“It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into”

Jonathan Swift
"The Democrats have moved to the right, and the right has moved into a mental hospital." - Bill Maher
"The city is crowded my friends are away and I'm on my own
It's too hot to handle so I gotta get up and go

It's a cruel ... cruel summer"

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Press Pounds Propaganda (Again)

Those of us in the Panhandle tend to feel ourselves underserved (ok, abused) by the Amarillo Globe-Republican, and there certainly are more reliable, less biased papers out there. But the press as a whole exhibits several important biases, including a bias in favor of anything that sells advertising (i.e. "if it bleeds, it leads"), a bias in favor of their colleagues (the echo chamber) and a bias against hard work. A remarkable example of that last bias was on display last weekend during coverage of the Iraqi election.

Mostly fawning coverage, widespread among various outlets, ignored the fact that, until today, no vote counts were available, and few people even knew the names of most of the candidates. Almost all reports uncritically repeated the assertion of the somewhat self-interested Iraqi Election Commission that the turnout was about 70%, then 60%, and finally 57%, simply assuming that their sources were telling them the truth.

It is great that there was little violence on election day, though most reporters jumped to the unjustified conclusion that the insurgents had less capacity than previously.

We should all be pleased for and supportive of any people, anywhere, who are committed to building a representative government where none existed before. And certainly we should applaud the individual acts of heroism that were widely reported. But we must hold the press accountable for providing us honest information that overcomes these biases, even when that means having to admit that they just don't know. When they set such a poor example, we shouldn't be surprised when media in developing states also adopt low standards.