So there’s this very funny and revealing quote from the New Yorker this week. Nick Lemann (dean of Columbia Journalism School) is writing about mainstream media bias, and basically says that as far as most of them are concerned, they get equal amounts of flack from the left and the right, and they’re always bending over backwards to include the wrong opinions on everything, so they can’t really be accused of bias. Which is funny, because no matter how far they think they’re bending over backwards, the fact that none of them know any conservatives means that most our views fit into the category of the “unknown unknown”, and therefore can’t be covered. And Nick Lemann is one of the most reasonable liberals out there. So here he interviews Bill Keller, editor of the New York Times:
However, Keller, who is himself of indeterminate politics but is probably more conservative than his fiery populist predecessor, Howell Raines, went on, “Conservatives feel estranged becuase they feel excluded. They do not always see themselves portrayed in the mainstream press as three-dimensional humans, and they don’t see their ideas taken seriously or treated respectfully. This is something I’ve long felt we should correct, not to pander to red-state readers but because it’s bad journalism to caricature anyone with reductionist portraits and crude shorthand. Portraying conservatives fairly does not mean
equal time for creationism. But it does mean, for example, writing about abortion in a way that does justice to the deep moral qualms most Americans have about it. It means trying to understand the thinking of people who regard gay marriage as unacceptable, who worry that gun controls represent an encroachment on their civil liberties.”
And there you have it. In a nutshell, “We should really stop presenting conservatives as two-dimensional idiots. Instead we need to understand how homophobic, creationist, anti-abortion gun nuts think.” And that’s the problem. He just doesn’t get conservatives. Most conservatives are just people who think socialism is the problem and freedom is the solution. Gay marriage is a very small sideshow in the big battles of government vs. markets, malpractice lawyers vs. patients, teachers unions vs. children, progressives vs. poor people, taxes, regulations, huge government programs, property rights, what have you. Conservatives believe that the reason that education, pensions, and health care in this country are expensive and low quality but clothing, food, and entertainment are cheap and high quality is that the government controls the former and markets control the latter.
The reason that the New York Times makes my blood boil is not that they can’t understand why anyone would be against gay marriage, it’s that they view the world through the filter of “is this good for George Bush?” and if it is, they ignore it, and if it isn’t, they ram it down everyone’s throat. Is the economy good or bad? Well, George Bush is in power, so it must be bad. Is the environment good or bad? Well, George Bush is in power, so it must be bad. Are things in Iraq going well or badly? Probably badly until a democrat gets elected. There doesn’t seem to be much of an attempt to catalog the way the world really is and let people draw their own conclusions. Because if they did that in an unbiased way, everyone would conclude that the Democrats need to be turfed out for good, and that’s not something they can stomach.