Conservatives have long been paranoid that Silicon Valley executives might be using their powers to nefariously target them and their media. These fears were especially heightened in the wake of the Google memo controversy and subsequent lawsuit, filed only days ago. But per the Daily Caller, right-wingers are now up in arms about Google’s new fact-checking feature, and they have good reason to feel targeted.
Recently, if you google the name of a publication, a sidebar will pop up with information on who the site reaches and what types of topics they cover. But for certain, though not all, publications, the sidebar will display a Snopes-like “reviewed claims” section, which instantly plants skepticism of credibility in the reader’s mind. This is not generally a bad thing, since readers should be skeptical of the articles they read.
But, as observant journalists like the Washington Free Beacon’s Alex Griswold have pointed out, it’s the right-wing sites that are having the veracity of their articles scrutinized, not their left-wing counterparts.
The Blaze, The Federalist, and (understandably) Breitbart all trigger the appearance of the “reviewed claims” section, while Salon, Bustle, Huffington Post, Jezebel, and Alternet do not. As many people have pointed out, bad and biased reporting is not limited to the Right, and it’s absurd that Google’s fact-checking feature implicitly plants in people’s minds that Jezebel is more credible than the Federalist. In a perfect world, readers would be critical of both sites and any claim that seems even halfway fishy.
But perhaps the Right is being targeted because they’ve put out such obviously bad stuff for so long now. Flip to Fox News and watch Sean Hannity spout false, disproven talking points about crimes committed by illegal immigrants, or watch Dana Loesch’s National Rifle Association video that makes it sound like First Amendment-protected protest is tearing our country apart and cops need to suppress the angry, civil war-creating masses. The conservative websites flagged by Google’s fact-checker have put out both Milo Yiannopoulos op-eds and unsavory defenses of pedophile politician Roy Moore, so they’re not exactly churning out the most reliable, nuanced news of all time.
The right-wing media has, at times, made mountains out of campus speech molehills, given far too much attention to provocateurs and birthers, and focused on fear mongering at the expense of good reporting. But, without giving the Right a free pass, we should also consider that liberal bias is insidious, just less obvious — it’s present in the most reputable newsrooms, and it skews our interpretation of the news on a regular basis.
Remember, newsrooms are full of journalists who are ideologically clustered on the Left — or at least not the Right. In 2002, about 18 percent of U.S. journalists considered themselves Republican. As of 2013, that number had dropped to about 7 percent. That alone doesn’t indicate that journalists are super far to the Left, as many self-identify as independent.
But other pieces of evidence add to the story: Donations from people working in the media during the last election totaled nearly $382,000 for Democrat Hillary Clinton, while donations to Republican Donald Trump came out to a paltry $14,000. Former NPR CEO Ken Stern has spoken out about his own experience with newsroom groupthink and how that created blind spots for reporters covering the 2016 election. And dozens of post-mortems came out after pundits failed to predict Clinton’s loss, as journalists attempted to discern how the media had fumbled their predictions so impressively. They underestimated the political passions and tensions of vast swaths of the country, partially due to their own biases and condescension.
In fact, it’s baffling how many bad statistics are touted by reputable publications on the Left. It’s because of this less-than-nuanced reporting that gender-pay-gap myths remain. It’s because of this that outlets from the New York Times to Broadly to New York magazine issued corrections after spreading misinformation on the “rape is a pre-existing condition” healthcare claim last year.
And it’s because of this that we couldn’t have a sober discussion on former Google employee James Damore’s memo, which raised some decent points about ideological echo chambers, gender disparities in tech, and which hiring practices are good for business. He claimed “Google’s left bias has created a politically correct monoculture that maintains its hold by shaming dissenters into silence,” before he was ironically fired for writing the controversial manifesto.
Conservatives are right to fear that Google is targeting them, but they should also consider whether they’ve helped bring this upon themselves. And liberals in media and tech should consider whether they’re dismissing good points just because they complicate the predominant narrative of their cozy echo chamber.
Liz Wolfe (@lizzywol) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. She is managing editor at Young Voices.
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