How our manipulative 'mainstream media' defines 'moderate' and 'extreme'

How our manipulative 'mainstream media' defines 'moderate' and 'extreme'

How our manipulative 'mainstream media' defines 'moderate' and 'extreme'

No one should trust our "mainstream media" in defining where the "center" of politics is from their perch on the left-wing fringes.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham

Tim Graham is executive editor of NewsBusters and director of media analysis for the Media Research Center. His articles have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times, National Review and other publications.

No one should trust our "mainstream media" in defining where the "center" of politics is from their perch on the left-wing fringes. No one should trust them to define who is "nonpartisan" and who is "independent." The way they classify political actors is subtle, and yet blatantly unfair and unbalanced.

Reporters describe the groups they like as "nonpartisan" or in ameliorative terms like "civil rights groups" to persuade low-information voters that their side of the debate is more reliable and conscientious.

On Tuesday morning, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a new law allowing the state's law-enforcement agencies to arrest migrants. NBC called it "controversial" and noted the Biden White House called it "extreme." NBC then described Abbott's leftist opponents: "Civil rights groups have threatened to sue."

A similar line emerged on ABC: "Immigration rights organizations say they are already preparing to file a lawsuit because this encourages racial profiling."

On Monday morning, taxpayer-subsidized National Public Radio's top-of-the-hour newscast reported that voters in Chile rejected a rewrite of the nation's constitution. A reporter explained, "The charter was largely drawn up by conservatives, and activists pointed out language they warned could threaten the already precarious access to safe abortions in Chile." The staunch abortion backers are just "activists"?

Monday's Politico "Playbook" team touted a new "pro-ESG play." ESG stands for "environmental, social, and governance" principles for corporations. The Left forces "woke" ESG standards on investors. Politico reported a group calling themselves "Unlocking America's Future" is launching a $10 million campaign to defend against ESG critics, calling them a "nonpartisan group."

They mentioned Zac Petkanas, but didn't note he runs Petkanas Strategies LLC, a Democratic strategic consulting firm. He touts his stints for Hillary Clinton and Harry Reid on Twitter.

They mentioned Josh Schwerin, but not his firm Schwerin Strategies. Likewise, on Twitter he touts his service with Clinton, Terry McAuliffe and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

They mentioned Erika Gudmundson, and rinse and repeat: She touts working for Hillary Clinton, for Chelsea Clinton and for the Clinton Foundation.

This dishonesty underlines what I call Graham's Law of Labeling: "The epic political battles of our time are fought between the ultraconservatives and the nonpartisans." Maybe I'll make T-shirts.

This tactic has been going on for many years. In my first weeks as a full-time media critic in 1989, I researched how the nation's leading newspapers and news magazines described Washington think tanks. The liberal Brookings Institution drew an ideological label just 10 times in 737 news stories (1.4%). By dramatic contrast, the Heritage Foundation was accurately described as "conservative" or a similar term in 217 of 370 stories (58.6%). The Los Angeles Times attached a conservative label 71 times in 79 stories (89.9%).

Time magazine perfectly demonstrated the tilt in their Dec. 6, 1988, issue: "Neither [George H.W.] Bush nor the nation will risk serious damage if he ignores the recommendations of groups ranging from the archconservative Heritage Foundation to the Brookings Institution."

During the 1990 campaign, an article in Time magazine called North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms an "ultra-right conservative," but described his liberal Democrat opponent Harvey Gantt simply as "former Charlotte mayor."

In 2019, Time described presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg as "a happily married, devoutly Christian family man who happens to be gay."

There's nothing wrong with accurately describing conservatives. There's everything wrong with dressing up the leftist opposition as the "nonpartisans" who love "civil rights" and "immigrant rights." It's as loaded as conservatives versus the "independent fact-checkers."

Media consumers need to be aware that they can't rely on the Old Media for truth in packaging.


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