Media bias slants the news in favor of a particular political perspective. But the American press is now going far beyond that, to the point of publishing out-and-out disinformation.
That’s a term meaning “false information deliberately and often covertly spread (as by the planting of rumors) in order to influence public opinion or obscure the truth.” The word disinformation derives from the Russian dezinformatsiya, which was the name of a department of the KGB that specialized in purposefully spreading falsehoods in support of Soviet propaganda.
According to the mainstream press, President Trump could do nothing right. Now President Biden can do nothing wrong. In presenting both cases, the media has thrown out the traditional journalism standards requiring evidence and verification and has actually constructed false narratives to promote a political and ideological agenda.
Matt Taibbi cites two headlines from the New York Times describing Trump and Biden doing exactly the same thing. Both are about the royal family of Saudi Arabia being involved in the murder of a Times journalist. Both presidents decided not to impose sanctions on Saudi Arabia, due to America’s interests in maintaining good relations with an important ally. Here is the headline when Trump made that decision:
Here is the headline when Biden made exactly the same decision:
The stories themselves were similarly condemning and understanding, respectively.
Taibbi spent part of his life under Soviet communism, and he says that the American news media today bears a striking similarly to the party-controlled journalism of the Soviet Union. From his essay, The Sovietization of the American Press:
Reality in Soviet news was 100 per cent binary, with all people either heroes or villains, and the villains all in league with one another (an SR [member of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party, slightly less extreme than the Bolsheviks] was no better than a fascist or a “Right-Trotskyite Bandit” . . . .) Other ideas were not represented, except to be attacked and deconstructed.
Praise of our fearless leader and our glorious ruling party characterizes both the communist-controlled newspapers and our own free press.
This article, for example, hails Biden’s spending plans as “life-changing,” ranking him right up there with FDR, LBJ, and Ronald Reagan as presidential candidates no one expected much from, only to “change the country.”
Conversely, consider the coverage of the “villains.” Read this article from the Associated Press on Georgia’s voting reform law, which characterizes it with no explanation as “restrictive” and designed to limit voting rights. It also serves the Democratic Party by identifying companies that have given money to Georgia Republicans, implying that they too should be boycotted or pressured.
Now read this article from National Review that states what the Georgia law includes, showing that its new voting measures are no more restrictive than other states, including very liberal ones, and that the coverage of its provisions is politically-driven and inaccurate. (And see this for President Biden’s accusation that the George law is “Jim Crow on steroids,” a wildly exaggerated and insensitive claim that journalists, instead of questioning, ran with.)
Another recent story, launched by the CBS news show 60 Minutes, is that Florida’s governor Ron Santis showed improper and corrupt favoritism to his supporters by making the COVID vaccine available to them. This is a good example of how postmodern journalism “constructs” narratives and explanatory paradigms. Take some isolated facts: Florida offered vaccines through a grocery and pharmacy chain called Publix. Earlier, Publix made a campaign contribution of $100,000 to Governor Santis. Also, Florida set up special vaccine centers in affluent, white communities, most of whose residents were Republicans and Santis supporters.
Sounds pretty suspicious, doesn’t it? But look more closely. Publix is a ubiquitous retail chain in Florida, like H.E.B. is in Texas! Of course, if you are going to use the private sector to get people vaccinated broadly and quickly, you are going to use Publix! Look even more closely and you will find that the governor wasn’t even responsible for getting the Publix problem started. And that Publix also donated to Florida Democrats. As for the vaccination centers, these were in retirement communities, of which Florida is full, and the people who live in them are senior citizens at the greatest risk for COVID! That many of them tend to vote for Republicans and for Gov. Santis had nothing to do with those clinics being set up!
Again, read this USA Today version of the story, which uncritically and unquestioningly parrots the 60 Minutes framing of the facts. Then read this more complete and fact-filled analysis by Molly Hemingway, which adds details about how the CBS journalists edited out or refused to interview people who could have corrected their pre-planned story, including a number of Florida Democrats.
We could go on. There is the immigration story, in which the media excoriated Trump for putting unaccompanied minors sent over the border by their parents “in cages,” but giving Biden a pass when his administration does the same thing. Furthermore, the media is obediently accepting the government-imposed restrictions on visiting the immigration centers so that the public cannot see just how bad things are.
There is also the attacks on Asians story, which the media is trying to fit it into the critical race theory narrative, when it really doesn’t. (In New York, according to the Wall Street Journal link above, of the 20 people arrested for anti-Asian hate crime, two were white, 11 were African Americans, and 7 were Hispanics. Nor was the mass shooter in Atlanta, who gunned down 8 people, including 6 Asian women, motivated by white supremacy, according to the evidence so far. Nevertheless, the white racism theme keeps being reported.) Meanwhile, journalists neglect the actual anti-Asian racism on their own side, with the quotas restricting Asian admission at Harvard and Yale.
The reporters at Pravda and Izvestia were forced to follow the party line; otherwise, they would not only lose their jobs, they could be sent to the gulags, or worse. The Soviets did not have a free press, to say the least. So why are American journalists, blessed with a free press, emulating them?
Illustration: Pravda, reporting the “independence” of Poland, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1344063