I have been following much of the commentariat in the fallout of the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Typical Conservative sites accept the result as a victory of due process, while the opposite side of aisle holds the result as proof of the vile system they have so vehemently opposed.
One thing has been raised, and it’s a topic that I often discuss here, is the role of the media in proceedings. From what I have observed, the media’s reporting has been accepting of the allegations toward Kavanaugh, seeming to condemn the new Justice without criticism of the claims.
However, the counter to my concern is that the media’s reporting has been impartial, carefully using language to ensure that the articles make no certain conclusions.
And for this claim, there is a point. However, it does miss the modus operandi I observe in the media, and it’s one that has affected me personally. The media may report the facts, but there is always an underlying drama that is quite often heavily implied.
A news outlet will report the facts, but that is only secondary to how the article makes you feel.
Whenever covering matters of Government, the media knows that what draws attention is the idea of malfeasance on part of the powers. It’s one thing to say where a Government might have erred, but if the media can indirectly imply malice on part of the error, then all the better. Moreover, if the media can further imply potential corruption – for example, that their policies seek to enrich a buddy or vested interest – then that’s a further whammy on the media drum.
But let’s talk about portrayal for a moment, because it lends to this implicit bias theory. Look at this article from Australian News Corp outlet, news.com.au.
I haven’t regarded the text in this article so much, because I am sure that nothing is written that could be construed as libellous, but note the photographs selected, particularly those of Justice Kavanaugh and Doctor Ford. The former has a look of aggression or even guilt, while the latter is either sad or noble.
Remember also that in the wake of the testimony, Kavanaugh admitted to still enjoying beer, while also passionately decrying the allegations, and for that he was painted as someone with anger and alcohol issues.
This is propaganda. Simply put.
While the words might be balanced, it’s the whole picture that can frame how the audience feels about the topic. A story might cover its rear with careful words, don’t be blind by what they’re trying to make you think.