Media Bias and the Redemptive Power of Suffering

Jim Denison | Denison Forum | Friday, July 15, 2022
Media Bias and the Redemptive Power of Suffering

Media Bias and the Redemptive Power of Suffering


Ivana Trump, the first wife of former President Donald Trump, has died at the age of seventy-three. Mr. Trump stated that she died in her home in New York and said of her, “She was a wonderful, beautiful, and amazing woman, who led a great and inspirational life.” He added that her three children were her pride and joy and wrote, “She was so proud of them, as we were all so proud of her. Rest In Peace, Ivana!”

FOX News added more details regarding her death but offered no political commentary. By contrast, the New York Times gave the story a much more biased tone, stating, “Though Mr. Trump often bragged about his business prowess, Ms. Trump played a critical part in building his real estate empire.”

Their article added, “The couple’s divorce in 1990, driven in part by Mr. Trump’s affair with Marla Maples, whom he later married, provided tabloid fodder for weeks. In a deposition, Ms. Trump accused him of raping her, though she later said that she had not meant the word literally.”

It’s hard to imagine a less gracious way to report a person’s passing.

The least trusted institution in America

The Times’ bias against Mr. Trump should not surprise anyone who reads the Times. I was especially alert to it, however, after reading Ari Fleischer’s new book, Suppression, Deception, Snobbery, and Bias: Why the Press Gets So Much Wrong—And Just Doesn’t Care.

Fleischer was White House Press Secretary for President George W. Bush and has worked in the years since as a media consultant, commentator, and FOX News contributor. His book reports that in a 1980 Gallup poll, 70 percent of Americans had either a “great deal or a fair amount” of trust that the press would report the news “fully, fairly, and accurately.” In 2020, only about 40 percent of the American people said the same.

In fact, according to Columbia Journalism Review, in 2019 the press was the least trusted institution in America compared to trust in the military, law enforcement, universities, the Supreme Court, the executive branch, and Congress. A 2021 survey conducted in forty-six countries by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism found that American media are the least trusted in the world.

What explains this astounding loss of confidence in our media? Of the many factors relevant to the issue, Fleischer focuses on the fact that the vast majority of those who work in the media are Democrats and the products of journalism schools heavily invested in a liberal worldview.

He cites a 2018 study that journalists were four times more likely to be Democrats than Republicans. During the 2016 presidential contest, those working in journalism gave a combined $396,000 to the campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump; more than 96 percent went to the Clinton campaign.

He documents scores of other examples of bias. For instance, when Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died in 2016, the Washington Post headlined, “Supreme Court conservative dismayed liberals.” When Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg died in 2020, the Post headlined, “A pioneer devoted to equality.”

His conclusion is that media executives “need to hire journalists who think differently” and “who sound like America.” Newsrooms need “writers and editors who will raise uncomfortable issues and push back on prevailing liberal notions.” He adds, “Conservative thought cannot be anathema to journalists if the industry is to have a future.”

We don’t know what we don’t know

By now you might be wondering why a nonpartisan ministry devoted to discussing cultural issues in a biblical context would focus on such a seemingly partisan subject. Here’s my point, and it’s precisely the same point I would make if the political parties reversed positions with regard to media influence: humans don’t know what we don’t know.

We are all products of our environment and education. We all see the world through the prism of our personal beliefs and experiences. If you’re a conservative Republican, Fleischer’s book will be alarming to you; if you’re a liberal Democrat, you will be encouraged. It’s the same book read through two very different sets of eyes.

Christians are not exempt from this reality. Apart from the sanctifying work of God’s Spirit, we are as likely as anyone to fight the “culture wars” by condemning and castigating the “other side.”

This is one way personal suffering, our subject for this week’s Daily Articles, plays a redemptive role. When we face grief, loss, and pain, we discover our mortality and our finitude. We are confronted with the reality of our fallenness and our need for help beyond ourselves. We are humbled by our challenges and learn to see others as travelers on the same hard road.

"When I am weak, then I am strong"

The teenage Joseph who bragged to his brothers about dreams of ascendancy (Genesis 37:1-11) was tempered by the slavery and prison that followed. When his brothers fell before him years later and proclaimed themselves his servants (Genesis 50:18), he said to them, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive” (v. 20). He then provided for them, “comforted them,” and “spoke kindly to them” (v. 21).

Paul was in danger of becoming “conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations” he experienced, so “a thorn was given me in the flesh . . . to keep me from becoming conceited” (2 Corinthians 12:7). It worked: the apostle learned to say, “When I am weak, then I am strong” (v. 10).

Suffering can help us view others, whatever our agreements or disagreements with them, as fellow sufferers inhabiting the same fallen world. The key is to see everyone we meet through the eyes of Jesus, praying for the “mind” and compassion of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16; Mark 6:34) as we seek to “comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:4).

“Speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) requires us to love those to whom we speak. The harder it is to love them, the more we need to love them and the more they need our love.

Would you humbly ask the Spirit to manifest his love in your heart (Galatians 5:22) for those with whom you most disagree today?

NOTE: For more on the uniqueness and value of each person in God’s eyes, please read my latest personal blog, “1-in-30 million orange lobster spared by Red Lobster.”

Publication date: July 15, 2022

Photo courtesy: ©Roman Kraft/Unsplash

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Christian Headlines.

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Media Bias and the Redemptive Power of Suffering