Atlantic Monthly runs an article on John McCain. A photographer, Jill Greenberg, takes pictures of McCain for the piece. She deliberately takes awful photographs, using her skill as a professional to make the senator look as offensive as possible. Charlie Gibson, given the chance to help Americans to get to know the most interesting political figure in decades, uses that opportunity to score cheap political points to demean her instead. These are two perfect examples of the Leftist bias of the media.
But what is it, really, that offends us so much about this bias? There is nothing wrong with having an opinion or incorporating that into coverage of events. We should not apologize for the bias of Christian television stations or Rush Limbaugh. American journalism has historically been biased, but there is a profound difference between the expressed beliefs of opinionated Americans and the creepy bias of the Leftist media. Once, when newspapers were the main source of news in America, many newspapers had partisan names like the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette or the Pottsville Republican. That was fine.
What bothers us about bias in the mainstream media is that the Left lies about its bias. It pretends to be an objective collegial body of neutral professionals. It conceals its opinions and pretends instead to be an honest umpire of the facts. It tries to trick us.
That was what was so very wrong about the Jill Greenberg photo sessions with Senator McCain. Ms. Greenberg pretended to be a genuine professional who would have used the camera in the same way for McCain or Obama. Instead, she used her position as an unbiased professional to fool McCain into trusting her. Then she betrayed that trust.
It is when the Leftist media pretends to be accurate, balanced, and objective that we feel outraged. Clinton taught us how politicians look right into the camera and lie, but we saw that in the Leftist media long ago. Pubic opinion polls routinely show that Americans believe that the media is too liberal. These polls show that Republicans and Independents trust the media much less than Democrats. Even Obama supporters believe that the media is out to get Sarah Palin. How, then, can an honest person look at the American people and say with a straight face that the media is not slanted to the Left? An honest person cannot, but this is precisely what Leftists do all the time: They pretend that conservative complaints about the tilt of network news, national newspapers, and weekly magazines are nutty, even when the Left knows that the bias is real.
The Left does not want to argue honestly or to win fights fairly. Leftists believe that the end justifies the means. If that means pretending to be neutral when in fact you have a distinct political agenda, that is fine (as long as you win.) The Left does not believe in honest umpires. Leftists view those umpires of our society as simply players in the grand game of ideological war.
News anchors and reporters are presented to America as objective referees of information. Healthy societies need good umpires. We expect public school teachers, psychologists, heads of nonprofit organizations, professors, and other types of referees to not have a common political agenda. We expect these societal referees to put their biases aside, to forget their party label, and to look at us as individuals. We do not expect them to abuse our trust.
Leftism, however, has politicized every aspect of human existence. The media is just one slice of our life in which ideological partisans pretend to be good umpires. Public education has become a tool for instilling "correct" value systems. The legal profession, led by the American Bar Association and purely political judges, now has policy goals, rather than process goals like justice. We no longer have systems regulated by the integrity of umpires -- reporters, teachers, judges, etc. -- because the Left has consciously striven to turn all umpires into advocates.
This is because the Left is, at its core, utterly totalitarian. It is pure theory divorced from practice and immune to the lessons of experience. It is ideology hostile to all real ideas (if you doubt this, try telling a Leftist that men and women are basically different -- just as an idea.) It is intense religious faith without the transcendent moral constraints of faith in God. A priest, a minister, and a rabbi all have definite opinions about how to live a good life, but all find their methods constrained by divine principles. Judeo-Christian morality does not believe that the end justifies the means. The zealous clergy of Leftism are constrained only by the gullibility of their audience. An NFL referee looks at a play closely to see how what happened on the field fits into the rulebook. The referees of Leftism have a rule book in which the single rule is to advance their ideology. A judge at the state fair looks at cherry pies or show pigs for defined qualities, but an activist judge in an apellate court enthralled with Leftism looks at ideology and desired outcomes.
The corruption of our referees weakens every part of our society. It is much bigger than the Leftist media, although this corruption of honor has given us the Leftist media. Everything now is political, or it soon will be, if the Left has its way. Although we need many victories for Judeo-Christian civilization to survive, perhaps the biggest victory is to bring back people we can trust. Would it bother us so much if ninety percent of the media was Democrat, if those Democrats behaved impartially? Would the Leftist media be a problem if the Left acknowledged that bias?
Leftists contend fairly when they contend openly. Once there were honorable Leftists, but when the ideology of the Left is tried and fails, as it always does, then these honorable people either change their opinions or make arguments which do not persuade -- or they stopped being honorable people trying to convince us that their ideology is good and, instead, they become the Left's crooked umpires.
Bruce Walker is the author of Sinisterism: Secular Religion of the Lie, and the recently published book, The Swastika against the Cross: The Nazi War on Christianity.