By Guest Author, Laurel Lieb
There was a distinct almost deafening cry that happened when Donald Trump crossed through the threshold of, ‘there is no chance he will win’, to ‘he might’, and again, when he crossed the finish line with the magic number of Electoral College votes. Almost instantly, the claws came out of traditional media outlets, who were quick to pour gasoline on the soon to be Republican majority controlled government and watch it burn. Accusations that Russia, fake news, white supremacy, bigotry and hate allowed “this” to happen was all that was talked about. Social media was hysterical with accusation of legalized oppression of women, Hillary’s popular vote majority, burning American flags, and unsubstantiated claims of “hate crimes.”
I’ve studied the media for most of the last eight years. More specifically, I am fascinated with the words the mainstream media uses to describe events, ideas, populations and the cartel-style tactics they use to discredit most American’s who don’t subscribe to the elite polarized, identity politics driven belief of reality. Identity politics— the political movement and idea based on a person perceived personal identity and is almost exclusively based on superficial characteristics from a critical theory, intersectional perspective backed up with questionable manipulated statistics— have been the driving force of the MSM, as they have become more accustom to using highly charged words like racism, sexism, homophobia, islamophobia and bigotry every time they believe something is objectionable to them.
This oligopoly, on what you read, watch and consume as entertainment has been consolidating itself since the advent of the twenty-four-hour news cycle in the early 1990s. It’s replacement of regional news stations, magazines, newspaper circulation, local radio, and television with over produced High Definition media that is meant to entertain more than inform changed how news was even looked at. President Obama’s first campaign in 2008 took this change to another level by choosing to use budding social media sites as marketing platforms and MSM connections that all but whipped out funding for regional stations. (Interesting enough I was laid off from my first job specifically because in 2008 there was an assumption of Hillary Clinton being the nominee and her campaign dumping millions into this industry.)
Since 2008, the collapse of the financial markets and the rise in national entertainment over the last eight years’ new media sites have been slow to grow and quick to sell out — literally, selling themselves to larger corporations— instead of taking on a risky IPO, has created an outsized voice for fringe minorities. This is evident in consolidations of websites like Huffington Post, who is now owned by AOL, who intern is owed by Verizon. Slate, who is a vocal publication for extreme leftist authoritarian perspectives on limiting free speech, gender rights and protected classes is owned by Univision, a company owned by Haim Saban, a vocal Hillary Clinton supporter.
After the November 8th, and the defeat of the incumbent party in the White House, the mainstream media, instead of doing a bit of soul searching, decided that they would place this albatross around the neck of Trump voters, alternative media sties, and basically anyone they did not like. But is it really fake news sites as reported by Salon, The New York Times, The Guardian, and others, or is what has been the standard bearer of a free press lost their liberalism in favor of a cushy relationship with the federal government and politicians that they are entrusted to be the peoples watch dog of?
Unfortunately, for the MSM, there is something suspect in their analysis— which they might have themselves noticed, if it wasn’t for the DC bubble— is an unsurprising bias of their own where most of their pieces reading more like op-eds. These being light on facts and heavy on speculation, generalizations, and personal opinions.
Analyzing the MSM Election Reporting
To understand the trajectory of MSM, we should look at how it has changed. Using Google News, I collected 100 articles between October 1st and November 30th for each Presidential election cycle since 2004*, and analyzed them for objectivity.
There were 82 news providing websites in the sample, of which the top 10 had the more than half (58%) of the sample of articles. Even though this was a random sample pulled using keywords and specific dates, 36% of the articles were from two sources, The New York Times and CNN. Both have been considered objective and non-bias by many (Figure 1)
When we think about the news, we often think about it in terms of factual based stories that have an impact on our lives. This was what made local and regional media important and powerful even if there was still a perceivable liberal bias. Since 2004, what would be considered non-bias objective reporting without the writer’s opinions, or the use of has politically charged attack words, has changed from a sharp decline in neutrality in favor of Republicans between the 2004 and 2008 elections, then rebounding from 2008- 2016. Reporting on Democrat candidates has done the inverse (Figure 2)
With the drop in objective journalism and the rise in the internet and addition of more and more voices, it’s alarming how positive stories about Democrat candidates are predominate in so called objective news sites. (Figure 3) Over the period 2004-2016, there was on average three times more positive pieces per Democrat presidential candidate, than their Republican counterpart. Even President George W. Bush, had less positive media (17%-37%) than John Kerry, whom he defeated. The significant change was when President Obama ran and won in 2008 with a 26:5 ratio of positive to negative stories, and 48% neutral. John McCain in contrast held on to a 50% neutral reporting – I suspect partly because of his military service, Prisoner of War status and Many years of serving in the Senate.
An interesting thing to note, in 2008 most of the stories from this cycle were directed at the female Vice-Presidential Candidate, Sarah Palin (Figure 4). Fifty-five percent of the stories about her were negative. A Fox News Producer in 2008 remarked about the GOP’s Vice President choice, Sarah Palin, “They put a woman on the ticket to show how ‘diverse’ they are.” Fast forward to 2016, and any criticism of a woman is sexism, funny how that works.
Though she worked for Fox News, which has had a reputation of being ultra-bias against liberal and progressive ideologies, 80% of Fox New writers at one point were registered Democrats, and News Corp, Fox News’s parent Company donated more to Democrats than Republicans in the 2012 election cycle.
Negative stories (Figure 5) have not slowed down since, President-Elect Donald Trump experiencing the most: 45 articles, 62% of the sample negatively portraying him. Even still, with the abysmal “reporting” on him, and the few, articles dedicated to making Hillary Clinton appear to have already won the election like Politico’s piece on “Hillary’s West Wing,” , Democrats still lost. This was similar to the neck and neck race between John Kerry and George Bush, where the Washington Post was fantasizing about Kerry’s cabinet.
If the Media Has a Bias, What does that Say about the Reporting?
Since the election of President Elect Trump, and the backlash of protest, riots, rise in crime including cop ambushes, use of emotionally charged rhetoric, cries for recounts, dissolving of the Electoral College, claims of fraud, business conflicts of interest, white supremacy, and a cabal of rogue “Fake News” sites that disproportionately helped Mr. Trump by smearing Hillary Clinton with untrue or bias stories have been on repeat for the last three weeks.
The “fake News” and website stories seem to be the most egregiously written, with a couple of lists from sites like Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and Buzzfeed who claimed to do an “analysis” of fake news.
The problem with these lists and “analysis” is the lack of credibility they have given their addition of largely conservative or libertarian leaning publications, and ignoring progressive sites like Americans Against the Tea Party, Everyday Feminism, Daily Dot, Think Progress and other polarized and biased publications. Another notable issue within the MSM is geographic differences. Washington, DC has the 12 times the number of journalist and reporters than the rest of the nation.
At the same time, these reporters also benefit from a higher average salary— 20% higher than New York, 39% higher than California, 43% higher than Florida and 50% more than Texas. Glancing at the map (Figure 6), you can see that historically red states have lower population of journalists per capita than their blue counterparts with few exceptions.
Though there are likely many explanations to the high concentration of journalist in the District, one thing that cannot be overlooked is the correlation between the Democrat or left leaning slant in reporting, astronomical number of journalists and the District. In the most recent 2016 presidential election 92.8% of the District of Columbia voted for Hillary Clinton.
If we are to listen and believe….
If we are to listen and believe everything that is being told to us by the MSM, Hillary Clinton would be the current President-Elect. But since that is not how this shook out, the only logical explanation is that many red flags were missed along the way by those tasked with informing us. These same people now demand we listen and believe their version of the events from the last month, that United States is a hopeless, cesspool of racist bigotry, humiliating sexism, oppressive homophobia, and blasphemous islamophobia.
Unfortunately for them, this isn’t a narrative that will have a long or productive shelf life. Eventually, like we saw when other areas of journalism were taken over by radical progressive agenda making, consumers do eventually fight back, and sloppy work that slanders people, and destroys lives eventually causes lawsuits and destruction of their bully pulpit. Gawker and Rolling Stone are prime examples, with Reddit’s current CEO having caused a case for a class action lawsuit against the social media platform and Buzzfeed ready to jump on that bandwagon as well.
If nothing else, this will prove for an exciting year if those of us who have been frustrated by condescending Washington, DC types who’s experience with other cultures is either from their Machu Picchu vacation or the new hipster- local grown, vegan, bacon bar that they read about in Popville.