Embrace the Bias

Is a free press objective or subjective?

Last night on Fox, Tucker Carlson interviewed Michael Avenatti , Stormy Daniels’ lawyer. In what was either a garish display of childish antics or a hilarious and poignant critique of the subject of the interview, Tucker’s show dubbed Avenatti the “creepy porn lawyer.”

It took a lot of people by surprise, with initial reactions expressing disbelief. Look at that chyron!

For those of you who were like me, you will scratch your head when you see the word “chyron,” but I guess that’s the technical term for the little descriptive textboxes that appear on TV. So props to the chyron writer for making the rest of the world care about what a chyron is now.

Commentary on the subject ranges from “Avenatti got burned” to “Tucker crossed a line.” I personally have no opinion on that specific subject, but it gives me an opportunity to expound upon the nature of the press and the high purpose of the first amendment.

In a previous article I briefly described how many Americans, and much of the media, have this mistaken idea that the press is to be this noble guardian of objectivity. They are fixated on the notion that the press is the unbiased presenter of reality to the country.

I refrained from going into the history of the freedom of the press, but offered up an introduction to the topic. “John Stuart Mill, in his work On Liberty*, asserts that free speech is not about the propagation of simple facts, but rather the protection of opinions and ideas that glean truth from facts. He then asserts that it is protected because society may cling to incomplete ideas that need a supplement, a correction, or an outright challenge. This process cannot occur when the majority, whether through law or through groupthink, refuses to permit other views.”*

This brief introduction was sufficient for an article on Adam Schiff and broadcasting companies, but Tucker represents the epitome of a subjective press. The phrase “subjective press” shouldn’t be a bad thing.

In Shiffrin and Choper’s The First Amendment: Cases – Comments – Questions, Justice Holmes’ dissent in Abrams v. US is discussed at length. Shiffrin and Choper compare Holmes’ “market place of ideas” with a quote from Milton’s Areopagitica. Milton says “and though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play upon the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously by licensing and prohibiting to misdoubt her strength. Let her and falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter?” They then mention a work by Charles Lindblom. Here he says that “these institutions come to be taken for granted. Many people regard them not as institutions to be tested but as standards against which correctness of new policies and institutions can be tested. When that happens, as is common, processes of critical judgment are short-circuited.”

It is not the job of the press to filter out right, wrong, true, or false and then present what is left as the only truth. Their job is to make a case and to make their position known, lest we ascribe to them the title of "standard-bearer of truth."

In Thomas Emerson’s Toward a General Theory of the First Amendment, freedom of expression is said to be necessary for four reasons: for the protection of individual rights, for attaining truth, for civic engagement, and for balancing stability and change. To his first reason, he says, “the suppression of belief, opinion, and expression is an affront to the dignity of man, a negation of man’s essential nature. What Milton said of licensing the press is equally true of any form of restraint over expression.”

So what does that mean? Freedom of speech and press are tied into the general idea of free expression. It is the right of every person to be able to speak freely, promulgate opinions, and share those opinions in written form. Why do we do that? Because truth is only attainable when ideas are exchanged, not when one entity has established a monopoly on the flow of ideas or their content.

To say that the press may not be subjective or that they have to hide their subjectivity with a mask of objectivity, as the mainstream media does, is to strip the people of the right to be part of the free press. It necessitates and encourages opinions.

History supports this structure where the press is mainly subjective.

In Emerson, Haber, and Dorsen’s Political and Civil Rights in the United States, ample historical evidence is provided to make clear that freedom of the press was never about the simple regurgitation of facts. The entire point is to make a case, to persuade, to drive your fellow citizens to seek new or additional information. We contrast freedom of the press with the system of censorship, Star Chamber, and coercion that existed in England. Regulation existed to suppress political speech, not to prohibit objectivity. Emerson et al., relying on the words of Justice Story, convey the following information: “The art of printing soon after its introduction, we are told, was looked upon, as well in England as in other countries, as merely a matter of state, and subject to the coercion of the crown. It was therefore regulated in England by the king's proclamations, prohibitions, charters of privilege, and licenses, and finally by the decrees of the court of star chamber, which limited the number of printers and of presses which each should employ, and prohibited new publications, unless previously approved by proper licensers. On the demolition of this odious jurisdiction, in 1641, the long parliament of Charles the First, after their rupture with that prince, assumed the same powers which the star chamber exercised with respect to licensing books; and during the commonwealth (such is human frailty and the love of power even in republics!) they issued their ordinances for that purpose, founded principally upon a star chamber decree in 1637. After the restoration of Charles the Second, a statute on the same subject was passed, copied, with some few alterations, from the parliamentary ordinances. The act expired in 1679, and was revived and continued for a few years after the revolution of 1688. Many attempts were made by the government to keep it in force; but it was so strongly resisted by parliament that it expired in 1694, and has never since been revived.”

Professor Zechariah Chafee, as cited by Emerson et al., expounds upon the history given by Story. He says that the founding generation need not expressly condemn the practices of Star Chamber because it was defunct, but the first amendment would undoubtedly prohibit such conduct as the founders were well read on the subject. They did however fear the implementation of seditious libel laws. To the founding generation, free speech and free press meant the liberty to discuss public affairs. Where the people are sovereign, the people must be able to criticize government, institutions, and men in places of power. That is Chafee’s assessment of Madison’s view on the subject and it rings true when it is contrasted with the absolutist nature of a monarchy.

This may seem like it got way off topic from Tucker Carlson and the media being subjective. The entire point of this history is to show that, to the founding generation, the freedoms of press and speech were primarily concerned with the ability to be biased against those in power. We are free to criticize, free to call out, free to mock, free to expose those in government and in other places of power.

With that purpose in mind, we look at today’s media. Where did we get the idea that freedom of the press meant claiming to be objective? Is it good that news organizations have reporters who are focused on the facts and only the facts? Yes. But that is not the news we get. What we get are entities that see themselves as infallible presenters of truth with no amount of introspection that might get them to say they have a hint of bias. I expect bias, there is no use fighting it. Bias is the reason why we have a free press. We want differing views to be presented. We want to argue about what is best for the nation. We do not want to be lied to about the intentions of those “objectively” presenting the news. People mock Fox and MSNBC, but I at least appreciate the honesty in the opinion shows. Honesty in that objectivity is not the goal; the goal is to make a point, to persuade.

The press has to stop hiding behind the first amendment when criticism comes their way. The press has to stop denigrating subjectivity when it isn’t masked by objectivity. They have a fundamental misunderstanding of what it means to be “the press.” The freedom of the press is not the liberty to say “Hurricane Florence is hitting the east coast.” It is the liberty to say “Trump is complicit because his policies worsen climate change.” It is the freedom to say “the left is insane for blaming a storm on Trump.” It’s the liberty to be open about both of those opinions, not the liberty to insinuate one or the other while claiming to be objective.

Cut the crap, drop the façade, and embrace the bias. I at least know where Tucker stands.

Comments
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ConservativeChick
ConservativeChick

I have thought of unsubscribing from the Resurgent but @Still Jules keeps me coming here.

Still Jules
Still Jules

The basic identification of Left vs Right is simple. If there is a line with a mark at the center, people who believe in a federal government severely restricted as to size, scope and power, with most authority left to the states, or to the people, are on the right side of that center point. Those who believe that the size, scope and power of the federal government should be expanded beyond the delegated authority, in defiance of the 10th Amendment, belong on the left side of that center point.

While there is a wide spectrum of Leftism, depending on how much authority the person believes the federal government should be able to assume beyond its delegated powers, ranging from simply accepting Social Security and Medicaid but not agreeing with more assumption of extra-Constitutional authority all the way to full-out Communism. moving to the Right is merely really REALLY REALLY believing in the Constitution.

That is, there is no such thing as "far-right" much less "alt-right" unless you are simply inventing terms that have nothing to do with actual POLITICAL philosophy. For some reason, some people need to slap all sorts of non-political themes onto the term "Right", such as white supremacy. A little logic will make it clear that no one who believes that all men are equal can be a white supremacist, disproving the claim that discounting some races as inferior is "far-Right".

People need to stop being so easily led around by emotion and so susceptible to semantic manipulation.

The Left, in its constant efforts to undermine the Right and its message, loves to come up with all sorts of negative characteristics and claim they are "far-Right" yet none of them is related to the commitment to a certain kind of blueprint for governing the nation that is laid out in the Constitution.

DriverZn
DriverZn

In graphical form for those that prefer images. The V4 of the chart seems to have corrected some of the placement mistakes in the older version. You can also scroll down and see where the individual shows on MSNBC and FOX fall on the chart.

Edit: We really need a tool to choose which image gets thumb-nailed. I'll try the .png

esotericwy
esotericwy

"The phrase subjective press shouldnt be a bad thing". If the "PRESS" hides their Bias then it is a "bad thing". If NEW reported is exactly a tinge of "objective" News followed by a lot of Opinion then that is "a bad thing".

Far far too much of the Media could better be described s the Praetorian Guard Media (Mark Levin). The pretend "Journalists" in large numbers come from Politics and specifically the Democrat party. The "Free Press" has become the PR Firm/SuperPac of the Democrat party. There definitely seems to be a revolving door between News and Politics.

HOW? exactly is that good for consumers when their background is not disclosed?

There is a large difference between Reporting and Commentary.

Still Jules
Still Jules

" who ever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter?"

And this is why Truth is such a threat to the Left, and must be throttled, drowned out, denied, overcome by the sheer mass of its opposition and simply battered and abandoned.

I admit that I have an opinion, for example, of the way children are treated at the border. I happen to think that my opinion is based on facts, after looking into the subject, and I feel that the hyper-emotional howling about this subject is based on false information. OK, that is the starting point.

So----my opinion is based in part on my belief that dragging children across at least one big country because of a belief that being accompanied by a child at the border offers an advantage to the adult constitutes child abuse in and of itself. Or at least that when the trip is fraught with tension and even danger it is abusive to the helpless child. That is my admitted starting point. I acknowledge it, and I explain it.

Moving on----I understand, from various articles from various sources, that many adults arrive at the border accompanied by children they may not have a legal right to control. They are not parents or close relatives and many children, when interviewed, have said they didn't even know the adult before the trip to the border began. I also understand, from various articles from various sources, that tens of thousands of children have been abandoned on the U.S. side of the border, many if not most of whom are then victimized by being absorbed into human trafficking, often if not usually for the sex trade. That is the second thing I factor into my opinion.

Therefore, I find it not only prudent but in the best interest of the children to interview them separately from the adults they have accompanied to the border, to determine the level of their safety and their likelihood of being cared for if the adults are allowed entry into the United States. I simply do not know how this can be done without putting the adults and children in separate areas, at least for some time.

After MANY trips with tired, cranky and crying children in nice cars with loving parents, plenty of food and rest stops and no outside stress, I also don't put much value on pictures of kids who look tired, cranky or upset. I've seen and experienced enough hysterical tantrums in grocery stores and shopping malls to know that kids just melt down, for reasons no one can understand or control. Merely being overwrought or tired or crying is not proof of abuse or some sinister or terrifying experience. It is what kids do. They also pick up on the emotional vibes sent out by the adults around them, so a tense parent fearing a border interview is going to telegraph that tension and fear to his or her child. These are all obvious truths that every adult knows.

I also believe that "journalists" manipulate photos to get the most emotional impact, so I have an inherent distrust of photojournalism. After seeing photos staged or edited for the most emotional impact---the infamous photo of the polar bears on the tiny ice floe, with the huge ice shelf a few feet away cropped out of the photo, and the crying girl on the cover of that magazine with her mother, standing about a foot away, cropped out, come to mind----I don't trust emotionally wrenching photos like the one of children huddled behind a chain link fence, much less the subsequent characterization of that area as a "cage" and the quick escalation to the claim that at the border "children are treated like ANIMALS !!!"

So....how many articles on the treatment of children at the border have touched on all of these things? ANY of these things? How many have admitted that the chain link fence was not a "cage", that the photo may have been staged, that crying children don't automatically indicate mistreatment, that the only way to really determine if a child is at risk by being in the company of an unauthorized adult is to question the child and adult separately, that this questioning is in the best interest of the child, etc? How many articles have included interviews with border personnel about the protocol for separating children from adults for the interviews? How many "journalists" have done stories on the reactions of stressed children being in safe, friendly environments with plenty of food and nice places to nap and toys to play with, after long and stressful trips across Mexico and possibly other nations south of Mexico?

This ONE topic has been the source of so much journalistic misconduct and malfeasance, it is shameful. And now we have hysterical Hollywood hags literally screeching about how CHILDREN ARE RIPPED FROM THEIR MOTHERS' ARMS AND PUT IN CAGES !!!!!!

Wouldn't true "journalism" involve accurate, objective reporting from the border, unstaged photographs, candid interviews with border patrol personnel, stories on the facilities where children wait to be interviewed and even where they are kept when it is learned that the adults who took them to the border had no legal right to be their caretakers? Wouldn't true "journalism" write at length about the horrifying treatment of so many children after being abandoned on the U.S. side of the border, and the moral imperative to try to protect children from this fate?

Extrapolate this kind of wild, fierce, explosion of media-created and media-promoted and media-advanced and media-developed propaganda, with its transparent agenda of harming and even toppling an elected president, to every other topic in the news and you have the state of what is so laughingly referred to as "journalism" in this country.

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