The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Liberal Media Bias and Self-Selection

Posted on | May 1, 2013 | 32 Comments

Some years ago — when our daughter, now 23, was in kindergarten, to be specific — I gave up on the public school system. It’s doomed beyond all hope of redemption, and conservatives who think otherwise are deluding themselves. Paul Weyrich explained this in 1999, and yet you occasionally hear conservatives talk about the need to “take back our schools.” To this, my answer is two-fold:

  1. What do you mean, “our schools”? They’re the government’s schools, not our schools, and if you still think the government is “us,” you need to seek psychiatric help immediately.
  2. With whom do you propose to “take back” the schools? Where do you plan to find the conservative teachers and principals and superintendents and textbook writers with whom to replace the liberals who now dominate those positions within the system? What colleges of education will train these conservative teachers, and what agencies will credential them?

That is to say, the reason we do not have conservative public schools is because the people who run the schools are not conservative.

Quod erat demonstrandum.

It’s a problem of personnel, and the idiots babbling about “taking back” the schools never have any proposal to solve the actual problem, which is that liberals enjoy teaching school, whereas conservatives prefer private-sector jobs where they can make money.

Something quite similar is true in regard to the problem of liberal bias in the media. Journalism is the only career field typically requiring a college diploma in which the average salary is lower than the average salary of school teachers. People talk about the “media elite” as if the average reporter was making network TV megabucks, when in fact most journalists earn less than a long-haul trucker.

Conservatives don’t become journalists because most conservatives are smart enough to pay attention to their high-school guidance counselors who advise any student who will listen to stay the hell away from this miserable low-paying racket. (My excuse? I was stoned most of the time in high school, and stayed drunk  half the time in college, besides which, I was a Democrat back then anyway.) So young conservatives generally don’t become reporters, and instead go to law school or get MBAs or do something else where they might actually hope to make a living. And liberals become journalists because they want to Make a Difference and Change the World.

So the Koch Brothers are reportedly thinking about buying the Los Angeles Times, liberals are predictably having hissy fits about it, and Megan McArdle wrote about it at The Daily Beast:

Garance Franke-Ruta, writes that the Kochs effort is doomed. Newspapers are liberal because their audience is liberal, she says.  And they’re staffed by the people who live in cities, who are also liberal.

Well, the woman whom Ace calls “Something Faranze-Gupta or whatever” may be right about most of that. With the education system in the iron grip of  liberals (which we’ve already demonstrated), it is probably true that the mass readership is also largely liberal. And no one can doubt that major cities like New York, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., are crammed full of liberals.

Ask yourself this: Why don’t conservatives live in cities?

Answer: Because conservatives want to get married and have children, and cities are horrible places to raise children.

This is why cities are occupied by single people, gay people and poor people who can’t afford to move to the suburbs. All of these demographic groups are reliable constituencies of the Democratic Party — as are journalists, about 90 percent of whom would never vote for a Republican under any circumstances whatsoever.

As in most situations involving what social scientists call “selection effects,” there is a complex causation issue at work, and once any institution becomes truly dominated by liberalism, it’s difficult to say how much of this dominance is natural and organic, and how much of it is the result of conservatives getting blackballed or other forms of deliberate viewpoint discrimination.

Obviously, both factors are at work to some extent, but the point I’m trying to make is that the hegemony of liberalism in journalism — as in academia and in Hollywood — is so complete that it’s probably useless to argue about it. And the liberals who are worrying themselves sick about the Koch brothers buying the L.A. Times can relax, because the Kochs couldn’t possibly find enough conservative newspaper editors and reporters in the entire state of California with which to staff the paper.

Notice something, incidentally: Ace of Spades links and quotes Megan McArdle, but Megan McArdle — who links and quotes her former Atlantic colleague “Something Faranze-Gupta or whatever” — never links and quotes Ace.

Why is Megan link-starving Ace? And it’s not just Ace, either. I’ve noticed this for years about Megan: Although a professed libertarian, and a frequent recipient of linky-love from the Right side of the Web, she’s never linked any conservative blogger, as far as I can recall.

Don’t know what it means, but I do notice things like that.

UPDATE: It is important, I think, to distinguish between (a) liberal bias, and (b) journalism per se. A few years ago, I risked angering Melissa Clouthier to make that point: Some conservatives have spent so many years complaining about The Media that their rhetoric is no longer aimed at unfair political bias and instead seems to be an expression of hostility toward an entire profession. If “journalism” is considered a dirty word among conservatives, we should scarcely be surprised that “conservative” is considered a dirty word among journalists.

“I hate you back twice as much” may be an emotionally satisfying response to prejudice, but it is unlikely to remedy the problem.



32 Responses to “Liberal Media Bias and Self-Selection”

  1. John Peter
    May 1st, 2013 @ 8:15 pm

    Megan never links to conservative Blogs because her
    readership would immediately discount her article if she did. No matter how lucid her arguments her readers
    i.e. (Daily Beast) would stop reading the moment that a link lead to a conservative site. There is no one more
    close minded than your average mid-brow urban liberal!

  2. richard mcenroe
    May 1st, 2013 @ 8:28 pm

    Megan doesn’t link to Ace, you or any other conservative blogger because she is a “house libertarian”, there is no money in it for her and it could jeopardize her employment among people who find her worth paying.

  3. richard mcenroe
    May 1st, 2013 @ 8:32 pm

    Converting the mass of ideologues in the public education system, is, as you rightly observe, a Sisyphean task. What we can do and should concentrate on is the neutering of the Dept. of Education at the Federal level and the recovery of control of school boards and districts at the state and city level.

    This can be done at the local level through class-action suits, not on ideological grounds but for simple fraud. For instance, here in LA schoolchildren are being taught from a curriculum that tells them the Declaration defines “Unalienable Rights” as “life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, guaranteed housing and healthcare.” Simple fraud.

  4. The Political Hat
    May 1st, 2013 @ 8:53 pm

    It certainly could be said that *parents* should take back the ultimate responsibility for educating their *own* kids. Even if they send their kids to schools, be they public or private, they should *always* be the ones who are chiefly responsible for raising their own kids.

  5. ginthegin
    May 1st, 2013 @ 10:15 pm

    RT @smitty_one_each: TOM Liberal Media Bias and Self-Selection #TCOT

  6. richard mcenroe
    May 1st, 2013 @ 10:38 pm

    See above. The State Education Complex is intended to breed that responsibility out of the culture. Goes all the way to Thomas Dewey in the US, if not earlier.

  7. Adjoran
    May 2nd, 2013 @ 12:14 am

    Yes, until we get the government out of the school business – including subsidizing college loans – the system will not change, balance, or improve, much less actually educate in the way it did before the federal government inserted itself fully beginning with Jimmy Carter’s payback to the teachers’ unions for their early support. It is not a a difficult task, it’s impossible. Can’t be done.

    The whole “liberal media” problem is slowly solving itself as the public trusts media less than used car salesmen, advertisers find better places for their money, and the level of functional literacy continues to decline (thanks, government schools!). The Kochs would be stupid to buy LAT, as would anyone else: in twenty years it won’t be printing at all and revenues and readership will continue to spiral downward every year until then.

  8. K-Bob
    May 2nd, 2013 @ 4:50 am

    Once my kids were in school, I realized that you can’t ever hope to “fix” something as screwed up as our public school systems. So we mostly went the private and homeschool route. I say let the government schools go.

    Focus on legislation that makes it easier for neighborhoods and small groups of families to hire their own teachers and build classrooms that are far more like the old one-roomers of yore. Laws that shield such activities from too much regulation. Make each educational setting a temporary thing that isn’t part of the city/county “infrastructure,” and also something that the EPA and other agencies keep their damned noses out of.

  9. K-Bob
    May 2nd, 2013 @ 4:52 am

    Explains why I’ve rarely encountered her work on the web. Sounds like the very definition of wasted-time reading.

  10. jsn2
    May 2nd, 2013 @ 6:44 am

    You linked Matt Welch at Reason who wrote about the Houston Chronicle as an example to debunk Gupta-Whatever. He described it as having a good reputation here in Houston. Bunk. It’s referred to as the Houston Commical as in commie, communist. They’ve swung way left over the past 20 years and readership has dropped significantly over that time although it has been leveling out lately. Maybe all the new people moving here to escape the leftist hells they once lived in are now buying this rag. Maybe it seems less liberal by comparison to what they used to read in their former city of residence. A large portion of stories are NYT bylines and of no interest here. We don’t want or need that crap here. Liberals are like termites. They discretely invade a host and destroy the foundations of what preceded them. Eventually the entire social structure has been destroyed. Both insect species, termites and liberals, are pests in need of extinction.

  11. Rob Crawford
    May 2nd, 2013 @ 9:45 am

    ” Some conservatives have spent so many years complaining about The Media that their rhetoric is no longer aimed at unfair political bias and instead seems to be an expression of hostility toward an entire profession. ”

    You mean a “profession” that utterly fails to hold itself to any of their self-professed standards, that is corrupt and seems to revel in the corruption, that routinely lies about us to the point of putting us in danger, that seems dedicated to lying about the world in order to prop up totalitarian regimes around the world and to install one here at home doesn’t get a lot of love from conservatives?


    Go figure.

  12. Scribe of Slog (McGehee)
    May 2nd, 2013 @ 10:30 am

    If “journalism” is considered a dirty word among conservatives, we should scarcely be surprised that “conservative” is considered a dirty word among journalists.

    You keep misspelling that word. There is no A in journOlist.

  13. herddog505
    May 2nd, 2013 @ 5:34 pm

    I think that a conservative or libertarian paper CAN be run and staffed. That such typically are not says, I think, less about conservatives being more concerned that lefties about a paycheck and more about bias in the J-schools and newsrooms: a conservative simply hasn’t got a chance.

  14. pipedreams
    May 2nd, 2013 @ 6:31 pm

    Actually, Stacy, non-liberals can do journalism and teaching just fine. Once we’ve retired from the making money, building businesses, and satisfying commercial demands, we’re often eager to pass on our knowledge to students, and the public at large. No matter what the teacher mills and j-schools preach, most any person of intelligence and sense can teach and/or report.

  15. Leah Keever
    May 2nd, 2013 @ 6:36 pm

    The newspapers’ readerships are liberal because the newspapers have a liberal bias. What, people in the suburbs wouldn’t read the paper anyway? They have no interest in world affairs, or what’s going on in the city they commute to? Ridiculous presumption.

  16. S P Dudley
    May 2nd, 2013 @ 6:47 pm

    Conservatives would be better off focusing on how to replace public schools instead of trying to reform them. They need to do it two ways:

    1) Fully embrace private schooling for conservatives of any kind, and create a national framework of some standardization so that it’s easier to create new schools and have a good standard to hire good teachers, while also being able to “start from scratch” and jettison all of the bad things about the Dewey system.

    2) They need to find a way to provide the inner city urban poor an alternative to public school. Lower income families can’t afford solution #1 above, but if we don’t do something about them we’ll continue to lose more generations into the monster run by the unions. While I don’t have a solution to the problem, something that’s low-cost to operate and can hire non-union teachers would be essential to success.

  17. BenTheGuy
    May 2nd, 2013 @ 7:25 pm

    I like the Update… Definitely something for me to think about.

  18. fustian24
    May 2nd, 2013 @ 7:48 pm

    Things change. I think Stacey underestimates the big swings that are possible.

    He would suggest that organizations like the Wall Street Journal and Fox news are impossible.

    Instead, there is actually quite a lot of demand for conservative news and education. Fox, for example, outside of the evening news and one or two individual reporters (and Brit Hume of course) is not that great a network. It just has to be moderately more conservative than CNN to be hugely successful.


    The ideas of left and right are competing in this country for primacy. Seems foolish to abandon the schools, the press, and the culture to our competitors on the left. Talk about self-defeating.

    This doesn’t necessarily mean the smartest thing is to try to change Harvard or to infiltrate the NYT. But taking advantage of the new opportunities in digital learning and virtual universities might be a great place to start. Imagine offering a serious education credential without all the leftist propaganda and at a tenth the cost.

    Seems like it could be a gamechanger.

  19. Bob
    May 2nd, 2013 @ 7:54 pm

    McAardle holds positions that enable her to claim libertarian as her politics but she’ll quickly fall in line on certain issues. Global warming is one where her critical thinking skills are never put to the test because it’s science. Leftist can always say “you do believe in science unlike those yahoos? Don’t you?” Her and Tyler Cowen for some reason have gain the mantle of the reasonable libertarian. I don’t have much intellectual respect for the latter as he made reference to critiques of the financial crisis that place a strong blame on government as right-wing politics and so he ignored it. Kind of intellectually lazy if you ask me. Tyler and Megan will only engage issues as defined by the left or Academia in Tyler case which is basically the same.

  20. Mike G.
    May 2nd, 2013 @ 7:57 pm

    Actually, that’s John Dewey, I believe.

  21. 5ftflirt
    May 2nd, 2013 @ 8:20 pm

    Like Ann Althouse, Megan voted for Obama in 2008 and used tortuous reasoning to justify it. Nuff said.

  22. section9
    May 2nd, 2013 @ 8:28 pm

    Althouse will link to conservative bloggers though. McArdle won’t. It’s just not done in Megan’s circles.

  23. ZION'S TRUMPET » There is No “Taking Back Our Education System” – It Never Belonged To The People in The First Place
    May 2nd, 2013 @ 9:35 pm

    […] Posted on | May 1, 2013  […]

  24. fustian24
    May 2nd, 2013 @ 10:03 pm

    Nonetheless, Megan will often write about interesting ideas and will say sensible things about them.

    It’s not nothing.

  25. Patrick Carroll
    May 2nd, 2013 @ 11:30 pm

    “Long haul?”

    “Over the road.” Please.

  26. Ryan Booth
    May 3rd, 2013 @ 12:19 am

    Thank you for writing this. I’ve been trying to make the same point in regard to Common Core. If teachers aren’t held to higher math and English standards, what do conservatives assume they will be teaching:

  27. richard mcenroe
    May 3rd, 2013 @ 9:42 am

    See what happens when you go to a public school?

  28. richard mcenroe
    May 3rd, 2013 @ 9:44 am

    It’s probably easier to teach an ex-cop, factory worker, soldier or forklift driver to write gramatically than it would be to teach a journalism student to write honestly.

  29. novaculus
    May 3rd, 2013 @ 1:04 pm

    “Some conservatives have spent so many years complaining about The Media
    that their rhetoric is no longer aimed at unfair political bias and
    instead seems to be an expression of hostility toward an entire
    profession. ”

    How many turds can float in the soup before you decide not to have any?

    I know it isn’t a perfect analogy. But given the current heavy over-representation of liberal turds in the “journalist” soup pot, I find it much easier to assume anyone who claims to be a journalist is in fact just a newsjacker until they prove differently.

  30. Zee-Man
    May 3rd, 2013 @ 4:19 pm

    My modest proposal: every veteran with a degree should be offered a teaching certificate upon discharge (after psych evaluation, of course). Unemploymen among vets reduced. More viewpoints represented among teachers. Whackos less likely to storm into a school to shoot them up. Problems solved.

  31. Amber Dru
    May 4th, 2013 @ 3:48 am

    I’d start with taking them back from Gene Harris in Columbus. Data scrubbing, drop-the kidd- then add them back after the test the FBI is now involved.

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