Major Media Bias Towards NSA Defenders

from the and-they-attack-others? dept

One of the more ridiculous arguments against Glenn Greenwald (and others, but mainly Greenwald) concerning the Snowden NSA revelations is that Greenwald is somehow “biased,” rather than an objective reporter. Of course, there’s this myth of the objective reporter out there, which in practice tends to not actually do journalism (the search for truth) but stenography (repeating what someone tells you). Too often “objective journalism” means he said/she said journalism, where equal weight is given to all kinds of ideas, no matter how ludicrous. If you’re actually searching for truth, then there’s no problem calling out something as being wrong when it is, in fact, wrong. But, even more ridiculous is that the claims of “objective media” also whitewash the fact that those media players are clearly extremely biased as well.

Take, for example, the episode of Face the Nation, which aired on Sunday, November 3rd. A major point of discussion? The Snowden NSA revelations. The guests to discuss it? Senator Dianne Feinstein, Rep. Mike Rogers, and former NSA boss Michael Hayden. Basically, those three are the biggest defenders of the NSA outside of current NSA employees. To argue that this isn’t a clear “bias” is ridiculous. But at least Greenwald is clear where he stands. CBS and Face the Nation still pretend that they’re objective.

That may be just one example, but a new study by the Columbia Journalism Review showed that major media sources were uniformly biased in favor of the government. They scoured the four largest newspapers in the US: the NY Times, USA Today, the LA Times and the Washington Post. They had a list of pro- and anti-surveillance words that they used to determine whether or not the general tone of coverage in these newspapers was to support the NSA or to be critical of it. It won’t surprise many around here to find that it was overwhelmingly supportive of the government. The major newspapers apparently aren’t that big on speaking truth to power.

USA Today led the pack, using pro-surveillance terms 36 percent more frequently than anti-surveillance terms. The LA Times followed at 24 percent, while The New York Times was at 14.1 percent. Even the Washington Post, where Barton Gellman was the first US journalist to break the news of the NSA’s surveillance, exhibited a net pro-surveillance bias in its coverage of 11.1 percent. Although keyword frequency analysis on its own is not always conclusive, large, consistent discrepancies of the kind observed here strongly suggest a net media bias in favor of the US and UK governments’ pro-surveillance position.

As CJR points out, this finding also suggests that the claim from NSA defenders that all of the hubbub over spying is merely a “media creation” may not be true either. The major media is leaning towards the NSA’s side of the debate.

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Comments on “Major Media Bias Towards NSA Defenders”

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out_of_the_blue says:

You are slowly re-capitulating the good parts of 1980's conservatism.

But I’m afraid that you (and apparently other noobs) think it’s your original discovery. — You conclude lamely that media is “leaning” toward NSA. That’s why I read Techdirt, to have Mike’s opinion validate the bleeding obvious. — Big Media is not just biased, but utterly controlled by The Establishment. Almost nothing gets out except intended. — AND relevantly here, when Big Media picks up a story, tends to indicate a wanted psyop. That’s part of why I think the Snowden “leak” is a psyop: otherwise Big Media would resolutely ignore it.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: You are slowly re-capitulating the good parts of 1980's conservatism.

Big Media is not just biased, but utterly controlled by The Establishment. Almost nothing gets out except intended.

I actually agree with you on this one. This is something I’ve been aware of since I was a teenager in the late 70’s. It’s why I’ve always supplemented my information with non-MSM sources. The truth usually runs somewhere in the middle of the two.

But, when a story becomes as widespread as the Snwoden revelations, it eventually reaches a point where it can no longer be ignored by MSM because it undermines their manufactured illusion of objectivity they need to survive. The internet age has greatly magnified this phenomenon.

weneedhelp (profile) says:

Re: You are slowly re-capitulating the good parts of 1980's conservatism.

C’mon blue… what? Do you think MSM like CNN would “produce” the news as a propaganda tool to sell the governments position on things:

I mean its not like they would use blue screens and place “anchors” in the same parking lot claiming to be a satellite interview:

What kind of conspiracy would it take to keep all involved quiet:

[insert life-sized sarcasm tag here]

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: You are slowly re-capitulating the good parts of 1980's conservatism.

I dunno. Personally, I don’t think anyone in the ruling class would willingly embark on an elaborate scheme to make themselves look like psychotic idiots. They’re too egotistical to go along with a plan that includes making them look bad, and they’re too self-centered to even consider making any sort of personal sacrifice for a larger cause.

As ever, I’m inclined to apply Hanlon’s razor: the people running the US government are exactly as stupid as they appear to be.

Baldaur Regis (profile) says:

Re: Re: You are slowly re-capitulating the good parts of 1980's conservatism.

There’s a theory that states the larger the organization, the less personal responsibility each individual member feels towards the success of that organization, thereby enabling the Second Law of Dynamic Laziness: In the absence of sufficient motivation, a person’s laziness trends towards maximum entropy.

The MSM aren’t individually stupid; there’s just no reason for them to do more than the minimum requirement for their employment: reading whatever press release someone hands them.

Likewise with the NSA – it’s just easier for them to, for example, walk into the Level 3 Communications office and demand they install a tap, rather than do something cool and clandestine like digging up a fiber bundle out in the woods and actually splicing their own fucking taps.

[REDACTED] says:

Re: My post was just CENSORED via phony "comment moderation" message

Thank you for your interest. Currently, all of our “the-government-is-poisoning-our-brains-via-cellphone-towers” crackpot theorist positions are filled. If an opening becomes available, rest assured we will consider your application at that time, and no further communication is necessary.

The Real Michael says:

This article immediately grabbed my attention

Just last night on the CBS Evening News, they ran a segment attempting to paint whistleblowers as compromising both the US and Britain’s ability to eavesdrop on terrorists. They claimed that top British spies already thwarted something like 37 terrorist attacks. I believe that they’re lying in order to cover their asses.

Judge for yourself.

I considered this “news” segment to be state propaganda.

There’s absolutely no legitimate reason for the government to be allowed to erode our Constitutional rights under any circumstances.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: This article immediately grabbed my attention

Furthermore, if you actually watched the Face the Nation segment with Rogers, after letting that whopper of claim come out of his mouth last week about how a person’s privacy can’t be violated if they don’t know that their privacy was being violated, not even once did they bring it up and ask him to defend that statement. Yet (and I am not saying that they should or should not be doing this one) they continue to hammer ad nauseum the President’s words when he said that people could keep their existing health plans which appears to be largely true for the vast majority of people and has a very reasonable explanation as to why for the very small percentage of people where this turned out not to be true.

The Real Michael says:

Re: Re: This article immediately grabbed my attention

Do you consider around 1.6 million people losing their health coverage to be a small issue? I’d also like to remind you that the full effects of the ACA won’t fully kick into gear until sometime next year, which was done by design in order to mitigate political fallout.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: This article immediately grabbed my attention

That segment isn’t quite as bad as you make it sound. They are simply reporting on the claims that the British Intelligence is making. There really isn’t much in there to implicate that they are supporting those claims. While I agree that they ARE biased, I don’t think that that segment is a very good example of it once I looked at it.

The Real Michael says:

Re: Re: This article immediately grabbed my attention

This is by no means some one-off event; it’s become a recurring theme with MSM outlets. You’d be hard-pressed to single out a mainstream news show, particularly any of the primetime ones, absent a segment without pro-government spin. Even the local news shows are riddled with thinly-veiled political agenda.

The Real Michael says:

Re: Re: This article immediately grabbed my attention

Well don’t worry, pretty soon they’ll have drones, body scanners and TSA squads to molest you everywhere you go. For your own safety, of course. Just like the people in California and New Mexico whom the police recently subjected to anal cavity searches. One poor guy they did it to eight times in a row, including a colonostopy. And get this: they sent him the bill for the procedure.

What a country.

Anonymous Coward says:

Selling Access for Compliance

This has been known as a dirty trick going on since at /very least/ the W Bush days. Give access to exclusives for those who report what you want to and slam the gates on any actual journalists. Really this abuse is long overdue for equal press access laws to the white house. Left unchecked it ends up a regime of censorship through legalized bribery (they make money on those exclusives and a bribe is a bribe whether in cash, gold, illegal drugs, hookers, or act-able/salable information).

Anonymous Coward says:

The US isn’t the only place where this is happening. Not only are the media not interested in pointing out obvious lies and flaws, but here in Denmark they translate statements wrong. Take for example the news about Angela Merkel’s phone being tapped. The original statement is something along the lines of “We do not and will not in the future tap her phone” leaving out the obvious: but what about in the past?… here it was translated as “we have never tapped her phone” which changes the statement drastically.
In my eyes it is the medias duty to at least translate it correctly and in addition, to point out the obvious wordplay used to mislead.
It can easily be done in a neutral fashion without taking sides, allowing people to make their own decisions; like so: “Actions taken in the past were not mentioned”.

With so much focus from the people in power on using misleading words, we need the media to do their jobs and ask the hard questions. Right now it just feels like they have been bought.. even here.

JackOfShadows (profile) says:

Not suprising

It isn’t surprising to find that the interests of the media and the state are best served together. Media, and I’m speaking of the classical case not internet, requires access to those in the state and the coin of the realm there is publishing the views of those that serve the state. It doesn’t hurt in the more modern (internet) sense that the threats to classic media do not usually have such access. BTW, the state understands the bargain quite well, snubbing “lesser channels” in favor of the established media.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: No risk of objectivity here

I knew this would come… Techdirt has never pretended to be neutral. This is a blog expressing a point of view in the subject of powerful people who abuse their power.
The more general media does however claim they are neutral and are, in my country, considered public service. Public service is supposed to represent as much of the public as possible and not take sides.

Lastly I do not see you loving your government… if you did, you would want to improve it, not just keep silent and fall in line. A government is not the people in power. It is a concept; one which has been eroded and malformed.
You are impressively ignorant if you think that we want no government just because we protest its actions.

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