As founder, publisher, and editor of the online publication Foreign Policy Journal (FPJ), I have on a number of occasions been confronted by critics who attempt to support their criticisms by citing a website called Media Bias Fact Check that accuses FPJ of being a “biased” source for information.
However, Media Bias (as I’ll refer to it for short) not only fails to provide any evidence to substantiate its accusation against my publication but is itself demonstrably biased according to its own criteria.
Exposing that hypocrisy provides a useful lesson in how to identify and immunize yourself against anti-intellectual political propaganda that serves to confine public opinion to a very narrow spectrum of “acceptable” viewpoints.
The website Media Bias Fact Check describes itself as “The Most Comprehensive Media Bias Resource”. A resources page advises, “A good fact checking service will write with neutral wording and will provide unbiased sources to support their claims. Look for these two simple criteria when hunting for the facts.”
The “Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQ) page indicates that it’s mostly a one-man operation by Dave M. Van Zandt, who “works full time in the health care industry” (which has relevance you’ll see when we come to the topic of vaccines) and presently has “five volunteers” who assist. It’s funded through Google AdSense advertising, reader donations, and a subscription membership option for ad-free reading.
This is not unlike FPJ, which is wholly owned and operated by me, though I don’t even have any volunteers working for me. I also fund my site through contextual ads and reader donations, as well as to a lesser extent affiliate marketing and sponsored content.
One entry on the FAQ page attempts to preempt any criticism of Media Bias on the grounds that any criticisms are due to “websites that are not always factual” not appreciating Media Bias “exposing them” with “ratings” that are backed “with evidence”. The FAQ also asserts that all sources “are rated objectively using our methodology”. In the case of its rating of FPJ, however, this is demonstrably untrue as no evidence is provided, and if we apply their own methodology objectively, the conclusion is inescapable that the accusation of bias on their part is simply a reflection of their own prejudices.
Usefully, there is a page describing its methodology, which understatedly acknowledges that its judgments are “to some degree subjective”. It looks not only at “political bias”, but also at “how factual the information is and if they provide links to credible, verifiable sources.” It uses a linear scale for bias ranging from extreme “Left” bias to extreme “Right” bias.
That by itself should clue in visitors that the Media Bias website is not a good source for information about political bias. After all, by adopting this linear spectrum, the website at the outset excludes from consideration any views that don’t fall within that narrow framework. This methodology is fundamentally biased against any views that don’t fall neatly along a line representing “left” versus “right” views, which in the US is practically synonymous with “liberal/Democrat” versus “conservative/Republican” views.
By contrast, I founded FPJ in large part precisely to challenge that narrow-minded way of thinking. As I have long stated on my site’s About page, FPJ’s purpose “is to challenge the propaganda narratives presented by the mainstream media, which serve to manufacture consent for government policies.” As I further state, “The mainstream media cover important topics within a very narrow framework. FPJ’s goal is to broaden the scope of discussion by providing information and perspectives all too lacking in the public debate on key foreign policy issues.”
Furthermore, as I’m about to demonstrate, Media Bias fails to conform to its own stated methodology. It lists four criteria for judging the existence of bias. The first is related to the headline. Article titles that “use loaded words to convey emotion to sway the reader” or don’t “match the story” are evidence of bias.
Failure to “report factually and back up claims with well sourced evidence” is also evidence of bias.
Another criterion is whether the source reports news “from both sides” or only “one side”—which, again, simply illustrates the bias of adopting this “left-right” spectrum as though no other political viewpoints existed. What happens when the source is off the spectrum by reporting news from neither “side” and being equally critical of both Democrats and Republicans? Their adopted methodology precludes them from objectively assessing any potential bias of such sources.
Their last criterion is how strongly a source endorses “a particular political ideology”—which, again, is strictly limited to the spectrum of “left” versus “right”, and which even in that limited framework they acknowledge is “rather subjective”.
Since the last criterion is practically worthless and irrelevant to this specific case, we can focus on the first three to demonstrate how Media Bias Fact Check not only fails to substantiate its criticisms of FPJ but is itself guilty of bias according to its own criteria.
Baselessly Accusing FPJ of “LEFT BIAS”
The site headlines FPJ as having “LEFT BIAS” almost to the “Extreme” left end of the spectrum. This would be fair enough if any evidence was presented to support the charge of bias, but failing that, it easily falls within the meaning of “loaded words to convey emotion to sway the reader”.
Media Bias describes FPJ as a source that is “moderately to strongly biased toward liberal causes through story selection and/or political affiliation.” Sites with “Left Bias”, the page states, “may utilize strong loaded words (wording that attempts to influence an audience by using appeal to emotion or stereotypes), publish misleading reports and omit reporting of information that may damage liberal causes.”
The first problem with this characterization of my website is FPJ’s stated mission. It is utterly absurd to suggest that FPJ has avoided reporting information critical of the political left in the US—just as it would be absurd to suggest that FPJ has avoided reporting information critical of the political right. To do so would be contrary to my mission of transcending the narrow “left” versus “right” framework for discussion.
To try to support the absurd characterization of my completely non-partisan publication, Media Bias states that FPJ publishes articles “written by activists and academics from a progressive standpoint,” such as Professor Richard A. Falk, who is a professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University and former UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories.
It is true that I publish articles written by individuals who identify with “progressive” political viewpoints, but Media Bias is simply lying by omission, implying that FPJ publishes such viewpoints exclusively when in fact I publish articles written by authors with a wide variety of different viewpoints, including, of course, articles that are highly critical of the political left.
My own articles are highly critical of US government policies regardless of which party is dominating the political agenda in Washington, DC. To illustrate, in October 2008, in advance of Barack Obama’s election to the White House, I wrote a piece titled “Whoever Wins U.S. Election, Policy in ‘War on Terror’ Unlikely to Change’”. Preceded by criticisms of the George W. Bush administration, what followed at FPJ was four years of criticisms of the Obama administration. When Obama was up for reelection, contending against Republican candidate Mitt Romney, I wrote an article titled “The Mass Insanity of American Voters” which argued that the candidates from neither major political party were worthy of a vote. What followed was four more years of criticism of the Obama administration, which has been followed by criticisms of US policies under the Donald Trump administration.
By omitting the fact that I publish articles written from a broad range of political perspectives and that FPJ content is consistently non-partisan in nature, Media Bias is itself demonstrably guilty of bias according to its own criteria.
The next piece of supposed evidence the site presents to support its charge of bias is the somewhat self-contradictory statement that, when it comes to economic matters, FPJ articles “are not highly critical of the Trump Administration”. The provided link is to an article I published by Antonio Graceffo titled “Chinese Investment in the US Is Slumping, but Don’t Blame Trump”, in which Mr. Graceffo presents an argument that I felt was well reasoned and solidly sourced with fifteen references. Regardless of whether I agreed with his conclusion, I felt he made important points that were worth considering. He was offering a perspective I felt deserved to be heard.
But once again, Media Bias is lying by omission since I do in fact publish articles that are highly critical of the Trump administration on economic matters, such as Paul Craig Roberts’ criticisms of Trump’s tariffs in his articles “The Tariff Issue” and “The Diminishing American Economy”, which includes the illustrative criticism that “US leadership went into precipitous and continuous decline with the advent of the Clintons, continuing through Bush, Obama, and Trump.” (Paul Craig Roberts, incidentally, is no leftist. A former Wall Street Journal editor, he was the Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under the Ronald Reagan administration.)
When it comes to the economy, FPJ articles generally couldn’t be further from the “left”. They also couldn’t be further from the “right”. Once again, the views I publish generally transcend this narrow-minded framework. The charge of “left” bias is once again absurd given content of mine with titles such as “Denying Fed’s Role in Housing Bubble, Paul Krugman Exposes His Intellectual Dishonesty”, “Stop Blaming Free Markets”, “Does Fed Inflation Cause Economic Growth? (Don’t Ask Paul Krugman.)”, “How the Federal Reserve System Harms the Economy”, and “Economic Growth Comes from Consumer Saving, Not Spending”.
I should also point out that, other than my own, articles I publish do not necessarily represent my views, which are synonymous with the views of FPJ. I don’t always agree with articles I publish. This is simply not a requirement for me to publish them. Articles I publish written by others represent the respective authors’ views, not my views or the views of FPJ. The whole point is to publish a wider variety of viewpoints than we are treated to in the narrow mainstream discourse.
Media Bias adds that FPJ articles “instead are critical of the overall system”, which would be true if the word “instead” wasn’t used in a vain effort to deny that articles I’ve published are highly critical of Trump’s economic policies. And even if it was true that I don’t publish articles critical of the Trump administration’s economic policies, it wouldn’t support the accusation of “left” bias. And, naturally, being admittedly critical of “the overall system” is likewise evidence against a “left” bias just as it is also evidence against a “right” bias.
Unthinkingly Dismissing Any Information Contrary to Official Government Narratives
In addition to absurdly accusing FPJ of “Left Bias”, Media Bias also gives FPJ a factual reporting rating of “Mixed”, which the methodology page tells us means FPJ “failed one or more fact checks and does not correct false or misleading information.” Relevantly, a source is “automatically” rated as “Mixed” if it “does not support the consensus of science” on topics including “Vaccinations”. The stated reason for the “Mixed” rating in FPJ’s case is “promotion of conspiracy theories.”
Returning to the page attacking FPJ’s credibility, Media Bias states that “Foreign Policy Journal also publishes conspiracy theories and pseudoscience such as anti-vaxx propaganda and 9-11 conspiracies.”
But by claiming that the linked articles propagate “conspiracy theories”, “anti-vaxx propaganda”, and “pseudoscience”, Media Bias is itself utilizing strongly loaded words that attempt to influence its audience by stereotyping anyone who dares to challenge government claims about vaccines or the 9/11 attacks and thereby appealing to the emotional response such language is intended to provoke rather than substantively addressing the points raised in the articles. Instructively, Media Bias makes no attempt to identify even a single factual or logical error in either article.
The vaccine article is one I wrote titled “How the CDC Uses Fear Marketing to Increase Demand for Flu Vaccines”. Had Media Bias adhered to its own methodology, my article would have been scrutinized to determine whether the assertions I make are accurate and well-sourced. Evidently, that was not done since, far from proposing a conspiracy theory, I simply cited the CDC itself to prove my case.
Specifically, I cited a presentation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to the Institute of Medicine titled “‘Recipe’ for Fostering Public Interest and High Vaccine Demand”, which called for encouraging medical experts and public health authorities to “state concern and alarm” about “and predict dire outcomes” from the flu season. To inspire the necessary fear, the CDC encouraged describing each season as “very severe”, “more severe than last or past years”, and “deadly”. Instructively, the CDC identified one major obstacle standing in the way of its objective of increasing vaccination rates by bluntly stating that “Health literacy is a growing problem”.
I also cited an article published in the BMJ—formerly the British Medical Journal—which observed how the CDC uses “a marketing of fear” as a “communications strategy”.
The suggestion that I otherwise engage in “pseudoscience” in the article is equally mindless. In it, I accurately report on scientific findings, which anyone can verify for themselves by checking the links I provide to my sources from the medical literature.
The fact that Media Bias failed to do so, instead lazily and reflexively dismissing my article based on strawman and ad hominem argumentation, once again simply demonstrates that it is Media Bias, not FPJ, that is biased.
The dismissal of any information that doesn’t conform to the government’s official narrative of the events of September 11, 2001, is similarly anti-intellectual. The link is to another article by Paul Craig Roberts in which he remarks that “the Fourth Amendment, one of the cornerstones of American civil liberty, has been undermined by the 9/11 hoax that pretends the world’s only superpower defended by the NSA universal spy program was defeated by a handful of Saudi Arabians who could not fly airplanes.”
Evidently, Media Bias would have us believe that the government’s official story is unquestionably true, despite the many major problems with it, discussed in much greater detail elsewhere at FPJ. For example, I wrote and published an article titled “The Mysterious Collapse of World Trade Center 7: Case Far From Closed”, which summarized major problems with the fire-induced collapse hypothesis presented by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), whose conclusions about the collapse of WTC 7 are falsifiable even on the basis of NIST’s own self-contradictions. For example, its collapse hypothesis depends on there being raging fires in the northeast of the building on the 12th floor at a time when its own photographic and videographic analysis of the building showed that the fires in that area had already burned out and moved on to other areas of the building.
Other examples of outright scientific fraud abound, but most importantly, the acknowledged free-fall collapse of the building means that all its potential energy was converted into kinetic energy, which means there was no energy available to do the work of buckling columns as required by NIST’s fire-induced collapse hypothesis. Another article on the subject I wrote and published is titled “Video Analysis of NIST’s Claim of a 5.4 s Collapse Time Over 18 Stories for WTC 7”, which provides strong evidence that NIST’s report was not merely methodologically unsound and fallacious in its reasoning but intentionally deceptive by attempting to obfuscate the logical implications of free fall.
In neither of these articles do I propose any “conspiracy theory”. Rather, I simply present the facts and scientific evidence and draw conclusions about which of the various hypotheses that have been proposed to explain the collapse of the building are best explained by that evidence.
It would be superfluous to provide additional examples. It’s enough to observe that Media Bias doesn’t actually present any argument to support the accusation that FPJ propagates “conspiracy theories”, but simply assumes that any information that challenges public vaccine policy or the government’s claims about the events of 9/11 must fall under that category, without even the slightest effort to actually identify factual or logical errors in anything I’ve ever published on either subject at FPJ.
Absurdly Dismissing Serious and Factually Accurate Analysis
Next, Media Bias states that “Editorially, Foreign Policy Journal is progressive on international geopolitics, diplomacy, and military matters.” As the sole editor of FPJ, I can state authoritatively that I do not identify with “progressive” political views (just as I don’t identify with “conservative” views)! That fallacy has already been sufficiently addressed, but moving on, the site states, “When it comes to news analysis they use loaded language both in their headlines and the body of the article such as ‘The Myth of the U.N. Creation of Israel.’ However, they utilize credible sources such as un.org, avalon.law.yale.edu and Al Jazeera.”
First, to be clear, there is no “they” responsible for that article. I alone am responsible for writing it, editing it, and publishing it. More importantly, by describing the headline of my article “The Myth of the U.N. Creation of Israel” as using “loaded language”, Media Bias, by its own criteria, is claiming either that the title is intended “to convey emotion to sway the reader” or that its claim isn’t supported by the rest of the story, or both. Both suggestions are patently absurd.
On the contrary, it is a fact that the belief that the UN created Israel is widely held among the general public and propagated by mainstream commentators. It is also a fact that that belief is untrue, as I demonstrate incontrovertibly in the article, the factual accuracy of which has withstood the test of nine years since publication and a vainly attempted rebuttal by a Hebrew University professor who admitted in an Israeli newspaper that the thesis stated in my headline is correct!
So in what way does my title provide evidence of bias on my part? In what way is the language of it “loaded”? In what way does my article appeal to people’s emotions as opposed to appealing to people’s ability to reason by presenting a detailed analysis fully referenced with 36 endnotes mostly citing primary source materials from the UN and other authoritative sources? Beats me! Media Bias doesn’t bother to even attempt to explain or otherwise substantiate the charge. It doesn’t bother to even attempt to identify any factual or logical errors in the article. And lacking any substantive explanation for the accusation, we must conclude that ludicrously describing my title as using “loaded language” is itself a use of loaded language intended to appeal to emotion rather than reason.
Incidentally, another of Media Bias’s necessary criteria for rating a source’s factual reporting as “Mixed” is that they do not “correct false or misleading information.” My “Myth of the UN Creation of Israel” article contains an editorial note acknowledging an inaccuracy, as originally published, in paraphrasing a UN document. I corrected the inaccuracy by instead providing the direct quote from the UN document, my point remaining the same. I do the same in each instance when an error or inaccuracy in something I’ve written is brought to my attention, which is infrequent but does happen from time to time. Hence, if Media Bias were to apply its own criteria using its own cited example, it ought to have applied at least its “Mostly Factual” rating to FPJ for truthful and well-sourced reporting and for responsibly correcting inaccuracies.
In sum, the website Media Bias Fact Check levels accusations of bias at Foreign Policy Journal, but it is demonstrably Media Bias that we must judge as biased if we are to accept and apply its own criteria.
It accuses FPJ of “Left Bias” despite the obviously non-partisan nature of the articles I publish and the endless criticisms of Democratic as well as Republican politicians.
It accuses FPJ of publishing “anti-vaxx propaganda” and “pseudoscience” despite the article of mine cited to support that accusation meeting their criteria for solidly factual and well-sourced reporting.
It accuses FPJ of propagating “conspiracy theories” simply for publishing legitimate criticisms of public vaccine policy and the official account of 9/11.
It accuses FPJ of using “loaded language” that makes an emotional appeal in its headlines based on a single headline that, to the contrary, appealed to people’s ability to reason and simply communicated a thesis that is incontrovertibly demonstrated to be true within the body of the article.
I’m not saying that there aren’t biases in any of the articles I publish at FPJ. I have published articles by others that I felt were biased, or that I disagreed with to varying degrees. It isn’t a requirement of mine that submitted articles align with my own viewpoints, and I pride myself in publishing differing and oftentimes contradictory views. For example, a couple months ago, I published an article titled “The 2019 Pan-Armenian Games Have Dimmed Prospects for Peace” as well as a rebuttal titled “Pan-Armenian Games Carry Message of Peace, Not War”. Which represents FPJ’s view? Neither! That is the point. The views are the respective author’s own, and I am simply encouraging thought and facilitating discussion about important issues.
This contrasts with the major corporate media’s habit of discouraging independent thinking and strictly limiting discussion within a very narrow framework—the exact same narrow framework that Media Bias adopts for its methodology.
The point is that it is incumbent upon those who are claiming to decide for the rest of us what constitutes biased versus objective reporting to adopt a reasonable methodological framework that doesn’t exclude a broad range of political views at the outset and to objectively apply its methodological criteria rather than being hypocritically guilty of the very accusations they falsely level at others.
So how shall we rate Media Bias Fact Check as an informational resource? “Utterly worthless” is the most apt description that comes immediately to my mind, assuming that the mindless attack on FPJ is not an outlier but representative, which is a reasonable assumption given the inherent bias of their adopted methodology.
You’re better off sticking to Foreign Policy Journal for information and analysis on media bias. See, for example, my article “The Role of the US Media in the Palestine Conflict” for serious critical analysis of bias in media reporting; or, on the vaccine issue, my articles “FactCheck.org, Following CDC’s Example, Lies about Vaccine Safety”, “How Public Vaccine Policy Violates Our Right to Informed Consent”, and “Facebook ‘Fact-Checker’ Misinforms Users about Vaccine Safety”.
That’s how fact-checking and analysis of media bias is done.
And if you think I’m doing a good job at exposing government and media propaganda and would like me to keep it up, please consider making a financial contribution to the effort.
This article was originally published at Foreign Policy Journal.