Nathan Robinson: Media bias is OK – if it’s honest

Conservatives are more open to leftwing arguments when they come from people who don’t pretend to be perfectly objective

Most people distrust the media, and most people are right. It’s healthy to question what you’re being told – that’s the mark of an intelligent and independent populace. And the media in the United States are, in fact, “biased” in many ways. Not always toward the left or right, but frequently toward reaffirming the worldview of an insular establishment, as Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky pointed out years ago in Manufacturing Consent.

It should be obvious that there can’t be such a thing as a neutral journalist. We all have moral instincts and points of view. Those points of view will color our interpretations of the facts. The best course of action is to acknowledge where we’re coming from. If we show an awareness of our own political leanings, it actually makes us more trustworthy than if we’re in denial about them.

Two recent controversies show how supposedly neutral journalists deny their biases. The Washington Posts factchecker gave Bernie Sanders a “mostly false” rating for claiming that there are half a million medical-related bankruptcies a year. It was quite obvious that Sanders was relying on published research, and the claim was not in fact “mostly false”. But the Posthas a history of these sorts of fact-free “factchecks” – when Sanders claimed that “millions of Americans” work multiple jobs, Glenn Kessler labeled the statement “misleading”, even though it was completely true. Ryan Grim has compiled a list of the appalling record of the Post’sunfair attacks on claims from the political left. Whatever this is, it isn’t factchecking.

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