The deeper that Fox News has gone in the tank as propagandists for President Donald Trump, the more we have been talking in this blog about there being two very different news worlds and views of America depending on what channel you are watching.
We talked about that some more Sunday morning on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” — host Brain Stelter, the Washington Post’s Karen Tumulty, Daily Beast Editor-in-Chief Noah Shachtman and me.
And then, Sunday afternoon, events at the U.S. border near San Diego resulted in coverage that illustrated some of the points we were trying to make.
I stressed that while it is true that there are two news worlds and views, talking about it that way suggests a false equivalency between the kinds of information viewers are getting from each. And that is dangerously misleading.
What channels like CNN, MSNBC, CBS and other mainstream outlets are doing is journalism. What Fox News and other platforms that have signed on with Trump are doing is public relations and propaganda for the administration.
The goal of journalism is to give citizens information that’s been vetted as being accurate, which they can use to make sense of the world and informed choices in their lives.
But in PR and propaganda, the goal is to convince the viewer something is true whether it is or not in hopes of advancing the goals of person or institution being promoted. Lying can be part and parcel of that process.
As an example, I pointed to Trump’s claims on the caravan, which he called an “invasion.” I said Sunday that he characterized the caravan as being “filled with dangerous people” who are “going to storm the border.” He made those derogatory claims about the character of the migrants without any proof, and they were repeated in the right-wing media for weeks leading up the midterm election and now again with the caravan massed on the border.
Sunday afternoon brought a snapshot of the concept I had been trying to articulate when some migrants ran toward the U.S. border near San Diego and were repelled with tear gas.
The New York Times reported it under a headline saying: “Migrants in Tijuana Run to U.S. Border, but fall back in face of tear gas.”
The report went onto say, “Some of the migrants told The New York Times they thought they could negotiate with United States officials, but as they approached the metal border fence topped with barbed wire, they were met with several rounds of tear gas.”
The headline at Foxnews.com: “Hundreds of migrants try rushing toward California port of entry, as Trump threatens to close entire border.”
The Daily Caller headline: “MIGRANT CARAVAN TRIES TO STORM BORDER, US RESPONDS WITH TEAR GAS.”
E.S. McIntyre, an investigative journalist based in Tijuana and a senior fellow at the Schuster Institute, an independent investigative reporting center at Brandeis University, used Twitter to plea for more proportionate and accurate coverage.
Kirstjen Nielsen, Homeland Security Secretary, said in a statement Sunday, “As I have continually stated, D.H.S. will not tolerate this kind of lawlessness and will not hesitate to shut down ports of entry for security and public safety reasons.”
In the Sunday night version of his newsletter, Stelter wrote: “What's the lead story on Monday? Is it the plight of Central American migrants who are seeking asylum in the United States? Or an ‘invasion’ at the southern border with Mexico? As always, it depends on the news sources you choose.”