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 3

Posted by sanityinjection on September 23, 2008

Our latest example of the ways the media gets you to think what they want you to think comes from our friends at the Associated Press. The article in question is about polling data on former supporters of Hillary Clinton and the extent to which they are, or are not, supporting Barack Obama now.

The beginning of the article very clearly states that Obama has made little or no progress in winning over these voters (mostly Democrats and some independents), while John McCain has been able to win over a few more of them. However, as you read through the rest of the article, the tone very subtly changes. By the end of the article, you are left with the distinct impression that it is only a matter of time before the Clinton supporters “come around” and line up behind Obama – despite no evidence being presented to support this conclusion. How is this achieved?

One of the main ingredients is the quotes that are interspersed in the article. Readers tend to focus on quotes rather than on statistics in an article like this. The first quote is from a Clinton supporter who has doubts about Obama and is clearly undecided and struggling as to who to support. The next quote we get is from an Obama campaign spokesman who (not suprisingly) tells us that Clinton supporters are backing Obama “in huge numbers” and reminding us that Hillary herself has been unequivocal in her support for her former opponent. This is followed by a Hillary Clinton spokesperson who underlines the same message. 

You might expect that logically a McCain spokesperson would be next – but that nod to basic principles of equal coverage would ruin the whole effect. Instead you get a quote from another former Clinton supporter who has decided to back Obama, thus completing the journey from “undecided and struggling” to  “united for change”. You don’t get any quotes from any Clinton supporters backing McCain, which helps them seem vague and tentative.

What’s missing from the article is even the slightest mention of a large group of Clinton-backers who call themselves “PUMAs” (Party Unity, My Ass). This is odd because it is this group of people, fundamentally, that the article purports to be about. PUMAs are united in their determination *not* to vote for Obama under any circumstances. The majority seem to be leaning toward McCain, while others plan to vote for a third-party candidate, write in Hillary’s name, or just stay home. A quick web search turns up literally hundreds of PUMA web sites and blogs. And yet, the article does not offer us any opportunity to hear what they are thinking, or even acknowledge their existence as an organized group.

The last word of the article, the final impression you are given on this topic before moving on to something else? Is this gem:

people in the AP-Yahoo News poll who backed Clinton in earlier waves of the survey might not want to appear inconsistent by suddenly backing a candidate – Obama – they opposed earlier.”

In other words, just in case you are still thick enough to believe that Hillary supporters are serious about not backing Obama, it turns out they’re simply waiting for a decent amount of time to pass to save face before filing into line where they belong!

Judge for yourselves. Here is the full article: http://apnews.myway.com/article/20080923/D93CC8A80.html

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3 Responses to “How the news media try to shape your perceptions, part 3”

  1. […] a great insight on how AP pretends PUMA does not exist, Sanity Injection has a great […]

  2. RealWorldRadical said

    They also keep making the claim that those opposing Clinton are doing so on “personality” rather than “issues”:

    “The problem that supporters of Clinton, the New York senator, have with Obama seems to flow from their measure of him as a candidate, not from issues. From establishing a timeline for a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq to abortion to canceling tax cuts on the rich, their views of the importance of issues are virtually identical to Democrats in general.

    Yet they find Obama less likable, honest, experienced and inspiring than Democrats overall do, and have a better view of McCain.”

    Like most other media, wearing blinders to the “issues” at stake for most PUMAs, who may not agree on all points, but variously site the need to limit media bias, DNC corruption and politically institutionalized sexism. But the media won’t even cite these issues, even though they are the core of discussion on sites in the apparently non-existent PUMA network. Why this this bias we probably can’t know for sure…are the reporters really incapable of seeing anything that contradicts their preconceptions, or is it a coordinated effort to present the weakest possible image of the PUMA movement?

    Either way it’s become apparent that the MSM for the most part won’t give airtime to any of the real concerns people have about Obama. Even in addressing the “personality” issues they recognize they quote the silliest people they can find. You’ll see a quote with someone whose “gut feelings” tell them he’s dishonest, rather than an educated voter listing the numerous places where he has change voted (or not voted) based on political expediency.

    As for that final quote about not wanting to look inconsistent? It’s hard to see how one would fear greater image of inconsistency by voting for Obama rather than McCain or another candidate. In fact the real experience of politicized population is that you get a lot more flack for not supporting Obama than for any other position.

  3. Anne Marie said

    Interesting but disappointing article from the Associated Press. However, that is to be expected. One wonders “with whom or what they ARE “associated.” Certainly, they are not associated with reality or the truth. As to be expected, the article is biased, inaccurate, and incomplete. However, WE will finish that article in November, when we finish off Obama AND the MSM.I look forward to hearing and seeing the disbelief and horror in the voices and faces of all the Keith Obermans and Chris Matthews in the aftermath of “the people’s rejection” of their arrogant and prejudical efforts to “persuade” us voters to sell our principles to validate their “political wisdom.”

    Read our lips, MSM. YOU don’t own our votes, our beliefs, our principles, or our values. We will not sell our souls, or our country, for the likes of you(and YOUR “Chosen One”).

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