Human Exceptionalism

Thomas Sowell on Media Bias

Thomas Sowell makes several good points about media bias in this NRO column. His assertions, at least as to the issues we deal with here at Secondhand Smoke, are very well taken. I have concluded that media are like a high school clique. They often seem to decide the story first and then fit the facts to their perception. Once the story line is determined, facts that belie their take–even very important and pertinent facts–are often ignored or barely mentioned. Then, reporters who may come late to the story rely on the earlier reports and hence, regurgitate the skewed story line, until error often becomes perceived fact. As a consequence, a materially false impression is left for people who don’t follow these matters closely. All they hear are mantras, to wit:

–Embryonic stem cells offer the “best hope” when the published science seems to rebut that claim. Look at the complete refusal to mention the artificial liver made from umbilical cord blood stem cells. That didn’t fit the template, so it is ignored.

–Michael Schiavo was just Terri’s “husband,” strongly implying he had remained loyal to her throughout her disability, when, in fact, he had two children by another woman with whom he was engaged, meaning that he had abandoned the marriage.

–Jack Kevorkian is still referred to as the retired doctor who assisted “terminally ill” patients in suicide, even though from the very beginning of his reign of death, most of the people he helped kill were not terminally ill.

This is not good for media, because it alienates many customers who turn away out of distrust and disgust. (Not coincidentally, the circulation rates are dropping like stones at most major newspapers.) More importantly, the mass journalistic malpractice to which we are so often subjected is bad for democracy because it inhibits a free people from basing their decisions on complete and accurate data.

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