Bob Owens

The saddest truth in politics is that people get the leaders they deserve

More on the NY Times gun lie… and media lies in general

Written By: Bob - Dec• 28•11

Glenn Reynolds has collected blog posts debunking Micheal Luo’s anti-gun propaganda the published yesterday in the New York Times.

It’s pathetic how nakedly modern “journalists” serve the pursuit of ideological conversion through propaganda, instead of simply reporting the facts. Of course, that assumes that journalists were ever interested in reporting just the facts, and there is no indication that such a time ever really existed.

It’s easy for people to look at areas in which they specialize and find the lies that editors and journalists pass off as “news,” but what people are afraid to do is consider is that the rest of the news is just as blinkered.

What we have here is just one story of hundreds published in the Times this week that has been conclusively debunked.

What would happen if all of the stories in the Times – or the Washington Post, or your local newspaper or television news –  were subject to the sort of expert scrutiny as this Luo article, in a given day or week? What percentage of reporting would we discover is marginally biased, seriously slanted, or even fabricated?

I strongly suspect that the resulting scrutiny would reveal a dark and ugly secret that the media isn’t remotely interested in reporting the news, it’s interested in shaping the news, and your perception of the world.

Ponder that the next time you read the news. Those writing it chose and shape the stories they publish not because these are the only stories worth publishing, but because these are the stories that can be shaped to serve their needs.

If you doubt this, please tell me how much you’ve read (for example) about Operation Fast and Furious outside of the blogosphere, and ask yourself if a Republican government would still be standing after orchestrating crimes that left hundreds of citizens of a neighboring state dead.

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  1. elambend says:

    The Times did a similar story ‘fracking’ which turned out to be sexed up, using quotes out of context and essentially regurgitating a press release from a well known anti-fracking activist.

  2. pablo panadero says:

    This would be an interesting crowdsource project. Imagine if you could gather 100-200 people and pick a particular paper and a specific date and get a crowdsourced answer on how many factual errors exist in a typical daily newspaper. Maybe the mere thought of that type of external quality control would drive the editors to demand accuracy.

    • Jeff H says:

      “Maybe the mere thought of that type of external quality control would drive the editors to demand accuracy.”

      NOTHING will EVER drive committed liars and propagandists to demand “accuracy”. More sleight-of-hand (on the keyboard), but not real, honest-to-God “accuracy”, much less truth.

  3. Hope Change says:

    No. That would drive them to demand the destruction of the internet.

  4. lordsomber says:

    >>”…is that the rest of the news is just as blinkered.”

    Michael Crichton mentioned this years ago as the “Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect.”

  5. stef says:

    “What percentage of reporting would we discover is marginally biased, seriously slanted, or even fabricated”

    Or just plain wrong. I’ve been saying this for a long time. In every subject where I have expertise, the “news” and “reports” are dog-squeeze. At best.

  6. Jennifer says:

    Please remember also that the principle applies to the news stories you agree with as well. That’s the real trick: People who criticize a paper’s coverage of health care/guns/whatever are ready to swallow as gospel the same paper’s coverage – even if the same reporters and editors provide it! – of whatever issue they agree with.

    The lesson here? Be a skeptical consumer of media, even when the narrative suits your politics.

    • papertiger says:

      Living in Sacramento, we don’t have that problem. According to the only paper in town, white children cause global warming, and Jerry Brown is the best governor this state could ever hope to have.

    • HC68 says:

      Absolutely Freakin’-A yes.

      Whether the source is Limbaugh or Air America, the NYT or the WSJ, Instapundit or Counterpunch, MsNBC or FOXNews, _always_ remember that the reporter is only human, _at best_ he or she is fallible, has conscious and subconscious biases, and that there is _always_ an agenda In fact, there’re always multiple agendas, the reporter has one, the editor has one, the owner of the news outlet has one, the advertisers have their own.

      Jennifer is 100% on target here.

    • Eric says:

      A very good observation, Jennifer. Thanks!

  7. Radae says:

    I like Pablo’s idea.

    • papertiger says:

      If there was a paper that took as it’s mission to crowd source/fact check the daily dribble of the NYT, WAPO, CNN, that’s a paper I would subscribe to.

  8. ajacksonian says:

    The rule I’ve learned is: take a subject you know in-depth and a lot about and examine a new story from an outlet that has such an article.

    See how many errors there are.

    That is reflective of ALL the news from that outlet.

    Use this rule and you soon find yourself down to very few news outlets once you deem them unreliable in your area of expertise.

  9. Jim Oberg says:

    I have long see the same pattern in aerospace ‘news’, as for example described here:

    Twenty years ago, the NY Times had an world exclusive on a secret Soviet ‘Star Wars’ laser battle station prototype satellite launch [in 1986], that was begun long before Reagan’s call for missile defense systems. It clearly revealed WHO was aiming to weaponize space first — but was politicially incorrect. So they allowed Mikhail Gorbachev to spike the story — it never was published.

    The recent NY Times shameful diatribe about Gingrich’s raising a warning over our vulnerability to EMP attack is a similar example of techno-babble propagandizing. Read the comment files to see that.

  10. Patrick Carroll says:

    My assumption is that everything I see in the NYT is opinion, and mostly fact-free, scolding opinion at that.

    I think much of the rest of the world sees things as I do, which is why shares in the NYT company go for about $8 today, down from a high of around $50 back in 2002, even as the company has suspended its dividend and is selling properties.

    Here in Atlanta, the local fishwrapper is now advertising itself as offering “accurate and balanced reporting,” rather than the left-wing orthodoxy that had been its stock-in-trade. The market rejected what the AJC was offering, and the AJC is responding to the market.

    My point is that the very nature of newspapers crowdsources criticism, hence the decline of newspapers.

  11. STW says:

    I once watched a 60 Minutes story on something with which I was somewhat familiar. I don’t believe I’ve watched the program more than once in the last decade or two since.

    I stopped listening to NPR when I found myself shouting at the radio at the over the top bias in their interview questions.

    Newspapers are mostly cut from the same cloth and my last subscription lapsed years ago. I found the more I knew about a subject the less reliable the paper was.

  12. Khornet says:

    “The man who does not read newspapers is uninformed. The man who does read them is misinformed.”
    Mark Twain

  13. Looking Glass says:

    Michael Crichton in Why Speculate? calls this the “Murray Gell-Mann Amnesia effect.”

    Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect works as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward-reversing cause and effect. I call these the ‘wet streets cause rain’ stories. Paper’s full of them.”

    “In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story-and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read with renewed interest as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about far-off Palestine than it was about the story you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.”

    “That is the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. I’d point out it does not operate in other arenas of life. In ordinary life, if somebody consistently exaggerates or lies to you, you soon discount everything they say.”

    I posted that four years ago in the Open Season post at Confederate Yankee. Others there posted their similar experiences.

  14. higgins1990 says:

    On December 13th, Fox News showed a story about the protests in Russia following the elections. The first 23 seconds of the story showed young men in warm-ups throwing molitav cocktails and fighting with riot police. The only problem was that this was footage from the Greece riots. This wasn’t sloppy journalism; this was the typical “Russia is Bad” bias that the American media indulges in.

  15. B DUbya says:

    It isn’t just the NYT.

    My epiphany came during the coverage of the Fukoshima reactor plant disaster by all of the major media, especially and including Fox. (I have some expertise in nuclear power plant operation and maintenance)

    If they can screw the pooch so completely on the hard science stuff, what don’t they get wrong in everything else?

    MSM news is entertainment only, not a vehicle for dissemination of information.

  16. maaku says:

    Walter Duranty comes to mind

  17. Duke says:

    Excepting possibly top tier editors, I doubt the majority of news writers are intentionally misleading. Instead I think journalists as a profession lack the capacity to think critically and challenge their own pre-conceived notions. Selection bias in the newspaper hiring process, or institutional bias in how stories are edited and which get spiked vs published, assures those pre-conceived biases are of a liberal/leftist bent.

  18. desi erasmus says:

    “Those who don’t read newspapers are uniformed; those who read newspapers are misinformed.” – attributed to Mark Twain

  19. RPD says:

    About the time I was getting out of high school, (early 80’s) I noticed in reading the newspaper, that every story on a topic I was familiar with was always wrong in important ways. No exceptions. Since then I’ve always assumed that all mass media stories are wrong in important ways.
    I used to think reporters were well meaning but lazy and stupid. I think less well of them now.

  20. I have always said something similar. I am in an industry that is often in the news, have been an instructor so know my stuff. I have also studied at or worked for some very prominent institutions, of world-wide acclaim. My degree is in a subject that makes the news sometimes.

    Every time I have ever seen a news story on any subject I know about the story is wrong or untrue in some significant way. In something major, that matters to the perception of the story or its veracity.

    Basically what I am saying is that there have been many cases of news stories that I can judge, and each one I have ever read has been misleading.

    So why don’t I trust the press?

    • Mike Doughty says:

      My experience is exactly the same. I worked in the petrochemical industry and each and every time that a news story appeared that involved something that I was intimately familiar with, there were major factual errors in it. This included incidents of violence at the plants I worked at, strikes, releases or spills of chemicals and more. One time news crews responded to a plant where I worked in response to a report of a chemical spill. One of the anchormen asked if they could film the spill cleanup. I took them to where we had a crew shoveling up an very viscous substance and putting it into trash cans. This particular substance wasn’t toxic, so the crew didn’t even have respirators on. This wasn’t what they were looking for; the cameraman didn’t bother to turn his camera on. That evening on the 6 o’clock news, while the anchor read his story, the video was of a steam vent at a neighboring plant, emitting steam. Most “errors” that I’ve experienced haven’t been as blatant as this; most are from sheer laziness and sloppy work, but it has been true that 100% of the time there have been major errors or misrepresentations. I believe nothing that the “news media” puts out, but rather take it all with a grain of salt.

  21. Moneyrunner says:

    For some reason, this excellent idea never seems to attract volunteers. The focus of the blogosphere remains the NY Times, Washington Post and the alphabet networks. That is like criticizing the federal government. Except for a few major on-line commentators, this has little effect. The local newspaper is much more vulnerable to focused criticism. Patrick Frey’s Patterico’s Pontifications has had some success criticizing the LA Times. I have written articles about the Virginian Pilot – the only major local paper in the Norfolk-Virginia Beach-Chesapeake-Suffolk area known as Tidewater Virginia – 221 times since I began blogging, but except for the few times I get linked by Glenn Reynolds, my readership is loyal but modest. I would like to find a number of kindred spirits who would be willing to blog daily about the articles and editorials in the Virginian Pilot. If you’re interested, go to the link and let me know how we can get together. Even if you don’t live in the Tidewater area, you can read the on-line edition and make some comments.

  22. Fen says:

    “If your stock broker lied to you about Enron, would you still use him? And yet, some people still use information brokers like CNN and the NYTs”

  23. jms says:

    It seems to me that the craft of journalism appears more and more to be the art of sounding authoritative on topics you know virtually nothing about. For profit.

  24. Tim Condon says:

    Jennifer’s observation above—which several people agreed strongly with—is flawed because it is based upon a false premise. She cautions us to “Be a skeptical consumer of media, even when the narrative suits your politics.” The problem is that her position apparently ignores the fact that there is “truth” and there is “falsity.” There is “beneficial policy” and there is “bad policy.” I don’t hold my positions as a libertarian-conservative because I just happened upon them; I have studied the issues and come to the well-founded conclusion that one side is right and the other wrong. Thus, looking askance on news reports where “the narrative suits my politics” would be perverse indeed, if not outright schizophrenic.

  25. anon says:

    Thank you for posting this. I, too, along with many of the responders here, have noticed the same thing. Articles about things of which I have first-hand knowledge, or have seriously studied, are riddled with inaccuracies.

    Leading me to wonder about the REST OF THE STORIES :-}

    Two examples:

    An article about my home town in one of the regional newspapers. Buildings were on the wrong streets. Names of prominent people were misspelled. Easy to check things were just plain wrong. Don’t even get me started on the HARD stuff.

    If you grew up in the Chicago area in the 1950’s-1960’s you probably went to a museum or zoo or place like that that had
    plastic toys called ‘moldaramas’. There was an article in one of the two currently bankrupt Chicago papers about them. And it explained how you could buy a U-505 Submarine from the Field Museum.


    Aren’t editors supposed to check on FACTS? The U-505 is on display at the Museum of Science and Industry. I guess the bozo (another Chicago reference :-}) editor was one of those who “wasn’t gonna study war no more” so didn’t KNOW any better. The fact that the owners let a writer and editor like them loose should be a criminal act. Instead, it is the product of a school system that caters to the far-far-left and simply hates America.

  26. J.P. says:

    Hi, Bob. Over the course of my adult life, I’ve developed technical expertise in just two things. One was an obscure combat system once deployed by the US Navy, the other is general-purpose software development. I was acutely aware of the idiocy that passed for reporting following the USS Vincennes’ shoot-down of an Iranian airliner, and of the skewed and ignorant coverage of the Microsoft monopoly controversy of the 1990’s.

    I’ve always assumed that mainstream coverage of everything else was equally wrong. In general, my perception of media ignorance, bias, and corruption is directly proportional to my knowledge and experience of the matter being covered.

  27. mikee says:

    When my current home was being built, my wife and I would stop by every day or three to see the progress, or lack thereof, and to ask questions of the workers and supervisors about things we didn’t understand.

    The things that I saw that I knew were not done right were astounding – from electrical lines wrapped around the gas line in the house, to broken 2×4’s left in wall framing, to the lack of the security wiring when the drywall was scheduled to go up. This last item got the slack jawed and slack a$$ed supervisor fired, as he forgot to schedule their installation in 5 houses, and three already had their sheetrock up.

    The question I asked the company management was, “I see these things that I know are wrong, and I am not a construction expert. What things am I NOT seeing that are also wrong, and how can I trust they are being taken care of before closing?”

    The same thing as discussed here about newspaper reporters goes on in other endeavors, with the same type of dispiriting and costly consequences.

  28. Steve says:

    How quickly Republican scandals of similar proportions are forgotten. Fast and Furious, of course, was thought up during the Bush administration, but beyond that consider the damage done in Nicaragua by Iran-Contra. The Reagan administration managed to remain intact despite “liberal” media “bias.”

    • papertiger says:

      Fast & Furious did not begin until 2009.

      Let me check real quick….
      Yup. Barry was elected in 2008.
      So Steve screwed up his facts right out of the gate.

      Iran-Contra, or in other words, taking money from Southern California liberal cocaine addicts to fund the overthrow of a petty dictator, was good policy. Government working for us for a change.

      Why is it right and proper for congress to send medical, logistical, and weapons support to overthrow a Soviet puppet in Afghanistan (using taxpayer money), but it’s wrong and terrible for the Reagan Admin to fund the overthrow of a Soviet puppet in Nicaragua (using funds confiscated from drug dealers)?

      In the case where John Q. Public has to pay the freight, an obscure, cocaine sniffing congressman is celebrated by the main stream with a Hollywood feature film.
      In the other case (incidentally, also supported by Charlie Wilson) Oliver North is put on show trial for the whole country to observe with the goal being to embarrass President Reagan.

      So media bias YES. There is a huge one.

  29. MrJest says:

    I’ve held as a personal core principal the basic theme of this article since I was about 12 years old. Unless the publication is a tightly-focused “expert-level” specialty periodical I just assume it’s 100% BS.

    And even then I assume 50% BS.