Thursday, March 31, 2005

The media, again

More thoughts on "media bias" -- for some reason a topic that fascinates me. Sorry, Justin, if you've heard this rant already, but I continue to come to the defence of the one newspaper that is, for me, a must-read on a daily basis. I really must try to put all this into a more comprehensive piece:

The New York Times is often accused of liberal bias -- in fact, it is often, with CBS, considered to be the very epitome of liberal bias. I tend to think that liberal bias in the mainstream media is overstated, and that opponents of so-called liberal bias seek merely to discredit the mainstream media, however defined, by selectively revealing instances of bias, or what they, through some ideological or politically pragmatic filter, perceive to be bias -- even when it is merely sound reporting.

It's actually quite interesting that the right, which so firmly rejects America's recent "slouching towards gomorrah," the rise of postmodernism and the infiltration of relativism, and the rejection of any ultimate Truth, which bemoans the liberationist legacy of the '60s, has contributed so much to this mess. The right's insistence on focusing on bias, with or without proof, has undermined any sense of objective narrative in American life, or at least the pursuit of an objective narrative in American life. The intent may have been to uncover bias, some of it legitimate, in terms of what actually forms that narrative, but the result has been the dismantling of any sense of narrative whatsoever.

In this sense, the right has mirrored the efforts of the postmodern left to discredit so-called meta-narratives, or objective truths, and to replace them with a self-defeating "philosophy" of historicist subjectivism: there is no Truth, nor any such thing as objectivity (the postmodern left has even discredited modern rationalism), so all claims to truth are inherently subjective, or biased. We're talking about media bias here, but the same, says the postmodern left, can be said for history itself, which has been written by some hegemonic monolith of straight, white, Christian males to the detriment of various oppressed groups -- however defined, however determined.

The postmodern left has more or less destroyed much serious academic thinking, and I would argue that the media-bias right has similarly more or less destroyed serious journalism -- or, at least, has weakened serious journalism to the point where it is no longer taken seriously, where it is widely ridiculed, and where it has lost its claim as a transmitter of fact, of a narrative that transcends subjective interests. It is now taken for granted, after all, that there is no such thing as unbiased media. Whatever Fox News may claim ("fair and balanced"), the right has successfully targeted all media, whether of the left or the right, or of somewhere in between. This is not good. What we're left with is an incoherent jumble, a raucous media landscape where the noise of competing claims to "truth" drowns out any possible estimation of what is really going on, that is, where "value" has replaced "fact" and where objectivity, or at least the pursuit of objectivity, is seen as some sort of anachronism, if it's even seen at all.

Forget truth, let alone Truth: now that's an anachronism! One wonders what Socrates would say.

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