Media bias fuels national polarization

Dan Lucas_July 2012_BW

by Dan Lucas

One of the factors in the popularity of Donald Trump is how he thumbs his nose at the media and their various narratives, political correctness and sacred cows. It taps into an ever-present frustration that conservatives have.

It’s been said of the great film dancer Fred Astaire “Sure he was great, but don’t forget Ginger Rogers did everything he did backwards…and in high heels!” That’s the way it is for Republican politicians and elected officials. They have to do everything that Democrats do, but also do it in a way that can’t be spun, distorted or misrepresented by a very biased media.

It results in things like the recent federal budget deal, where frustrated conservatives are already calling for the head of Wisconsin GOP Rep. Paul Ryan. Ryan only recently and reluctantly accepted the thankless job of congressional house speaker. Although Republicans now control both the House and Senate in Congress, they still are constrained with both how President Obama will react and with how President Obama will spin what happens.

That spin is a much bigger factor than it should be because of how it would be presented to the American public by the media. The vast majority of the media would support, push and sell Obama’s framing of the issue and his narrative, and Republicans would be blamed.

To have avoided a ‘government shutdown’, which would have only affected services not considered ‘essential’ anyway, senate Democrats could have simply agreed not to filibuster the budget and President Obama could have simply agreed to a reduction in the growth of spending. He could have agreed to slow the pace that we tax people who aren’t old enough to vote yet through deficit spending. Our national debt is already almost 19 trillion dollars – about $157,000 per taxpayer.

Everything Republicans say and do is presented through a distorted filter to the American public. By selective reporting, underreporting, over reporting, framing and biased use of terminology, the media constantly push a narrative for candidates and politicians they favor.

Here is just a tiny sampling of media bias – a bias that certainly doesn’t favor conservatives.

Remember back when George W. Bush was president and all we ever heard and saw on the news was how many Americans were being killed in Afghanistan and Iraq? Did you know nearly three times as many U.S. troops have died in Afghanistan under President Obama as under President Bush? Why isn’t that reported all the time?

Remember the constant outrage over waterboarding? Only 3 terror suspects were ever waterboarded1. Where’s the constant outrage over President Obama’s killing of terrorists and civilians with drone strikes? Back in 2013, the New York Times reported “Since Mr. Obama took office, the C.I.A. and military have killed about 3,000 people in counterterrorist strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, mostly using drones.” That’s 3,000 killed just for those three countries. So for the media, it’s OK to kill suspected terrorists and their families and neighbors, but for goodness sake don’t pour water on a towel that’s covering their face?

And for an example closer to home, here in Oregon the media has been in a frenzy reporting on the ‘armed militia’ near Burns. They have even been wringing their hands over whether to call them militia or militants. If this were a story that fit the liberal narrative, they’d be ‘protesters.’ So far, these are people who haven’t thrown rocks or bricks at law enforcement, haven’t burned any buildings and haven’t looted any stores. Well, the difference is the ‘militia’ in Burns is armed you say? Apparently the ‘protesters’ in Ferguson were armed too! USA Today reported “Police and firefighters also had to contend with more than 150 gunshots fired as Ferguson burned Monday night.” So not only were the ‘protesters’ in Ferguson armed, but they were discharging their firearms as well! Can you imagine if that happened in Burns?

The vast majority of Americans still get most of their news from the ‘mainstream media.’ Because it is so biased, it drives conservatives to alternate forms of news like talk radio and the Internet. To gain audience share, those sources tend to take strident and polarizing stances.

What we really need is a media that limits its opinions to the opinion pages, and that actually just reports the news in an unbiased fashion. I think they may believe they do that now, but I would ask them to please do some serious self-examination.

Members of the media, you are greatly contributing to the polarization in this country.

1Note: The Washington Post said in 2014 that a partisan U.S. Senate “report alludes to evidence that [waterboarding] may have been used on others.”

To read more from Dan, visit