Saturday, December 05, 2009

THE LATEST MEDIA BIAS PRIMER. Mark Falcoff of the AEI is talking about words used by the press, and after the obligatory George Orwell tells us how the media is misleading us by using terms like "activist" and "civil rights leader":
One example is Mrs. Cynthia Sheehan, who in the old days would simply have been described as an angry housewife (or perhaps, more generously, as a grieving mother seeking attention and celebrity). Now, however, she is an “anti-war activist"...

...since the passage of so much legislation in the last 50 years -- not just the Civil Rights Act but also the Voting Rights Act -- as well as the various forms of “affirmative action” and court-ordered reapportionments of congressional districts to ensure maximum black representation, it is difficult to see what possible dictionary definition “civil-rights leader” could have except “black agitator,” “shakedown artist,” or “poverty pimp.” Martin Luther King Jr. was a civil rights leader; Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson — to take just two of many tawdry examples — are merely cruel caricatures of the same. Too bad the media can’t see the difference.
So if the media were serious about playing fair, it would use "angry housewife" and "poverty pimp" as descriptors in straight news stories. While they're at it, they should get with "stuck on stupid" and "under the bus." Thus may a new golden age of journalism begin.

Falcoff goes on, complaining of the use of "progressive" instead of "liberal" as a cloaking device. The existence of Google News helps us here. The terms liberal and progressive are frequently used by political parties and groups to describe themselves, or by overtly political outlets such as AlterNet; if you pair the words with an American political entity in which members do not commonly thus designate themselves -- for example, "congress progressive" and "congress liberal" -- you'll see the old L word is still alive and kicking.

Falcoff also maintains that "'development assistance' (or, as the Europeans prefer to call it, 'international cooperation')" is the media's "replacement for the old (and in the U.S., hugely unpopular) term 'foreign aid.'" Not really.

And as Google News is a liberal front, you would expect them to return sources using lefty weasel words more often than other aggregators, in hopes of gulling the public. (Interestingly, at Bing the results are very different, though also much more selective.) You may alternately use your common sense. News people prefer short phrases to long, and words their readers understand to those they don't.

They keep working this vein, as they have for years. I doubt there are many people left to convince who haven't been convinced already, so I assume Falcoff's item is meant as comfort food for his perpetually beleaguered comrades. The last time I noticed him, way back in 2003, he was shopping Kissinger's plausible deniability on Allende. As the AEI guys like to say: Markets in everything.

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