On Friday night's edition of Inside Washington airing locally on Washington PBS station WETA, the first topic was whether the media's been unfair to President Bush, given his abysmal approval ratings. NPR reporter Nina Totenberg said Bush received a "free ride" for years, so now the worm has turned and the coverage is fierce. Then the host turned to Newsweek's Evan Thomas, who was frank in his assessment of the media's role:Is a media that thinks its role is to "bash" President Bush playing a useful role in our system of political economy? I wonder if Thomas would have considered saying instead that the media's job, in general, was to "bash" every President, or was to bash all elected officials? Why isn't the role of the media to provide accurate reporting on the events of the nation?The message in that is very simple: the president must never "decouple" himself from the "mainstream media," because they are the key players in maintaining public opinion.
Gordon Peterson: "What do you think, Evan? Are the mainstream media bashing the president unfairly?"
Evan Thomas: "Well, our job is to bash the president, that's what we do almost --"
Peterson: "But unfairly?"
Thomas: "Mmmm -- I think when he rebuffed, I think when he just kissed off the Iraq Study Group, the Baker-Hamilton Commission, there was a sense then that he was decoupling himself from public opinion and Congress and the mainstream media, going his own way. At that moment he lost whatever support he had."
Many people on the conservative side of the commentary isle have asserted that the media, in general, is biased against Republicans and against conservatives. Doesn't "my job is to bash Bush" fit this assertion? Or, is it just that the media is biased against this particular President?
Many insights from public choice economics follow from the assumption of rational ignorance on the part of voters. It seems to me that most politicians behave in ways that take advantage of that rational ignorance. I wonder if many in the news industry have also learned to take advantage of the rational ignorance of voters?
Have people in the news industry learned, just as politicians seem to have learned, that because of rational ignorance voters won't really notice that what is said and written can change from week to week and month to month? Have they learned that because of rational ignorance people don't really make much effort to discover whether what is reported is true or not? Have many in the news industry learned that because of rational ignorance they can pick a side and say many things that are inaccurate and untrue in an effort to get their favored side in politics elected?