Monday, October 16, 2006

Why the blogosphere is right wing

When people try to explain why Conservative bloggers are generally better writers, more numerous and more widely read the explanation that I keep hearing from every discussion of the subject is that it is a result of being in opposition. The idea is essentially that it is easier for an amateur to destroy than create and the wilderness of opposition gives people a greater desire for an alternate way to express themselves. This explanation does not fit the facts, however, as the right wing blogosphere is bigger in the US as well where the right is in power; Kos is the exception not the rule.

The more credible explanation for why the blogosphere is right wing is tied up in the reasons why the media is usually a left leaning profession. Left wing media bias is, like the right wing dominance of the blogosphere, something that we like to imagine has arisen in the UK thanks to unique characteristics of our political landscape; particularly the BBC and Ofcom. While these factors may exacerbate the problem they did not create it. Right wingers in the US are just as worried about a left wing media bias as we are. Fox is, again, the exception rather than the rule and less important than right wing Britons like to think.

The left bias in the media arises from the fact that young right wingers who are intelligent, politically committed and can write do not want to be reporters. I worked for the LSE student newspaper and was a very successful student journalist but I was always working in the features section and writing opinion pieces. Whereas the left wing editors and writers for the paper went on to become journalists the right wingers either entered think tanks or went for the limited number of vacancies for instant opinion journalism. The standard career in journalism, based upon starting out as a reporter, seems thankless and dull to most right wingers.

Where does this right wing taste for opinion over facts in their journalism come from?

The most convincing explanation I have heard is that left wingers tend to connect facts directly to solutions whereas right wingers thing more about policies affecting systems whether of incentives or traditions. As such, just knowing that there is, for example, poverty in Africa does not convince a right winger of the case for our providing aid. We would be far more interested, in policy terms, in analysis of the effects of aid than a greater body of facts on the extent of the problems that aid aims to solve.

Of course, this is a generalisation but I think that is is an important one. Right wingers see facts as part of a philosophical and analytical debate about the way forward whereas left wingers see facts as calls to action in themselves. This makes right wingers see opinion as the crux of the issue with reporting a relative sideshow. By comparison, left wingers see reporting as the crux with opinion being the relative sideshow in which we discuss the details of how to respond to the facts reporting turns up. This is why 18DoughtyStreet is opinion television and Fox has more opinion than other channels. It is why the mainstream media is, and will continue to be even if the BBC is privatised, biased towards the left wing. Finally it is the best explanation for why the blogosphere, focussed on opinion thanks to the financial cost of original reporting, is so right wing.


Gracchi said...

Constrasting say Juan Cole with Andrew Sullivan would support your point I suppose. Daily Kos as well the big US democrat site is more of a strategy than an analytical site.

Dave Cole said...

BBC - at times exhibits bias. The radio news, BBC World Service and News 24 outside of popular viewing hours are pretty unbiased
Sky - right wing but pro-Blair because it's Murdoch
Ch 4 News - I think the most unbiased single TV news prog

Times - All over the shop
Telegraph - Right
Independent - Left
Guardian - Left
FT - Nonaligned. Right, but supported Kinnock in 92

Mail - Right
Express - Right
Sun - Right
Mirror - Left
Sport - Porn

Part of the reason is that the right has its own magazines, journals and so on that retain some free thinking. The big one for the left, New Statesman, is owned by one Geoffrey Robinson, former Paymaster-General and friend of Gordon Brown. Unlikely to be critical once he's in.

Anonymous said...

Can I say hmmmmm?


Matthew Sinclair said...

They control the software companies but those aren't what is important. What is important is the blogs themselves. If I'm right: (4699) details
2.Michelle Malkin (4245) details
3.Daily Kos: State of the Nation (3534) details
4.lgf: lost and found (3323) details
5.Captain's Quarters (2974) details
6.Power Line (2854) details
7.Stop The ACLU (2704) details
8.Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall (2220) details
9.Boing Boing: A Directory of Wonderful Things (2067) details
10.The Volokh Conspiracy - - (2015) details

I think at least 6/10 of the TruthLaidBear Higher Beings are right wing. This extends down, I believe.

Jeremy Jacobs said...

Matthew, The web/blogosphere is a critical medium in today's "spin" world.


Dave Cole said...

Six out of ten with a sample size of, er, ten is hardly conclusive evidence.

Matthew Sinclair said...

Meh, it wasn't meant to be a research piece. :)