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Finding Faith in Faith

This blog is dedicated to exploring the intersections of faith and politics, the intricacies of religious culture and the struggle to balance devotion to a higher being and to one’s culture.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Fundamental Bias

This post is the third installment of series of three to continue the pondering critique I started in my Fundamental Errors post. In this post, I will be discussing the “media bias” section of Dr. Kennedy’s sermon on the Sunday broadcast in question.

During the course of his historical perspective of the “atheist movement,” Dr. Kennedy somehow transitioned to a segment on media bias, claiming that the American mass media had an inherent anti-religious bias. To support this claim, the program presented a prepackaged unit on Bernard Goldberg’s Bias : A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News, arguing that the media’s “liberal agenda” meant “a lack of respect for God.”

I wrote an extensive critique of Goldberg’s book a few weeks back, and you can find an online version here. However, I felt a few additional points would be appropriate. First of all, Goldberg’s critique of CBS is hardly a macro-critique of the broadcast news industry, and it certainly is not a polemic against all new media. Goldberg’s source material is drawn almost exclusively from his time at CBS, and I’m not sure a serious researcher would be comfortable extrapolating his charges (even if they were supported by greater evidence) to the entire industry.

Second, I thought I would discuss some of the statistics that Dr. Kennedy referenced from the Goldberg text. I had mentioned in my earlier critique that Goldberg does not do a good job of anchoring most of his statistics or constructing context for their interpretation. But Kennedy’s use of them goes even further.

Chief among the statistics promoted is the fact that 93% of media professionals (and we have no way of knowing what sample this statistic came from) do not regularly attend religious services. This finding (if true) is used as evidence of the “inherent lack of respect for God.”

I have several issues with this conclusion. First of all, most media personnel have extremely dense professional schedules. In short, very few broadcast professionals in particular have Sundays off work. This type of professional schedule, driven by the never-ending news cycle and not the 8 to 5 routine of mainstream corporate America, does not allow much time for religious observance. Second, there is quite a difference between religious attendance and respect for God. I find it problematic to assume that an inability to attend organized services means that a person has no faith, no respect or no love for God.

The second statistic cited is that about three quarters of all media professionals tend to see their own political views as left of center, while the remaining quarter are split between a right of center viewpoint and “other” (again, what this category means is a mystery).

I take issue with the use of this statistic because evidence of an opinion does not prove the manipulation of the public voice towards that opinion. That conclusion is tantamount to assuming that if anyone has a temptation, he or she must be guilty, a conclusion that is not logical nor Biblical.

I also wonder why Dr. Kennedy doesn’t see that if the non-attendance statistic proves bias, this bias seems to flow across both the right and the left end of the political spectrum of media professionals. So, obviously, political leanings have nothing to do with religious attendance (or at least less than he suggests).

The final statistic is that somewhere around 97% of all media professionals (whatever sample this came from, anyway) support some “liberal issue,” like supporting a woman’s right to choose, supporting gay rights, etc. In my opinion, these views have even less to do with the determination of “one’s respect for God” than the other flawed metrics Dr. Kennedy provides. Many people citizens in society support the positions he mentioned BECAUSE of their religious belief, not in spite of it.

Generally, I found the overgeneralization and mistaken conclusions to be rather troubling. It’s a common error to mistake correlation for causation, but one wishes that someone so prominent with such a large following would be careful to state the difference.

The final irony of the media bias segment came in its use at all. Bernard Goldberg is a former media professional, and his testimony does not absolve him of the very charges he’s leveling. Furthermore, I found the fact that Goldberg, a man of Jewish descent with no obvious religious affiliation (his critiques of CBS have to do with political views, not religious beliefs. This makes Goldberg and interesting “champion” of the anti-religious charge against the American news media.

Frankly, I don’t think Goldberg really makes the argument that Dr. Kennedy insinuates he does. I think Kennedy’s bias leads him to misrepresent Goldberg’s Bias, which means that making sense out of the information presented is a logistical nightmare for the viewer. There’s evidence of plenty of bias here, but by the critiquers, not the source material.


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