Goldberg on media bias

by Russ Roberts on August 2, 2011

in Media

Jonah Goldberg loses it. It’s a rant. But he’s right. Most of the media has a double standard. It’s weird to have to point it out. But they don’t see it so it doesn’t hurt from time to time.

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Greg Ransom August 2, 2011 at 4:16 pm

At this point it is serious denial to think that they don’t see it and don’t know what they are doing.

And there is overwhelming evidence of many kinds that they do know what they are doing and do see it.

I.e. when journalists “retire” they routinely “come out of the closet” and confess their ideological and political leanings, e.g. Walter Cronkite.

More and more of them are openly confessing that they know there are almost no conservatives around them — and they confess that those who are conservative tell those close to them how they fear exposure among their peers (there was a NY Times blog post on this just this week).

So, the jig is up. The incentives for MSM folks to BS everyone on all this remain powerful.

Chucklehead August 2, 2011 at 4:20 pm

Demonizing the messenger, to discredit the message, has always worked in DC, The City of Excuses.

Ike August 2, 2011 at 4:36 pm

The bias is actually the consequence of location and selection bias.

It just so happens that twin hubs of media, where the real agendae are set, are New York and DC. Two of the most liberal cities in the United States.

Aspiring journalists who want to make it big often end up making a choice — do I really *want* to live in either of those places?

Many opt out of the network/Times/Post track, because they’d be happier somewhere else. Which means there is a much greater representation of liberal-leaning journalists who end up applying for and working for those outlets.

Once concentrated, you get the mythical Pauline Kael effect, where “No one I know voted for him.”

(Mythical, because she never said it. Even if she could have.)

Dr. T August 2, 2011 at 7:30 pm

“The bias is actually the consequence of location and selection bias.”

I disagree. Travel to cities around the country, including those in “fly-over” regions. Read their local newspapers and watch their local TV new shows. If at least 75% of those media don’t show liberal bias, I’ll be shocked. I lived in Omaha (a city with an almost even mix of Democrats and Republicans) in the 1990s and noticed significant liberal bias among its media. I currently live near Memphis, and the liberal bias of its media is as bad as in NYC. The bias is widespread. It is not confined to the coasts.

Ike August 2, 2011 at 9:57 pm

Doc — I worked in the media for 16 years, TV news.

Your sample size is rather small, but the media in Flyover Country is far more balanced across the board than those setting the agenda.

Scott A. Robinson August 2, 2011 at 4:49 pm

That was one of the most fantastic things I have ever read. Bravo!

kyle8 August 2, 2011 at 4:53 pm

A related, clear case of media bias is that the main stream media often repeat the charge that Obama is somehow being treated differently, and in a more hostile fashion to previous presidents.

This is a case of selective memory as they conveniently forget the eight year hate-fest aimed at G W Bush. (Much of it deserved). He was attacked in the most vile and viscous way by prominent members of the media, and the Democratic party. Hell, they even put on a play about assassinating him.

Stephan August 2, 2011 at 4:54 pm

Talking about bias. The National Review Online ;-)

Tim August 2, 2011 at 5:22 pm

Yes…and let’s not forget about Fox. There is bias in the media sure. But with the rise of Fox, consumers can choose their flavor. It’s time to realize that the media is out to make money, not report the truth. They are no fourth estate. As long as Fox is around, I tire of people ranting about liberal bias. BOTH liberal and conservative bias exist….period.

Stephan August 2, 2011 at 5:37 pm

Agreed. And as long as radical right-wing pundits (we shouldn’t name any pundit an economists should we?) like Russ Roberts are around there is bias in economics.

Emil August 2, 2011 at 5:50 pm

there is bias in everything all the time.

Sam Grove August 2, 2011 at 7:04 pm

Oh, Christ, AFI.

yet another Dave August 2, 2011 at 7:15 pm

You’re way too kind, Sam.

MWG August 2, 2011 at 7:07 pm

What makes Russ Roberts a right-wing pundit? His pro open borders stance? Perhaps it’s his arguments in favor of ending the drug war and legalizing prostitution.

Seriously, you’re delusional.

Krishnan August 2, 2011 at 7:11 pm

Russ Roberts “radical right-wing”? Wow – there is a first for everything … Have you listened to any of the econtaks? Have you listened to him argue patiently with Keynesians? Yes, Roberts does advance the idea of free markets and free peoples as the best way for countries/nations, peoples to get better … He does that by providing data (and his analysis) and providing much historical context … Yes, you can say that he is “biased” towards the idea that free markets and free peoples are indeed better than other alternatives and provides ample evidence to support his theories/hypotheses …

I would strongly recommend you read “Choice” – yes, I imagine you would think that is “biased” for technology and free trade and the growth of economies through technological advancement … so, never mind … Forget about it … You are drawing equivalence between “biases” without explaining how for example Russ Roberts is like Paul Krugman (or whoever you choose to select from the “extreme-left”) (Unless you believe that there is no extreme-left and only the “right” can be extreme and the “left” is the sensible side)

Stephan August 2, 2011 at 7:25 pm

Folks. A good idea for a start is always to put things in a proper perspective. From my radical left-wing angle Russ Roberts (and YES I do not hate John Maynard and I also do not obsess about him like RR) is a radical right-wing nut-head. No mystery here.

ArrowSmith August 3, 2011 at 2:07 am

Mere projection. The one accusing others of radicalism are often the most radical themselves.

yet another Dave August 2, 2011 at 7:25 pm

Unlike the left-MSM, Fox news channel doesn’t pretend to be unbiased – their byline is “fair and balanced.” From my limited sampling they do present a wider variety of biases than the left MSM, but statists still dominate.

yet another Dave August 2, 2011 at 7:06 pm

NRO is an opinion journal – they don’t pretend to be unbiased like the left leaning MSM.

Greg Ransom August 2, 2011 at 4:59 pm

The history of American journalism is largely the history of partisans getting a printing press and using it for partisan purposes.

This really never stopped happening, as H. L. Mencken testifies in the 1930s, and as anyone with a pulse knows from reading the NY Times over the decades — as it carried water for Stalin, Castro, and others — against conservatives and Republicans since time began.

PrometheeFeu August 2, 2011 at 5:07 pm

I think it’s worth pointing out that outside of coups, those who try to kill public figures are just nuts with little to no political agenda. The political rhetoric just means that they shoot politicians instead of some random person on the street.

Slappy McFee August 2, 2011 at 5:16 pm

I gave up trying to convince those around me about the bias of media when I started wondering what an un-biased news source would look like. Now I spend more time getting people to turn off their news sources and just go outside once in a while. I found its a much better use of my time.

Tim August 2, 2011 at 5:26 pm

Amen. Cable news is garbage….all of it. MSNBC, CNN, Fox (note the directional alignment)….all garbage!

Dave P August 2, 2011 at 5:27 pm

While I feel like statements like “liberal media bias” are extremely vague and hard to measure, I will say it seemed like the news in general was dying to declare us “in a depression” under Bush, but under Obama is pushing to idea of a “recovery” against all evidence.
Of course I think the idea of objectivity in journalism has done more harm than good. I’d rather journalists disclose their biases so that people don’t try to read biases into them.

Chucklehead August 2, 2011 at 6:03 pm

The bias is revealed by the questions not asked, much like unseen opportunity costs.

Ken August 2, 2011 at 6:09 pm


This is too true. The main question I use to show people’s bias is the following:

Gun control laws:
1) Eliminates all violent crime.
2) Eliminates most violent crime.
3) Eliminates some violent crime.
4) Has not effect on violent crime.

Most people I ask see absolutely no bias whatsoever in this question. But the way it’s asked is incredibly biased.


Dave P August 3, 2011 at 12:05 pm

How do you ask questions to incorporate all views? There are serious logistical problems with answering this question and pretending that there’s some abstract concept of objectivity that reporters should strive for just clouds the matter.
I’d much rather they strive for intellectual honesty than objectivity.

Krishnan August 2, 2011 at 5:29 pm

Some people cannot be reasoned with. No matter what the others do, these “progressives” will do whatever they want to do. Media Bias is a given. It will get worse in 2012 – Amazing that inspite of (perhaps because of?) the bias, the Democrats took a whipping across the country – local, state, national (House) elections.

So, perhaps they ought to start calling Bush Nazi (wait, they did that already) and Boehner as Mussolini or whatever and ofcourse Rubio and Ryan as Hezbollah enablers … It will not change.

Those that are adults in the country and care about this country ought to find a way to save us (and so them also) … even as they will be fought every step of the way.

vikingvista August 2, 2011 at 5:36 pm

It’s been so long since I’ve paid any attention to mainstream media outlets that I wouldn’t know if Goldberg is right or not. To me the MSM is kind of like the murdiot–I can’t help but notice it in passing, but I don’t really stop to look.

Krishnan August 2, 2011 at 5:49 pm

The problem is the impact it has on non-thinking idiots who think that taxes should go up because of “fairness” and that they have a right to anything they say they have a right to – and that they have a right to you and your ability to create/work … Given the one person, one vote – and given the incentives given to those that do not work but keep demanding more “rights”, it is getting worse because the MSM feeds the hysteria …

Islamic Terrorists cannot be called Terrorists, but those that demand a balanced budget OR that we stay within our means are TERRORISTS … And yea, a fairly significant fraction of people believe that fiscal conservatives are indeed terrorists … Nancy Pelosi’s aim in life is to save the world from terrorists – from those that demand that we stop adding to our debt …

“WE SHOULD PAY OUR BILLS” they say – Without telling the country that THEY simply RAN UP THE BILLS – EXPECTING SOMEONE ELSE (i.e. the “rich”) to pay …

I have to keep reminding myself that I am in the US of A – a country much admired for decades – as having a can do attitude, a country that led by example, innovation … I hope I am where I think I am

Kirby August 2, 2011 at 6:02 pm

But idiots are idiots. To me, the only way to fix it is to deny anybody who doesn’t know what the first amendment is, what the two party’s stances are on issues, and how many states are in the Union, the right to vote.

Ken August 2, 2011 at 6:02 pm

I particularly like that all the bad economic news we’ve been getting over the last few years, since Obama became president, is all “unexpected”.


Ken August 2, 2011 at 6:01 pm

I’m pretty much in the same boat. I haven’t watched any news program in a long time. The people on TV talk a lot, but really don’t have much to say.

However, I do love that anyone who gets their cackles up (Stephen, Tim, Emil…) about the mention of left wing media bias counter with Fox news. If out of all the big cable news networks and newspapers, you can only site a single source that has a conservative bias and claim that MSM isn’t biased or it’s okay to have dozens of channels and newspapers with a left wing bias because there exists one, ONE, channel that has a conservative bias, then maybe you should question what bias you have.


J. W. August 2, 2011 at 8:03 pm

“However, I do love that anyone who gets their cackles up (Stephen, Tim, Emil…) about the mention of left wing media bias counter with Fox news.”

I appreciate this too. Before Fox News, people could always respond, “What bias? What are you going on about?” Now everyone clearly assumes bias in news reporting, and the conversation turns to how much bias there is, and where, and in what direction.

Tim August 2, 2011 at 10:50 pm

Um…no Ken. It’s not about the number of outlets here….but let me humor you. According to a Nielsen snapshot, daily viewership among those ages 2 and older at Fox News was more than MSNBC and CNN combined. So really, it’s you who should be weighting Fox much heavier than the others, which coincidentally, sounds like support for my original proposition…….there is bias in the media, just pick your flavor.

Honestly, it’s a great example of markets at work. So thanks, but but no thanks. I don’t need to reexamine my biases any more than you do.

Ken August 2, 2011 at 11:01 pm

So, you’re just going to rule out ABC, NBC, CBS, The New York Time, The LA Times, The Washington Post, etc?

Cherry pick much?


Tim August 3, 2011 at 12:27 am

Not at all Ken……I just didn’t care to waste more time hunting for figures.

Look man, I get it, you’re loath to admit that there could be, just may be, conservative bias alongside liberal bias. I don’t pretend to know (or care) why you think this. The whole point is the shabby quality of news overall. I find bias from both sides in the media and base my news consumption around this. You’re free to do as you please….

Ken August 3, 2011 at 12:34 am


Look, man, I get it. You’re loathe to admit that the legacy media and mainstream media have been for decades and still are dominated by leftists. I get it. You want to demonstrate a conservative bias exists “along side” the lefty bias in the mainstream media and give a single data point out of how many mainstream media outlets?

Of course, you’re free to do as you please, even if that includes putting your fingers in your ears yelling LALALALALALALA…


Tim August 3, 2011 at 12:17 pm

Ken Ken Ken,

If you can’t see that what I’m doing is exactly the opposite of putting my fingers in my ears, then really, you are holding on to some terrible biases yourself. It is evident in most of the things you post actually. If someone doesn’t line up with you 100%, then somewhere deep down they’re commie liberals. So fine, it’s not worth my time to keep pointing out to you that I (and apparently others) see bias across the major media outlets. You’re obviously fine with a bias that confirms your own priors and, as I’ve also said before, that’s your business. Cheers.

Kirby August 2, 2011 at 5:56 pm

When somebody can go into a rant by making his post 75% quote and 25% actual talking, who does this shine light on?

Jaye Bass August 2, 2011 at 5:59 pm

Jonah is of course correct. The core issue is, imo, that the MSM will not publicly admit that they have a bias. No one doubts or is surprised that National Review has a conservative bias. They don’t try to hide it. Now if NBC, CBS, ABC, etc. would just admit to this center right nation that they are left of center then I would be ok with that. Pretending to be objective when they are actually severely bias is the problem. Their effect on public opinion would be diminished with such an admission.

Tim August 3, 2011 at 12:30 am

Agreed. They should all just adopt a brand. Those three as you suggest, MSNBC as far left, Fox as far right….and consumers can make informed decisions about which to watch.

Frank33328 August 2, 2011 at 6:56 pm

To be fair, or perhaps just understanding, there is a level of bias beyond which you no longer see it as bias. (For example, is my belief in gravity bias or just an acceptance of reality?) Those who populate that media have reached and exceeded that level.

Stone Glasgow August 2, 2011 at 7:37 pm

The bias in mainstream films is equally disturbing. I can get my news from the internet but movies and TV are routinely so biased that they are unwatchable.

John Sullivan August 2, 2011 at 7:39 pm

In presenting political news or history, explanations are usually desired along with the usual description of events. It is when the explanation for things is not certain that opinions are offered. If no explanation for events were given, or speculated upon, few would pay attention. For example, who would watch news about riots in Greece without a commentary as to why they were happening? Is every news outlet to be coerced into providing multiple explanations to suit the requirements of objectivity–hell no.

One simply should seek the news sources whose explanation of events they feel comfortable with.

There is no market for objective political news stories. There never was. What they teach in journalism schools about objective reporting is hogwash. People are incapable of even thinking objectively. All our thoughts are shaped by our beliefs.

muirgeo August 2, 2011 at 7:48 pm

The facts DO have a definite liberal bias.

MWG August 2, 2011 at 8:37 pm

That was a dumb comment, but you deserve credit for keeping the bullshit to 1 sentence.

Ken August 2, 2011 at 9:43 pm

Like the stimulus will definitely keep unemployment under 8%?

Marwood August 2, 2011 at 7:53 pm

The author says “Most of the media has a double standard”. I’d be interested which parts he considers free from this.

brotio August 2, 2011 at 8:24 pm

Mike Rosen, of KOA radio in Denver has coined the term Dominant, Liberal, Establishment Mass-media to characterize ABC, CBS, NBC (and all of its cable subsidiaries), AP, NY Slimes, Washington comPost, et al. The term doesn’t flow as easily MSM, but MSM insinuates that these organizations represent the mainstream of America, rather than the Left, liberal, regressives of America that they do, in fact, represent.

Mainstream media is an inaccurate term to describe these “news” organizations. If someone can come up with a term that is more catchy, but still as accurate as Rosen’s, I’m sure he’d love to hear it.

LAD August 2, 2011 at 8:37 pm

Jonah’s article isn’t about bias as much as it’s about defamation. Bias is when the media questions Obama for not taxing enough rather than spending too much. Defamation is when the media tries to link Republicans with mass murderers. The media needs to do a better job of policing its own. Jonah and Russ are doing the right thing — others should follow.

Denno August 2, 2011 at 10:08 pm

I have always found television news to be insulting, regardless of the bias. However, it does disturb me greatly that the media (both right and left) seem to be intent on exacerbating class struggle. Questions such as, “Are the rich paying their fair share?” Or “Would less regulation help the rich to create jobs?” Obviously, less regulation can help everyone become entrepreneurial, no matter what their social status is.

James Hanley August 2, 2011 at 11:46 pm

Yes, much of the media has a liberal bias. Generally a rather soft, just left of middle, bias.

Then there’s Fox News, the most popular cable news network, and talk radio, with a degree of bias that no liberal-leaning news outlet can even begin to imagine achieving.

Yes, nearly all the media sucks. Because it’s a business that gives us what we want, and what “we” want, apparently is shallow indulgence of our biases. But ranting about how horribly biased Andrea Mitchell is when Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck are still part of the American media?

Sorry, I just can’t take Goldberg seriously (and by the way, he is, in case anyone hasn’t notice, slightly ideologically biased himself).

brotio August 3, 2011 at 1:59 pm


As others have pointed out, Rush, Hannity, O’Reilly, and Beck do not claim to be objective, unbiased journalists (nor does Jonah Goldberg, for that matter). Those people openly admit that they are presenting their opinions. Andrea Mitchell, Dan Rather, Walter Cronkite, Brian Williams, Katie Couric, and Wolf Blitzer do pretend to be objective, and that they are presenting unbiased news.

Chucklehead August 3, 2011 at 1:06 am

While we on the subject of media bias, for a laugh check out :
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ArrowSmith August 3, 2011 at 2:02 am

I don’t pay much attention to the MSM anymore. I follow Jonah Goldberg and Cafe Hayek for my economic analysis.

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