Recently I called a local radio talk show, not to blast President Barack Obama or ridicule Mitt Romney but to chide the conservative host and his conservative guest for their tiresome narrative about liberal bias in the "mainstream media.'" They directed me to unspecified recent studies by the Pew Research Center, a widely respected non-partisan social science and polling group that they said supported their perception of liberal media bias.
The most recent Pew study does suggest that, by a large margin, the public perceives that there is bias in the media. But it doesn't address the question of which way the bias leans. Conservatives have traditionally co-opted and revised whatever research supports their us-against-the world victim mentality. They will insist that the bias direction is obvious. Liberals will similarly cherry-pick and massage the data to create their own narrative.
So which argument has the grain of truth to support it? While it is hardly the last word on the subject, another recent Pew study found that "an examination of the dominant or master narratives in the press about the character and record of presidential contenders finds that 72 percent of this coverage has been negative for Barack Obama and 71 percent has been negative for Mitt Romney."
While there may be other studies that support contrary arguments, especially those conducted by conservative and liberal think tanks, this one finds that at least in the current presidential campaign there is no noticeable liberal bias in the media.
Today, conservatives virtually own the radio airwaves where round-the-clock daily bashing of Mr. Obama is easily the most powerful marketing entity in the Republican Party toolbox. The right is also supported by the highly rated Fox TV network and the Fox News cable channel. In the print arena, newspapers like The Wall Street Journal, New York Post and Washington Times have an editorially conservative bent to them, although it is mostly conceded that liberal newspapers clearly outnumber their counterparts.
Despite much evidence to the contrary, conservatives continue their tired victimization diatribe simply because it suits their purposes. But it only proves what has historically been an important indoctrination tool for authoritarian political regimes: Tell a lie often enough and loudly enough, and eventually people will accept it as the truth.
Art Lapenotiere, Westminster