In my previous article, I asserted that the mainstream media rarely lies even though it misleads people all the time. Here I will explain how it does this.
A revealing example was their coverage of the shall-issue concealed carry law issue. The movement started in 1987 in Florida by NRA activist Marion P Hammer. While Florida was debating this law, the media went into full-panic mode. Here in Toronto, it was all over our media. An honest American media would have confined the debate over a proposed change in the criminal statutes of Florida to Florida.
In curious contrast, when the shall-issue movement spread to other states, the media response was silence. If the Florida debate was important enough to air across the world, why wouldn’t the same debate being repeated across the country not rate the same coverage? Of course, the answer is tactical. Initially, the journalists wanted to nip this development in the bud. When the movement spread to other states, the journalists wanted to downplay an issue that had become an albatross. What is important to notice is that the MSM’s underhanded tactics did not involve lying at any stage. They simply emphasized certain things and deemphasized others, based on an agenda they never openly acknowledged.
Another common technique is the follow-up story. In 1990, America was transfixed by the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings. While they were going on, the MSM pretty much did straight-up reporting. The story was too big and moving too fast for much real-time editing. But after the hearings were over, the media endeavored to redefine the memory of the event via their follow-up stories. For instance, they could have run stories about a black man overcoming the odds in his rise to the top. Or they could have published stories about black conservatives. Instead, every follow-up story was about sexual harassment in the workplace (ignoring the fact that Anita Hill’s accusations had fallen apart). They lost the battle, but we nevertheless ended up with onerous sexual harassment laws. That is how media bias works. Again, no lying.
A further technique involves the dog that doesn’t bark. For a good example, consider the current implosion in Venezuela. When Hugo Chavez was thumbing his nose at the US, the media couldn’t get enough of him. But now that oil prices have collapsed and Chavez’s Bolivarian Republic is in ruins, there still are stories about Venezuela, but they are mostly soberly written fact-filled accounts, with no histrionics or sensationalism, and located on page A7 instead of the front page.
Occasionally they do lie. But when they do, it often blows up in their face, which is why they don’t do it often. Take for instance the University of Virginia rape hoax. A Rolling Stone journalist purposely made up this false story, which is the very definition of lying. But look how well that went for her. The fraud was exposed, she was discredited, and Rolling Stone ended up with egg on its face.
Another example of what happens to media liars was the fate of CBS anchor Dan Rather. In 2004, he pedaled false documents about George W Bush’s service in the National Guard during the Vietnam War. These were immediately exposed on the internet as obvious forgeries and Dan Rather was forced out of his lucrative sinecure. Lying convincingly is hard.
For conservatives who still remain unconvinced that the MSM doesn’t lie that often, here’s an epistemological question for you: If it were really the case that they lie all the time, how would you know it? Wouldn’t you be like Jim Carrey’s character in The Truman Show, a film is about a fictional reality TV show (called the Truman Show), where Carrey’s character is living in a false reality stage-managed for him by a megalomaniacal TV producer played by Ed Harris?
The reason you, unlike Jim Carrey, are able to be aware of MSM bias in the first place is because of all the truths the MSM tells you. That’s right, all their truths. It is the facts they relay to you that expose their inconsistencies and hidden agendas. Think about it. Among the first people to break through the media bubble were Rush Limbaugh and Matt Drudge. How could they have done it if all they had were lies to work with? Neither had a research staff. All they did was to change the emphasis. They took the stories on page A9 and placed them on the front page. That’s all. That’s how one guy with a web site and another with a microphone did it.
At this point, you might want to ask, if breaking through the media bias is so easy thanks to the truths the MSM tells, why wouldn’t they just lie all the time? That way, upstarts like Limbaugh and Drudge would be cut off at the root. The answer is that creating a comprehensive false reality is extremely difficult. Totalitarian states like the Soviet Union tried to do that and failed. And they had the kind of all-encompassing, coercive power that the MSM can’t even dream of. In spite of this, every person living in the USSR knew the government was lying to them. They didn’t know the exact truth, but they could guess close enough.
Now there is undoubtedly a small subset of people reading this who might assert that the US today is no different from the Soviet Union of 1968, telling just as many lies. If you are one of these people, you really tick me off. My parents lived through both Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Russia. A lot of my relatives couldn’t get to the West and were forced to live out the rest of their lives in the Soviet Union. My grandfather spent 11 years after the war in hiding because he was a pre-war policeman in the Estonian Republic. For that he would have been shot or sent to the Gulag. He didn’t tell my grandmother where he lived for fear that she might fold under questioning. My cousins told me that after her second questioning, she was a changed woman. She never said what they did to her, but it affected her permanently. So, if you can criticize the government to whomever you want, write letters to the editor, or comment on the internet, and you have not yet suffered the fate of my grandmother, then you do not live in anything like the Soviet Union, and how dare you compare your spoiled pampered life to the lives of people who have really suffered.
In my next article, I will discuss techniques for spotting media bias.