Toward a Fuller Understanding of Media Bias: The Role of Centrist Ideology

54 Pages Posted: 24 Apr 2022 Last revised: 19 Aug 2022

Date Written: January 7, 2022

Abstract

This working paper examines the highly fraught question of bias in the U.S. news media, and contends that rather than a simplistic "liberal" or "conservative" bias the inclination of the mainstream media is "centrist," in line with the author's definition of the term in his prior working paper, "'What is Centrism?': An Examination of Centrism as a Conservative Political Philosophy." As analyzed there centrism meant an adaptation of classical conservatism to the conditions of a twentieth century liberal, industrialized society which rejects "ideology" and "extremism" in favor of a formally anti-theoretical, pragmatic, consensus-sustaining politics of negotiated small adjustments (and high tolerance for inequality and for problems in general). However, while retaining that definition this paper's more particular focus is on how centrism's "pluralist" stress on negotiation among conflicting interests, elitist tendencies, particular understanding of what constitutes "expert" opinion and how to approach it, greater sensitivity to "extremism" from the left than from the right, and suspicion of "big picture" thinking and social analysis, contribute to six particular aspects of the mainstream media's news coverage, namely

1. A tendency to deluge audiences with disconnected and uncontextualized bits of information.

2. A tendency to treat experts, and especially "Establishment" experts, as authorities (with the judgment of authority, often little or not at all explained or evidentiated), with their judgments the principal alternative to the disconnected bits (rather than background or analysis helping audiences "figure the matter out").

3. A deference to--and promotion of--Establishment sources, experts and figures generally (and disregard of those who are not), translating to a deference to Establishment opinions (and disregard of other views).

4. The drawing of the boundaries of the acceptable spectrum of political opinion so that they extend much further to the right of center than they do to the left of center.

5. A tendency to "both sidesism" within the above parameters over striving for the truth about a contentious matter (as with climate change).

6. An emphasis on politics over policy.

In addition to examining these tendencies the paper also considers the ways in which the center is often at odds with the right, and the complications that the rise of the Internet has entailed for the centrist political vision (coloring such debates as those over "fake news" and the political polarization of the country).

Keywords: Media Bias, Centrism, Media, News Media, Liberal Bias, Journalism, Political Ideology, American Political Ideology, The Political Spectrum in the U.S., The Business of Media, Neoconservatism, Neoliberalism, Postmodernism, Culture War

Suggested Citation

Elhefnawy, Nader, Toward a Fuller Understanding of Media Bias: The Role of Centrist Ideology (January 7, 2022). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4003357 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4003357

Nader Elhefnawy (Contact Author)

Miami-Dade Community College ( email )

300 NE 2nd Ave. Suite 3604
Miami, FL 33132
United States

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