Sunday, September 21, 2008

Political Bias

I have been reading lots of polemical political articles, mostly anti-republican, because I get most of my news from liberal sources like NPR and NYTimes, I hear tons of outrage and condescension dripping from every word. And for each and every fault of the Republicans they list, I automatically can name two or more equivalent faults of the Democrats.

Half of republicans think Obama may be Muslim?
(First, not entirely crazy, by definition, his father is Muslim which makes him Muslim. And he did attend Muslim schools in Indoensia.)
But agreed, it is mostly crazy. But half of democrats hold the crazier idea that Bush may have helped plan 9/11.

Sexual impropriety and potential tit-for-tat at the Dept of Interior?
But wasn't that the same behavior happily overlooked in the Clinton White House. It also annoys me that most of the mistakes that led to billion dollar windfalls for Big Oil occurred in 1998 during the Clinton administration, a fact neglected in every nytimes article on the subject.

Poor grades by Palin and McCain?
But Kerry and and Gore had worse grades than even George W Bush, but nobody cared then. (Gore failed out of grad school twice, getting F's in a majority of his classes the first time)

Anyway, I can go on. But makes me wonder if anyone really can hold an unbiased view. The most important paper I've ever read was by Lord Ross and Lepper which found that people are really good at seeing the flaws in arguments that go against their preconceived beliefs, but tend to overlook the flaws in arguments that support their own. Hence the value of adversarial systems.

So, just as the flaws in the NYTimes are so clear to me, a bit further reflection makes me know that there are probably just as many flaws in my own thinking.

Which I suppose just implies a need for greater humility (and why I think people really aren't qualified to judge candidates). Greater dialog. Greater openness and greater respect.


hcduvall said...

Hillary lost my respect during the primaries with her "He says he isn't Muslim, so we might as well believe him."

I think I've voiced my distaste to the "half of democrats think bush helped plan 9/11" thing before, somewhere around 7% think so (second highest except for libertarians), but a great many think if it was preventable, he didn't do enough. But that's a disingenuous line.

I don't know enough about the oil payment structure (during a Republican Congress, no?), but while I recognize that Big Oil is a democrat hobbyhorse (just as oil speculators is a republican one, and short sellers are everybodies' scapegoat right now) I don't remember tit-for-tat sex scandals in the Clinton White House. I'm ready to be proved wrong, and the Monica Lewinsky thing is a distasteful thing--but it isn't equivalent either.

The grade thing can be stupid all around, and it may be shammy thing. Even a poor ranked graduate of the Naval Academy (like McCain) isn't shabby. But as a meme, its legs in the past few years come from G.W. Bush running with the average guy persona and C average business.

I don't know if it's quite a blind spot, since admittedly my politics are biased toward the sources you mention, but I actually think think they're pretty good outside of the commentators. The same as the Wall Street Journal (the strongest of the conservative papers). I don't know, I can't help but think that the vocal protestations of Fox, MSNBC, Air America, and the talk right about is, while not based on all illusion, still based on quite a bit of air. Or maybe NPR, and the top newspapers of whatever persuasion are the only ground where opposition views can be aired without condescension. Disagreeing and being aggrieved is short-sighted, maybe, sometimes, but that's not mean-spirited. The "shut-ups" are much nastier ground.

HoBs said...

Yeah, I know we disagree about how to interpret the poll results on Bush and 9/11. Working with surveys, keenly aware of how differences in wording lead to wildly different interpretations. And how even the same wording can be interpreted in different ways by different people (case in point here). Good now that more news sources are posting the full survey with the results, but who knows what surveys really tell us. Better to post where the data is from anyway. The Democrats and 9/11 survey I got from here.

The 1998 oil contracts were a mistake made by some lawyer in the dept of interior, (they left a line out) that let oil companies off the hook for billions of dollars, that the Democrats have been calling a Republican oil subsidy.

As for tit-for-tat, don't think sex was traded, but there was certainly plenty of sex scandals. But the tit-for-tat was like pardons for Mark Rich for campaign donations, stays in the lincoln bedroom for campaign donations, Al Gore raising money from his office, etc.

Yeah, apparently also part of McCain's low class rank wasn't for grades, but for insubordination, at least that's how they are spinning it, with stories of how he stood up to upperclassmen for picking on people and got demerits for it.

As for the prevalence of the Bush's C average meme, I hear it more coming from Bush bashers (like Krugman in his column last week) and have never heard a republican mention it. But again, selective memory is another part of this phenomenon.

And as for media bias, yeah, most studies find that not just nytimes, and wall st journal, but also cnn and even fox news have fairly balanced reporting when you consider just the news section. But of course when it comes to editorials that is quite different.

Though NY times does have odd omssions. Like after the republican convention, when every news source was talking about the bump that put McCain ahead of Obama briefly, such that others (all Obama suporters) in my office were all talking about it, I couldn't find any news of it anywhere in the New York Times.

HoBs said...

Here is the exact question from Zogby

"02. There are three main schools of thought regarding the 9/11 attacks. The first theory is the official story, and maintains that 19 Arab fundamentalists executed a surprise attack
which caught US intelligence and military forces off guard. The second theory known as Let It Happen argues that certain elements in the US government knew the attacks were
coming but consciously let them proceed for various political, military and economic motives; and the third theory Made It Happen contends that certain US government elements
actively planned or assisted some aspects of the attacks. Based upon your knowledge of 9/11 events and their aftermath, which theory are you more likely to agree with?"

Where 42% of Democrats answered let it happen.