Book reviews

Tim Groseclose’s Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind (St. Martin’s Press, 2011)

Readable, often humorous, and thoroughly documented, a masterly work on contemporary media bias.

Both conservatives and liberals know that the media is biased, and Groseclose’s masterly analysis brings an Economics professor’s reasoning and documentation to the issue.

Moreover, pro-life activists can use his ideas not only to understand, but also to fight against journalists’ pervasive and (as we now see in every White House press briefing) aggressive liberal attacks.  Every pro-lifer should master Groseclose’s concepts of “PQ” (political quotient), which is the degree to which someone is liberal (viii) and “SQ” (slant quotient), the liberal bias of major news outlets (16).  Chapter 14, “The Language of Journalists and the Special Case of Partial-Birth Abortion”, ([161]-168), should be required reading for every student in a pro-life or journalism course for its analysis of liberal linguistic bias against the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003.

Some ideas in the volume have withstood the test of time and are incontestable, such as the following:

The media is liberal [vii]: check.

Leftist professors often write, as every student knows, not scholarly material but psychobabble (4): check.

The logical fallacy of circular thinking, what Groseclose calls the “Fundamental Trap”, contributes to media bias (19): check.

Liberal journalists often fail to distinguish between normative questions (questions of what should be) vs. positive questions, “what logic or nature has determined is true or untrue” (27): check.

“Distortion theory” is evident in journalism since “journalists are more likely to report facts and statistics that liberals want you to learn and less likely to report facts and statistics that conservatives want you to learn” (68): check.

Diversity in major news outlets does not include political viewpoints (101): check.

Journalists were 90% more likely to donate to Democrats and liberal causes instead of Republicans (106): check.

Professors are (surprise!) 5:1 Democrat (112): check.

The Washington Post was guilty of extreme bias in its flaccid coverage of the 1990 Rally for Life (121-122): check.

Journalists pick experts who agree with them (152): check.

Media bias helps Democratic candidates 8-10% (245): check.

Other ideas in Groseclose’s work are almost prophetic.  The “vast army of nonvoters are more conservative than voters” (52; italics in original) may account for President Trump’s miraculous 2016 victory.  He suggests the possibility of a conservative shift in voters later in the volume ([241]).

Some ideas in Groseclose’s work need further research, and I hope he will produce work which addresses the following two questions.

First, only 14% of survey participants cited the internet as a source for news (195).  Certainly, that must have changed radically in the past nine years.  For example, I stopped reading hardcopy newspapers decades ago, and, like my students, rely more on Twitter than websites for immediate news.

Second, who needs the media?  “Media”, a Latin term, implies someone who is between information being transmitted from a sender (for example, an elected official) to a receiver (an ordinary citizen).  Who needs the liberal White House Press Corps, asking repetitive, if not stupid, gotcha questions when we can watch President Trump on Facebook directly or read his direct tweets to us?

Fortunately, not all is lost with the liberal media.  Groseclose offers some strategies to end journalists’ claims that they are unbiased, two of which are worth repeating here.  “First, we should stop believing the fiction ‘I report the news as it is.  My political opinions do not influence how I report it’ [….]  Second, we should reward news outlets that are transparent about the personal opinions of the journalists” (254; italics in original).

These tactics would surely put liberal media (like CNN, MSNBC, and, increasingly, Fox) and liberal social media monopolies (Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube) on notice.

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