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Lies the media tells

Ronald Reagan made the poor poorer.

There are two things wrong with this statement.  First, it is blatantly false, and second, it is widely believed to be true. Why?

As Bernard Goldberg illustrates in his bestselling book Bias, the main culprit in the dissemination of so many of the outright falsehoods we hold as truths is the biased mainstream media.

Before you write me off, understand that my position differs from those of many conservatives who allege media bias. Like Goldberg, I do not hold that a conspiracy exists. My argument is not that the media plots to get Democrats elected. I simply believe that it cannot be trusted for two different and important reasons: It is liberal, and its primary objective is profit.

Let's examine my first accusation, that the mainstream media--network news stations, magazines such as Time and Newsweek, and newspapers like The New York Times--is liberal. This accusation is so self-evident that it's not worth discussion. What is perhaps debatable is that this makes the media untrustworthy.

As the ballots were being recounted after the 2000 election, I was amazed that completely nonpartisan issues having to do with vote counting divided people right down party lines. I learned that politics is so personal and important that in many cases, it is impossible for one to objectively analyze a conflict while so emotionally tied to one of its sides.

This principle applies to the media, which is so outrageously liberal that it usually cannot be trusted to objectively report the news.

It is next to impossible for Dan Rather, who has spoken at a Democratic fundraiser, to objectively tell us about the impact affirmative action has had on our society.  When Rather said that Bill Clinton was "an honest man," he meant it. When he told Goldberg that The New York Times was "middle of the road," he meant it. 

A good example of the media's bias involves its identification of racists. It seem to have an unwritten rule that if an individual shows him or herself to be racist, then he or she will never again be taken seriously. I have no problem with this. People and institutions such as John Rocker, Fuzzy Zoeller, David Duke, and Bob Jones University will never again be paid lip service because they have shown themselves to be racists.

I only wish the media would apply this standard to all racists--conservative and liberal alike. Regrettably, the media takes seriously people like Spike Lee, who bragged about giving dirty looks to interracial couples and lied about watching Liz Claiborne make racist comments on Oprah. We hear from Jesse Jackson, who called Jews "hymies" and New York City "Hymietown." Robert Byrd, a former Ku Klux Klan member who used the n-word on television last year, also gets respect. That racists are demonized unless they are liberal activists shows that the liberal media cannot be trusted to be accurate.

Now to the accusation that the media's main concern is profit. I don't mean it as criticism. My point is just that viewers should recognize that, except in rare cases such as Sept. 11, the stories they see are designed to garner ratings. If this goal conflicts with accuracy, then it often supercedes it.

Take the 2000 presidential primaries. The media could have accurately reported that Bush and Al Gore were virtual locks for their parties' nominations. But would this have made a sensational story?  No, so the media inaccurately hyped up Bill Bradley and John McCain as major threats.

And why do we view HIV as a legitimate danger to most Americans when nearly all American victims contracted it through very high-risk behavior? For the same reason that the homeless are depicted as regular Americans who were just victims of our brutal capitalist system, because viewers are more likely to watch stories about the problems of people like themselves. These examples affirm what common sense tells us. A business whose goal is to make money is not the most objective source for information.

The media's biggest problem lies not with how it reports the news but with how it claims to be reporting it. Even though it consists of liberals driven by ratings, it claims to be an unbiased truthteller.

Remember this the next time you hear a story about why the minimum wage helps people.

Nathan Carleton is a Trinity sophomore. His column appears every other Friday.

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