Perfidy of the Media, Part MCXV Posted by: MichaelW
on Monday, September 15, 2008
First, go listen to this report from NPR regarding potential legal challenges to voter registrations in the upcoming elections. Take particular note of how the challenges are framed, who the players mentioned are, and the suggested motivations of the parties involved. Pay specific attention to the use of terms like "target," and what follows.
Several municipal clerks across the state are reporting fraudulent and duplicate voter registration applications, most of them from a nationwide community activist group working to help low- and moderate-income families.
The majority of the problem applications are coming from the group ACORN, Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, which has a large voter registration program among its many social service programs. ACORN’s Michigan branch, based in Detroit, has enrolled 200,000 voters statewide in recent months, mostly with the use of paid, part-time employees.
“There appears to be a sizeable number of duplicate and fraudulent applications,” said Kelly Chesney, spokeswoman for the Michigan Secretary of State’s Office. “And it appears to be widespread.”
Now, ask yourself, "why wasn't any of this mentioned in the NPR reporting?" You know the answer, but it bears repeating whenever another layer of media narrative is slathered on to any story of national significance.
What the media is doing with these sorts of reports is really a corollary to the "Big Lie" theory: repeat enough little lies mixed with facts to build up one huge lie and then don't ever let go of the story created. Instead of repeating the Big Lie enough that it becomes the "truth," the media repeats a narrative framing the accepted, What the media is doing with these sorts of reports is really a corollary to the "Big Lie" theorymainstream liberal position on any issue as the compass by which all actions are to be judged, and then invites the listener/reader to go ahead and judge. Nevermind that much of the real story is never told, or that critical issues are often confused or outright misrepresented. All that matters is that the narrative remains intact.
Narratives are powerful devices through which complex ideas can be simplified and passed on to others. Wrapping a compelling story around an important message can breathe indelible life into what many might otherwise find a mindless platitude. For example, instead of repeating the phrase “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” ad nauseum, we tell the story of “The Lion and Mouse.” Obviously, this is an ancient, time-honored tradition of teaching, one that even Jesus employed through the use of parables.
Where narratives are less useful, in that they tend to obscure the truth rather than illuminate it, is in the business of conveying facts. I would call that business “news reporting” but that seems to be a particularly dead art. News reporting today consists almost entirely of developing a story line and then conveying facts (or rumors) that fit the story line to the exclusion of all else. When relaying nebulous ideas, narratives can provide a structure in which to comprehend those ideas. When relaying facts, however, and especially when doing so in a selective manner, narratives provide a framework for argument rather than explanation. The result, of course, is that people remember the narrative first and foremost, while the facts are recalled only insomuch as they fit the framework through which the story is told. Once the narrative is set, you see, there can be no deviation, or else the whole story falls apart.
In this case, the narrative is that Republicans desire to prevent likely Democratic voters from getting the ballot box. The real story, however, is much more complicated, and does not at all support the narrative.