Thursday, January 12, 2012

Ron Paul's "Ceiling" & Media Bias

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I'm not big on conspiracies. I don't think the media is altogether conspiring to ignore Ron Paul per se, not in a clandestine way at least. Nope, I think the mainstream media is bias of course, but also lazy and cowardly.

It takes no small amount of courage to go against the tide of public opinion, and I cannot imagine how hard it is to do at your office amongst your peers. I've never stepped into a newsroom and seen writers battle with their editors, so I'm not coming from that perspective. I'm just a humble citizen journalist who is pointing out that the media often comes to a particular conclusion and to stand against your colleagues on something you're not particularly passionate about, for a cause you may not even agree with, can seem not only pointless but detrimental.

I cannot imagine many Republicans -- who wanted to go to war with Iraq -- were busy contesting the "evidence" that kept being thrown around no matter how badly it smelt. It fit the narrative that suited their purpose, and to question it is to possibly lose face with peers.

This is why I say it takes courage, because you not only have to question the narrative handed in by people you respect, but you may even have to report it against your own personal bias or worldview's advancement. I think that's what journalism should probably be about, truth above all else, but I cannot say that's the normal human operation.

The other issue is just plain laziness. The AP writes one article, that article is everywhere in syndication. It's what media sites pay for, to be able to use the vast resources of the Associated Press without having to hire a squadron of writers to cover the world. Maybe that's a form of laziness, but then there's the laziness of doing a writeup and not doing your own research and instead relying on wikipedia or just going with popular perception.

The best example was when music composer Maurice Jarre passed away in 2009 and a Dublin college student used the moment to test the media's fact checking diligence when he posted to wikipedia a false and unsourced quote (because it was fake) from Maurice Jarre that was too good to be true. The result was that it was picked up by hundreds of outlets around the world and after a month the student finally came forward fearing they would never figure out that the quote had no basis in reality. Oddly, wikipedia editors were quick to remove it within minutes of its original posting where the journalists never caught or questioned it. (link) I don't have a bone to pick with wikipedia, but it's not hard to imagine volunteer editors pick topics they have a passion about and use it possibly promote their worldview.

So, when I see someone reciting popular dogma about Ron Paul being "unelectable", or having an absolute "ceiling", I don't think they're following directions from their overlords, though I admit it's possible to have a company line "encouraged", I just think it's more plausible that they're being lazy and even more likely: cowards.

It was not so long ago that "...Ron Paul’s ceiling almost certainly remains about where it was four years ago," (WaPo Aug 2011) which is to say 5 to 10%. "Can Ron Paul Break the 10 Percent Ceiling?" (NewsMax Jun '11), which apparently can only be done by softening his message. "Ron Paul...appears to have a ceiling on how much mainstream Republican support he can draw" (AZcentral Nov '11). "But Paul’s libertarian support seems to have a ceiling." (NatJournal May '11).

There's more in December when WaPo decided to rethink their position, and admitted "Ron Paul has expanded his political brand enough to potentially win the Iowa caucuses in two weeks.", but continues, "Beyond that, though, victory is going to be hard to come by" which then cites one of their in-house polls as evidence that Ron Paul's new ceiling is around 25% because of his foreign policy views. (WaPo Dec '11) While not an awful analysis, it certainly lacks a full perspective without presenting any counterarguments whatsoever, such as perhaps other polls or the support he garners from independents switching to the Republican party. It seems a continuation of the storyline they've previously presented, particularly when you consider that their earlier assumption of a low ceiling was proven wrong.

If there's one time to reconsider your position, surely it's when your predictions were dead wrong.

There's gobs & gobs more if you turn on the TV, but the mystifying part is that the media culture is more focused on interpreting the news -- unevenly -- than just delivering it. Somehow it's ignored that the whole point of a campaign is to raise awareness on a nominee's platform, what they believe in. A poll is a basis for how things stand currently, which is based on a campaign's methods, but more nationally, on the media's coverage of the campaign. Delivering a rehashed storyline begins to create self-fulfilling "facts" that can perpetuate falsehoods. "Ron Paul is an isolationist", "Ron Paul is unelectable", "Ron Paul is a kook", the last is perpetuated more frequently by talk-radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh and Carl Levin, which are in fact repeated by listeners, per my personal experience with family & friends.

There may be a type of revolution happening right before us, if there is then it's a more peaceful revolt than what we've seen in the Arab Spring or at the founding of America. As long as the media decides to continue being lazy and lacking integrity by not offering the full spectrum of facts & possibilities, this is the rope they'll continue to distribute that will be used to hang them. While Rush & Sean Hannity are still the biggest radio shows around, they're numbers have dramatically fallen by an average of around 30% since October. (link) I don't honestly know why, but I'm glad, they represent the unrepentant attitudes that I find repugnant in humanity.

Perhaps the media is increasingly facing a crisis of confidence from its viewers (link), because of the rise in opinion news that we know is based more on interpretation than on an attempt at delivering bare bones fact. Watching MSNBC tonight for the longest I've ever watched it (roughly 3 hours) I saw tons of commercials for MSNBC hosts where it wasn't just an ad to watch their show, but they were delivering their philosophy of higher taxes and paying your fair share. These are the people we trust to deliver unbiased news? No, we know it's biased so it makes sense why the distrust grows. Why would you trust someone you know is merely pandering to your worldview? (Fox News, I'm talking to you also.)

The most important point is that we are all walking journalists. Dissent is welcome. I love Ron Paul, but I'm not afraid to challenge him or dissent against him even if it frustrates my peers or gives ammunition to my enemies. If we don't do our own housecleaning (respectfully), then how can we challenge the elites on any moral high-ground? I don't think it will cost us the war, but instead gives credibility to our convictions to win over people to the cause of liberty.

In the meantime, the media now has to make sense of how someone with a low ceiling managed to grab a close 3rd in Iowa, 2nd in New Hampshire and is surging in South Carolina. Hopefully, a new storyline emerges.

What do you think? Is the media's coverage a product of pure editorial hawkishness, or something else? Dissent is welcome.

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