Study: journalists report think tank leanings selectively

Conservative-leaning think tanks like the Hoover Institution are much more likely to be ideologically identified than their liberal counterparts. | Photo credit: darkmatter / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

 

Reason.com recently highlighted a study in the Journal of Media Economics which suggests selective media bias in reporting think tank leanings:

Leading news outlets were 14 times more likely to identify the Heritage Foundation as conservative than they were to categorize the Brookings Institution as liberal, reports a new study in the Journal of Media Economics. The study, conducted by the Department of Justice economist Wayne Dunham, analyzed 25,000 news articles from six large daily newspapers and the Associated Press over the past couple of decades.

Reason correspondent Ronald Bailey points out the implicit bias in this lopsided ideological identification.  It seems reasonable to me that reminding readers of a source’s ideological affiliation tends to make them dismissive of that source.  It follows then that liberal think tanks get less scrutiny than conservative and libertarian ones.

Free societies rely on some semblance of balance and objectivity from the press. It won’t help for government to intervene, as with the Fairness Doctrine.  Rather, news consumers should signal their displeasure to the editorial boards.  To that end, it would be good to know which major papers Dunham examined.  If the report is accurate, then some of America’s most influential journalists need to explain, or else cop to, their own bias.

Which Americans in denial about race?

The aftermath of George Zimmerman’s acquittal dominated news and commentary last week.  As the pleas and prescriptions from all corners reverberate, what should Americans of conscience do?  Despite long standing calls to have a national conversation on race, many remain unwilling to confront the more difficult aspects.

Take this case in point.  On the Monday after the six woman Florida jury handed in a “not guilty” verdict, The Atlantic Wire serve up this combative headline: “Richard Cohen Shows Why Racism Makes You Do Dumb Things.”  Later that day, another headline-as-testy-retort: “No, Blacks Don’t ‘Benefit’ from Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law.”  The Atlantic brand should bring to mind a measured–if passionate–patrician, East Coast progressivism.  Those were its roots, at least.  But with the headlines it runs these days, The Atlantic is clearly a plebeian outlet for snarky partisan sniping.

Somewhere on the Atlantic Coast. | Photo credit: oefe / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

In responding to Richard Cohen, Elspeth Reeve fails to explain what it actually means for Cohen to say something “racist.”  It’s just an epithet meant to draw her readers into a denial of the violent crime problem in the African-American community.  She cites statistics indicating, in the past couple of decades, a steady decline in violent crimes nationally.  From this, she plucks the fact that violent crimes committed by African-Americans have also gone down.  In the world she paints, conservative commentators are crying wolf about a nonexistent epidemic.  This is a perverse inversion of what was happening six months ago.  Then, conservatives were citing declining national rates to dismiss the hysteria over an epidemic of gun-related homicides.  Now, this good news has become a liberal talking point.

Over the past week, conservative media have consistently hammered away at the issue Elspeth Reeve and her Atlantic Wire colleagues deny: African-Americans, particularly young men, commit violent crimes at a grossly disproportionate rate.  Blacks make up about 10 percent of the population, but are responsible for half of all violent crimes, including murders.  And about 90% of those murder victims are African-American.  It’s simple math then that nearly half of people murdered in America are black.

The Wall Street Journal has run a number of excellent editorials on the problem.  Black conservative Jason Riley opened the salvo by reminding us how far back the problem goes.  Consider his quoting of a prominent black civil rights leader:

“Do you know that Negroes are 10 percent of the population of St. Louis and are responsible for 58% of its crimes? We’ve got to face that. And we’ve got to do something about our moral standards,” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. told a congregation in 1961. “We know that there are many things wrong in the white world, but there are many things wrong in the black world, too. We can’t keep on blaming the white man. There are things we must do for ourselves.”

And this week, Shelby Steele–another Black intellectual off of the liberal reservation–explicated on the concept of “poetic truth,” a cudgel with which today’s morally diminished civil rights leaders try to exercise influence.  Steele authored one of the more compelling books I’ve read.  It’s full title says it all: White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era.

Reading the testy headlines of the The Atlantic Wire, I was reminded of Dr. Steele’s thesis, inasmuch as I understood it.  It’s true, whites helped destroy the promise of civil rights.  It wasn’t bigots in the American South.  Rather, it was privileged whites–read, East Coast progressives–who had luxury enough to quench their feelings of guilt by demanding untenable social policies.

As Steele recounts his college years in White Guilt, it was spoiled white teenagers and militant black youth who worked together to occupy university lecture halls and chancellor’s offices across the country.  Today’s privileged, well-connected, young and idealistic white elites–politically progressive through and through–indulge the same luxury their parents and grandparents did before them.  They can afford to imagine a common cause with minorities.  They can afford to indulge white guilt fantasies with little consequence.  It is the marginalized who can’t.

How does one have real solidarity with the marginalized and the oppressed?  President Obama had a good point in last Friday’s speech.  He implored, “. . . we need to spend some time in thinking about how do we bolster and reinforce our African American boys.”

It turns out, some people have already done that thinking.  The answer doesn’t lie in next entitlement program, or supporting the right to wear a hoodie.  The answer is cultural capital, earned success, a flourishing moral ecology, traditional family values, an opportunity society.  This is not racism or hate speech.  George W. Bush put it well when he warned against the “soft bigotry of low expectations.”  How does America, as one nation, raise those expectations for young African-American men?  That is the challenge.

DOMA decision: judge not, unless you’re liberal

(Sam Howzit/Foter/CC BY)

Wednesday’s Supreme Court decision on Windsor v US is remarkable on a number of levels.  It’s an exceedingly rare instance where liberals celebrate an old, rich white person getting huge tax break.  In this case, it is to the tune of $363,053.  I wonder what principled reason leads the Left to applaud rather than object to the outcome.

In writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy supplies that principled reason.  It seems on his view that President Bill Clinton and a sweeping majority of the 104th Congress were bigots intent on inflicting “injury and indignity” on gay couples, a “politically unpopular group.”  Does this sound a bit . . . judgmental?  It’s hard to believe that gays and lesbians are “unpopular” in 2013, a mere 17 years after the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) came into effect.  Flipping on any random television sitcom, reality show, or talk show indicates the contrary.

So what has changed in that brief span of time in America, in the hearts of Harry Reid, Joe Biden, and Chuck Schumer, high-profile Democrats who voted for DOMA but now celebrate its demise?  Perhaps there was something akin to President Obama’s “evolution.”  A subjective, personal premise for legislation.

This would explain why, when politicians and media throw about “equality” or “discrimination” in the public square, candor and lucidity seem to be in short supply.  President Obama merely asserts that DOMA was “discrimination enshrined in law.”  What is the condition where discrimination obtains?  I didn’t see Justice Kennedy supply it.  If I were to guess, that criteria likely hinges on what the Critical Race Theory professor at Harvard Law had for lunch.

The SCOTUS Windsor ruling is anything but assuring for the integrity of our democratic republic. Especially in light of growing irresponsibility in the Executive.  California Governor Schwarzenegger shirked his duty to defend Proposition 8 without consequence.  Likewise, President Obama and Eric Holder were rather . . . discriminating when it came to whether or not the Justice Department would defend DOMA in court.  This is not the rule of law.  What happened to impartiality and professionalism, let alone charity in disagreement?

There’s a rational basis for government to recognize and enforce marriage as a commitment between a man and a woman.  As a class, heterosexual relationships tend to produce children, and those children need to be protected against the parents’ inclination to terminate that commitment.  To make marriage an issue of equal protection of benefits undercuts that indispensable reality.  Inheritance issues, visitation rights, and so on–there’s an app for that.  It’s called civil unions.

Neither should government dole out marriage as a way to validate feelings or affirm dignity.  Sure, there were real dignity issues in the Jim Crow era.  That was half a century ago.

Sometimes people complain about “legislating morality.”  Never mind the incoherence of that critique; what are laws supposed to be if not moral?  But I get the point; some legislative pushes come off as offensive, judgmental, and needlessly intrusive.  Here we have not just “legislating morality,” but legislating from the bench.

When it comes to making distinctions, it seems we have a one-way street, a double standard in effect today.  Judge not, unless you’re liberal.

2016 and RNC: increasingly visible, minority conservatives buck liberalism

This past weekend, I saw Dinesh D’Souza’s 2016: Obama’s America.  It was playing on some 1,000 movie screens.  And this upcoming weekend, it will open up on a thousand more.  There’s been considerable coverage now that it’s broken into the weekly box office top ten.  Not only that, it’s at least the fifth highest grossing political documentary of all time.  Watch out, Michael Moore!

I have offered some critical words about D’Souza’s past work.  Just the cover of his 2011 tome, The Roots of Obama’s Rage, comes off as a psychoanalytical potshot.  But given the election year excitement and buzz, I thought I’d give 2016 a try.

Dinesh D’Souza travels the world to learn about Obama’s roots. 2016themovie.com

The film is well-produced, and acclaimed Hollywood veteran Gerald Molen can be thanked for that.  The music, not overbearing or manipulative as we might expect for a political documentary, lends an air of excitement and intrigue befitting the cosmopolitan journey.  After all, this is D’Souza’s “reading” (as my wife put it) of Obama’s globetrotting, cross-cultural upbringing.

D’Souza lays out a comprehensive case in the course of 90 minutes; undoubtedly, he has done his homework.  Polished graphics and dramatic cuts of D’Souza retracing Obama’s footsteps through Indonesia, Hawaii, and Kenya add grit and a kinetic potency to his “anticolonial” thesis.

A recent AP Fact Check–which Breitbart’s Big Journalism has answered–takes exception to some of D’Souza’s claims.  But the finer points of what Obama was exposed to at prep school or what his father’s old associates believe about Israel pale in comparison to the the core fact that the AP fact checker perhaps willfully overlooked.  This is the odd trajectory his white, American, maternal side of the family put him on.

Looking beyond the film for a moment, we can see the root of that strange trajectory.  President Obama’s maternal grandfather, Stanley Dunham, named his daughter after himself.  Of course, people mostly know her by her middle name Ann.

Back in the film, we see Ann’s radical values–adopted early in life–play out.  She rejects her Indonesian husband Lo Lo Soetoro because he cozies up to an American oil company and comes to oppose communists.  This telling is hardly the kind of “logical stretch” that AP’s fact check would have you believe the film is built on.

D’Souza’s most important revelation may be Obama’s “founding fathers.”  How he comes to know one of these guiding lights is particularly telling.  Young Barack’s grandfather Stanley Dunham  introduces a peculiar personal friend to be his mentor: card-carrying Communist (no. 47544) Frank Marshall Davis.

At one point in the film, D’Souza refers to Obama’s ideas as “alien.”  As cringe-inducing as this may sound, it is not a prelude to a radical right rant.  Neither is it a racist code or dog whistle.  After all, D’Souza is a mixed race immigrant from the global South.  That Barack Obama is black is merely an asterisk to the long-raging ideological struggle that lent his mother and grandfather strange ideas most Americans reject.

As important as D’Souza’s revelations are, we’ll find in 2016 a deeper significance.  It’s a film where a South Asian immigrant stars in a winsome, provocative telling of his own life as it contrasts with Obama’s.  During one prominent segment, D’Souza invokes the expert testimony of a fellow biracial academic, Shelby Steele.  Liberal Hollywood doesn’t hand us such a substantive, diversely-cast film everyday.  Sure, there’s Harold and Kumar, if Asian-Americans being depicted as stoners is somehow a good thing.

What 2016 accomplishes by featuring such thought-provoking minority conservatives is something neither the media, academia, nor the rest of our liberal cultural elites can stand.  This film is a very “brown” critique of the liberal worldview, and something I deeply appreciate as the son of a Southeast Asian immigrant myself.  Just as D’Souza relates his own college experience to spotlight the strange thinking of some Americans, I can recall absurd liberal expectations that I encountered as a college student of color.

Minority conservatives are to be found not just on screen, but on stage, at the Republican National Convention.  Speakers like Nikki Haley, Artur Davis, Condoleezza Rice and Susana Martinez have this year voiced their rejection of liberalism while affirming all that makes America powerful, decent, and good.

Nothing threatens the liberal worldview more than when its objects of sympathy and concern stand up, call it for what it is, and reject it.  As important as it will be in getting out the 2012 conservative vote, 2016 is,  perhaps more significantly, another nail in the coffin of liberal ideas whose time has passed.

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