“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.” — Howard Beale
Beale is a fictional character. He was an anchorman in the movie “Network”. In the movie. Beale asks all of the viewers to open their windows and shout out the above refrain at the same time. Referencing a fictional character and a fruitless gesture seems oddly apropos in the moment. Naturally, you are just going to have to take my word for it.
What you are looking at above the media bias chart we teach our students. See, most people naturally just assume that media sources should only be measured by where they are on a left-right scale. The more important axis is percentage of factual content provided on these programs. The lower you are on the chart, the fewer facts that get dispensed on your network.
I’m sure you noticed that the left and right axis is pretty balanced on both sides. There are more right wing sources than left wing sources when you absolutely count them out, but it’s close enough not to make a difference. It is the factual axis that is most revealing. You’ll notice all but two left to center stay above the line that denotes selective or incomplete story information. Quite a few right leaning sources fall below that. In other words, it’s not symmetrical. Both sides do not do the same thing.
We set this in the backdrop of the latest right wing hysteria piece about DirecTV dropping Newsmax from it’s channel list. The right wing noise machine has called this censorship. Sure. If anyone leaning right accidentally stumbles onto this space I want you to listen very carefully. Censorship happens when the government stifles your ability to speak. It is not happening if your boss fires you for saying something offensive. It is not happening if a social media site blocks your commentary or decides to ban you from their site. For the love of God, it is not happening when a cable company decides not to carry your channel.
If you look carefully you can find Newsmax on the site above. It exists on the far right hand wing on the chart and is one of the least accurate. It comes somewhere between OANN and Fox News. That is terrific company. Since most commentators can’t be bothered to explain this nuanced point, I will make an attempt in case you are conservative and stumbled into this space.
All media outlets are biased in some sense. There are two kinds of bias. The first kind of bias reflects the editorial judgment of the outlet. What stories do they pump up? What stories do they bury? On this level, everyone in the mainstream media deserves all of the criticism that gets hurled their way. We amp up conflict. We amp up controversy. We amp up whatever sensationalism we can for eyeballs, clicks, and advertising dollars.
The second level of bias is the kind of bias most people think of. Are you actually telling the truth? You can see the chart above as easily as I can. There simply is no equivalency here. The notion that both sides do it is not only wrong, but it is inherently dangerous. I suppose that when someone exaggerates the importance of an issue then we can consider it a form of lying. That of course depends on how cynical you want to be.
However, take a look at your chart. MSNBC and CNN are reliable sources. They exercise a ton editorial discretion in what they choose to focus on, but they generally report facts. OANN, Newsmax, and Fox News do not. I don’t subscribe to DirecTV. They can allow any channel they want and they can cut any channel they want. It’s called capitalism. Maybe conservatives can give it a try.