Monday, January 16, 2017

Slanted News

The print edition of Sunday Jan 15 Detroit Free Press carried an Associated Press article by Steve Peoples titled "Trump unleashes Twitter attack against civil rights legend." It's true that Rep John Lewis D-Georgia is a famous champion for civil rights going back to the march in Selma where he suffered a fractured skull.

I also agree with the article that "...no one is untouchable for scorn from a president-elect with little tolerance for public criticism." Yes Mr Trump does seem to be rather thin skinned as was also evidenced in the debates.

I'm not disputing any of this. But this article is a good lesson on how a news article can be slanted to present a certain image to the public.. If you just read the headline above you could easily think Mr Trump started it. The opposite is true. It was Mr Lewis who said he didn't think Mr Trump was a "legitimate president." Mr Trump was responding to that.

We have to defend ourselves from the techniques used to sway us to a certain mindset. Failing to say explicitly who started a dispute is one way as mentioned above.

Another is the use of adjectives and adverbs. Look at the word 'unleashed' above.  It means something-an attack perhaps-already exists but is on a leash. Then Trump unleashes it on a civil rights hero. Mr Peoples could have used words like 'Trump responded' or "Trump answered' which are action words but do not indicate violence--to which most people attach negative feelings--which the violence of 'unleashed' does. Achieving negative feelings does seem to be the goal here.

One more. This involves obfuscation.
                       "U.S. intelligence agencies have said that Russia, in a campaign ordered by President Vladimir Putin, meddled in the election to help Trump win."

So this is about meddling in the election but which is followed by this sentence:
                       "After spending weeks challenging that assessment, Trump finally accepted that the Russians were behind the election-year hacking of Democrats."

See the switch in meaning here? Russian meddling in the election, for which there is no evidence, is combined with "...Russians were behind the election-year hacking of the Democrats." It is true that the Russians and the Chinese et al have hacked the Democrat's computers. The Democrats have not been very concerned with cyber security as Hillary's private server fiasco has revealed. But the Democratic National Committee's computers were not used in the election.

It was not at all necessary for the reporter to use the phrase election-year. Everybody knows this is about the election. So the packaging of the words 'Russian', 'election', 'hacking' and 'Democrats' was designed to equate those concepts in the mind of the reader so he will be nudged to conclude that Russians hacked the election.

In closing let me say we must keep an eye on adjectives, verbs and attempts to obfuscate ideas instead of identifying them precisely.

P.s. I could not find a link in the Freep's online edition.

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