Sanity Injection

Injecting a dose of sanity into your day’s news and current events.

How the news media try to shape your perceptions, Part 2

Posted by sanityinjection on July 1, 2008

It’s unusual for me to link to a blatantly biased “news” article, especially in the New York Times. But I cannot pass up the opportunity to showcase this excellent example of how the media deliberately twists its reporting to make you believe what they want you to believe.

Before continuing, let me point out that while the article concerns the Presidential candidates, it is not my intention to use this blog as a mouthpiece for any candidate or to tell anyone how to vote. Were the beneficiary and the victim of this piece to be swapped, I would still decry it as the worst kind of journalism.

So let us begin: The subject of the article, which appeared in the “Politics” section for the NYT, is Senator McCain’s trip to Colombia today. The article notes correctly that one of the reasons for the trip is to highlight McCain’s strong support for a free-trade agreement between the US and Colombia that is being held up in the House. However, the main point of the article is to imply that the *real* reason McCain supports this is because one of his advisors, Charlie Black, headed a lobbying firm that worked for Occidental Petroleum, which has heavy interests in Colombia. You are supposed to understand that if the free trade agreement passes, Occidental makes money, which means Charlie makes money, which means McCain says whatever Charlie tells him to say. However, the author of the piece, Larry Rohter, knows better than to state this directly and have to be held accountable for his assertion. So how does he get this idea in his reader’s head? Here’s how.

Start with the title of the piece, which admittedly probably came from an editor rather than from Rohter: “McCain Heads Today for Colombia, Where Adviser Has Long Had Ties” We assume the latter is the reason for the former, without it being stated. This idea is reiterated at the very beginning of the piece, just in case you didn’t get it: “At a time when the role of lobbyists and special interests are at issue in the presidential campaign, Senator John McCain leaves Tuesday on a trip to Colombia, where a senior adviser to him has long had business and political ties.”

The main objection to this linkage is the well-known fact that McCain has been a strong supporter of free trade agreements generally for his entire legislative career (and long before he ever met Charlie Black.) Rohter is forced to admit this but does so as briefly as possible: “The senator, a strong free-trade advocate, has spoken in favor of the accord on the campaign trail.”  Of course, since we are supposed to believe that McCain’s support is based solely on naked corruption, Rohter has no time to tell us what McCain’s reasons are for supporting the deal. Yet, in the very next paragraph, where he states that Senator Obama opposes the deal, we are told why: “Mr. Obama has expressed environmental and human rights concerns, including what he describes as the Colombian government’s repression of labor unions.”  You, dear reader, aren’t supposed to notice that only one side of the story is being told.

We are told all about what a jerk Black is (for commenting offhand that McCain would get more votes if the US were attacked before the election), and what an evil company Occidental is. Having established this, we are told about Colombia’s “questionable human rights record” in great detail and Occidental’s complicity in same. Never mind that Colombia’s been fighting a full-scale civil war for years, or that the alleged incidents mentioned took place before the current government of Colombia, which negotiated the deal, was in place.

What we are not offered is the slightest hint of an argument that might suggest why a reasonable person could possibly support this trade deal – for example, almost all Colombian goods are already imported without tariffs, but the deal would allow US firms the same privilege to export our goods to Colombia – helping us as much or more than them. Nor are we told that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is refusing to allow a vote on the measure, because she knows that the majority of Congressmen even in the Democrat-controlled House will vote in favor of the deal.

Selective presentation of information – Make sure the reader receives only the information that supports one world view, and then let them reach their own conclusions based on that information.

And this from the newspaper that still acts as if it is the world epitome of professional journalism. In fact, the NY Times has become a consummate disgrace with precisely this kind of “news reporting”. One wonders why, if the left-wing editors and reporters of the Times are so certain of the righteousness of their viewpoint, why they do not trust readers to come to agree with them if given *all* the facts in an objective fashion?

Full article here:



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