Journo-bias table: creator talks rationale, updated version

As the SKWAWKBOX recently covered, a ‘political commentator bias’ table published by Twitter user @the_awakened caused consternation among many journalists, matched by equal parts of interest and amusement among the politically-interested, Twitter-using public, by ranking journalists and commentators according to their perceived left-right bias.

‘Awakened’ has published the latest version of the table and spoke to the SKWAWKBOX about the rationale and methodology behind it:

ta journos.png

Why make the rankings?

As a glance at the table shows, our mainstream media (MSM) is completely biased to the right – this is dangerous for our democracy. Cue a howl of protest, but when nearly every national mainstream media outlet is consistently and relentlessly attacking a socialist Labour Party with the most petty, mundane, childish, baseless smears because it stands for a change of narrative outside of the narrow consensus of an upper middle class, Russell Group dominated industry you know things are serious.

Especially so when that party is the opposition and the government itself is failing explicitly on every single front. When you look at a government being chastised by the UN for it’s treatment of some of the most vulnerable in society (for example) and your first reaction is “Yea but Corbyn… The hard left…” – you’re biased bud.

The biggest failing of our MSM is not just accepting but actively helping to validate the narrative of austerity. Let’s think about this for a second. The media consensus thought it was perfectly acceptable to have some of the richest people in society crash the world economy out of greed and not even lose their performance bonuses – whilst accepting that the bill for the crash should be paid for by cuts to the welfare state and public services that some of the most vulnerable and less fortunate in society rely on.

In the era where journalism was the fourth pillar of democracy rather than ‘just a job’ and a means to a book deal, journalists would have been screaming from the roof tops about this injustice.

This is why we need to put commentators in their rightful place in the political spectrum so people can make a more informed decision about the validity of what they’re saying.

Is there a methodology to the rankings?

Indeed there is, the rankings study the print, broadcast and social media output of each commentator/journalist, sentence by sentence or statement by statement and ranking them as left or right on the political spectrum. Areas of focus are the economy, the role of the state and foreign policy, sub divided into explicit categories.

There is extra penalisation on continuous critique of individuals, organisations or policies on one side of the political spectrum without equivalence on the opposite side.

One of the biggest issues we found is commentators conflating opinion and fact, then using the first interchangeably with the other to hold up a bigger argument – one which falls flat when scrutinised impartially. Also a big issue was using small samples of information out of context to give a tainted perspective. We found a some commentators consistently utilised these methods so we built in stricter penalties for these instances.

We averaged the results across each journalist to eradicate the effects of different output levels and scaled the results to a spectrum of -100 to +100 to span the political sphere.

There are also strict safeguards for protecting the integrity of the data so it’s not contaminated by the perspective of the person doing the research.

The metholody, data and research are proprietary so we can’t release it publicly yet until we decide what we’re going to do with it, but current discussions include making it a crowd-sourced initiative in the public domain. Our biggest limitation at the moment is the size of the team working on the project.

Why did you change the layout of the table?

The integrity of the data is consistent, but we just expanded the tables to be more symmetrical and precise in our representation. There are 3 obvious jokes (which are still representative in the data) but everything else is precise.

In the original table we made the mistake of labelling the political wings after the dominant parties which wasn’t the intention of the project, its more about the political spectrum rather than specific parties, but it allowed certain commentators to retort with but I vote Labour (ironically from people who have been using their platform to tell people to not vote Labour everyday for the past 2 years).

The fact that so many of the MSM commentators are right biased means there is a contracting of the spectrum when scaling, ideally there needs to be more columns on the right wing to better differentiate the different strands.

There were some controversial results in the original table, can you expand on them more?

Well, let’s look at some examples:

Toby Young
That’s the least controversial, just about everyone agreed on that one. To be honest when you’re the guy picked to do 3 TV interviews in one day to defend a Prime Minister who may have performed a sex act with a decapitated pig’s head at university and you give it your best without an ounce of self-reflection you deserve to be in the Twat column.

Peter Hitchens
I think a lot of that is down to his open and vocal criticism of the Tory Party whilst not necessarily being as vocal in his criticism of Labour. He’s also been a vocal critic of neo-liberalism. His right-wing libertarianism should have balanced things out but apparently not, seems he’s centre-left politically.

Marie Le Conte
I think her consistent anti-Labour quips on social media unbalanced her ranking, but I guess that’s what this project is here to showcase. If I was her I wouldn’t worry too much though, she’s the establishment’s new mascot so she’ll probably have a long and illustrious career.

James O Brien
James keeps making equivalence between a Tory party whose policies are literally killing people right here, right now and a Labour party which has a leader who is reported to have said a few controversial things 30 years ago. The fact that he’s even presenting this as a choice shows the defining line between Liberalism and Socialism.

Are there any commentators people should particularly look out for or ignore?

Obviously this is personal opinion and very reflective of my politics rather than the data. I would pretty much ignore anyone in the Right column and beyond on the right side of the spectrum, their opinion holds no value for most of the population as they’re there to specifically validate a morally-corrupt political outlook that puts the profits of the elite above individuals of society.

A big issue for me is the Centrist/Liberal consensus, there is such a massive chasm between the Left and Soft Left column, and such small margins between the Soft Left and Soft Right columns that I perceive it as a complete bubble very much detached from what’s going on in wider society.

The people in those columns are reflective of your average comfortable middle-class liberal unaffected by most of the harsher government policies, and the 2017 General Election showed how little appetite there is for their politics. They only act as validators of right, by criticising the hypotheticals of the Left over the realities of the right.

As for commentators to look out for.

Aditya Chakrabortty
Without a doubt the best commentator in the country at the moment, his insight and analysis is above and beyond any of his mainstream peers, he’s a journalist/commentator in the traditional sense that works for the masses. If only he wasn’t working for the Guardian. Read and share.

Maya Goodfellow
Her understanding of the issues and perspective is peerless. She writes rings around her contemporaries especially on issues of identity and social justice. If content was king, her work would deservedly be on a much larger platform.

Rachel Shabi
She has a rationale and unwavering logic, has been excellent whether on TV or published media. Other commentators with woefully inadequate comprehension of the issues get much more of a platform, but as a serious representative of the new politics Rachel should be a fixture on the political programming circuit.

No doubt this new version of the list will make even bigger waves among the commentariat than the last one did, especially as it’s backed by a reasoned methodology.

The original version of this article included Sam Kriss as a commentator to watch out for. In light of recent allegations against Mr Kriss, the creator of the list wished to rescind his recommendation.

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  1. I would like it if you can publis a table that is very clear if possible please as I have to strain my eyes to try to read this one and the last one. Is Awakenings a sociologist? It would be great to know more about the background of the research. Thanks

  2. Almost every person has their own political viewpoint and opinion and it most definitely includes journalists.

    It’s about time the BBC led the way, stopped taking us for fools and dropped this pretense of neutrality. If they did that they could have on News Night for example two interviewers, one left and one right to question politicians who were their political opposites.

    By allowing journalists and commentators to openly express their political opinions, viewers would be left in no doubt as to honesty of an interview.

  3. Robert Fisk and Patrick Cockburn of. the Independent don’t get a listing – because?

  4. Still not convinced about Peter Hitchens – One of the biggest critics of ‘New’ labour. (Albeit it’s been more noticeable since 2007, and ever more so since 2010)

    Anyway, ‘New’ labour’s seen by the broad consensus of opinion to be the ‘moderate’ left. They’re no such thing, unless you move the dividing line a few feet to the right. Something Hitchens has been saying forever, by the way…

    Ergo, Hitchens’ criticisms of ‘new’ labour alone surely must place him right of centre at the very least?

    PS. toby young’s still a twat, always was – always will be.

    1. Completely agree about Hitchens. The main reason some think he is not so right wing is because occasionally he criticises the Tories. The truth is he criticises them because they are not right wing ENOUGH.

      1. In fairness to him, Jack, he’s always said there was no discernible difference between them since 1979 as the labour party weren’t anywhere’s near left wing enough under bliar. The electorate have been badly serviced by the lot of them since then.

        And he was right. It’s because Corbyn’s brought a palpable shift to the left, meaning the difference now is strikingly obvious. The ‘centre ground’ is still what used to be what the ‘wets’ were about under thatcher.

        There’s an actual choice now.

  5. I’m not sure how much point there is in a table like this. It misses out great journalists such as Robert Fisk and Jonathan Cook. Allowing for the fact that I can’t read the thing because it’s too small, I’m assuming that Peter Oborne is somewhere over to the right: I’d trust his word above that of the fair-weather “socialist” Owen Jones (who did so much to sow doubt about Jeremy Corbyn earlier this year in the pages of the neoliberal shit-rag Guardian) any day. Peter Hitchens is a case in point, difficult to categorise as you say, but in my opinions Jones, Monbiot, Mason and others in your left lists are snakes in the grass, whose usefulness to the bourgeois state cannot be under-estimated – and if Jones, Mason & Monbiot deserve to be categorised as journalists, why is John Pilger not on your list (Pilger has not attacked Corbyn, suggested that the overthrow of Gaddafi was a good idea or bolstered the CIA campaign against Syria)? There are names in your red corner who are trying to undermine the referendum result and pave the way for the Goldman Sachs/Macron doctrine to prevail. The reality is, in this age where most people no longer get their information solely from the MSM, it would be better to push those journalists who work outside the MSM in the UK (Ovenden, Chacko, Mendoza etc.) or for non UK media (George Galloway, Tariq Ali, Afshin Rattansi etc.) rather than implying that there is anything remotely radical about people who write in the Guardian by gracing them with the tag “left.”


  7. BTW, the twitter acoount @the_awakend (NB NOT @the_awakened, as stated above!!) has a readable version of the chart pinned at the top of the page:
    “Part-time Social Justice Warlord, Part-time Billionaire Playboy”

  8. It would be good if The Skwawkbox could have a full-size version of the table, not a tiny, unreadable one, please.

    1. You should be able to ‘unpinch’ your fingers to enlarge it on a smartphone, or on a laptop/desktop, right-click, open in a new tab or window and scale the view. The original of the image is legible but different devices may render differently.

  9. Worth mentioning that for many of these journalists, their bias is not deliberate, or even conscious .. it’s a product of who they are.
    I’m not suggesting that excuses them – especially those at the BBC – but most were privately educated, followed by Oxford or Cambridge (Or similarly ‘traditional’ uni).
    Not everyone has the nous or courage to resist the establishment / tory indoctrination that is central to such establishments.
    I’d bet money that Tory Laura was genuinely shocked when she was first accused of bias – and I’d more that she still doesn’t really understand what the problem is, despite a good degree and a six-figure salary.

  10. 80% of the media is owned by billionaires, they have an agenda and employ people who will put their views across and one of the reasons the media is strewn with right wing Journalists, Peter Hitchens was at one time a communist but there is little money in that. I actually like Owen Jones but I think he was caught by the Corbyn can’t win propaganda, They were wrong, He was wrong but I give him the benefit of the doubt and think he will be important in the push for the next election.

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