Tag Archives: bias

Media Self-Censorship

An interview with ex-Reuters bureau chief Andrew MacGregor Marshall is here, in Russia Today. Of course, you already know that the mainstream media are censored. Marshall describes how this censorship is implemented, without any conspiracy or direct interference. It is merely the subtle and persistent pressure of certain editorial norms, and biased standards of evidence.

There are some things that are safe to say and we become conditioned that they are safe to say, and there are other things that … if we say them we are mocked or delegitimized.

Marshall makes the obvious but important point that other people don’t share our prejudices. News stories that seem unbiased to us may sound like total propaganda to them. He cites some examples from his experience in Iraq. This is why we must develop the ability to question and critique all news sources, and seek out differing points of view.

Without the freedom to report on politics and strategy, coverage of the Iraq war(s) degenerated into a daily body count, like the box score of some macabre sporting event. Viewers have no way to process this contextless violence, and so they tune out. They click on a story about – Marshall’s example – Paris Hilton instead.

Jeremiah complains all the time about stupid viewers of stupid stories, and this discussion points to a solution. If a news outlet could show, in some detail, who is behind the violence – and why – that might garner an audience. Why did the Iraqi army disintegrate, for instance? Whose policy mistake was that?

If someone started a news outlet that would place the day’s tragedy in its political and historical context, so that readers could make sense of it, people might just generate actionable ideas that would make a positive change in the world. One can hope.

See also: Written by the Victors

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Strictly Fishwrap

fish-and-chips-in-newspaperSomething fishy is going on at The Economist. The rest of the magazine still features economics, but the United States section increasingly reads like talking points from the White House. Policies for which they ridicule President Hollande in the Europe section magically make sense in America. We suspect that “Lexington” is actually James Carville.

Pearson has billions of dollars in long-term contracts with education departments in a number of states and municipalities

Last week, the magazine featured a faulty analysis of economic growth having something to do with which president is in office. To be useful, such an analysis must identify whether the economy is responding to a policy at all, and then whether (some) president is responsible for the policy.

Even if you wanted to draw simple minded generalizations about presidents and the economy – Jeremiah doesn’t – you would have to add lag time for the policies to take effect.

The same issue featured an equally idiotic assertion that our economy must be good because the stock market is up. Seriously? In a magazine called The Economist? We are not even going to dignify that one with a rebuttal.

Something fishy is definitely going on. We suspect it has something to do with Pearson’s lucrative no-bid deal to provide Common Core materials. We will continue to read the finance and economics sections, but the United States? Forget about it. You might as well read Huffington Post.

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Gaza News Roundup

Jeremiah always encourages you to find diverse news sources and different points of view. Regarding the ongoing violence in Gaza, you can hear the Israeli bias on Fox, and the Palestinian bias on NPR. An evenhanded roundup of opinions is here, at Al-Jazeera.

The firing of rockets from the Gaza Strip has led to a situation that threatens to cause a spiral of violence and counter-violence

For the record, Jeremiah tends to agree with the Germans. Gaza suffers for the provocations of Hamas. Al-Jazeera tends toward the other opinion, but they deserve credit for presenting both.

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Read Pravda, It’s Truth!

We saw a comment today on the FT site, saying that more objective coverage was to be found over at RT.com. So, it’s not just Jeremiah, then. RT is short for Russia Today. It’s the official Russian state news, as China Daily is for China, and CNN is for America.

With the Russian news, you know what you’re getting. It’s pretty easy to spot the propaganda, and you end up better informed than if you merely read CNN. As far as state news goes, China Daily is actually quite good. The official “editorials” tend toward constructive engagement with the West, and they criticize their own government a fair amount.

Jeremiah has often given you guidelines for detecting media bias. In the past few years, CNN seems to have entirely stopped criticizing the administration. That must be because it’s perfect, Da?

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Science Deniers at Harvard

The_Blank_SlateWe enjoyed Larry Summers’ performance at the IMF economic forum and we were dismayed to hear he’s a sexist pig.  Poetic justice, they say, that Summers was beat out for Fed Chair by Janet Yellen.  If you read the transcript, though, the sexism charge is a wee bit exaggerated.

Summers begins by acknowledging that women are underrepresented in science and engineering, and that Harvard already has diversity measures in place.  He will speak, instead, on alternative theories of the problem.  This is just like his other speech, where he questions economic dogma.

Catholics are underrepresented in investment banking … white men are very substantially underrepresented in the National Basketball Association, and Jews are underrepresented in farming

His favored theory is that American society forces women to choose between family and career.  This common sense idea was (and is) supported by survey data.  He also proposed that since variability – not the mean – is greater for men’s performance in math, then there will be more men at the very top.

This is a subtle point of statistics, and we needed Nassim Taleb to explain it.  If you don’t get it, it just sounds like “women score lower on tests.”

Summers’ heresy was to challenge the two leading theories – discrimination and socialization.  He dares to suggest that boys and girls might be born with different predispositions.  Of current research he says,

What we’ve learned from empirical psychology in the last fifteen years has been that people naturally attribute things to socialization that are in fact not attributable to socialization.

He is referring to psychology popularized by writers like Steven Pinker.  Pinker’s book had just come out, and his chapter on gender informs much of the speech.  Ironically, it includes a remark about university presidents and censorship.  Pinker, apparently another sexist pig, has this to say:

Girls play more at parenting and trying on social roles, boys more at fighting, chasing, and manipulating objects.

It’s worth noting that Pinker is a liberal, and Summers is a career Democrat.  They are free thinkers, though, who believe that liberal values can prevail without resorting to flat-earth denials of science.

Having stated his intention to provoke fresh debate, Summers concludes with several questions for further research.  That didn’t happen.  Instead, they fired him.  Here’s what Alan Dershowitz, also at Harvard, wrote in the Times:

This issue is bigger than Summers or even Harvard University. It is really about a long-term, systematic effort to impose a political-correctness straitjacket on certain views, especially at universities.

What impressed Jeremiah about the speech was that Summers had read all of the conference papers, added new ideas from outside, and then brought it all back to the core problem of recruiting female professors at Harvard – plus, he makes an esoteric point about statistics.  This is exactly the kind of broad spectrum intellectual you want for a university president – or a Fed Chairman.

See also:  What Larry Summers Said

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The Knockout Game

HeadThis is really scary!  No, not getting punched by some kids.  It’s really scary that we can’t get a straight answer out of our news media.  Some news outlets report a new trend of random violence, and others say it’s an urban legend.  Come on, people.  It’s not the Kennedy assassination.

You have seen the videos.  Numbers are sketchy.  We found one source for eight incidents of “knock out the Jew” in New York, over the last month.  We found another source for six incidents in one month in New Haven.  Other headlines say it’s a myth, but read on and they acknowledge the events.  They only claim that, since there is already a lot of random violence, these new attacks aren’t news.

But CNN says violent crime is on the wane.  That’s the real myth.  Jeremiah debunked it here.  He is sick and tired of politically motivated news outlets trying to tart up, play down, and spin every goddamn story.  What if it really mattered?

What if there were civil unrest, or an epidemic, or a crime spree – and you got this kind of bullshit from the TV news.  You’d have one channel telling you to hide in the basement, and another saying “keep calm and go shopping.”

We are going back to our old standby, that paragon of journalism, Pravda.

See also:  Fight Media Bias

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You Can’t Handle the Truth

The news media have always been biased.  In the old days, you could tell a man’s politics by which newspaper he read.  Cities would have opposing newspapers, like the Times and the Journal in New York.  They were expected, though, to give you the same basic information.

In the old days, people engaged with the other side.  If you were defending the Journal’s position, and they hadn’t given you all the facts, you could lose the debate.  You might even change your opinion, go over to the other side, and cancel your subscription.

Today, the news media have it a lot easier.  People are content to hear an endless stream of crap that confirms their existing beliefs.  No one is searching for the truth.  No one is having a debate in the coffee shop, and certainly no one is changing their mind.  This leads to the echo chamber phenomenon we have described previously.

If you want to know what is actually going on, that will take work.  You will need special skills.  Here again, Jeremiah is your guide.  Our news reader has spent the week collecting headlines from Fox and CNN.  We then sorted them into four categories –Domestic Policy and Politics, World and Foreign Policy, Newsworthy Events, and Not News.  The raw headlines are below.

Baseball’s lesson for  Washington.  Women could fix the stalemate.  Billionaire uses flip phone.  Liberals, stop whining and do something.  America’s problem: We’re too dumb.  Frat letter: Don’t rape them, but …  Why I’m saying goodbye to football.  Tea party contaminates GOP brand.  Recasting ‘Fifty Shades of Grey.’  Why you should see ‘12 Years a Slave.’  Democrats more extreme than GOP?  London Zoo’s tiger cub drowns.  Republicans got what they wanted.  Let Jason Collins come out–and play.  Ancient creature had spider-like brain.  Bizarre outburst on House floor.  Parents liable for cyberbullying?  Cruz knows exactly what he’s doing.

The CNN stories are more overtly political.  They name specific people and factions.  We were surprised not to see the Afghanistan accord, or the march on Washington.  Fox, obviously, is critical of the administration.  Their reporting concentrates on finding failed policies, and reporting abuse.  This brings us to an interesting observation.

Vets march on Washington, roll into WWII memorial.  Kerry, Karzai reach partial deal on security accord.  Tea Party pushes to close Lonegan, Booker gap.  Republicans accuse Dems of moving goalposts as talks stuck on sequester.  Police give image of man sought in girl’s abduction.  Florida police make millions in stings, report says.  Dry ice device explosions at LA airport prompt probe.  $30B blown on incomplete medical records program.  NH cops trace call made by teen 2 miles from home.  Famed fishery at standstill, hooked by gov’t.  House panel rips Parks boss over slimdown.  Sheriff: Taunts continued after bullied girl’s suicide.  San Fran’s Union Square reopens after bomb scare.  1.8-million-year-old skull shakes humans’ family.  Orphaned Fla. teen makes emotional plea for adoption.  Insurers get faulty data from ObamaCare exchanges.  Some gov’t workers may be paid twice for not working.  Feds let Fla. schools give all students no-cost lunch.

Fox’s non-news stories – six by Jeremiah’s count – fit the “world going to hell” theme, making a smooth segue from the failed policies.  Those from CNN are sports and entertainment.

Jeremiah is strictly interested in policy.  For example, how are we going to close the structural deficit, reform education, and stimulate growth?  He wants to know which are the correct policies, and – only then – which people and factions are behind them.

If you already use this approach, you know that party politics is illogical and the news media are demented.  If you’re new to it, prepare to see the world in a new light.

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