Bias on CNN? Never!

[Update- 48 hours after posting this, CNN re-edited the article. Interesting. –JST]

OK, so I’m reading middle-of-the-night CNN, and I see this article.

Title: GOP convention protest covers miles of New York
Police arrest 200; Bloomberg: Marchers ‘behaved responsibly’

N.B. Put a small number up front — the eye is attracted to the number 200. Perhaps fast scanners think it means only 200 protesters attended the event. It’s a small crowd. Internet people tend to look at figures more often than text.

NEW YORK (CNN) — Tens of thousands of demonstrators carrying signs and chanting “No More Bush” marched Sunday past Madison Square Garden, the site of the Republican National Convention, which opens Monday.
Write out the text “Tens of thousands” so it doesn’t stand out against 200. Especially since 200 is in a bigger font.

Organizers had predicted as many as 250,000 demonstrators would take part.
Aha! They only predicted 250,000 demonstrators. So they were wrong, it was only tens of thousands of people.

Then, much much farther down, in paragraph 6:

March organizers said they estimated the crowd size at more than 400,000.
N.B. This is below the page scroll point even on 1200×1048, meaning only true diehards will actually ever get to that part of the article and not just skim the text. Never mind that it says the size is 1.6 times the size that they originally predicted, and 40 times larger than a single “ten(s) of thousands.”

Police did not give a crowd estimate.
The gall to put this right after the 400,000 figure, as if to discredit the organizer’s boastful claim. Even assuming an inaccuracy of 50%, it’d still be more than the original 250,000 demonstrators predicted. You can’t fake 200,000 people in attendance. You just can’t. It takes up HUGE amounts of real estate. A single aerial photograph would show the veracity of this statistic, and given CNN’s resources, should have been included in the article. (Or are you going to tell me that a shot from the top of a tall building would violate Homeland Security?)

Yet no aerial photograph of the size is given in the CNN gallery. Instead, they show fake coffins (intended to ire those who support the war), Rev. Jesse Jackson (perennial bash-boy), distorted photos of Pres. Bush (see, them liberals always lie!), someone in a devil outfit (look, them Liberals don’t fear Bod like we do, they worship Satan!), police (look, them Liberals don’t even respect the law, we gotta get our Boys out there to help keep things in order!), a handcuffed protester (see! Told ya!), and some sketchy photos of people in weird bright costumes.

Just yer average day in the modern American media.

25 thoughts on “Bias on CNN? Never!

  1. As long as you don’t suggest that FOX News is really “fair and balanced”, I agree.

    Our media are stupid down here. Everyone has forgotten that they have a major conflict of interest: they are out to make tons of money as well as report the news. I’m not sure how the CBC and BBC work, at least as government-owned entities, but at least they don’t try to pass off everything as totally objective and they aren’t out to do whatever it takes to make tons of money. On the other hand, the mere idea of government-owned media scares the crap out of most USAnians. Conveniently, they ignore or are blissfully ignorant of the Federal Communications Commission, staffed with political appointees, whose job is to make things profitable for Big Media until the commission members finish their terms and then get hired on as a consultant by Big Media. Then they pitch the right amount of regulation (not deregulation or heavy regulation, which might give someone or the Wrong Competitor a shot) to Congress.

    Somewhere I once saw a slogan along the lines of “The ‘Liberal’ Media are only as liberal as the conservatives that own them”.

    That makes perfect sense to me. The heads of ABC-Disney, CBS-Viacom, NBC (General Electric), AOLTimeWarner (CNN), and FOX are more than happy to report on very liberal/progressive issues, because those issues are always a source of conflict and argument, and conflict and argument sell news. So if making lots of money is the number one goal, the owners’ best interests involve reporting every conflict that has a good chance of catching and keeping the attention of the public. The fact that news is considered to be for sale down here is the first step towards the eventual manufacturing, tayloring, and marketing it for maximum profits.

    But I figure you know all this already.

    Here, in the Toledo, Ohio, market (HAH!), we’re getting at least two, if not three or four Presidential commercials during the breaks in the “news” between 5pm and 7pm. That’s two to four ads per *break*. I believe the stations can actually decline to air them — but they’d have to apply that policy to both sides because of “equal access” guidelines. That’s not going to happen, no matter how much the people in the market scream, because the stations get too much money to show them.

  2. Given that the average “progressive” protester I’ve seen doesn’t appear capable of holding down a job, I believe the high numbers. What else do they have to do with their time? Fuck protesters. Nobody of any importance pays attention to them. If you want political change, the only way to go about it is to put your money where your mouth is, and buy influence the way everyone else does. It’s all for sale. :)

    BTW, I can assure you that CNN is most definitely not a mouthpiece for the right. You haven’t heard “Clinton News Network” before?

  3. I’m not debating the value of protesters here, just the objectivity of the article. You are right, protests have far less of an impact today than they had just 30 years ago, and far, far less than they had 100 years ago.

    And I’m not saying CNN is a mouthpiece for the right — that indeed is FOX. However, the person who wrote this article certainly had an agenda. Or their copy editor. Or the editor-in-chief. Regardless, it’s a shamelessly biased article.

  4. I’m not debating the value of protesters here,

    Then I will. Protest as a political tool is dead. Remember 200k people protesting in SF just before the invasion of Iraq? It didn’t stop Bush from invading. Do you think a bunch of people walking peacefully around the streets of NYC is going to have any impact what so ever on the RNC? I don’t think so.

    I’m not advocating people staying at home. Go protest if it makes you feel good. Sure beats sitting around. Nor am I suggesting that we should all go into LA riot mode at protests. I don’t think that burning things makes much of a positive impact either. I’m saying is that we need to understand the reality of the Bush II administration: we can protest all we want but it doesn’t matter, because this administration DOES NOT CARE what the people think.


  5. This is great. It is nice to see something written that debunks the commonly held perception that the media in the United States is in any way shape or form “liberal”. Clearly media outlets that are owned by corporations will consistently take a conservative posture.

    I, personally, believe that the US media purposefully sells itself as being “liberal” while at the same time presenting right leaning, bias coverage in order to further push the debate to the right and marginalize the true left. If you present yourself as liberal while expounding right wing ideals and point to the extreme right as being moderate conservatives you automatically and artificially push the debate to the right.

    To me the democrats are a hard line right wing party and the republicans are the extreme right wing, but as things are portrayed by the media any thoughts to the left of the democrats would be akin to comunism… on a similar note… have you ever seen BULWORTH?

  6. Reading about the civil rights movement as a youth, I preferred Martin Luther King’s peaceful (if a little slow) approach to Malcolm X’s “by any means necessary.” Today, however, peaceful protests affect traffic and little else.

    We may need to exercise more progressive forms of civil disobedience which may not be entirely peaceful, though I wouldn’t know where to begin. I don’t think it’s time to burn the White House down yet, however. I think Che Guevara’s critera for a violent revolution are still valid, and have not yet been breached. Namely, “Where a government has come into power through some form of popular vote, fraudulent or not, and maintains at least an appearance of constitutional legality, the guerrilla outbreak cannot be promoted, since the possibilities of peaceful struggle have not yet been exhausted.”

    That said, Bush’s administration — and any oppressive government, for that matter — has to be MADE to care what the people think, and as you said, mackys, protest as a political tool is dead.

    I don’t know where that leaves us.

  7. Protests are worthless to the media unless someone gets arrested. Forget the numbers. If only one protester gets arrested at a million-person gathering, it’ll lead, provided there’s a compelling visual to go with the story. If there’s no trouble, the story will be relegated to page 8, unless Jessica Simpson adopts a cat or something, in which case, it’ll be scrapped altogether.

    People like to see other people getting arrested. Why do you think COPS has been on for so long? The reason for the arrest doesn’t matter. As long as someone’s face down on the asphalt with a cop’s knee in his back, it’s news!

    I’m not saying there’s no agenda here. I just think it’s entirely possible, if not probable, that a lazy reporter threw together a sloppy, sensational story just to get an easy byline.

  8. CNN did show video of huge crowds on TV so I don’t think they were intentionally trying to hide it. Many police depts. have stopped estimating crowd sizes after being accused of over/understating to favor one side or the other.

    Just my opinion but I think the responsible news consumer should read articles all the way through and not just skim it. I know most people do that but that means it’s partly their own fault for being uninformed.


  9. Once upon a time, there was a country named Qwertylandia. It was a small country: it only had 1000 inhabitants of voting age. It was a longstanding tradition in Qwertylandia to have only 2 candidates in each national election. Qwertylandians, by and large, were very proud of that tradition, and all of their other traditions, and of their fabulous political system.

    As per tradition, in the year 3457806, elections were held with two candidates on the ballot, A and B.

    It so happened that half of the voters, 500 people, were of very strong opinion that the incumbent, A, was unfit for the office of the Leader. The other half disagreed.

    Of the 500 people who were strongly against A, 50 were staunch supporters of B, while the remaining 450 thought, “Perhaps B isn’t the best candidate, but B can’t possibly be worse than A.”

    Of the 500 people not opposed to A’s re-election, 100 were die-hard followers of A, determined to prevent B from being elected, whatever it took, while the remaining 400 had no opinion whatsoever of B.

    What do you think was the outcome of the 3457806 national election in Qwertylandia?

  10. We may need to exercise more progressive forms of civil disobedience which may not be entirely peaceful, though I wouldn’t know where to begin.

    My idea is that we do a massive block-in of the hotel or convention center where the RNC is being held. Basically a hundred thousand people show up, block every entrance, link arms, and nobody gets in or out. The police would have to arrest a truly staggering number of people to restore order. Purely passive resistance (making the cops drag you away when they arrest you) would be plenty to shut the place down for at least two days. There’s a lot of logistics to figure out (where are people going to get food and water? how are they going to go pee if they need to?) but I think it’s a great idea. If only I’d had it about two months ago…

    I don’t think it’s time to burn the White House down yet, however.

    I agree with you, and with Che’s criteria for revolution. But I’m not hopeful about the future. My outlook on things is shamelessly swiped from Claire Wolfe: “We’re at an akward stage in America. It’s too late to effect change within the system, but too early to shoot the bastards.

    Hence, my plans to go expat if Bush is re-elected. Electing him once was bad enough. But it was maybe the closest presidential race in American history, and there’s still that purging of non-felons off the Florida voter rolls to consider. So last election is forgiveable due to mitigating factors – we really didn’t know what we were dealing with, and Bush may not have won honestly.

    But this time, everyone in America KNOWS what Bush is. He’s demonstrated his proclivities for mindless conquest, staggering deficits and the destruction of civil rights in favor of psuedo-religious corporatocracy quite well. If he’s elected again… this will no longer be a country I wish to be a part of.

    I hear New Zealand is nice. Not easy to get into, but nice…


  11. I have a strong suspicion that nonviolent and civilized protests work great against the opponents that have dignity.

    British Empire had dignity.

    German Nazi had dignity, but they had such a disregard for the people whom they seen beneath themselves, that they are even now seen as a benchmark for evil, so they are an exception.

    US racists had dignity.

    Soviet Communists had dignity.

    At some extent nonviolent protests worked against all of them, except for Nazi. On the other hand:

    Large corporations have no dignity.

    “Industry” organizations, that serve large corporations, have no dignity (that’s MPAA, RIAA, BSA, etc).

    Corporate propaganda shills have no dignity (google for “ADTI SCO tobacco”, or “DMCA Europe” without quotes, to see some examples).

    Political parties that serve large corporations, have no dignity (that’s Republicans first, but Democrats merely second).

    I guess, someone not related to large corporations also has no dignity, but the examples above just stand out too prominently to not notice. Personally, I am sure that there is nothing legal can stop them, however I am still uncertain if the level of “civil disobedience” can be sufficient. Likely not.

  12. dignity: a very interesting angle!

    there ARE legal ways to influence the way corporations behave. the key here is how expensive this or that particular act is to a corporation.

    if you can ensure that a particular corporate behaviour ends up costing dearly to the corporation doing it, they’ll abandon it.

  13. The problem is also how expensive it is for the people who oppose the actions of a corporation. I am afraid, no society has sufficient available resources to balance the power of large corporations through accepted means (lawsuits, bribing and manipulating politicians, propaganda through the media, etc.) without resorting to sabotage. The only legal form of sabotage is a strike, and it became ineffective long ago, the rest ranges from civil disobedience to things that look really, really bad (and this “civilized” society isn’t capable of them anymore).

  14. money, time and effort (and creativity, too!) are necessary, of course, to take on a large organization.

    i just meant that because corporations’ behaviour is motivated almost exclusively by the bottom line, it makes them somewhat predictable. so, the problem isn’t altogether intractable, in my opinion.

    (ironically enough, dignity also results in a certain amount of predictability, in its own way)

  15. This may be true, but all “creativity” that can circumvent the requirement for having more resources than the companies control (what by definition can not be obtained in a society dominated by them) makes things very, very illegal, and hard to organize on top of that.

    For example, if somehow a large percentage of network administrators decided to block 1% of the traffic, by dropping all packets for 30 seconds every 50 minutes, starting from a predefined moment, and until the DMCA is repealed, made their demands known, and refused to yield the access to the routers, I am sure, copyright law would be restored to something sane within a month.

    This, however, would require many relatively high-paid professional organize to do something very, very illegal — and AFAIK, high-paid professionals are usually incapable of organizing to do simple and safe things, leave alone complex and dangerous ones. Though it’s a pity — this kind of limited sabotage not only along the lines of “Day the Earth Stood Still” movie, but would actually show that screwing up even 1% of a common resource spoils it for all but the very primitive applications (email would still work).

    Other similar solutions may be equally elegant but also equally impossible.

  16. it doesn’t necessarily take a lot of resources to make someone pay for their (deliberate) mistakes.

    i don’t like the whole idea of sabotage. (unless it refers to the beastie boys song ;-) ) the problem with sabotage is that it depends on humans taking action in response to something. humans tend to get intimidated. an alternative would be something (set up in advance) that reacts automatically, like a trap — it could be a legal mechanism, or it could be a technical mechanism, or it could be a combination of both. something that says “you’ve been warned” loud and clear. think “doomsday device” deterrent from “Dr. Strangelove”. except, of course, you gotta substitute figurative “destruction” (financial or, say, publicity-wise) for the movie’s literal physical destruction. another useful analogy could be the so-called “poison pill” device that they use to prevent hostile takeover.

  17. Kerry seems to be barely ahead in most of the swing states. But Bush will probably get some bounce from the convention – I have no idea how much. And there’s still the “October surprise” to consider, as the Bush II admn. has requested that Pakistan capture high-ranking members of Al Qaida in time for the election. On the other hand, has been a powerhouse for registering liberal voters and organizing events. And I personally know a whole lotta people sick to fucking death of Bush. Of course, historically Bush has always looked weak before elections he’s participated in…

    But who knows. I really can’t say. There are a whole lot of stupid people out there, and a lot of them still think that Iraq had some part in 9/11. They’re too busy celebrating Saddam’s capture to notice that Osama bin Laden, the man who actually brought down the WTC, still walks free. And they can’t be bothered to consider the long term consequences of things like THE LARGEST FEDERAL DEBT IN AMERICAN HISTORY, the steady erosion of civil rights under Ashcroft, or the completely tanked economy. Michael Moore calls these people RINOs, I just call them blind and ignorant.

    That old bumper sticker says that if you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention. I don’t see much outrage out there right now…


  18. GPL is based on this, and it works pretty well, however this is a very rare case when it is attached to something that no one dares to destroy (copyright law and lack of implicit contract).

    This only works when there is some sort of rules that trigger “poison pill”. It becomes absolutely useless when the opponent is powerful enough to modify the rules, nerfing this kind of weapon.

    Even such a great example as GPL was recently attacked by Microsoft and SCO through massive amount of propaganda, that had a goal to make either Congress or courts a special exception that will invalidate it — it failed this time, but there is absolutely nothing that guarantees that some corrupt congressmen won’t pass a law that declares anything distributed free of charge to be in a public domain.

    In things where laws already are written to be favorable to corporations, there is not a shread of possibility of using them to protect the public against the entities that wrote them in the first place, and can change at any time if the laes would no longer serve them.

    It’s same as with Capitalism — Capitalism is a clever hack that uses a widespread human shortcoming, greed, to promote the behavior that the society as a whole benefits from. It worked until the point when the new entities, monopolies and corrupt politicians, became significant players capable of doing their own hacks, and then the rules no longer served the originally intended purpose, and merely promoted greed of the few and their control over the many — at the same time constantly reminding people how great the original idea was.

    If this great hack was defeated, what chance do the lesser hacks of the same kind have?

  19. GPL! yes! that’s exactly the sort of thing I had in mind. Stallman is a genius.

    If this great hack was defeated, what chance do the lesser hacks of the same kind have? ” Oh come on — this is just being pessimistic for pessimism’s sake.

    I don’t see a “great hack” being defeated as cause for pessimism. Each hack has its lifespan. When a hack dies or reaches the limit of its usefulness, it’s time for new hacks to be invented. Capitalism worked quite nicely for quite a while. GPL’s impact has been enormous in the last couple of decades — you’re not going to deny that, are you?. Even if M$ and SCO somehow succeed in getting an anti-GPL law passed by Congress (which, realistically, doesn’t seem very likely) — even that wouldn’t be quite the end of the world.

    Dinosaurs died out. Life goes on.

  20. I also know a few people who are sick of Bush. (Come to think of it, I’d be hard pressed to name anyone I know who ISN’T sick of Bush. ;-) )
    That said, however —
    how many people do you know that are really really enthusiastic about Kerry? or even whose opinion of Kerry is anything above tepid?

    I can’t really blame the average U.S. voter for not paying much attention to important issues. Because, the way the whole system is structured, people vote for personality/charisma, not issues. All the issues they talk about — for all intents and purposes — are just props, really. When a charismatic candidate comes along who happens to be a Republican, you get 8 years of Reagan, and when there’s a charismatic candidate who happens to be a Democrat, you get 8 years of Clinton.
    Of course, this doesn’t mean that you can just find someone with great personality, and have them successfully run for office. That person would first have to convince one of the two major parties that he/she is really one of them, and shares their “values” wholeheartedly. (This much convincing can’t be done overnight.)

    Perhaps, there’s some hope, after all, that intelligence — at least a moderate amount of it — is a requisite ingredient of that elusive recipe called “charisma”. Because if it wasn’t, the current election would already be a foregone conclusion.

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