Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Color Commentary

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)

To continue The Chart Project, despite all those rightwing charges about a “liberal media,” it seems fairly rare to see true “liberals” on mainstream television. It’s pretty common to see a strident, hardcore rightwinger paired with a moderate and relatively civil, measured Democrat. This may be partially due to most news outlets’ corporate ownership, which tends by its nature to be establishment or bourgeois (to resurrect a seldom-used term in the States). This also may be because the United States has grown more conservative in bent in the last fifty years or so, at least in self-perception and by self-identification (although on actual policy issues, Americans tend to lean liberal). There’s also no major socialist party in the United States, unlike many other industrialized nations, but more to the point, America lacks programs such as universal health care that are common in many foreign major players on the world stage.

Of course labels such as “liberal” and “progressive” are contentious, and can mean different things to different people, even in a single country. Plus the “hawk” versus “dove” divide, as contentious as those terms are as well, is probably a more important dichotomy than any other currently in American politics, even though it’s often ignored, obscured, or just poorly covered by most of the mainstream media, who think almost exclusively in Democrat-Republican terms (as covered in ”The Chart That Explains It All!” ).

There’s also an inherent flaw with a spectrum like this, even though it gives more nuance to the normal binary oppositions of Democrat-Republican and liberal- conservative. For example, a one-dimensional scale like this doesn’t allow the flexibility of a two-dimensional grid that considers both social and economic liberalism/conservatism:

But that’s beyond the scope of this post, since breaking down where the many contemporary Republican and Democrat constituencies fall on that grid is a project all on its own. This post deals more with our two political parties and their representation in the mainstream news. (Plus, this is partially just to have a little fun.)

With all those caveats in mind, let us continue. Let’s take this spectrum bar:

And let’s say this represents the spectrum of political position from conservative to liberal, ironically moving from left to right. (This is very loose, mind you!)

(Fascist – off the chart)
Authoritarian Conservative
Conservative Republican
Moderate Republican
Centrist Republican
Centrist Independent
Centrist Democrat
Moderate Democrat
Liberal Democrat
Social Democrat
(Socialist – off the chart)

Most of the mainstream media purport to give us this sort of balance in their political coverage:

They also purport to give us a balanced, even-handed understanding of a given issue, which we can depict as so:

In reality, strongly conservative Republicans are normally played off relatively moderate Democrats:

And the media gives us something closer to this:

Really bad coverage will pair a hard-line, authoritarian conservative (“Democrats are traitors”) with a moderate, civil-to-a-fault Democrat:

Leaving us with this:

(And yes, I think it’s funny to depict the party of homophobia in hot pink.)

Meanwhile, Fox News typically pairs a hard-line, authoritarian conservative (“Democrats are traitors”) with a Faux News Democrat (“I’m not a liberal, but I play one on TV”), who acts as Centrist Democrat (if not a Centrist Republican):

Bill O’Reilly likes to pick Faux News Democrats who will agree with him, and hardcore rightwingers even further to the right than he is, so he can appear reasonable in comparison. The end result is that O’Reilly, who in his mind is always right, gives us something this:

At his most moderate, that is. Meanwhile, when a Fox News segment involves Ann Coulter, especially when Sean Hannity is involved, we normally receive something like this:

That’s all, folks! See you for the next installment!

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