News Story

How Media Bias Works

The mainstream media has a preference for 'moderates'

“Sound bites usually aren’t very sound.” — Thomas Sowell, senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.

In the current election cycle, there are signs that a long-standing dynamic might be starting to collapse. Candidates within the large Republican presidential field appear far more willing to defy and unmask the tactics of the national mainstream news media than in previous years.

It is unclear whether this dynamic is developing intentionally or if it was thrust upon the candidates out of necessity. Nor is it clear that it will endure throughout the entire nomination process. But for the time being it is worth watching.

Over the past quarter century, Republicans have allowed the MSM to wield inordinate influence over their presidential nominating process. As a consequence, the contests have been tilted in favor of candidates said to be not too far outside the mainstream. Meanwhile, what passes as the mainstream represents a worldview that continually drifts further to the left.

Typically, while the Republican race plays out, the MSM displays a marked deference to moderate candidates and barely concealed hostility toward their more right-leaning rivals. This inclination toward moderation isn’t limited to positions on issues but also includes a candidate’s campaign style. The MSM prefers GOP candidates who avoid confrontation, considering rhetorical slugfests distasteful.

The more moderate candidates gain further favor with analysis after analysis that claims they are the only Republicans who would have a chance of winning the general election. There is a word that describes all who doubt the sincerity of these efforts by the MSM to guide the GOP to a possible victory. That word is “realists.”

After its nearly cherry-picked GOP candidate wins the nomination, the MSM discovers all their previously hidden faults, including several they don’t really possess. Suddenly the same candidate they were practically rooting for in the primaries is portrayed as a puppet of the rich and a mean-spirited stooge for exploitive corporations.

But now a new pattern may be emerging. A number of the candidates are refusing to be cowed into submission when the MSM repeats their comments out of context or twists them into falsified meanings. Rather than panicking and retreating behind retractions or clarifying statements, candidates are becoming more likely to call out the offending reporters and news sources to expose their misdeeds.

The political barometers of the 2016 race are displaying readings that are quite out of the ordinary. Candidates who have never held office lead the polls, as voters consistently identify a corrupt bipartisan government class as the chief cause of the nation’s woes. Perhaps these peculiar elements are leading to an awakening.

A significant percentage of those who vote in Republican primaries do not share many of the viewpoints the MSM consistently reflects. When a candidate defends himself or herself against treatment by an institution that the voter perceives as obviously unfair, it is likely that that voter will instinctively side with the candidate — and in so doing might develop an affinity for that candidate as well.

Some candidates may be starting to realize that fighting back against the MSM’s politically motivated rascality is something major segments of the Republican base have been longing for. In other words, they could be discovering that openly challenging the MSM offers more than just a chance to set the record straight; it is could be a way of attracting voters.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.