What Does the Bias Map Look Like?

I recently posted a look at the first draft of the rating system I will be using. In it, I used a lot of fairly specific terminology. Rest assured, the map will be easy to read even if you don’t know what each of those terms mean. Don’t believe me? Here’s a draft of what it will look like.

Yup, that’s a slight variation on a standard four-quadrant political model, alright. Eysenck, eat your heart out.

Pretty basic stuff. First, let me say: It is a rough draft. I hope that, by the time I have a robust section of ratings for a wide variety of media outlets, I will also have the technical ability to make a more interesting map. I do have some ideas for interesting things I would like to implement, but I’m going to hold off on discussing those until after I, you know, feel confident I could actually do it.

For now, this is the starting point: A simple, easy-to-understand four-quadrant graph. If I were to place Democrats and Republicans on here, using my draft of the rating system on their party platforms in the 2016 election (the last time we have full, official platforms), the map might look like this.

Actual positions: R – 1.53 / 1.82 D – 0.22 / 0.05

This, hopefully, demonstrates why I consider this an ideological map rather than a political one. I am trying to be cognizant not of rhetorical strength, nor of loyalty to the party platform, but instead to the material policies proposed — and the material outcomes they have.

It also demonstrates something that I think is important: How slim a range of ideas the American political system accepts. While the actual laws passed and individual lawmakers passing them have more ideological variety than the two parties’ platforms can contain, it is still important to recognize just how close the two parties really are, and to ask: Why so limited?

This is not how the media talks about politics, but I do think it is a worthwhile way to do so. We’re used to seeing outlets that, for instance, relentlessly bash Trump labeled as ‘far left’ outlets, and ones that support him as ‘far right’. But the media is more complicated than that. An outlet might be quite progressive when it comes to prison abolition, for instance, but incredibly conservative when it comes to foreign relations.

Finally, let me reiterate: I am well aware of the flaws of the two-axis, four-quadrant model. This is meant to be a starting point, rather than a closing one, a way for us to begin to engage with political media beyond the partisan team-sports metrics many of us have learned.

I hope you enjoy, and please let me know if you have questions, comments, or feedback.

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