Whenever political activists criticize media bias, I’m uncomfortably reminded that what they actually criticize is the media’s failure to display their own bias.
This is especially true on the blogosphere, which has as many hacks pretending to be serious media watchdogs as Saudi Arabia has barrels of oil. It’s more acute on the right, which is more adventurous in that respect and has produced both the greatest successes of blogospheric anti-media rants (Dan Rather) and the greatest failures (Jamail Hussein).
So right-wing bloggers twist themselves into non-orientable shapes now that it’s becoming clear Jamail Hussein exists. It’s standard for hacks not to admit mistakes; there’s no reason to get agitated over that.
The left doesn’t do that kind of media-bashing, partly because it’s less used to hating on the media and partly because the reality of the situation in Iraq is largely what its official party line says it is. Instead, it engages in a different kind of vicious attack, namely claiming an inalienable right to scream and be partisan.
And if you think it’s bad in partisan American politics, you haven’t looked into the politics of the I/P conflict. The best one-line summary of the pro-Israeli position isn’t “The occupation is good,” “the conflict is the Palestinians’ fault,” or “Israel’s behavior is more moral than the Palestinians’.” It’s “The global media is biased against Israel.” Likewise, the best summary of the pro-Palestinian position is “The global media is biased against Palestine.”
If I were the editor of the New York Times, every time someone unreasonably complained of bias in reporting, I’d write an editorial explaining, “The New York Times does not exist to cater to the whims of political fanatics. Shrill, narrow-minded, one-sided magazines are a dime a dozen. If you’re interested in that kind of reporting, that’s what the National Review is for.”
Unfortunately, the same media outlets that do their best to report real facts rather than spin also tend to view themselves as above the fray. As such, they’re likelier to accommodate hacks playing media watchdogs who mount sufficiently vigorous campaigns, instead of treating them with the contempt they deserve.