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A Pragmatist's Take

By Douglas Moran

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About this blog: Real power doesn't reside with those who make the final decision, but with those who decide what qualifies as the viable choices. I stumbled across this insight as a teenager (in the 1960s). As a grad student, I belonged to an org...  (More)

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Plethora of propaganda provides media literacy lessons

Uploaded: Nov 12, 2020
"If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do, you are misinformed." (^unknown^). The media coverage of the Presidential election controversy has been highly partisan and disingenuous. So, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!" For parents, these can provide examples to show their children the techniques used. Among family and friends, they can provide a game of "Who can spot the most ...".

This blog is one of my occasional visits to the topic of media literacy -- that is, deep skepticism of reporting -- and the related, more general skill of critical/close reading. Although the topics of the example articles are of current interest, those topics themselves are irrelevant here. I want to encourage you to do preliminary processing of statements based upon word choice and grammar before spending mental energy on their logic, consistency, and credibility of purported facts.
Note: This blog is not intended to be factual reporting, but advocacy, and so I am allowed to use various rhetorical practices in attempting to be persuasive.

One good starting point is the New York Times' "^The Times Called Officials in Every State: No Evidence of Voter Fraud^" (2020-11-10) (^Archive - 5 updates already^). It provides multiple examples of partisan word-smithing.

In traditional news articles, the beginning provided a quick overview and the reader got more details as they read further down, with the expectation that most readers weren't that interested and would stop way short of that. That has been increasingly perverted to have the publication's advocacy at the top with the middle and end providing contrary, even contradicting, information that the publisher can point to when they are accused of being deceptive, even libelous, in the early statements.

This NYT example is unusual because the switch from amplifying their advocacy to contradicting it occurs in the middle of the subheading: "The president and his allies have baselessly claimed that rampant voter fraud stole victory from him. Officials contacted by The Times said that there were no irregularities that affected the outcome." (emphasis added). The body continues with statements that contradict the headline.

I chose this NYT article as a starter not just because it contains many easily detected examples, but because there is a good video talking about it -- for those who would rather listen than read. It is by a Canadian lawyer applying his skills at drafting and reading legal documents to this article. I would classify it as not being politically partisan, except that I know that there are those who classify anything not supporting their partisan positions as being partisan against them. That video is "^New York Time DENIES Election Voter Fraud? Viva Frei Vlawg^" - (2020-11-11) (13 minutes).

Appropriate comments include pointers to other illustrative examples that have a corresponding analysis of the manipulation being perpetrated. Or closely related observations, analysis, etc. However, comments about the subject matter of the examples being discussed are off-topic and will be deleted.

An ^abbreviated index by topic and chronologically^ is available.

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The ^Guidelines^ for comments on this blog are different from those on Town Square Forums. I am attempting to foster more civility and substantive comments by deleting violations of the guidelines.

I am particularly strict about misrepresenting what others have said (me or other commenters). If I judge your comment as likely to provoke a response of "That is not what was said", do not be surprised to have it deleted. My primary goal is to avoid unnecessary and undesirable back-and-forth, but such misrepresentations also indicate that the author is unwilling/unable to participate in a meaningful, respectful conversation on the topic.
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Posted by Lee Forrest, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Nov 12, 2020 at 6:32 am

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

Objective news reportage is hard to come by these days.

What is the focal point of contemporary journalism & broadcast journalism curriculum these 'sell' more news via bias & sensationalism? To generate even more advertising dollars?

I watch CNN & Fox News for 'entertainment purposes only' & tend to rely on PBS for straightforward news reportage.

As for the periodicals, they too have their biased perspectives (i.e. the National Review vs the Atlantic etc.) & should be taken in the context of 'editorial' or opinion pieces.

Bottom's best not to let someone else's words (or wording) replace your own thinking.

Posted by Jennifer, a resident of another community,
on Nov 12, 2020 at 10:19 am

Jennifer is a registered user.

ALL journalism (and journalists) have a bias. It's whether or not they let it show. Walter Cronkite was supposedly unbiased, but it was obvious to me (as a kid) that he was a liberal. Cable news networks are beyond biased, but you know the networks political leanings before you tune in.

Posted by Norman Beamer, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Nov 12, 2020 at 9:57 pm

Norman Beamer is a registered user.

The guy was nitpicking -- unpersuasive.

Posted by Citizen PA, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Nov 14, 2020 at 1:41 am

Citizen PA is a registered user.

I have read it twice and still don't understand what this post is about. Would appreciate some clarification.

I think many media outlets have realized that they get used if they practice too much "bothsiderism" -- just passing through what each side says without fact checks. Fact checks afterwards turn out mostly to get ignored. It's still not common, but many media outlets are realizing that they have to be careful to be precise.

[[Deleted: off-topic]]

Posted by Lee Forrest, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Nov 14, 2020 at 11:15 am

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

Propaganda is effective (as well as dangerous) when only one side or viewpoint is made available to the public.

Since we have propaganda emanating from both sides of the political spectrum in America, is it propaganda or merely political biases?

Posted by Jeremy Erman, a resident of Midtown,
on Nov 14, 2020 at 6:41 pm

Jeremy Erman is a registered user.

Headlines are often misleading or even inaccurate, probably in part because they're often written by people who didn't write the articles they're attached to.

Posted by Jeremy Erman, a resident of Midtown,
on Nov 14, 2020 at 8:04 pm

Jeremy Erman is a registered user.

Much of this video is a complaint that the body of a New York Times' article is inconsistent with its headline, and therefore the article shouldn't be trusted.

But the title of this complaint about a headline not matching the piece it accompanies is inconsistent with its own piece: "New York Time DENIES Election Voter Fraud? Viva Frei Vlawg."

The name of the newspaper referred to in the video is the "New York Times," not the "New York Time."

Therefore, if I should "do preliminary processing of statements based upon word choice and grammar before spending mental energy on their logic, consistency, and credibility of purported facts," as Douglas Moran says, and if "Words have meaning, they have to be used properly," as the narrator of the video says, I have to conclude that this video is sloppily-made, inattentive to details, and untrustworthy, as its creators couldn't even correctly type the name of the newspaper they were trying to criticize.

Posted by Jeremy Erman, a resident of Midtown,
on Nov 14, 2020 at 8:29 pm

Jeremy Erman is a registered user.

Reviewing my own comment, I realize that there should be no apostrophe after "Times" in the first paragraph. Apologies for the error. PaloAltoOnline does not seem to allow commenters to make corrections after posting.

However, I have pointed out the error in my post, while the video in question still has a typo in its title three days after going online.

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Nov 18, 2020 at 9:43 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

In the congressional hearings 11/17 both the R's and D's were upset that the FB, Twitter, and Google platforms had a coordinated position as to what they would allow and what would not be allowed to be discussed and printed. A one-sided position - they all agree.
As to the NYT - they despise DT, though they loved him prior to his presidency. His TWEETS make their news reporting second seat. DT has decreased the number of personnel in the government service. That is people's jobs. They were used to running the story line and are now reduced in opinion formation. A bunch of angry people. Note that the biggest funding source for the NYT is resident of Mexico - who is not Mexican but a transplant from the Ottoman Empire wars. He has bailed them out of their financial doldrums.

Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Nov 27, 2020 at 1:11 am

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

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