We certainly associate propaganda and media control with a German government — just not the contemporary one. But this idea may have to reconsidered in light of an admission by a major German ex-media figure that as far as media reportage goes, “The topics about which are reported are laid down by the government.”
The figure, former head of German network ZDF Bonn, Dr. Wolfgang Herles, furthermore said in a recent radio interview that journalists are given directions to craft news that is “to Ms. Merkel’s liking”; obviously referring to Chancellor Angela Merkel, Herles elaborated, stating that today “one is not allowed to say anything negative about the refugees” (Muslim migrants).
Calling it a “scandal” causing ordinary Germans to totally lose “faith in the media,” reported Breitbart, Dr. Herles’ assessment was vindicated by subsequent events: Relatively few media outlets in Germany — or elsewhere — even reported on his explosive revelations. This inspired one that did to issue a strong denunciation. Writes the Russian Times:
If you really want a lesson in how the Western popular press works, this is it.
Without question, Germany is the leading power in Europe. ZDF is its state broadcaster and most popular channel.
Together with sister network ARD; German's are obliged to pay €17.98 per month to fund it.
This week, during a radio event in Berlin, the retired head of ZDF Bonn, Dr Wolfgang Herles, dropped a bombshell. He admitted the network, and others, takes orders from the government on what, and what not, to report.
Now, you'd expect this kind of story to be splashed across the world's press, wouldn't you? A former senior management figure acknowledging that his ex-employers work in tandem with the authorities to control the news agenda in such an important country? If such a revelation was made in a "developing" nation, NATO media would be all over it.
Yet, it's not.
Of course, media bias and the practice of making important stories the tree falling in a forest without no one to hear it are nothing new, as astute observers have long noted that Western media are almost monolithically “left-wing.” Just consider voting patterns among U.S. journalists. It was reported (not too widely) years ago already that, as the Media Research Council (MRC) put it, “89 percent of Washington-based reporters said they voted for Bill Clinton in 1992. Only seven percent voted for George Bush, with two percent choosing Ross Perot.” In 1996, a whopping 92 percent of Washington reporters voted for Clinton.
With this pattern evident for more than half a century, the MRC presents data going back to 1964, when 94 percent of “influential journalists” surveyed voted for the Democrat presidential candidate, Lyndon Johnson, and only six percent voted for Republican Barry Goldwater. In more recent times, reports the MRC, a survey of Washington-based journalists found that they supported Democrat John Kerry over George W. Bush by a 12-to-1 margin in 2004 and that in 2008, “96% of staffers at the online Slate magazine said they were supporting Barack Obama for president.” Just as tellingly, “Democrats got 88 percent of 2008 contributions by TV network execs, writers, [and] reporters,” the Daily Caller informed in 2010.
Yet it’s getting harder to collect such data. Sensitive to accusations of bias and seeking to hide it, journalists have a new tactic. As a 2014 Indiana University (IU) survey reported, “In 2013, about half of all journalists (50.2 percent) said they were political independents, up about 18 percentage points from 2002.” This is “not a surprise,” noted Newsbusters at the time, “since you’d expect some liberals in the media to pretend they are something else so such polls as this [IU’s] would under-count liberals.”
And this bias has its effect, as the media are our conduit of information. Consider: How do we even know of what Germany’s Merkel is so feverishly trying to suppress negative news about, the Muslim migration into Europe? The media. How many people would have learned of it by word of mouth? And it’s as with a computer: garbage in, garbage out. If people receive incorrect information (wrong input data) about politicians and policies, they end up supporting the wrong ones (incorrect output).
This effect is apparent. As UCLA political science professor Tim Groseclose pointed out in his 2011 book Left Turn, mainstream-media outlets are so far left that they make more centrist ones, such as Fox News, seem radically right and out of the common-man mainstream. This bias manifests itself, for instance, when statists such as France’s Marine Le Pen and Holland’s Geert Wilders are routinely characterized as “right-wing” while avowed socialists such as France’s François Hollande and America’s Bernie Sanders are rarely (if ever) described as “left-wing,” despite being much further “left” than the former two figures are “right.”
The result? Since many people are reluctant to support those seeming “radical,” they’ll vote for the leftists incorrectly portrayed as moderates. As an example, Professor Groseclose stated, "Media bias aids Democratic candidates by about 8 to 10 percentage points in a typical election. I find, for instance, that if media bias didn't exist, John McCain would have defeated Barack Obama 56 percent to 42 percent, instead of losing 53-46." And in line with the garbage in-garbage out phenomenon, the professor points out that the media’s slant creates a vicious circle: "That bias makes us more liberal, which makes us less able to detect the bias, which allows the media to get away with more bias, which makes us even more liberal."
Of course, as the 2010 “Journolist” scandal evidenced, media figures have colluded to manipulate the news and formulate propaganda. Yet the problem is actually far worse than conspiracy. There’s a saying, "A man capable of deceiving only others is not nearly as dangerous as a man capable of deceiving himself," and the main source of media slanting is, well, the media’s slant. As ex-CBS insider Bernard Goldberg pointed out in his 2002 book Bias, media people live in an ivory-tower echo chamber. They all basically attend the same cocktail parties, listen to the same academicians, imbibe the same entertainment, and repeat the same talking points back to each other. “They don’t have blue-collar people … in their families. They don’t have blue-collar friends, and they don’t want any,” wrote Goldberg. As he put it, there are no “conspiracies. No deliberate attempts to slant the news. It just happens. Because the way reporters and editors see the world, the way their friends and colleagues see the world, matters.” The Journolist collusion shows that Goldberg did overstate his case (in fairness, media bias has become even more conscious since Goldberg left CBS), and the story in Germany is somewhat different still. But the point is that media types confirm their own biases for each other just as they shape public ones.
This could leave one pining for an “unbiased media,” but this is impossible. As philosopher G.K. Chesterton put it, “In truth, there are only two kinds of people; those who accept dogma and know it, and those who accept dogma and don’t know it.” If we fully accept that “murder is wrong” or that “important issues warrant more press than trivial ones,” we have dogmas, or biases. Note that a bias can be negative or positive. This puts the lie to the notion of being “fair and balanced” by showing “both sides,” as there are far more than two sides: There is the Truth — and countless lies. A good journalist is biased in favor of Truth.
Unfortunately, with an almost universally relativistic world of journalists whose dogma is “everyone has his own ‘truth,’” the word — small-t version — can easily become synonymous with lies.