The Media, Their Polls and the False News They Produce

First published in Human Events on November 27th, 2007.

NewsBusters.org - The Media Research CenterWash, spin, rinse, spin. Phone, spin, report, spin, poll, spin. The similarities between the work of the mainstream media and a laundry machine are striking. Yet there is nothing about the cycle -- the spin-report-poll-spin cycle -- that does for political events what detergent does for your boxers or briefs.

The media, as One, spend days or weeks bashing someone or something they do not like. They then conduct a poll to prove to you that they were right all along. In a campaign season, their one-sided coverage is calculated, then executed to produce a result. It’s not about reporting the events, it’s about changing the prevailing view.

And the polls -- such as the ones by the media, which are not independent surveys like those undertaken by the likes of Rasmussen or Gallup -- aren’t intended as much to gauge the public view of a candidate or events as they are to reinforce that which they have “reported”, or provide the media guidance on how effective their spinning of the news has been.

The latest example of this is Reuters reporting on November 21 on a Reuters/Zogby poll under the header “Americans enter holidays in dark mood”.

From which: “Americans enter the holiday season in a dark mood, with economic worries, security fears and a lack of confidence in government fueling growing pessimism, according to a Reuters/Zogby poll ….

“‘All that bad news has a cumulative effect. It feeds and festers,’ (pollster John) Zogby said.” (Emphasis added.)

So Zogby acknowledges that Reuters, et al are acting as sooth-sayers rather than truth tellers. That their ceaselessly predicting a recession in the face of all evidence, thereby downplaying what has been a fabulous economy, has some sort of long term consequence as to how the public views our fiscal situation.

As evidenced in the story itself: “A majority of Americans, 55 percent, still rate their personal finances as good, up slightly from 54 percent last month.”

In other words, they themselves are in good financial shape, but they have so often heard how bad it is out there that they are more broadly pessimistic despite their own experience. (“Who are you going to believe, me or your lying checkbook?”)

That the excoriation of all things connected -- even remotely -- to President Bush, including the Administration’s handling of Iraq and Hurricane Katrina, has had a lasting effect on how the populace views Washington. And it has helped foster and deepen the American people’s preexisting lack of trust in the federal government. (Last summer’s illegal immigration “reform” fiasco merely re-exhibited their inherent misgivings of all things Washington.)

This lack of trust produces a great many reactions, including a fear of another terrorist attack despite our not been struck in over six years. (The media, of course, can not bring themselves to credit the Bush Administration for this.).

Zogby’s poll results indirectly prove the irrelevance of the media’s cottage mistrust industry in its research and accompanying “news” story.

This journalism-by-poll often leaves those of us at odds with the media narrative on the defensive, chasing months of inaccurate and bad coverage with too little, too late attempts to correct the record when the latest bad survey results are reported.

By that point it is better to ask not for whom the poll tolls; it tolls for thee, ye Conservatives.

What is needed is the sharper, faster promotion of things as they are, rather than allowing the media an unchallenged opportunity to report things as they wish they were. For them it is not “just the facts”, it is everything but.

And facts are, as Mark Twain said, stubborn things. Therefore, despite our being outnumbered we are by no means outgunned. We must choose our battles or the media will choose them for us, on a field which they largely control.

2008 is our quadrennial political Super Bowl. It is well past time to suit up and take the field.