AP GOV POST 2: news media and bias

In this post, we explore the dubious coverage of a serious event by a highly dubious website. This referring, unsurprisingly, to Breitbart’s “coverage” of allegations that contracted doctors at the US border sterilized migrants without their informed consent. I was interested in choosing this event because… it was the one listed on the checkpoint…

In terms of claims, this article is a bit bizarre, however, the general claim seems to be that the Democrats are pushing for an investigation into these alleged sterilizations to serve their own cynical political purposes. They note that these claims serve several purposes for Democrats, such as gaining public emotional ground against former (then current) president Trump’s border policies (which they downplay), and also gains similar ground against the institution of private prisons. While these two things would happen if the investigation occurred, the article seems intentionally to mislead the reader as to their purpose, and sides heavily against the Democrats. Much of the evidence provided seems to be mere fear-mongering, a popular tactic in far-right “news” organizations, such as Breitbart. An example of this is this excerpt: “That goal [fighting private prisons] is important because, without private prisons, federal immigration officials would be forced to release million of migrants into U.S. workplaces and neighborhoods”. This is absolutely ridiculous, barely relevant, and pretty obvious dog-whistling (or really just regular whistling, frankly). It preys upon a fear introduced as a right-wing tactic to restrict immigration, the idea that poor migrants are flooding over the border and taking jobs, ruining the economy, committing crimes etc. In any case, the article doesn’t really provide any information to back up their actual claims. They cast doubt on the idea that sterilizations are actually happening at the border, but even this is mostly anecdotal or potentially untrustworthy evidence (asking the accused), and even if it holds weight, it’s still not enough to deny the legitimacy of an investigation into the potential of sterilizations happening. At the time, I’m not sure exactly how much evidence there was for either viewpoint, but the article could be improved by attempting to show a good face for both possibilities, as it seems the damning evidence is from likely the most dubious part of the cited article.

Steve Bannon, ex-executive on Breitbart

I think this article reflects the strong partisanship of most news media today. Breitbart is known to be heavily conservatively biased, and even had Bannon as an executive at one point (very right wing political strategist, who has been indicted recently for contempt of congress). Now, not necessarily everything in this article is untrue, no, but it’s certainly written in a way to mislead the reader, and doesn’t give the other side much of a chance. This is shown in the way that it gives a great deal of denial of Democrat’s claims, but provides weak evidence to back them up, and how it deflects from the actual topic by fear-mongering about immigrants and framing the Democrats as cynical realpolitik schemers. The reason it serves this biased interest is likely simple, it’s heavily funded by conservative groups and figures, and can serve to attract a lot of viewership by getting people angry. Anger is a very easy way to get a consistent following. I really don’t think this article holds any informational value that can’t be derived by articles from more trustworthy sources on the same topic. I believe the reason so many authors choose to be biased in their reporting is a combination of taking the Big Lie at face value (buying into the right-wing conspiracies), and that it’s a lot harder to make a living as a journalist actually telling the truth, because that’s not usually what interest groups want.

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