A newly released Gallup poll reveals a national trust gap with regard to the media. Amongst its findings is that less than half of respondents (48%) report having either a great or a fair amount confidence in the accuracy or fairness of the news media. The only thing surprising about that number is that it isn’t much lower.
What is truly surprising is the distribution of views along partisan party lines. Republican’s trust threshold bottoms out at 33%. Democrats, however, have a curiously high satisfaction with the media at 66%. What’s more, the ferocity of the Republicans disdain for media dwarfs that of Democrats. 77% of Republicans consider the media to be too liberal, while only 22 % of Democrats view it as too conservative. 66% of Democrats trust the media, while only 33% of Republicans are similarly inclined.
It’s difficult to imagine why Democrats are so content in a media atmosphere that is so blatantly hostile. The number one cable news network is an unapologetic apologist for the White House and an unabashed basher of Democratic policy and personage. The other networks feature conservative program hosts like Lou Dobbs, Glenn Beck, Tucker Carlson, etc., but there is only one identifiably progressive host on any network – Keith Olbermann on MSNBC’s Countdown. So why do 66% of Democrats trust the media?
The same conservative dominance exists in newspapers where virtually all of the major publishers have had to apologize for their sycophantic cheerleading that led up to the war in Iraq. Now they are repeating the pattern with drumbeats for war with Iran. Even the so-called liberal papers like the New York Times promoted their most conservative voices for most of the past half dozen years; voices like the disgraced Judith Miller, and Michael Gordon. So why do 66% of Democrats trust the media?
It hardly seems necessary to bring up radio, where conglomerates like Clear Channel own 1,000 stations with wall-to-wall rightist programming like Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Hugh Hewitt, Michael Savage, Laura Ingraham, etc. So why do 66% of Democrats trust the media?
Coverage of the presidential campaign is illustrative of the conservative media slant. Where in the coverage of Republican candidates is there anything like the stories that have hammered Democrats? Stories like haircuts, or where they went to school when they were six, or cleavage, or style of home, or laughter, or lapel pins. So why do 66% of Democrats trust the media?
There is a little good news in the survey. The percentage of Americans that view the media as “too conservative” has increased from 11% in 2001, to 18% today, according to this poll. That’s not a tectonic shift, but it does suggest that a bit of light is starting to get through to the population at large. What it does not explain is why 66% of Democrats trust the media?
Earlier this year, the Project for Excellence in Journalism released a study that showed that the media devoted more time to Democrats than to Republicans. The problem is that most of that time was spent disparaging Democrats:
“..conservative talkers, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Michael Savage were the most Democratic focused of all – 75% of their time on Democrats and only 13% focused mainly on Republicans.”
And yet, 66% of of Democrats still trust the media. What will it take for people to see through the myth of the “liberal” media? The disparity is glaringly obvious to anyone paying the least bit of attention. Part of the problem is that the facts that comprise the reality of conservative bias would have to be distributed to the people by the media. The very same media that wants to disguise their bias; that wants to preserve their rightist influence; that wants to maintain their relationships with political leaders and regulators; that wants to expand their corporate reach through consolidation and market manipulation.
Until Democrats and progressives stand up to the abusive behavior of a hostile press; until they recognize the obstacles that the media repeatedly and purposefully drop in their paths, it will be very hard to overcome the prejudices that are becoming ingrained in our culture. Do they want to continue to be portrayed as tax-and-spenders, despite the fact that it is Republicans who spend us into record deficits in each of their administrations? Do they want to be characterized as soft-on-defense, despite the fact that it is Republicans that have mired us in an Iraqi quagmire while ignoring the real terrorist threats in the world? Do they want to be cast as anti-economy, despite the fact that the Dow Jones average performs better during Democratic administrations than Republican?
If not, then they need to stop being complacent about a media that is determined to undermine them at every opportunity. They need to stop appeasing the most serious perpetrators of their abuse. They need to stop appearing on Fox News in any capacity. And they need to start to engage in a realistically aggressive counter-assault on the elements in the media that want to do them harm.
Democrats had better come to terms with the truth: Their batterer does not love them and is not doing it for their own good. And they must finally realize that it is foolish and destructive to profess love for your abuser. There is no excuse for 66% of Democrats trusting the media.