Sanity Injection

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

Posts Tagged ‘Journalism’

Why can Hillary Clinton make up fake statistics and no one in the media challenges them?

Posted by sanityinjection on December 3, 2015

Following up on my previous post, here is another example of how the media does not give the same scrutiny to the statements of someone they like, such as Hillary Clinton, as they do to someone they dislike, such as Donald Trump.

I first noticed this statement by Ms. Clinton during one of the recent Democratic presidential debates, and according to this from, apparently she is now repeating the claim in one of her TV commercials: Clinton states that between 88-92 people are killed every day by guns.

Now, that would seem like an easy thing to fact-check wouldn’t it? After all, the FBI reports crime statistics on an annual basis. In 2014, the *total* number of murders and non-negligent manslaughters in the US was 13, 472. Ms. Clinton’s lowest figure of 88 per day, multiplied by 365 days, would give a total for gun murders alone of 32, 120.

Clearly, this is not a slight exaggeration. Nor is it an isolated mis-statement, since Ms. Clinton has repeated the claim multiple times. It is quite a simply a deliberate and blatant falsehood designed to trick people into thinking that gun violence is a much larger problem in this country than it actually is (the recent terrorist attack in San Bernadino notwithstanding) in order to win support for further eroding that pesky Second Amendment to the Constitution. (In fact, the 2014 homicide rate of 4.5 per 100,000 people is the lowest since 1963.)

Now, does anyone doubt that if Donald Trump had uttered a massive falsehood like that even once, every major media outlet would be holding it up and trumpeting it as an example of his unfitness for office?

Which is worse: when the mainstream media tells you what they want you to know? Or when they deliberately don’t tell you what they don’t want you to know? At this point, Ms. Clinton could simply declare – as O’Brien famously did in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four – that 2 + 2 = 5, and you would hear nary a peep from the New York Times, NBC, ABC, CBS, and their assorted imitators.

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Dissecting media bias: Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and the anatomy of propaganda as news reporting

Posted by sanityinjection on December 3, 2015

I call your attention to this superb piece by Emmy-winning investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson. In it, she uses the recent controversy over Donald Trump’s remarks about Muslims in New Jersey celebrating on 9/11 to illustrate the fundamental double standard the mainstream media applies to politicians they don’t want the American people to vote for.

It’s hardly a secret that many mainstream media reporters, editors, and talking heads abhor Mr. Trump and are appalled by the possibility of him becoming President. (I happen to agree with them.) Ms. Attkisson uses a technique she calls “the Substitution Game”, giving specific examples of how the media’s behavior would be very different if the person in question were someone they approve of such as President Obama or Hillary Clinton. She also points out how convenient it is for Ms. Clinton’s campaign to have the national media painting her potential election opponent as dishonest even as polls suggest that perecptions of her own dishonesty are one of her biggest problems with voters. Attkisson isn’t necessarily suggesting a well-orchestrated media conspiracy, but rather a culture of bias that permeates the major television news networks and newspapers.

If this bias were to be stated in its most naked form, it would be something like this: Dishonesty, in the form of intentional misrepresentation of facts or outright lying, is OK as long as it is in service of good liberal causes, but it’s abhorrent whenever it’s done by someone we don’t like or someone who disagrees with us. This fits in with a more general theme that the end justifies the means: that it is OK for the “good guys” (which in the view of so many influential media members means the liberals) are justified in lying, cheating, stealing, or doing whatever is necessary to advance their noble aims, but the “bad guys” – Second Amendments rights advocates, climate change skeptics, etc. –  are abhorrent if they use the same methods, because they have the wrong aims.

Attkisson is not saying that the media should not challenge counterfactual claims by public figures. Rather, she is questioning why they only seem to beat the drum about such claims when those figures are on one side of the political spectrum. When a huge segment of the broadcast and print media spends a lot of time making a huge deal out of controversial statements by Mr. Trump while deliberately downplaying and even ignoring those made by Obama and Clinton, even a relatively savvy news consumer who is not paying close attention can, over time, absorb that implication of what is important. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how propaganda works.

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CNN rediscovers reporting, covers Tea Party rallies

Posted by sanityinjection on April 8, 2010

One of the worst-kept secrets in journalism is that the major news organizations rarely engage in any actual reporting. The majority of the news they report is lifted from the wire services or from another news agency. Rather than spend the time and money to send a human reporter to check facts and interview people, it’s much easier to depend on what their colleagues have already done. The trouble with this is that any errors or bias in the original story get repeated, reflected and magnified on down the line until they attain the status of fact.

So it has been with coverage of the Tea Party movement. Most new desks have been quick to pick up on the reports of isolated racist comments and signs and reflect that as characteristic of the movement as a whole, without ever sending a reporter to a Tea Party rally.

With this in mind, I applaud CNN for bucking the trend and sending reporter and producer Shannon Travis to attend several Tea Party rallies in Utah and Colorado. Travis, as it happens, is African-American, and his reporting makes clear that he did not find anything like a racist or hate-filled atmosphere at the Tea Party events: “Almost everyone I met was welcoming…Some of them e-mailed me after my trip, thanking our crew for fairly giving them a voice.” He also noted that his was the only national news team that covered the events in person.

To CNN’s further credit, the story was not buried in some obscure corner of the site, but was linked prominently yesterday with a photo on the CNN homepage.

Here’s hoping other news networks and media outlets take a cue from CNN and start doing more reporting and less repeating.

Posted in Domestic News, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

McCain puts trash journalism in its place

Posted by sanityinjection on January 13, 2010

This is what passes for news nowadays: Someone writes a tell-all book full of juicy tidbits about some of the nation’s major political players. Reporters then spend the next week trying to goad said political players into saying more nasty things either about each other or about the book’s authors.

No one makes a better foil for this sort of trash than Sarah Palin. Everyone seems to either love to love Palin or love to hate her. Along with her own undeniable efforts to remain in the spotlight, this helps explain why she remains a major topic of conversation over a year after her failed 2008 Vice Presidential bid, and why FoxNews has just recently hired her to be a regular on-air talking head. (Personally, I am ambivalent about Palin; I find some of the attacks against her to be vile but I also don’t consider her a great spokesperson for conservative ideas.)

So it came as no surprise to anyone when Matt Lauer turned the conversation to the subject of Palin in his recent interview with Senator John McCain on the Today Show. Lauer wanted McCain to comment on allegations in the book “Game Change” that his campaign had done a lousy and hasty job of vetting Palin before she was selected to be his running mate. It should be noted that unlike some of the book’s other juicy bits, this is not a new allegation, though it may be made in more detailed fashion. McCain certainly has heard it many times before.

Lauer’s goal, of course, was to put McCain in an uncomfortable situation where he faced the following choices: slam your aides for doing a bad job, impugn your own judgment in selecting a running mate, or bad mouth someone (Palin) who worked hard on your behalf. You can almost see Lauer mentally salivating behind his mask of journalistic seriousness.

McCain, displaying the class for which he is legendary among those who have worked for him, refused to take the bait, twice stating that he would not know if the book’s allegations were correct or who the sources were that provided the information. He simply said he was proud of Palin and proud of the campaign that he ran, and sought to move on to other topics. But Lauer wouldn’t let it go. McCain got visibly irritated and suggested something more important to talk about:  “I just spent my time, Matt, over where three Americans were just killed in Afghanistan.”

Lauer wouldn’t even take that obvious hint and continued to press McCain about Palin, leaving the Senator no choice but to put Lauer firmly in his place:

“I am not going to spend time looking back at over what happened over a year ago when we’ve got two wars to fight, 10 percent unemployment in my state and things to do. I’m sorry, you’ll have to get others to comment.”

After that, even Lauer knew he’d been licked, and retreated with a weaselly attempt to sound like he was apologizing for asking the questions, without actually apologizing (which the media almost never does): ““I hope you understand my asking the questions.” Which actually means, “I have every right to ask these questions!” McCain of course took the high road and graciously treated it like the apology it wasn’t.

In fact, what McCain had skillfully done was to expose the degree to which Lauer and his ilk are out of touch with the American people, who are far more concerned with issues like health care, jobs, and Afghanistan than with endless navel-gazing over the internal functioning of the political process. Yes, we like juicy gossip, but the media likes to pretend that juicy gossip is actually serious news, and for once, they got caught in the masquerade of their own self-importance. Is it any wonder why so many of us retain our affection for the irascible Senator from Arizona? We cherish the knowledge that every now and then, like the child at the Emperor’s parade, he can be counted on to look someone right in the eye and publicly tell them the truth they would much rather not hear.

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The war on FOXNews continues

Posted by sanityinjection on December 7, 2009

The latest dispatch from the propaganda war against FOX News: NPR (that bastion of impartial objectivity) has tried to pressure two of its contributors – Mara Liasson and Juan Williams – to stop appearing on FOX News because of its alleged right-wing bias.

The part that made me snort in disbelief was reading that NPR execs asked Liasson to watch FOX News for 30 days to determine if she agreed that it is biased. (She did so, and found nothing different to justify ceasing to appear on its programs.) What’s funny about that is a) I highly doubt if the NPR execs themselves had watched FOX News for 30 days (they’re much too busy earning their taxpayer-funded salaries), and b) if they spent 30 days listening to their own network they might well come up with some concerns about bias.

Of course, NPR insists that this was all completely unrelated to the White House’s war on FOX. Yeah, right, it’s a total random coincidence that NPR chose to raise the issue at the exact same time. How stupid do they think we are?

The concern seems to be that journalists like Liasson and Williams with solid lefty pedigrees help FOX to avoid charges of bias by serving as token opposition. So FOX can’t win either way no matter who they invite to be on their shows. Another, sort of reverse concern is that by appearing on FOX as a counterpart to more right-wing guests, NPR staffers are increasing the perception that NPR is itself a left-wing network. (When asked if they had some right-wing NPR reporters they’d rather send over to guest on FOX, the silence was deafening.)

It shocks me that any journalists, who like to shout about the importance of free speech and how much they do to defend it, would actually try to ostracize a news organization no matter how opinionated they may believe it to be. It should be noted that neither the White House, nor NPR or any of the mainstream media giants ever refused to work with TASS (the Soviet news agency) or any other news agency controlled by a dictatorship and used to spread pro-regime propaganda. One wonders if the zeal in this case has more to do with FOX’s regular pummeling of all other TV news networks in the ratings.

I don’t know about you, but whenever I walk into a  business that has a TV on and turned to a news network, it always seems to be FOX News. Do you think this is because all the business owners are right-wingers? I doubt it. Presumably they stay tuned to FOX because they like the format/pace/content of the broadcast; they can leave it on in the background and get enough diversity in subject matter without having to flip around. Yes, I said diversity – ironic, no?

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Is there a full moon or something?

Posted by sanityinjection on May 19, 2009

I never expected to be posting a link to a DailyKos post on this blog, much less one by Markos himself (If there were an election for the position of Antichrist, he’d get my vote.) But then again, it’s not everyday that liberals eat their own. This time ‘Kos’ venom is directed at the New York Times, and I have to say I agree with him. The issue? Times columnist Maureen Dowd got caught plagiarizing a blogger in one of her columns, and instead of reprimanding her, the Times shrugged it off:

‘Kos suggests that Dowd gets a free pass because she is a “star columnist”, but I would go further. At papers such as the Times and its low-rent cousin the Boston Globe, standards of journalism have not simply declined, they’ve disintegrated. None of their reporters or columnists are being held to any sort of standard by the paper (though some few may still hold themselves to one.) The Times’ casual comfort with plagiarism is part and parcel of its transformation from a highly respected reporter of news to a nakedly partisan propaganda machine that carefully skews the truth to support its political goals. New Yorkers, who reflexively believe they have the best of everything because they so rarely are aware of anything outside their megalopolitan cocoon, would be shocked to discover that other left-of-center newspapers such as the Washington Post are so far superior to the Times in virtually every aspect that it’s downright embarrassing.

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Journalists: Being unbiased doesn’t have to mean being an ass.

Posted by sanityinjection on August 27, 2008

Superb column this week from Editor & Publisher’s Mark Fitzgerald castigating his fellow journalists for being too boorish to rise during the National Anthem like everybody else:

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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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