Truth is in the eye of the bewildered.
That is the unofficial motto of mainstream media. They’ll never admit it, not even to themselves in many cases, but every headline, opening paragraph, and bit of information packed into their reports are designed with slant in mind. It’s done on both sides, but the prevalence of leftism in the biggest media outlets creates a tremendous imbalance of bias.
All of this can be boiled down to something I like to call “snippet propaganda.” In every individual component, or snippet, of a news report or commentary, there are various attempts to spin the receiver (viewer, reader, or listener) in one direction or another.
Overtly, they tell us what to think about. Subtly, they tell us how to think about it.
Our always-connected, high-speed society is comprised of millions of individuals who rarely spend the time necessary on any one topic to gain true understanding. They see or hear the parts they want to ingest and then draw conclusions from it.
This is magnified by social media. I’ve had literally thousands of experiences where comments on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, or the comment sections of my sites themselves react to a single, misunderstood element of what I post. In all of these cases it’s clear the comment was made by someone who didn’t actually read the article. They were just replying to the sentence or paragraph that was easily accessible.
That can be a huge annoyance to those of us who spend hours a day writing, all the while knowing we’re going to be judged on a headline or descriptive paragraph. Debates get started over issues that are covered in the article, but when people are only reading the snippet, they have no idea they’re arguing the wrong point altogether.
Mainstream media takes advantage of this. They know the masses will see a headline and description on social media and spread the information about it based on their worldviews with the assumption that the actual news report itself backs it up even if they don’t take the time to read it.
Let’s look at a story from left-wing ThinkProgress.
Members of the far-right Patriot Prayer group and the white nationalist Proud Boys group clashed with Antifa demonstrators in Portland Saturday evening, resulting in several skirmishes during what has turned out to be a weekend of right-wing violence on both coasts.
The altercations began Saturday afternoon, when the far-right groups organized a “Flash March for Law and Order” under the leadership of Joey Gibson, a political activist and former Republican candidate for Senate in Washington.
Every aspect of this story, from headline to snippet to the body of the story itself, is tilted to the left with the intention of harnessing the rage leftists feel towards far-right organizations. Here’s the problem. The vast majority of protesters were Antifa. The vast majority of “skirmishes,” as the publication put it, were started by Antifa. Even most mainstream media outlets covered these stories with the fair and indisputable assertion that Antifa was the source.
News outlets post an inflammatory headline with a damning snippet as the description. The people react. In many cases the reality isn’t nearly as outrageous as the headline and snippet would suggest, but it’s enough to get comments, likes, and shares. Today’s news serves us Big Macs because we can grab them quickly, easily, and inexpensively. Yet for some reason, the people then wonder why they’re not satisfied with their news meal.
Let’s look at a different example, this time from right-wing Breitbart.
The “blue wave” — allegedly including illegal aliens — refers to the voters that Democratic candidates across the country are hoping will carry them to victory in the 2018 midterm elections.
Abrams’ comments are not entirely unfounded though, considering that earlier this week, an internal audit revealed that the California Department of Motor Vehicles had illegally registered roughly 1,500 individuals to vote, included non-citizens.
As much as I oppose illegal immigration and voter fraud, that was not what Abrams was suggesting. Breitbart spun her comments to tap into an anger many on the right feel towards illegal immigration, especially if it’s used as a tool by Democrats to get elected. Here’s the actual quote by Abrams:
“The thing of it is, the blue wave is African American. It’s white, it’s Latino, it’s Asian-Pacific Islander, it is disabled, it is differently-abled, it is LGBTQ, it is law enforcement, it is veterans,” she said. “It is made up of those who’ve been told that they are not worthy of being here. It is comprised of those who are documented and undocumented.”
She isn’t referring to illegal immigrants voting. Yes, as Breitbart asserts, the “blue wave” is driven by voters, but in context it’s clear that Abrams is discussing the sentiment of the people who are fueling the blue wave. She’s not saying that illegal immigrants are going to be voting her into office.
What’s good for the goose shouldn’t always be considered good for the gander. We unabashedly defend conservatism, federalism, and originalism, but we do so knowing we have the right ideas. There’s no need to use propaganda techniques. We have the truth on our side. It behooves right-leaning news outlets to tell stories accurately and honestly.
Now, onto the story that riled up the President.
NBC News has totally and purposely changed the point and meaning of my story about General Robert E Lee and General Ulysses Grant. Was actually a shoutout to warrior Grant and the great state in which he was born. As usual, dishonest reporting. Even mainstream media embarrassed!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 14, 2018
Shortly after backlash from the right against NBC for misrepresenting the President of the United States, they issued a correction.
Thank you to NBC for the correction! https://t.co/L2mX3vREOl
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 14, 2018
This final technique of snippet propaganda is arguably the most egregious. It’s when media outlets willfully misrepresent their political foes, then issue a “correction.” The problem is the original story has already reached the masses. How many of them will see the correction? How many people are walking around today claiming the President of the United States gave kudos to a man who fought to keep slavery.
This was blatant and intentional. It was an act likely committed by a very small number of people at NBC, but it was done with the intention of spreading a lie. Once the lie spread and the backlash began, those with more journalistic integrity issued the correction, but at that point the damage was done. The mainstream media and leftist narrative that the President is a racist was hammered home. The correction only served to justify the damage done without actually mitigating it.
The President and right-leaning media will mitigate the damage by highlighting the correction, but there will still be a large number of people who never hear the truth.
Shame on you, NBC.
This methodology may not be isolated to the left, but their skill in manipulating public sentiment is arguably the biggest reason the progressive movement continues to exist. It’s repugnant, which is why conservative media must expand.