Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

Trickle down lying: What Wisconsin teaches us about the national news media

Jerry Stratton, March 6, 2011

Several days ago, tech site engadget published an article about how Apple was making “last minute changes” to the iPad 2, removing features that engadget had previously reported it would contain. “Our sources weren’t crystal clear on the exact reasons”, they said.

Wow. They weren’t clear, or they were clear but just not “crystal clear”? They were clear on the reasons, but not crystal clear on the “exact reasons”?

It sounds more to me like engadget is trying to join the make-believe media. Report something based on what you wish to be true, and if reality doesn’t oblige you by changing to reflect your reporting, well, report that someone else changed their mind.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because I’ve written about it before:

On Tuesday night last week, one of the major world news stories on World News Tonight was that President Bush had changed his mind on Iraq, and was signaling an ouster of Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki.

The next night, they were reporting that it appeared Bush had changed his mind. In fact, Bush had not changed his mind—he never signaled an ouster of Maliki. That was made up by the ABC reporters. But rather than say that they were wrong, they just reported that someone else changed their mind.

Wisconsin is providing the media with more opportunities to deceive and then pretend they’re not deceiving. For example, Ezra Klein at the Washington Post:

The critique many conservatives have made of public-sector unions is that they both negotiate with and fund politicians. It’s a conflict of interest. Well, so too do corporations, and wealthy individuals.

Klein is completely missing the point—except that he’s not, he’s just lying. He knows that the problem isn’t that government employees voluntarily give their money to politicians. When private individuals give their money to politicians, they are giving their money to politicians, not someone else’s. And when private individuals give money to politicians so that they can get more tax money from politicians, that’s called bribery, it’s illegal, and they can go to jail for it.

But this is what government unions do: they negotiate with Democrats for more taxpayer money, and then funnel that money directly into the campaigns of Democrats, under the pretense that these are individual donations when they are not. The Democrats recognize the gravy train when they hear that whistle blow and so funnel more taxpayer money into government unions so that they can get more campaign money.

They can promise sky-high benefits to government unions because it isn’t their money they’re promising. This is breaking state budgets. It was breaking New Jersey, it is and will break California, and it may still end up breaking Wisconsin.

In my review of Fit to Print: A.M. Rosenthal and His Times I noted that the New York Times seems to have a long history of neglecting to report important news in order to try to frame some important debate. That’s what is going on here. The problem with this sort of deception is that it makes for a less-informed public. John Hayward wrote in You Are Effin Dead:

You can’t really appreciate the extent of media bias until you chat with someone who only gets their news from the alphabet networks. The liberal media’s business is making sure people believe certain things, without knowing inconvenient facts. They are working very hard to make sure nobody knows much about Gordon Hintz. Otherwise, they might begin wondering why the arbiters of civility—up to and including the President, who was so quick to warn against “vilifying” public unions—have not censured Hintz, or called for his resignation.

But now it’s time for some pictures. On March 1, during my lunch break, I opened up memeorandum to see a poll headlined across several major papers. What made this poll different from the others for the previous week? Memeorandum lets you time travel, so I thought I’d look up the noon results over the past weeks since the polls first started coming out regarding the Wisconsin Democrats leaving Wisconsin to block a budget bill. The first news started coming out on February 21.

Wisconsin polls, February 21 2011: In February a poll showed more Americans siding with Wisconsin than with the government unions.; Wisconsin; polls

A poll in favor of Governor Walker and reigning in government spending finds play in some good blogs, but nothing from the major media outlets at this time.

February 21 A poll of Wisconsin residents finds that 48% back Walker, 38% side with government unions. Discussed on a couple of blogs: RedState, Hot Air, and The Gateway Pundit.
February 22 There’s a half-hearted “Rasmussen Poll may be biased” on the New York Times.
February 23 The news that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker doesn’t know David Koch well enough to recognize his voice is “lethal” and makes a couple of minor sites but there is nothing about polls.
February 24 Way at the bottom, I almost missed it, 67% Disapprove of Legislators Fleeing Wisconsin to Avoid Vote. Discussed on The Gateway Pundit, but the only news outlets reporting on it was the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal.
February 25 “Wisconsinites split on Walker’s budget proposal”. No major news source covering it.
February 26 Nothing.
February 27 Nothing.
February 28 Nothing.
March 1 “Majority in Poll Back Employees in Public Sector Unions”. Whoah, headline on memeorandum from the New York Times! Also hits the Washington Post, CBS News, Los Angeles Times, MSNBC, and Time.
Wisconsin polls, March 1 2011: In March a poll showed more Americans siding with government unions than with Wisconsin.; Wisconsin; polls

A week later, a poll in favor of government unions is headline news.

Both of the two polls were national: I’m guessing that the make-believe media chose which to bury and which to report in a deliberate attempt to convince the rest of America that what’s happening in Wisconsin isn’t going to spread to the states that need it even more.

On March 1, a poll came out that they could believe in, regardless of any issues it might have and it spread across the major newspapers instantly.1

In science, two competing results is, at best, a wash.2 But when one of them is weakly reported and the other strongly reported, it isn’t going to look like a wash to “someone who only gets their news from the liberal media”. They’re trying to force a deceptive narrative, to make their deception reality. Too many times, we believe their deception and help them do this.

  1. Now, obviously, there could be artifacts from the time I chose to look. I chose 12:10 PM every day, because that’s when I noticed the sudden interest from the media. Maybe they only report bad news for Democrats in the evening and bad news for Republicans in the morning.

  2. This assumes that both polls were performed scientifically, which is likely a bad assumption. But even then, there has to be reporting in order to come to that conclusion.

  1. <- Initiative required
  2. Palin: reward success ->