to do.

Alterman's main point goes far beyond criticizing Bernard Goldberg and Ann Coulter. He systematically demonstrates that, while there is a definite bias in the main stream media, that bias is not recognizable as "liberal." And while the bias might not be "conservative" in the sense that many conservatives would like it to be (a media which profits from sensationalized sexuality and violence is bound to offend morally conscientious conservatives and liberals), it benefits political conservatives far more than political liberals.

The bias in the media is principally a capitalist bias; that is, the media, more than anything else, seeks to make money. In the pursuit of money the objective of coverage is to please advertisers, who bring in the dough. To do that requires a very conservative approach, as it is well documented that conservatives, not liberals, are the best friends of big business.

I repeat that Alterman's book, unlike Goldberg's or many of the other popular books which profit by telling us exactly what we already thought was true, is extraordinarily well researched and referenced. It is the most thorough study on the subject that I've seen and, while written by a media critic and thus by a member of the mainstream media, is unflinching in its criticism of the media. It is not designed as an industry defense against charges of bias, but rather as a thorough examination of the nature of bias in the media.

The nature of this actual bias cuts to the heart of your charge that the media reports on global warming because they are trying to undermine capitalism. As a capitalist enterprise, that would run counter to their own interests, and it turns out that media conglomerates are pretty good at looking out for themselves.

Bias, however, could impact the way in which media outlets cover global warming (and, of course, any other sensational issue). Because sensationalizing news is the easiest way to draw viewers ("info-tainment" rather than having an informed audience as the goal of modern news programs), and because viewers drive the ratings which get the advertising dollars, it is quite possible that reporters who have very little understanding of the complex science involved "sex" up reports. But that hardly amounts to a wide-spread conspiracy to invent a global crisis in order to destroy the American way of life.

jazzycat said...

‘Bias’ was suggested to offer to you many specific examples of how liberal bias in the media works. I did not need it for my viewpoint which goes back forty years and gets confirmed on a regular basis. The argument that you present about the owners of big media being pro-capitalist and business and therefore would not lean left is absurd in that ignores the actual content of what is presented. If it walks like a duck, looks like a duck, quacks like a duck…it is a duck even if a duck hater owns it.

I will admit conservatives dominate talk radio. Big electronic media, big newspaper media, big news magazine media, big T.V. news media, big T.V. entertainment media, big movie media, big music media, and big university faculties are clearly dominated by liberals. ALL OF THESE HAVE PROPAGANDA VALUE to shape public opinion especially with apathetic people who lack discernment.

The CNN special report on global warming is a clear example of agenda based reporting leaning strongly to a conclusion based on false reporting. The glaciers in Glacier Bay had receded 40 miles from George Vancouver in the late 1700’s to Muir in 1879. This obviously points to something causing global warming other than auto emissions. Yet CNN shows glacier calving in Glacier Bay as a proof of global warming caused by auto emissions. How could a sane person trust as fact anything else they said in that report?

In 1994 when the Republicans took over Congress for the first time in about 50 or so years, Newsweek and Time magazine ran cover stories on Newt Gingrich in December before he had done anything at all as speaker. One of them had him on the cover with the caption, “The Grinch that stole Christmas.” Was there any bias there? Big media made much of Bush’s religion in the 04 election and all this theocracy baloney was being heard about the Christian right. Yet, John Kerry campaigned in a religious left black church in Florida along with civil rights leaders within weeks of the election. Did big media get upset or outraged? Well, no. What do you think they would have said had Bush campaigned with Jerry Falwell in church? Then in 2001 we had KKK Robert Byrd democrat of West Virginia being interviewed and use the term ‘white nigger.’ Were there howls of protest from big media over this? Well, no. Two years later Trent Lott spoke at Strom Thurmond’s 100th birthday party and said we would have been better off if he had gotten elected president in 1948. Were there howls of protest and fanning the flame over this by big media? Well, yes. The double standard and hypocrisy of the liberal big media is on display on a daily basis. When Ward Churchill spews his left wing kook speech, he is defended under the banner of freedom of speech. When conservative speakers such as Ann Coulter get shouted off the stage at tolerant liberal universities, well it is justified because her speech is full of hate. (Liberals are the judge of PC speech is the message) Is there a double standard here? I guess not in liberal la la land. I could mention Big media’s obsession with the Bush Air Guard story (Rathergate) and the initial total ignoring of the swift boat veterans story except by Fox News. When they did get in the Swift boat story late, it was a full court defense of Kerry and CBS via Rather used forged documents to make their anti-bush case. I would also mention 60 minutes reviewing about 3 or 4 anti-Bush books in about one years period. Have their been any pro Bush books written? Why yes they have.

Yet, you claim you have not noticed any liberal bias in big media. Well, I have and thanks to bloggers and talk radio more and more people agree. My view is not even seriously challenged in red state USA.


Sandalstraps said...


With all due respect, it absolutely does not ignore what is atually presented. The bulk of Alterman's argument (and I will remind you that he is a professional media critic, and one of the best in the business) is precisely concerned with what is presented in the media. While my comment itself merely alluded to this fact, when I say

... Alterman systematically deals with claims about media bias by using strongly referenced data, doing the kind of research on the subject that popular writers such as Goldberg and Ann Coulter, who make their living making ridiculous and unsupported statements, haven't bothered to do.

you can rest assured that, even though I haven't bothered to reproduce his entire book in a single comment on a blog, the book itself does exactly what I have just described.

What you offer here is called "anecdotal evidence." It is a look at a few cases (all of which are unsupported, by the way) a then deriving a conclusion from a very small set of data. Which such a mode of arguing is rhetorically powerful in a vacuum, it loses its power when faced with a thorough scientific study of the issue. And the fact remains that a thorough analysis of a much larger set of data indicates that the bias in the media is decidedly not "liberal."

To your stetment

My view is not even seriously challenged in red state USA.

this is the worst sort of argument which one can make, and appeal to a narrowly defined "popular opinion." But popular opinion is remarably fallible, and is, in fact, evidence of the effect that media coverage has on opinions.

Consider this (anecdotal) example:

In the events leading up to the war in Iraq I was visiting a friend of mine, a politically, socially and theologically conservative pastor in Ohio. We love each other, and we love arguing with each other, and so - as always happens when we get together - we spent the weekend arguing theology, politics, morality, and Biblical interpretation (much to the consternation of my wife, who has no interest in any of those subjects - my friend is blissfully unwed and so can argue about whatever he wants with no fear of retribution!).

As one of our closest mutual friends is a (now former) Marine, who eventually did a tour of duty in Iraq, we were both very concerned about the prospect of war. It naturally came up in our discussion. I expressed frustration at having not seen any credible evidence that Iraq had and weapons of mass destruction, which was at the time the reason given for the war.

(For the record, I wrote an essay arguing that war in Iraq would be, per the Just War theory, justified if and only if it could be demonstrated that Iraq had and intended to use WMDs. When I wrote that, it was a common position, and was also the public position of many advocates of war. My friend did not disagree with that line of moral reasoning, and as such we spent little time discussing what would constitute moral justification for war, but istead spent our time discussing whether the facts involved conformed to the moral theory.)

My conservative friend argued in a mode very similar to your own. No reasonable people, he argued, seriously doubt that Iraq has and intends to use WMDs. In fact, he argued, even many of the most "liberal" Democrats agree that Iraq in fact does have WMDs. Fine, I said, but we still haven't seen any solid evidence backing up that claim. Before we go to war over this, don't you think we should confirm our suspicions.

Ultimately, of course, he disagreed with me. For him it was enough that popular opinion indicated that Iraq had WMDs. The "liberal" media, by the way, helped spread this spurious claim, treating the little evidence which was provided as though it were golden, despite the flaws in it which became obvious in the aftermath of the war.

My point, though, has less to do with media coverage of the events leading up to the war (which was anything but critical of what has become an increasingly obviously incompentant administration) and more to do with whether one can safely move from the claim

Most people (or most people of a certain sort - such as your beloved Red Staters) believe "such and such" to be the case


It is true that "such and such" is the case.

The answer, of course, is that this is not a safe move.

Incidentally, I am a life-long resident of Kentucky, a decidedly Red state, and so I need no lecture on the opinions of such states.

Finally my claim is not, as you have so uncharitably described it, that I have noticed no "liberal" bias in the media. My claim is, instead, that serious studies have been done on bias in the media, and have uncovered that while there is bias it is decidedly not "liberal" in any serious sense of the word. The claim rests not on my authority, nor on popular opinion, nor on the disposition of people of a particular ideology, but rather on the empirical evidence provided by such studies, which is compiled in Alterman's book.

jazzycat said...

You are right in that my evidence is "anecdotal evidence." Just for the record my anecdotal evidence for the past 30 years or so is running about 90-95 percent pro liberal to 5-10 percent pro conservative for big media. And make no mistake I pay attention and am discerning. As for my evidence being unsupported, I suggest you use Google to confirm the accuracy of my statements. I could also point to research organizations that confirm liberal bias through scientific methods, but that would be pointless.

As to this statement.....
(Fine, I said, but we still haven't seen any solid evidence backing up that claim. Before we go to war over this, don't you think we should confirm our suspicions.)

I would like to make a quick point here. Had Saddam complied with U.N. sanctions which, if he had no WMD, he should have done, then there would have been no war. The war resulted because Saddam, after years of not fully complying, was given one last chance to comply to U.N. sanctions. He didn't and the rest is history. He had WMD's, he had used WMD's and he certainly could have gotten them started up again very quickly unless he fully complied with U.N. sanctions and inspections. He did not do that and I would like to make the following statement without a scientific study: Most people would conclude that he was trying to hide something by his non-compliance including many if not all the liberal democrats. I will be glad to provide their quotes if you like and some of their statements were made before Bush ever took office. Unfortunately the democrat/big media history re-write is working with a lot of people, but not me.

Have you read any of my Photo Meditations?