Top 10 categories of MSM/DNC bias.
Bias in the MSM/DNC takes many forms. I am forced to compare these forms each time I catalogue another "lie" for the 2005 list. Much of the MSM/DNC behavior constitutes mere spin or bias, slanted headlines or failure to report opposing points of view. Those items, while reprehensible, do not constitute "lies." For the sake of clarity and so that we can more easily discuss the tactics of the MSM/DNC, I have categorized here some of those MSM/DNC tactics:
1) The Lie. Often, but not always, the MSM/DNC will resort to an outright lie. This lie will involve some very specific fact, like a forged memo, false reports of a crowd booing when the crowd actually applauded, false claims that Sandy Berger returned the "original" documents, false attribution of statements to public figures, false charges that American soldiers are targeting journalists, etc.
These lies also include preparation of headlines or stories in advance of the actual events, as MSM/DNC did with the Iraqi elections and the death of Terri Schiavo.
I have also categorized as lies instances where the MSM/DNC has an agreement with newsmakers that certain facts will be kept hidden. This one is a much closer call (as between a lie and some other kind of atrocity).
The ultimate goal is that the lie take on status as a historical fact - "Bush was a draft dodger", "there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq." The MSM/DNC has failed in the first example, but may yet succeed in the second.
2. The memory hole. The tactic here is to forget that certain events occurred and hope that everyone else does also. This tactic requires that the MSM/DNC not only stop talking about some fact, but actually help it to disappear.
The MSM/DNC never talks about the WMD's that we actually did find in Iraq.
Just before the election, NBC interviewed John Kerry and asked about his military IQ test. Kerry stated that this record was not public (a blatant contradiction of Kerry's story that he has released ALL of his military records). The next day, excerpts of this interview appeared on another NBC program, with the damning admission excised. The actual editing out of inconvenient facts provides a great example of a memory hole maneuver (although Powerline disagrees with the significance of that particular example).
Usually, we don't have that kind of easy proof. We just have to remember the facts that MSM/DNC doesn't like and document the absence of any recent MSM/DNC reference to those facts. Any time that we can't find a MSM/DNC reference to some serious news item (like the Washington State elections) it is an example of the memory hole at work.
3. Ventriloquist journalism. A common tactic of the MSM/DNC is to get others to do its dirty work. Let it appear as if someone else is doing the talking so that "media bias" won't be so obvious. [Update] MSM/DNC often uses phrases like "critics say" "some say" "experts say" "sources have told CBS news" . . . .
4. Polls. An offshoot of ventriloquist journalism is the MSM/DNC's reliance upon polls. The polls that the MSM/DNC uses are either (1) unreliable or blatantly false and/or (2) self-fulfilling prophecies. It is a common tendency among humans (especially those who have been softened by 70 years of the welfare state) to want to be on the winning side. When the MSM/DNC releases its polls showing some Democrat with a lead or that the "public" thinks that Social Security is just fine, those who might otherwise harbor doubts are intimidated into going along with the majority. I am sure that the MSM/DNC will continue their efforts to bully the public into acquiescing in the status quo on social security with just this tactic.
5. Buzzwords. The MSM/DNC will repeat a word or phrase often enough that the word itself will take on a life of its own and give those that pay little attention to the news a point of reference. Words like "Halliburton", "Soccer mom", "gravitas" are designed to serve as signposts for the semi-conscious on the otherwise deserted MSM/DNC highway. They are not arguments by themselves, so we can't refute them. But these words act like arguments by force of repetition.
6. Coordination with the Democratic candidates. This tactic seems somewhat new (unless we just couldn't tell before the new media revolution). An example is Rathergate, where CBS timed the release of the fake memos to coincide with the Democrats' "fortunate son" campaign/meme. The October Surprise is another example. It may seem a little odd to accuse the MSM/DNC of coordinating with itself, but that is what happens. Exposing the tactic helps prove the point that the MSM/DNC acts as one entity.
7. The smear/personal attack/outrage. This one is not as recent as it seems. In the 1950's, that overrated hack Edward R. Murrow smeared Joe McCarthy by careful editing of film, a tactic that caused Bobby Kennedy to walk out on a dinner in honor of Murrow because of what he did to "my friend Joe."
In recent years, we have seen so called "journalists" (MSM/DNC hacks) shout down those with whom they disagree, accuse grieving families of having a good time, attack the facial features of those who dare expose governmental misconduct (Paula Jones, Linda Tripp) and "necklace" minority conservatives by calling them stupid.
The smear is designed to intimidate. If that doesn't work, it is designed to so befoul the political discourse that honest people won't want to take part.
8. Euphemisms. MSM/DNC often uses euphemisms to downplay otherwise serious stories. Here is a perfect example from Reuters regarding the Syrian occupation of Lebanon, courtesy of the Captain.
9. False appearance of evenhandedness. The MSM/DNC often appears to treat a story evenhandedly, interviewing individuals from both sides of the debate. But this tactic is just as phony as the rest of the MSM/DNC. The MSM/DNC (news broadcast, for example) will give 5 seconds to the conservative while letting the leftist drone on for thirty seconds. The MSM/DNC will edit the film to exclude the conservative's strongest points. The MSM/DNC will interview only moderate Republicans who have little of substance to say. Or the MSM/DNC will interview only uneducated fringe individuals for the purpose of discrediting the conservatives. The reader or viewer will never receive a true clash of ideas through the filter of the MSM/DNC.
10. Opinion as fact. This one is the most generic and the most common. It includes many of the other tactics. It includes the insertion of opinions into news stories instead of the editorial page. The insertion of these opinions has to be somewhat clever so as not to be obvious. That is why the MSM/DNC uses ventriloquism tactics, polls, the memory hole, the occasional lie, euphemisms and buzzwords. MSM/DNC cannot simply use the words "Bush is a bad president" in a news story. That would be too obvious.
I should have known there would be more than 10 categories.
11. The race card. A commenter asked about the use of "PC." The MSM/DNC uses the race card in many situations. By pretending to speak for minorities, MSM/DNC is engaging in ventriloquist journalism. MSM/DNC also uses the race card as a smear tactic. When any conservative politician begins to gain acceptance, the MSM/DNC immediately begins a race card/PC attack. When a minority happens to be conservative, such minority conservatism is flushed down the memory hole or, if that doesn't work, results in a necklacing smear. Even though this category overlaps the others, I believe it deserves its own separate number.
12. Issue exclusion/false alternatives. This one is a form of the phony even handedness that appears in category # 9. The MSM/DNC will present most issues as a choice between two alternatives - the moderate wishy washy approach is presented as the Republican/right wing approach, while the leftist approach is heralded as the only alternative. No mention is made of true conservative alternatives. The Vietnam war is a prime example. We were presented with the MSM/DNC approved choice of surrender or endless no-win tactics. Goldwater's suggested approach was never considered. Every time the minimum wage becomes an issue, we are presented with the choice of raising the minimum wage by a large amount or a small amount. MSM/DNC never presents the voluminous economic research that suggests that the very existence of the minimum wage is harmful. Tax cuts are always presented as a choice between a small Republican cut or a Democrat proposal for an increase. The burdensome nature of taking more than 1/3 of our earnings is never considered. In the war on terror (or any recent war) the MSM/DNC presents the issue as peace v. war instead of victory v. defeat.
When the MSM/DNC defines the issues, the MSM/DNC cannot lose, no matter which side the public takes.
Monday update - I should have known that 10 or 12 would be woefully inadequate. I am grateful to all of the commenters who have provided examples of additional categories (even the site pests). I have also added to some of the first 12.
13. "Both sides are guilty." The MSM/DNC does not so much openly advocate leftist positions or the positions of America's enemies as it finds subtle ways to undermine the American position. Throughout the cold war, MSM/DNC focused as much or more on American "imperialism" as it did on Soviet aggression. For every conservative who cautioned that the Soviets had a history of breaking treaties, a MSM/DNC mouthpiece would claim that America had violated some Indian treaty 200 years ago. Today, MSM/DNC figures remind us of the Crusades or Abu Graib whenever we discuss homeland security or the need to hunt down terrorists. When we discuss MSM/DNC bias, the MSM/DNC whines about "Fox News" (thank you site pests for reminding me about that one by your example in the comments). In the 1990's, every eruption of Whitewater or Monicagate resulted in repeated MSM/DNC references to Thomas Jefferson's slaves or Watergate. That is why Watergate will forever remain a current issue, while Whitewater is now wedged at the top of the memory hole (see #2) with MSM/DNC editors stomping on it in a desparate attempt to force it the rest of the way down.
14. Whitewash/Softball criticism of leftist public figures. Whenever the MSM/DNC is forced to acknowledge some scandal that reflects badly on one of their own, MSM/DNC pretends to investigate and criticize for all of the wrong reasons. The CBS/Rathergate report criticized CBS for trying to be first instead of for biased reporting. Some MSM/DNC spokesman eventually were forced to criticize Bill Clinton for committing adultery and lying instead of for trading high tech ICMB delivery systems to China. MSM/DNC hacks grudgingly admitted that Jimmy Carter was "naive" "inexperienced" or "lacked savvy" instead of pointing out his real fault - nearly losing the cold war. These softball whitewashes provide cover for the real crimes/faults of those on the left. They are the equivalent of the getaway driver throwing some of the robbery loot out the window to distract the pursuing police. We should rarely expect a real investigation from the MSM/DNC about one of their own. And we should never let the MSM/DNC investigation cause us to hold back our own criticism.
15. Strawman arguments. This one almost speaks for itself. The MSM/DNC frequently discusses only a completely wrong version of the conservative argument. Conservatives hardly ever have a true opportunity to present their own case through the MSM/DNC. When the Senate committee released its Whitewater report in the mid-1990's, I can recall that the Rush Limbaugh TV show provided more air time to the Democratic response than the MSM/DNC news outlets allowed for the majority report. Rush Limbaugh was fairer to the left than the MSM/DNC was to the actual newsmakers (the majority of the committee). The MSM/DNC viewing public never knew the real nature of the Whitewater charges. MSM/DNC also presents conservative arguments in terms of vaguely referenced "witchunts" or other motivations having nothing to do with the actual argument. The worst part of this category is that the MSM/DNC presents the strawman argument in the "news" section instead of the editorials. (See also #12 and #9).
16. Government solution assumption. Whenever the MSM/DNC discusses any problem, it speaks in terms of government solutions. The MSM/DNC assumes that the only solution to any problem is more government. This assumption is unspoken, but it underlies every report. MSM/DNC never entertains the possibility that there may be some nongovernmental solution.
17. The label game. During the cold war, MSM/DNC referred to Communist dictators as the "Russian leader" or the "Chinese leader." MSM/DNC never referred to an opponent of Communism as a "leader" - only as a strongman, dictator, etc. Communists were never "dictators" and opponents of Communism were never "leaders."
In reporting today's issues, experts are either (1) "experts" (if they support the MSM/DNC view) or (2) "conservative lobbyists", "conservative fundraisers", "conservative activists" or "conservative" something else.
Islamic terrorists are "insurgents", "militants", "freedom fighters" "guerrillas" or "rebels" but never "terrorists."
----update------ Republican opportunists are known as "mavericks."
18. Hypocrisy. MSM/DNC will investigate (or invent) Republican scandals while ignoring Democrat scandals as long as they can. E.G. The Swift Boat vets are ignored or vilified while CBS goes to the extreme of using forged documents to smear Bush. Also, Watergate vs. Whitewater. Compare this category with the memory hole (#2), the whitewash (#14), etc.
19. Scare tactics. MSM/DNC presents many stories on the end of the planet, the end of social security, Republican attempts to starve children, the health care crisis, etc. Panic-driven mob action is not a pretty site. But what can you say about someone who would purposely induce panic for political gain? This tactic is as old as the New Deal. Compare with the "government solution assumption" (#16) and "coordination" (#6).
20. Selective film editing. This one is hard to spot, but it happens. The camera angle, the inclusion of film clips having nothing to do with each other, the deletion of explanatory comments from a news subject, etc. CBS did this to General Westmoreland and got away with it in the pre-blogosphere era. Compare with the Lie (#1) and False Evenhandedness (#9).
It is great that so many blogs talk about media bias. But we need more discussion about how they do it and the categories into which the bias falls. Identification is the first step toward solving the problem. Watch the evening news and see how many of these categories you can spot.
Sunday update - 4-10-05
The list keeps growing because we keep discovering new veins of bias as we dig deeper into the gold mine of MSM/DNC tactics. We can compare it to a large underground rathole. Each tunnel that we find has many offshoot tunnels. Or we can compare it to a large maze. Whereas before we were fumbling in the dark, trying to identify bias examples one at a time, we now will have an overhead picture showing most of the tunnels of the maze.
I will also update the previous examples with clarifications. But I will stop trying to identify each update. It is more important that we have a broad picture of the problem than that we know when I made each update. I will not change the title because that would destroy all of the links from other blogs.
21. White noise. MSM/DNC broadcasts are frequently filled with inconsequential items (fill in your own examples), regardless of which party they benefit. This tactic distracts the public from the real issues and fosters inconsequential discussions and debate. (Compare with the memory hole - #2) Inconsequential items receive tremendous attention while the Chinese military buildup continues, Islamic immigration and colonization continues, the government goes further into debt and we move one day closer to the next major terrorist attack.
22. Demonization/piling on. (Compare with #7 - the smear). MSM/DNC frequently picks one conservative to attack en masse over the course of several years. This tactic provides a focal point for leftist rage and helps keep the party faithful energized. Previous demons have been Joseph McCarthy, Ken Starr and Newt Gingrich. The new target is Tom Delay. We will continue to see newspaper articles and television reports that target Delay - much like the attempt to justify Terri Schiavo’s murder by referencing Tom Delay’s father. “Tom Delay” will become a knee jerk leftist response to every issue, no matter how irrelevant. (See also #6 - coordination). Eric Hoffer wrote that mass movements need a specific devil to energize the followers. MSM/DNC is, among other things, a mass totalitarian movement.
23. Phony cries of "censorship." Every time the MSM/DNC is caught in some lie or rightly accused of bias, the usual MSM/DNC suspects step forward and cry "censorship." Any disagreement with the MSM/DNC receives this label. Specifically, read Drudge's account of the reporter who took offense at the White House's suggestion that Newsweek help repair the damage from Newsweek's phony Koran-flushing story.
Or check out this poll, in which the alternative responses apparently left individuals with a choice between believing the media or advocating censorship. Those who disbelieve the media were portrayed as unaware of the existence of the first amendment. I don't know how the questions were skewed to present these false alternatives, but clearly the poll attempts to pit the first amendment against those who are suspicious of the media.
We don't want to censor any of the media (unlike McCain-Feingold). We just want them to tell the truth and stop committing categories ## 1-22.
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