One of the things my favorite (fake) newscaster Stephan Colbert says on a regular bias is that “Major media has a well-known liberal bias.” And this is definitely something many people believe. This perspective has cropped up again recently all over the web, and yes on The Colbert Report has helped, with the new Conservative Bible Project. The ridiculous (and copy-cat) assertation that this project intends to make is that the bible has “a well-known liberal bias.” And as ridiculous as it may first appear I think they are actually right, but not in the way they think.
It seems to me that we could easily consider that major network news and papers such as the NY Times are not in fact liberal at all but rather conservative in that they all seek to put reality “as it is” on display. That is, all major network news from MSNBC to FOX seek to expose or reveal what is happening “out there.” After all isn’t that what news is supposed to be? The opinion section or segment is sectored off for a reason. “News” tries to relay information about reality, about what happened that day, or that week, in your neighborhood and around the globe. It may also seek to expose what is true about this or that issue, person, event, etc.
The problem then isn’t the object of news, the events that transpire, but rather our interpretation on that reality. What gets relayed about the “truth” is where things get a little tangled up (to say the least). Thus in my mind, it’s not that some news is good and some is bad, instead the point is to realize all interpretation is slanted, all interpretation of reality runs through a filter (our own or someone else’s) and thus has a bias. In other words, all news is opinion to some extent. The question becomes for much of how media is handled in this country, which kind of interpretation will sell better, or that tells me what I want to hear the most? Which source, according to me, interprets those events in a way that makes sense to me, connects with me intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, etc?
On the other hand, it seems like very little of what passes as “news” is “progressive” (I admit to be taking some liberties with this term “progressive”). I am taking “progressive” here to mean not taking reality at face-value, what it is, but rather what it should be. Progressive in this way means owning up to the fact that it is embedded in an interpretation of reality, and that it is putting it’s best presentation forward in a compelling way. Here then “conservative” signals trying to tell the events of the day “objectively,” and pretends to report without (subjective) interpretation, and certainly both “conservative” and “liberal” media are guilty of this. In both cases, on the right and left, these modes of relaying information are rooted in the Enlightenment, a kind of “Just give me the straitght-up facts Johnny” mentality that conceals its own embeddedness.
So what is the “progressive” alternative? I take much of blogging, zines, and other subcultural forms of communication to be more progressive (laying outside both liberal and conservative). This is because these forms of media, while they are often upfront already about their biases and influences, just read the about page on virtually every blog for instance, but they are often more interested in imaginating another society, an alternative way of approacing this or that situation, and offering critique of the status quo. And that’s what is so threatening about these progressive forms of “news,” and cultural re-writing. It isn’t content with leaving reality where it is, or concealing its biases (a position that threatens those still pretending to be objective) but pushing it along, changing it, subverting, in the name of some other narrative.
(I am not on the other hand insisting that we should not read/watch major news networks, just that we recognize and are upfront about theirs, as well as our own, positioning.)
Now that I’ve said all that, I can return to the real point of this post and make my hypothesis: the problem with the Bible for those in the conservative Bible project is not that it is either conservative or liberal, but that it is progressive in this manner. In this way it exceeds the categories, continues to be re-interpreted afresh and challenge the status quo of reality. My reading of Jesus is that he is especially active in this regard. Scripture puts forth an alternative vision of reality, an entirely different way of living and approach one another, politics, economics, society, religion, etc. It is not an upside-down viewpoint as so many like to say, it is instead present the world as it should be, or right-side up. And for those who have an interest in stability, safety, and maitaing power “the way its always been” the Bible can be rather unsettling. Jesus’ message was unsettling even for his own followers, we should expect that 2000 years removed from that we will still find people trying to dodge the society that Jesus sought to put in place. And this will bother more than just one side of our polarized society.
[Image from Chris233]
4 responses to “We All Know That Reality has a Well-Known “Conservative” Bias”
That has been the most helpful response to the conservative bible project I have read yet. It certainly beats my knee-jerk response when I heard about it.
I kind of wonder about all the niche 'study' bibles out there nowadays as well. While not altering the text itself, some seem more intent on bending interpretations of scripture to meet their own agenda (ie the Patriot's Bible, or even in some ways the Green Bible on the other side of the spectrum). Do you think these approaches where the bible is seen through one particular lens are helpful or not? Or rather, is there a healthy way to do that which recognizes the bias from the start without letting that be the guiding force?
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I'm currently looking at an Ann Coulter ad on the side of this page. I guess google picked up on some keywords. 🙂 Irony at its best