Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Newsroom: Counterpoints (9/8/13)

We are now past the penultimate (I only ever see this word used in reference to TV episodes) episode in season 2 of The Newsroom. And apparently it's a two-parter. There was one explicit argument being made, with a few throwaway lines that are also worth addressing. So let's get to it.

1. The media does not have a Democratic bias.

There are really two arguments to be made here. Prestige media definitely has a Democratic bias. And that's the media that Republicans care about when they blather on about media bias. For Republicans living in and around the Beltway, they're living in the same socioeconomic strata that the Democrats live in. That means college and postgraduate educations, upper tier incomes, and a culture palate that doesn't really take to talk radio (predominantly low brow and generally conservative) or the very prolific conservative blogosphere.

Because elite universities tend to breed a disproportionate amount of liberals and Democrats, the Democratic Party has a stronger brand than the Republicans do. The Democratic Party has proven much more effective at sweeping the embarrassments of their party (working class unions, militant blacks, clueless college students) under the rug than the Republicans (aggrieved working class whites, fringe political obsessives). The thought leaders of the Democratic Party reside in the ivory towers of academia and mainstream news publications.

The thought leaders of the Republican Party, on the other hand, reside in business and on the fringes of academia, which also tends to attract vocal and extremist elements of the American public. The end result is that a liberal thought leader can read The Wall Street Journal and reflexively dismiss it as business fluff. But a conservative thought leader reading The New York Times will get a gnawing feeling each time because liberal publications excel at putting Republicans down. Democratic mouthpieces are a lot more polished than Republican ones.

But on the whole, it's really tough to say whether there is an overall bias. If you count the internet and radio, it's very likely that the absolute number of media "participants" out there lean conservative/Republican. If you only count the "media elite" (The Newsroom's own words), then there is a definite bias towards Democrats.

2. Our elections are the envy of the world.

They aren't the envy so much as curiosities. Contrary to McAvoy's speech in the pilot episode, America is the greatest country in the world (because of our status of biggest rich country and richest big country, to quote Megan McArdle). Therefore it will garner a disproportionate amount of international media coverage, especially when the country's elections are held. This is ethnocentrism at its best. When your 4th grade elementary school class celebrated Cinco de Mayo, it wasn't because you envied the Mexicans. It was just an excuse to eat food and listen to some mariachi music.

3. Ruling India was wrong.

We need to apply moral relativism here. And the simple fact of the matter is that the nation-state is an extremely new concept in the course of human affairs. The vast majority of human history was dominated by empires, monarchies, and other forms of authoritarian governments. The British Raj wasn't anything different from when various Indian autocrats ruled the region. One of the most persistent Indian cultural artifacts is the caste system, which codified the Brahmin ruling class that was predominantly light skinned Aryan.

Ruling India wasn't a mistake. It was historical exigency. The fact that current day precepts and morals frown upon autocracy doesn't change that basic fact. If it wasn't for the Brits, it would have been somebody else. And indigenous autocracies can be just as brutal, if not more so, than ones imposed from afar.

1 comment:

  1. Hi.

    Coming here from IMDB.

    You're making some good points here. Mostly I agree.

    I would add that any perceived Democrat bias among the Prestige MSM is also in part due to journalists being better informed and better at critical thinking. Given these qualities they are bound to view the DEMs as the lesser of two evils. DEMOCRATS may be corrupt and wrong pretty often but are seldom jaw droppingly crazy wrong.

    On the India thing. OK. Countries have Empires cos they can (modern day US empire too). The Colonial era was a very shameful period in the histories of countries that really should have known better, but didn't. There was too much money to be made. The US was slow to the global carve up cos they had internal frontiers to expand into and had imported slaves in vast numbers so had no need to compete. They were also pretty weak at the time too compared to the UK and France.

    But I agree we can't judge previous generations by modern standards. So it's a silly glib line to say 'ruling India was a mistake.' It was wrong and I won't let people get away with, 'but it benefited the indigenous people's' crap either. It's a complex issue.