Turned up to eleven: Fair and Balanced

Monday, March 04, 2002

A thought struck me as I was pondering the prevailing myth of liberal bias in media and academia. Does it matter? I don't say that because I am a liberal and therefore agree with the putative bias, but because I note several valid points made, and a curious circumstance. Since I don't really have the space or time to deal with both, lets take the latter (Bob Somersby is doing a pretty good job on the former).One valid point is that while the rarified air of the Ivy League might be bent toward the liberal (is this all that surprising, since most of the schools are located in the substantially liberal Northeast?), you can be very successful without a degree from any of these eight schools. Yes, even Stanford graduates can get jobs!! Another, more interesting, point is that most of these bias charges come from former students who went through classes with terribly biased instructors and have come out with a very cynical view on the academy. Leaving aside the anecdotal nature of this evidence, it is interesting how this argument is presented. In essence, those who make this claim are saying "I was able to see through this facade to the real agenda, but what of my poor, hapless, dumb classmates? Somehow, I must help them see that they are being brainwashed!" I have to say that this is an incredibly presumptuous argument, especially with respect to the Ivies. Don't the rest of those kids have the same high IQ you do? Don't you think that they can see through the cloud of b.s. too?

It seems to me that this gets to the real point. Everyone thinks that their viewpoint is right, or else you wouldn't have it, right? So anyone who doesn't agree with you (especially when it is an important point), must not be able to see the true path. Any strongly held belief is subject to this sort of interpretation, and the points where public policy intersect with belief (whether in political ideology, economics, or religion), are rife with this sort of argumentation. But a few deep breaths are in order, especially on this issue of "liberal bias." Surely all those Ivy League eggheads are able to see through this silly liberal tripe, aren't they? If not, then why are they at Ivy League schools in the first place (unless, of course, their parents went there!!)?

Here's a little thought experiment; Suppose that the academy, especially in the social sciences, especially at Ivy League institutions, is sharply tilted to the political left. Suppose further that these leftist faculty have an undue influence on their charges, leading them to adopt silly, outrageous, socialist positions on assorted subjects. Now suppose further that these undergrads at these prestigious institutions go on after college to very important positions in all aspects of government, media, business, and academics. Given the inordinate amount of prestige that comes with a degree from an Ivy, why aren't we positively overrun with leftists in every corner of our government and nation in general. As is so often pointed out, this country is very evenly divided in terms of politics, on any scale that you choose. At every level of government, the proportions are, I expect, very much reflective of this even division. The pinnacles of business success are, if anything, overrun with conservatives (fiscal conservatives, anyway). Unfortunately for this thought experiment, it amounts to essentially a proof by contradiction (I know that is isn't really, for all you pedants out there) of the charge of academic liberal bias.