Marshall Psychology Prof: Media Not Liberal

Marshall University psychology professor W. Joseph Wyatt should probably stick to psychology as oposed to attempting media analysis. However, he has decided to write an op-ed in the Huntington, West Viriginia Herald Dispatch claiming that media bias is a myth. Professor Wyatt begins by claiming that,

However, a 2002 Gallup poll showed that slightly more than a third of journalists describe themselves as Democrats, meaning that the vast majority are something else, and unlikely to be liberal.

Unfortunately for the good professor, a 2007 Gallup poll as reported in the American Journalist actually found that,

When it came to the subject of party affiliation, 36% of the journalists said they were Democrats in 2002 compared with 44% in 1992. (That’s the lowest percentage of self-proclaimed Democrats since 1971.) The percentage of Independents dropped slightly from 1992 to 2002 and the ranks of Republicans grew incrementally from 16% to 18%.

So we have 36 percent Democrat, 18 percent Republican and 40 percent 'independent'. Since reporters tend to think that 'independent' usually means 'progressive', we can safely asssume that most ofd these self-described 'independents' actually vote mostly or entirely Democratic. And there is no doubt, as the poll concludes, that journalist are much more liberal than the general population. The same poll reported that, "If newsrooms have moved slightly rightward, the research shows, however, that journalists are still more liberal than their audiences. According to 2002 Gallup data in “The American Journalist,” only 17% of the public characterized themselves as leaning leftward, and 41% identified themselves as tilting to the right. In other words, journalists are still more than twice as likely to lean leftward than the population overall." Professor Wyatt continues by claiming that the media gave an equal amount of time and space to Bill Clinton's well-documented lie about having sex with intern Monica Lewinsky annd what he characterizes as Bush's "lie about wiretapping. Wyatt writes,

Over the next 66 days, his lie was replayed on the major news networks (CNN, Fox, ABC, CBS, NBC) five times as often as was Bush's lie about wiretapping ("Any time you hear the United States government talking about a wiretap, it requires ... a court order.") in the 66 days after it had been revealed.

This would be interesting, but the facts are that President Clinton did indeed lie. However, to characterize President Bush's wiretap comment as a lie is to betray a misunderstanding of truth and falsehood. Bush's statement was made in the context of discussing roving wiretaps- he was also specifically discussing domestic comunications. What he actually said was,

Secondly, there are such things as roving wiretaps. Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution. But a roving wiretap means -- it was primarily used for drug lords. A guy, a pretty intelligence drug lord would have a phone, and in old days they could just get a tap on that phone. So guess what he'd do? He'd get him another phone, particularly with the advent of the cell phones. And so he'd start changing cell phones, which made it hard for our DEA types to listen, to run down these guys polluting our streets. And that changed, the law changed on -- roving wiretaps were available for chasing down drug lords. They weren't available for chasing down terrorists, see? And that didn't make any sense in the post-9/11 era. If we couldn't use a tool that we're using against mobsters on terrorists, something needed to happen.

I remind the good professor that the widely misunderstood NSA program (which he does not directly mention but to which he is clearly alluding) focused on calls one end of which was in a foreign country. By definiteion, those are not domestic calls, not matter how hysterical the media wants to get. So Bush's statement, taken in context, was not a lie, whereas Clinton's clearly was. In that context, to state that the media gave as much attention to Bush's statement as Clinton's actually reinforces the fact that the media focused more on Bush's comments, which were not lies, than Clinton's which clearly were. And I don't see Professor Wyatt even discussing the furor over the famous 'sixteen words' which were by no stretch of the imagination a lie. And those sixtenn words received far more attention than Clinton's provable falsehoods. Professor Wyaatt then proceeds into the realms of hysteria, claiming that,

Last October, President Bush signed the controversial Military Commissions Act. That new law allowed the president, free of oversight, to order any American citizen to be snatched off the street, imprisoned without being charged, held without notice to his family, without hearing evidence against him, without access to a lawyer -- forever. The law was a shot across the bow of Americans' rights like no other in memory.

The good professor completely mis-states what the Act does. It does not apply to American citizens, who remain unaffected by the provisions of the act. It specifically applies only to aliens who are unlawful combatants. The summary of the Act itself clearly states that,

Amends the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) to codify and establish procedures governing the use of commissions to try alien unlawful enemy combatants (combatants) engaged in hostilities against the United States for violations of the law of war and other offenses specifically made triable by commissions under this Act. Defines an "unlawful enemy combatant" as a person who has: (1) engaged in or supported hostilities against the United States or its co-belligerents who is not a lawful enemy combatant; or (2) been determined to be an unlawful enemy combatant by a Combatant Status Review Tribunal or other tribunal established under the authority of the President or the Secretary of Defense (Secretary). Defines a "lawful enemy combatant" as a person who is a member of: (1) the regular forces of a State party engaged in hostilities against the United States; (2) a militia, volunteer corps, or organized resistance movement belonging to a State party engaged in such hostilities, which are under responsible command, wear a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance, carry their arms openly, and abide by the law of war; or (3) a regular armed force who professes allegiance to a government engaged in such hostilities, but not recognized by the United States.

Not content with mis-stating the purpose of the Military Commissions Act, Professor Wyatt then descends into the fever swamps, claiming,

DeLay, under indictment for money laundering, recently told the NBC "Today" show audience that the media frenzy relative to Sen. Larry Craig's public bathroom activities are never cast on Democrats. Really? Maybe DeLay somehow missed the media feast on the Clinton-Lewinski matter.

The Clinton-Lewinsky matter, if the good professor recalls, was broken by Matt Drudge, at which point the mainstream media could no longer ignore it. They did do their best to avoid reporting on it. And can anyone claim that Democrats receive the same treatment as Republicans? Senator Craig's party identification was blazoned from every headline. Does the professor remember how the Swift boat vets, who had legitimate questions about John kerry's fitness to be Commander-in-Chief, and all of whom were willing to be identified, received far less favorable media attention than an anonymous source with forged docuemnts puporting to prove that George Bush did not fulfill the conditions of his National Guard service? And I am still waiting for most of the mainstream media to include Representative William Jeffferson's (Democrat) in most stories. I also don't recall Rhode Island Democratic Representative Patrick Kennedy's DUI getting anywhere near the Craig-level coverage from the mainstream media. Wyatt's op-ed is merely the childish complaints of the neighborhood bully who no longer has his uway uninhibited by countering forces. Hat tip to NewsBuster reader Michael Fidanza. Cross-posted on StoneHeads.