Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Is Rep. Matt Shea Biased?

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The Seattle Times is reporting that a "Washington lawmaker on the public-records task force calls journalists 'those dirty, godless, hateful people'." The Times says Shea may be disqualified by that statement.

Are they suggesting other lawmakers have no bias, or that other's biases are not as troublesome because they are silent about what they believe, or their bias may be directed differently, so it's OK?

A missive on bias from the press is much like a sermon on submitting to biblical teaching and God's Will from an atheist.

Yes, Matt Shea is a friend of mine. And yes, I know a number of journalists in Seattle and the Puget Sound area, whom I respect, and am aware that many read this column regularly, even though we don't agree on many things.

However, can we take an honest look at this?

The Seattle Times says, "Speaking at a gun rights rally this weekend in Spokane, state Representative Matt Shea called journalists 'those dirty, godless, hateful people'."

And yes, the Spokane, Spokesman-Review has jumped on this story as well.

"Shea, a Republican from Spokane Valley, has long had a contentious relationship with the news organizations that report on him," the Times reports.

"But," they say, "this time the situation is unique: Shea is one of eight lawmakers appointed to a task force to figure out how the Washington Legislature should keep and disclose public records."

To their credit, the Times admits they have a bias in the matter.

Well, they don't use those words, but they do admit they are part of a group of news organizations that have filed a lawsuit against the legislature over a long-standing exemption from Washington's Public Records Act.

So they have a bias.

The Times' first quote to make their point is a statement from Noel Isama, a senior policy analyst of the Washington DC-based firm "Sun Light Foundation," who makes money by advocating for open government. In this case on behalf of the news people.

All conservatives and Christians that I know, strongly favor open government. Mr. Isama, being a senior policy analyst, would know that too.

Noel says such a negative opinion of journalists could affect his work on the task force---"We obviously don't think that they [elected officials] should be demonizing the media in any way," he told the Times.

Really? If Isama was working for the people who mistrust the press, would he feel differently? Is he biased based on being paid for his consulting?

Is this article the first step in trying to purge the task force?

House Minority Leader JT Wilcox (R-Yelm) immediately put out a post on Facebook saying, "Shea was chosen because of his experience in the subject and also is an attorney---And his job is to reflect the opinions of the whole caucus, as opposed to whatever his personal feelings may be."

And he said his post was not put out in response to Shea. Wilcox says he, himself, doesn't like the national press but has had "an almost uniformly good experience with the press in Washington."

Co-chair of the task force Rep. Larry Springer (D-Kirkland) says he's been in contact with the other co-chair, Sen. Curtis King (R--Yakima), and said, "We're absolutely committed to a fair, deliberate, open, inclusive...process."

Senator Springer certainly used all the words the press loves to hear.

He said, "The expectation is that you leave your biases at the door, other than your own opinion."

Can anyone really leave their biases at the door and still express their opinion?

I agree with Senator Springer. All of us have biases. Our beliefs, our worldview, involves our biases. Our biases are often shaped by our beliefs and worldview. And they should be. Our biases are linked to our opinions. But if we promise to "leave them at the door," we can appear to be proceeding without them.

Our biases often change as we become more informed, but are we ever without them?

While biases have been branded as something bad, they certainly have not spent a lot of time at the door.

Probably millions of books, articles and self-help quotes have been published to help people rid themselves of biases: "5 Steps to Control your biases", "Ten Steps to overcome your biases", "12 Ways to Leave Your Biases at the Door"---you've seen and may have even read some of them. We even have laws that punish people who expose their biases.

The pursuit of intellectually and morally neutral, unbiased thinking may work for some Eastern mystics, but it doesn't for real people in the real world.

Even partially informed people kind of know the biases of those whom they vote for to represent them in our political system.

We have also come to know the biases of the "unbiased" media.

Recent Media Bias.

President Trump's revoking of former CIA Director Brennan's security clearance has been a big story in the media.

In the last few hours, as of last night, the Seattle Times has published the following headlines:

  • "Trump elevates Brennan in proxy fight", 20 hours ago
  • "Trump Dares Brennan to sue because his clearance is revoked", 2 days ago 
  • "Trump warns he'll revoke clearance of Justice Department official" 5 days ago 
  • "White House: Trump is revoking security..." 6 days ago 
  • "Trump yanks ex-CIA chief's clearance..." 6 days ago 
  • "Trump revokes security clearance of former CIA director..." 6 days ago

The Seattle Times and the media, in general, has cast the "yanking" of clearance from a man who doesn't need it anymore other than to monetize it by appearing as a regular on CNN, as the stuff of a banana republic, dictators and worse.


In 2013, when President Obama did exactly the same thing on a massive scale, the media hardly blinked.

Then Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, questioned the booming rolls of security-clearance holders, noting that 4.9 million people held clearances at the time, with 1.4 million cleared for access at the top level.

Clapper asked agencies to "perform a top to bottom scrub of the teeming rolls of authorized people deemed not to have a so-called 'need to know'." And they did.

Obama took very aggressive action. Only a few news organizations even bothered to cover it, and that dutifully, but not aggressively.

I'm sure the Seattle Times covered the story, but I couldn't find a single story about Obama revoking security clearances in the Seattle Times back in 2013.

Why is it flaming headlines now, and hardly newsworthy then?

Everyone has biases---including "unbiased" newspapers and "unbiased" public servants.

Here's the good news.

In America, the greatest nation in the history of the world, we get to vote on our elected representatives, and we get to choose which newspapers we read and which we do not read.

We can vote and read according to our own choice. Matt Shea is an advocate of both.

Apparently the people of the 4th Legislative District in Spokane, Washington agree. And have done so for the past number of elections.

Be Informed. Be Vigilant. Be Discerning. Be Bold. Be Prayerful.