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