I have seen a variety of articles and editorials taking the conservative media, primarily FOX News, to task for its overenthusiastic reporting on a landslide that never materialized. And that’s fair enough. But when you have an entity called “Conservative Media” or “Liberal Media” then the bias is baked in. It would be nice if we had a genuinely independent media, but no such thing exists.
Conservative media predicted a Romney victory. Liberal media predicted an Obama victory. Both sides were doing their jobs, which wasn’t journalism, but activism. The outcome fit the narrative of one side. And it wasn’t our side. Next time it might be the other way around.
Activist media select facts that fit their narrative. Nate Silver and the rest of the gang found themselves in a situation where the facts fit their narrative. If the facts hadn’t, they still would have reported the same thing.
It’s a shame that the situation has come down to this, but nevertheless so it is.
The Point did not traffic in any grand landslide predictions, but most conservative sites did. There was a collective enthusiasm momentum. Similarly there was a lack of enthusiasm on the other side, but a reasonable certainty that they were going to win a close election.
Did the hyper-enthusiasm on the right actually depress our turnout with many deciding that Romney was going to win anyway? It’s an interesting and troubling question.
So what went wrong? Many of the conservative experts were still running on a Romney momentum that had broken with Sandy, the November Surprise of the election. They didn’t pause when the numbers began to dip, but kept on going. They also underestimated the political machine and overestimated the enthusiasm of the base as being wide enough to move millions more to the polls who stayed home. They let their passion get the better of them.
There is a difference between selective reporting and reporting things that are made up. As with all bias, the line is slippery. The liberal media went from slanting coverage on Palin, to falsely reporting statements that she never said. Similarly there is a difference between looking at indicators favorable to Romney and making up a Romney landslide.
FOX News, for all the heat it’s taking now, has done an excellent job of investigating Benghazi. Benghazigate is a reminder of why we need an outlet with deep pockets and professionals like FOX News out there. But Benghazigate is also a reminder of the slippery slope of media bias. I chose not to run certain reports on Benghazi that were not sourced by anything credible, including the claim that General Ham had been fired for trying to intervene, which was sourced from an anonymous comment on an LSU fan board. Many conservative outlets did run that story. Many more ran a claim that the Benghazi consulate had warehouses full of weapons that were being run by Ambassador Stevens to Al Qaeda, based on speculation. The Point did not go with it, but I’m sure that the next time I post on Benghazigate, there will be comments claiming that’s the real story. And maybe it is… but not until there’s some actual proof for it.
We all make mistakes. We all have our blind spots. Being human we often see what we want to see. Many of us wanted to see a Romney landslide. I certainly did, but I didn’t believe it was coming and tried to prepare people ahead of time with caveats about losing the election.
I would have been happy to be wrong. Unfortunately I wasn’t. Maybe next time I will be and I look forward to that.
For the moment, take it easy on Michael Barone and Dick Morris and the rest of the gang. They got it wrong, but they’re not the ones who made the mistakes that got us to this point. They could have done a better job of reining in their enthusiasm, but mainly they saw what we all wanted to see. Lost in the desert of Obama, we wanted to see hope for the future and faith in our fellow man. It was a mirage, but maybe next…. it won’t be.