Sunday, July 17, 2011

Media Bias- Not That Important?

In the Observer Nick Cohen makes the claim:

The belief that the media manipulate the masses appeals to the far left because its supporters must explain why they can never win or come close to winning a democratic election. Rather than accept that electorates reject them because their ideas are false or foolish, they decide that corporate puppetmasters jerk the strings of citizens and induce them to vote against their "real" interests.
Trotskyists are not the only dupes of the fantasy. Conservatives are as convinced that sinister media manipulators frustrate them. The Mail and the Telegraph's assaults on BBC bias are an equally self-serving attempt to avoid facing their own inadequacies. If it were not for the propaganda of liberal broadcasters, the British would respect the sanctity of marriage, go to church, renounce the welfare state and demand the privatisation of schools and hospitals. 
I think he is more or less right. Media bias cannot simply control people's beliefs and opinions.

Like many people I have long felt that the BBC exhibits a strong bias towards the EU and the Euro- but enthusiasm for a single currency has never been more than a marginal interest and recent polls suggest that only 9% of Britons still want to join it. A similar pattern can be seen with immigration- the BBC pretty solidly for, the public remaining very much against.

The media is not devoid of power to influence opinions- I am pretty sure if they want to influence public opinion about an individual then they can do it to some extent. Issues that people don't care too much about can probably be shaped by the newspapers. The big issues though- health, education, tax- not so much and claiming that it is the media that stops your point of view being widely accepted is a cop out and an excuse not to try to persuade people.

Cohen then goes on to claim Rupert Murdoch has too much control of the media, which doesn't really make sense given the media's supposed feebleness in telling people what to do.


Kevin B said...

This particular small g conservative doesn't believe that the beeb sways the people to support its leftist point of view, just that it suppresses any alternative viewpoint.

Because small government doesn't get any serious airing, politicians can continue to ignore it.

Ross said...

"Small g conservative"- is that a typo or a reference I'm not getting?

We have big government because those of us who don't want it haven't persuaded the public effectively.

Kevin B said...

Small government conservative as opposed to the big g tory party.

i.e., While I'm not a libertarian, I agree with them on the current size and reach of government. It's too big and too powerful.

And it's difficult to persuade the public effectively when the media village and the pols are in each other's pockets.

The reference in this post at Anna Raccoon's to the Tom Lehrer song describes the relationship perfectly.