A basic tactic of political propaganda is to brand your opponents as dishonest or stupid. No one trusts a known liar, and no one wants to be associated with beliefs they consider stupid. Unfortunately, propaganda is generally a tool of liars, and many people are too stupid to recognize the difference between propaganda and news.
Skepticism toward the news media has increased in recent years because intelligent Americans recognize how much of what is reported as “news” is actually political propaganda. But not enough people have devoted the time necessary to understand the vast arsenal of deceptive tactics employed by the media liars who claim to be practitioners of journalism. Consider, for example, how the media use the word “myth.”
Since November, CNN and other liberal media outlets have devoted endless hours to assuring their audience that election fraud is a “myth.” No one has ever won an election by cheating, CNN viewers are encouraged to believe, and these viewers are incited to reject as a dangerous fringe “conspiracy theory” any suggestion that Joe Biden’s election was tainted by voter fraud. This is the basis for media coverage suggesting, for example, that Georgia’s new election-integrity law is a racist scheme to “suppress” minority voters and that Arizona’s ongoing election audit is a paranoid snipe hunt. If cheating never happens, new laws to prevent future cheating are unnecessary, nor is there any need to scrutinize the results of previous elections.
My goodness, how quickly the media narrative can change! Some of us are old enough to remember — because it was just four years ago — when CNN and other liberal media outlets were engaged in an extraordinary effort to convince Americans that presidential elections could be stolen quite easily. All it took to steal the 2016 election from Hillary Clinton, according to liberals, was a few Facebook advertisements and fake Twitter accounts produced by nefarious Russian agents. For three years, President Trump was the subject of investigations aimed at proving he had “colluded” with the Russians in this project of stealing the election from Hillary, and CNN went all in on these claims.
The media’s enthusiastic hyping of the “Russian collusion” narrative explains why, in April 2017, 61 percent of Democrats did not believe Trump had been fairly elected. To this day, CNN viewers have not been disabused of the belief that Trump was a puppet of Vladimir Putin and that Hillary was the victim of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Yet the same audience is now being told that cheating in elections is essentially impossible — a “myth” — so that election-integrity measures in Georgia, Arizona, and other states are unnecessary.
Four years ago, all the “smart” people (as CNN viewers believe themselves to be) were convinced that Trump had stolen an election with Russian assistance. Anyone who disputed that claim was branded a liar. Now, CNN viewers believe, only stupid people think cheating might influence election outcomes, and anyone who suggests it is possible to steal an election is a liar. You see that the core belief involved as to whether improper activities can affect election results has done a 180-degree reversal in the liberal media narrative. What is consistent — and what exposes CNN and other major media organizations as purveyors of political propaganda — is that the people portrayed as stupid and/or dishonest are always Republicans.
While disparaging certain beliefs as “myths” or fringe “conspiracy theories,” the media simultaneously promote other controversial beliefs as “fact” and “truth.” Various propaganda tactics are employed for this purpose, and, in case after case, we can see how the media’s bias is always toward promoting whatever beliefs are most favorable to the Democratic Party. Sometimes this propaganda is so blatant as to be laughable, as when last August CNN correspondent Omar Jiminez reported from in front of a burning auto dealership in Kenosha, Wisconsin, above a chyron reading, “Fiery But Mostly Peaceful Protests After Police Shooting.” No matter how much arson, looting, and vandalism were involved — in Kenosha, in Minneapolis, in Portland, Seattle, Chicago, and other cities where “unrest” happened last summer — the liberal media always insisted that the “protesters” were “mostly peaceful” and strenuously avoided using the word “riot.” Why? Because it was an election year, the Black Lives Matter movement was aligned with the Democratic Party, and the media were performing their usual role as campaign publicity agents for the Democrats.
That the media were not in favor of rioting, per se, became apparent in January when a few hundred angry Trump supporters decided to stage a “mostly peaceful” excursion into the U.S. Capitol building. What happened at the Capitol on Jan. 6 could fairly be described as a riot, but this word wasn’t strong enough to express the media’s contempt for Trump supporters. Instead, the mob that stormed police barricades at the Capitol was engaged in an “insurrection” or a “coup” attempt, according to CNN and other liberal media. As I remarked in The American Spectator at the time (“Staying Sane in a World Gone Mad,” Jan. 11, 2021), most of the pro-Trump crowd inside the Capitol “seemed in a festive mood, like a middle-school class who had run amok on a field trip while their teachers weren’t watching.” Nevertheless, the media used this unseemly rowdiness to whip up such hysterical fears of pro-Trump “terrorism” (a word they never applied to last summer’s BLM riots) that the federal Department of Justice devoted enormous resources to identifying and bringing charges against those who breached the Capitol barricades.
The point here is not merely to cite evidence of partisan bias by CNN and other self-declared practitioners of journalism. The Media Research Center (MRC) does an excellent job of documenting such bias, as do many other conservative media critics. Rather, the point is to demonstrate the tactics of propaganda by which the media promotes or discourages various beliefs, depending on whether those beliefs help or hinder the election of Democrats and the advancement of the party’s policy agenda.
Consider, for example, the proliferation of “fact-check” journalism. This is a relatively new phenomenon that did not exist until the growth of the internet — blogging and social media — created a threat to Big Media’s self-arrogated authority as arbiters of truth. During last fall’s presidential campaign, the MRC’s Tim Graham exposed the predictable partisan bias of the allegedly independent “fact-checkers” at PolitiFact:
Overall, from the start of 2019 through August 2020, Trump has gotten 197 Truth-O-Meter ratings, and Biden has only gotten 64.
Trump rated Mostly False or worse in 156 of them (79%). He was only Mostly True or True in 17 ratings (8.6%). By contrast, Biden rated Mostly True or True in more than half: 33 of 64 (52%), and then there are 29 Mostly False or worse (45%).
Does anyone less partisan than CNN media reporter Brian Stelter think these “fact-checkers” should boast of their “independence”?
However much any reader may distrust Trump, certainly there is reason to doubt that Biden was six times more truthful than his Republican opponent. But the media promote these fact-checker sites as authoritative arbiters of truth in the same way they promote “experts” whose statements help advance whatever narrative is most useful to the Democratic Party.
Among the “experts” beloved by the media is Nate Silver, whose biased analysis of polling data helps create the useful election-year belief that Democrats are always on their way to a landslide victory. Like so many other media-anointed “experts,” however, Silver is not all he’s cracked up to be, and D. J. Drummond has demonstrated just how unreliable Silver’s projections have been. Basically, in good election years for Democrats (e.g., 2006, 2008, and 2012), Silver’s left-leaning bias has done him no harm, whereas in years where Republicans have the winning hand (e.g., 2010, 2014, and 2016), Silver’s analysis has been less accurate.
The problem with Silver’s “expert” status is related to the more general problem of how the media use polls not to discern public opinion but rather as political propaganda to shape public opinion. This is most obvious in election years, as for example in 2020, when the media hyped up polls purporting to show that Trump was so unpopular that even Texas (!!!) might flip into the Democratic column (“Biden’s Big Media Malarkey Machine,” The American Spectator, Oct. 19, 2020). Trump won Texas handily, of course, beating Biden by more than 600,000 votes in the Lone Star State, and he also scored victories by solid margins in Ohio and Iowa, two other states in which several pollsters had shown Biden as competitive.
The obvious propaganda purposes of such misleading polls were to boost turnout among Democrats, sow discouragement among Republicans, and try to sway independents with a “bandwagon” appeal. One of the worst offenders in this regard was Quinnipiac University, which destroyed whatever credibility it had by missing badly not only in Texas (a “dead heat” two weeks before election day, they claimed) but also in several other states. Quinnipiac’s final Ohio poll, for example, had Biden leading by 4 points; he lost by 8, meaning that Quinnipiac missed it by double digits. Quinnipiac was slightly better in their national poll, where their final prediction had Biden winning by 11 points, 6.5 points more than his actual margin in the popular vote. The very worst of the national polls, the absolute nadir of disgrace, was CNN, whose final national poll had Biden winning by 12 points.
Such propaganda tactics as the promotion of bogus polls — how wrong can a poll be and still be considered legitimate? — would be bad enough if their use were limited to trying to help Democrats win elections. But because liberals in the media believe that nearly everything is political, they engage in propaganda on a wide variety of issues, including matters of life and death.
The COVID-19 pandemic is the most obvious example: the media have spent more than a year cranking out “fear porn,” insisting on lockdowns ubique and mandatory mask-wearing ad aeternum. Anything less than maximum panic is insufficient for the media, and the usual propaganda tactics are deployed to keep the fear festival going. “Experts” are trotted out to support the draconian lockdown policies of Democrat governors in New York, Michigan, and other states and to discredit the reopening policies favored by Republican governors in states like Florida and Texas. The fact that there is no apparent correlation between the strictness of virus-control policies and the actual prevalence of the disease (e.g., wide-open Florida is doing better than locked-down Michigan) has no impact on the media-approved “experts” who appear on cable news to warn of dire effects if anyone is permitted to go anywhere without a mask.
Think about this: We are assured by the media “experts” that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective so that anyone who doesn’t get vaccinated is suspected of being deceived by anti-vaccine “misinformation.” Yet if the vaccine is so effective, why does Joe Biden — who has been vaccinated — still insist on wearing masks in all his public appearances? It is his “patriotic responsibility” to wear a mask, Biden proclaimed last week, without bothering to explain why his mask is necessary if the vaccine is effective.
We are supposed to believe that mandatory mask-wearing is about “science” — another word turned into a propaganda weapon by the media, along with “justice” and, especially, “racism.” This is the smear of last resort used by the media to discredit anyone who doesn’t support the Democrats and their policy agenda.
“Facts are stubborn things,” John Adams once famously observed, “and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” But the media endeavor to prove Adams wrong, trying to alter reality to suit their political inclinations, even if this ends up getting people killed.
Police are racist, the media wish us to believe, and so cops can never shoot a criminal suspect who is black, even if the suspect is about to stab someone to death. Even when a cop saves a young black woman’s life, as was the case when Officer Nick Reardon shot Ma’Khia Bryant in Columbus, Ohio, protesters will demand “justice” — as if shooting a knife-wielding attacker was a bad thing — and the media will pretend not to notice how dangerously crazy this is.
Where does this lead? Well, homicide has increased by 60 percent this year in Atlanta, where two people were shot to death this weekend, including a 15-year-old girl who was one of three teenagers shot in a Waffle House parking lot. The spike in homicides in Atlanta and other cities has followed in the wake of anti-police protests that have had the effect of impeding law enforcement. Many veteran cops have retired, and others have resigned rather than endure the constant accusations of racism. Policing has become less effective, and the streets have become less safe — especially for young black people, who are disproportionately overrepresented among shooting victims in Atlanta and other cities.
Black people are dying every day because of policies promoted by the Black Lives Matter movement, but nobody on CNN will call attention to this irony because it doesn’t fit the political propaganda narrative they’re promoting. Concern about black-on-black crime is a racist “myth,” we are told, and as for the fact that bullet-riddled corpses are stacking up in urban America? “Modern journalism is all about deciding which facts the public shouldn’t know because they might reflect badly on Democrats,” as Jim Treacher once remarked.
Facts are still stubborn things, however, and no fact is more stubborn than death. Let’s hope Americans learn to recognize the media’s propaganda tactics before they get us all killed.
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