There is something vital that conservative TV, radio and print commentators are intentionally keeping from their audiences.
And it's not John Boehner's secret to youthful looking skin.
What conservative commentators are keeping from their audience is that they -- the TV, radio and print media -- are liars.
And the lie they perpetuate isn't a sin of omission, or a half-truth, or something reasonable people genuinely differ about. No.
Conservative commentators are telling the kind of lie where on one hand, something is a fact... and on the other hand, there is the opposite of a fact. A lie. Something that is not true that is meant to mislead, scare and confirm long held beliefs.
The lie I'm referring to is the lie of the existence of the mainstream media.
This is a quote from Sean Hannity (April 22, 2011): "It's common knowledge that the mainstream media from the major television networks, to the countries most influential newspapers are biased against the GOP."
This is a lie. Sean Hannity is a liar. And he's not telling you something he believes is true, like "Avatar is a great movie." He's telling you something he knows is a lie and is passing it off as truth.
And here's a quote from Bill O'Reilly (July 9, 2012): "But they [the mainstream media] consciously wake up in the morning and they say, "I'm not going to report things that make my ideology look bad."
This is also a lie. Bill O'Reilly is a liar.
When Republican and Conservative media talk about the "mainstream media" they are referring to an imagined inter-connected cabal of lefties, progressives and liberals who they believe are controlling the vast preponderance of media that EVERYONE in the U.S. listens to, reads, watches, and is singularly influenced by that is intentionally undermining the conservative agenda by making Republican politicians and conservative media out to be evil, stupid and racist -- while simultaneously under reporting, miss-reporting, or omitting the details from news that undermines the liberal agenda.
That is a lie.
Here are some facts.
In cable news, Bill O'Reilly has the largest audience, averaging 2.6 million viewers per night in August 2012. He has been the number one rated news program on cable for 10 consecutive years.
FOX also has the 10 top-rated cable news programs.
On Thursday Aug. 30, in prime time, FOX News had nearly nine million viewers. More than twice as many as CNN, MSNBC, Headline News, and CNBC combined. Bill O'Reilly had fives times as many viewers as those same networks. Again, that's combined.
Fox News also had twice as many viewers as the broadcast networks (9 million vs 4.5 million).
In fact, the media organization that has the most profound penetration into the hearts and minds of Americans is Fox News.
And that's just TV.
Rush Limbaugh has anywhere from 14 million to 20 million unique listeners a week.
Sean Hannity has about 14 million unique listeners per week.
Michael Savage has about nine million unique listeners.
Laura Ingraham about six million unique listeners.
In fact, nine of the top-10 talk radio shows are hosted by conservative commentators.
And that's just the radio.
In print, The Wall Street Journal is the largest circulated newspaper in the nation, with a daily average readership of 2.1 million. The New York Times is the third most circulated paper with 1.5 million.
And keep in mind, the WSJ is owned by the same corporation that owns Fox News.
If there was a cabal of media elites working to shape the policies of the American government, it's more likely to be coming from Rupert Murdoch's boardroom than from the dispirit media organizations owned by a variety of corporations that each has their own stock price to worry about, shareholders to answer to, and long term business goals.
(And FYI -- I'm not suggesting that a cabal of Murdoch employees is coordinating a conservative media agenda. I'm suggesting that if they were, it would just be easier to coordinate from News Corps' boardroom, than from the various headquarters of media operations around the U.S.).
When conservative commentators and Republican politicians tell you they are under-represented in the media, that their views don't reach Americans in the way that liberal ideas do, that they are NOT the mainstream media, they are lying.
Conservative media IS mainstream. To say the opposite, that it's NOT mainstream, is a lie.
Let's for a moment assume the worst case scenario: that there is a coordinated effort on the part of liberal-thinking media elites to misreport news, slant their coverage and refrain from reporting that which negatively impacts liberal causes.
In order for this scheme to be effective, I am forced to assume the following about the American electorate...
1. There is a vast subset of Americans who get their news from one place and one place only (one of the liberal biased media outlets)
a) That is, unless, they get their news only from the combined liberal leaning local news channel in their area, only listen to the liberal leaning radio station, read the liberal thinking newspaper, have only friends who are liberal and only read the liberal leaning websites.
2. That this subset of Americans lack the gene for critical thinking
3. And, that this subset of Americans would rather have liberal leaning policies FAIL than see more conservative leaning policies succeed.
Despite the preposterous nature of the above, the lie about the mainstream media is relentlessly perpetuated.
And yet even in the face of facts, the lie persists.
Because to conservative media and Republican politicians, facts are a liberal bias.
If you'll indulge me for a moment... One of the things conservative media and Republican politicians point to in order to confirm media bias is a 2005 study by a UCLA Political Science professor.
This professor made up a metric to quantify a media outlet's political leanings. He decided that his metric would be the number of times they quoted a liberal or conservative think tank to provide expertise or background information.
If the media outlet quoted liberal think tanks more... their ranking leaned more towards liberal... and if they quoted conservative think tanks more, their ranking leaned more towards conservative.
OK. So -- lets assume this is a good idea... In order to scientifically test this "quote a think tank" hypothesis, you would have to do the following things...
1. Monitor newspapers, magazines and websites starting at the same time, and concluding at the same time -- count up the number of times they quoted liberal leaning experts and conservative leaning experts -- do some division, get an average, then plot it on a graph.
However, the professor's study does not do this. In fact, in many instances, media outlets are scrutinized for think tank quotes over the course of several months, and in others, media outlets are scrutinized for several years.
2. The study would need a mechanism to compensate for stories that don't depend on balanced reporting. This study does not.
When journalists write about say, an increase in the number of rapes on college campuses, they might get a quote from Planned Parenthood (a liberal organization)... however, they would not look for a competing quote from an organization that advocates rape.
In the professor's metric, this story would be considered "liberal."
Although this study has the smell of science -- it is NOT science. And its results are not facts.
And yet, conservative media and Republican politicians take the criticism of the report as flawed as further evidence of liberal bias.
However, demonstrating facts is not a liberal bias.
Conservatives media and Republican politicians would have us believe that on the one hand, the mainstream media distorts their views and paints them as evil, stupid and racist -- while on the other hand, Republican politicians continually win political races: Today, there are 29 Republican governors. The Republicans controlled the House from 1995 until 2007 and controlled BOTH the House and Senate from 2002 until 2006.
Which is it? Are voters getting news from the biased liberal media... or are they getting their news from the unbiased conservative media?
You see, in order for there to be bias, conservative commentators and Republican politicians have to assume there is in fact a correct answer to the questions they pose, a correct way to implement the policies they support... and that members of the liberal media misreport the facts or under report the facts and then replace them with information that supports their way of thinking.
Conservatives would have you believe that their "facts" are THE facts; that they are the one and only true set of facts and that any deviation from their facts demonstrates bias.
And this is a lie, too.