Tim Groseclose specializes in political statistics and Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind is just the catchy title of an almost academic book. The author gathers the results of a seven-year long survey of the media in the US, its articles and journalists – a part of his job in UCLA; he also describes the circumstances related to the survey, its publication in academic journals and provides us with more popular explanations of its main points.
Groseclose’s survey proves something that has been obvious to me ever since I accidentally started following the articles and shows in NYT, Economist, WP, The Guardian, CNN as well as watching some movies that provoked my interest in politics and economics. This is – the majority of articles and broadcast is biased. Biased to the profit of the political left.
The government raises the minimal salary – the tone of approval is obvious even in the most plain of articles. A TV channel broadcasts the arrest of Rodney King, but cuts the part where he attacks the police and shows only police brutality. And a fresh example that is not included in the book – an African-American youngster is shot by a Latino guard.
Actually, this is not such a surprise – between 85 and 95, and somewhere even 97% of the journalists in a single media sympathize with the Democratic Party. Thus the bias in news are in many cases unintentional (bad thing about prejudice is that people do not realize they have one). What is really worrying though is the intentional bias. The logical result of this process is demonizing the political right and tolerance to the imperfections of the political left, no matter how serious they might be.
Such a hot topic inevitably provokes polarized reactions. The book has received both accolades and strongly negative reviews from its readers and critics. Journalists, of course, are not in love with Groseclose’s conclusions. What is worth mentioning though is that academic circles have met the survey quite calmly – as I have already pointed out its results have been published in academic journals and are now quoted by authors in many new books on the topic.
My advice to all readers who would be interested in this book – be careful not take the conclusions for granted. Groseclose is presenting his arguments very fluently and in good order and it is very easy to believe him without question. But if you are really interested in the topic I would suggest you read more about the history of media in the US, at least forty years back from now. You should also make sure that you have a very good notion of what political right and left means, because the author’s explanations are sometimes blurred in this regard.
What Left Turn is really great about is that it can easily provoke a conversation about a focal point in modern society – the role of media in the Western world. And I believe a book that provokes an argument is a book worth reading!