We previously told you about a book that decried Sesame Street as a sneaky vehicle for left-wing propaganda, and now, out next month, we have Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts The American Mind.1 The book, by UCLA political-science professor Tim Groseclose, expands on an article from the 2005 Quarterly Journal of Economics by Groseclose and Jeffrey Milyo, and employs a unique statistical technique to try to objectively measure conservative or liberal bias in media coverage.
The main argument of the book is that the mainstream media's liberal bias is so pronounced, that news outlets such as the Drudge Report and Fox News appear more conservative than they actually are. This contradicts proponents of the so-called "Fox Effect," which posits that the gravitational force of the conservative media pulls the left into the center.
In one highly dubious passage, Groseclose writes:
"Fox News is clearly more conservative than ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC and National Public Radio. Some will conclude that 'therefore, this means that Fox News has a conservative bias. Instead, maybe it is centrist, and possibly even left-leaning, while all the others are far left. It's like concluding that six-three is short just because it is short compared to professional basketball players."
Groseclose uses the commonly-perceived-as-conservative Drudge as a counterintuitive example of the effect the media's dreaded, so-called liberal bias has on our thinking. According to the author's conservative-to-liberal scale of 0-100, with fifty being centrist, Drudge rates a lefty score of 60.4, a "political quotient" due to Drudge linking to a broad range of media sites which, remember, are accused of tilting left. The New York Times and CBS Evening News both receive a healthy liberal score of 73.7, while The Washington Times makes the right proud with a 35.4.
Despite devising a fancy formula grounded in statistical evidence based on, among other things, allusions by media outlets to think tanks and policy groups, and cross-referenced with similar citation patterns by U.S. lawmakers, Groseclose makes some claims that strain credulity. To say that "every" mainstream national news outlet in the U.S. has a liberal bias seems a bit of an exaggeration. "Token" Fox liberals like Bob Beckel and Alan Colmes aren't exactly shaking up the joint.
Even if you agree with Groseclose's contention that "Media bias aids Democratic candidates by about eight to ten percentage points in a typical election," his claim that, had media bias not existed, McCain would have trounced Obama in the 2008 presidential election fifty-six percent to forty-two percent sounds ludicrous. The media didn't engineer McCain's transparently poll-driven statements attempting to curry favor with voters, contradicting previously stated positions. Nor did they force him to choose Sarah Palin as a running mate. Groseclose makes an interesting and provocative argument, but ultimately, I believe, an incorrect one.