Monday, June 6, 2011

The Supposedly Liberal Bias in the Media

Like you, I am tired of hearing conservatives whine about the supposedly liberal bias in media; however, I thought the following exchange on Hannity deserved some attention.





Transcript
Hannity: You, your, every kid in America is going to hate you.  You're taking on Elmo and Sesame Street and big bird in your book.
Ben Shaprio: Yeah I kinda wanna take them outside and cap them, but no, that's now what the book is about. Prime Time Propaganda is really about the liberal bias in the Hollywood industry.  I went and spoke to the biggest creators in tv over the last 50 years, and had them admit to me on tape, that yes they bias their programming in a liberal direction. Yes, they definitely discriminate against conservatives in Hollywood and if you're conservative in Hollywood, you just won't get work.
Hannity: How is Elmo liberal, cause you describe how they push their agenda?
Ben Shaprio: I mean, I talked to one of the guys whose at children workshop originally and he said the whole purpose of Sesame Street is to cater to Black and Hispanic youths who quote unquote did not have reading literature in the house.  There's kind of this soft bigotry of low expectations, that's automatically associated with Sesame Street, and by the way if you go on the Sesame Street website, it talks about when you're bringing up your child make sure that you use gender neutral language, make sure that you give your boys dolls and make sure that you give your girls fire trucks.
Ken Blackwell: And that's setting up a problem.  Just this year, a high school in Virginia named a guy who was openly gay as prom queen. So sometimes, fiction does inform reality and as Ken Cocowskin and I lay out in our book, there is a direct assault on this country's moral foundation and that's a problem because..
Hannity:  You speak to a lot of young girls, to a lot of groups and you're going to be out on tour actually all summer. You're going to be giving a lot of speeches. You know uh, a lot of kids, you know the values of a lot of young people today, they scare me, cause we are robbing them at earlier and earlier ages of their childhood. They know more, they do more.
Kirsten Haglund: It's very concerning and they have an access to more media at a younger age, than at any other time in our nations history, and what you are also seeing is more parents at work, away from their children, not monitoring what they're looking at.  And so I grew up watching Sesame Street and I turned out to be a good conservative, but I had parents where we watched other things and we talked about the meaning of them and that's what's missing; it's not just Sesame Street, it's the whole hyper sexualization of women and it's so much of this.
Hannity: I grew up watching Andy Griffith.
Ben Shapiro: Yeah before the shift.Honestly, that was before the shift.
Hannity: Yeah honestly, I Love Lucy and The Honeymooners.
Kirsten Haglund: You know that artists have been liberal, more liberal than the general population for centuries, now they just have
Hannity: You don't even know the shows I'm mentioning
Kirsten Haglund: Yes I did, yes I did. I can whistle the Andy Griffin song. Yes, I know what you're talking about.  
Ken Blackwell: What really concerns me, is that if you look at any big government regime any big authoritarian or totalitarian regime, they have attacked two basic intermediary institutions: the family and the church, and that's what's happening in our culture right now and it sets up an appetite for governmental largesse; government becomes the family and government becomes you know the leader.
Hannity: I think liberals are so sanctimonious in their desire. They think that their morality is so superior. You know, when you think about it, they think that they can circumvent the values of parents when they go to school, teach them something that they themselves are teaching the opposite of. They don't so the basics, reading, writing and math. They think that redistribution is morally superior but they only use other people's money.
Ben Shapiro: They'll admit it. I mean people in Hollywood actually admit that this is their agenda.
Hannity: What did the Friends guy tell you again?
Ben Shapiro: Mario Kaufman who is the creator of Friends, has actually said to me, "that an episode in the first season of friends" now direct quote now, "was an F U to the right." And these people say this openly in the comfort of their homes. That's what they feel like they should be doing. These are a bunch of limousine liberals who by enlarged feel guilty that they are very wealthy and so in order to justify that, they have to shock the bourgeoisie; they have to slap us across the face.
Hannity: Yeah if they're so wealthy and they've got all these moral values, why don't they start their own charities and donate to all the liberal causes that they want. 
Kirsten Haglund: Exactly that's what they should do but it's a basic difference in worldview in that usually the liberals and people on the left believe that secular humanist believe that human nature is ultimately all good whereas; conservative believes that it's not.

Hannity: I'm interested in the opinion of both of you because you're both younger than Ken and I. What percentage of people agree with you that you meet your age?
Ben Shapiro: umm 45%
Kirsten Haglund: wow 20% (followed by giggle)
Ken Blackwell: And here's the problem Sean, we are rapidly becoming a culture where earning money doesn't entitle you to it but wanting it does.
Kirsten Haglund: Amen
Ken Blackwell: It's been a frontal attack on the old fashioned work ethic in this country.
Hannity: Alright guys, great panel tonight.
Only Fox could amass so much fail in so short a time.  Believe it or not, that entire bit of ignorance took place in less that five minutes.  Let's start with the hypocrisy that they claim comes from the left because I do believe that it is the only accurate commentary in this whole spiel that was actually accurate.  No minority in a liberal sphere could honestly say that they have not experience bigotry from a cisexual, straight, white, able bodied man. The truth of the matter is, that as long as you have privilege, which by the way everyone does, it is inevitable that you will fail and sometimes fail extravagantly to be inclusive in your thought process and actions.

As much as I try to be inclusive and sensitive to the plight of others, the archives of this blog stand as proof of the many times that I personally have failed to recognize my privilege.   I have three sites of oppression, and if I can fail, someone with one, or none for that matter, has most certainly failed.  Now, I fully believe that this is not the point that the panel was attempting to discuss, simply because they refuse to consider the diversity of human experience, and instead seek to set themselves as the barometer for what is and is not acceptable; however, it is without doubt factual to say that the left is not perfect and that bigotry does exist in this sphere.

I am absolutely amused that Kirsten decided to appropriate feminist arguments by suggesting that the sexualization of women is problematic, but yet failed to see that the naturalization of strict gender roles that the other panelists were advocating is harmful.  In fact, the patriarchal bent of the media is actually quite in line with conservative strains of thought, because it affirms the false belief that men are superior to women.  If Kirsten really wants this changed, she should be arguing for less hierarchy and more diversity of thought.

If as Haglund claims that the media has always been socially to the left, that means that when shows like The Honeymooners, I Love Lucy and The Andy Griffith  were originally on the air, that they were to left of the population, and yet Shapiro claims that these shows were "pre the shift".  It seems that conservatives cannot get their facts right.  Has the media always been to the left, or was there actually a time when they solely pushed a conservative agenda? I know that Lucille Ball went to great effort to get I Love Lucy on the air, simply because it portrayed her then marriage to a Latino man.  The Honeymooners, was headlined by a fat man, and even today, fat people are erased from television and movies, unless they serve as comic relief.  I do however wonder how they can ignore Ralph Cramden's constant threat of violence against his wife, and the fact that Lucy was infantalized for laughter, and Ricky was portrayed as the angry Latino man, with little to no control of his temper?  Is domestic abuse and the infantalization of women progressive, or is this yet another example of the media acting as an agent of socialization by normalizing which bodies are privileged?

What really drew me to this conversation was the faux concern for the children.  Haglund in particular, claimed that children are left unsupervised and that this is the cause of the liberal shift.  First, let me say that this is a huge assumption on her part.  As a parent, I know that if the media where as supposedly as left leaning as the panel claimed, I would not have to spend the time I do pointing out the constant erasure, racism, cissexism, homophobia and ableism that are a very integral part of what my children consume.  Most of the cartoons that they watch do not have a character of colour, let alone someone who is gay, trans, or disabled.  Many of the female characters are decidedly secondary characters as well.  I can say without doubt, that parenting under these conditions is extremely challenging. Conservatives are also famous for failing to acknowledge that there are gay, trans, disabled, and children of colour watching these programs who would greatly benefit from seeing themselves reflected.  Watching programs that are inclusive will not turn a child, gay, trans, disabled or even change their race, but it would teach children that they have no need to fear, or hate difference. Family viewing, should include every single manifestation of families that currently exist in our society.

Finally, let's have a look at Sesame Street, a program that conservatives love to hate. How Shapiro could sit there and complain about targeting education programming towards Black and Latino children, to me goes beyond cognitive dissonance.  I wonder if he is aware how many times Republicans have voted to reduce funding to schools?  The real attack on education does not come from the left, it comes traditionally from the right -- school vouchers anyone?  Even if we accept the idea that it sets low expectations to assume that Black and Latino children do not have access to books and other learning materials in their homes, they certainly are not harmed by watching a show that seeks to teach them, numbers, letters and very basic things like what an email is.  What the world needs is more education, not less.

Just last year, Sesame Street aired a puppet singing about how much she loved her hair.  Though this was written by a White father, for his Black daughter, it was a message that little Black girls desperately needed to here.  Since then, we have seen "I love my hair" t-shirts modeled by a White woman because for every progressive step forward the dominant group will always react with appropriation or outright hatred. There is also Bert and Ernie, who I laughingly refer to as the first gay couple on television.  Many of the adults that appear on the show are themselves Latino, and girls are not sidelined as secondary people.  There are certainly issues with Sesame Street, but it is far from the destructive element that conservatives have painted it to be.  What they would prefer, is a show that centered the White, male, able bodied, straight experience.

The media is not now, or ever has been a truly liberal institution, simply because it is run by dominant bodies.  No matter how left leaning these people are, their particular privileges are always going to influence what they produce. This is why the conservative complaints of a liberal media are absolutely ridiculous and without any basis in fact.  They are going to continue to present the false premise of a liberal spin to media, because their position is to prevent social growth no matter how minor. To the left of Fox, is not truly left.