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Collins-CArtoonI recall seeing a political cartoon that contrasted the way the media treated Tim Tebow versus how it treated Jason Collins, the first openly-homosexual NBA player. It depicted Tebow saying: “I’m a Christian,” and the reporter turns his back to him and walks away muttering: “Keep it to yourself.” Next to that picture, Collins is depicted saying: “I’m gay,” and the reporter lifts his microphone towards him and exclaims: “Tell me more, you big hero!!!”

Have you noticed a difference in the way the media covers liberals versus conservatives? When it comes to left-wing economic and social policies, do you find that the media functions more as advocates than reporters? In fact, the media bias is so rampant in this election cycle that Michael Goodwin of the New York Post was forced to write: “American journalism is collapsing before our eyes.”[1]

Why are journalists so liberal? Or perhaps to put it more precisely: How can an institution that claims to be impartial and objective in its reporting turn out to be so blatantly biased? There was a time that journalism embraced its role as political advocate. For most of the nineteenth century, print media was explicitly partisan in its perspectives, and openly sought to persuade an increasingly literate public to particular political positions and policies.

However, at the beginning of the twentieth century, journalism, along with Western society as a whole, went through two fundamental changes reflective of a cultural turn towards secular liberal values. First, journalists began to reimagine their craft as an extension of scientific rationalism which sought to analyze events objectively and impartially, irrespective of the preconceptions of the reporter. According to media historian Richard Kaplan:

Under objectivity, journalists adopt the pose of scientist and vow to eliminate their own beliefs and values as guides in ascertaining what was said and done. Supposedly avoiding all subjective judgments and analysis, the journalist strives to become a rigorously impartial, expert collector of information.[2]

This is why the journalist is never part of the story he or she is covering, since such an inclusion would violate the perception of objectivity. This ‘perceived absence’ is a primary way in which journalists establish themselves as mediators of information comprised of data and facts.

While the first change involved the journalist conception of knowledge, the second change involved the journalist orientation towards values. Scientific rationalism erects new boundaries of knowledge that effectively censor religions, traditions, customs, and cultures from the realm of what can be known. Indeed, scientific facts are considered objective precisely because they transcend the biases and prejudices innate to cultural values and norms. And so what emerges from this pre-commitment to scientific rationalism is what has been called a fact/value dichotomy: facts are objective while values are subjective, facts apply to all while values apply to only some. Thus, as the journalist transforms into an impartial observer of economic, political, and social events, he or she begins to view moral and religious sensibilities in terms of personal lifestyle values which are relative to individuals or cultures. Today, virtually every media outlet features prominently a “Lifestyles” section where we can learn about everything from the sex habits of entertainers to our horoscopes.

There is, I believe, an inescapable global consequence to these twin commitments of secular liberalism: inexorably, the secular liberal reimagines the world bifocally as comprised of those who embrace secular liberal values on the one hand and those who reject them on the other. Those who embrace secular commitments are by definition rational and liberal, while those who reject them are by definition irrational and repressive.

And when journalists transcribe this bifocality to the political arena, it is applied to two political parties: one which, through its support of abortion, LGBT rights, and strict separation between church and state, demonstrates its commitment to secular liberal values, while the other, through its insistence on traditional morality and social structures, demonstrates its resistance. Thus, one party is viewed consistently as rational and liberal while the other party is viewed as irrational and repressive. And when challenged on such a perspective, journalists can always fall back on objective and impartial ‘facts.’

And so, when you see the media calling an Olympic swimmer who self-identifies as a crime victim a liar, while hailing a male decathlete who self-identifies as a woman a hero, well, now you know.

Books on the topic of this essay may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore.



[2] Richard Kaplan, “The Origins of Objectivity in American Journalism,” in Stuart Allen (ed.), The Routledge Companion to News and Journalism (Routledge: New York, 2010), 25-37, 26.

[3] Mark Allen Peterson, Anthropology and Mass Communication: Myth and Media in the New Millennium (New York: Berghahn Books, 2003), 83.

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10 replies to this post
  1. Good analysis of the current state of journalism. But while you explain what journalism has embraced, I think there is a simpler explanation for why it embraced it – money. An executive who had worked for both Hearst and Gannett once explained to me most journalists are paid poorly, especially starting out, which breeds anger and bitterness. In turn, these feelings lead them to embrace the causes of the angry and embittered, while rejecting and attacking the established institutions in society they believe are holding them back. Anger born of unfulfillable desires explains the embrace of liberalism almost every time.

    • Patrick, doesn’t this “oppressed” mentality punctuate all liberal thinking, be it journalists or the common man? I once told someone about how people identify with “liberal” causes because they identify with the feeling of “oppression”, they replied, “When you live in sin, of course your oppressed.”

      • Unfortunately they see the thing oppressing them, sin, as their liberator. Even when they get what they want, be it power, prestige, sexual indulgence, etc., they find themselves even more disappointed and unfulfilled, which breeds more anger. This anger is directed toward our Western heritage, which is the product of Biblical Christianity. Envy which ultimately manifests itself in anger, is in most instances more powerful than lust. Most Christians are aware of the dangers of lust, but we are not nearly so careful when it comes to indulging anger. We cannot respond to liberals the way they respond to us. To do so is to let them drag us into their pit with them.

  2. The media in the West are dominated by a hostile elite who espouse the anti-Western ideology of Cultural Marxism. James Burnham famously said that Liberalism is the ideology of Western suicide. It’s not difficult to connect the dots.

  3. I believe that the word,secular, has become a masquerade for the word, sexual. I reread this essay substituting sexual where secular appeared. This reminded me of Christ’s warning to beware of the yeast of the Pharisees.

  4. Well it helps to not have attacks of introspection, arrogance is also at work, and yes, ignorance. On that last it helps if one can ignore the Western corpus, or better, not even know it exists. There, you’re on your way to being progressive, make sure you read the right newspapers.
    A fine post Mr. Turley.

  5. I am in disbelief snd so tired and even more frightened of our twisted media. And what makes anyone in Hollywood -(Meryl Streep, Michael Moore, God Forbid – Chelsea Handler and Madonna) An expert on what good policies are for NORMAL hardworking families and God loving American citizens? The liberal, blind, media fuels an anti moral, degraded way of living. We are tired of having the liberal AGENDA shoved down ours (and our children’s) throats daily. Us non liberals have been too polite (displaying integrity) ) for too long. WE DO NOT HAVE to believe or accept their way of life or what they believe in-period. Liberal media actually thinks we are all that stupid. How can they sleep at night. No wisdom, no truth. They claim to promote tolerance when in fact they are the very LEAST tolerant. In the end – they have to live with themselves and their nasty twisted lies. Karma.

  6. 1 Art is the tree of Life. Science is the tree of Death
    2 May God keep us from Single vision and Newton’s Sleep!
    3 Bring out number, weight and measure in a year of dearth.

    ~ William Blake

  7. I just reread this essay after reading today’s post, “Three Reasons Not to Like Abraham Lincoln” by Thomas Landess. Liberal Journalists and liberal politicians generally sleep in the same bed. I was surprised to read the above reply I posted, forgetting that I did, and believe it all the more.

    For quite awhile I have been of the belief that the spirit of our day is the unfinished ongoing war between scientific objectivity and the so called Christian subjectivity. Christianity, in truth, has always been objective theologically since it is learned and proclaimed through history.

    The Bible is not only the word of God, but it is also a book of history of real people, located in real places, during real time. Those who are Christians are those who are called and brought into adoption into the Israel of the Hebrews. Christian is not a “new religion” but the fulfillment of God’s promises foretold and historically revealed through cause and effect.

    Christianity can and does boldly proclaim the scientific objective truth of the biological and cultural effects of sexual promiscuity. These effects were known to the Hebrews well before scientific revelation.

    Christians are far from being the ignorant and subjective people portrayed by liberal journalists, politicians, scientists and neighbors.

    The ongoing and never ending Great War that marches through all of time.

  8. I do not think that there ever was a “Golden Era” of journalism where there was any kind of full truth being presented, as there have always been too many owners of newspapers, and later on Radio and TV stations, that made sure that only their point of view was presented.
    Yellow Journalism of the late 1800s and early 1900s never really went away, it just changed its appearance enough to fool people.
    Where it really got bad was in the 1970s when the Associated Press became the only news-wire being used in the US. Later CNN became another source. The NY Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune had been some of the major sources for news as well, but again, when all they are doing is reflecting the owners opinions, is it really news?
    Journalism has been able to convince people that they are more than scandal rags and gossip columns, although the truth is that is really about all they have become.
    The only real truth you see in the news any more is the sports scores and the obituaries.

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