It’s Not The Media

Over the past six years, there has been a gathering swell of complaint from conservative America. Every wrong-headed notion held by the liberals stems from one source, it would seem: the liberal media.

The War in Iraq was going just fine until the media convinced people not to support it. The dissolution of traditional values is a clear result of the brainwashing efforts of the media. The media, apparently, loves the terrorists, hates our freedom, and wants the United States to dissolve into a bog of one night stands and rampant drug abuse.

Unfortunately for those who wish for such simple cause and effect solutions, it’s not the media which is making Americans more liberal. It is the steadily more liberal beliefs of Americans which are influencing the media.

Let’s start with a brief examination of the American media. There are six major corporations which are responsible for delivering most American news:

  • General Electric—with holdings such as NBC Universal and Telemundo, Universal Pictures, 38 television stations in the U.S., and cable networks such as MSNBC, Bravo and the Sci Fi Channel. They also donated 1.1 million to GW Bush for his 2000 election campaign.
  • TimeWarner—with holdings such as CNN, HBO, Cinemax, America Online, Warner Bros. Pictures, Castle Rock, and New Line Cinema, over 150 magazines such as Time, Cooking Light, Marie Claire and People. They also donated 1.6 million to GW’s 2000 campaign
  • Walt Disney—with holdings such as ABC Television Network, numerous cable networks including ESPN, 72 radio and 10 television stations. They also donated 640 thousand to GW’s 2000 campaign.
  • News Corp—with holdings such as The Fox Broadcasting Company, television and cable networks such as Fox, National Geographic and FX, 37 television stations, print publications including The New York Post and TVGuide, book publisher HarperCollins, film production companies 20th Century Fox, Fox Searchlight Pictures and Blue Sky Studios. NewsCorp is still led by it’s founder, Rupert Murdoch, who is anything but liberal.
  • CBS—with holdings such as CBS Television Network, UPN, Showtime, book publisher Simon & Schuster, 41 television stations, and Infinity (now CBS) Radio, Inc.
  • Viacom—which split off from CBS, but still holds corporations such as Music Television, Nickelodeon, VH1, BET, Comedy Central, and Paramount Pictures.

Looking over this list, it seems obvious that the vast majority of the media is not particularly predisposed to be liberal?

Or is it?!

Time Warner contributed $24,000 to Clinton’s 1996 campaign, and Disney kicked in $21, 950!! What does it mean? Did they sell out the liberals? Or could it be that, rather than having an invested liberal or conservative bias, these major media conglomerates actually have a corporate bias, caring more for their bottom line than they do about any moral aspect of American culture? If that were the case, then we could expect to see the news we receive reflect any perceived political slant in the American people, as most people are far more willing to spend money on news presentations with which they agree.

So is there a liberal lean amongst Americans?

It’s hard to believe, I know, with President Bush elected back into office only a couple of years ago, and people still debating issues like homosexual marriage as if it were ushering in the end of the world. The polls, however, seem to indicate that there is something of the sort going on.

For example, a CBS News poll from December 8-10 of this year, found that 21% of those polled approved of President Bush’s handling of Iraq, while 75% disapproved and 4% were unsure. Now, for the sake of our argument, these numbers do not matter so much as the trend over time. Looking back on past polls we find that, sure enough, more and more people are taking up the so-called “liberal” point of view on this. Approximately a year ago, 36% approved, 59% disapproved, and 5% were unsure.

This is but one issue, however, and one undoubtedly complicated by the emotional stresses of a nation at war. We should look at other issues in order to back up our theory.

Digging through the heaps of polls on other issues, it appears that the trend is not limited to this one issue. More people support gay marriage than ever before, and even think homosexual couples should be able to adopt. More and more people even think that homosexuals should be allowed to serve openly in the military.

Well, how about the legalization of marijuana, then? A CNN poll in 2002 found that 34% of the respondents supported legalization of marijuana, up from 18% in 1986.

As we keep digging through the polls, we find that in spite of the fact that these polls were administered to the American public by many different institutions, at different times, and with different phrasing, the overall trend appears to be that Americans are, in fact, becoming more “liberal”. There are, of course, exceptions (such as abortion, which seems to spin around on itself every month or two), but not enough of them to alter our conclusion.

The next question, then, is whether this is a short-term, reactionary trend, or whether the history of America is that of a steadily more liberal nation.

Looking back over the history of the United States, it is clear that while the balance of public opinion may swing between “liberal” and “conservative” viewpoints, there is a steadily more liberal version of conservatism. Prior to World War II, the conservative viewpoint had been an isolationist one, one which supported continued segregation and opposed equal opportunities for women. Obviously, this is the case no longer, and American conservatives have incorporated an acceptance of what were previously “liberal” policies. We may yet see a rollback of liberal legislation such as Welfare and other social services, but even the most die-hard conservatives don’t seem to want to touch the concept of eliminating Social Security.

What about liberalism as a historical trend?

If we take an even longer view over history, we find that though there are, again, exceptions, the choices of humanity appear to be ushering us in a steadily more liberal direction. From monarchies and oligarchies where the rights of the individual were submerged under the whims of the ruling classes, we have a steady move into more freedom for the average human. With that freedom we typically find more room for charity and tolerance. Each new society typically begins with a dictatorial set making oppressive rules for the “good” of the rest of the citizens…but over time the masses gain their own ground and make room for the beliefs and customs of those who run to them.

This is, in fact, the history of the United States, itself.

Now, I am not here to argue that there is no merit in conservative belief systems. Everything new is not good, and everything liberal is not in the best interests of a sprawling, complicated society. We need the conservative viewpoint just as surely as we need the liberal one, if we are to continue to evolve into a society which can offer the pursuit of happiness to all. But over time, even the staid conservative view changes.

The people of the United States are not being brainwashed by the liberal media. The people of the United States are doing what people do—searching for more freedom and fairness in their own lives. They are questioning policies which seem to bar their way to these goals. Whether “liberal” or “conservative”, they are seeking a path into the future which they believe offers the greatest chance of happiness…and the media is merely coasting along on their surf.