Bronze-level article

Media

From RationalWiki
(Redirected from Hostile media effect)
Jump to navigation Jump to search
You gotta spin it to win it
Media
Icon media.svg
Stop the presses!
We want pictures
of Spider-Man!
Extra! Extra!
The media is the right arm of anarchy.
—Dan Brown, Angels and Demons

Media is a catch-all term that refers to all means of communication of information, which could be in video, audio, or literary form and can be spread through broadcasting, the print, and the internet. Television, newspapers, magazines, radio, music, and the movie industries are generally considered part of the mainstream media (MSM), since they appeal to a wide audiences, whereas the term media can also refer to Youtube videos, blogs, podcasts, wikis, memes, email, research journals, etc. — or really any other form of communication. "Media" is the plural form of “medium”, but it generally uses singular verb forms, so it'd be silly to say things like "so many medias are biased" or "the medias are raising a moral panic."

Media bias[edit]

Conservatives, particularly Fox News, like to accuse the mainstream media of having a liberal bias, not realizing that they themselves are a part of the mainstream media. Claims of mainstream media bias however are not unique to the right and there are also many liberal and left-wing individuals who believe that mainstream media is beholden to special interests, particularly corporations. In the case of state funded broadcasters, like the BBC, left-wingers may claim that although the institution may be publicaly funded that doesn't necessarily mean that the people in charge are sympathetic to left-wing causes. Finally, there are those who dislike the mainstream media because it functions as an effective scape-goat to explain why their conspiracy theory, alternative medicine or new age spirituality isn't as popular as they think it should be.

Left-wing claims of bias[edit]

Almost everyone who claims the media is biased, believes it is in someway biased against them. But perhaps the most famous and enduring account/theory/whinge about how the mainstream media may be biased against the left is found in the model of propaganda outlined by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky.[1]

Chomsky and Herman proposed that since media is controlled by corporations, and those corporations have political and economic interests, those interests will be reflected in our media landscape. For example, a cable news channel that received large amounts of ad sales from Coca ColaWikipedia will be relatively unlikely to publish a report on Coca Cola having potentially funded paramilitary death-squads that killed and tortured trade-union officials.[2] Likewise the editor of a newspaper owned by a wealthy media baron such as Rupert Murdoch is unlikely to be employed for very long if they run a story about taxing wealthy media barons.



The model may seem conspiratorial at first but on closer inspection it is in many ways an alternative to conspiracy theories about the media, as it replaces speculation about Illumaniti or secret Jewish cabals with an analysis of how self-interest and private media-ownership produces an ecosystem that fails to "speak truth to power".

Importantly this model does not require anyone to lie or to say things which they do not believe to be true. Under "Chomsky's" propaganda model corporations and wealthy media executives simply hire the journalists and editors that they like and these journalists and editors (surprise, surprise!) tend to be one's who support the things that large corporations and wealthy individuals also tend to like. Chomsky infamously made this point when responding in an interview to the BBC journalist Andrew MarrWikipedia who dismissed his model claiming that Chomsky was arguing that journalists like Marr were self-censoring:[3]

I'm sure you believe everything you're saying... But what I'm saying is if you believed something different you wouldn't be sitting where you're sitting

In short, the economic leverage that wealthy right wingers and large corporations have means they don't need to corrupt anyone. They can just throw money at media projects that align with their interest and dominate the media that way, either by bank-rolling individual conservative thinkers or by channeling money into right wing media organisations and associated pressure groups and campaigners. A prime example of this would be GB News the self-styled Fox News of the UK that was propped up by huge investements from friendly - and wealthy - right wing donors,[4] despite the channel largely underperforming and failing to capture and hold on to its audience.[5][6][7] Meanwhile left wing media outfits like Novara Media or the Canary can only dream of angel investors descending to buy them a news studio and salaries for 24/7 coverage.

This materialistic account of how private media ownership, and the reality of having to sell ad-space, affects the media sphere provides a relatively good explanation for why in almost every capitalist society the media skews to the right in terms of who is represented, what views are allowed on air and what stories make it to print. For example, a report by FAIR found that between 2014 and 2016 almost no representatives of organized labor appeared on U.S. mainstream media outlets.[8] A recent study has found a positive correlation between investments in corporate media by corporations and less coverage on corporate scandals (what the study deems "corporate social irresponsibility"). [9] In this way, Chomsky's propaganda model works as an inference to the best explanation for why such correlations and lack of representation of labour and left wing voices are so common. Another example of right-wing bias in the U.S. media is the amplification of pro-war voices in the lead-up to the Iraq War and the marginalization of anti-war activists.[10][note 1]

Despite what the media would have you believe,[11] a 2022 report by the National Retail Foundation found that external retail theft only makes up 37% of total shrink.[12] Conversely, wage theft has cost American workers billions.[13] It's an open secret that the media barely covers wage theft while "going all in" on shoplifting.[14]

Right-wing claims of bias[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Liberal media

As is expected, left-wingers are not the only people dissatisfied with how they are covered (or not covered) by the mainstream media. Although it is the hallmark of American conservatives and Fox News especially, almost all right wing movements decry the media as biased against their values, beliefs and identity. There are typically three main right wing gripes with the media:

  1. Modern Media is a Godless cesspool full of sin.
  2. Modern Media is too woke and politically correct.
  3. Modern Media is a socialist-communist-Obamaist-Marxist plot to destroy our freedom.

Complaint 1 is, depending on your idea of sin, an easy enough claim to evidence. However it probably has less to do with an evil liberal media bias and more to do with the slow secularising society and the fact that sex sells in a hyper-consumerist economy.

Complaint 2 is, again depending on your idea of wokeness, perhaps reasonably easy enough to evidence. However most of the time what conservatives are upset at is not really a meaningful embracing of radical feminist or anti-racist politics and more a symbolic, and often highly cynical, gesture in the culture war intended to court progressive dollars rather than meaningfully advance a cause.

Complaint 3 is the more obviously batshit claim and where the right wing critique of mainstream media tends to break down. Whereas a stuck in the mud evangelical (who's opinions on race, sexuality and gender haven't evolved since the 50's) could probably make a case for modern media having left his values behind the same cannot be said for someone claiming that mainstream media has become "communist" not least because communists try not to make a habit of running billion dollar media empires. Such a claim tends to raise more questions than it answers, such as how did socialist come to dominate the corporate landscape of private media? Why don't they use that control to shut down Fox News or support a party that is more radical than new-labour or the fairly centrist Democratic Party?

As of yet, right wingers have struggled to create anything similar in scope or sense to the propaganda model outlined by Chomsky and Herman, where simple economic and politics forces can evidence and explain any sort of systemic bias against the political right. Probably the most lasting and successful attempts (though that's really not saying much!) to create a systematic right wing critique of mainstream media is found in the right wing boogeyman, and Nazi conspiracy theory, cultural Marxism and short-lived neoreactionary notions of ' the cathedral'.

Assorted crank claims of bias[edit]

Claims of bias in the media are not just limited to individuals with well-defined political leanings, or even well-defined perspectives. Complaints about the mainstream media often come from sections of society that are relatively apolitical, or who simply care a lot more about something else. This includes groups that are just upset that their pet conspiracy theory or alternative medicine has not been taken sufficiently seriously. After all, worldviews according to which there exists some great suppressed knowledge which is tragically kept from the people have a conspiracism baked into them, which naturally extends to taking a dim view of the "establishment" and mainstream world as a whole, including of course the mainstream media.[note 2]

If you are an aspiring practitioner of telekinesis or an avid sun gazer you might be slightly miffed to find that journalists, academics and newspapers refuse to take you seriously. Businesspeople who make their fortunes selling supplements and "remedies" also often find themselves greatly at odds with ordinary journalism. One explanation of this is that the beliefs and claims are complete horseshit being covered up by an ignorant, indifferent or nefarious media complex. Perhaps powerful individuals are scared that you have uncovered that one simple trick that dentists hate that will give you perfectly white teeth overnight? Or perhaps, for some reason, the government thinks it would be better if no one knew about the existence of the aliens? [note 3] Or maybe you've formulated a unique message which is the best hope for saving the world from almost certain doom, but the forces of The Matrix keep it from spreading...

While the apolitically cranky may not have a claim of bias that is explicitly motivated by politics they often borrow from other more political critiques of the media. This can include right wing accusations of Cultural Marxism or liberal bias and left wing accusations of corporate influence or even a mixture of the two. Why the globalist marxists are covering up the existence of Ancient Atlantis or how exactly corporate mainstream media benefits from preventing your aunt's crystal healing business from taking off, is never made quite clear. The claims of bias made by woo peddlers and your garden variety conspiracy theorists tend to be, much like the positions they hold in general, somewhat schizophrenic and disorganized.

Hostile media effect[edit]

The hostile media effect is the tendency for people who have taken a position on an issue to see media coverage of that issue as biased against their position.[15]

For example, in the first study done on the topic, a number of subjects watched news clips of the coverage of a massacre of Palestinian refugees by a Lebanese militia during the Lebanese Civil War. The pro-Israeli subjects were more likely to think that the coverage had a pro-Palestinian bias while the pro-Palestinian subjects thought the opposite. This concept probably explains many of the accusations of liberal/"corporate"/Zionist/FSM-biased media. In short, it's impossible to perceive media as unbiased when you, yourself, have a powerful bias.

One should however be careful not to allow the existence of the hostile media effect to draw one to the conclusion of a golden mean fallacy. Just because one side says the media is left wing and another side says it is right wing, this does not sufficiently prove that the media has achieved a perfect balance that pisses everyone off. It is of course entirely possible that one side has a more legitimate grievance than the other...

Media influence[edit]

Mural sobre calle San Juan - Florencio Varela.JPG

Whether it is a moral panic about violent video games, sexism in movies or the possibility that playing DnD might turn your child into a wizard there has been plenty of speculation about the effects of media on impressionable minds. Sometimes this is an understandable worry since people do use media to make sense of the world, explore ideas of right and wrong and inform their political beliefs; however it also has a tendency to spiral into hysteria.

Commonly cited is Albert Bandura’sWikipedia famous 1961 experiment Bobo the Doll. In which 72 children ages 3-6 were exposed to a video of a model punching a blow up doll. Lo and behold when given a similar blow up doll (no, not that kind) the children mimic'd the behaviour and punched the doll just as they had seen in the video and generally exhibited more "aggressive" behaviours than the control group.[16] Experiments and observations of this nature typically led people to wonder if playing shooters might inspire a disturbed individual to go on a shooting spree, or if being exposed to sexist tropes in fiction would eventually result in people taking those sexist tropes for granted in real life.

The question of how media relates to topics such as radicalisation, violence or bigotry is undoubtably a thorny and nebulous one. While it may be difficult in some cases to establish a perfect causal link between someone consuming a type of media and that media transforming their attitudes and beliefs enough for them to engage in extreme or anti-social behaviour it is reasonable to postulate that media has some kind of effect. Media, almost since its inception, has been produced to persuade others of a particular world-view, moral claim or pragmatic course of action. Culture does influence humans and media makes up a big part of that so it does seem rash to completely discount it, this however needs to be tempered by an understanding of just how complex and multifaceted humans are as consumers of media and agents capable of exercising free will. Overall though, psychological studies over the years have confirmed that media does actually have some effect on our attitudes, beliefs and actions.

Some have argued that media which features discriminatory tropes or stereotypes emboldens and encourage individuals to act on their more taboo inclinations by creating a sense of normalcy and acceptability. For example, a person who holds sexists beliefs might be more willing to act in a discriminatory manner if they have just over-head co-workers making sexist jokes, even worse it may lead them to be more inclined to rape![17][18]

Likewise there is some evidence to suggests that people may treat ethnic minorities with more suspicion if they have just consumed media which presents them as criminal.[19] and as with sexist humour there is evidence to suggest that racial humour can result in a higher tolerance and acceptance of racist attitudes [20]

In some cases however the relationship may be more complex one of "give and take" where the media reinforces the behaviour while the individuals attitudes cause them individual to seek out that media, creating a feedback loop. For example, an unbalanced individual obsessed with the thought of sexually abusing women may be more prone to watching BDSM and violent fetish films, but that does not mean that the pornography brought about the violence since correlation does not equal causation.

Media and science[edit]

See the main articles on this topic: Popular science and Medical misconceptions and the media

Science is awesome sometimes difficult to properly understand if you lack the relevant scientific training. This training is however relatively rare among the ranks of journalists, authors and script-writers who often have a humanities background. This can cause problems.

Science in the news[edit]

If a news network is wealthy enough, it may have enough money on hand to hire a dedicated science correspondent - someone with both journalistic flair and scientific training. In the age of falling media revenues however this is increasingly not the case and now many newspapers and channels just get someone else to do it. This results in complex scientific breakthroughs and cautious findings being oversimplified and exaggerated by, possibly well meaning, journos who often misunderstand simple concepts like statistical significance.

This issue is compounded by the attention-economyWikipedia that requires every news headline to be as exciting as possible.[note 4] So a study that finds that one particular chemical found in fermented grapes, extracted carefully and administered to 20 lab mice, reduced the growth of cancerous tumors by around 4%, gets turned into: DRINKING WINE CURES CANCER!!!11!ONE1!

The physician and epidemiologist Ben Goldacre has written a number of brilliant books and articles on this topic.[21] Goldacre believes that poor science reporting is the product of uppity humanities obsessed journalists who don't adequately respect science, however it may be more likely that ignorance rather than malice is the root cause.

Science in fiction[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Science fiction

A lack of scientific training is often present in the arts, which can lead to some fun speculation about how quantum mechanics work and what that might mean for the future. More often than not though bad science in the media at its worst misleads the public about what it is that scientists actually do, and at its best just makes for some head-ache inducing movies. [note 5]

Fake news[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Fake news

Fake news platforms are sometimes ran as crank truthy 'alternatives' to mainstream media, though at other times, they have the nature of propaganda for larger organized political interests or unscrupulous businesses. On a smaller scale, fake news can also stem from mere carelessness or the rush to sell attention-grabbing stories, including at times in mainstream outlets.

So-called alternative media platforms come in various sizes and shapes, and often aggregate content from multiple sources, producing only a smaller portion of original content; what is copied can in large part be from mainstream media sources, some selection which is approved of even if mainstream media as a whole is criticized. Other stories tend to be copied between different 'alternative' websites, who reinforce and validate (even if only subjectively) the messages of one another. Crank outlets at times end up mixing and matching all manner of low-quality material, whatever its original sense and purpose or lack thereof, though sometimes they stay more focused on a particular message.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. It shouldn't need to be explained how this benefits the military-industrial complex.
  2. This is often one thing that cranks of diverse views can agree on, conspiracy theory becoming a common language facilitating crank magnetism, as in the history of how conspirituality arose. Cranks often support and help spread the messages of other cranks as long as they do not conflict with those of their own they care most about, in a kind of "all of us together against the mainstream" solidarity.
  3. For an idea of how conspiracy theorists imagine government agencies work, see this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lTHB8iC1C0E
  4. Which is itself already somewhat of an issue in the scientific publishing world.
  5. The disaster movie, in more ways than one, 2012 was a particularly bad example of this, mocked here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bXdBzpRDR5I

References[edit]

  1. Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media, Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, Pantheon Books 1988 ISBN 9780679720348
  2. Rob Harris and Tovin Lapan. "Colombia: The Coca-Cola Controversy". FRONTLINE/World. PBS.
  3. Bypass Mainstream Media, Noam Chomsky Stumps Andrew Marr, Youtube
  4. bylinetimes.com, Plastic Patriotism: GB News’ Foreign Funders
  5. inews.co.uk, GB news has lost 60 per cent of viewers since june launch
  6. the mirror.co.uk, Lee Anderson loses half his audience
  7. pressgazette.co.uk, GB News versus Talktv
  8. Fair.org, Labor Almost Invisible on TV Talk
  9. Stäbler, S., & Fischer, M. (2020). When Does Corporate Social Irresponsibility Become News? Evidence from More Than 1,000 Brand Transgressions Across Five Countries. Journal of Marketing, 84(3), 46–67. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022242920911907]
  10. Fair.org, Amplifying Officials, Squelching Dissent
  11. Coggins, Madeline (August 28, 2022). "Former Home Depot CEO ‘fears’ Biden administration is ‘fueling a lawless society' as retail theft surges". Fox News. 
  12. "2022 Retail Security Review". National Retail Foundation. 2022. 
  13. Kroeger, Teresa (May 10, 2017). "Employers steal billions from workers’ paychecks each year". Economic Policy Institute. 
  14. Linkins, Jason (September 3, 2023). "The Real Crime Isn’t Shoplifting—It’s Wage Theft". New Republic. 
  15. Vallone, R.P., Ross, L., & Lepper, M.R. (1985). The hostile media phenomenon: Biased Perception and Perceptions of Media Bias in Coverage of the "Beirut Massacre". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 49, 577-585.
  16. McLeod, Saul A. "Bobo Doll Experiment | Simply Psychology"
  17. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2001-05964-005, Ford, T. E., Wentzel, E. R., & Lorion, J. (2001). Effects of exposure to sexist humor on perceptions of normative tolerance of sexism. European Journal of Social Psychology, 31(6), 677–691. https://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.56
  18. https://psycnet.apa.org/fulltext/2013-41944-005.html Thomae, M., & Viki, G. T. (2013). Why did the woman cross the road? The effect of sexist humor on men's rape proclivity.Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology, 7(3), 250–269. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0099198
  19. https://www.jstor.org/stable/41819017, Oliver, M.B. African American men as “criminal and dangerous”: Implications of media portrayals of crime on the “criminalization” of African American men. Journal of African American Studies 7, 3–18 (2003). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12111-003-1006-5
  20. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1207/S15327957PSPR0801_4 Ford, T. E., & Ferguson, M. A. (2004). Social Consequences of Disparagement Humor: A Prejudiced Norm Theory. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 8(1), 79–94. https://doi.org/10.1207/S15327957PSPR0801_4
  21. Goldacre, B. (2009). Bad Science. HarperPerennial.