Friday, June 08, 2012

Back off, man. We're pretending to do science.

Ian Boudreau (at @iboudreau on Twitter) had a nice tweet pointing to the MRC, Media Research Center, mission statement and it's effort to claim some interest in science.

And looking at it, I think it makes a great example of just the sort of ham handed efforts we often see these days to try and cloak agendas and ideology in some scientific jargon or credibility.

Now, the key issue for this right wind media group is...The rest of the media is liberal. Gasp! I've never heard that claim before.

But, you see, they are going to prove it!
... On October 1, 1987, a group of young determined conservatives set out to not only prove — through sound scientific research — that liberal bias in the media does exist and undermines traditional American values, but also to neutralize its impact on the American political scene. ...

So they wanted to do the "sound scientific research," while simultaneously countering what they are trying to prove exists. Shouldn't you focus first on proving it? Also, how are they going to prove it?

By listing out every story done "improperly," every comment from someone in the media that's "liberal," every story not giving "sufficient" coverage, and create surveys and studies bringing together the "overwhelming bias."

Obviously, I use the quote marks to, in part mock, but also to point to the ideas they want to pretend are settled and accepted. How are stories determined to be improperly done? What makes a story liberal? When is someone or something not given sufficient coverage?

Oh, it is quite simple, it comes back to their idea of BIAS. They're thinking and fuming about how the media isn't working as concertedly towards their ends. So they take their worldview and use it to mark off the things that piss them off, and ignore evidence to the contrary. They are a group that spend their days making lists of things that piss them off. If there's a story about Romney, Bain Capital, and job loss, it's a biased story. If there's a story about Romney, Bain Capital, and job creation, it's an honest story.

After the 2008 election, they looked at the 2008 presidential campaign, and say Obama got too much positive coverage, and McCain was opposed in the Media. To MRC, not giving constant coverage to the Rev. Wright and Bill Ayers is proof for this.

Better, Palin was being treated poorly by the media, since she had little positive coverage, according to MRC. Proof! Trouble is, why was Palin not giving "positive" coverage? Was it hate? Or, was it her trouble answering questions? Was it due to some some troubling political comments that were then discussed? Was it due to her being a poor candidate? Was it how MRC chose to define the word "positive."

A group like MRC is created and funded less to learn then to promote a particular idea. (Actually, groups like MRC have nothing to do with learning.) In their case, that the media is biased towards ideas that will hurt America. So they try and build up proof, with tweaked terminology and funny numbers.

They then, with other similar groups and friendly media resources (FOX, Limbaugh, Drudge, etc.) bounce claims back and forth to create the illusion of some real facts and social consensus.

For a good example of trying to build a sense of media bias, look to Joe Scarborough complaining that the New York Times is biased against Romney is a way they would never be towards a Democrat.

Wow, Joe. It's like just because you were biased towards a person and didn't like the coverage, you just assumed and treated as fact liberal media bias.

Now, it isn't just in politics and media that conservative groups are interested. In science they are also very active. Though, thankfully, the rigor of real science journals keeps most of the bullshit at bay. But the interest, again, is in building arguments that can be dropped into the general media, in the hopes of turning popular opinion against genuine scientific consensus. Who needs to convince scientist, if you can turn the public and politicians to your thinking (That is a real attitude, that is terrifying.).

Best example of these is the Discovery Institute, have a research arm (Research to prove the idea of intelligent design has any legitimacy.) and a lobbying arm (Money spent to promote the idea that intelligent design is legitimate and should be in schools. Guess which is doing all of the work (Hint: It's the lobbying arm.). So it's promoting and presenting ideas that are in no way supported as valid.

There are many groups out there like the Media Research Center and the Discovery Institute. Groups like these have learned, if we create the illusion of genuine research, if we can amass funding, and then claim authority...We can get the actual results we want, without all that pesky science and research.

Establishing facts is hard work. Claiming presupposed opinion as facts is easy, particularly when the public is left unaware.

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