Five Sarcastic Observations About The Least Surprising Ethics Story Of The Year…

.Hands down.

And in addition, we can all agree, can we not, that:

  1. …this does not indicate media bias?
  2. …the timing was completely coincidental, and had nothing to do with journalists fearing that their candidate might lose?
  3. …there was no ethical obligation on the part of responsible news media to make certain that its coverage was balanced in the final week, given its likely disparate impact in a close race?
  4. …this had no impact on the election?
  5. …Nate Silver knew it was going to be like this all along?


Graphic: Davintosh

23 thoughts on “Five Sarcastic Observations About The Least Surprising Ethics Story Of The Year…

  1. I agree with all five. Reasons:
    -Obama led in the polls, making coverage of the polls favorable to Obama
    -Objectively, Obama has more positives than Romney
    -Silver just does arithmetic.

    This blog is like Megyn said about Rove: analysis to make Republicans feel better about themselves.

    • I’m assuming you mean “this blog POST.” That’s unfair, too, but I wouldn’t be insulted by it. Less than 20% of this blog involves politics, and that is an unfair description of both its mission and its content.

      I love the “it’s not biased because everyone knows the Democrats have the best ideas and are just better” argument. I’ll have to write about it some time. It’s right up there with the “it’s not bigotry because blacks really are inferior” argument. I consider it ironic that Democrats resort to this so frequently. It’s pretty desperate.

      1. The last week was after Sandy, with conditions in Staten Island that the media would have been claiming as proof of FEMA incompetence and racism if Bush were President.
      2. Poll coverage? That’s a stretch. He wasn’t leading by much, or in all polls. The media just liked the ones that showed him leading.
      3. See above.
      4. All such calculations are weighted by inherent biases in the selection of data. Don’t kid yourself.

      • re: 4. um, what? If you mean to say that Silver deliberately selected bad data weighted in favor of Obama, then I have to ask you to provide evidence.

        On the other hand, if you mean to say that data in general is going to have some form of statistical bias that cannot necessarily be guaranteed to be correct upon (say) collecting larger samples, then, yes, I agree, but such statistical bias does not in general favor Democrats over Republicans, or vice-versa. Some years the polls exhibited more Democratic support than what wound up being borne out by the election day results, and other years the polls exhibited more Republican support than was representative.

  2. -Objectively, Obama has more positives than Romney

    Positives like Benghazi and the Fast and the Furious?

    Obama led in the polls, making coverage of the polls favorable to Obama

    The polls were not unanimous in that respect.

    This blog is like Megyn said about Rove: analysis to make Republicans feel better about themselves.

    Who is Megyn?

  3. Media which probably is derived from the word medium, which means somewhere in the middle which means the media should keep their biases to themselves.

  4. It can be said that the press has never been unbiased. However, before the press had competitors who were biased the other way, allowing some balance. There’s been little of that since the news syndicates came into play to stifle that competition. Recently, a “new media” has begun to emerge on the internet. Too little, however, to counter the drumbeat of the still-dominant news sources that are still 80% in the tank for Obamanism.

      • VERY big business, Yardley. Look at how extensive and interlinked so many of them are. That’s nothing new, either. I have nothing viscerally against “big business” for its own sake, but I do against any entity that uses its influence to corrupt.

        • Yeah, I agree they are a very big business. Certainly, the media perform important public services, such as investigative reporting, but they are also an industry that generates vast revenues. One could argue that selling advertisements is their primary objective. Thomas Peterffy reportedly spent millions of his own cash trying to get Mitt Romney elected, and the media companies gladly cashed those cheques. They will cash almost any cheque, and run almost any ad, just so long as that ad will not negatively impact the business.

          The executives and owners of news syndicates are well aware of their primary goal of making profits, and generating wealth for shareholders. As such, they tend to promote values and ideologies that support that aim. They do not, as a rule, tend to upset the status quo as it relates to free market capitalism; they have no good reason to do so. Indeed, they benefit from a strong economy. Ergo, if the news media has any important biases relating to the economy, its only logical to assume those biases being presented would be the ones most likely to generate economic gains for the syndicates.

          Whether they are right or wrong, time will tell eh?

          • It seems to me whenever I run into this argument, it ignores a few things. First, it ignores the obvious leftward slant most of the old media has. If it doesn’t ignore it, then it justifies it as ‘the left’s policies are obviously just better for business than the right’s.’ This ignores the reality that those forms of media which most blatantly embrace the left tend to do the poorest financially. I see a parallel in the argument that ‘Hollywood just makes violent, vile movies because that’s what people want to see’ when G-rated fare brings in MUCH better returns. Not sure where the corrolation/causation line lies, but there’s a disconnect somewhere here.

            • Agreed. What appalled me most about the last six months is that “progressives” circled the wagons and kept repeating over and over the most negative talking points, especially on twitter and facebook. You could not carry on a dialog because you were overwhelmed with twenty “facts” at once and even though I knew they were wrong or only partially truthful, I didn’t have the time to go point-by-point in rebuttal. I’m still getting the nastiest, most godawful emails from

            • Sorry if I was unclear. Let me clarify, because the argument as you have interpreted it was not my intended meaning. My point is that the mainstream media, which is a big business, are actually very subordinate to capitalistic interests by pure necessity. If they were not, they would very quickly find themselves on the fringes. It stands to reason the mainstream media is mainstream because it appeals to — you guessed it — the mainstream public. Now you can argue that the mainstream is only mainstream because of manufactured consent, and you might have a point. Either way, the mainstream is exactly where any producer of a product wants to be. That is the place where the most consumers can be found, and if your product is advertising, the most eyeballs equals the most dollars.

              Now, what is currently happening in all markets is a process of carving off segments so that specialized products can be sold to very targeted audiences. Broadcast news is now being tailored to such a degree that audiences, if they so choose, can largely avoid hearing anything they disagree with. Online, this same thing occurs when Google and Facebook use algorithms to tailor search results to what they think users want to see. Even with discrete market segmentation there are still going to be places where people clump together into large pools, or mainstreams. And of course, media conglomerates will seek to attract those audiences.

              You can argue that the media is liberal leaning, but in doing so, all you can really say is that you are part of a group of people that interprets the media that way. Media messages are decoded by audiences and that decoding process is a subjective one. Furthermore, the media and the public have a complex relationship. People are certainly influenced by the media in various degrees, but the media is also influence by the public, as well as corporate interests.

              The search for correlation/causation lines has been debated by communication theorists for years, so it’s no surprise that we’re still talking about it today. That can only be a good thing.

              • It looks like we are very near agreement. The main difference seems to be that you attribute the skew to the left to a failure to observe a similar rightward one, and so it exists in the perception, not necessarily reality. I, meanwhile, have become convinced that the slant is actual and accountable. Both are valid explanations for any tilt we see – the only way to correctly identify which is the truth would be to find hard evidence to prove it. Occasions where the media has intentionally sacrificed profit for principal would do it for me, as would testimony from those within the field itself (and discovering those occasions and testimonies is exactly what has convinced me that it is not merely appearance)

                We’re hanging a picture frame here, and I think we’ll have to break out the level to see if it really is crooked, or if just looks that way:)

              • You are leaving out the factors of government quasi-sponsorship, the influence of counterculture groups, the infiltration of moneyed interests with political agendas, the interconnection of news groups with the entertainment media, insular cultural bias and just flat out egotism… along with other factors. Do not assume that its only a free market that drives these things. If only!

                • There are off-market, or extra-market (even, anti-market), forces that drive a “conspiracy of consensus” (a concept from a Randy Alcorn novel, as I recall) about the values that American mass media reflect and promote. Very troubling is the “feed” from a mostly insular “educational” business establishment – so-called academia, but unaccountable, with a sort of paranoia all its own about certain “traditional” values: To “embrace diversity” in American cacademia, most “censorship” wrought by “tradition” is avoided, else attacked. As a result, a new tolerant (but censoring) tradition thrives. But, that is really just intolerance, re-constituted within the “controls” inherent in a peri-anarchic culture and Balkanized (for now) market – both of which are conveniently, easily exploitable by the dehumanizing forces of authoritarianism and its practitioners of traditional divide-and-conquer politics.

                  I suspect that over time, but perhaps sooner than anyone expects (and for reasons we’ll all be able to see, yet be unable to do anything about), most of the current large number of diverse media outlets will go out of business, leaving very few (and indistinguishable) outlets to the mass media of radio, television and cyberspace. Yes, even the blogosphere and Twitterverse that so many of us enjoy today, precisely because of how they deliver information to us, will slowly, inexorably evaporate (and be evaporated) to the point of delivering only more noise to even more of us (but, by mandate). “Viral” phenomena may continue, resulting in occasional gold strikes, like we used to refer to “one-hit wonders.” But overall, American society is not making a bigger pie for all anymore; its factions, enabled by loud-mouthed oligarchs, are quarreling over the dividing-up of a rapidly disappearing remnant of a crust into irreducibly small, tasteless, non-nourishing crumbs.

                  • I agree with your analysis that the media as presently constituted would dwindle away… but only (again) in a free market society. This, I maintain, is on the verge of extinction. The “traditional” media forces agree with this, which is part of the reason they’ve thrown themselves onto the side that actively seeks this outcome. One of the reasons I never Twitter is because this entails a sound-bite mentality too closely resembling the shallowness of news broadcasts. Talk radio and the internet are the great hopes for reviving some measure of honest journalism and commentary. For that reason, the forces of the Left have striven to place a controlling hand over both. Expect renewed efforts in the next few years.

  5. 1) …this does not indicate media bias?

    It indicates media biased in favor of the expected winner, especially in horserace and poll analysis. George Bush benefited from the same thing in his final week.

    2) …the timing was completely coincidental, and had nothing to do with journalists fearing that their candidate might lose?

    No well-informed person thought that Romney had more than a small chance of winning. The state polls made it very clear that this was not a close race in the electoral college; only hard-core Republican partisans (including you) thought otherwise.

    3) …there was no ethical obligation on the part of responsible news media to make certain that its coverage was balanced in the final week, given its likely disparate impact in a close race?

    Here I agree with you. The press should give themselves a strict horserace limit – no more than one horserace story per week, say – and do a lot of substantive stories clearly laying out likely policy differences in the final week. If I were in charge, that’s what would happen.

    (I’m pretty confident that such coverage would favor Democrats, because I believe that they have better policies. However, presumably Republicans would be confident that substantive policy coverage would favor their candidates, since they believe the GOP has better policies. So I don’t think the preference for substance counts as bias on my part.)

    The the press doesn’t do this makes me think that stupid stories and horserace coverage are more commercial, and that’s why big media outlets do that rather than substantive coverage. I’m not sure how this problem (and I agree, it’s a problem) can be addressed in a free market system.

    …this had no impact on the election?

    I doubt it had much impact at all, actually. The number of truly undecided voters in the last week was inconsequential, and the GOTV operations were already well underway, and not likely to be effected much by the news. Poll analysis sites didn’t show any huge trend for Obama in the last week. (Obama’s odds of winning did improve a lot in the final week, but that wasn’t mainly because of poll changes, but because Romney was out of time to change the race.)

    …Nate Silver knew it was going to be like this all along?

    It’s weird that you keep hitting on Silver even though Silver’s predictions were very accurate, and your predictions were drastically partisan towards Romney.

    Insofar as the media coverage had any effect on voter behavior, that effect would have been incorporated into Silver’s model because it would have been reflected in the poll numbers. Any change in media behavior in the final week, if it effected voter opinions, would have likewise been reflected in Silver’s model in the last week.

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