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Media Bias Cuts Seven Ways

June 1st, 2005 by dk

Simply put, conservatives don’t work weekends. Herewith lies one of the great trends of media bias never before explored. Conservatives pound away on their simple messages all through the week, but they leave the weekends to long form liberals.

I can tell you who will win the next presidential campaign debate, if you can tell me where it falls on the calendar. It doesn’t matter who the candidates are or even how well they have run their campaigns. It doesn’t matter who the moderator is or how many people tune in to watch. It doesn’t even matter what the subject is. Only one thing matters: the day of the week.
If it’s early in the week, the Republican candidate wins. If it’s Thursday or Friday, the Dems have a lock. Wednesday is pretty much a draw and might be the only day of the week where the substance of the debate might matter.
This seems like a suspiciously simple formula, but take a look back and you’ll see it’s always been true, at least since the Carter-Reagan debate on October 28, 1980 (a Tuesday). More about that debate anon, but first let me explain why this Day of the Week Rule has held fast for at least a quarter-century.
Simply put, conservatives don’t work weekends. Herewith lies one of the great trends of media bias never before explored. Conservatives pound away on their simple messages all through the week, but they leave the weekends to long form liberals.
Rush Limbaugh and the teeming tenors of talk radio fill the airwaves on weekdays and control the water-cooler conversations, but weekend radio is more likely confirmed Democrat Garrison Keillor or those car guys from ever-liberal Cambridge, Mass.
Local TV news is known to lean right in most markets, if only because the stories must be clipped so tight they are shorn of any nuance held so dear by liberals everywhere. But Sunday morning is filled with gabfests and 60 Minutes has ruled Sunday evenings since it stopped being un-American to skip church. Again, these longer segments are famously favorable to the left, whose representative college professors can patiently explain the “story behind the story.”
Even comedy shifts right during the week and left on the weekends. Saturday Night Live sketches are often longer and more liberal versions of Leno’s one-liners written for the weeknight crowds.
The Wall Street Journal doesn’t publish on weekends. But what’s the biggest day for The New York Times? Sunday, which also happens to be when Newsweek and Time roll off the presses.
When a presidential debate happens too late for the Sunday Times and 60 Minutes to reflect on it, it falls into the uncontested laps of the talk-radio kings and the evening news anchors. The parts they choose to repeat become the talking points for working people everywhere. But if the debate happens too late for these voices to repeat themselves enough to be easily parroted back at work or across the hedge, then the more liberal weekend voices take over, making their case while the conservative voices are resting their pipes at their weekend cottages.
Once people hear a story line that sounds right, they stick to it. If it’s from Weekend Update, they won’t adopt whatever Bill O’Reilly haas to say. But if Sean Hannity’s patter gets in the brain first, then nothing from the ear ringed Ed Bradley on Sunday is likely to stick.
It’s only during the weekend, when people are not harried by work and school lunches and piano lessons and Cub Scouts and who-knows-what-else, that the opportunity to delve into topics can even present itself. If long-form weekend treatment gets in first, that’s what gets repeated. If rat-a-tat weekday patter gets in first, it stays there.
By the way, I’m glad Jimmy Carter has had such a productive ex-Presidency. I see it now as penance because I think he sold his party down the river on Tuesday, October 28, 1980. That single debate defined the trajectories both parties have been on since, based completely on rehearsed zingers from each candidates that night.
After Reagan offered an easy answer to financing a military buildup together with tax breaks, Carter assumed his most condescending posture and said: “I’ve learned that there are no simple answers to complicated questions. H. L. Mencken said that for every problem there’s a simple answer. It would be neat and plausible and wrong.”
Liberals have been forced to eschew solutions that are simple and neat and plausible ever since, casting them into the elbow-patched arms of the cultural elite and exhausting the patience of regular people everywhere.
Reagan for his part had a line that may not have been rehearsed, but which has set the winning-if-derisive tone of the right that has won every national election since, except for Bill Clinton (aided significantly by Ross Perot). Do you remember the line? You probably do, but don’t know it. “There he goes again.” If Carter could demean Reagan for being simple-minded, Reagan could accuse Carter of making things more difficult and complicated than they needed to be. If the battle for the hearts and minds of heartland Americans came down to too-simple versus too-complicated, which side would you have bet on?

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