Monday, November 02, 2009

Of Course They're All Partisan

If Fox Is Partisan, It Is Not Alone

In audience surveys from August 2000 to March 2001, Fox News viewers tilted Republican by 44.6 percent to 36.1 percent. More narrowly — 41.4 percent to 39.4 percent — so did the audience for MSNBC. The audiences of CNN, Headline News, CNBC and Comedy Central leaned Democratic.

Four years later, amid the Iraq war and President George W. Bush’s re-election campaign, the audience data had shifted. Fox News viewers had become 51 percent Republican and just 30.8 percent Democratic, while MSNBC viewers leaned Democratic by 41.7 percent to 40.4 percent. Viewers of CNN, Headline News, CNBC and Comedy Central grew slightly more Democratic.

By 2008-9, the network audiences tilted decisively, like Fox’s. CNN viewers were more Democratic by 50.4 percent to 28.7 percent; MSNBC viewers were 53.6 percent to 27.3 percent Democratic; Headline News’ 47.3 percent to 31.4 percent Democratic; CNBC’s 46.9 percent to 32.5 percent Democratic; and Comedy Central’s 47.1 to 28.8 percent Democratic.

The idea of an objective press is a 20th Century anomaly. From the beginnings of the U.S., the press was highly partisan, and it was that partisanship that was enshrined in the First Amendment idea of freedom of the press. The idea that it wasn't "news" because there was a slant was unprecedented.

In an age where more people have more access to news and opinion outlets and are better educated than at any time in our history, the pearl-clutchers are oh-so worried about disinformation. We should give people more credit for being able to figure out what's true and what isn't, what matters and what doesn't, and whether the immediate effects of this policy or that outweighs the longterm consequences of a particular action. The only people desperate to silence dissent are those desperately clinging to power.