This week Crikey has been rating various forms of media outlets by their political bias, from 0 in the middle stretching to 10 in each ideological direction, right and left. Today they turn to blogging (subscribers only).
My bias is quite open (‘Carlton’s lone classical liberal’), and I received the most votes in the best solo libertarian blog competition, but it seems that Crikey only rates me as a 1 on the right side of their bias-o-meter. My friends at Catallaxy, by contrast, score a 6.
How can this be?
One reason, I think, is that while I argue that left-right are still useful categories in Australia, this is because their sociological strength has been retained even if their ideological content has weakened (which is what the ‘left/right labels don’t mean much anymore’ argument points to). If you know someone is ‘right’ or ‘left’ you’ll still have a reasonable chance of guessing which issues interest them and what their position will be.
The sociological aspect seems to be what is making me hard for Crikey to classify:
a quick keyword search of right leaning hot button issues like the ABC and arts grants isn’t going to yield results.
It’s true that I am not that interested in many of the culture wars issues that fire up my right-of-centre comrades, but surely my support of markets, lower taxation, federalism, and liberty generally should give me more than one on the bias-o-meter? (Incidentally, something has gone horribly wrong on the right if trivia like ABC bias has become more of an identifier than preferring lower taxes.)
From an ideological perspective, I am firmly on the classical liberal right. But from a sociological perspective, I am perhaps not a full member of the ‘right’ tribe.
Another possible reason for my low rating is style. ‘Detailed policy analysis’ say the Crikey team, rather than perhaps the polemical point-scoring found on the most ‘biased’ blogs. And many of my posts are driven by curiosity about something I’ve read or a question I have been asked rather than a desire to score political points. In that sense, my ‘bias’ is like a lot of ABC ‘bias’ – implicit in the kinds of things that interest me, rather than the way I present them. I’ll report facts or arguments that don’t support my perspective as well as those that do.
It may seem surprising that I would object to a low bias rating. But to my mind having a political perspective can be a strength as well as a weakness. All ideologies are partly theories about how the world works and how it should work, and these theories help people see significant things and patterns in the messy reality of events and circustamces that others miss. These theories create blind spots as well, as commenters sometimes remind me, but this is a case for blogging (and media generally) diversity, not for abandoning a perspective in an attempt to be completely neutral.