Wednesday, April 28, 2004


My thanks to Sarah for this link outlining the insidious methods used to slant media stories.

Some journalists might simply say:

"George W. Bush is a dangerous idiot, who only thinks in black and white."...

It is somewhat more satisfying to create the impression of an avalanche or at least the beginning of an avalanche:

"More and more people call George W. Bush a dangerous idiot, who only thinks in black and white." (Tim's note: CNN uses this all the time...they seem to prefer "Some" as in "The Predidents approval rating is up again this week. However some feel he is a dangerous...")

That's ok for a plain vanilla biased article...Still, if the avalanche concept is used too often in reporting - and it is used excessively in the German media - it's becoming stale, boring, unconvincing...

So for a stronger effect German journalists look for quotes from real people, for instance experts. Like this one:

(Fill in name) calls George W. Bush a dangerous idiot, who only thinks in black and white." (Tim's note: e.g. Bob Woodward)

"Experts" who would testify against Bush any time, whether day or night, are in rich supply, and therefore they come cheap...

Of highest value for the German media are experts with close ties to the Bush administration who are willing to testify against Bush. It doesn't matter if they still have close ties - it is sufficient they have had a working relationship. In this case the reporting would look like this:

"Even (Fill in name), former (please choose one: CIA agent / FBI agent / member of a Pentagon think tank / etc.), calls George W. Bush a dangerous idiot, who only thinks in black and white." (Tim's note: e.g. Richard Clark, fired former staffer and book author.)

That's great. A former Bush employee supports your prejudices - nothing better could happen to you! This lifts up your article from the stinking pits of biased reporting to the high-brow level of neutrality.
I've been trying to describe these with this simplicity...but I can't do better than the link.

The other aspect to spin not covered in the link is the words that indicate "concession of the truth", when in fact the only struggle involved is in the mind of the reporter.

One very popular word used in this approach is "admitted". Interestingly when I searched the news for the words "Rumsfeld admitted" look at the news outlets that came back as four of the first five in my search.

1. "Working for a Change" (Very Left, very anti Bush website)

2. "Dissident Voice" (Hint...anytime a website has "dissident" or "Alternative" in its title it leans way left)

3. "Muslim American Society" (Hint - compares Bush to the al Qaeda leaders)

5. "al Jazeerah" ('Nuff said).

These sites help prove the point, but you will see this approach on the network news outlets, CNN and the so-called main stream press. Here is such a statement in action from the Houston Chronicle.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld admitted Thursday that he has been surprised by the heavy toll in blood inflicted on American forces in recent days.
Without the bias (that is...if the reporter didn't see the whole thing as a struggle to force Rumsfeld to say something he'd rather hide) the statement might easily read "Rumsfeld said Thursday he has been suprised..."

But the press won't say it that way usually...because "said" doesn't carry with it the "A-Ha!" factor, the "Gotcha" factor that "admitted" does. One can almost imagine the press conference in which the reporter jumps to his feet (like a harried prosecutor in an old Perry Mason show) and shouts "A-Ha!...So you ADMIT that you were surprised..."

I'd be interested in your stories of spin and attempted spin. Perhaps we can share them with Ranting Profs .

Meanwhile, count the number of times the media attempt to spin you today.

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