We’ve just survived the umpteenth attempt by conservatives to take health coverage away from tens of millions of Americans while both increasing costs and decreasing the quality of coverage for the rest of us.
Throughout this ordeal, the mainstream media reiterated the right-wing framing of this debate thousands of times, calling the GOP bills “repeal and replace.”
This was a lie. Average citizens never had a clue what any of these bills would do to them. Every time the media said “and replace” it falsely reassured Americans that they would still have accessible, affordable coverage. Progressives should have cried foul each time the media did it.
Here are some other extremely commonplace examples of language where news coverage conveys false information—to the great detriment of our political system.
“Bickering” is a lie.
It is very common for the mainstream media to say that Democrats and Republicans are “bickering.” For example, the New York Times used “bickering” in a headline about the Affordable Care Act here, Bloomberg used it about hurricane aid here, NPR used it here, Time Magazine here, and Reuters here.
Bickering means to “argue about petty or trivial matters.” The media delivers the same demeaning message when it talks about a political “spat” or an instance of “playing politics.” The subtext, which Americans fully understand, is that we should all look down on the debate and its debaters.
But there is virtually no political argument anymore that is trivial. Conservatives are trying to take health coverage from tens of millions, give trillions in tax giveaways to the rich, deny climate science, destroy the environment, wreck consumer financial protections, and devastate every kind of employment protection or social program.
Blocking this extreme regressive agenda is crucial and heroic, not “bickering” or “politics.” Why do Americans have such unfavorable views of elected officials who stand up and fight? One reason is that attacking politics and politicians has been the media’s favorite story for decades.
“Partisan” is a lie.
When the news media says “partisan” in the context of a policy or procedural debate, it is almost always a substitute for “Republican.” It communicates to Americans that both parties are responsible when, in truth, it is just one.
There is no “partisan” effort to destroy the longstanding rules and procedures of the U.S. Senate. It’s been a Republican effort through and through. There is no “partisan” effort to suppress the vote. This has solely been a project of the GOP.
Like “bickering,” there’s almost no situation where “partisan” is truthful anymore. And since the media won’t say which party is responsible for things that Americans hate, voters have no idea who to blame—destroying any kind of accountability.
“Washington” is a lie.
Like “partisan,” the news media talks about action or inaction by “Washington” or “Congress” when, for at least the past eight years, it has been always one party or the other. Contrary to the implication of the news media, the culture of “Washington” has had very little to do with blocking progress—it has been the Republicans.
Poll after poll has demonstrated that persuadable voters do not know who controls the U.S. House or Senate. So when something fails to happen in Congress (like no regular appropriations process for years, like the abandonment of open hearings and markups, like attempts to pass gigantic legislation without a CBO score), the blame falls on both parties because voters don’t know any better.
“Reform” is a lie.
We just embarked on a national debate that the media wants to call “tax reform.” But “reform” means to improve a process or system. Not only is the tax legislation in no way a “reform,” but there is not a single major bill being considered in Congress that qualifies as a “reform.”
“Nationalist” is a lie.
When we say that a German or French citizen is a “nationalist,” it isn’t a pretty description but at least it makes some sense—it means such people are bigots based on their nation’s ethnicity. But the United States does not have a national ethnicity except, perhaps, Native Americans.
White is not a nationality. There is no White heritage, no White culture. White Americans are the products of many cultures, none of which are represented by fascist speech or Confederate symbols.
Steve Bannon, for example, is a consistent racist and inconsistent isolationist. Calling him a nationalist is falling for a right-wing code word that whitewashes the truth, making evil sound like pro-American patriotism. And how does anybody reconcile the use of “nationalist” to describe people who work hand-in-hand with a foreign power—Russia?
At least the mainstream media have finally (after more than a year) rejected the term “Alt-Right.” When will they recognize that “nationalist” is the same thing?
“News media” is a lie when referring to Fox News.
When the legitimate news media embraces Fox as one of their own—which they have always done—the media destroys their own credibility.
Anyone can watch Fox News and see, in a very short period of time, that it is right-wing propaganda masquerading as news. The same is true of Breitbart and scores of other sources. Even when a particular story is factual, Fox and their ilk will report selectively in order to support an overall narrative—for example, reporting crimes by black perpetrators while ignoring the same, and more numerous, crimes committed by Whites.
Conservatives believe in voter fraud and disbelieve climate science, for example, because of this right-wing propaganda. It is the opposite of journalism. The exact intention of Fox and the rest of the right-wing noise machine is to provide lies and misleading information to support a regressive ideological agenda.
Further, part of Fox’s purpose is to destroy the credibility of the news media, to question everyone else’s objectivity and accuracy. And they have been quite effective in smearing those who stand up for the truth.
In short, when legitimate news agencies say that Fox is one of them, they are committing professional suicide.