There wasn’t going to be a Part III to this theme until I stumbled upon a stunning post by popular liberal blogger Josh Marshall (no relation, I think, though my Dad claimed that all Marshalls were related) that 1) defended CNN Carol Costello’s despicable glee at a tape of Sarah Palin’s daughter describing what she said was an assault by a man, and 2) added an explanation for news media bias that blames Fox News, a neat, if stupid, piece of logical pretzel-making.
It’s an amazing post, one which should make any objective reader wonder how deep a rational writer could be sunk into ideological cement to author this and not realize how self-rebutting it is. Marshall shoots himself in the groin at the very beginning, using Costello’s unprofessional attack on Bristol Palin as an example of how paranoid the right is:
“So now, liberals, the media, Democrats, apparently anyone who thinks Palin is a buffoon of almost world historic proportions (which gets you to something like 80% of the country) are all abominable hypocrites for ‘laughing’ at what is now fairly preposterously portrayed as a violent assault against a woman. If you listen to the police interviews, which occurred just as the brawl had barely ended, all the witnesses beside Bristol said she attacked the homeowner. Indeed, even Bristol’s younger sister Willow backed up the these other witnesses’ account. She just said Bristol missed with her punches.”
The buffoon here is Marshall, and he’s misrepresenting what Costello did. She didn’t introduce the tape by pointing out what other witnesses said. She may not even have known about the police reports (which I have read, and they are not at all conclusive, which is why no charges were filed.) She just introduced an emotional recording of a young woman recounting how she was attacked, and said it was so enjoyable that her audience was obligated to thank her. It doesn’t matter what the facts were or turned out to be. What was outrageous was Costello displaying enjoyment at another human being’s distress, because it was Sarah Palin’s daughter. Marshall’s defense is also ignorant of context, not that he cares. Last month, Costello had angrily encouraged ESPN to suspend commentator Stephen A. Smith because he had suggested, in light of the Ray Rice-Janay Rice brawl video, that women who attack men in part bring abuse upon themselves. Now Marshall is saying that Costello’s lack of sympathy for Bristol Palin is justified because she allegedly tried to punch her assailant, but missed. Janay Rice didn’t miss, you know. Then again, she isn’t the daughter of a political figure Marshall and Costello detest.
Thus even before he offered his denial of left-media bias, Marshall had outed himself as a practitioner. Then he wrote this:
“Conservatives in the ’70s and ’80s looked at the mainstream media and saw it as liberal and against them. That was largely bogus but not entirely. The mid-late 20th century elite ‘media’ did generally buy into a series of cosmopolitan assumptions about public and private life. That worldview generally aligns more with liberalism than conservatism, but the two are by no means identical. And this did shape coverage in significant ways. But many conservatives genuinely believed that most people in media were and are little different from Democratic political operatives writing propaganda. So when they went to create “their” media, that’s basically what they created, a propaganda network.”
Marshall’s hallmark is making nonsense sound reasonable, and he outdoes himself here. Do you know what “buying into a series of cosmopolitan assumptions about public and private life” is called? Bias, that’s what. Marshall, true to his liberal-biased soul, frames this as just intelligence, education and sophistication, which is what the liberal elite use “cosmopolitan” to mean. It’s not bias! It’s just the truth, as smart people understand it, and dumb, redneck hicks don’t!
As Marshall appears not to grasp—and who knows? Maybe he doesn’t—bias arises from the acceptance of prior assumptions that prevent objective analysis and fair balancing of objectives, facts and opinions. Conservatives looked at the mainstream media and saw news content, news coverage, punditry and opinion journalism being determined by a profession that was over 80% registered Democrats and otherwise liberal, and dominated by people like Costello and Marshall, who were so far left that everything right of them, including moderate political positions, looked deranged and illegitimate. Conservatives (and objective liberals too) saw bias, because bias is what there was. Marshall seems to think that bias has to be intentional and malicious to qualify as bias: he doesn’t understand the concept, which may explain why he doesn’t see how biased he is. The reason bias is so insidious is that the sufferer is often completely unaware of the bias, especially when, as in most mainstream journalism organizations, everyone suffers from the same biases. Continue reading