Issue of media bias is a complicated one

    In the lexicon of political trends, which changes each week or even each day, the retro fashion is in. After a number of new chants and keywords such as “”no blood for oil,”” “”destabilization”” and “”shock and awe,”” the European political community has re-adopted an age old catch phrase: propaganda. Along with this are a several support phrases such as “”media bias”” and “”right-wing conspiracy.”” Propaganda has been used heavily by anyone and everyone advocating a given idea. However, this round, the saturation of loaded words and phrases actually brings into light an interesting aspect of American life, freedom and, of course, the press.

    As a former Alan Keyes supporter, I used to be furious with the condescending tone of CNN, much less the myriad independent college newspapers, all of which are sure to denounce the U.S. government from a slightly different angle. Having lived in Ireland for this past year and having committed to reading many of the mainstream European newspapers, (i.e. El Pais, The Irish Independent and The Guardian), it is easy to see U.S. media as biased and even as a propaganda machine at times.

    The Europeans are right in thinking there is a definite slant in American media. However, the typical rants of “”government-induced propaganda, censorship and fascism”” is not the correct interpretation of such a slant. First of all, anyone who understands the American government, in its bureaucratic glory, should never give our politicians the credit for being able to brainwash the mass public opinion any more than the American public brainwashes itself. Secondly, if the media have been so biased in getting the United States to support the war, why were there so many (in fact, the majority) who opposed the war or attended a protest? Was it merely a failed propaganda attempt by President Bush? If only it were that simple.

    If there is bias in the news, where does it come from, if not the government? There are two possible conclusions: either there isn’t any bias and Europe is merely shifted farther left on the political spectrum, so that anything from the United States appears slanted right; or the bias is a result of average Americans choosing not to listen to sharp criticism of their country.

    The first reason is possible, but less likely. Europe is decidedly more socialist, and while that is a valid idea in all European politics, America is staunchly capitalist, except for the watered-down strains of socialism in the democratic party. With socialism a defeated idea in mainstream American politics, any trend in journalism that may be implicitly supporting a European socialist standpoint will fail to obtain a wide audience. All that is left then is CNN, which appears right-wing to all Europeans. While plausible, this does not explain the reason that many journalists are scared of angering the American public by criticizing America.

    Leading up to Iraqi intervention, a thousand European editorials probed into the minds of Americans and attempted to explain why any Americans supported their government and the war. One of the aspects most clearly shown was the desire of Americans to be heroes. Ignorant or intelligent, we have always thought of ourselves as defenders of democracy. We live for watching troops rolling through the streets with the liberated civilians cheering wildly. Conversely, Americans hate to be disliked. Most Europeans don’t give credence to this argument because they think if Bush disregarded Europeans and Arabs and subsequently brought global hatred to Americans, certainly the American public doesn’t care for its image either.

    This is not the case. Many European editorials are now admitting that, in fact, Americans tolerated the hatred of the Europeans because they were gambling on the fact that liberating Iraq would prove to the angry masses that America was right in the end.

    Even the fact that Bush went before the U.N. Security Council at all (considering how many military interventions have occurred without the use of the security council, including French excursions as well as American) shows that Americans require the legitimacy of the world, despite all the world’s complicated political agendas. Media mogul Rupert Murdoch said before the war that Americans have an inferiority complex and worry too that the world loves them. While Murdoch is certainly one of the most biased men in media, he has a valid point. The fact that Americans have the strength in their busy lives to actually boycott the French, who in all reality have very little say in American policy (even if they’d like to think they have clout), they must care what the French think of America in the first place.

    Therefore, if Americans like to be “”the good guys,”” it makes perfect sense that Americans would dislike and even refuse to watch news coverage that attacks their status as Americans. The fierce patriotism that is enveloping the nation is not a fake one. It is so sincere that it bothers the public to watch correspondents be overly critical of the United States — Bush or no Bush.

    Psychologists at the British Association for the Advancement of Science recently conducted a survey of humor and how it differed among different nationalities. They found that Americans have a tendency to laugh at jokes that make other people appear stupid or inferior. If Americans enjoy being on the giving end of a joke, one could infer that they will not want to be on the receiving end of harsh journalistic criticism, either in scathing editorials or slanted newscasts. If a news outlet desires to sell well in America, they had better be nice to Americans, if not to Bush specifically. This is proved beyond a doubt with the rise of Fox News, which claims to be an America-first and journalist-second organization.

    This all leads to the conclusion that any bias that does exist in the media comes from a desire of the American public to hear the story told a certain way. This is a much better explanation than a vast right-wing conspiracy headed up by the Bush administration. While this explanation is more fun and easier fodder for protesters to riot about, Bush’s image when elected into office was so unstable that it is foolish to think that the public would ever blindly believe him. With the polls on the war so divided, certainly many people did not trust Bush. But that didn’t cause the rise of an honest news company ready to attack America if need be.

    None of this is to say that media bias can’t be a problem. But instead of heading to the White House to protest the government’s purported iron-fisted control over the media, perhaps we should be reading “”Fahrenheit 451.”” Perhaps our preferred journalism is the product of our determination to be that dream-like America that exists only in idealism, not the product of our presidential ballot choice.

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