Saturday, July 6, 2013

Rightist Media

With the rise of Fox News and the rightward shift of the US media we're hearing less of the political tactic Conservatives like to use of attacking anything in the press they don't like as coming from the "liberal media" or being the result of "liberal bias" in the media.

The liberal bias charge was effective, and was one of the things that helped move the media and the political center in the US to the right over the past 30 years, because US political Liberalism includes a critique of Capitalism. It includes, or did, the notion that workers should be able to protect themselves from the worst effects of Capitalism by organizing into unions. It included the belief that there should be some controls on Capitalism with laws and regulations.

I was reminded of the old liberal bias charge by a story from Associated Press writers Fabiola Sanchez and Luis Galeano, about asylum offers Latin American countries are making to whistleblower Edward Snowden, that uses the word "leftist" in front of any president (or country or anything) who stands up to or has ever stood up to the US.

You've got leftist presidents, leftist trade blocs, leftist leaders, but not a "rightist" anywhere. 

It's not uncommon for the US media to label things like this, especially people, to distinguish them from the norm, or "normal people," or "just people." We've got people, and African American people, people and Jews, we've got women and feminists.

So why are leftists labeled and not rightists? Why is there labeling like this at all?

Rightist Bias In The US

The bias in the US media is invisible, to most observers, because in US, and in the US corporate (often called mainstream) media, the bias, or the point of view if you will, of the media gatekeeper is seen as neutral. As such, there's no need to point it out. The beliefs and assumptions it's based on, which are what constitute a world view, are taken as givens. No one even thinks about pointing it out.

It's also invisible because our world view is just another piece of who we are, of our identity, much of which is embedded in the unconscious, and because it is, anything that suggests our world view is normal and people who don't see things like we do aren't, like what we write in an article we turn in for a newspaper, also operates at the unconscious level. 

The labeling of African Americans, or Jews or feminists or homosexuals where there's no particular reason to point that fact out, and rightist orientations being ignored while leftist orientations are pointed out (because right is normal and left is not), just demonstrates the fact that we can't recognize, or won't accept, bias in ourselves.

Rightist bias is indicative of a way of thinking left over from the Cold War, essentially the continuation of a way of thinking by which Capitalism, and its symbolic global representative the US, are shielded from an honest critique. 

As a result of this rightist bias, where right is normal and left is not, right and left are naturally treated differently in the media. Leftist can be used as a smear, as it is the AP article. You can only get away with that if you're writing in a rightist media, and it's done all the time in the US media.

The AP article also includes a (funny, really) detour back to a 2006 speech by then President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, which has nothing to do with Edward Snowden, except that both men put a crack in the psychological facade people use to shield themselves from the reality of what the United States really is, which is self interested, and much further to the right than most countries, which it has to be if Capitalism is to be seen as the normal state of affairs. 

To charge the US media with being "rightist" might sound outlandish to the average US citizen, who grew up pledging allegiance and singing praise to the star spangled banner, but it doesn't sound that way to anyone who's frame of reference extends very far beyond that of the US-centered world view. 

It doesn't sound that way to leftists like myself, or to people who have been shut out of the American dream or have frames of reference that aren't founded on pilgrim and Indian fables, like some of our growing and increasingly powerful minority communities, or to most people not from here, or to people who have seen their countries harmed by the US as it roams the earth exploiting everyone's resources, overthrowing governments and killing people, or supporting local despots who do the same at the behest of the US.

In other words, it doesn't sound outlandish to anyone who sees the US not through a film of nationalism, which we like to call patriotism, but as self interested, just as the people who inhabit and run it are, just like people everywhere are.

The AP story isn't unusual. Elected leftist leaders are routinely labeled dictators and despots in the US media, as it plays up the worst aspects of life in leftist countries and ignores their successes. Most people in the United States, unlike people in the rest of the world, have no idea what's been done in places like Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, to improve the lot of working people.

To most of the world, to label countries and people as aberrations, like we do in the US, who are finding ways to make a world where poverty isn't normal, where high infant mortality isn't normal, where people get to keep more of the wealth their labor creates, is the aberration.


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