In my latest reading of War on the Middle Class: How the Government, Big Business, and Special Interest Groups Are Waging War on the American Dream and How to Fight Back, Lou Dobbs criticizes how the news media feel they are doing their job by featuring both the Republican and the Democratic sides in the name of balance, rather than digging deeply into issues. On page 91, Dobbs says glibly:
“The truth stands by itself. The idea that fair and balanced is a substitute for truth and fact is mindless nonsense that has captured too much of the national media. There seem to be only two sides, both political, to every story. Does that mean that if we had three major political parties there would be three sides to the truth? If we had four parties, would there be four sides?”
I used to be more of an advocate of a “fair and balanced” news media. I felt that the media were too liberal and should feature both Democratic and also Republican perspectives. When I was in high school, I wrote letters to my local newspaper against Channel One, a news program that students were required to watch each morning. I thought that Channel One was biased towards the left and did not include an adequate number of conservative voices. Over time, however, it did appear to make more of an effort to be balanced. James Dobson and Beverly LaHaye were interviewed, and, in a retrospective about the Vietnam War, students in a fictional 1970’s classroom were debating the war, as some defended it and others criticized it.
But “fair and balanced” media can get on my nerves, to tell you the truth. When I got cable, I was excited that I could finally watch Hannity and Colmes on Fox News. When there were debates about public policy on Fox News, then that could get interesting. But where I got annoyed was when Sean Hannity (the conservative) would accuse liberals of doing something wrong, and Alan Colmes (the liberal) would then retort that conservatives have done the same wrong thing, or when one side acted as if the other side were to blame for our country’s ills—-as if life is that simple. In my opinion, those debates really went nowhere.
While I enjoy debates on public policy, however, maybe Lou Dobbs has a point that even those are flawed, in terms of how the mainstream media in the U.S. present them. Why should we assume that Republican and Democratic ideologies are the only ways to see the world? There are other ways, as well. There are ways that are further left or further right, or even independent.